Folks, if you know the moose, you know that nothing makes me happier than checking out great new Canadian roots music, so ya’ gotta know I’ve been laying on my back with my hooves in the air and the headphones on, checking out all the great new tunes pouring into our mailbox through our submission form here.
I started with the records that just came out and the ones that are coming out in the next two or three weeks – and the ones where the artist has a gig real soon.
I picked out six things I think you might like. Have a listen and let me know what you think in the comment section, OK?
El Coyote – El Coyote (Release date: Apr. 3)
I’m not gonna lie, folks. The first couple of tracks the moose heard of this, he was a little lukewarm on. The next thing I knew, I couldn’t turn this thing off. This is an album that truly rewards repeat listens, as they say. Remember Katie Moore, that singer-songwriter from Montreal with that beautiful, sweet, girlish voice? Well this is her teamed up with two other gorgeous sounding Montreal singers, Angela Desveaux and Michelle Tompkins – and three great guys too: guitarist Mike O’Brien, bassist Andrew Horton, and pedal steel and dobro player Joe Grass – for a record that’s pure Nashville. Heck, if I didn’t know any better, I’d guess that Owen Bradley himself produced this. The atmosphere is killer. It’ll sneak up on you. Trust me.
- In concert: Sep. 28 – Black Sheep Inn, Wakefield, QC
Kevin Closs – “A Blue Whale’s Lament” (Release date: Apr. 18)
Being a moose and all, I can’t help but do a little “SQUEEE!” when I see music come into the mailbox from a northern Ontario artist. Howdy, Kevin Closs of Manitoulin Island! Kevin’s a veteran performer who’s earned a Jackie Washington Award for his contributions to the northern Ontario arts scene. He’s toured with Charlie Major and had tunes on the country and adult contemporary charts here in Canada. But this song is pure, old-school folk. Kevin’s got a lovely, kind of “traddy” voice (is “traddy” a word?) and plays a sweet finger-style guitar here. The song, as the title suggests, is a sad number about the decline of the blue whale population. I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing it might be inspired by Kevin’s work as a presenter and guide for expedition tour companies that travel to the polar regions.
- Apr. 28 – Almonte Old Town Hall, Almonte, ON
- May 12 – The Open Space, Sudbury, ON
- June 6 – Sudbury Theatre Centre, Sudbury, ON
- July 9 to Aug. 21 – M/S Expedition, Svalbard
Kim June Johnson (Video released Apr. 9. Album out in June)
Kim June Johnson lives on Hornby Island, B.C., and those quiet bucolic surroundings might have something to do with her songs, which are beautifully haunting and understated in the extreme and delivered with reflective, slightly fractured vocals. According to her bio, she loves playing intimate venues like house concerts, and I can’t imagine watching her sing songs like this anywhere else. Marc Atkinson of the Bills and the Mark Atkinson Trio produced this for Kim, just as he did her last record, and what can I say? That Marc’s got great taste. This song is bleak and moving and beautiful.
Aaron Allen and the Small City Saints (Release date: Apr. 27)
Wait. The drummer from Helix is in this band? Well, kind of. Archie Gamble played with them around 2004 – not in their heyday. Anyway, it’s never too late to discover roots music, as far as this moose is concerned. These fine folks from London play some pretty classic sounding country roots rock. And you know what? It’s solid. In fact, Aaron Allen has a bit of Steve Earle in his voice, and you can never have too much Steve Earle.
Black River Drifters (Release date: May 5)
Speaking of roots rock, have a listen to these fellows from Winnipeg – roots rock with a bit of outlaw country thrown in. The band is the baby of Don Norman, a guy who grew up in the 70s listening to the Clash, Neil Young, The Band, the Stones and Gram Parsons. You can hear a lot of those influences in this new single from the forthcoming album, Drive by Feel.
- Album launch show: May 5 – Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club, Winnipeg
- In concert: July 20-21 – Norseman Festival, Red Lake, ON
Stéphanie Labbé and François Couture (Release date: Apr. 7)
Honestly folks, I know nothing about these guys. The sent us a bunch of these charming traditional-sounding fiddle and guitar tracks from their new album, Bois du Coulonge, and not much else. A quick Google search reveals that François Couture, based in Quebec City, is something of a musical polyglot, a guitarist and record producer whose work riffs on traditional, new age and Indigenous sounds and who does a lot of film work. There’s not much I can tell you about Stephanie, except that she’s from Drummondville, but the girl does play a sweet fiddle.