The Drug Rugs in one word are bubbly. In one sentence they are a jangly, indie-rock band from Halifax. Recalling and reinventing sounds from bands like the Smiths, Prince, The Strokes, St. Vincent, and Iggy Pop, the Drug Rugs own a sound that is modern and unmistakably their own.
Cassie Josephine and Gabriel Minnikin make cosmic country music – two old souls navigating a modern world. The duo from Halifax, Nova Scotia released their debut album, Flower Country on October 1, 2016. This split album is the love child of Gabriel, a founding member of acclaimed country outfit The Guthries, and singer-songwriter Cassie Josephine. Flower Country invites full immersion into gentle twang, soaring harmonies, poetic lyrics, and melodies that both haunt and toe tap.
In a country known for multi-talented singer/songwriters, Halifax-based Don Brownrigg (via Codroy Valley, Newfoundland) strides confidently amongst his peers. He writes honest and vivid tunes resulting in an absolutely unique albums. Both commercial (Sweet Dream Sleeper/When The Heart Resigns) and credible at the same time (Fight For Your Castle/No Smoke, No Gun, In It), Don's vocal melodies and lyrics carry the listener along with him.
Writing songs about love, lust, luck and loss, Brownrigg brings his charms to the live stage with a rich voice, filled with experience and wisdom, and captivates audiences with storytelling and soulful serenades.
He recently completed an album of his latest collection of songs, Fireworks, to be released in early 2018. Working again with producer and friend Daniel Ledwell at Echo Lake in Lake Echo, NS, Fireworks sees the dynamic duo collaborating again after the success of Brownrigg's It Takes All Kinds (to make this world, I find).
Sharing stages with the likes of Shawn Colvin, Sharon Van Etten and Serena Ryder, Brownrigg has also had feature songs in television series like The Blacklist, Reign, and The Fosters.
From Halifax via hockey-stick making Hespeler, Ontario, Thomas Stajcer released his debut single last year, entitled Sad Cowboy, a playful half autobiographical, half fantastical take on making the move East and what lays beyond.
Stajcer is currently working on his debut EP Will I Learn To Love Again? - a tour of doubt and regret that culminates in that ultimate question.
When not making his own music, Thomas works on others' stuff as house engineer at Joel Plaskett's award-winning New Scotland Yard studio in Dartmouth, NS.
Affable host and sound tech par excellence, Jon Cornwall is one of the main reasons performers from all over the world want to play the Carleton Music Bar & Grill.
Perhaps Jon's affinity for artists comes from the fact that he's a musician himself. Growing up he studied piano (Royal Conservatory) and as a teenager picked up the guitar and started writing tunes. He's performed his mellow, insightful, lyrical songs all over the Maritimes solo, duo, and full band, including opening for such greats as Ron Sexsmith, Steve Poltz, Dave Gunning, and more. He's produced/engineered for countless others including Sean McCann, Gordie Sampson, Willie Nile, and The Northern Pikes. Jon also recorded David Myles' award winning 'Live at the Carleton' album.
Jon is an outstanding artist in his own right, as you'll discover when you catch his set at The Carleton opening for Dave Sampson.
SHYRE is a creative collaboration launched by Montreal native vocalist/pianist Sarah Rossy in 2013.
The band mixes instrumental textures with ethereal ambiance all while taking the listener on a journey through passages of prose in a unique aesthetic. Lush strings and angelic harmonies combine in a soundscape often described as ethereal and innocent in a marriage of orchestra and pop.
Their first EP, Winds, was released in June 2014. Their most recent EP, Atlas Flag, was released in August 2015.
In summer 2016, SHYRE performed three sold-out debut shows at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. The group is in pre-production for their first full-length album, set for release in 2017.
A native of Prince Edward Island, Rose Cousins lives in Halifax Nova Scotia. She deeply values being part of multiple music communities, and is constantly fueled by collaboration. Cousins’ 2012 album We Have Made A Spark celebrated her Boston community and featured a cast of musicians Cousins had known and played music with for a decade. It won a JUNO Award, 3 East Coast Music Awards, a Canadian Folk Music Award, was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize, and made picks/best of lists in USA Today, NPR Music and Oprah Magazine. Her music has found its way into several TV shows including Grey’s Anatomy.
Thomas Matheson is a Halifax singer/songwriter that definitely deserves to be floating higher on everyone's radar, just as his band The Dead Tenors deserved to be. He plays sporadically and we wish he played more but, as a family man these days, his priorities are where they ought to be. Don't miss this chance at giving him a listen!
Devarrow is the moniker of Graham Ereaux, a singer-songwriter who blends simple folk with sophisticated pop to create music which reflects an isolated upbringing in Moncton, New Brunswick and a subsequent half decade of traveling. In 2015, Devarrow self-released The Great Escape, a collection of eleven songs written in a leaky-roofed apartment while living in Vancouver for a winter. To support the release, Devarrow toured Canada extensively as a one-man-band in 2015 and 2016, focusing on creating an energetic, captivating and intimate live show performed in the raconteur style. Gaining recognition in the maritimes - including an ECMA nomination - Devarrow moved back East to Halifax, Nova Scotia where he now resides. With a refined focus on lyrics and arrangement, Devarrow will be releasing a new EP and LP in 2017.
He was recently named Artist In Residence in a competion sponsored by Casino Nova Scotia.
Tommy Green Jr's debut record was nominated for Pop Record Of The Year and New Artist Record Of The Year at last year's Music Nova Scotia Awards. His summer song, Sand In My Sheets music video was shot in Australia, Mexico, St Maarten and Halifax and can be found on YouTube. Tommy is currently in the final mixing stage of a live album due later this summer!
scrapes are a five-piece rock band stationed in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Channelling a true appreciation of the thrills and spills of living on the east coast, scrapes specialize in driving pop songs that speak with a loud and honest voice. The result of lifelong friendships and a mutual appreciation of cars that aren’t quite vintage, scrapes combine sturdy rhythms, hot guitars and bossy vocals in a sound that honours rock’s most modest heroes, dad’s old records, and the more surprising aspects of the 1990s.
scrapes started with the released Lebaron EP in 2013, an album which preceded the live act. In their short time as a band scrapes have competed in the finals of Toronto’s Indie Week Challenge, held a month-long residency at the legendary Carleton Music Bar and Grill, shared the stage with some of Canada’s top rock acts and played scores of shows around the Maritimes. Their debut EP Lebaron has been well received, garnering praise from magazines such as The Coast (Halifax, NS), and The Scope (St. Johns, NL). scrapes are currently sporting a shiny new EP entitled Top of the Stairs, recorded in Halifax at The Sonic Temple.
Liam Corcoran was the co-founder of the popular indie-pop group Two Hours Traffic. Since the group disbanded, Liam has embarked on a solo career, releasing the mini-album ROM-DROM in September 2015. Backed by a strong cast of Charlottetown's finest, Liam has been developing a strong live show for this solo material. He is set to release a new full-length record entitled Nevahland in November 2017.
Owen Meany's Batting Stance is the moniker of Halifax songwriter Daniel Walker. As Owen Meany's Batting Stance, each performance is a contract to burst the bubble between audience and performer through relatable, punching songs. Lyrically oriented, using songs to cradle narratives with conventional chords and unconventional structure.
If you dig The Weakerthans' John K. Samson, you'll like Owen Meany's Batting Stance.
Adam MakBain is a 35 year old singer songwritter from Pictou, Nova Scotia. Influenced at an early age by father Wayne Douglas MacBain (original member of former local band, Fox Fire) Adam started showing his musical interest before he could properly form words, watching his father write and sing. By the age of 6 he was given his first guitar and started to learn how play. It wasn't till the age of 14 it became a serious pasttime for Adam, writting his first song and starting his first band Elysium, in 1996 with high school friends. Elysium recorded their first record with Terry Pulliam (Sloan's 'Smeared' producer) in 1998. The band never made it past 1999.
Adam went on to forming other high school bands 'Pledge 57' and 'TBA' but nothing he felt concrete until forming the group 'Singledout' in 2003. A 4 piece alt/rock group. Singledout recorded their first record "Better Alone" in 2005 at Dave Gunning's studio and released it locally, performing and making radio waves throughout Nova Scotia. By the end of 2005 Adam & S.O. guitarist, Ian McLaren were left to become the last two members of the band continuing to play through out Nova Scotia as an acoustic act. By 2007 Adam had become a fully independent solo acoustic act and continues to find his place in music.
"We didn't want anything to do with it," says Matt Ellis, who sings and plays guitar in Villages and grew up in Cape Breton. "Our siblings played the fiddle or the pipe—we wanted to play something loud. But it's in you, man. You can't escape it."
