country music

Neon Smoke: Gord Bamford Album Review and Tour Preview

Gord Bamford is a Canadian country music star. He has 16 Canadian Country Music Association awards, he’s played stages from coast-to-coast, and with his brand new album, Neon Smoke, and tour, the Alberta artist is already back in the Top 10.

We caught up with Bamford in Toronto before the holidays to talk about the album, the tour, and more. And now that 2018 is in flight, we’re ready to share all of it with you!

We asked Gord about goals, 2018, and what he hopes to achieve in the new year and beyond. And while we didn’t know what to expect (sometimes artists can be vague or hesitant to share specific goals) we were pleasantly surprised when Bamford very strongly stated “oh yeah, I’ve got goals.” He went on to tell us that he’s been lucky enough to put some (16) CCMA Awards on his shelf, but he hasn’t added a Juno to the trophy case. And he wants to. Whether it comes from this album, or over the next few years, it’s on his list.

We also talked about goals for the new album, and Gord told me that when he put Neon Smoke together the goal was to find songs that could be hits. He wants his fans to love his music, he wants them to sing along, but he knows that the best way to get the music in front of them is to make it hit music. And while we can tell you that there won’t be 15 singles released from Bamford’s Neon Smoke album, we can agree with his song selection and the potential.

Note: Previously released single, Livin’ On Summertime, has already been a Top 10 hit, and that’s a good start. And the title track has now been released and can be requested at country radio!

As we sat and talked, we asked about Gord’s life outside of music, and the house that the Bamford’s are building as their new family home. He told us that he’s been onsite as much as possible, overseeing the construction and being part of the process. He’s enjoying it, though we know it’s a lot of work. And he told us that the family, including his three children, are looking forward to a 2018 move in.

That same desire to be involved in every step of the process was there during the making of Neon Smoke. Bamford told me that he had more to do with every piece of this album than he ever has before. It’s the first time that I’ve ever had the chance to compare making a record and building a house, but Gord and I both agreed that, in this case, it fit.

While 13 of the songs on the album are the solo Gord Bamford work that we’re accustomed to, Neon Smoke also features collaborations with Jim Cuddy and Tracy Lawrence, two voices with heaps of experience that make for a good combination with the Canadian country star. We asked Bamford if he had any dream collaborations in mind and the two names that he shared with me were Merle Haggard and Reba McEntire.

Sadly, Gord didn’t have the chance to work with The Hag before his passing. But, there’s still a chance that someday he’ll get to record with Reba.

In fact, Bamford told us that he and Reba have become friends over the years (since his time on tour with her in 2013). And that they’ve had the chance to stay in touch. So here’s hoping, that in the not too distant future, we get to hear that combo.

Those two collaborations from the album that we mentioned earlier both work for Bamford. The first, Ain’t It Grand (featuring Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, released as a single in September 2017 and performed live at the CCMA Awards show), is an ode to Canadiana, mentioning the Blue Jays, the east and west coasts, strong beer, buck deer, and more in the process. It’s a fun track, the kind that Canadian country fans attach themselves to, and should become a favourite at Bamford’s live shows.

The second duet, The Out Crowd (featuring Time Marches On hitmaker, Tracy Lawrence) is the last track on the album, and it’s perfectly placed. As the 15th and final song, the duet serves as a special treat, and wraps up the 48 minutes of country music on Neon Smoke.

The length of the album is something else we talked to Bamford about, pointing out the current EP and digital singles trend that we’ve seen across genres, but particularly from Canadian country artists. Gord told us that he understands the strategy, and that he sees the success that artists have had, but that he still wants to produce full bodies of work that he can release and that his fans can listen to.

From top to bottom, this is a Gord Bamford album.

It fits perfectly in his discography, his fans should absolutely latch on to it, and while we can’t predict the future, Bamford has certainly put himself in a position to add more Top 10 hits to his resume (and setlist). And who knows, he might just find himself with another Juno nomination and a chance to take home a trophy.

Gord Bamford, Neon Smoke Tracklist

1. Neon Smoke
2. Dive Bar
3. That’s What Grandpas Do
4. Down
5. Love Takes Time
6. Livin’ On Summertime
7. She Looks Good In It
8. Slow Roll It
9. When I’m Drinking
10. Works The Way
11. Ain’t It Grand ft. Jim Cuddy
12. Gold To Me
13. Off The Grid
14. Little Cowboys
15. The Out Crowd ft. Tracy Lawrence

With his eighth record, Gord Bamford has shown that he understands what his fans want, what he wants to do, and how to make all of it come together.

He also knows what he wants out of a live show, and he believes he knows what the fans want too.

We asked if this tour would be the opportunity to slide in the new album’s songs and Bamford told us that a couple would be in there (we’re guessing the first two singles, and the next), but that more than anything else, this would be a show of hits.

Much like Garth Brooks told us in March 2016 during his Hamilton, ON show, Gord said he hates buying a ticket for a show only to see the artist play all the new stuff nobody knows, and none of the songs they’ve loved forever.

So, with that said, fans should expect the Neon Smoke Tour to be packed with hits, fan favourites, and all kinds of songs that you can sing along to. We’re betting that it’ll be an impressive setlist… and if we were being greedy, we’d say it would probably make a pretty good opportunity for a live greatest hits so far album. Just sayin’.

Gord Bamford won’t be alone on tour, with Aaron Goodvin set to join him on the 29 dates, starting in Ontario and heading west. The Lonely Drum singer should make for a great opening act on tour, getting the crowds into the action and ready for a good night.

We also asked Bamford about the venues he’s playing, and he told us that the opportunity to play some smaller, more intimate rooms is something that he’s looking forward to. And as much as we love big production arena tours, we know how special a theatre experience can be too, and a tour that embraces that has the chance to create a lot of special moments.

The Neon Smoke Tour runs from January 24 to March 2, starting in Brampton, ON and finishing up in Kelowna, BC. If you want to see Gord Bamford play some of the new album, and load you up with hits, get your tickets!

Gord Bamford, Neon Smoke Tour Dates

🎤 January 24, 2018 – Brampton,ON
🎤 January 25, 2018 – Nepean, ON
🎤 January 26, 2018 – Windsor, ON
🎤 January 27, 2018 – Richmond Hill, ON
🎤 January 28, 2018 – St. Catherines, ON
🎤 January 30, 2018 – Meaford, ON
🎤 January 31, 2018 – Brantford, ON
🎤 February 1, 2018 – Burlington,ON
🎤 February 2, 2018 – Milton, ON
🎤 February 3, 2018 – Kingston,ON
🎤 February 4, 2018 – Guelph, ON
🎤 February 6, 2018 – Peterborough, ON
🎤 February 7, 2018 – Belleville, ON
🎤 February 8, 2018 – Sherbrooke, QC
🎤 February 10, 2018 – Halifax, NS
🎤 February 11, 2018 – Moncton,NB
🎤 February 12, 2018 – Sudbury, ON
🎤 February 14, 2018 – Thunder Bay, ON
🎤 February 15, 2018 – Winnipeg, MB
🎤 February 16, 2018 – Regina, SK
🎤 February 17, 2018 – Lloydminster, AB
🎤 February 18, 2018 – Whitecourt, AB
🎤 February 20, 2018 – Fort Saskatchewan, AB
🎤 February 21, 2018 – Camrose, AB
🎤 February 23, 2018 – Lethbridge, AB
🎤 February 24, 2018 – Medicine Hat, AB
🎤 February 27, 2018 – Nanaimo, BC
🎤 March 1, 2018 – Sidney, BC
🎤 March 2, 2018 – Kelowna, BC

CCMA Awards 2016 Gord Bamford Green Carpet

Country Music Made Me Do It: Meghan Patrick Q&A and Game On Tour Preview

Meghan Patrick has a brand new album on shelves, she’s on tour with the James Barker Band, and she’s got a lot of feelings about it.

We had the chance to catch up with Meghan for a Q&A that touches on her sophomore record, Country Music Made Me Do It, the Game On Tour, her latest music video, busking to make money for boots and beer, and more.

Get ready for Meghan Patrick to come to a venue near you on the Game On Tour, and as shes adds more live shows to her 2018 schedule.

Related: Game On Tour Preview, Interview and 5 Quick Questions with James Barker

If you’ve never had the chance to see Meghan live, we highly recommend that you take advantage of any chance you have to do so. It’s a kick ass show that blends energy, hit songs, fan favourites, and everything we love about live music!

We’ve seen photos and reviews of early shows on the Game On Tour, and so far it looks like the Bowmanville, ON native is doing exactly what we know she can. We can’t wait to see the show with Jojo Mason, Meghan Patrick and headliners, James Barker Band when it comes to Toronto on Friday, January 19.

