By Kerry Dexter
Music: Canadian Songwriters
April Verch, Bright Like Gold, Slab Town Records
Laura Smith, Everything Is Moving, Borealis Records
Pharis & Jason Romero, Long Gone Out West Blues, Lula Records
Ruth Moody, These Wilder Things, Red House Records
Stan Rogers, Northwest Passage, Borealis Records & Fogarty’s Cove Music
Canada–from the rock ribbed coast of Newfoundland to the plains Alberta, from bustling Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver to the high Rockies at Banff and the quiet of the Cape Breton Highlands, landscapes inspire and nurture Canadian songwriters who create music of history and of home uniquely Canadian and of story and emotion which transcend Canada’s borders.
Here’s music from Canadian songwriters to take along as you plan and travel your trips through the landscapes of Canada.
April Verch grew up in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario. French Canadian, Cape Breton, and American country music cross paths there. From that confluence Verch, who plays fiddle, sings, and step dances, has created and chosen the music for her album Bright Like Gold. Her fiddle stands out on Raven in the Hemlock, as it does on Sandy River Belle, which features the the sound of Verch’s step dancing feet as well. You’ll find hints of gospel, a tinge of Scotland, more than a taste of bluegrass and a dash of country figure in Verch’s landscape, as she moves from jig to reel to waltz to love song. The music video gives you a sample of Bright Like Gold. (To listen to tracks and/or purchase, follow the links on this page.)
Laura Smith leads journeys in her music too, which you might expect from a woman who titles her album Everything is Moving. Singing in a voice which holds echoes of older times, Smith offers a song from Newfoundland tradition called Lonely Waterloo, which sits gracefully alongside and illuminates her own song I Built a Boat. The Irish side of Canada and of Smith’s own heritage comes into play in Horses and Plough while Safe Home, Sweet Light is a benediction for the next part of the journey, whatever form that journey may take. (To listen to tracks and/or purchase, click on album cover.)
Pharis and Jason Romero homestead in rural British Columbia, where they build musical instruments and they build songs, both of which are prized and welcomed by audiences across Canada and further afield. Long Gone Out West Blues, the couple’s most recent album, finds these Canadian songwriters combining traditional songs of the rural west with newly written pieces which sound just as natural and true to life. The title track is one of those new songs, as is Come On Home. They make music they’ve sourced from other places their own as well, notably Sally Goodin and Waiting for the Evening Mail. (Hear a sample and purchase from their website, linked above with their names.)
Ruth Moody considers ideas of love, faith, loss and change in her album These Wilder Things. Known as a member of the top folk group The Wailin’ Jennys, Moody has depth of writing and firepower of musical imagination enough to hold center stage in her own. There’s a tinge of gospel in the song Trouble and Woe and in One Light Shining, too. Roots rock icon Mark Knopfler comes along to add his guitar and voice to the song Pockets. Top Scottish fiddle player John McCusker and Irish flute player Michael McGoldrick emphasize the Celtic flavor of Life is Long, while the atmospheric Make a Change is a song that will hold appeal to many a traveler. (Here samples of the tracks on the new album and/or purchase by clicking on Ruth Moody’s name above.)
Stan Rogers found his voice as a writer he began creating songs about the Maritimes where his family’s roots ran deep. As time went on he took a wider view of the landscapes of Canada, writing of Ontario farmers, ranchers in the west, drivers on roads to the Yukon, and people from the Maritimes who traveled west to work the oil fields of Alberta. You’ll meet all of these on his album Northwest Passage. It is the title track, though, one which many consider the truest song of the landscapes of Canada, that lingers some thirty years after Rogers death, in this reissue of a classic recording by an iconic Canadian songwriter. (To listen to tracks and/or purchase, click on album cover. The title song is in the music video below.)
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