That's how Ellis ended up fronting his own traditional band, along with his brother Travis, Jon Pearo and Archie Rankin, a group of men you may also know as the excellent rock band Mardeen (or as Ellis puts it, "all the same crew"). That band, a longtime local favourite known for ear-hooking melodies and high-octane live shows—Mo Kenney's 2014 hit Telephones is a Mardeen original, from its 2008 debut—began writing acoustic-based, trad-leaning songs a few years back. Less stomp-shout, more swaying-sing-along. Last November, Villages was the hot ticket at Nova Scotia Music Week and production has begun on a full-length album. (The single Hymn After Hymn, produced by Joel Plaskett, is up now at thebandvillages.bandcamp.com.)
"In this style of songs, the story is as important as the melody. We're not trained at all, it's in the air," says Ellis. "It's kinda like, why not? There are two sides of me that are so fun to express. There's no one thing that I'm proud of or not proud of. But there's this side of us that we feel is important."
The rollicking folk of Villages and driving power-pop of Mardeen are so distinct, genre-wise, that the quartet has no problem moving between them in terms of writing or performance, pursuing both projects with equal focus and fervour. Mardeen's fanbase and indie points do transfer somewhat, making for a Celtic band that's cool to like. "We have your approval and we have our parents' approval," Ellis says. "It's nice to be either getting people interested in this kind of music—that are our age—and to honour the people that inspired us. It's a very obvious thing that when the melody comes to me," he says, "if it's full of salt water—oh, that's Villages." - The Coast
Pretty much exactly the kind of music you would expect a Nova Scotian who visited Philadelphia once and then never stopped talking about it to make. "It's your wonderfully sensitive and caring frustrations. It's giving more than you need to, and receiving less than you deserve in return but being really, 'no, it's fine'. No matter the catchy chord arrangements, wonderfully cheeky but still environmentally descriptive lyrics..." - Daniel Walker, Friend
Beauts are a band from Halifax who play rock songs that are scrappy and melodic. Sacrificing chops for gusto, Beauts' songs are full of bittersweet hooks and shout-along choruses.
Astute and adept, this four piece take their sound and its delivery as seriously as their audience allows. Fluctuating from lyrically thoughtful complex ballads, through furious noisescapes and back to stripped-naked and earnest rockers, Floodland’s body of work is ever-evolving yet consistently unpretentious. From the very first verse, it becomes clear to the listener that Floodland take their inventions, though not necessarily themselves, seriously. Insistent in their craft, these zealous practitioners of indie rock produce hooks that will pick you out of the surging crowd, follow you home and stay the night.
Founded in East Toronto in 2012, The Old Salts have grown from the melodic and lyrical guitar duo of James da Mota and Devin Staple to a high-powered 6-piece roots-rock outfit. Da Mota's whiskey-and-cigarettes baritone and Staple's sweeping, singing lead guitar is enhanced by crunchy harmonica, frenetic mandolin and a rhythm section right out of Big Pink.
With a devoted following, known affectionately as the Bourbonite Regrets Society of Toronto, they've gone on to mount three tours of Eastern Canada, regularly light up audiences at CMW and NXNE and share stages with The Strumbellas, The Wooden Sky, Murder By Death, Ladies of the Canyon, Larry and His Flask, and Devin Cuddy among others.
With Syndey Galbraith in the producer's seat, The Old Salts spent most of 2016 writing and recording a brand new batch of songs and experimenting with new sounds and textures. The first results of these sessions, showcasing both a roots/Canadiana songwriting lineage as well as an adventurous approach to structure and texture, will come to light in mid-2017 as the band prepares for the release of the follow-up to their hard-hitting 2014 album.
Singer-Songwriter Tyler Messick's friends call him a time-traveler. His passion for uncovering archaic ballades of the British Isles and rural America have informed his unique style of orchestrated psych-rock. He grew up in the bowels of archives and museums in America, Canada and the Middle East - while his academic parents curated galleries and resurrected ancient texts for academia.
He was displaced to rural Nova Scotia at 14, and there became the obsessive kid in the front row at Plasket, Sloan and Al Tuck shows. He has since formed his own unique sound branch - taking his lessons from these local legends.
Tyler released one of the best debut solo albums we’ve ever heard – Grain Sales of 1840 – at 23, when he first arrived in Halifax, before forming The Museum Pieces and making a couple of ground-breaking albums with them. Then he took off for Montreal and wound up on a career detour that has seen him traveling the world with Arcade Fire as Win Butler’s guitar tech. He is back to his roots making a pop/rock music solo and with a full band. His latest album is Black Cape and was released in July 2017.
Southern Ontario singer/songwriter Spencer Burton has had a rather chameleonic career to date. He first made a mark in rockers Attack In Black, then went the folk-rock route under the moniker Grey Kingdom, as well as writing and performing live in City and Colour.
The singer-songwriter, fulltime family man and part-time farmer lives on his own grid, growing his own produce and raising his own livestock. “It’s a labor of love,” he says. “That’s actually a good way to describe my music. “I don’t want to do anything with my music, with my life, with anything that I do that doesn’t involve love. … I’ve just gone through so many things in my life, especially with music — I’ve gone from rock ’n’ roll to punk to all this different stuff, folk music — it all boils down to doing what I do because it makes me feel good. … My music is a personal thing, just like this farm.”
Though Burton retired his punk stripes and stepped away from his musical supporting roles to go solo in 2014, that year’s underrated, under-the-radar, acoustic-driven LP Don’t Let the World See Your Love just barely scratches the surface of what the singer delivers on his latest, Songs Of. Due out on vanguard Canadian indie label Dine Alone Records, and cut at Nashville’s The Bomb Shelter studio with producer Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) and session musicians who play for the likes of Margo Price and Daniel Romano, the release brings a rich full-band treatment to the Nick Drake-worthy ghostly vocals, contemplative verses and effortless melodies.
Songs Of standouts like the country-gospel weeper Broken Hearts and Broken Chains swells from clock-stopping serenity to a grand finale of pedal-steel and tabernacle-ready choir vocals that show just how deeply Burton is willing to fearlessly invest himself in this record. "There’s something about big, raspy gospel voices that bring just the right amount of drama and beauty to the mix. I've always been a bit dramatic, and I've always had an affinity for beautiful things,” Burton says, recalling without shame how, at 8 years old, he developed a deep relation with Michael Bolton’s overwrought take on Percy Sledge’s When a Man Loves a Woman.
By contrast, the album’s uplifting Unmistakable Love offers an optimistic view of what can become of the brokenhearted. “It’s the first love song I ever wrote that didn’t end in complete and total misery,” Burton explains. “It reminds me of the start of making my family, although it may or may not be about that.” And the wistful End of the Summer finds Burton ruminating on the most valuable thing a human being has to offer this world — themselves. “I wrote that song for a friend in a time of need,” Burton recalls. “There are many things that fill you with warmth and love in this world, but none stronger than the company of good people. … When you write a song for a friend, every time it's played, it brings thoughts and memories of such feelings. At least for me” Burton might make music for himself, but it’s music that resonates with an emotional core and sage wisdom that all good people can relate to.
Dave Sampson writes heart-on-your-sleeve folk/pop songs, delivered with a captivating and authentic voice that could blow down a brick house. His knack for crafting simple ear-worms and his high-energy shows have been winning him fans across Atlantic Canada for the past three years. Over this time, he has shared the stage and worked with artists such as Classified, Gordie Sampson, Mo Kenney and Ria Mae.
In 2014, Dave released his anticipated debut album No Pressure, No Diamonds with producers/collaborators Carleton Stone, Gordie Sampson and Dylan Guthro (Port Cities). With the released of this album, No Pressure No Diamonds was nominated for Music Nova Scotia’s POP album of the year, reached #1 on the ECC charts twice and received national airplay throughout Canada. Dave was also invited to Germany in 2014 with songwriters Carleton Stone and Breagh Mackinnon to participate in a songwriting retreat followed by a tour.
Fast forward to 2015, Dave’s song No Pressure, No Diamonds was picked up by Canadian Hip Hop icon Classified and released as his first single on the Billboard charts. Currently still charting, the song also features hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg. Dave also received a songwriting nod on Neon Dreams single Love Experts which made it to the Billboard EDM Top 40. Joining forces with Classified has introduced Dave’s music to a fresh new fan base, performing with him at WE DAY which had close to 12,000 people in attendance, CBC first play live session in Toronto and also penning another song on Classified's album Oh No.
