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Our Top 10 stories of 2020

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It’s time once again here at Roots Music Canada to publish our list of our top 10 stories of the year based on the number of times people read them. This year we filtered it a touch to exclude uber time-sensitive news items. What remains is an interesting snapshot of a year clearly touched by the COVID-19 pandemic but not overwhelmed by it. If you haven’t read these already, enjoy!

1. The first national online folk festival kicks off tonight!

Hats off to Home Routes/Chemin Chez Nous for keeping the music alive during the era of self-isolation by presenting what we think is the first ever National Online Folk Festival. Home Routes will be presenting its Season 13 artists in concert online via Facebook Live and YouTube in place of their now-cancelled tours. …

2. Together Apart: Tony Oxford’s tribute to essential workers

I met singer and guitarist Tony Oxford on the docks in St. John’s, NL a couple of years ago.

We were about to spend two weeks together on an expedition ship circumnavigating Newfoundland. Tony was one of the musicians in residence on the voyage, along with Gerry Strong and Alan Doyle, giving the guests aboard some local musical colour. In addition to his original and traditional songs, Tony would regale us with Newfoundland cultural lore, stories, fishing tales and the unique language that is found only on The Rock. …

3. Check out Corby’s beautiful tribute to those we lost in 2019

It’s that time of year when we pause to reflect on the one we just left behind. Here on Roots Music Canada, some of us will be publishing lists of our favourite music and concerts in the coming days. But first, Paul Corby brings us this gorgeous video paying tribute to those we said goodbye to in 2019. Have Kleenex ready. …

4. Road not taken: Jay Gavin gets lost in Austin

Somewhere on the East Coast of Canada, a kid is sitting at a kitchen table surrounded by empty chairs, lately vacated under threat of Covid-19. Outside the window are red dirt fields and the wide Atlantic; next door, there’s an illegal moonshine still, but these days, the cops have other things on their minds. He’s drumming his fingers on Formica, echoes of happier days floating through his tousled head. The kid is restless, hungry for the music he almost – but not quite – took for granted. …

5. The Hello Darlins release debut single “Still Waters” ft. Matt Andersen

After years of working with some of Canada’s most prominent country and roots artists, singer/producer Candace Lacina and keyboardist/producer Mike Little have finally realized their long-held dream of guiding their own project. The Calgary-based couple first conceived The Hello Darlins back in 2016 as a way to make music with other in-demand Canadian session musicians, and their just-released debut single “Still Waters” – co-written with Clayton Bellamy and featuring a guest appearance by Matt Andersen – gives a brilliant first impression of their soulful songwriting prowess. …

6. A salute to Bruce Cockburn on his 75th birthday

Today, as Bruce Cockburn reaches his 75th year, we can rejoice that he is still a stealer of fire, dancing his sunwheel dance in the falling dark of the dragon’s jaws. Roots Music Canada joins the rest of the world in celebrating his birthday, his music, his Junos, his doctorates, his investiture into the Order of Canada, his inductions into numerous musical Halls of Fame, his redemptive presence as a cosmic troubadour in Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren & The Shack by William P. Young, his performances on Saturday Night Live and at Pete Seeger’s birthday party, and his perilous witness, from the front lines of fear, at scenes of political violence around the globe. …

7. Roy Forbes – “Edge of Blue” and “Don’t Let Go”

If you’ve lived in B.C. for any length of time, Roy Forbes needs no introduction. He’s a member of the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame, and he has a street named after him in his hometown of Dawson Creek. He rose to prominence in the 70s performing under his nickname, Bim – at first opening shows for acts like Supertramp, then scoring radio hits and headlining concerts and folk festivals on his own. Over the years, much like his compatriots Shari Ulrich and Bill Henderson – with whom he performed in the trio UHF – Roy transitioned from 70s and 80s pop crossover star to godparent of the contemporary singer-songwriter scene in Canada, recording solo albums (this time under his real name); collaborating with fellow singing, songwriting veterans like his colleagues in UHF; producing projects for emerging acts like 1990s Susan Crowe; hosting radio programs for CBC and CKUA (in Alberta) and establishing himself as an authority on a variety of musical styles. …

8. Six songs to help us talk about mental health

Today is Let’s Talk Day. I will refrain from mentioning the corporate sponsor of this event, as the evidence suggests it hardly merits recognition as a leader in mental health advocacy. Its own employees have gone public saying it doesn’t support their mental health. It’s been called out for its treatment of prison inmates by people who say it is negatively impacting inmates’ mental health. And, let’s face it, many people have been driven garden variety insane by its “customer service.” …

9. When life gives you snow … check out our playlist of snow-themed songs

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay.

Over the past couple of weeks, just about every part of Canada it seems has been pelted with snow, even Vancouver, for crying out loud. Heck, Newfoundland had to call in the army to dig them out. And they’re used to snow! So what’s a person to do when they don’t feel like shoveling their car out from under the deluge to actually go some place? Why, stay home and listen to songs about snow, of course! …

10. Advice for the early-career artist

Photo by Leonard Poole.This winter I have had the privilege of teaching two songwriter courses in Wakefield and Chelsea, QC. The first group of students comprises seasoned performers, some of them accomplished songwriters who have performed at a regional level and have CDs released. The second group is a group of teenagers who have come together under the auspices of Ottawa’s CityFolk and Bluesfest organizations. …

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