Thanks again to Meghan for taking the time to catch up with us. Check it out now, and listen to Country Music Made Me Do It today.

Meghan Patrick Q&A

Q) How does it feel to have Country Music Made Me Do It as a follow-up to Grace & Grit ready to share with the world?

Meghan) As with Grace & Grit, it’s a mixture of excitement, anticipation and anxiety haha. I’m really proud of this record, as I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a writer and artist, and I just hope my fans love it as much as I do.

Related: Country Music Made Me Do It, Meghan Patrick Album Review

Q) Going into the writing and recording of Country Music Made Me Do It, did you find yourself making an intentional effort to try new things, explore new ideas, etc.?

Meghan) Definitely. But I also wanted to be cognizant of what my fans responded to on the last record, so that I could give them more of what they love. It was extremely important to me to be really honest and real on this record… both in the way I deliver my music sonically and in my lyrics. I think it’s something my fans expect of me and love about me, and as an artist and writer, it’s the most fulfilling (and only way in my opinion) to make music.

Meghan Patrick BH5 Boots and Hearts 2016

Q) Was there anyone new that you got to work with on this record that you were really looking forward to, either on the writing side or production?

Meghan) When I met Jeremy Stover (my producer) that was a huge part of how this record came to be. It started with us writing together, and lead to him setting me up with some of his writers at Red Creative such as Kelly Archer and Adam Hambrick. There are so many talented songwriters in Nashville, but it’s all about finding the ones you have chemistry with and Stover and I definitely hit it off when it came my music and the vision we both had for it. I loved that he was as passionate about making this record as I was and he really brought out the best in me throughout the whole process. Kelly was a big part of this record too, she co-wrote nearly half the record with me, including Feel Me Gone which is the only song on the record I didn’t write. Every writer I worked with on this record brought something amazing to the project and helped me further find out who I am as an artist and a writer and I have so much love and respect for them all!

Q) The reaction to Country Music Made Me Do It has been positive so far, including for the video. What was it like to have the streets of Nashville act as your set when you think back to first getting to town and walking them as a visitor and new-comer?

Meghan) It was a pretty incredible full-circle moment for me shooting that video on Broadway. The first time I came to Nashville was about 8 years ago… I was broke and trying to make it, and I had paid a lot of my bills through gigs and busking. We were heading to Bonnaroo and I could barely afford the trip to begin with, but when we got down to Broadway I saw this pair of cowboy boots that I loved. So I stood on the corner and busked for a few hours till I made enough money to buy the boots and a few beers (which is basically what I still spend all my money on haha). To go from that moment where I had no money, no record deal, nothing… to having Broadway shut down to shoot my video was huge, it’s a moment I’ll never forget.

Q) We remember shows and albums from The Stone Sparrows, how important do you feel those years and experiences have been to you as you’ve built your solo career?

Meghan) Every single thing I’ve done, and every band I’ve played in has had an influence on who I’ve become as an artist today, as well as influencing my writing. I am so grateful to have worked with so many great musicians over the years and I’ve learned something and been inspired by every one of them.

Q) You’re not the new kid in town anymore after the success of Grace & Grit, the CCMA Award, etc., has that changed the way you approach making new music or putting on a show?

Meghan) I wouldn’t say it’s changed me, if anything I just feel more pressure sometimes as if there are more expectations of me now. But regardless I am always trying to top myself… write better songs, put on a better show, and connect with my fans. To have the recognition I received this year at CCMA’s and CMAO’s just gives me the boost I need on the hard days to keep pushing, and know I’m doing something right.

Q) The Game On tour is ready to go, what are you feeling as you get ready to cross the country and play some of these new songs for country fans?

Meghan) I am so excited. A little anxious, because of course I’m curious as to how my fans will respond to the new music… but I’m very proud of this record and I’m excited to finally play some new tunes!

Meghan Patrick The Phoenix CMW 2016

Q) In 50 words or so, can you share some thoughts about what Country Music Made Me Do It means to you as a collection of songs at this point in your life?

Meghan) For me this record represented a few things. It represented some more freedom, but also higher expectations. As I said before, I want every record I put out to be better than the last. I want to keep trying new things and growing while remaining the Meghan that my fans love.

As with my last record, it’s a collection of stories… my hurt, my happy, and everything in between. I hope it serves as further insight into who I am, because it’s really important to me to be approachable and relatable to my listeners… I hope they love this new music as much as I do!

Country Music Made Me Do It: Meghan Patrick Album Review

Meghan Patrick, the reigning Canadian Country Music Association Female Artist of the Year, is set to release her second album, Country Music Made Me Do It, and country music fans from coast to coast should be ready for it.

The album is the follow-up to Patrick’s 2016 debut, Grace & Grit, which put her in the Canadian country music spotlight, and landed four songs (Bow Chicka Wow Wow, Grace & Grit, Still Loving You, Be Country With Me) in the Top 20, including her first Top 10 single, Still Loving You, featuring Joe Nichols.

Country fans got their first taste of Meghan Patrick’s sophomore record when the title track was released on October 26, 2017. The song, Country Music Made Me Do It, and the accompanying music video have been a hit with fans, approaching half a million plays on Spotify and YouTube since it premiered.

It also fits well as an introduction to the album, and as a stark change to the first look fans got of the small town Ontario artist when she released her first solo music a month short of two years ago.

Country Music Made Me Do It sounds like the album I imagined when Megan Patrick told us she was going solo. It’s a more traditional country record that sounds like the music Megan was influenced by in country as she grew up. It feels like a true, genuine, honest offering of songs that does exactly what country music does best: tells stories.

Whether Megan is telling the story of living in a small town after a breakup (Small Town), being sucked in and struggling to let go (The Way You Apologize), or using George Strait as a guide for how to win someone’s heart (George Strait), she finds a way to be relatable and accessible through these song.

Meghan Patrick at Liuna Station Gibson at the Junos 2015

One of my favourite tracks on the album is George Strait. I’m a sucker for the references to the King of Country Music and his hits, and I have a feeling I’ll find myself asking, “What Would George Strait Do?”, from time to time.

Underrated, the last track on Country Music Made Me Do It, is another personal highlight, and reminds me of another Canadian country songstress, Whitney Rose, as it hits that retro kind of vibe. It gives listeners a chance to smile, look at their baby, and bop along with the music.

All of this isn’t to say that Megan Patrick’s Country Music Made Me Do It should surprise country music fans. But the 12 songs on the new record are more in line with tracks like Be Country With Me, I Won’t Drink, and Still Loving You then they are with Grace & Grit and Bow Chicka Wow Wow. And while we may be experiencing a softer side of the singer/songwriter, we have no doubt that she still knows how to crank it up and kick ass.

Meghan Patrick BH5 Boots and Hearts 2016

We look forward to speaking with Megan soon to learn more about the making of the album where she’s at artistically, and how she feels about her own new music. And, we can’t wait to see her live on the Game On Tour with James Barker Band when they roll through Toronto on January 19th.

Country Music Made Me Do It is a country record. There are no tricks or gimmicks. This is an album the country music fans who yearn for a more straight ahead country music should embrace. it’s also an album that hardcore country radio listeners and casual fans will have the opportunity to connect with on some level.

Megan Patrick has already proven that she’s a rising star on the Canadian country music scene. Now, with a new album, new stories, and new experiences to share, she has the chance to prove but she’s here to stay, and we should all be ready for that.

Meghan Patrick, Country Music Made Me Do It Tracklist

1. Country Music Made Me Do It
2. George Strait
3. Walls Come Down
4. The Bad Guy
5. Small Town
6. The Buzz
7. Feel Me Gone
8. Hardest On My Heart
9. We Got It All
10. Case Of Beer And A Bed
11. The Way You Apologize
12. Underrated

Meghan Patrick GuitarMeghan Patrick The Phoenix CMW 2016 Meghan Patrick The Phoenix CMW 2016 Meghan Patrick Peller Estate CCMA Awards 2016 Meghan Patrick Green Carpet

Game On: James Barker Band Tour Preview, Interview and 5 Quick Questions

The James Barker Band has put four singles in the Top 10 on Canadian country radio, including Chills, which hit #1 in June 2017. And now, with a fanbase that continues to grow from coast to coast, JBB are hitting the road on their first Canada wide headlining tour.

The Game On Tour (named for the debut EP from the band) will see James Barker Band put on 21 shows, starting in Halifax, NS on January 11 and ending in Vancouver, BC on February 10. Joining the boys on the road will be 2017 Canadian Country Music Association Female Artist of the Year, Meghan Patrick and 2017 CCMA Rising Star nominee, Jojo Mason.

The reaction and excitement for the tour can be seen daily on social media, as fans and the artists post about the upcoming shows. It has been fantastic to see the reactions, and it’s certainly exciting for James Barker, Taylor Abram, Connor Stephen, and Bobby Martin as they get ready to get things started.

