Johnson Crook

Queen West Goes Country: Johnson Crook and Dani Strong at the Rivoli

Country music came to Queen Street West on Friday night when Johnson Crook and Dani Strong hit the stage in the back room at the Rivoli in Toronto.

Dani Strong and her band of merry men opened the show, having as much fun as they do every time we see them.

Strong’s voice was, well, strong as she belted out her songs on stage, adding quips, stories, and laughter to her set as she drew the crowd in and made a whole out of all of the individuals in the room. It’s what she does, it’s sweet, and we like it.

And as she wooed the audience, Dani played through her set, including excellent versions of Fallout, Mountains, Mrs. Jones, Wild One and more. We could see people singing along, which is awesome to see for an indie artist, and it certainly seemed to us that the crowd was having just as much fun as the crew on the Rivoli stage.

Dani Strong at Rivoli

In the singing along department, we were loudest for two songs… 1) Dani’s most recent release to country radio, What You Need. 2) Her cover of Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks’ classic, Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.

As Dani sang out some big notes on Child Of Faith we couldn’t help but think that we’d love to hear her sing The Black Crowes’ She Talks To Angels. It could be a whole lot of good.

After Dani and the band finished their set, Johnson Crook got ready to take the stage and continue the evening’s entertainment.

Johnson Crook hadn’t played a bar show in Toronto in months. In that time their debut full-length album, The Album, was released, two music videos (Canada To Heartbreak, Minnedosa) were released, and Shadows racked up nearly 100,000 streams on Spotify.

On Friday night, the boys hit the stage in a good mood. The crowd was ready for the show. And all signs pointed to a good time.

Johnson Crook at Rivoli

And from the moment they opened the gig with Canada To Heartbreak, until the final notes of The Doobie Brothers’ Listen To The Music as the end of the night, things were flowing free and easy in all of the best ways. It may have been a while since the boys played Toronto, but they made it look and feel like riding a four-man bicycle.

Note: Having seen Johnson Crook’s set more than a few times, and knowing their music, we’re pretty sure they’d be a great lead in to budding superstars, Midland at a club show full of country fans.

The band rolled through a set that included music from The Album, as well as new tunes that they’ve been writing and working on. And then there was one song, that Noel told the crowd just missed the cut for the record, and was written when he found out he was going to be a dad for the first time… Your Love is a lovely track, one that we’d love to hear again, and could end up being one of those ‘for the fans’ moments at shows for years to come.

As the set moved along, Johnson Crook reminded us once again that we absolutely love the harmonies that Noel, Nathan, Trevor, and Jared produce when they sing together. The musicianship supports the voices, the songs fit their style and strengths, and they continue to grow. Favourites like Hardwired, Feel Some Love, and Minnedosa worked well with new songs like No Excuse For Whiskey, High Road, and Summers In Gold. And when the Crook brothers (Nathan and Trevor) took the lead on a cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Mary Jane’s Last Dance, everyone grooved along with a little extra something in tribute to the lost legend.

Before the set ended, Dani Strong joined Johnson Crook on stage for Mr. Nobody (where she admirably took care of Tom Cochrane’s part on the song), Minnedosa, and Listen To The Music. It was a wonderful end to the set, and an example of the camaraderie that we love to see in the music industry.

This was a good Friday night in Toronto. The music, people, and love in the room were everything we hoped they would be. And we can’t wait for the next time we can say the same thing again.

Photos of Johnson Crook, The Rivoli – Toronto

Noel Johnson - Johnson Crook at Rivoli Nathan Crook - Johnson Crook at Rivoli Jared Craig - Johnson Crook at Rivoli Trevor Crook - Johnson Crook at Rivoli Noel Johnson - Johnson Crook at Rivoli Crook Brothers - Johnson Crook at Rivoli Jared Craig - Johnson Crook at Rivoli Crook Brothers - Johnson Crook at Rivoli Noel Johnson - Johnson Crook at Rivoli Nathan Crook - Johnson Crook at Rivoli Johnson Crook at Rivoli

Photos of Dani Strong, the Rivoli – Toronto

Dani Strong at Rivoli Dani Strong at Rivoli Dani Strong's Grant Taylor at Rivoli Dani Strong Band at Rivoli Dani Strong Band at Rivoli


3 weeks ago No Comments Views

Country Closet Cleanout Contest

To celebrate the launch of our brand new website design and features, we’re cleaning out our country music prize closet with a monster giveaway of CDs, clothes, and merch.

This prize package has 15 pieces that will all go to 1 lucky winner. They’re perfect to keep for yourself, perfect to share with friends and family… and absolutely perfect to wrap up and give out as gifts.

You can do anything you want with this prize – we just want to give it to you!

Entering is easy. We promise!