Dave has also been hand-picked as one of Nova Scotia’s most promising young songwriters to take part in the prestigious, invitation-only Gordie Sampson Song camp for the past 5 years. Through this opportunity, he has been fortunate enough to collaborate with the province’s finest writers: Gordie Sampson, Mo Kenney, Donovan Woods, Port Cities and Neon Dreams.
“Heartfelt, energized and emotional, Dave Sampson has obvious natural talent as a Maritime singer-songwriter. Recommended for fans of Joel Plaskett, David Myles and Hawksley Workman. “ - Grant Lawrence (CBC Music)
"Not only is Dave Sampson a fantastic singer/songwriter, but his live performance during both shows (as a band and as a solo artist) was second to none. The level of comfort that he and his band have on stage oozes with every movement made.” - HalifaxBloggers.ca @ EAST COAST MUSIC WEEK 2016
“Dave Sampson writes a great, heartfelt pop song and has a warm, inviting, laid-back style that will no doubt appeal to a wide cross-section of people. It’s not hard to imagine his music lighting up the radio and drawing crowds” – The Scope, St. John’s, NL
“Is Dave Sampson Pop, folk or indie? Who cares if the songs are good!” - Stephen Cooke, Chronicle Herald
Dusty Keleher writes songs that tell a good story and searches out gems from the past that do the same.
Simply put, roots/traditional music that takes its cue from ancient Irish ballads and songs from the folk/rock canon. Original modern day tales on subjects far and near. From whatever genre and tradition he draws on, Dusty brings a heartfelt soul to all the songs he sings.
Further to that, if you like an artist like Ronnie Lane (Small Faces/Faces/Slim Chance), you'll like what Dusty's doing.
Devin Cuddy has always made music his way, and some might argue, the hard way. As the son of one of Canada’s most beloved singer/songwriters, Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, country rock has been the soundtrack to Devin’s entire life—he was born the same week Blue Rodeo began recording its 1987 debut album, Outskirts. But from the moment Devin was drawn to playing music, he was determined to get as close as possible to the sources of all the sounds he loved, whether they were made by rock and roll’s founding fathers, the Grand Ole Opry’s honky tonk heroes, or Jelly Roll Morton and the kings of jazz.
Mastering those styles was only taking things halfway, though. The most important lesson Devin learned from his dad was that the way a musician truly develops their craft is in front of audiences. From his home base at the Cameron House, the Queen Street West club that has long been the epicenter of Toronto’s roots rock scene, Cuddy has done just that on almost a nightly basis. At the same time, he has helped cultivate a growing contingent of like-minded young musicians to slowly but consistently spread the word coast to coast.
“I came upon those influences as a teenager, just from picking through my father’s CD collection and going out from there to related artists,” Devin said in a 2012 CBC interview. “Then in college I found something about country music that I probably still can’t really describe, but that really calls to me and affects me. I think it’s probably the storytelling and the simplicity, yet deeper meanings.”
No one can accuse Cuddy of not paying his dues over the past several years, and while his father has taken great pride in Devin’s accomplishments, he has also shown tremendous respect in keeping a safe distance away. However, the time is now at hand for Devin to take the next step in pursuing the large audience he deserves, and he has earned the honour of being the special guest on Blue Rodeo’s 2014 cross-Canada tour. Not only will Devin perform an opening set, he will also play after-show club gigs in almost each city, showcasing his barrelhouse style in its natural environment.
“Even as I carve my own path, there are some things I can’t say no to,” Cuddy says, “specifically doing things with Blue Rodeo. Not only is that a great opportunity for me, but it’s family and it means a lot to me and my father as well. I’ve come to embrace that for sure."
As 2017 unfolds — with a new album due — more and more people are sure to acknowledge Devin Cuddy’s unique talent, and agree that the future of Canadian music is in good hands.
Alt-rock power trio Velvet Black stands out with its latino vibe, reminscent of Tarantino’s movies and their "gringo" textures. Greatly influenced by the California sound and Southern American lifestyles, this Quebec City-based band swings between pop and rock music, incorporating blues and rap to the mix.
Formally knowned as Blue Daven’s Code, Velvet Black has toured all over U.S.A and Canada, playing in major venues and festivals.
Velvet Black released its first LP - Orleans - in March 2107.
"Daughter + Bon Iver = Megan Bonnell" – Zimbio.com
"Can't Have You is like a sunbeam coming through the window shining down on my morning coffee" – CBC Radio 2
Toronto-based singer/songwriter Megan Bonnell released her sophomore album, Magnolia, on April 15, 2016 via MapleMusic Recordings. The record, which was produced once again by Chris Stringer (The Wooden Sky, Timber Timbre) and Joshua Van Tassel (David Myles, Gypsophilia), holds within it a very specific time in her life and features 11 new songs, including the first single, Can't Have You.
"Magnolia started to take shape back in 2013. I was touring my first album 'Hunt and Chase' and as I did, new songs started to arrive, and thank goodness for that. It was in the making of this record that I was able to make a certain kind of sense of the world around me. Love came and went, and then came again, and my family found itself blessed by the birth of my beautiful sister's first little girl. Things were changing. I wanted to move forward, but I didn't want time to diminish history's meaning." Megan continues, "It is in these songs that I captured what these moments have meant to me, and who we were together. All of us. Just the two of us. Me. Magnolia holds within it a chapter of my life. Reflections of times and places, of heartbreak and happiness."
Magnolia is dynamic, and emotionally endowed. Its songs are honest, and do not steer away from being raw and vulnerable. The album opener, Can't Have You carries traces of Bob Dylan romanticism. Like a handwritten love letter, it is a tender plea to let love go, "Lay me down if I can't have you, Let me go if there's nothing more that I can do."
Towards the album's end, waits sleeping giant, Dynamite. An ode to Bonnell and co-producers Stringer, and Van Tassels love for sonic spontaneity, the song opens with hauntingly lonely piano and vocal melodies, shimmering with sadness and recollection while the two instruments rise and descend, trying to find their way through the heartbreak. Suddenly, the song unpredictably unravels into a chaotic, chant-ridden, beat driven, synth-blazing, rock-out. You are in a completely different place than where the album began. Magnolia truly leaves no rug left unturned.
Bonnell released her debut album Hunt And Chase in October 2013 on Nevado Records. She has since been touring North America in support of the release while building her profile and drawing audiences with her soulful and captivating performances. More recently, Bonnell expanded her team by partnering with Arts & Crafts publishing. She has also toured Spain with John Grant (November 2013), opened for Passenger at BIME Live Festival (Bilbao, Spain) and performed at Barcelona Jazz Festival and The End Festival (London, UK) all in anticipation of the release of the album in UK/EU in 2014. After wrapping up a full North American tour supporting Justin Nozuka which took her on shows across the United States and Canada, Bonnell had a noteworthy summer playing a handful of festivals across North America such as Taste of Toronto, Field Trip Music Festival, and Gateway Festival.
Skye Wallace is what happens when a classically trained singer with east coast roots discovers punk rock in their youth and writes folk music that makes you feel excited. Hailed coast to coast as a “national treasure” (Sad Mag), Skye Wallace is now based out of Toronto, Ontario.
Her voice and sound, accompanied by her full band, is a force to be reckoned with. Her newest album Something Wicked, produced by Jim Bryson, was listed as one of Vancouver Weekly's Best Albums of 2016 and CBC's Top 8 Albums You Need To Hear This Month. Dubbed by CBC's Stephen Quinn a "kick ass record", Something Wicked will "burn you to the ground" (Vice/Noisey)!
"Something Wicked...emanates with the philosophy behind Immanuel Kant’s 'the terrifying sublime'. This is not an album that takes shortcuts to preserve your precious heart; it’s magnificently honest. Something Wicked is a rare contemporary Canadian marvel that sticks to every inch of you." - Maddy Cristall, CBC
Nathan Wiley released his first solo project, Bottom Dollar in 2002. Not only was it his first solo effort, but it was a fully professionally produced CD, as opposed to the low-tech cassettes produced by all of his previous projects. While the surf influence wasn't evident, his talents as a singer and songwriter were startling, after so many years of being known as primarily a lead guitarist rather than a frontman. Some media reviews drew a comparison to Tom Waits, but most fans seem to agree that, while some of the lyrics are similar to Waits' style, a closer comparison in lyric style would be Bob Dylan.
Bottom Dollar gained much critical acclaim: Wiley won Definitely Not the Opera's Big Break Contest in 2002, and then won awards from the East Coast Music Association and SOCAN. Tracks from the album received repeated airplay on CBC Radio. The video for the lead single "Bottom Dollar Baby" was played in rotation on the Canadian muic station MuchMoreMusic, and remained in their Top 40 for several weeks. The album was released through the indie-friendly group Sonic, and was eventually picked up for distribution by Warner Bros. Records.