We caught up with James on the phone the day before the first tour date in Halifax to talk about their live show, how they’re feeling, their supporting acts, and more. And when we asked for three words to describe how they’re feeling as they prepare to start the tour, Barker gave us: All Fired Up!

As we talked about the tour we also got James to give us three words to describe tour mates Meghan Patrick: Ass-Kickin’ Country Girl and Jojo Mason: The Nicest Guy. (James made it clear that this was not easy, and we did grant him an exemption on the hyphenated ass-kickin’ for Meghan)

Headlining a cross country tour is a big step for any band, and we talked to James about that step up from headlining a venue like Boots & Bourbon in Toronto to The Phoenix Concert Theatre, in the middle of their own tour. He told us that it’s kind of crazy to look back even to last April when they played their album release show to now. James also said that it’s wild to be able to look back at his calendar from year to year and see the progression in venues and shows that the band has played. From small bars in small towns, to opening on tour with Dean Brody, to having their own name at the top of the ticket, he can track it.

We asked about looking back on that progression and reflecting on it, and James said that the holidays have always been a time when he finds himself looking back on the year and taking it all in. And while 2017 was a big one, we’re sure 2018 will bring even more to look back on when it’s over.

James Barker Band-Country Thunder 2017

While we had James on the phone we got him to play a quick round of 5 Quick Questions… here we go!

5 Quick Questions with James Barker Band

Q1) What was the first song you played as a band?

James) Drift Away

Q2) What was the first album you bought?

James) Led Zeppelin by Led Zeppelin

James told us that he was given Led Zeppelin IV as a gift, which put him on the path to buying the debut album on his own.

Q3) Do you have a dream duet/collaboration partner?

James) Eric Church

He’s The Chief, we’ve seen him live, listened to the records, and can’t argue with this choice!

James Barker Band SiriusXM Fan Stage BH5 Boots and Hearts 2016

Q4) What city or venue is at the top of the James Barker Band goal/wish list?

James) Madison Square Garden

It is THE arena. End of story.

Q5) Is there an artist you think people should be paying more attention to?

James) Corb Lund

James said he has always been a fan of Lund’s songwriting, and things other people should be in on the Alberta native.

The Game On Tour is possible because of the success that James Barker Band have had on Canadian country radio, and the fanbase they’ve cultivated, but they’re still just getting started.

The band recently spent time travelling throughout the United States, visiting radio stations and playing their songs for a new audience south of the border, with the intention of proving that they’re more than just a Canadian favourite.

We asked James about going to the U.S. and he told us that for about 12 weeks in a row they flew down to American markets and hit radio stations all over, promoting the band, introducing new listeners to Chills. There were a lot of flights, from city to city, and back to Canada to play shows and festivals on weekends, but the song is starting to gain traction, and the band is starting to get noticed.

It was cool to hear James talk about the positive reception the band and the song have received in America. He acknowledged that they didn’t know what to expect, or how it would go. But from the jump things have been good and the band couldn’t be happier about it.

James Barker Band SiriusXM Fan Stage BH5 Boots and Hearts 2016

JBB has more plans for the U.S. too, and while James couldn’t give us any specific details, he did tell us that JBB will be in Nashville in early February for CRS (Country Radio Seminar) 2018, and are hoping to get on the extended summer festival season circuit south of the border, and as we get to fall and winter 2018, the band hopes to be on a tour in America.

Before we got off the phone, we asked James about what’s coming next in the form of new music… and we heard exactly what we were hoping we would.

1) James has been writing constantly, working on songs that he hopes will turn into the next James Barker Band record.

2) A brand new single is coming on January 19, 2018. Tour crowds will have a chance to hear Good Together live, and country fans everywhere will be able to hear it starting next Friday!

The very last thing we talked about before we were done, was the live show and what fans can expect on the Game On Tour.

James told us that it’s going to be the full James Barker Band experience. The boys like to keep things loose and fun, and they are looking to do that on every date from Halifax to Vancouver. And when I asked if we’ll hear Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident), he laughed and told us that he wasn’t sure it would be a full JBB show if we didn’t.

We’re looking forward to catching up with the boys in Toronto at The Phoenix to celebrate the tour, the release of Good Together, and the continued success of four dudes from small town Ontario.

James Barker Band, Game On Tour Dates

January 11, 2018 – Halifax, NS
January 12, 2018 – Moncton, NB
January 13, 2018 – Charlesbourg, QC
January 14, 2018 – Montreal, QC
January 16, 2018 – Kingston, ON
January 17, 2018 – Ottawa, ON
January 18, 2018 – Kitchener, ON
January 19, 2018 – Toronto, ON
January 20, 2018 – Guelph, ON
January 22, 2018 – London, ON
January 23, 2018 – Sudbury, ON
January 24, 2018 – Sault Ste Marie, ON
January 26, 2018 – Winnipeg, MB
January 27, 2018 – Brandon, MB
January 28, 2018 – Saskatoon, SK
January 29, 2018 – Red Deer, AB
February 1, 2018 – Edmonton, AB
February 2, 2018 – Calgary, AB
February 3, 2018 – Lethbridge, AB
February 10, 2018 – Vancouver, BC

Looking for tickets? Click Here!

Better Half: Sykamore Feature and 5 Quick Questions

2018 is just getting started, but Sykamore is already in a groove.

The 26 year old country music singer/songwriter from Carseland, Alberta has a brand new EP, Self + Medicine, her first music video (Better Half) has been released, and Jordan Oström is taking it all in as she prepares for what comes next.

We caught up with Sykamore on the phone to talk about her music and more – and we already can’t wait until we get to do it again… in person.

The first thing we talked about was the release of Self + Medicine, and what it’s felt like for the young artist. Sykamore told us that the album had a series of potential release dates that lead to the official release on January 5, 2018… and that because of the three or four times she thought it was going to come out before, she feels really good that it truly is now out to the world.

While we talked about the EP, we asked if there were any points of inspiration (from people or experiences) that shaped her writing. We learned that the songs from Self + Medicine were written over the period of a few years, with no singular point of outside inspiration connecting them. However, she did tell us that she feels they are connected, that they all share her point of view, her vantage point of the human experience and how she’s processed people and events in her life.

Two of the songs on this new EP have already lived a life to early fans of Sykamore’s music. Houseboat and Better Half have already been released as singles, nearing a combined 250,000 spins on Spotify. But now, with their inclusion in this releases, they’re getting a second life. We asked about it, and Jordan told us that she’s especially seeing that with Better Half. The EP release and the music video have combined to put the April 2017 single back in front of people, and they’ve been responding with wonderful positivity. She told us that she’s frequently seeing tweets and messages from people shouting out the track and sharing it with their social circles.

As we talked about Better Half, we talked about the music video. Sykamore still sounds almost surprised that this is her first official video, but she certainly sounds happy with the way it turned out.

She told us that she always knew she wanted to wait until everything was able to come together to make a video the right way. She didn’t want to cut corners or rush the process, and so when the small and passionate team came together to make the video for Better Half, it was done the right way. And over two days they shot, with an airplane, motorcycle, and a bad ass car to create the visual spectacle she wanted to present to the world.

We also talked about what comes next, as this project sees the light and hits the public. And for Sykamore, that means it’s time to start working on the next one. She told us that she’s chomping at the bit to get moving on what comes after this 2018 EP. That she’s ready, and that part of her will always feel like the reason you release an album is so that you can make the next album.

And when we asked what she sees when she thinks about those songs and that next album, she told us that she hopes to take a chance, to present and share something that people haven’t seen and heard from her before. As an artist, it’s clear that Sykamore wants to push herself, to see what she’s capable of and how far she can go. This isn’t about finding and staying in a comfort zone – and we’re sure we’ll see that reflected in the next new music from the Calgary-based performer.

While we had Sykamore on the line, we got her to play a round of 5 Quick Questions with us – a sequel to her first round during 2016’s Canadian Country Music Week in London, ON.

5 Quick Questions with Sykamore

Q1: First song you performed in front of an audience?

Sykamore: You Are My Sunshine
– Jordan told us that she sang the song when she was about 4 years old at a family reunion, thanks to her grandparents pride in the talent of their grandchildren.

Q2: First album you bought?

Sykamore: The Road To El Dorado soundtrack.
– As a big fan of Elton John, the album purchase made a ton of sense to her.

Q3: Dream duet partner?

Sykamore: Lady Gaga and Florence Welch (Florence + The Machine)
– After their collaboration on Hey Girl from Gaga’s latest album, Joanne, Sykamore has both of these talented women on her list.

Q4: Favourite place on earth to be?

Sykamore: The family farm at home in Alberta.
– She was worried about this seeming like a lame answer, but with some very understandable perspective she explained that the more she’s away the more she appreciates going home to the familiar and calm and happy place.