Now, without any further ado, here’s the list of country music swag included…

Dolly Parton Baseball Tee – Womens (Large)
Rock N Horse Saloon T-Shirt – Womens (Medium)
Rock N Horse Saloon T-Shirt – Mens (X-Large)
Meghan Patrick CD – Grace & Grit
Madeline Merlo CD – Free Soul
Blake Shelton CD – If I’m Honest
Aaron Pritchett CD – Body Of Work
The Lovelocks CD – Born To Love
Johnson Crook CD – The EP
Lindi Ortega CD – Faded Gloryville
Cory Marquardt CD – This Man
Cavendish Beach Music Festival Bandana
Calgary Stampede Bandana
Boots and Hearts Sunglasses
Boots and Hearts Beer Koozie

Country Closet Cleanout Contest CD Collage

If you’re counting, there are 8 country artists’ CDs on that list, merch from 3 festivals, and t-shirts from one of our favourite spots in Toronto AND the legendary Miss Dolly Parton herself.

Like we said, entering is easy. All you have to do is use the widget here in the post to earn up to 7 entries for your chance to be the big winner.

Note: Please pay attention to the details in the comment entry. We need you to use the comment section at the bottom of the post to leave your comment – and then click the button on the widget to say you did it. Got it? Good!

Good luck to everyone. We can’t wait to name a winner and ship off this monster prize!

4 weeks ago 53 Comments Views

New Music Spotlight: Runaway Angel, Johnson Crook, ColinResponse, Birds of Bellwoods, and Danielle Bradbery

In our latest edition of the New Music Spotlight, we’ve got an almost exclusively Toronto list for your listening pleasure.

We have three bands plus one solo artist, who call Toronto home and one non-Toronto entry for your viewing pleasure.

Check out some new videos from Runaway Angel, Johnson Crook, Birds of Bellwoods, ColinResponse and Danielle Bradbery. Have a listen and feel free to check in with us, letting us know if you loved hem as much as we do.

The Music

Artist: Runaway Angel
Hometown: Toronto
Genre: Country
Related Artists: Meghan Patrick, Jess Moskaluke, Dallas Smith
Single: Witness
Notes: This song is off their upcoming album ZERO which drops on October 27th and you can attend their CD Release launch party at Boots and Bourbon on November 4th for free!
Check out their event details here!

Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Johnson Crook
Hometown: Toronto
Genre: Alternative Country
Related Artists: Joey Landreth, JJ Shiplett, Andrew Hyatt
Single: Minnedosa
Notes: One of our favourite Johnson Crook tracks, the video takes the story of Minnedosa to a whole other level. Great visual storytelling, awesome live shots, and of course beautiful harmonies from Johnson Crook.

Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Birds of Bellwoods
Hometown: Toronto
Genre: Alt-Folk
Related Artists: The Northern Empty, Duncan Fellows, My Brothers and I
Single: Let You Go
Notes: The newest video release from Birds of Bellwoods has radio single written all over it for me. It’s fresh and relatable, and it’s also the third single from their upcoming 2018 release Victoria, which is set to drop on January 19th.

Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: ColinResponse
Hometown: Toronto
Genre: Pop/Soul
Related Artists: Ivory Hours, Long Range Hustle, Nick Ferrio & His Feelings
Single: Something About Your Love
Notes: We came across this video on Bunz and had to share it. Colin reached out to the Bunz community asking to borrow their children. This is what he did with them. The music is sweet, upbeat and sultry and the video is adorable!

Links: Web / Facebook /  Instagram / Spotify / Apple

Artist: Danielle Bradbery
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Genre: Country
Related Artists: Cassadee Pope, Miranda Lambert, Kelsea Ballerini
Single: Sway
Notes: Sway is the lead single from Danielle’s upcoming release I Don’t Believe We’ve Met. The 21-year-old singer has matured since her The Voice win at the age of 16 and she’s telling us her stories, in her own voice. The singer has writing credits on seven out of ten tracks on the new album. The release date for I Don’t Believe We’ve Met is December 1st.

Links: Web / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / Apple

1 month ago Views

Minnedosa: Johnson Crook Video Release

The boys of Johnson Crook have released a video for Minnedosa… and we’re very happy to see it.

The song, a (fictionalized) ode to the Manitoba hometown of Nathan and Trevor Crook, can be found on the band’s debut record, The Album, and was the first song that we fell in love with from the band, now there’s a sweet little clip to go along with it.

The video is heavier than we expected, with a story to go with the song, and while it was unexpected, it’s well done. We will say this, we’re quite happy to have never seen Trevor and Nathan fight like this in real life.

Do they give out Geminis for music video acting? Do they still give out Geminis? Either way, hat tip to the Crook brothers on their Minnedosa performances. We’re sure they’ve done their hometown proud.

Check out some of our favourite gifs and screenshots from the video.

AND, if you’re going to be in Toronto on Friday, October 27, get your ticket to see Johnson Crook on stage yourself at The Rivoli on Queen Street West.

1 month ago Views

10 More Awesome Country Covers: Part 5

I love country covers of pop songs. It’s proof of the quality and versatility of the song, it’s fun as hell to sing along to, and when it’s live and the crowd is into it – it can be a big highlight on the night.

So, here we are with the fifth edition of 10 more awesome country covers, featuring some of our favourite new covers, and some that we’ve pulled from a few years ago.