The follow-up High Low was released in 2004, also gaining similar awards and acclaim and The City Destroyed Me was released in 2007.
Though he keeps a relatively low profile, hunkered down in Summerside, PEI, Nathan continues to record independently and remains one of the region's finest songwriters. His latest - Bandits - was released in 2015.
Les Deuxluxes are armed to the teeth with powerful vocals, primal rhythms and two raging guitars. Hailing from Montreal, the two-piece band has attitude and the chops to back it up as they mix glitter and sweat into their own fiery blend of rock ‘n roll.
On September 2016, they released their critically-acclaimed very first album Springtime Devil. "Due to this juxtaposition of new and old, Les Deuxluxes, much like Springtime Devil, is a treasure which defies time to be one of the most innovative releases I have heard in quite some time." (Gerrod Harris, Canadian Beats)
Anna Frances Meyer (vocals, guitar) and Étienne Barry (drums, guitar & vocals, simultaneously) released their 6-song mini-album Traitement Deuxluxe in May 2014 to critical acclaim. Voir’s Mickaël Bergeron wrote "[their] rock’n’roll is damn efficient" while Huffington Post’s Mélissa Pelletier has praised "Anna Frances’ immense, almost golden voice and multi-instrumentalist Étienne’s impressive, natural talent."
Since then, they’ve stolen the show at many large-scale Quebec events, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the Festival d’été de Québec, POP Montreal and M for Montreal. Notably, they’ve opened for Lisa LeBlanc and Jon Spencer (Heavy Trash), and in 2015 they took their powerhouse performance on the road to the USA and the Maritimes.
On December 2016, the duo set out on a successful tour across South America. Anna and Étienne spent two weeks touring in Chile (Santiago, Valdivia), Argentina (Buenos Aires) and Brazil (Sao Paulo), and also got media attention from Scream & Yell.
The one-of-a-kind duo promises a hell-fire of a show, and will have the entire room enamoured by their unique and powerful classic sounds (Franca G. Mignacca, Bucket List) in a matter of seconds. Les Deuxluxes’ sensual, wild performances are guaranteed to shake you to the core.
This Canadian songstress has a voice that can pierce a heart of stone. Her superbly crafted songs often tell stories of troubled souls who rebel against their circumstances to attain a quiet dignity. These are tales of longing and love, of small town joys and pains, of our simple feelings and strong passions. These are tales that look into our beautifully flawed human hearts.
Performing since 1996, Oh Susanna has released eight critically acclaimed albums. She is the recipient of a Genie Award for Best Original Song and a Canadian Folk Music Award for English Songwriter of the Year. She has also been nominated for two Juno Awards each for Best Roots and Traditional Album of the Year, as well as two Canadian Folk Music Awards for Best Solo Performer and for Best Contemporary Singer of the Year. This year she released A Girl in Teen City, an album of songs set in 1980s Vancouver starring a teenage punk girl named Suzie. Oh Susanna lives in Toronto with her husband and son.
Ben Kunder knows a thing or two about craftsmanship, about coaxing details from imprecise ideas and contouring hard edges to create something beautiful and seamless.
As a musician, Kunder has expertly navigated that rarefied space between elegiac folk and accessible pop. That achievement was handily illustrated by his quietly dazzling, star-studded 2015 debut, Golden, which drew critical acclaim and airplay from Canada to the UK to the Netherlands while cementing Kunder’s status as a peerless singer/songwriter and sought-after live performer and opening act. And as a carpenter, Kunder has kept himself firmly grounded while keeping his family fed. Of late, Kunder has also kept himself flush with studio time by bartering with his friend, producer and musician Aaron Goldstein, swapping woodworking skills for sessions at Goldstein’s Baldwin Street Sound in hometown Toronto.
“My first record, Golden, was a collection of songs I’d been working on for years,” he says. “Now, it’s a bit more immediate and I am becoming a more conceptual songwriter, writing about things that are important to me or about specific experiences I go through."
“It’s interesting that a practical thing like carpentry can mirror songwriting,” confirms Kunder, whose eclectic CV also includes showcasing at the International Folk Alliance Conference as well as at NXNE and CMW plus living on each of Canada’s coasts both on and off the grid.
He continues: “With both songwriting and carpentry, you are starting from nothing but an idea. Hopefully in the end you have something that will last a lifetime.”
Kunder’s new songs – slated for his hotly anticipated 2018 sophomore disc – find him tweaking his approach somewhat. Where once it was a bottle of bourbon and a guitar in the rehearsal space whenever the moment struck, the arrival of Kai and brother baby Jude means moments must be stolen and musical ideas captured with haste as they arrive.
The essence of Kunder’s writing, however – his ability to pinpoint and then soundtrack the radiance of both the ordinary and the extraordinary - remains undiminished.
“My days are long, that’s for sure,” Kunder allows. “But when you have passion and ambition and support to follow through, it doesn’t matter how exhausted you are or how much sleep you’ve had. You keep going until the job’s done.”
Amongst the blanket-covered walls and strung lights of a basement in Windsor, Ontario, an indie rock power trio known as Huttch was formed in 2014. If their well-crafted guitar riffs and solid rhythm section complete with driving bass lines doesn’t ignite an adrenaline rush, their act also includes acrobatic stunts mid guitar solo. With gear spiffed up in vibrant aztec patterns, and outfits adorned with sea-shell necklaces, the band could easily be mistaken for California strays; softly reminding their audience to relish life’s simple, audio pleasures.
Toronto-based Eugene Ripper is a Canadian punk/alt folk pioneer. After cutting his rock and roll teeth as a founding guitar slinger for Canada's first wave surf punkabilly rockers Stark Naked & The Fleshtones, Ripper launched into a storied solo career featuring a unique mashup of punk, folk, roots and rock and roll. He lands at HUFF 2017 promoting his 7th album Altercool.
"From barbed fast' n' furious solo acoustic punk folk, rockabilly and rock n roll to imaginative storytelling atmospherics and post modern lyrical ballads. It's a cool and entertaining ride." Montreal Gazette
"Ripper puts spikes back in folk music." Vancouver Province
Kris and Dee are Kingston’s superfolk duo Kris Abbott (of indie-hall-of-famers The Pursuit of Happiness) and Dee McNeil (of all-girl rockers The Strap-Ons).
A Great Long Game is the duo’s third full-length album in less than five years. It’s the much-anticipated follow-up to their 2013 release, Bloom, which was selected by CBC Music’s Mark Rheaume as a Top Pick for the year, and to their 2011 debut, Still Here Inside, chosen by Starbucks for its Worldwide Playlist. A Great Long Game is currently played on CBC, CKCU, CHRW, CFRC (held #1 on Earshot! for 6 weeks), CJAI (held #1 for 6 MONTHS), CHSR (entered at #3) and the single Cold Chisel was chosen by the City of Kingston as the soundtrack to the I Am… homelessness video campaign.
Drawing upon their folk, pop and rock roots as well as digital influences, Kris and Dee’s production concept for A Great Long Game is a pure extension of their creative process. The result is a dynamic, textured collection of songs that range from introspective and intimate to playful and rocking—each one was written, produced and performed solely by Kris and Dee. The duo started their recording process at The Bathouse studio and engineered the remainder of the album in their home studio. Going all the way with the concept, Kris also stepped up to mix the album with good friend Trevor Henderson.
Kris and Dee toured across Ontario in the summer of 2015 including mainstage performances at Ottawa’s Westfest and London’s Home County Music and Art Festival and currently play shows in Ontario as both an acoustic duo and 5 piece band.
The duo met in 2003 when Kris joined The Strap-Ons. The connection was instant and progressed from a musical relationship to a personal one. They were married in 2005 and have been writing and performing as a duo since 2007.
The Heavy Blinkers are a lush, orchestral-pop sensation formed in 1998 in Halifax, Nova Scotia as a solo project of Jason Michael MacIsaac. The band has recorded five albums and one EP, their latest is Health. The band’s membership is a revolving one but Jason Michael MacIsaac still leads this enigmatic and rarely-seen-live local treasure of an act. As Jason says, "In a way, it has come full circle.” (Primary influences: Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman, Brian Wilson and Carole King.)
Dubbed, "a tour de force of unequalled pop excellence" by Rolling Stone, in August 2017 The Heavy Blinkers' Toronto-based Label, Obscura, will release the band's 2004 album The Night and I Are Still So Young on vinyl for the first time.