Q5: Artist you think people should be listening to?

Sykamore: Leaving Thomas.
– Sykamore singled out the Calgary duo for their sound as well as their social media presence. And we wholeheartedly agree with her recommendation that you check out the LT Show on YouTube, featuring Sue-Z. AND we think you should be ready for their self-titled debut EP coming January 26, 2018.

Related: 5 Quick Questions with Sykamore at Canadian Country Music Week 2016

Self + Medicine isn’t the only big thing that’s happened recently for Sykamore…

In mid-November 2017, Jordan announced that she’d been signed to Home Team Publishing, joining Rhett Akins, Thomas Rhett, and other hit makers to hone her skills and keep pushing herself as a writer.

We talked about how it all came to be, and the “followed a tweet to Nashville” story, asking for a little longer tale than that, and Sykamore helped fill it out for us. She told us that she had followed Rhett Akins on Twitter, and he followed her back, which sounds simple enough, and cool when you think about her as an emerging artist and him as a successful writer and singer. After that Rhett listened to some of Jordan’s music that she had tweeted out and had online, he sent her a DM (she told us that she thought she might be getting catfished at first) and invited her down to Nashville to meet and talk music.

After she was convinced that it was for real, she made the trip, went to Akin’s house, saw all of the dead animals on the wall, and they started talking about songwriting. He told her he wanted to help her grow as a songwriter (talent recognizes talent) and after more time and more conversations, Sykamore was signed to Home Team Publishing.

Sykamore told us that it’s been really cool to work with Home Team. That it’s been amazing to go to Nashville and be surrounded and supported by these prolific and talented and successful writers. She told us that it’s humbling to be in the room and watch what they do, to see how they accomplish things. And, that she’s learning and doing her best to act like a sponge, soaking in all of the knowledge that these colleagues and mentors have to share about the craft.

To finish up our call and conversation we asked more about what comes next in the form of shows, writing, plans, goals and more.

We learned that plans are being made for the next single release from Self + Medicine (but we aren’t allowed to know what it is yet), and that Sykamore hopes to be on a bunch of stages this summer to play her new songs for country music fans. We also learned that when it comes to goals, she has two sets.

The artistic goals, the ones that Jordan wants to keep in mind every time she’s working on music, include being vulnerable, taking chances, and pushing herself to see what new things she can write about and connect with listeners on.

The career goals include some big ones (we love ‘em) that include playing at The Opry and the Ryman Auditorium, as well as headlining her own tour(s) as her career progresses.

The last thing we asked Sykamore was if she had any final thoughts she wanted to leave with readers and listeners, and she told us that most of all she hopes that people listen to the new music and like it – that they find a connection point and can feel the music.

We like that. That’s what music is about. So hit play and listen to Self + Medicine now and find your connection.

Stay up to date with Sykamore online (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for all of the important updates to come…


Country Thunder Music Festival 2018, Craven Lineup Preview

From Thursday, July 12 to Sunday, July 15, Saskatchewan will be home to some of country music’s biggest stars as the Country Thunder Music Festival rolls into Craven for four days of hits and fan favourites.

So far, Country Thunder Craven has announced 17 acts for the festival, with the promise of more to come on both Friday and Saturday’s lineups. The headliners, Dierks Bentley, Chris Young, and Luke Bryan all bring a bevy of hits to the stage, and have track records of entertaining the heck out of fans. And we have no doubt that they’ll do exactly that when they take their turns this July.

There’s also a ton of 90s nostalgia that’s going to take the stage, with big radio hits and fan favourites that will have the Craven crowd singing along at the top of their lungs.

Related: Calgary Country Thunder Music Festival 2018 Preview!

If you want to be in that crowd, get your tickets now, you don’t want to find out that they’re all gone later… Country Thunder Music Festival 2018 – Craven, Saskatchewan Tickets!

And now, let’s have a look at the lineup!

Country Thunder Music Festival 2018 Lineup
Craven, Saskatchewan

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Big & Rich

One of the biggest duos in country music since the release of Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy – Big & Rich are a helluva choice to kick off a four day country music festival!

Clay Walker

Walker has had a fantastic career, with big hits, songs that have connected with country music fans, and a legacy that lives on in 90s country nostalgia to go along with his five Top 10s in the 2000s. This is a great add to a kick off party.

Williams & Ree

Bruce Williams and Terry Ree are a music and comedy duo that will be served up for the Country Thunder crowd in Craven to help get the weekend started. Be ready to laugh!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Dierks Bentley BH5 Boots and Hearts 2016

Dierks Bentley

Dierks Bentley has gone from stealing the show as a lead-in act, to a bonafide headliner that owns the spotlight. We’ve seen the What Was I Thinkin’ star thrill tens of thousands of fans with his festival show, and have no doubt that he’ll do it again in Craven this summer!

Chris Janson

This dude is talented and looks like he’s a good time waiting to happen. We haven’t seen Chris Janson live yet, but we are looking forward to the day when we can sing along to Buy Me A Boat!

LANCO

These five dudes are up and comers in the world of country music, and 2018 could be a HUGE year for them. Country Thunder fans should be ready for a lot of energy as LANCO continues their quest to gain fans everywhere they go.

Hunter Brothers

It’s about a three and a half hour drive from Shaunavon to Craven, which makes the Hunter Brothers defacto hometown boys for the weekend. And when these five brothers (and their unbelievable harmonies) take the stage, Saskatchewan should get right into it!

More…

We don’t know who more is going to be… but it will only add to an already good day in Craven!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Chris Young

Chris Young has graduated to headliner status as he continues to pump out hits to country radio. And Craven will get the chance to enjoy the show as the Murfreesboro, Tennessee native takes the Country Thunder stage.

Dean Brody

Canadian country music will be well represented on Saturday night at Country Thunder when Dean Brody takes the stage to Bring Down The House. We’ve seen Dean a bunch of times, and every one of them is a great show. Be ready for that!

Tracy Lawrence

Lawrence had 7 #1 hits between 1991 and 1996, that’s a hell of a run, and when he added Find Out Who Your Friends Are in 2006, a lot of younger country fans discovered those hits. Now, in 2018, Tracy Lawrence is headed to Saskatchewan to play for the Craven crowd, and we’re sure it’s going to be a fun.

Lindsay Ell

Lindsay Ell keeps earning new fans every time she and her guitar take the stage. Her 2017 album, The Project, was well received and fans should be ready for Waiting On You, Criminal, and more this summer.

More…

There are more names coming to Saturday at Country Thunder in Craven… and we don’t know who they are, but it means a bigger and better party!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Boots and Hearts 2017 - Luke Bryan

Luke Bryan

What can we say about Luke Bryan? He’s one of the biggest music stars in the world of any genre, we’ve seen him live and he lights up the crowd with hits and energy, and when the set is over your voice will be mostly gone from singing and cheering. Be ready, it’s gonna be good!

Midland

One of the biggest breakout acts in 2017, Midland are turning into big stars and they put on a great show. Get ready for harmonies, humour, and a throwback vibe to the 90s country that we all loved when these Texas boys hit the stage.

Jess Moskaluke

It’s about two and a half hours on the highway from Jess Moskaluke’s hometown of Langenburg to Craven, which should make her the guest of honour on Sunday at Country Thunder. Be ready for the hits, new music from Past The Past, and a lot of energy and fun from one of Canada’s biggest stars in country music.

Roots & Boots

Sammy Kershaw

With 11 top ten hits in the 90s, Sammy Kershaw is all of the nostalgia that country music radio lovers should be waiting for. If you can’t get up and excited to sing along to Queen Of My Double Wide Trailer and She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful, we don’t know what to tell you.

Aaron Tippin

Tippin is another star from the 90s that country fans should be happy to see. With seven Top 10s, including Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With The Radio and That’s As Close As I’ll Get To Loving You going all the way to #1, there will be sing along opportunities throughout this set!

Collin Raye

Collin Raye had 18 Top 5 hits between 1991 and 2000, putting himself on country radio all the damn time, with good reason. And Country Thunder fans are going to have a great time singing along to some of the biggest songs of the 90s when he’s on stage.

Self + Medicine: Sykamore, Album Review

2018 is starting with excitement and new music for Sykamore, as the 26 year old Carseland, Alberta native releases her new album, Self + Medicine.

The six song EP is a combination of unreleased tracks and previous singles, and showcases the voice that will endear her to fans, and the songwriting chops that earned her a publishing deal with Home Team, the publishing house run by Virginia Davis, Rhett Akins, and Thomas Rhett.

Throughout the EP we hear songs of love and heartbreak – solid material for country music. It’s uplifting and lovely, it’s sad and sweet, it’s youthful and emotional, and it’s a set of six songs that offer an opportunity for connection with listeners who are willing to close their eyes, listen, and be taken on a trip through their own stories.

