It was only in January 2020 that John Borra released his critically acclaimed album Blue Wine, but for obvious reasons it already feels like a lifetime ago. Normally, the veteran Toronto artist would have spent the past year doing what he’s always done best: Playing his ragged-but-right alt-country to his loyal audience, both at home and across Canada.
Instead, Borra has adapted to promoting the album in new ways, mainly through honing his video skills. However, now he’s utilizing his more well-known audio engineering chops by offering a new mix of one of Blue Wine’s standout tracks, “The Wars.” As one of the three songs on the album co-written with the award-winning poet Eva H.D., “The Wars” has a special meaning for Borra, which is why he felt compelled to revisit it.
He explains, “We wrote this song after everything else was recorded and mixed, but I was able to record it just in time to get it on the record. Because of the rushed nature, I never felt it had been given its proper due so I thought I’d give it a new mix and release it as a single. I re-did the bass but otherwise it’s the same song as on the record, just given a little extra love and attention it didn’t get the first time around.”
Indeed, “The Wars ‘21” glows with a classic country warmth, accentuated by Borra’s signature, timeless vocal performance. It is available April 23, 2021 on all digital platforms, and Bandcamp.
Happy release day to The Wanted’s new album Strange Flight!
Produced by Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies, his trademark sonic approach emphasizes The Wanted’s live group chemistry, created by the core trio of Natalie Rogers (vocals, guitar), Jeff Rogers (vocals, guitar) and Richard Henderson (lap steel guitar, vocals), along with bassist Dan Mock and drummer Kyle Sullivan—borrowed from Jerry Leger’s band The Situation.
The Wanted’s honest and gritty approach to roots music has greatly evolved since they released their self-titled debut album in 2010. That record has since tallied close to a half-million Spotify streams while earning them appearances at the Mariposa Folk Festival, Folk Alliance International, and the Canadian Country Music Awards.
However, the essence of their sound has remained consistent since The Wanted formed in 2003 out of informal songwriter gatherings centred around Toronto clubs the Cameron House and the Tranzac. They bonded over a shared love of classic roots artists such as Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt, and that connection continues to guide them nearly 20 years later.
Get The Wanted’s Strange Flight from Bandcamp, and check out their latest video for the track “Stand Up.”
Today, St. John’s, Newfoundland singer/songwriter David Picco releases his sixth album, Live It Down, on all digital platforms and via Bandcamp and davidpicco.com.
As demonstrated by the previously released singles “If You Wanna Change My Mind” and “Waitin’ For the Summertime,” it is his most experimental collection of songs yet, veering away from the gritty alt-country sound of his acclaimed 2019 album Out Of The Past, and experimenting with looser, Kurt Vile-esque vibes. The change is partly a reflection of Picco’s experience during pandemic restrictions, as eight of the new album’s nine songs were written over a three-month span in 2020.
“I guess you could say that this about is about coming to terms with the fact that life never turns out as planned,” Picco says. “I would describe it as contemplative, but musically I was going after something more dream-like and ethereal.”
Produced by Mark Feener and featuring an all-star cast of local St. John’s players, Live It Down is certainly a glimpse into the new world of sonic possibilities Picco has embraced, part of an evolution that has been playing out since the mid-‘00s when he was a member of the roots rock band Jet Set Motel. From there, he became a familiar face within the Toronto roots rock scene, working closely with producer Don Kerr (Rheostatics, Ron Sexsmith) and cult hero songwriter Kyp Harness.
Following his move back to St. John’s in 2015, Picco released the album Start Again, which was warmly embraced by CBC Radio. Out Of The Past built on that success, being hailed by Americana UK as “a rock-infused country [album] with echoes of The Velvet Undergroumnd.”
With Live It Down, David Picco begins a new chapter, one that offers hope for renewal for all of us.
Grab the great new single from Jerry Leger, “Jumped In The Humber,” now from Bandcamp. Produced by Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies it features Jerry playing once again with his longtime band the Situation.