This list also includes a country cover of a pop song… by the artist that recorded the pop song. AND, a pop cover of a country song that we love.

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 Covers

10 More Awesome Country Covers: Part 2

10 More Awesome Country Covers: Part 3

10 More Awesome Country Covers: Part 4

Brett Young – Hallelujah

Thomas Rhett – Cold Water

Kira Isabella – Missing You

Dylan Scott – Closer

Cam – Uptown Funk

Johnson Crook – Listen to the Music

Leaving Thomas – Dance With Somebody

The Lovelocks – Time After Time

Jess Moskaluke – Starships

Miley Cyrus – See You Again

Bonus Pop Cover of a Country Song: Haim – That Don’t Impress Me Much

2 months ago Views

The Album: Johnson Crook Album Review

We’ve been on the Johnson Crook train for the last 2-plus years, catching live shows, talking to the boys, and waiting for the moment that came on Friday, August 4, 2017 when Noel, Nathan, Trevor, and Jared released their debut full length album, The Album.

The 12 track release (Coalition Music) comes on the heels of Johnson Crook’s self-titled EP release in May of this year, and features the four songs from that disc, including Mr. Nobody, featuring the legendary voice of Canadian Music Hall of Fame member, Tom Cochrane. We caught the release party in May at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern, where the band banged out a monster 23 song set, including all of the tracks heard on the full length record.

In truth, these songs have been part of the Johnson Crook live show for some time now. We know their rhythms, lyrics, and harmonies – and we love them. And while you may not hear them on country radio as much as you hear other Canadian country acts, you will find that their tour calendar is just as full.

Note: Go listen to Feel Some Love (track 5) and listen to the harmonies… then close your eyes and remember what it was like when you heard Alabama singing their best harmonies. Try it.

The Album does a great job of capturing the energy, talent, and feel of Johnson Crook that we’ve come to know in a live setting. The harmonies of all four band members are ever-present, and flow through songs that are both upbeat and slowed down. And don’t sleep on the musicianship that Johnson Crook brings to the table. From the lead guitar work of Nathan Crook, through the rhythms of Trevor Crook on drums and Jared Craig on bass (stand up and electric), and to the acoustic strumming of Noel Johnson as he sings lead, this is a tight outfit from the first song to the last.

Where The Album truly wins is in its mix of ‘sit and listen’ and ‘get up and dance’ tracks. Songs like Mr. Nobody, Shadows, and Hardwired encourage you to let the melody and lyrics wash over you and evoke memories and emotions that only music can bring out. While at the same time, songs like Call Me Home, Canada To Heartbreak, and Old School Rock & Roll ring through the speakers, making your toes tap almost involuntarily, and reminding you that music is also made for a good time and dancing.

Note: Old Crow (track 6) is the typical start to the Johnson Crook live show, and is the instant introduction to the audience that these 4 voices are capable of coming together in some of Canada’s best country music harmonies.

This mix is part of who Johnson Crook is as a band and as songwriters. They explore and embrace the range that is showcased in these songs, and they should be proud of it. Whether you’re looking for songs to put on a kitchen party dance playlist, or you want to sit and drink and remember days gone by, The Album has what you need.

Johnson Crook

To have seen the band progress from the first time we saw them play at the Gladstone Hotel on Toronto’s Queen Street West in May 2015, to where they are now is special. With this album released and a live show that takes them to festivals, has them opening for rising stars, and impresses music fans at every stop along the way, Johnson Crook have put themselves on a lot of radars, and they’ve earned it.

Hit play on the Spotify playlist here to listen to Johnson Crook’s The Album – and check them out live when you have the chance. Trust us.

Johnson Crook, The Album – Track List

1. Minnedosa
2. Mining For Freedom
3. Call Me Home
4. Mr. Nobody (feat. Tom Cochrane)
5. Feel Some Love
6. Old Crow
7. Down The River
8. Hardwired
9. Old School Rock & Roll
10. Shadows
11. Canada To Heartbreak
12. Desert Rose

Johnson Crook - The Dakota Tavern

4 months ago Views

Cowboy Up: Budweiser County Fair is Coming to Toronto

For the last few years we’ve been talking about Toronto’s emergence as a country music hot spot. And now, the city is getting their own country music festival when the Budweiser County Fair comes to 525 King Street West, July 14 and 15, 2017.

The County Fair is offering a full experience, including:

Carnival Games And Prizes
Succulent BBQ Eats From 6 Of Toronto’s Hottest Chefs
The County Fair Mechanical Bull Championships
Carnival Food Classics
Drink Samplings
Tomorrow’s Stars Of Country Music
Line Dancing Lessons And Coyote Ugly Dancers

Don’t have your tickets for the fair yet? Stop wasting time and get them now: Budweiser County Fair Tickets!