“The Heavy Blinkers are one of the Greatest Bands You’ve (Probably) Never Heard” Spin Magazine
“I don’t express myself very well in normal everyday life. I think my songwriting in a lotta ways is sort of an exorcism for me, almost a therapy kind of thing. Sometimes when I finish writing these songs I think, ‘Wow, where did that come from?’" Moe Berg
There was a time when The Pursuit Of Happiness, Moe Berg's still-happening-on-and-off band, was considered one of the best live acts in the country. Over time, personnel changes, as well as family commitments and a new career as an in-demand producer, have put that live rep on the back burner but the songs - I'm An Adult Now, She's So Young, Hard To Laugh, Killed By Love, Two Girls In One (the list does go on) - are etched in the musical consciousness of every Canadian who grew up the golden age of MuchMusic.
"The great thing about the gentle, self-depreciating Berg, other than those clever, funny lyrics, is that he continues to be so darn nice. How can you not like a guy who begins a rare acoustic set by saying 'This isn't my usual thing' and then proceeds to charm his audience as if he's been doing the quiet thing for years?" Edmonton Journal
"Berg and his five-piece The Pursuit of Happiness gleefully conjured up memories of the Raspberries, AC/DC and Abba, often during a single three-minute tune." Philadelphia Enquirer
HUFF is thrilled that Moe will be back in Halifax for the first time in memory to play some acoustic music opening for Tift Merritt and John K. Samson as well as headlining his own rock night with a Halifax All Star Band, which will include TPOH guitarist Kris Abbott! There was a good reason the band had its rep as a live act and if you're smart enough to be at The Carleton on the Labour Day weekend, you'll find out for yourself!
"There are two laws to which TPOH abide: The guitar is God and multi-layered harmonies are essential to every song. The second law, enforced by producer/guru Todd Rundgren, is the one that rationalises the whole album. Verily, the lion shall lie with the lamb." Sounds Magazine (UK)
"Love, desire, lust, sex - Moe Berg sings about it all. And he does it with enough wit and intelligence that Rolling Stone called his Toronto band, The Pursuit of Happiness, a 'thinking person's pop group.' On its third album, The Downward Road, the Edmonton-born Berg continues to display his knack for turning the agony and the ecstasy of romance into catchy three-minute pop tunes. It is a convincing tale, and proof that Berg has become one of pop's finest chroniclers of emotional wars." MacLean’s Magazine
"In keeping with Moe's ambition for TPOH to be a cross between 'ABBA and AC/DC', One Sided Story is a barrage of big, bright'n'dirty guitar riffs, glissando harmonies and shiny metallic melodies. But despite the title, it covers its sexual subject matter from every position possible - funny and angry, appalled and fascinated, menacing and besotted." NME (UK)
"With a lascivious heavy-helium sound, a stance at once underground and anti-punk, and a long- haired blonde geek-cum-star fronting them, TPOH were naturals. Moe Berg's smirk flickered onto the national consciousness in the late '80's, skewering immaturity with a power-pop rocker (I'm An Adult Now) and a great indie video. Crunchy guitars on the outside, candied harmonies on the inside, this was a band for everybody's tomorrows." Montreal Gazette
Edmonton native Moe Berg watched his father play in country bands while he grew up, and spent his time admiring guitarists like Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Beck and Johnny Winter. In his teens and early 20's he pursued his musical ambitions with area bands like the Modern Minds, Troc '59 and Facecrime. It was in Troc '59 that he hooked up with drummer Dave Gilby and in 1985, they agreed that the only way to keep going musically was to move to Toronto and try things out there.
Once in Toronto Moe formed The Pursuit of Happiness. After their indie release, I’m An Adult Now became an underground hit, the band was signed to Chrysalis Records. Their debut full length, Love Junk was produced by Berg’s childhood idol Todd Rundgren and the record launched the band to international attention. TPOH embarked on a year long world tour and then settled in with Rundgren to record their follow up, One-Sided Story. After more touring, the band followed Chrysalis label head, Mike Bone to Mercury Records and released their third album, The Downward Road. The band released two more studio records, Where’s The Bone and The Wonderful World of The Pursuit Of Happiness. Two greatest hits compliations followed, a US selection on Razor And Tie’s called Sex And Food in 2000 and When We Ruled in 2005 on EMI Canada. A full length concert, The Pursuit of Happiness Live In Concert was released in 2005.
A collection of Moe’s short stories, The Green Room was published in 2000.
Outside of TPOH, Moe is also now an in-demand producer and writer in Toronto.
A 20 year old classically trained guitarist by trade, Tyler Haché began writing and performing original music at the age of 15. Like the diverse range of artists who have influenced the musician (Bob Dylan, Jack Johnson and Paul Simon, to name a few), Tyler has a natural ability to craft heart-felt songs that also happen to speak to the masses.
Tyler recently showcased his talents at this years Music NB festival in which he was nominated for four awards, Tyler took home Solo Recording Of The Year . In May of 2016 Tyler was chosen as the 2016 CBC Searchlight Regional Champion.
On a mission to have his music heard and his story told, Tyler frequently travels throughout the Maritime Provinces, performing alongside his collaborators Caleb Bourgeois and Chris Cormier.
Tyler has been fortunate enough to perform alongside such East Coast bands as Hey Rosetta, Tim Chaisson, and David Myles to name a few.
Coupling a brand new full length album (released November 2015– Producer Chris Kirby) with a newly revitalized and highly rehearsed live show, Tyler is someone you want on your stage.
“Tyler is a fantastic young songwriter who has incredible promise. I was pleasantly surprised by his writing instincts along with his very distinctive voice” Louis Thomas – Sonic Entertainment Group
The grey mile lies between places. Murky terrain. You gather your thoughts and assess where you’ve been, where you’re going - peaceful, or unsettling, depending on the day. The grey mile is transition, the landscape of life in between.
From the in-between comes the first record for Canadian singer and songwriter Camille Delean. Ten songs recorded in England and Canada, in collaboration with London’s Ben Walker (Josienne Clarke) and Montreal’s Michael Feuerstack (Snailhouse, Bell Orchestre, the Luyas).
Growing up in small-town Ontario speaking french, Delean's childhood hours were devoted almost entirely to dance, though music permeated everything. Was dance a symptom, or the instigator of a constant need for movement; to see the world from different angles, to not stagnate or anchor? From age seventeen she moved through numerous places - Nashville, Paris, and finally London, where music projects began to take shape.
She met Ben Walker in a London pub, where she was performing her songs for the first time, a-cappella. They would spend the next two years playing together. Gradually they began work on a record, at his house and at Urchin Studios in Hackney.
Life in London was interrupted abruptly. Another relocation, this time to Montreal, led her to Michael Feuerstack, with whom she resumed work on the UK recordings. He would co-produce the remaining sessions, playing numerous instruments himself and enlisting pianist Mathieu Charbonneau (Timber Timbre, Avec Pas d'Casque) and violinist Joshua Zubot to contribute.
The record features musicians from both sides of the Atlantic who have never met, but a clear and unwavering vision lends it cohesion. Together they create a three-dimensional sound, floating from intimate textures to open air, a distant horizon. Restrained rhythms, ankle-deep piano, weaving guitars. Wind-riding vocals navigate, pedal steel and violin hover. The music is deliberately subtle; firmly rooted in traditional song, but unafraid to veer off the trodden path.
Live performance features a malleable lineup of collaborators according to the location and venue, as a further exploration of the world mapped out in the recordings. A reverie of gathered sounds and geography.
Since 2006, The Olympic Symphonium have been creating contemplative, moody music and making audiences croon to their beautiful harmonies, lush soundscapes, and to ponder their poignant lyrics.
Though the band has toured Europe several times, performed at world-renowned events (the Olympic Winter Games, Pop Montreal, and Liverpool Sound City to name a few), and joined forces with an international label, the past couple years have been spent concentrating on their home province of New Brunswick. Specifically, the band has been developing the highly successful Shivering Songs winter festival they curate which recently finishing up its seventh year.
"A friend told me it was Saturn returns and that may be true. I was about to turn thirty and I knew that if I didn't change direction I was going to end up exactly where I was headed."
At the end of Leif Vollebekk's twenties, his own songs didn't sound right. He had spent an entire year on the road, playing almost 100 shows, but every night his favourite moment came only right at the end, covering a song by Ray Charles or Townes Van Zandt. Every time he got home from tour he took a hot shower and lay still under a window, listening to Nick Drake's Pink Moon, feeling saved, wondering why his own music didn't give him that. Why the songs he had written himself always felt like so much work. He booked himself a secret show. One night only at a Montreal dive bar -- not to play his own songs but other people's. Leif found a rhythm section and they rehearsed once. Then midnight unspooled. Leif called it the most fun he had ever had playing music: Ray Charles and Tom Waits over a locked groove; Bob Dylan and Kendrick Lamar over a slow pulse.
