Spring Var, Burnstick, D. John Ellison, Moira and Claire & Big Little Lions
Gordy the Moose is back from the summer festivals to review some of his favourite new music from the submissions that have arrived in the Roots Music Canada virtual mailbox. There was so much to catch up on that this is his second and final installment from the summer submissions.
Spring Var – Come Home Year
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve heard anything quite like this before: psychedelic Celtic music. I might’ve heard the odd unsuccessful attempt at it over the years, but this one works shockingly well. The distant, ethereal vocals blended with the straight-up Celtic arrangements appear to do the trick, creating a sound that’s like a mash-up between Planxty and Jefferson Airplane – or some such thing. I’m not even sure I want to listen to this all the time; I’m just captivated by how trippy it is. Spring Var is a band from Newfoundland, so they come by their Celtic credentials honestly. I’m told the island ecosystem also produces a decent number of mushrooms at certain times of the year, so perhaps they come by the psychedelic sound honestly too.
Burnstick – Kîyânaw
Heather had the pleasure of seeing this duo perform during the Indigenous Artists Showcase last year at the Folk Music Ontario conference, and she loved their stirring harmonies and their chemistry on stage. So we were pretty excited when their new album showed up in our mailbox. For those unfamiliar with Jason Burnstick, he’s a Plains-Cree guitarist and a roots music veteran whose awards shelf features trophies from the Western Canadian Music Awards, the Indigenous Music Awards, the Aboriginal People’s Choice Awards, and the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards – plus nominations for both the Junos and the Dora awards (for theatre). But these days, his focus is on this duo project with his wife, francophone-Métis singer-songwriter Nadia Gaudet Burnstick. And for good reason: they really sound lovely together, both live and on record. It’s understated, intimate and seemingly-effortlessly beautiful. Four hooves up.
D. John Ellison – Day has Arrived
It’s not every day that we get submissions in the ol’ Roots Music Canada mailbox from women saying, “These are my husband’s songs. I think they’re really good. You should check them out.” But when Michele Ellison sent us these numbers by her husband, John, we figured we should pay attention, because after all, the last time we heard about a wife trying to get attention for her husband’s work, it was Beth Girdler, and David Francey has three Juno Awards and an international touring career to show for it.
After listening to John’s songs, I’d have to say that the wives are on a roll. While the production quality on these numbers is your classic, probably-recorded-it-on-an-iPhone-in-the-bedroom sound, there’s no mistaking D. John’s songwriting talent. The numbers Michele sent us range from classic-sounding acoustic blues to up-tempo catchy folk-pop, so it’s hard to choose which one to feature, but let’s run with this one: “Restless Heart.”
Moira and Claire – “Again”
Wow. This sister duo from Antigonish, NS sounds fantastic. Lovely harmonies and simple accompaniment – just acoustic guitar and nature sounds – with what to my ears sounds like a butt-ton of compression to make the sound much bigger, a la today’s indie pop acts (correct me if I’m wrong, producerly-types). I’m also hearing a bit of wet reverb on the vocal bridge. The song itself was inspired by Anne of Green Gables and by the natural beauty of the Maritimes, according to the sisters, who were born in Nanaimo, BC and Edmonton, AB respectively. I can’t wait to hear more!
Big Little Lions – Inside Voice
Heather has said more than once on this site that she would buy a ticket to a Big Little Lions show just to listen to Helen Austin talk. She’s that entertaining! She is a former stand-up comic after all. But the crazy thing is, Big Little Lions are as good at making music as Helen is at being hilarious. Which is why their current lack of world domination is something of a mystery to me. This new album from Helen, who lives in the Comox area of Vancouver Island, and Paul Otten, who lives in Cincinnati, kicks off with a couple of songs that rival “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in their sheer joy and catchyness. And the whole album is 14 tracks of perfect indie folk-pop marked by delightful harmonies from two people whose voices blend absolutely flawlessly.