Today, Scott MacKay releases his new album Stupid Cupid, a collection of 10 original songs that combine the Charlottetown PEI native’s sharp contemporary wit with his fondness for vintage country music of the ’50s and ’60s. Stupid Cupid is available on all digital platforms, and Scott MacKay’s Bandcamp page.
MacKay co-produced Stupid Cupid with Adam Gallant at The Hill Sound Studio in Charlottetown, with mixing done by Scott Franchuk in Edmonton. His third full-length effort, Stupid Cupid features MacKay backed by his regular rhythm section of Josh and Sam Langille, along with renowned guitarist Grant Siemens and pedal steel master Burke Carroll. For MacKay, the project is a reflection of what he describes as getting bit by the classic country bug since his previous release.
“I really became smitten with songwriters such as Shel Silverstein, Hank Williams, Bobby Bare, Roger Miller and others,” he says. “It made me focus my attention on improving my songwriting, and I tried to learn as much about it as I could. I took a lyric writing class, a storytelling class, and a creative writing class. I even took part in a songwriting workshop in Nashville where I got to meet and learn from some of the greatest songwriters in the world.”
The results of that hard work speak for themselves on Stupid Cupid. From the title track’s protagonist having his plan to win his dream girl go terribly wrong, to the tale of someone receiving a “Brand New Heart” from a man killed by his lover, to the surprisingly philosophical “God Walks Into A Bar,” MacKay effortlessly breathes new life into longstanding country music themes. However, it’s all designed to put a smile on your face, as well as a tear in your beer.
Click the logo below to watch the video for “Romance Novel” at The Bluegrass Situation.
Click the single art below to purchase The Hello Darlins’ “Aberdeen” from Apple Music or to stream on Spotify.
With their impeccable pedigree, The Hello Darlins continue to shake up the Americana and Roots music scene with each single they release leading up to the arrival of their full-length debut album, Go By Feel. Their latest offering, “Aberdeen,” (out now on digital platforms) features singer/guitarist Joey Landreth of The Bros. Landreth, the latest addition to The Hello Darlins collective, showing again how they’re living up to their reputation as “the Broken Social Scene of Americana.”
Jerry Leger‘s new video for “Read Between The Lines” is a brilliant piece of Rotoscope animation by Karly McCloskey. The song also happens to be my favourite from Jerry’s latest album Time Out For Tomorrow. Watch it here or at these links!
As she’s proven over the past two years, Edmonton singer-songwriter Andrea Nixon is an artist who believes that one’s life and one’s music are inseparable. That was the foundation of her acclaimed debut album, Diary Of A Housewife, and those who have yet to check it out have another opportunity now with the release of its latest single, “Stronger Than The Storm.”
It’s unfortunate timing that the song arrives immediately after Hurricane Dorian, but its message of hope can offer solace to those affected, and to anyone else going through challenging times.
You can get “Stronger Than The Storm” from iTunes, and hear it at Roots Music Canada by clicking below.
Happy release day to Belle Plaine’s Malice, Mercy, Grief and Wrath! Here’s what the critics are saying:
“If this album were a house, it would loom large, stand Gothic and you would find its heart in a foyer that holds a grand piano.” Exclaim!
“Belle crochets a wonderful mix of old country, classic western, alternative rock, and jazz swing to create a beautiful blanket of music that is an artistic keepsake.” No Depression
“Her new album [is] full of questioning, of the past, present and the future, exploring autobiographically-related themes of grief and loss though songs steeped in classic country influences.” Folking.com
“One of the most wonderful things I’ve heard this year.” Mike Bell, The YYScene
“Malice, Mercy, Grief and Wrath shines with textures of classic country music, including some of the hip jazz changes that were commonplace with mid-60s Nashville-produced records, while keeping an eye toward the future sonically, with parts that might not seem out of place on a Wilco album.” BeatRoute