2017 Budweiser County Fair Lineup and Schedule

Friday, July 14th

6:00pm – Jade Eagleson
7:00pm – Vanessa Marie Carter

Vanessa Marie Carter The Ranch

8:30pm – Johnson Crook

Johnson Crook at The Dakota Tavern

10:00pm – Andrew Hyatt

CMT Music Fest - Andrew Hyatt

Saturday, July 15th

2:00pm – MacArthur Clark
3:30pm – Kaitlin Kozell

Kaitlin Kozell BH5 Boots and Hearts 2016

5:00pm – Natasha Zimbaro
6:30pm – Jesse Gold
8:30pm – The Reklaws

The Reklaws Boots and Hearts 2015

10:00pm – Emily Reid

via YouTube

Do you remember that line about Succulent BBQ Eats From 6 Of Toronto’s Hottest Chefs? Well, it’s legit.

Via, The Budweiser County Fair has rounded up 6 of the city’s well renowned chefs to showcase their unique style in a fire fuelled BBQ experience. Satisfy your cravings and indulge in some succulent BBQ eats and local fare. From heat to sweet, this is one tasty experience you don’t want to miss out on!

Steve Gonzalez
Executive Chef, Baro Restaurant
Kevin Castonguay
Executive Chef & Founder, Provisions
Elisa Corrigan
Executive Chef & Owner, The Green Wood Restaurant
Matt Blondin
Chef & Owner, OMAW Restaurant
Stephen Payne
Executive Chef & Owner, Kung Fu Dawg
Nate Middleton
Executive Chef, Home of the Brave

We don’t know exactly what’s going to be on the menu(s), but given the pedigree of the chefs coming to party… we’re damn sure that things are going to get tasty!

Note: Please remember to grab a napkin, good BBQ gets messy, and this should be good.

All in all, this 2-day country party in the heart of downtown looks like it’s going to be a blast. From the afterwork excitement of Friday night, to the all-day festivities of Saturday, there will be feet stompin’, drinks pourin’, and good country singin’.

Check out the promo video, get your plaid and boots ready, and we’ll see you at the Budweiser County Fair in downtown Toronto!

5 months ago Views

2017 Canadian National Exhibition Northern Comfort Saloon Lineup and Schedule

If you like cold drink and hot country music, the Northern Comfort Saloon at the Canadian National Exhibition should be on your to do list this summer!

We’ve been checking out the Northern Comfort Saloon since year one in 2014, and every year there’s a pretty fantastic selection of country music to sing, drink, and dance to. In fact, just last year The Washboard Union took their turn for six days, and then won Rising Star and Roots Artist of the Year at the 2016 Canadian Country Music Awards… so ya, these are talented artists.

The 2017 lineup has some of our favourite up-and-coming artists, including Northern Comfort Saloon returnees, Cory Marquardt, Kelly Prescott, and Buck Twenty – and artists with new releases in 2017 including Johnson Crook and Andrew Hyatt.

We’ve put together the full schedule with dates and times, so you know which days to come see some of your emerging country music favourites on stage, playing originals, covers, and having a party.

Mark your calendar, and then use the poll and/or leave a comment to tell us who you’re most excited to see at this year’s CNE country bar stage!

2017 Canadian National Exhibition Northern Comfort Saloon Lineup and Schedule

Buck Twenty

Aug 18, 19, 20 – 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Related: CMAO Artist of the Month – Buck Twenty

Blue Radio

August 18, 20 – 7:30 PM – 11:00 PM

Ultimate Urban

August 19 – 7:30 PM – 11:00 PM

Johnson Crook

August 21, 22, 23 – 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Related: Call Me Home – Johnson Crook EP Release Party

Marshall Dane

August 21, 22, 23 – 7:30 PM – 11:00 PM
August 28, 29 – 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Cory Marquardt

August 24, 25, 26 – 7:30 PM – 11:00 PM

Cory Marquardt CNE 2015

Jerry Serada

August 24, 25, 26, 27 – 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Kelly Prescott

August 27, 28, 29 – 7:30 PM – 11:00 PM
Related: CMAO Artist of the Month – Kelly Prescott

Elyse Saunders

August 30, 31 – 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Andrew Hyatt

August 30, September 1 – 7:30 PM – 11:00 PM
Related: Iron & Ashes Album Review – Andrew Hyatt

CMT Music Fest - Andrew Hyatt

Ty Baynton

September 1, 2, 3 – 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Chris Buck Band

September 2, 3 – 7:30 PM – 11:00 PM
September 4 – 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Related: 5 Quick Questions with Chris Buck Band

5 months ago Views

2017 Canadian National Exhibition: Northern Comfort Saloon Announcement

This week the Canadian National Exhibition announced its first round of Northern Comfort Saloon performers. Now don’t panic, we haven’t even started summer yet but it is nice to be able to look forward to some of our favourite country artists playing right here in our backyard at The Ex.

The Northern Comfort Saloon is one of our favourite spots to take a load off when we’re checking out The CNE. We love its sweet country saloon atmosphere, we love the mechanical bull, we love saloon themed food and drinks and if you haven’t seen the stage, you’re in for a treat.