Self + Medicine also does a great job or varying tempos, mixing up the beats, and giving listeners something new to key in on (past her voice) in each song.

From the opening notes of We Were Alright (the longest song on the EP) to start the show, to the playful shout of “Take that all you Hillbillies!” at the very end of Dance Card, Sykamore makes the most of her 21 minutes of album. And while we wish there were about four more songs here to prolong our listening experience, this is a strong start for the Calgary-based artist.

Note: The nod to 90’s classic, Don’t Rock The Jukebox, in Dance Card, is one of my favourite little moments on the EP. And if you love Alan Jackson, you’ll likely love it too.

The first time we saw Sykamore live was in late 2015 when she hit the stage in Toronto at The Phoenix for a one song showcase performance. That night we heard the young Calgary-based singer/songwriter perform Houseboat, which was released as a single in April of 2016 and appears as track number five on Self + Medicine. We’re glad the track made the record so that folks who may not have heard it before get a chance to now.

The current single, Better Half, was released in April 2017, and has received new life with the release of an official music video (her first) on December 29. The song is a good time, sweet and easy to get into, and paints the picture of the kind of supporting relationship that we’re all hoping to be lucky enough to have when good turns to bad.

These six songs are a great introduction to country music fans that don’t know Sykamore, and they’re a fantastic reward for fans that have been with her over the last few years.

Listen to Self + Medicine today and leave a comment telling us which track is your favourite!

Sykamore, Self + Medicine Tracklist

1. We Were Alright
2. Playing The Fool
3. Hayloft
4. Better Half
5. Houseboat
6. Dance Card

10 More Awesome Country Covers: Part 6

Over the last few years we’ve been sharing some of our favourite covers of pop and rock songs by country artists with you in lists of 10. We’ve been able to share covers of Fleetwood Mac, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Nirvana, Cyndi Lauper, and more… and today we’re back with 10 more.

Some of these covers were recorded recently, some of them have been around for a few years, but regardless of timeline, we like all of them.

This is our sixth edition of the 10 More Awesome Country Covers series, and as long as country artists keep covering pop and rock songs, and we keep finding them online, we’ll keep publishing new lists.

Note: We also shared a special edition of the Country Covers series in October 2017… 10 Awesome Country Covers, the Tom Petty Edition.

So, check ’em out one by one, sing along, and stay tuned for more awesome country covers part 6.

Listen to the tracks, enjoy, and leave a comment telling us which country cover you like best.

10 More Awesome Country Covers10 More Awesome Country Covers: Part 210 More Awesome Country Covers: Part 310 More Awesome Country Covers: Part 410 More Awesome Country Covers: Part 5

Kalie Shorr, Kelleigh Bannen & Lindsay Ell – Look What You Made Me Do

Zac Brown Band – Use Somebody

Delta Rae – Seven Bridges Road

Eric Church – Midnight Rider


Meghan Patrick – Unknown Legend


Keith Urban – One

Dallas Smith – Radioactive

Leah Daniels – Suspicious Minds

Brett Young – Someone Like You

Johnson Crook – Bobcaygeon

New Music Spotlight: Sir Rosevelt, Sykamore, Marianas Trench, Tucker Beathard, and EXES

The new year is here, and while we hope 2018 brings a lot of new experiences, opportunities, and music – one thing remains the same… we are here to share new music that we dig.

So, here are five songs that we think deserve your attention and spins. We’ve got a mix of pop/rock/country on the list, we’ve got Canadian talent as well as American, and we’ve even got a unofficially released track to share with you all.

Ready? Let’s Do This!

The Music

Artist: Sir Rosevelt
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Genre: Pop
Related Artists: Zac Brown Band, Sam Hunt, The Cadillac Three
Single: Hurricane
Notes: Zac Brown’s side project is a lot of fun, and while it’s different than what country fans of Zac Brown Band are used to, it’s worth a listen for adventurous ears. Hit play and enjoy the Sam Hunt-esque vibes, the choral support, and the new music.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Sykamore
Hometown: Carseland, AB
Genre: Country
Related Artists: Jess Moskaluke, Madeline Merlo, Andrew Hyatt
Single: Better Half
Notes: With a brand new EP coming on January 5, Sykamore ended 2017 with her first official music video. We’ve known the song, Better Half, for a while, but now that it’s got a video, the album, and some wider exposure, we’re sure that more people will be picking up on the Alberta country singer/songwriter. Enjoy.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Marianas Trench
Hometown: Vancouver, BC
Genre: Pop/Rock
Related Artists: Hedley, The Summer Set, Every Avenue
Single: Rhythm Of Your Heart
Notes: Marianas Trench knows what they’re good at, and Rhythm Of Your Heart is another example of that expertise. The pop jam from the Vancouver group comes with a video game themed lyric video that is as much fun to watch as the song is to listen to – and sets our expectations high for the official video to come.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Tucker Beathard
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Genre: Country
Related Artists: Chase Bryant, Drew Baldridge, Eric Church
Single: chasing you with whiskey
Notes: chasing you with whiskey hasn’t been released to iTunes or Spotify, and the video wasn’t posted to his official Vevo channel – but Tucker did share the link through his social channels, and it is him singing the song. Here’s what we do know: we like this track, we like the way Tucker sounds, and if this is a glimpse of what’s coming next from Tucker Beathard, we like that too.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: EXES
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Genre: Pop
Related Artists: Ella Vos, Luna Shadows, Glades
Single: Taxi
Notes: This indie electro-dream-pop track came to us from Spotify, and we’re glad it did. Exes share a beat laden pop tune that pairs Allie McDonald’s voice with a backing track that allows for a smooth groove. They say they write songs about their exes, and if that’s the case, Taxi certainly fits the bill.
Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

2017 Breakout Country Artists of the Year!

With 2017 coming to a close, we’re looking back at the year that was and some of the success stories that came from it. In country music, we saw some new names and faces come to the front of the stage to show off their talent, music, and charm as they enjoyed breakout years.

The six artists on this list are all deserving, and we are aware that there are other artists that may be as well, so leave a comment if you think there’s someone else in country music that had their first big year in 2017 and should be recognized.

Congratulations to the artists on this list, as well as all of the others who made their names more well known in 2017. We can’t wait to see your success grow next year, and to see who presents themselves as the breakout artists of 2018!

Female

Carly Pearce

Carly Pearce at The Rock'n'Horse TorontoCarly Pearce became one of the biggest stories in country music with the success she found with her debut single, Every Little Thing.

The soul and emotion that drip from the lyrics caught the attention of listeners and turned many into fans of the breakthrough female artist of the year. And when Pearce released her debut full-length album later in the year, folks took notice and latched onto the rest of the music that the former Dollywood performer had to offer.

We talked to Carly Pearce this fall, and saw her perform in an intimate Toronto setting just after the album’s release. What we can tell you is that she was genuinely touched by the response to her music from country music fans.

We can also tell you that we firmly believe that this won’t be the last any of us hear from Carly Pearce.

Alee

North of the border, Alee turned heads in 2017 with the release of her full-length label debut, Bad Habit. As she played stages across Canada, Alee showed off her new music, watched as Canadian country music fans, and the industry took notice, and was rewarded with a Female Artist of the Year nomination at the Canadian Country Music Association awards.

We had the chance to see Alee in Toronto during Canadian Music Week (opening for Drake White) and on the main stage at Boots & Hearts 2017. Both sets were opportunities for the Alberta native to prove that she belongs in the conversation with artists like Jess Moskaluke, Madeline Merlo, Meghan Patrick, and Lindsay Ell when anyone is talking about the talented Canadian women making country music.

Male

Brett Young

Brett Young Caliville via Facebook

via Facebook

Brett Young burst onto the scene in 2016 with his #2 single, Sleep Without You – and then he doubled up on his success and boosted his profile this year with the release of his debut full-length album, and two more hit singles, In Case You Didn’t Know and Like I Loved You. Both singles hit #1 on the US Country Airplay and Canadian Country charts, putting Brett Young in rarified air in 2017.

The tall, handsome, talented singer has shown his ability to captivate listeners acoustically, and with a full instrumental background… and his connection to fans through his voice and songs is a gift, and he’s using it well.

We saw Young open for Lady Antebellum in Toronto this summer, and in the bright sunlight with the early crowd paying attention, we saw first hand just what he has to offer!

Andrew Hyatt

Andrew Hyatt - Northern Comfort Saloon - CNE 2017In Canada, Andrew Hyatt took 2017 and ran with it. The Sudbury, ON native released his first full-length album, Iron & Ashes (which landed on my 10 Most Listened to Albums of 2017 list) and played shows all over the country.

