Produced by Craig Smith and Frank Deresti
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Craig Smith
Songs by Frank Deresti and Craig Smith (MAPL/SOCAN)
Tracks 5 and 8 by Deresti/Smith/Stiles
In case you didn’t know, Ontario is big. Bigger than Texas, actually. A lot of that vast, wild space is ingrained in the music made by Ontario artists, and one of the most revered, Fred Eaglesmith, has often said that he would rank Ontario songwriters equally with those from Texas. It’s all just sometimes hard to notice, with Toronto being the centre of the universe and all.
The members of the band ONTARIANS don’t live in Toronto, which is precisely why their name suits them to a tee. Their turf is mostly the northern half of the province, from Collingwood to Sault Ste. Marie. But with the release of their debut album, The Greatest Short Story Never Told, they’re more than happy to represent the southern half as well. Indeed, the approach that ONTARIANS take isn’t dissimilar from the sound that ruled Toronto’s Queen Street West during the glory days of the Horseshoe Tavern, the Cameron House and the Rivoli, when a distinctive brand of country rock was created by former punks seeking to express themselves in a more personal and substantive way.
Of course, much has changed since then, but The Greatest Short Story Never Told is a clear reminder that well-crafted songs played by musicians with genuine chemistry will never fall out of fashion.
Further proof is that it’s taken ONTARIANS two years to get to this point, 2020 restrictions notwithstanding. The seeds were planted in 2018 when roots rock scene veterans Frank Deresti and Craig Smith decided to try writing some songs together, a process that soon led Frank to make regular trips from Sault Ste. Marie to Craig’s studio near Collingwood where the pair laid down tracks and sent them off to their keyboardist Jay Stiles in Austin, Texas to add his parts. Chris Johns later overdubbed some drums, before Craig’s painstaking mixes made everything gel into one seamless package.
“This was a true collaborative effort for Craig, Jay and myself,” Frank says. “Between glasses of Pernod, car troubles and lots of laughter we wrote songs about various stages of life we found ourselves in—past, present, and a hypothetical future. When Craig and I sat down to write with a clear goal in mind, it was like a reservoir of creativity was released that had been building up for a long time.”
Prior to the formation of ONTARIANS, Frank Deresti criss-crossed the country as a sideman for over a decade and released four albums under his own name beginning in 2012, all while holding down several high profile teaching positions at Sault Ste. Marie’s Algoma University and the Algoma Conservatory of Music.
Craig Smith cut his musical teeth in the underrated ‘90s singer/songwriter scene in Kitchener-Waterloo where he made two solo albums before moving to Collingwood and building a scene there through production work and booking artists at CROW Bar.
Jay Stiles has been hired to work on many projects over the years, and since his move to Austin, that network has grown exponentially. Along with being a part of ONTARIANS, Jay is also working with Big Sugar’s Gordie Johnson on a new reggae project.
With the release of The Greatest Short Story Never Told, ONTARIANS are fully prepared to invigorate the roots rock world with their timeless sound.