The light was dark blue and purple. It was time, Leif understood, to make a dark blue and purple record. An album of locked groove and slow pulse, heavy as a fever. And the lesson he learned from singing all those other people's songs was that none of those other artists seemed worried about anything except laying down their own souls, flat out. "I used to think, 'This will be kinda like a Neil Young song,' 'This will be kinda like a Bob Dylan song,'" he recalled. "I kinda ran out of people to imitate. And then there was just me." His first new song came to him on his bicycle. He wasn't thinking, wasn't trying, but the rhythm, the chords, the melody -- it all just fluttered up. He tried at first to let it go: the song wasn't meticulous enough, it wasn't studied or conceived. The next morning it still came back to him, incontestable. "I told myself, 'You're never saying no to a song ever again,'"
Leif said. "I realized I had been saying 'no' to a lot of songs, over the years." Twin Solitude is what happened when Leif stopped saying no. The songs started coming so fast: fully formed, impossible. "Vancouver Time" took 15 minutes; "Telluride" took less. It was as if the songs were waiting for him. Instead of obsessing about the details of recording, "I just showed up to the studio and went, 'Let's see what happens.'" What happened was, they got it: "Big Sky Country" and its patient, coasting tranquility, "Into the Ether," which rides to reverie with the Brooklyn string duo Chargaux. There's "East of Eden," an interpolation of Gillian Welch, which doesn't seem like it ever ought to end.
For a beautiful album, Twin Solitude is deceptively brave, filled with unexpected refrains. "When the cards get stuck together / so hard to pull them apart," Leif sings, "I think your face is showing." Then: "Ain't the first time that it's snowing." Yet in its heart, above all, Twin Solitude is a gesture back to Leif's long nights under a pink moon, when a record was the only thing that could keep him company. Besides a wink to Hugh MacLennan's novel "Two Solitudes," this is the unlonely loneliness of the album's title. "It isn't a record I made for other people -- it's the one I made for myself," Leif said. "It's the album I wish I could have put on." Listen to it in a rental car in cold weather, with the windows all rolled up. Listen to it laying by an open window. Listen to it all the way through, alone.
"By the time the last notes die away, all that's left should be you," Leif told me. "And I'll be somewhere else. And that's Twin Solitude."
With a view to kicking the hell out of any audience in their path, Like A Motorcycle quickly began playing shows in the Halifax area. They have spent the better part of the last five years cultivating a sound and reputation that has captured attention from audiences and industry alike. Their music is authentic extension of their personalities, something born of "real life," bassist Carson says.
LAM has played as direct support for such acts as Against Me!, Propagandhi, METZ, The Vibrators, Japandroids, The Pack A.D. and Danko Jones, to name a few.
On the heels of a successful campaign supporting their EP #motorpool, which culminated with a 2014 Nova Scotia Music Award for Best Loud Recording, the band posted up at Sydney NS’s Soundpark Studios in early 2015 to track their follow-up full-length effort, High Hopes.
Recorded under the watchful eye of producers Albert Lionais and Jamie Foulds, High Hopes will prove to be a definitive mile-marker in Like A Motorcycle’s unfolding career. The album perfectly underscores the collective will of a close-knit unit who has run through proverbial brick walls together, and is an evolution of the raw, melodic sensibilities that have become the band’s foundation.
Having recently teamed up with respected Halifax management company/label GroundSwell Music, High Hopes hit the international stage on September 2, 2016. This partnership will see Like A Motorcycle come-of-age with ventures deeper into North America and Europe in support of High Hopes, discovering new stages to burn down and new asses to kick.
"They have a cool sound and they can probably party you under the table and write better songs too, then go work a 10-hour shift while you lie on the couch and moan about how bad your hangover is." - Charles Austin CBC
"It's like a donair for your ears, minus the clean up.'" Kerry Martin CBC
“A four-piece assault of a punk band.” Ryan McNutt, Exclaim
"Like A Motorcycle has the 'IT' quality that people often talk about, but can’t describe." THE HALIFAX MUSICPHILE
"This is lean, mean and fucking good." The Coast
"Like A Motorcycles music is a heady mash of squalling guitars, bass lines that stick to your ribs and tight, soulful drumming, with lyrics about attraction, headfuckery and all that other stuff that drives you to drink. They're clever but not glib, scrappy but not hardened, and seem to know how to confront crimes of the heart without yielding to them." Alison Lang THE COAST
From Halifax, Stewart Legere's folk/pop songs are lovingly composed with vivid storytelling and luscious harmonies, darkened with such sincere delivery and frank lyrics you'll long to sing along and make it alright. Honest, charming and open-hearted, Legere is also a member of orchestral pop outfit The Heavy Blinkers and an award theatre artist (The Accidental Mechanics Group + Zuppa Theatre Co.)
Civil Wray marks a personal and professional change for Andrea de Boer. After touring nationally and internationally including Germany, Turkey, Australia and the U.S. as blueVenus, Andrea decided it was time for a new approach. Collaborating with producer Chris Stringer (Timber Timbre, Holly Mcnarland, Jill Barber) Andrea takes both musical and personal chances with Civil Wray, offering an indie rock vibe, a twinge of country, and an infusion of Latin pop and soul that elevates her trademark smoky vocals.
Kim Harris’ oceanic voice is vast, and ever changing. She emits rich colours, and textures with her full-length debut album, Only The Mighty, a shoreline of metallic moods and airy effervescence. Inspired by love, darkness, and particles of light, Only The Mighty is a testament to resilience.
Originally from Newfoundland, and now based in Halifax, Harris has performed at Halifax Pop Explosion, East Coast Music Awards, Nova Scotia Music Week and In the Dead of Winter Music Festival. Harris takes listeners on a symphonic journey that soars through constellations, tumbles through storm clouds, and plunges into the underbelly of the sea.
On her debut release, Harris brings truth, nature and wonder with producer Dale Murray. Only The Mighty is a record of intrigue and heart. Harris’ impeccable voice blends with lush instrumentation, artful arrangements and backup singers. She invites listeners to hear the whispers, and roaring of it all.
“I am very inspired by the intricate connections between humans and how deeply we can love. There is something comforting in the idea that we are all constantly going through waves of darkness and light that feel separate and alone but are so similar and parallel.”
Harris’ 10-track release Only The Mighty, is a tour de force with songs like –“The Weight of It All,” “Oh Lion” and “In the Woods.” Filled with loss and hope, Only the Mighty evokes a graceful soulfulness.
Recorded in Port Howe, Nova Scotia with Dale Murray, Only The Mighty features an array of musicians, including: Murray on bass, electric guitar and pedal steel, Brian Murray on drums and percussion, Stewart Legere, Margot Durling and Jay Needham on vocals, while Harris performs piano, acoustic guitar, and hammond organ.
“The Mighty are the smallest parts of ourselves, as strong as diamonds, that show themselves when they are needed most. It is a massive explosion of love. It is about finding a place you are supposed to be and a purpose you are meant to fulfill. Sparkles and feathers everywhere.”
By all accounts, 2016 was the best year of Hillsburn’s young career. The band released an album, In The Battle Years, in March, wound up a successful inaugural national tour in September, and, in December, won a Canadian Folk Music Award for "New/Emerging Artist of the Year."
But an intense schedule, personal struggles, and a difficult departure from the band's record label made their album's title a little more apt than intended. They needed a reset. A new approach. A trip back to the drawing board.
Hillsburn formed almost by accident in the spring of 2014. Following a health scare that winter, Paul Aarntzen had spent a solid month writing songs. He showed some of them to Clayton Burrill, who brought his sister Rosanna to Aarntzen’s house in Hillsburn, Nova Scotia to hear them. Jackson Fairfax-Perry came along for the trip. The four hit it off and, after a couple informal sessions, Aarntzen sold his house and moved to Halifax to work on the band full time.
The new quartet recorded and released a self-titled EP that October, which garnered national attention after one of its tracks finished in the top ten in CBC’s Searchlight competition. In The Battle Years, their first full-length effort, followed in March 2016. But by the time the group started touring in support of the album that spring, their sound had already changed. What had started as a string band now decidedly was not. Synths and electric guitar had replaced banjo and mandolin, and the addition of Clare Macdonald on drums had helped push things more in the direction of pop and rock. Hillsburn had, in other words, come into its own, and its members were eager to make a record that reflected that.
“We knew we wanted to approach things differently this time around," Aarntzen says. “In every sense.”