We saw Hyatt on stage, back stage, and in the crowd at shows throughout the year, and the constant from start to finish was his drive and desire to play music.

The second half of the year got especially busy as Andrew Hyatt entered the top 10 on the Canadian Country charts in 2017 with On Me – and then hit the road with Dallas Smith as a guest performer on the Side Effects Tour. That exposure and success combined to put Hyatt’s name and music in front of a lot of people, and we’re looking forward to what comes next.

Groups

Midland

Boots and Hearts 2017 - Midland

Midland have found themselves on nearly every country music year end list you’ll find. From fan support, to critical acclaim, Mark, Jess, and Cameron have earned the praise of many in 2017.

With their debut full-length album, On The Rocks, Midland shared their music with the masses. And through live shows on as many stages as they could get on, the Texas boys showed off their harmonies, charm, and talent.

2017 was a breakout year for Midland… 2018 could be even bigger!

Leaving Thomas

Boots and Hearts 2017 - Leaving Thomas

Canadian country music duo Leaving Thomas introduced themselves to fans at the very end of 2016 when they released Waiting Kind Of Girl… and as 2017 progressed, they made even more introductions with the release of two more singles, Best Adventure and Blame It On The Neon.

Annika and Bryton have shared a talent, charm, and connection with country music fans through their live shows, interviews, and social media channels – making themselves accessible as more than just two voices that listeners hear on the radio or online.

With new music coming early in the new year, Leaving Thomas is looking to turn a breakout 2017 into a booming 2018.

Joshua’s 10 Most Listened to Albums of 2017!

As we get ready to put a wrap in 2017, it’s time to look back at some of the music that we loved most from the year. And while this post isn’t a ranking of best albums and likely won’t match your most played records of the year… it is a list of my 10 most listened to albums of 2017!

Like years past, these 10 albums aren’t listed in any order. I don’t have the spin numbers to rank them 1 to 10, and all of them deserve to be played over and over, so it’s honestly too hard for me to put them in order just for the sake of doing so.

Unlike years past, all of the albums on this list were released in 2017… in other years I’ve listed holdovers and classics, but this year I’m keeping it current.

It’s exciting for me to note that this list includes 6 debut full-length albums, 4 albums by Canadian arists, and breaks down in a 7/2/1 split for country/rock/pop.

The truth is that this list could have been way deeper, with more and more albums listed and shared and showed off… so at the bottom of the post you’ll find the honourable mention section. It might be cheating, but those albums deserve a listen too!

The truth as well is that this list could have been way deeper, with more and more albums listed and shared and showed off… so at the bottom of the post you’ll find the honourable mention section. It might be cheating, but those albums deserve a listen too!

Ready? Here we go!

Joshua’s 10 Most Listened to Albums of 2017!

 Taylor Swift: Reputation (2017)

Most played track: Don’t Blame Me

From the moment I woke up on release day, Reputation has been in high rotation. Taylor Swift showed everyone that she’s still capable of swinging for the fences, and connecting – just like she did on 1989.

Yes, she’s a divisive artist and personality – but I’ve been team T.Swift since day 1, and if she insists on releasing bangers like these, I’m not going anywhere.

Carly Pearce: Every Little Thing (2017)

Most played track: Every Little Thing

The breakout female country star of 2017 is Carly Pearce. And on her debut album, Pearce showed that Every Little Thing is just the start of what she’s going to bring to the country music world. Her follow up single, Hide The Wine is catchy as hell, and tracks like If My Name Was Whiskey get stuck in my head on a regular basis.

Midland: On The Rocks (2017)

Most played track: Drinkin’ Problem

I saw Midland live twice in 2017, and when they played songs from their debut album, my ears were happy.

These three dudes did good work breaking into the Nashville scene, and they’ve earned a Canadian following too, with Drinkin’ Problem going to #1 north of the border before it did in the US. Listen to songs like This Old Heart and Check Cashin’ Country for that semi-throwback vibe that I can’t get enough of.

Foo Fighters: Concrete & Gold (2017)

Most played track: Run

When I shared my review of Concrete & Gold earlier this year a friend replied that it could have been summed up in one word, “awesome”.

While I’m happy to have written a little more than that, he was right. With the release of this record, Foo Fighters showed that they’ve still got it. And while we highly encourage the growth of young rock and roll acts, it’s fantastic to have these guys still ripping things up in the studio and on the road.

Foo Fighters Concrete & Gold

Little Big Town: The Breaker (2017)

Most played track: Better Man

I’ve been a fan of Little Big Town since the beginning. I can tell you where I was when they followed me on Twitter. So when an album as good as The Breaker is available to me from a band I love, you can’t be surprised that I played the hell out of it.

With the song of the year (Better Man) included, this album served as a reminder that Little Big Town are major country music stars, belonging in the upper tier of acts when we talk about Nashville.

Little Big Town The Breaker album cover

Andrew Hyatt: Iron & Ashes (2017)

Most played track: She Ain’t You

Andrew Hyatt had a hell of a year in Canadian country music. In the spring we watched him play two shows in Toronto during Canadian music week, and nearer the end of the year we caught up with him on tour with Dallas Smith.

The Iron & Ashes album is packed with tracks that Hyatt needed to share with the world and country music fans. And with a little grungy rock and a little country sweetness mixed together in his heart, Andrew Hyatt showed everyone that listened that he’s got what it takes to hang.

The Beaches: Late Show (2017)

Most played track: Money

That thing we said about encouraging the growth of young rock and rollers – The Beaches embody all of it. These women from Toronto have been ripping it up on stage, and now fans have a chance to rock along at home while listening to Late Show.

With the release of the album, radio support for their single, Money – and a US/Canada tour opening for Death From Above, The Beaches introduced themselves to a lot of new fans this year… and if I had to bet, I’d say there are more fans to be made in 2018.

The Beaches Late Show Album Cover

Thomas Rhett: Life Changes (2017)

Most played track: Life Changes

This record earned its spins from me with catchy songs, great lyrics, and Thomas Rhett’s continued ability to capture my attention. It also became a memory that I’ll never forget when it attached itself to the story I tell about learning I’m going to be a dad in 2018.

I reviewed the Life Changes album for its September release, talked to friends, family, and industry folks about songs like Life Changes and Rhett’s journey of fatherhood – and then, a week later I found out that I’m going to be a first time dad.

I’ve listened to the album a bunch more since then, and when I do, I think of that.

JJ Shiplett: Something To Believe In (2017)

Most played track: Higher Ground

JJ Shiplett’s debut album didn’t surprise me, because we’d had the chance to see him play the songs live on a few occasions before the release – but wanting to hear them again on the record and playing them a bunch is a testament to their quality and how much I like them.

Shiplett’s voice is unique, his fans are all in, and Something To Believe In album serves as an introduction to what should be a career full of music and stories from one of our favourite redheads.

Johnson Crook : The Album (2017)

Most played track: Call Me Home

Johnson Crook may not be a household name, but they’re making people take notice playing shows in Toronto, across Canada at festivals, and by teaming up with the legendary Tom Cochrane on Mr. Nobody. Songs like Call Me Home and their debut single, Minnedosa, will get you moving… you’ll dig ’em.

We’ve been covering Johnson Crook for the last few years, and have watched as they’ve developed their live show, and the songs on their album. And with four part harmonies, a roots based sound, and a touch of rock and roll thrown in when it fits best, The Album is exactly what we hoped to get from the boys on their debut record.

Johnson Crook The Album cover

And now, as promised, the list of albums that I listened to a whole bunch, but not quite enough to crack the top 10…

Honourable mentions

Shania Twain: Now, Jess Moskaluke: Past The Past, Lady Antebellum: Heart Break, The Katherines: To Bring You My Heart, Joey Landreth: Whiskey, Lindsay Ell: The Project, Jojo Mason: Both Sides Of The Bar, River Town Saints: River Town Saints, The Cadillac Three: Legacy, James Barker Band: Game On, Arkells: Morning Report (Deluxe)

Big Valley Jamboree 2018 Lineup Preview

Since 1993, the Big Valley Jamboree has been putting country music hit makers on stage for a weekend of good times – and in 2018 the tradition will continue.

The lineup of Canadian and American country artists is impressive and has a lot to offer to any live crowd. Put them all together and Thursday, August 2 to Sunday, August 5 should be a helluva weekend in Camrose, Alberta.

We’ve lined up the artists here (the main stage and then the SiriusXM Stage) with some of the reasons we think you should be excited, and what you might be able to expect.

Ready? Here we go!

Main Stage

Friday

Thomas Rhett – 9:00pm

Rhett has also been announced as a headliner in Ontario at Boots & Hearts this summer, giving the country music hitmaker back-to-back weekends headlining for Canadian fans.

