Chelsea Stewart, Ben Sures, Francois Couture, Moira Bren and Raina Krangle
Gordy the Moose presents some of his favourite new music from the submissions that have arrived in the Roots Music Canada virtual mailbox.
Chelsea Stewart – Chelsea Stewart (Release date: Nov. 11, 2019)
Toronto’s Chelsea Stewart has followed up her Juno-nominated debut EP, Genesis, with a self-titled full-length debut that she describes as a musical history lesson of sorts – beginning with nyabinghi drumming and dub poetry, moving onto mento,ska, rocksteady, reggae, and dancehall. The spoken word poetry is lovely, the gospel-tinged closer, “Glory,” is, well, divine, and the rest of it? It’s delightful, easy-listening reggae – marked by electronically enhanced arrangements and Chelsea’s mellifluous voice – that wouldn’t sound out of place on a playlist with the Neville Brothers and Roberta Flack. This is reggae that sounds as good during a cold Canadian winter as it does during a hot beachy summer.
Ben Sures – EP 2020 (Release date: Feb. 1, 2020)
Ben Sures has never lacked creativity. The son of two visual artists, including Order of Canada-winning ceramicist Jack Sures, he is known for having a somewhat quirky songwriting style and lyrics that focus on topics that are anything but cliché – nostalgia for teenage musical heroes; the impact of cruise ship tourism on third world countries, celebrations of people with mental illness. Though predominantly a folk artist, he crosses over regularly into blues, and less regularly into global influences. His last album was a wicked collaboration with an ensemble of brass players, and this EP? THIS is Ben-meets-electronica – a varied collaboration with producer/multi-instrumentalist Bryan Kobayakawa, who is arguably best known for his work in the Creaking Tree String Quartet. The three tracks are all very different, and I can’t decide which is my favourite, the blistering version of “Beirut, Beirut” or the beautiful, plaintive rendering of “Boring People.”
Francois Couture – My Little Book – Tome2 (Release date: Jan. 10, 2020)
When last I featured Francois Couture in this column, it was when he released a duo album of Celtic sounding numbers with violinist Stephanie Labbé. This new project with Sylvain Neault on violin, Steve Normandin on accordion and Daniel Marcoux on double bass is overflowing with vintage sounds of 1930s France. The tracks, all named after jobs – “La feme de ménage” (The cleaning lady), “La Brodeuse” (the embroiderer), “Le commis” (the clerk), “Le Poissonnier” (The fishmoger) – draw inspiration from gypsy jazz and musettes and evoke the atmosphere of smoky Parisian cafes from before, during and after the Second World War. The production values have a cinematic feel and the playing is absolutely outstanding.
“La femme du ménage”
Moira Bren – “Hourglass of Fun” (Release date: Feb. 14, 2020)
I just wrote about Moira in October when she sent us a single as part of her sister duo Moira and Claire. We don’t attempt to ration column space here though, so if people keep sending us good stuff, we’ll keep writing about it. They don’t even have to tell me I’m a swell moose, but bonus points to Moira for doing so. Seriously though, this university student from Antigonish has a haunting vocal style and a way with songwriting that I just can’t get enough of. This is the lead-off single for a debut EP coming out in August – a song about a one-sided relationship, Moira said. I sure can’t wait to hear the rest.
Raina Krangle – “My Beautiful Dear” (Release date: Mar. 20, 2020)
My god this woman has a beautiful voice, and this song is a total tear-jerker about the loss of a life-long partner. It’s got beautiful instrumentation and harmonies too. It’s not hard to see how Raina won the Newmarket Arts Council Songwriting Competition in 2016 or why she was nominated for a Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award. Raina was raised in a folk music family and is a veteran of Toronto venues such as the Free Times and the El Mocambo, but she didn’t release her debut album until 2012 and doesn’t appear to have done a big festival tour yet. If this song is any indication of the quality of her repertoire, that’s a little quizzical to me. How have promoters not discovered her? If you’re a promoter, you should really listen to this.
“My Beautiful Dear”