Livy Jeanne CNE 2015 Northern Comfort Saloon
Livy Jeanne CNE 2015 Northern Comfort Saloon

We’ve seen some amazing acts on the NCS Stage over the years including Livy Jeanne, Leah Daniels, Marshall Dane, The Washboard Union and Cory Marquardt and this year’s lineup including Marquardt is going to be great.

One of our favourite things about sets at the Northern Comfort Saloon, they’re long! This means you’ll get a chance to hear all of your favourites, probably hear some great covers and maybe even get a chance to say hello to your favourite performers.

2017 Canadian National Exhibition, Northern Comfort Saloon Lineup (so far)

Buck Twenty – August 18 – 20 – 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Nominated this year for the CMAO’s Rising Star award, this is the second year in a row for Mike Ure & Aidan Johnson-Bujold. The energetic singer/songwriter duo will have their self-titled 2015 debut EP and their 2016 Single Here’s to the Nights to draw songs from and we’re hoping they’ll play some new songs and some great covers for us too!

Johnson Crook – August 21, 22 & 23 – 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

These guys are everywhere right now and we’re thrilled that they’ll be playing the CNE this year. By the time Noel Johnson, Jared Craig, Nathan and Trevor Crook hit the Northern Saloon stage, they’ll have a full album to play for y’all. These boys will have no trouble filling their timeslot and you should get ready to fill up the amazing dance floor that the Saloon offers up.

Cory Marquardt – August 24 to 26 – 7:30 PM – 11:00 PM

The North Bay hometown boy should look very comfortable up on the Northern Saloon stage. He put on a hell of a show last year and he’s been honing his musical chops all year long keeping busy with tons of live shows. Last year we got to hear from his album This Man as well as some great covers including Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, Eric Church, Keith Urban, Eli Young Band and Jason Aldean. Is there anything Cory can’t sing?

Elyse Saunders – August 30 & 31 – 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

The Toronto-based alt-country singer/songwriter’s Facebook profile describes her sound as “Soulful, edgy and inspiring” and we couldn’t agree more. Elyse has been putting out music since her self-titled album in 2008 and we’re hoping to hear songs from both albums and of course, we want to hear her new single Rise.

There are two sets a day, an early set from 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm and a late set from 7:30 – 11:00 pm. Last year there were seven performers in all, over the duration of the fair, that leaves three spots open. So, who else do you think should play the Northern Comfort Saloon in 2017?


Related Posts:

All Kinds of Crazy: Livy Jeanne live at the 2015 CNE!

This Man: Cory Marquardt at the 2015 CNE!

Leah Daniels at the 2014 CNE Northern Comfort Saloon


5 months ago Views

Enter Now: Boots & Hearts 2017 Emerging Artist Showcase

Presented by Chevrolet (new in 2017), the Boots and Hearts Emerging Artist Showcase has helped to launch the careers of Tebey and Tim Hicks (2012), The Reklaws (2013), Ty Baynton, Runaway Angel, Trinity Bradshaw (2014), Johnson Crook, Kris Barclay, James Barker Band, (2015), Jesse Gold and Vanessa Marie Carter (2016) and more!If you think you’ve got what it takes, the process starts with the applications. Country artists, ages 12 and over, can submit a video for a chance to compete at Burl’s Creek Event Park this summer. Visit to submit your video.

After all of the videos have been submitted (end date: July 2. 11:59 PM EST), 8 finalists will be hand-picked by the judges, who are respected industry professionals, to play live at Boots & Hearts 2017.

Once the top 8 have been selected, fans will then have the opportunity to vote on their favourite artist. Fan votes will determine the time slots for the finalists. Keep in mind that getting the most votes will have you playing last, and historically this is when the crowds are bigger!

The top two will as perform in a sing-off on the main stage at Boots and Hearts 2017. The winner will have the honour of performing on before Brett Eldredge takes the stage, there will be a big crowd watching!

Boots and Hearts Emerging Artist Showcase 2017 Grand Prize!

The winner of the 2017 Boots & Hearts Emerging Artist Showcase will have a chance to…

1. Play the main stage before Brett Eldredge on Sunday.

2. Record and release a single on the Universal Music Canada label.

3. Travel to Nashville, the prize includes flight, hotel accommodations for a week, $500 spending money, professional photo shoot, media training and a beautiful new Gibson guitar.
This could be a life-changing experience for all involved and while winning the contest is definitely the carrot at the end of the stick, remember, Tim Hicks was runner-up in 2012. This is going to be a great opportunity for eight new country acts and for 1 of them, it could change their life!

Find out everything you need to know about the Boots and Hearts Emerging Artist Showcase by visiting you know someone that you think should be up on the big stage? Of course, you do, send them this link. Or if you’re a country artist hoping for the next big break we wish you luck. Go enter and tell your friends!

5 months ago Views

The Making Of: The Middle Coast and Johnson Crook take Toronto

For future reference, The Dakota Tavern is an excellent place visit on a Friday night to start your long weekend.

To kick off our May Long, we hit our favourite basement in Toronto to see The Middle Coast and Johnson Crook – two bands with deep Manitoba roots, making good music, and having good times.