We’ve seen Thomas Rhett on stage before, and he puts on a killer show. And now, with new music from his 2017 album, Life Changes, to add to his set – we’re sure he’s going to have a new wrinkle or two to add to his show.

Be ready to dance and sing and cheer and have a good time!

Thomas Rhett Boots and Hearts 2015

Paul Brandt – 7:30pm

Paul Brandt is a hit maker, fan favourite, and Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Famer – and the opportunity to see him up on stage playing songs that fans will no doubt know all the words too is amazing.

Tune up your voices to belt out Alberta Bound, Small Towns And Big Dreams, My Heart Has A History, Get A Bed, and Paul Brandt’s most recent top 20 hit, The Journey!

Billy Ray Cyrus – 5:00pm

Yes, Billy Ray Cyrus owns one of the most divisive hits in the history of country music, but he’s got a lot more than that to offer.

We’ve seen Cyrus play live, but never on a big stage with a big crowd… but we’d bet that it’s awesome.

Whether he’s playing songs from Some Gave All, Set The Record Straight, or any of his 13 albums in between, Billy Ray Cyrus will be at the Big Valley Jamboree to put on a show.

Carolyn Dawn Johnson – 3:30pm

Canadian country music fans will remember how successful and important CDJ was in the early 2000’s. They should also know that she hasn’t stopped, and she’s got as much talent now as she had before.

When y’all hear songs like Georgia and Complicated, let yourself be taken back to 2000 and enjoy every minute of it.

Leaving Thomas – 2:00pm

This upstart country music duo out of Calgary has new music coming in 2018, which will give them more songs for their Big Valley Jamboree set. And if the response to Best Adventure and Waiting Kind Of Girl at the 2017 Leaving Thomas shows we saw is any indication, it’s going to be fun!

Boots and Hearts 2017 - Leaving Thomas

Saturday

Alabama – 9:00pm

Having had the chance to see the legendary Alabama on stage at Boots & Hearts year one in 2012, we know just how great it is to experience all of the hits live.

The harmonies are still magical. The songs are still as impactful and fun as they always were, and Alabama have some pretty fun stories too.

With 32 number one hits, Alabama has no shortage of songs to choose from to play for a live crowd. That does mean that you might not hear a few of your favourites, but we can promise that what they do play will make you smile and sing.

Dallas Smith – 7:30pm

One of the biggest acts of any genre in Canada, Dallas Smith continues to wow fans with his live shows. And when he gets on a big stage at a big festival, he does exactly what he has to to get a big crowd fired up and engaged.

Smith has energy to spare when he fires it up, and as he sings and makes his way from one side of the stage to the other, you’re sure to see hands go up and cheers rise from the Big Valley Jamboree crowd.

Hits from Jumped Right In, Lifted, and Side Effects, will flow throughout Smith’s set – and we’d bet that the Juno and CCMA winner will give Canadian fans a highlight of their summer.

Dallas Smith CNE 2015

Jess Moskaluke – 5:00pm

As a three time Female Artist of the Year winner at the Canadian Country Music Association awards, Jess Moskaluke has shown that she is a star in Canadian Country. And when she hits the stage at the Big Valley Jamboree we are certain that her charm and talent will shine bright.

With nine singles cracking the top 20, and three of those landing in the top 10 (including her highest charting single, Drive Me Away, charting at number three on the Canadian country charts) Jess Moskaluke is not lacking for music to play live. And, with her background in YouTube covers part of her story, Moskaluke isn’t afraid to have a little fun and play some of her favourites from other artists and genres while she’s on stage.

Have fun!

Boots and Hearts 2017 - Jess Moskaluke

Aaron Goodvin – 2:00pm

Another rising star in Canadian country, Goodvin has been earning fans and pleasing ears with every step he’s taken in his career. 2018 will start on tour with Gord Bamford, and by the time the Big Valley Jamboree hits in August, Goodvin should be at the very top of his live performance game.

Be prepared for it to get loud in the crown when Aaron Goodvin and the band break into Lonely Drum – trust us.

Sunday

Florida Georgia Line – 9:00pm

A lot of people have a lot of things to say about Florida Georgia Line… here’s what we have to say.

1) FGL have proven to us on more than one occasion that they know how to have a good time and put on a great live show.

2) One of the very loudest and goosebump inducing moments we’ve ever had at a concert came in Toronto when the crowd sang along to H.O.L.Y. – it was amazing – click here to see it on video.

3) Tyler and BK are hit makers, and the crowd will know the words to their songs. And when you’re talking about a live show, that’s a big ingredient for a good time.

4) The energy that these two dudes bring to the stage, with humility and grace and appreciation for the crowd in front of them is overlooked and always connects well with a crowd.

5) Florida Georgia Line has a ton of energy – and if hit songs are a big ingredient, so is this!

Florida Georgia Line Molson Amphitheatre

Brett Eldredge – 7:30pm

This dude is one of the most talented and charismatic characters in Nashville right now, and when he comes to the Big Valley Jamboree main stage, y’all are gonna see it!

Brett Eldredge will be more than happy to play his Platinum, Gold, and Top five hits for the crowd. And if our experience seeing him in the summer of 2017 is any indication of what BVJ in 2018 will be, everyone should be very happy.

ps. If you’re lucky, he’ll have Edgar with him and you’ll get to meet one of the cutest dogs you’ve ever seen.

Boots and Hearts 2017 - Brett Eldredge

Small Town Pistols – 3:30pm

When Amanda and Tyler Wilkinson hit the stage a wave of nostalgia and happiness will hit the crowd, and it will be awesome.

Each Small Town Pistols show we’ve seen has included fan favourites from their two records, plus great selections from Amanda’s solo career, and mega hits from The Wilkinsons.

We’ve never been disappointed and we don’t believe you will be either!

Small Town Pistols Boots and Hearts 2015

Danny Hooper – 2:00pm

The long serving (25 years) MC of the Big Valley Jamboree main stage, Danny Hooper has pretty much seen it all. And on Sunday he’ll be kicking off the last day of festivities himself.

Be ready for a good start to the end of a fantastic weekend of BVJ country music!

Kickoff (Thursday)

Luke Combs – 11:00pm

With Hurricane and When It Rains It Pours, Luke Combs has announced himself as one of the biggest new voices in country music. And when he hits the Big Valley Jamboree kickoff stage, we’d bet that things are going to heat up quickly.

Be ready for a party!

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – 9:30pm

Legends! What more do you need to hear about the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Yes, we all know they’ve got one of the most beloved songs in country music to play for y’all… but there’s more than just that. However, we’d by foolish and lying if we told you that the biggest cheers and loudest singing of the night wasn’t going to come during Fishin’ In The Dark!

Coors Banquet Saloon, SiriusXM Stage

Friday

Aaron Pritchett – 12:00am

Aaron Pritchett is a Canadian country music fan favourite. His songs range from the emotional stories we love from the genre, to the party hits that you can’t help but jam out to.

And while we don’t know which songs Pritchett will fit into his set at BVJ, we would suggest that you be ready for a party when he hits the stage at midnight.

Aaron Pritchett BH5 Boots and Hearts 2016

Drew Gregory – 10:30pm

One of Alberta’s favourite local boys, Drew Gregory knows how to have a good time on stage. With a combination of originals and covers, we watched Gregory introduce himself to Toronto this fall, and we know that when he gets on the SiriusXM stage at BVJ, he’ll give just as entertaining a set!

Saturday

Emerson Drive – 12:00am

Emerson Drive are one of the most successful acts in the last two decades of Canadian country music. With hits and fan favourites, we’ve seen them put on a show that wows that crowd and facilitates a party.

And when they hit the SiriusXM Stage at midnight on Saturday, we have a feeling that they’ll be doing the same thing all over again!

Emerson Drive BH5 Boots and Hearts 2016

Nice Horse – 10:30pm

One of our favourite new bands in 2017, Nice Horse will bring talent, energy, fun, and a good time to the late night Saturday set.

If you don’t know them yet, you’ve got time to get yourself familiar with these four ladies – because you’re going to want to know them when they hit that stage!

Sunday

SiriusXM Surprise Guest – 12:00am

I mean, there’s not a lot we can say about a surprise guest that we don’t know anything about.

But, after an entire weekend of fantastic country music at the Big Valley Jamboree, we can comfortably tell you that we expect an artist to be announced that knows how to throw a party and make sure everyone ends their weekend with a bang after Florida Georgia Line finishes on the main stage.

Still The Same: Sugarland Returns with Single and Video Release

Sugarland is back! Officially, fully, and in audio and visual formats, we have new music from the duo of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush.

Ready to hear it? Press play on Still The Same!

The last time we heard new music from Sugarland was in 2011 when they released Run (featuring Matt Nathanson), but what we remember from years past are the hits and fan favourites…

It seems like the bands knows this, because in the music video for Still The Same, they show off a little taste of memory lane with a quick montage of older music videos. Have a look.

