Gordy the Moose presents some of his favourite new music from the submissions that have arrived in the Roots Music Canada virtual mailbox. This column features some of the cool country music releases he’s discovered recently.
The North River – Above the Smoke (Release date: Feb. 24, 2023)
The North River is a rather enigmatic project from the Ottawa area that’s been around for about 10 years and is fronted by a certain Nicholas Keays. That’s really all I know. Well, that and the fact that this new album features fiddle and banjo by Nathan Smith and Rob McLaren from the Barrel Boys, and that tells you something about the calibre of the music. If you like old-time, odds are, you’ll like this. I sure do.
Jim Jacobs – That’s The Way it Goes (Release date: Sept. 9, 2022)
Jim Jacobs grew up in Six Nations of the Grand River territory listening to George Jones, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Conway Twitty. And damn if he doesn’t faithfully reproduce that classic country sound on the single “Over for Good.” He’s got George nailed, and this original song could pass for one of George’s. Other tracks on the album mix in contemporary elements in interesting ways, notably “Drinkin’ Again,” which features saxophone prominently in the arrangement where you might typically expect to hear pedal steel. It’s actually pretty cool. For the most part, Jim’s not breaking new ground here, musically, but if you get nostalgic for the sound of country radio from before “new country” took over, this album will take you there. “She’s Everything” is a particularly lovely track. If Jim had put this record out 40 years ago, he would’ve been a shoe-in for a CanCon slot on Canadian commercial radio country playlists.
Mike Tod – “The Coo Coo” video (Release date: March 15, 2023)
Here’s another winner from the debut album by Mike Tod, who is already known to some for his podcast The Folk and for his duo Geoffrey and Tod. This is a dark cover of “The Cuckoo” paired with a spectacular black and white animation by Molly Little. Part of Mike’s goal as an artist is to reinterpret old-time songs through a cinematic lens, and what better way to do it than by literally turning a song into a short film? Mike’s rendition of the song also has the feel of something you might hear in an old western. It’s raw and haunting and bleak.
Cameron Nickerson – Submission (Release date: March 16, 2023)
Here’s another artist who clearly draws inspiration from the old country greats. Cameron was nominated for an ECMA and a Nova Scotia Music Award for his debut album, so it’s probably no surprise that its follow up was one of the cooler new things we’ve found in the Moose’s mailbox so far this year. While Jim Jacobs’ take on old country borrows heavily from the George Jones and Merle Haggard hurtin’ and drinkin’ repertoire, Cameron’s take has been filtered through a generation or two of neo-traditionalists like Jason Isbell, but you can still hear shades of Willie, Johnny and Merle in the songs. There are some lovely female harmony vocals on this record too.