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Corby’s favourite songs of 2023

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Up at the top of the song chain, where inspiration and eloquence
entwine with chord changes and melody, there is a rarefied cosmos of bliss that streams down into our perceptions, our dancing motions, our interpersonal magnetic fields and feelings and influences, delivered by messengers of great sensitivity who are often even more overwhelmed than we are by the beauties and emotional insights that they have ushered into our consciousnesses.

Canadians, famously, do this rather well.

This year, especially, with the loss of such song royalty as Gordon
Lightfoot and Robbie Robertson, and our two retiring Queens, Sylvia and Buffy, we have come to appreciate the need for new waves of talent to shoal up our shores with wonder, and initiate musical parties in our hearts. Fortunately, we have many such champions close at hand.

Julian Taylor played the inaugural performance on Toronto’s
new Hugh’s Room Live stage last year, and he magnified the
significance of the event by premiering a new song, “Seeds,” which he had just co-written with T.O. poet Robert Priest. This year it has taken over many a set of headphones and shows no sign of ending its growth spurt, having recently reappeared in the form of a more acoustic distillate. The song is irrevocably provocative and confidently hopeful. https://www.youtube.com/embed/xNbZteb_Ycw?feature=oembed

William Prince is another reliable wellspring of northern song. His compositions are as beautiful as his gentle, deep voice. These
qualities have powers that can quiet a room full of Torontonians
and even darken their cell phones. His song “When You Miss Someone” from the Stand In The Joy album is full of articulate imagery and faceted with tingling guitar and dynamic nuances. It “Tears you apart… and then some.” https://www.youtube.com/embed/TxVzg0F4fcU?feature=oembed

Victoria’s Layla Zoe makes big notes and big emotions that flare up and scorch you with their power. Usually categorized as a blues singer, her major song-writing skills often go unnoticed in the shadow of her vicious guitar playing and blazing stage presence, which has been more visible in Europe than in Canada for the last few years. Nevertheless, her outstanding tune “The World Could Change” sums up, with a tentative hesitancy, the activist’s challenge in attempting to effect change by lighting a flame “to disable their plans”, equating the sense of physical isolation with the feeling of political helplessness. https://www.youtube.com/embed/AsNlvV8LfaU?feature=oembed

The fire metaphor is also put to good use by veteran musical
partisan Ken Whiteley on his So Glad I’m Here album. His song
“There’s A Candle,” derives lyrically from the wisdom of Rumi, the metaphysical poet, and surges with a complex undertow created by bassist George Koller and gleaming flurries of instrumental filigree from the Persian tar, udu, and daf performed, respectively, by Davod Azad and Al Qahwa’s Nagmeh Faramand. Ken’s voice rings with the confident reassurance of a survivor to lift the song to greatness. https://www.youtube.com/embed/JGSITChdSRk?feature=oembed

Noah Zacharin has greatness working for him on a molecular level. He thinks about
everything, he rounds his ideas up and, in performance and
conversation, edits like lightning, while keeping his listeners engaged with a seemingly whimsical insouciance. The rewards of this approach are abundant on his 2023 release, Points Of Light, where his prodigious poetic sense and fleet fingers combine to produce a flawless album of originals. The deepest cut, to my ear, is “So Much Work To Be Done,” a lament for Guy Clark, but take your pick. They are all unique little victories. https://www.youtube.com/embed/XoQuY80PnDQ?feature=oembed

As Jerry Leger’s star has slowly risen, thanks to his industrious touring schedule, his loyal maintenance of a road-disciplined and muscular band, and his labour-intensive recording projects (20 albums in 18 years), the charm and fury of his music has been gradually ramping up to the rolling boil displayed on his most recent release, Donlands. Once again, due to the uniform excellence of the music, it’s difficult to pick out one tune superior to the others, but “Three Hours Ahead Of Midnight” certainly bears all the hooks, lines and kinks of a potential hit. https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ozk01sCmBtA?feature=oembed

American songstress Annie Gallup’s “The Sky At Night” is the lead track on her Small Fortune album, and it breathes with the breath of barbed wisdom while it pulses throughout with measured vectors and drifting bell tones. “Between beauty and truth no distance at all.” Perhaps the most lusciously beautiful song on my list. https://www.youtube.com/embed/461Svy3Lu9k?feature=oembed

Sometimes I think that “Delaney’s Dad” is the most important song of the year. Because of the simplicity and honesty of Moira & Claire’s special vocal delivery, it just seems like an overdue, eleventh commandment for inter- generational respect, kindness, and courage. The light-hearted Nova Scotians tickle your integrity bone with their lyrics and your ear bones with their candied, conversational harmonies. https://www.youtube.com/embed/TIuGSU_p3T8?feature=oembed

The objective of producing a homegrown Jamaican / Canadian reggae variant with a cultivated sturdiness and sense of equity all our own has been a goal of Toronto’s musical community for decades. We hit the mark this year with “What Ah Joy,” a song by The Memberz, enhanced by lyrical input from Juno champ Exco Levi. https://www.youtube.com/embed/cGS89D3AAX4?feature=oembed

Josh & Katie Pascoe are a roots couple making their way up out of the underbrush of the old-growth Canadian music scene with truly new ideas. Working as Fresh Breath, they are taking all the right trails and touring relentlessly in advance of their upcoming album, Through My Window. The title track is a good way to close off this overly-short overview of what has been a great year of fertile creativity in our country. This song goes by so fast, but the vapours will linger with you, and hopefully enfold your inner ear with a lively hope as we set anchor on the near shore of 2024.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/w7XJV8p-SYw?feature=oembed

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