Still The Same, while new, feels like it belongs perfectly in the Sugarland library (the name really does work well). The duo has come back to each other and captured the sound and feel that always made a Sugarland song feel like Sugarland.

The understated, but well executed, harmonies of Bush with Nettles work perfectly – and they compliment the strength and star power that Jennifer Nettles has always been able to show in her voice.

We haven’t had the chance to talk to Sugarland about the new music yet. But there’s a moment in the music video that we like to imagine is the duo listening to playback and recognizing that things sounds good…

As country music fans, and fans of what Sugarland has released and accomplished throughout their career (seriously -> Baby Girl, Stuck Like Glue, Stay, Want To, Already Gone, All I Want To Do…) we’re taking Still The Same as a sign that we should be very excited and ready for more new music in 2018. And we’re very hopeful that we’ll get the chance to see Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush on stage to play the new music and the hits soon too.

Related: Sugarland Reunion Announcement and Top 10 List!

Now, listen to Still The Same again, this time with 100% more video!

We’re excited to hear more from the superstar country music duo in 2018. Until then… byeeeee!

1 month ago

Baby It’s Hot Outside, Brad Saunders 5 Quick Questions: Holiday Edition and Newfoundland Snow Balls Recipe

Brad Saunders has had a good run in 2017, including his $100,953 1st place win in Project WILD this fall. And to finish the year, and celebrate the season, Saunders has recorded and released Baby It’s Hot Outside, as a special direct download for his fans.

To help us get in the Christmas spirit, Brad took the time to play a holiday round of 5 Quick Questions and share his favourite recipe with everyone so they can take a crack at it!

Click Here For A Free Download Of Brad Saunders’ Baby It’s Hot Outside!

Thanks to Brad for playing along, here’s hoping he has a very merry Christmas!

5 Quick Holiday Questions with Brad Saunders

Q) Did you have a favourite Christmas song when you were a kid?

Brad) Growing up in Newfoundland we listened to all the Christmas classics but most of the time it was from the traditional ‘Kitchen jams’ in our home or cabin. Everyone, and I mean everyone, in my family plays an instrument of some sort and of course there was always a violin involved!

Q) Do you have a favorite Christmas song to play live?

Brad) One Christmas song I absolutely love to perform live is a song called Born in Bethlehem by a band called Third Day. Very powerful song that really captures the meaning of Christmas!

Q) If you could partner up with any artist for a collaboration on a Christmas song, who would you choose?

Brad) Last year I was fortunate enough to have done just that. Myself and Trinity Bradshaw wrote what I consider to be one of the best songs we have written. It’s called Christmas Without You which has a old classic feeling to it. Trinity’s voice is powerful and convicting so I thought it was a perfect fit. The band Renegade Station heard it and loved it. They released to Country radio just in time for the Holiday season this year.

Q) What is your favorite beverage for a holiday party?

Brad) WINE! Up until about two years ago I can honestly say I had never had a full glass of wine. Now it’s about as amazing as coffee to me! I don’t think there is anything better than relaxing by the fire, Christmas songs and red wine.

Q) If you could only have 1 dessert after Christmas dinner, what would you choose?

Brad) They are called snowballs. I’m not sure if the rest of Canada has caught on to how incredibly amazing they really are, but just in case they haven’t I will leave the recipe below. Growing up my mom made them every year! GO MAKE THEM!!

Newfoundland Snow Balls Recipe

Ingredients:

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup melted butter
1 1/4 cups milk
3 cups large rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened fine coconut
12 tbsp cocoa
1 1/2 cups extra coconut

Directions:

1) In a large saucepan, combine 3 cups sugar, 3/4 cup melted butter, and 1 & 1/4 cups milk and boil together gently over medium high heat for 5 minutes or until mixture reaches about 230 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Note: Once mixture begins to boil it is very important not to stir it at all.

2) Mix together 3 cups large rolled oats, 1 cup unsweetened fine coconut, and 12 tbsp cocoa.

3) Add the boiled mixture to the dry ingredients until well combined and chill until mixture is able to be shaped into 1 1/2 inch balls. Roll the balls in additional coconut.

Makes about 4 dozen. These freeze very well.

1 month ago

Sold Out: The Dead South with Johnson Crook at Lee’s Palace

On a cold winter night in Toronto, with snow on the ground and a feeling of pre-holiday energy in the air, a sold out crowd packed Lee’s Palace to see The Dead South bring their energy to the stage.

The Regina, Saskatchewan band were on their second of back-to-back sold out nights in Toronto, but showed no signs of fatigue in their set. And as the music played, the crowd reacted, loving every minute of it.

The show started with Toronto’s own Johnson Crook – warming up the stage and the crowd, and playing songs from their 2017 debut record, The Album.

Johnson Crook at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017-

We’re no strangers to Johnson Crook and their music, we’ve seen the live show, but this was the first time we’d seen them on the Lee’s Palace stage, looking out over a sold out crowd, and playing their hearts out.

The set was their last of the year, and it was clear that they weren’t holding anything back as they rolled through tracks like Mr. Nobody, Call Me Home, Feel Some Love, and Mining For Freedom. They were tight, showed off some big smiles that confirmed to us that they were having a good time up on stage, and we’re pretty sure they earned some new fans in The Dead South’s crowd.

Johnson Crook at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017

Twice in the set Johnson Crook gave a little mash-up/ throwback love, putting together Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls with their own Down The River as well as Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock And Roll with their own Old School Rock & Roll. The crowd got into it, and it was a nice touch by the band, showing love to music that everyone reveres and connecting it with their own.

The set ended with Johnson Crook’s first single, Minnedosa – and a big cheer from the Lee’s Palace crowd. It was a hot open to a show on a cold night in the city… and the night kept going.

The Dead South at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017

By the time The Dead South took the stage, Lee’s Palace was packed from front to back. Drinks were in the air, cheers were already ringing through the room, and the music was just getting ready to start.

The punk influenced bluegrassers were tight and dirty (just the way we like them) from the very start, pumping volume through the speakers, and supplying all of the energy that a Thursday night ast Lee’s could handle.

With tracks like Deadman’s Isle, Boots, and The Good Lord ripping through the air, the four piece band from the Prairies reminded us just how much fun they are live. It’s been just over two years since we saw and interviewed the band at The Horseshoe Tavern, and in that time they’ve only become more confident, polished, and ready to put on a show that people aren’t soon to forget.

Related: Good Company, The Dead South Lands in Toronto

The Dead South at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017

The band played on into Thursday evening, with Miss Mary, Massacre Of El Kuroke, and Time For Crawlin, all from their 2016 album, Illusion & Doubt. And during Time For Crawlin they gave us our favourite moment of the night as Nate, Scott, Eliza Mary, and Danny took turns pulling on a bottle of Jameson in the middle of the song. It’s the kind of thing that works, it’s fun, and I’ll never begrudge anyone who wants to take a shot of good whiskey.

The grassroots fanbase of these bluegrass pickers is something to behold. Having sold out The Horseshoe on Wednesday, Lee’s Palace on Thursday, and regularly killin’ it in Europe, The Dead South are making a name for themselves in the world of live music. They are entertaining as hell, and when it comes to the technical side of things – they can pick it. You go find an old bluegrass fan and let them listen to the banjo, mandolin, and bass on these songs, and they’ll tell you it’s legit.

The show was fun from start to finish, also included two of our favourite songs from the band’s 2014 album, Good Company. And we aren’t the only ones that were excited when they started into both In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company, and Banjo Odyssey. The room loved it. They loved all of it.

And they’ll be back again to love The Dead South when they hit a Toronto stage again.

We’d bet on that!

More Photos of the Dead South at Lee’s Palace, Toronto

Nate Hilts - The Dead South at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Scott Pringle - The Dead South at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Eliza Mary Doyle - The Dead South at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Danny Kenyon - The Dead South at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Nate Hilts - The Dead South at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 The Dead South at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Danny Kenyon - The Dead South at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Nate Hilts - The Dead South at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Eliza Mary Doyle - The Dead South at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 The Dead South at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Nate Hilts - The Dead South at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 The Dead South at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017

More Photos of Johnson Crook at Lee’s Palace, Toronto

Johnson Crook at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Noel Johnson and Jared Craig - Johnson Crook at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Nathan Crook - Johnson Crook at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Trevor Crook - Johnson Crook at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Jared Craig - Johnson Crook at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Noel Johnson and Jared Craig - Johnson Crook at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Nathan Crook - Johnson Crook at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Nathan Crook - Johnson Crook at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017 Trevor Crook - Johnson Crook at Lee's Palace in Toronto on December 14 2017

1 month ago
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