You’ve heard us talk about Johnson Crook before. Heck, we were just at their EP release party at The Dakota a couple of weeks ago. But now we’re here to talk about those boys AND The Middle Coast!

Related: Call Me Home: Johnson Crook EP Release Party, Toronto

Johnson Crook - The Dakota Tavern

The evening started with Johnson Crook on stage, kicking things off with Old Crow and their sweet harmonies. And from there Noel, Nathan, Trevor, and Jared rolled through their set with smiles on their faces and all of the comfort and confidence that we’ve seen them build over the last two years.

The songs from the EP, and the upcoming full-length album continue to sound great live, and we know that summer 2017 is going to be a good one for these dudes from Manitoba/ Alberta/ Pennsylvania.

The Johnson Crook set wrapped with Minnedosa, Canada To Heartbreak, and a fun collaboration with The Middle Coast on The Doobie Brothers’ classic, Long Train Running.

Note: The entire night was being filmed for a live concert video that we can’t wait to see… and that you’re going to want to see as well. Stay tuned for more on that!

Johnson Crook and The Middle Coast - The Dakota Tavern

And after a brief change over on stage, The Middle Coast hopped up for their turn.

Liam (keys), Dylan (guitar), and Roman (drums) came back to the stage to do their thing, and they wasted no time getting into a groove.

With slick three part harmonies, and Dylan and Roman taking turns singing lead in a very Glenn Frey/ Don Henley, The Eagles kind of way, The Middle Coast filled the room with music, and musicianship.

One of the coolest things about this band is how young they are, and how good they are already. And if current trends continue (we’re told they get better every time Johnson Crook sees them), these dudes are going to be a band that you’re going to be pretty familiar with.

The Middle Coast - The Dakota Tavern

All three of The Middle Coast members are likeable and witty on stage. They come across as laid back, hang out and have a beer, sing a song in the kitchen, kinds of guys… and that’s always alright by us. Also, Dylan gives some pretty awesome guitar face when he gets in a groove.

The boys played through tracks from 2017’s The Making Of, including Every Now And Then, Prey On Me, This Isn’t Love, Wasted, Paycheck, and more. And as we watched toes tap and heads bob, we realized that we want to see them again the next time they’re in Toronto.

The Middle Coast set wrapped much like the Johnson Crook set, with both bands on stage together – this time jamming out to The Band’s Up On Cripple Creek. It’s easy to see that these guys all truly like each other, and they enjoy the hell out of the chance to play together at the same time.

Here’s hoping they get to do it again soon, and we’re there to see it and sing along.

The Middle Coast - The Dakota Tavern

More Photos of The Middle Coast with Johnson Crook!

The Middle Coast and Johnson Crook - The Dakota TavernJohnson Crook - The Middle Coast - The Dakota TavernJohnson Crook - The Middle Coast - The Dakota Tavern

More Photos of The Middle Coast!

The Middle Coast - The Dakota TavernThe Middle Coast - The Dakota TavernThe Middle Coast - Dylan MacDonald - The Dakota TavernThe Middle Coast - Roman Clarke - The Dakota TavernThe Middle Coast - Liam Duncan - The Dakota TavernThe Middle Coast - Dylan MacDonald - The Dakota TavernThe Middle Coast - Roman Clarke - The Dakota TavernThe Middle Coast - Liam Duncan - The Dakota Tavern

More Photos of Johnson Crook!

Johnson Crook - The Dakota TavernJohnson Crook - The Dakota TavernJohnson Crook - Jared Craig - The Dakota TavernJohnson Crook - The Dakota Tavern

6 months ago Views

Cavendish Beach Music Festival 2017

The folks at Cavendish Beach Music Festival have been busy today. We’re here to give you all the #CBMF2017 news and there’s lots of it. Where to start?

Let’s start with the newly announced Tailgate Party on Thursday, July 6th. This free event allows you to check out the venue, pick up your wristbands and enjoy some awesome music. Our good friends Johnson Crook are part of the tailgate party along with John King, DJ Bad Ash and Mountain Faith Band.  You can expect some great music from all of these acts and a tailgate party is just the thing to get you ready for the weekend.

Also announced today is the official Cavendish Farms Kitchen Stage Lineup. Heading up the Kitchen Stage is CMA Award-winner and multi-platinum selling artist Billy Ray Cyrus. Supporting acts include Amanda RileyDJ Bad Ash, Eloie Richard, EmiSunshine, Endless Summer, Jason Price, JJ Shiplett, Rawlins Cross, Rik Reese, Sykamore, The Good Brothers, The Lovelocks, The Mountain Faith Band, The Stanfields, TJ King  and Tony Jackson.

We don’t have the daily schedule yet, but we’ve broken down the artists by day for you.

Friday, July 7th

Little Big Town

High Valley
Gord Bamford
Brandy Clark
The Good Brothers
Port Cities
Endless Summer
Mountain Faith Band
Rawlins Cross

Saturday, July 8th

Kip Moore
Kane Brown
Chad Brownlee
Canaan Smith
Madeline Merlo
Andrew Hyatt
Makayla Lynn

Sunday, July 9th

Zac Brown Band
Brothers Osborne
Tim Hicks
Aaron Goodvin
Jessica Mitchell
Lucas Hoge

For your full weekend lineup check out the Cavendish Lineup Page.