Doing things differently meant having more control, beginning with the recording process. The band, looking to groups like Bon Iver (For Emma, Forever Ago) and Arcade Fire (Reflektor), decided not to make their new album in a formal studio setting. They produced it collectively. And Aarntzen — already the band's songwriter, graphic designer, photographer, and videographer — took on the role of engineer. The strategy gave them time. Time to make the recording process a creative one. Time to sit with mixes. It also gave them ownership of the final product. In that sense, the as-yet untitled project (set for release in 2017) is truly an independent effort.
"That’s why we’re still doing it. Because we reached a point where we couldn’t help ourselves. Not because we have to. It gives us something that we can’t find anywhere else. It’s the rush of playing these songs that we’ve written over the years… and songs yet to be written." Andy Maize
When folks talk about Canadian bands, the ones that can't be separated from the country itself, they refer to The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, Joel Plaskett and Skydiggers are in that conversation too. Principals Andy Maize and Josh Findlayson have been running the show for more than 25 years, through numerous line-ups, labels and bends in the well travelled TCH. With the exception of a few years, the band has toured the country annually, keeping in personal touch with a fanbase that loves them unconditionally, and they deserve that adulation, because the band always delivers!
Over the past five years, Skydiggers have made The Carleton their Halifax home base, playing multiple sold out shows at the venue each time, but this year scheduling was going to scotch the visit until the HUFF opportunity arose. So they're going to do one BIG night - with able help from Hillsburn and Devin Cuddy - at The Marquee Ballroom. This year, all their fans will be able to see them at the same time for once!
Chemistry, passion, energy and evolution are a few words that come to mind when Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson talk about twenty-five years together in Skydiggers.
“It all started in the beverage room of the Spadina Hotel. That is essentially when the band came together.” says Josh. “Andy and I performed there as a duo as part of Andrew Cash’s Monday night series called Acoustic Meltdown. When Andrew released his debut album and could no longer host the night, we took it over. We put an ad in Now Magazine answered by Ron Macey, and together with Wayne Stokes and Andrew’s brother Peter Cash, who was quietly writing some amazing songs, Skydiggers were born.”
The sound developed at an impressive rate, thanks to the discipline and work ethic the weekly showcase placed on the band. New songs, new covers and a sound that grew to include electric instruments developed in the hothouse atmosphere of rehearsals, songwriting sessions and live performances.
A quarter of a century later, thanks to years on the road and in the studio, Skydiggers are not only riding all of those years of momentum but continuing to evolve as well. According to Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson one of the keys is chemistry.
“You can spend your life searching for chemistry” Andy muses. “For any relationship to remain vital and continue to grow you need chemistry. We were lucky to have found that early on with each other. We were also fortunate to play four very big shows before our first record even came out” remembers Andy. “We opened for 54-40, The Tragically Hip, Cowboy Junkies and Blue Rodeo early on and I think we learned a thing or two about chemistry from those experiences. After all, those four bands are also still together.”
Josh agrees and also points out that in order to stay creative and pertinent you need to constantly challenge yourself. “Change and evolution are imperative. To bring a visible energy to the stage every night, you need to remain passionate by pushing yourself as songwriters and performers. You need to be constantly evolving yet trying to remain timeless at the same time.”
One day, if someone with perfect penmanship and a great memory for details takes up a Canadian Rock Family Tree project and plots the development of the Canadian roots rock community, they may discover that many — if not all — branches and roots at some point interconnect with the Skydiggers.
“We’ve played with other people, other people have come into this circle and played with us. They’ve put their stamp on our music. But on the other hand, I think we recognize there is something consistent and something we all value that is threaded through all our records.” says Finlayson.
Maize deeply appreciates the contributions of every artist who has played with the Skydiggers over the years, musing that perhaps that is the reason why the band dropped its official ‘The’ somewhere along the way. “We realize how fortunate we are to be part of a community. And so everybody is a Skydigger – past, present and future.”
“I hate the term ‘punk veteran’ – it’s anathema to me, and I’m trying to get the word ‘icon’ changed to ‘iconoclast." Art Bergmann
Truly great musicians defy categorization. They often defy adjectives as well, which makes them difficult to write about. That is where Art Bergmann lies: between the facts and the superlatives.
One of the first of this country's artists to adopt a punk ethos - Art was in seminal Vancouver-based bands Los Populalros and Young Canadians in the late 70s - he made his mark as a solo aritst in the late 80s and early 90s with albums Crawl With Me, Sexual Roulette, Art Bergmann, What Fresh Hell Is This? (Juno winner for Best Alternative Album), Design Flaw and Vultura Highway. Art then took a break but resurfaced in 2014 with Songs For The Underclass and his latest, The Apostate was released at the end of 2016. His classic third album - Art Bergmann - has just been remastered and rereleased as Remember Her Name.
"If you’ve never heard Sexual Roulette—Bergmann’s masterful 1990 exploration of drugs, depression, death, and redemption—you’ve missed out on one of the greatest records this country has ever produced." The Georgia Straight
"He is widely compared to Paul Westerberg when he only needs to be compared to himself." BeatRoute
“Quite simply the best damn songwriter this country has unleashed upon an unsuspecting world since Leonard Cohen.” James Muretich Calgary Herald
Thanks to health issues, geography and the state of the music business, Art hasn't played in eastern Canada this century and that's a crying shame. We still consider his Marquee show, with the Sons of Freedom as his backing band, one of the best rock shows ever seen in this city. It is only thanks to HUFF sponsors and Art's will to get out here that we'll have the opportunity to see him again, so it's one you shouldn't pass up. He's been trying to hang up the rock'n'roll cleats but we've convinced him to do one last bash with the help of the Halifax All Star band. It'll be epic and it will be 100% Art.
"Company Store [is] the track that fully realizes and best articulates the anti-establishment stance that both his beginnings in punk and current situation in folk are built upon --- compelling you to tap your toe and shake your fist." EarShot
"Legendary punk troubadour Art Bergmann has returned in a big way with The Apostate, an eight song LP that is so far removed from anything Bergmann has released that it’s exactly like everything he’s ever released – unexpected, fun, meaningful, cool as shit and real as fuck." Jaded&Elated
Raised in south Surrey, Bergmann’s recalls it being “a very, very wild place. I lived around White Rock, which was on the US border. Nearby a little town called Cloverdale, population maybe 2,000, was the drug capital of Surrey. They’d be cutting up drugs in the old pool hall, right on the counter. And there was everything from marijuana to heroin. It was unbelievable.”
Bergmann has been writing songs and playing since he was in high school. But in the mid-70s there was no place a band could gig in the Fraser Valley unless you had four sets of covers that you did six nights a week.
“You had to play the hits. And this was the era,” says Bergmann, with the disgust rising in his voice, “of bloated, stinking, rotten bands like the Eagles and Steve Miller, just absolute crap. All these cover bands wore satin bell-bottoms. But we just dressed outrageously from the word go, however we wanted with whatever we had.”
Then things opened up with what Bergman calls 'the godsend' of the Sex Pistols: “I thought, ‘OK, here’s some kindred minds screaming through the darkness. The Pistols ripped off the Dadaists, which I had read quite a lot about. Critical thinking was part of my education, but is it for many people anymore? We’re taught to forget, not remember. And we repeat histories and all of its stupidities. So here was this band that said, ‘We respect nothing, we create our own music.’”
Pursing the origins of his cynical nature, Bergmann also cites the radicalism of Albert Camus and Louis-Ferdinand Céline along with the barroom philosophies of Charles Bukowski and the brash, young blood of the Yardbirds and early Stones.
By the mid-80s, Bergmann was writing, recording and performing as a solo artist, prolific and potent. Up to and including 1995’s What Fresh Hell Is This?, which won a Juno for Best Alternative Record, Bergmann had released a series of albums that unquestionably rank him as this country’s fiercest, punk poet laureate. Singing the same dirty street serenade as Lou Reed, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Bergmann was a lot lower to the ground. His first person accounts far more blunt, raw and direct—he just spat out the details, sandblasted off the glamour and any of its romantic inflections.
Bergmann reveals, “Yes, well I took part of certain experiences to further my art, shall we say. To my own detriment, I must add, and was addicted for awhile.”
Despite a bad patch with substances and never being fully embraced by the music industry or the media, Bergman reigns and remains his healthy cynical self. Cynicism is not a bad thing.
“I see it as realism,” concurs Bergmann. “People don’t want to hear the truth. But, you know, there’s no compromise. You’ve got to stand up for it.”
Very little of his solo music can be described as 'punk', though that's where his roots lie. He was 'alternative' when that actually meant something, back before it became just another commercial category. And those terms are the closest you'll get to genre-fying him. You can't even say there's an 'Art Bergmann' sound, because each of his albums sounds different from the next. HIs latest - The Apostate is his most-different yet.
