Ben Spivak, Jabbour, Bùmarang, the ACT Americana Trio & Matt Kristan
Gordy the Moose presents some of his favourite new music from the submissions that have arrived in the Roots Music Canada virtual mailbox
Ben Spivak – “Angel Fire” (Release date: April 30, 2021)
Ben Spivak is the bassist for the band MAGIC! (“Marry that girl! Marry ya’ anyway”), and he used to tour with K-Os, so it’s probably no surprise that his new single is AWESOME. “Angle Fire” is pure roots pop without MAGIC!’s reggae leanings, but the songwriting is just as catchy, and it’s clear Ben had access to some a-list production help to get the absolute best out of the song. Put this on now. You’ll love it.
Jabbour – Carling Lake (Release date: May 7, 2021)
I really dug the sophomore album by bilingual roots-Cajun ensemble Jabbour back in 2019, and this new album, Carling Lake, sure hasn’t done anything to change my impressions. If anything, this unique combo of Quebecois chansonnier Guillaume Jabbour, Durham County Poets bassist Carl Rufh, east coast collaborator Bill Collier and Bill Gossage (brother of Celtic and jazz musician Dave Gossage) has grown more cohesive with time. Where once they played an interesting mish mash of styles that was a bit hard to pin down, now they’ve settled into a more mature sound that blends Cajun music with the classic roots stylings of acts like The Band and Neil Young – with nods to Celtic and old-time music. This new album pays tribute to a little family-operated ski hill in Pine Hill that was shuttered in the 1990s and includes sounds and voices from the area to give it that extra bit of atmosphere. Four hooves up.
Bùmarang – Echo Land (Release date: May 21, 2021)
Oh hey, speaking of the Gossage family, this is the debut album from a (relatively) new band featuring the aforementioned Dave Gossage, Celtic and jazz musician extraordinaire, member of Orealis and brother to Bill Gossage from Jabbour. Dave (flute, whistle, guitar) is teamed up here with Kate Bevan-Baker (violins, vocals), who has a PhD in ethnomusicology and Sarah Pagé (harp, vocals, harmonium, bouzouki) of the Barr Brothers who has previously collaborated with Lhasa, Patrick Watson, Amon Tobin and Leif Vollebekk. All that to say, this may be a debut album, but it doesn’t sound like one. This is a modern riff on Celtic music that achieves its contemporary sound through its evocative atmospheres and arrangements, its subtle, sophisticated incorporation of American and global influences, and yes, some understated electronic enhancement. But Afro-Celt Sound System this ain’t. The tracks range from the mystical flute instrumental “Song of Books” to the misty, melancholy song “Single Girl,” to the whistle-driven set “Haste to the Wedding/Shot of Jamie/Off to California”— featuring outrageous playing by Dave – and the thumping drums and driving rock n’ roll beat of “Jock Brown’s 70th.” Guests on the album include Ivan Bamford of Land of Kush, Kevin Laing of the Besnard Lakes and Polaris Prize finalist Leif Vollebekk. This isn’t your grandfather’s Celtic music, but he’d probably like it.
The ACT Americana Trio – “Whole Lotta Livin’”
If you’ve been wondering how Steve Dawson’s Henhouse Express enterprise has been going – that’s where Steve and his colleagues produce a song remotely for artists through the magic of the internet – just take a listen to this track from the ACT American Trio. The Vancouver-based trio consists of Andre Chrys, Chris Lok and Taryn Laronge, and they’ve been playing together for about five years now. But they hadn’t caught my attention until this showed up in the moose’s mailbox. Without a doubt the production makes this track what it is, but Steve had solid material to work with: a song with a fantastic groove, and a terrific vocalist in Taryn. Also, serious kudos to this band for writing a pandemic song that doesn’t sound like a pandemic song. I wouldn’t’ve noticed if I hadn’t read it in the release notes. They definitely avoided the tropes. Good work, guys.
Matt Kristan – Letters Never Sent EP (Release date: Jan. 22, 2021)
Wow. This is a surprisingly auspicious debut from this young artist from the 905 – Hamilton to be precise. Matt has a beguiling indie folk vocal style that’s drenched in soul and particularly well showcased on “Crazy.” He’s also a strong writer; with the mid-tempo “Take Control” being the standout on the EP. The five, acoustic guitar-driven tracks are well-produced, but there’s no special wizardry enhancing Matt’s work here. He’s just a solid talent with a promising future, by the sounds of things – as long as he can get some attention for himself in this crowded world of singer-songwriters. I’m happy to do my part on that front.