Ian Gill, Daniel Joseph Cohen, Kate Weekes, and Troy Kokol
Ian Gill – Morning Embers (Release date: Jan. 24, 2020)
Ian Gill spent his young adulthood listening to the giants of the Canadian singer-songwriter scene: Stan and Garnet Rogers, James Keelaghan and Stephen Fearing to name a few. And it comes through loud and clear in his work.
This stirring and deeply introspective collection of songs, inspired by midlife, would not sound out of place on a playlist of their classics.
It’s at once beautiful and sad, celebratory and melancholy, paying homage to people whose wisdom has guided Ian through hard times and reflecting on what remains when the “glint of youth” has been traded away, to quote a phrase from “Towns Left Behind.”
Like many of the great Canadian songwriters before him, Ian at times draws us into his emotional world by evoking a physical one – in this case, northwestern Ontario, with its rocky Lake Superior shorelines, its sometimes-ominous skies, and its faded old resource towns dotted along the highway.
The arrangements are pure traditional folk, featuring Joe Phillips on double bass, Jeff Korkola on percussion, Damon Dowbak on mandolin, Sean Mundy on guitars and Pierre Schryer on fiddle. Megan Nadin adds a lovely backing vocal to “Teacher.”
The Ottawa-born, Thunder Bay-based Ian, who has some 20 years of professional music-making experience under his belt, released this album back in January but didn’t get a chance to tour it due to COVID-19. He sent it to us this summer hoping we could help him get the word out.
With pleasure, Ian. What a beautiful album.
Daniel Joseph Cohen – “Strange” (Release date: June 26, 2020)
Maybe it’s just me – I’m what they call “an old” now, apparently – but the mix on this song feels off. Fortunately, you can’t hide a good song under a lackluster production job. “Strange” is a catchy pop-folk number from an artist who seems to have a track record for writing exactly that kind of thing. Daniel has already had songs featured on the TV show Kim’s Convenience, in the Netflix film Almost Adults and the YouTube video First Gay Hug, so I’m obviously not the only person who thinks he’s a pretty talented guy.
Kate Weekes – “Better Days Ahead” (video) (Release date: Apr. 6, 2020)
Kate, who is currently based in Wakefield, QC, near Ottawa, was in a Beowulf book club with Keitha Clark and Brenda J. Berezan and ended up writing this song with Brenda. She wrote the music, and Kate wrote the words while flying back to Whitehorse from Yellowknife after paddling the Keele River. The song started off being about Grendel and the Danes, Kate said, but then she started thinking it was really about Trump being elected in the US. Whatever it’s about, it’s sweet and quirky but has a sad, defiant lyric. I like it.
The images for this video come from James Stephens’ studio in Norway.
Troy Kokol – “Like a Record” (Release date: July 6, 2020)
I featured Troy’s song “Lightbulb” about a year ago here in this column, and I dug his sound back then. This new song shows a lot of evolution since then. Troy was already a strong songwriter a year ago, and he had a distinctive, upbeat, easygoing sound. But this track just radiates a maturity and confidence that he was still developing a year ago, I think.