"I went through a Joni Mitchell phase - and all girls go through a Joni Mitchell phase; if any girl tells you she never did, don't believe her." Tift Merritt
North Carolinian Tift Merritt describes herself as a wide-eyed, travelling writer, musician and mama. She’s all of that. And she’s a hugely-admired, five-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter. On stage, she’s a high-energy roots-rocker. She’s already proven that on Austin City Limits. Make no mistake: HUFF audiences are in for a musical treat when she steps onto The Carleton stage.
“A voice that is a magical combination of cool reserve and effortless warmth.” Entertainment Weekly
“The bearer of a proud tradition of distaff country soul that reaches back to artists like Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry.” The New Yorker
And from a rave review of a past concert in Nashville: “With a live voice that is as clear as a studio production, her storyteller soul, and touch of honky-tonk twang, Merritt captivated the crowd.” Mother Church Pew
Starting to get the picture? If listening to brilliant singer-songwriters up-close and personal is your thing - Tift Merritt is for you.
“The songs are delivered with a powerful undertow that recalls Emmylou Harris' Wrecking Ball.” UNCUT
“Confident and in control at every moment … her graceful passion is a wonder to behold.” Allmusic.com
Probably her best-known song is the aching Bramble Rose from her debut 2002 album. A fan of the song since he first heard it, Don Henley chose to cover it on his 2015 solo record, accompanied by Miranda Lambert and Mick Jagger. All Music rated the song ‘4.5 out of 5’ saying "(If) Bramble Rose is a bit short of perfect, it leaves no doubt that Merritt is already a talent of the first order."
In August, Merritt is taking her talent to the Edmonton Folk Festival and the Philadelphia Folk Festival, closely followed by her very first appearance here in Nova Scotia. After HUFF, she embarks on a lengthy tour of Europe. We are lucky to get her. We can’t wait to hear her perform live. She’s going to knock our socks off.
“An exceptionally sure-footed singing and songwriting voice.” National Public Radio
For a taste of Tift Merritt on stage click HERE
Singer/songwriter Tift Merritt seemingly appeared out of nowhere in the spring of 2002 with her acclaimed debut album, Bramble Rose, but as is often the case, this triple-threat artist -- gifted singer, superb songwriter and skillful guitarist -- actually has plenty of experience under her belt. Born in Houston, Texas in 1975, Merritt's family moved to North Carolina when she was young and she's lived there ever since. Merritt first developed an interest in music when she was a child and learned to sing harmonies with her father, who had dabbled in folk music in his younger days; in her early teens, she picked up a guitar and her dad taught her her first four chords. While Merritt was drawn to the rebellious spirit of punk and indie rock, she felt a greater emotional connection with more acoustic-oriented artists. Hearing Emmylou Harris' album Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town opened Merritt's ears to roots music and she soon began to immerse herself in North Carolina's active alt-country scene. Merritt began appearing on a semi-regular basis with the band the Two Dollar Pistols, singing duets with lead singer John Howie and playing rhythm guitar; she eventually appeared on a seven-song EP of classic country covers the group released in the fall of 1999. Looking for a vehicle for her own songwriting, Merritt had formed a band called the Carbines in 1998 with drummer Zeke Hutchins, guitarist Greg Reading, and bassist Jay Brown; the band soon became a fixture on the North Carolina club scene and released a well-received 7" single.
Between the Carbines and the Two Dollar Pistols, Merritt was becoming a popular figure in the North Carolina roots music community, and in early 2000 Merritt and the Carbines seemed poised to sign a contract with Sugar Hill Records. The deal fell through at the last minute, but when Merritt won the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest in 2000 at the annual Merlefest Music Festival, it sparked a new round of interest in her work. Fellow North Carolina native Ryan Adams brought Merritt to the attention of his manager, Frank Callari, and he began shopping a record deal for her; when he was hired as an A&R executive for the Universal-distributed roots music label Lost Highway, Merritt became one of his first signings. (While Merritt was signed as a solo act, she's continued to use the Carbines as her backing band, both for live shows and for the recording of Bramble Rose.) Her debut album was released to enthusiastic reviews in June 2002. The George Drakoulias-produced Tambourine appeared two years later, followed by Another Country in 2008, and the live Buckingham Solo in 2009, both on Fantasy Records. Traveling Alone, recorded in Brooklyn and featuring guest spots from Marc Ribot, Andrew Bird, and others, appeared in the fall of 2012. Merritt teamed up with classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein for a unique collaborative project, the 2013 album Night, in which they performed a variety of pop, folk, jazz, and classical pieces. Merritt also collaborated with Andrew Bird in his group the Hands of Glory, appearing on their 2014 album, Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of.... In 2017 Merritt released her seventh studio album, Stitch of the World, produced by Sam Beam of Iron and Wine.
"I still think of myself as punk, because the way I became empowered to play music is entirely due to punk bands. I listened to lots of other kinds of music, but punk is what allowed me to actually play music. Mostly early Nineties pop punk. Like, I can appreciate Nirvana, but I understand Green Day. I feel like I could play in a Green Day covers band, but I simply wouldn’t know what to do in a Nirvana one, you know? So in my mind I still qualify as punk, though I know four out of five punks would disagree." John K. Samson
Winnipeg's John K. Samson is without doubt one of Canada's (and by extension, the world's) best songwriters - ever - as evidenced by his long and storied career in bands Propaghandi and The Weakerthans. He is a tireless promoter of social justice causes who puts his money where his mouth is and marries complex lyrics with uncommonly good music; those traits put him solidly in a league all his own in today's record biz landscape.
It's been a long time since John performed (solo) in Halifax at the In Dead of Winter Festival and even longer since performing here with a full band. HUFF attendees will get the benefit of both iterations, thanks to our All Star Band program, and his headlining show at The Carleton will be one any self-respecting music fan cannot affrord to miss.
"Fallow, The Weakerthans’ first shot, remains an uncut diamond that will always be the respectable beginning of something truly beautiful." Sputnik Music
"Left and Leaving is a damn perfect album, and there’s no way I could trash it, even if I wanted to." Pop Matters
"Reconstruction Site [is] their most inspired, coherent, adventurous, engrossing and fully realized work. A disc that clearly establishes the reed-thin, reedy-voiced Samson as the most gifted and creative songwriter this city has produced in a generation." Toronto Sun
Reunion Tour - "songs of brutal beauty, little rock n roll vignettes that perfectly capture the malaise of the peculiar, disorienting times in which we live. If such a prize existed, it would be the leading candidate for this year’s Punk Pulitzer.” Paste Magazine
Provincial - "Leave it to John K. Samson to turn a little holiday away from the Weakerthans into the solo-record equivalent of a master's thesis." Toronto Star
"John K. Samson's name will occasionally come up in discussions about Canada's greatest lyricists alongside Gord Downie, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, and his second solo album, Winter Wheat, makes yet another strong case that he's not cited often enough." Exclaim!
Inspired by the search for connection and community, his hometown of Winnipeg, and our individual and collective struggles with addictions to drugs, screens, and fossil fuels, John K. Samson’s new full-length album, Winter Wheat, is a sprawling, masterful and timely work by a writer at the peak of his powers.
Winter Wheat was produced in garages and homes through a challenging Winnipeg winter by Samson’s partner and collaborator, Christine Fellows, and his Weakerthans co-founder and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Jason Tait, and mixed in the spring in Toronto by Robbie Lackritz (Bahamas, Feist). The spare and thoughtful arrangements also feature Greg Smith of The Weakerthans on electric bass, Ashley Au on double and electric bass, Leanne Zacharias on cello, and Shotgun Jimmie on electric guitar.
Several of the 15 songs, most directly Select All Delete, Vampire Alberta Blues, and VPW 13 Blues, are inspired by Neil Young’s enduring 1974 album On the Beach, and that record’s honest and unvarnished spirit is evident throughout Winter Wheat. Postdoc Blues follows an aging student struggling to maintain faith in the possibility of a better world, while Fellow Traveller is loosely based on the life of the British art critic and Soviet spy Anthony Blunt. 150 years of Winnipeg’s history is revealed in the two and a half minutes of Oldest Oak at Brookside, and Samson’s recurring characters Virtute the cat and her troubled human companion (from The Weakerthans songs Plea from a Cat Named Virtute and Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure) make their final appearances in 17th Street Treatment Centre and Virtute at Rest.
Like the crop itself, which is planted in the fall, sprouts, goes dormant through months of snow and rises in the spring, Winter Wheat is a determined, beautiful, resilient response to difficult and extraordinary times.