Here at Roots Music Canada, Gordy the Moose spends a solid amount of time rifling through the digital mailbag looking for interesting or outstanding new Canadian roots music to discover. He shares his discoveries periodically in this column. Here’s the latest!
Broomsticks and Hammers – Mirror Box (Tour starts June 22)
When we first posted our reader survey on Roots Music Canada, these kind folks shared it on their Facebook page – so when we got a few survey responses citing Broomsticks and Hammers as people’s favourite band, I admit I was a little skeptical. But you know what, folks? These guys have a great sound! They’re a veritable pastiche of 30 years of great Canadian roots pop acts all rolled into one. Their new album opens with “Svetlana,” a song rich in Blue Rodeo-ish Hammond B3 sounds, and “Moe Berg” is a tribute to the frontman from the Pursuit of Happiness vaguely in the quirky style of the Barenaked Ladies. They’ve got a great singer, and I bet they’re a ton o’ fun live. Oh, hey! You can even find out for yourself! Check out these tour dates.
- June 22 – Aeolian Hall, Londong
- July 13-15 – Canterbury Folk Festival
- July 20-22 – Home Country Music and Art Festival
- Aug. 6 – Grand Bend Summer Sunset Sounds
The Raven and the Fox – “Follow Me” video
Man, The Raven and the Fox vocalist Julie Chang sure does remind me of Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies. She’s got that understated beauty thing down pat. Couple that with some solid songwriting and some lovely arrangements that feature touches of cello, Wurlitzer, and Mellotron, and you’ve got a great sounding band that the moose can’t wait to hear more from. The core of The Raven and the Fox is Julie and Sean Isaac out of Canmore, Alta (nice job, Canmore!). They call their style love-inspired mountain music. The album is a year old now, but they asked us to feature them because, like so many young roots artists, they don’t have much money or many resources to help them get attention. No problem, guys! Happy to feature this!
Ludgate – What the Camera Couldn’t See (Release date: May 17)
What’s that they say? The family that plays together stays together? Well good on you, John and Sheila Ludgate for keeping your musical offspring in the family band. John and Sheila are past winners of the Folk Music Ontario Songs from the Heart Award. Luke, Anthony and Shane Ludgate have been seen on Aux TV and MuchLoud with their band Beautiful Nothing, but when they’re all together, John and Sheila’s folk leanings dominate the sound. The strongest evidence of the younger Ludgates’ indie-rock leanings is found in the tasteful electric guitar solos, which reminded the moose a little of later Pink Floyd – lots of feeling without all the, uh, “wanking.” The slower songs are really the stand-outs here. “Whisper to a Sigh” features piano front and centre with beautiful, sweet violin parts. And then there’s this focus track, “Sad and Beautiful.” Have a listen!
Manitoba Hal – “Hope Of A Brighter Day” video (Release date: Mar. 1)
Remember how Joanna Mills wrote the other day about how great a house concert act Shawna Caspi is? You know who else Joanna sings the praises of? Manitoba Hal. Look folks, Hal practically needs no introduction. The ukulele-playing bluesman and one-time Winnipeg bus driver has recorded 14 albums over the course of his approximately 15-year career. Whether he’s playing acoustic or electric, he plays and sings his blues with a heaping dose of feeling, but I gotta admit, the moose loves his acoustic stuff the best. That’s why I was so excited to see this here “Hope of a Brighter Day” video in the Roots Music Canada inbox. Hal’s on guitar here. That’s Karen Morand on ukulele and backing vocals. Hal’s overseas right now, but he’s back on tour in Canada in July. Check out his web site for dates. He’s even got some house concerts in there!
Sarah Calvert – Santiago Sadhana (Release date: May 15)
Sarah Calvert performs what this moose affectionately calls “yoga music.” Some folks call it sacred music. It’s contemporary arrangements of often ancient chants deriving from the vedic spiritualities of what is now South Asia. In this case, she’s performing the Aquarian Sadhana, a series of chants that are part of Kundalini yoga practice. Listen, the moose gets that there are controversies around who should be singing this stuff, but I’m not going to get into that here. We’ll tackle that subject properly on Roots Music Canada when the time is right. For now, I’ll just say, I like this. The project was inspired by Sarah’s sojourn on the Camino de Santiago, the walking path connecting southern France with Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and the Spanish influence is heard throughout in the guitar sounds, notably the flamenco playing of Daniel Ward. That organic feel sets the record apart from a lot of “yoga music,” which can sound like overly-produced, overly-layered new age music. Bravo, Sarah Calvert. Tasteful stuff here.
Patrick Ballantyne – “Plans” video (Release date: April 16)
The moose doesn’t know much about Patrick Ballantyne but fortunately, my buddy, New Brunswick music writer Bob Mersereau, does. Here’s what he had to say: “If songs were grains of salt, Patrick Ballantyne is the salt shaker. Songs appear to flow from Patrick Ballantyne effortlessly. A sought-after co-writer with cuts on over 10 albums and two solo albums of his own, his catalogue is continually expanding. Playing it safe as a lawyer by day, Ballantyne reserves risk-taking for his music. Never content to replicate, Patrick is innovative and experimental. He blends and bends genres, while maintaining an emphasis on melodies and lyrics. His body of work spans multiple genres, yet every song contains a deeply personal and soulful aspect.”
Much of what Bob is getting at here is what the moose appreciated about this here video. The songwriting is great. The style is just a touch left-of-centre and unique, yet totally accessible, and the lyrics are really moving.
Correction: A previous version of this story misnamed the band that John and Sheila Ludgate’s sons belong to.