Pat Chessell, Zachary Toigo, Jessica Pearson & the East Wind, Stefanie Joyce & Al Lee
Gordy the Moose has been cleaning out the Roots Music Canada virtual mailbox before the end of the year and catching up on all the new music inside. Here he presents Part 1 of his favourite finds.
Pat Chessell – The Road Not Taken (Release date: Dec. 1, 2020)
Don’t let the opening track from Pat Chessell’s new album fool you. The uber fast Celtic rocker delivered with Pat’s rough-hewn vocal style might sound a little “Celtic bar band,” but that hardly does justice to what’s to come: a collection of heartrending Irish-influenced ballads and moving mid-and-up-tempo contemporary Celtic songs, some with a touch of country and western influence. Nearly all of the tracks are co-writes with other local musicians, including “Gardai Party,” which was written with Vancouver radio personality Larry Hennessy, who hails from Newfoundland (who knew he was such a musical talent?). There is also a tender cover of Tommy Makem’s “Sally O” that’s just lovely.
Zachary Toigo – “My Satellite” (Release date: Nov. 6 2020)
Damn. This is beautiful. Zachary cites among his influences the Beatles and Radiohead, and you can hear those coming through on this lushly orchestrated number, on which Zachary plays nearly all the instruments. But the real stars here are the soaring melody and Zachary’s breathtaking vocals, which execute it perfectly. Be prepared to hit “repeat” several times.
Jessica Pearson and the East Wind – “Ready My Heart” (Release date: Sept. 18, 2020)
This is the first single from the debut album by the duo of vocalist/guitarist Jessica and vocalist/fiddler Maddy O’Regan, and I’d say they’re off to an auspicious start. Jessica has a pure, powerful, effortless vocal style, and Maddy adds lovely, tight harmonies to this polished, contemporary folk number with a bit of a twang. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the record when it comes out next year.
Stefanie Joyce – “On the Ohio” (Release date: Nov. 18, 2020)
How can I not love an artist who starts a hashtag that reads #makemurderballadsgreatagain? Especially when it’s coupled with a project designed to curate and retell these lost songs and reignite interest in them from new audiences. I can’t. And certainly not when she puts out a song that’s this damn cool. “On the Ohio” is a remake of the classic Appalachian murder ballad “Banks of the Ohio” that pairs booming percussion and percussive banjo parts with Stefanie’s confident vocals. Up until now, Stephanie has been working to cut her teeth as a Nashville songwriter, placing tracks with some up-and-coming artists. This is her first project of her own, and she’s sure got my attention.
Al Lee – “Revolution Street” (Release date: Nov. 2, 2020)
Al is a singer-songwriter based in Revelstoke, B.C., where he’s forged a unique sound that pairs a distinctive deep, resonant, folk-punk vocal with groovy, vintage-sounding roots-pop and a passion for social justice – at least if this song is any indication. Leeroy Stagger produced and sang backing vocals on “Revolution Street,” which also features Ryland Moranz on guitar. While the lyrics, on paper, look like such a rapid-fire inventory of current social movements that one might wonder how sincere they’ll sound in the delivery, in fact, Al pulls it off perfectly, making “Revolution Street” sound at once like a song of admiration for those fighting for social change and a firm declaration of his solidarity with them.