What else do you need to know? How about ticket info. Tier One tickets are on sale right now for $169.00. There are VIP options, Sunroof Options and Hayloft Reserved seating options. Check out all the ticket info here.

Additionally, there are some pretty amazing food vendors for you this year including the return of Mr. Donair.  And last but not least… Cavendish Beach Music Festival is running a Mother’s Day Contest. Check out their Facebook Page for all the details.

6 months ago Views

Call Me Home: Johnson Crook EP Release Party, Toronto

Saturday, May 6 was a night of celebration at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto as Johnson Crook hit the stage for a monster set, showcasing their debut EP and more.

Noel, Nathan, Trevor, and Jared make up the band Johnson Crook, a collection of dudes that we’ve had the chance to watch and listen to for the last two years, and in that time we’ve seen them push forward, and work hard to get to where they are now in 2017. From our first meeting at The Gladstone, through two appearances at Boots & Hearts, a great night at the Horseshoe Tavern, sets during Canadian Country Music Week in London, ON, and opening slots for rising star JJ Shiplett, we’ve seen Johnson Crook debut songs, get tighter on stage, and show music fans what they have to offer.

And on Saturday night we were happy to be there for the celebration of their debut release, a four song EP that serves as a taste for a full-length album that will be released this August.

Johnson Crook started their set in front of a sold out audience with an acoustic runthrough of the EP, playing Minnedosa, Call Me Home, Canada To Heartbreak, and Mr. Nobody. The harmonies shone in the stripped down versions of the songs, and the crowd responded to each song with applause and appreciation.

Note: While he does appear on Mr. Nobody on the EP, Tom Cochrane was not at the Dakota Tavern on Saturday night. Too bad for us.

And where we’ve seen other artists bow out gracefully after showing off the songs of their release, Johnson Crook were just getting started. The boys played for nearly two full hours, playing 23 songs by my count, and truly looked like they were loving every minute of it.

With a busy summer coming up, including performances booked for Dauphin Countryfest, Rockin’ The Fields Of Minnedosa, and Moose & Fiddle Music Festival, this show was a warm up – and a thank you to everyone that has been around during the first three years of the band’s life.

The vibe inside of the cozy, warm, cellphone averse Dakota Tavern was upbeat and celebratory from start to finish. Before the band took the stage you could see each of the members chatting with friends and supporters. And during the set it was easy to spot those same supporters singing along to the songs from the EP, and others that we’ve seen live over the last 24 months worth of shows. We heard Mining For Freedom, Hardwired, Old Crow, Feel Some Love, Desert Rose, High Road, and more as the night pressed on, the drinks flowed, and people tapped their toes and danced in the crowd.

The Johnson Crook songbook takes you from whiskey to women, heartbreak to love, singing to songwriting, dancing and more. And we heard it all.

But to close the show, to the delight of the crowd, and in a turn that we don’t often see, the boys played the EP again. This time they were plugged in, as they are on the EP, and the audience was twice as loud, singing along to all four songs, and making memories for Noel, Nathan, Trevor, and Jared.

And as the crowd cheered after the second playing of Canada To Heartbreak, we know there were smiles before the encore.

There are more big nights coming for Johnson Crook, namely the release party for their album later this summer, but Saturday night shouldn’t be overlooked, or underappreciated for what it signifies for a hardworking, talented, good hearted group of dudes who love to play music.

Hit play on the EP, and get tickets for a show near you soon, including May 19 and the Dakota Tavern in Toronto. You won’t be sorry you did.

6 months ago Views

Something To Believe In: JJ Shiplett Album Review

In July 2016, JJ Shiplett released The EP, featuring four songs that instantly captured us and landed in our personal high rotation. And now, six month later, JJ has 11 tracks packaged together on his debut full-length album, Something To Believe In.

And at the risk of being corny, JJ’s sound is certainly something to believe in. Besides listening to Something To Believe In, Higher Ground, Always For You, and Darling, Let’s Go Out Tonight throughout the second half of last year, we also saw Mr. Shiplett live three time in the year. In May, at Canadian Music Week, and in late November on his tour (Trish saw him in Toronto and I saw him in Oshawa) we were entertained and pulled into the songs, the sound, and the personality of this red headed Canadian singer and songwriter.

JJ’s music isn’t the traditional country that you’re used to hearing on the radio (on iTunes The EP is listed as Rock, but he’s a CMT Canada fav). But it certainly deserves to be played from coast-to-coast. What he brings to the table is a rootsy, country/rock/folk vibe that offers itself to a singalong  either around a campfire, or with all of the energy that a packed Dakota Tavern can muster. Trust us on that last one, we’ve seen it and been part of it ourselves.

