Feature

Oxlip, Alissa Arnason, the Record Breakers, Jonah Cross, Shawna Caspi & Bent Roads Tavern

Gordy the Moose presents some of his favourite new music from the submissions that have arrived in the Roots Music Canada virtual mailbox.

Oxlip – A kind of premonition (Release date:  July 8, 2021)

Irish émigré Jayne Trimble, who performs under the name Oxlip, was an early discovery of ours here at Roots Music Canada. At the time, the Vancouver-based artist was producing misty, ethereal Celtic-influenced singer-songwriter music often inspired by Greek tragedies, Shakespearean plays and Celtic folklore.  While Jayne has always managed to avoid Celtic music tropes, this new album takes her farther away still from the stereotypical Enya/Loreena McKennitt sound and closer to the realm of indie folk – and in the case of the closer, country.  In fact, she’s the first artist I’ve heard who really straddles these genres in a compelling way without ending up in dull middle-of-the-road adult contemporary territory.  The songs are about death, suicide, addiction, and the metaphysical – complicated, often dark topics, which she handles fearlessly. If you need an album to reflect to, this is a great one for your consideration.

Alissa Arnason – “Lighthouse” (Release date: June 11, 2021)

Speaking of Jayne Timble, she also operates a record label for women, and this is her latest release, a new single from a woman who spends her days working as a cook in mining camps. It’s the first release in seven years from Alissa Arnason, and the subject matter is not something you hear very often.  “I wrote it about my ex-boyfriend who is just the most beautiful person on the planet, who I really love so much, who has gone out of his way to make sure that, although we are no longer in union, I still feel supported and loved by him,” she explained in the news release announcing its release.  “And when I wrote this song, it was shortly after I met his now wife, who is just a beautiful human being. So, the song is really about meeting his wife, seeing how beautiful they are together and seeing how in love they are, and also still feeling so much love from both of them and just honoring and respecting that they are together.” Alissa isn’t breaking any new stylistic ground on this release.  In fact, it’s a very pared down, acoustic guitar-and-voice sort of recording. The song’s chord progression, similar to Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over),” provides a feeling of familiarity, and Alissa has the a confident, relaxed style of a singer like Eliza Gilkyson.  A credible “re-debut” for sure.

The Record Breakers – “Sunflower” (Release date:  May 21, 2021)

We’ve featured the Record Breakers before on Roots Music Canada, but this might be my favourite song from the band yet. It’s upbeat, catchy and summery, and it really showcases Bella’s gorgeous vocals. It might just be the happiest break-up song out there. At least I think it’s a break-up song. The Montreal band has actually released another single, “Heatwave,” since this one came out.  It’s a slower number and also very good.  But if you need an uplifting number to play in the car or while you’re doing housework, give this one a listen.  Actually, I take back the part about housework. You’ll probably be too busy dancing to get much done.

Jonah Cross – “Those Trouble Blues” (Release Date:  May 28, 2021)

Toronto singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jonah cites among his influences Jimmie Rodgers, The Singing Brakeman, Rev. Gary Davis and Bob Dylan, and I think it’s fair to say you can hear those influences in his work.  This song is definitely on the bluesy side of things, with harmonica and resonator (I think) guitar playing prominent roles in the arrangements, and the production and engineering on it are particularly appealing and contemporary. Four hooves up from the moose.

Shawna Caspi – “Lay Low Shadow” (Release date: July 9, 2021)

Shawna’s latest single, the first from her forthcoming album, due in August, could completely suck, and I’d still watch this video over and over again. That’s because Shawna, who is also a visual artist, has created her version of one of those art videos you see on Facebook or Instagram. You know, where they throw blobs of paint down or pour a cup full of different coloured paint on a canvas, and five minutes later they have a gorgeous work of art? In this case, Shawna isn’t documenting the creation of her own art – hey, not everyone can create a painting in three minutes – but rather that of alcohol ink artist Lynda Norman. It’s pretty freakin’ cool.  And to top it off, the song doesn’t suck.  Not even close.  It’s a lovely upbeat piece of contemporary folk pop that goes nicely with the painting, in fact.

Bent Roads Tavern – “Let’s Go to Newfoundland” (Release date: May 28, 2021)

Bent Roads Tavern were a college band in Vancouver that launched in 2001 and played the local bar scene for several years before gradually going their separate ways. But when founder Christian Stokkmo died three years after the death of co-founder Bradley Dean, the remaining members were drawn back together to release early recordings and pay tribute to a musical project that had been part of their formative years. Now based in Calgary, Bent Roads Tavern is starting to release new material, and this is an interesting offering for a prairie band: an East Coast inspired effort in every sense of the word.  Say what you want about it; it’s pretty darned catchy.

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