Related: 5 Quick Questions with JJ Shiplett

On the Something To Believe In album (recorded in Toronto and Nashville), JJ Shiplett offers that melded and welcoming vibe from start to finish. Like any good album that grabs us, it moves from one place to the next, offering tracks that will pull you in and connect on a “grab you by the feels” level (Always For You, Sorrow) as well as songs that give you a chance to tap your toes and have a little dance (Am I Dear, Seeking Shelter).

And, if you’re looking for a little honky tonkin’ vibe that you can share with your wicked cool grandparents that hit the hottest barn parties back in the day, we highly encourage you to turn on Higher Ground and turn it up.

For all of the things that we can say about this album, song by song, here’s the meat and potatoes of it: Something To Believe In is an album that is going to end up on our playlists for all 12 months of 2017. The songs that Shiplett has written and presented on this album connect, entertain, and we like it. 

We’ve called him Canada’s most talented redhead. We’ve seen him live and binged his recordings. We’ve sat and talked to him on sunny roof top patios and in sports bar booths. And after the hangouts, live shows, and listening sessions, here’s what we’ll tell you – JJ Shiplett is the real deal and you should be preparing yourself to hear his name and his voice for years to come.

And when you have the chance, and we hope you will, get a ticket and see the live show. Because whether he’s opening for someone like Johnny Reid or playing his own tour with openers like Johnson Crook, JJ Shiplett is going to give you something to believe in.

JJ Shiplett’s Something To Believe In Tracklist

  1. Something To Believe In
  2. Sorrow
  3. Higher Ground
  4. Darling, Let’s Go Out Tonight
  5. Waters
  6. Oh No Girl
  7. Seeking Shelter
  8. Loaded Like A Freight Train
  9. Am I Dear
  10. House On A River
  11. 11. Always For You

10 months ago Views

Always For You: JJ Shiplett and Johnson Crook Hit Toronto and Oshawa!

On back-to-back nights in Toronto and Oshawa, ON – JJ Shiplett and Johnson Crook took the stage and put on the kinds of shows that make music fans want to hear more, see more, and do it all over again.

Friday night’s show saw the 2 acts play early sets at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern and Saturday saw them travel down the 401 to Oshawa’s Moustache Club to wrap up their weekend. We were there on both nights to grab photos, videos, and on Saturday we had a chance to sit down with JJ to talk about his new album, the holidays, what’s coming up in 2017 and more.

Johnson Crook opened both shows, bringing their personal brand of country harmonies to the stage playing songs that we’ve heard them hit at previous shows, and showing us that they are more and more ready for bigger things each time. During the set lead singer Noel Johnson told the crowd that the band’s debut EP will be available in February 2017, which is exciting for us to hear. And exciting for the boys too.

AND, without spoiling any surprises, we are telling you now that you should be on the lookout for a very special appearance on one of the tracks from a Canadian legend!

You can download or stream Johnson Crook’s lead single Minnedosa now, and with their EP release be ready for tracks like Canada To Heartbreak, Hardwired, and Mr. Nobody.

Johnson Crook at The Dakota Tavern

After the brief break between bands, JJ Shiplett and his accompanying musicians hit the stage to put on their show… and ain’t nobody disappointed that they were there to see it on either night.

JJ has been putting in work, from coast-to-coast, sharing his music, exposing people to the tracks they know, and ones that they’ll hear on his upcoming record – release date: Late January 2017.

I asked JJ about the album on Saturday when we sat down and in his responses it was clear to see that he’s ready for everyone to hear it and dig in. In fact, the album has been ready for a bit now, the design elements have been finished up, and now all that’s left to do is the waiting… and Mr. Shiplett is ready for that part to be over.

It’s kinda hard, he said, to see people digging the songs that he’s playing on stage, but knowing that they can’t yet go home and listen to them again. Soon, that will change.

On stage in Toronto and Oshawa we heard the songs we have been able to listen to at home in Higher Ground, Always For You, and Something To Believe In (all featured on JJ’s 2016 EP, The EP) and they truly are songs to listen to over and over again.

JJ Shiplett at The Dakota

As JJ sipped our pre-show beers I also asked him about his recent stop at the House of Strombo to play for cameras, Facebook Live, and the man himself who has been Canada’s Boyfriend, and a beacon for music for Canadians since his early days at Much Music and The Edge 102.1.

JJ told me that going to Stroumboulopoulos’ house was the first time they’d met – and that he sat down to hang out and play two songs, one cover and one original… and while I didn’t ask which original he played at the house (I’m sure it will show up on The Strombo Show YouTube channel), I did watch the video of his Tom Waits’ Hold On cover, and I dug it. As a music fan it’s cool to watch those videos, as a performer it sounds like it’s a cool experience as well. And I like that.

And before we finished our beers and JJ headed upstairs to get ready for his Saturday set at The Moustache Club, I asked him to look into the future a little bit and tell me what’s coming next.

Starting with the holidays, JJ told me that things will get a little quieter. He’ll head home to Calgary and spend time with this family (who are apparently really great debaters), and with his new (used) piano that he just got tuned and can’t wait to play. So if you’re JJ’s neighbour and you start hearing keys and Christmas carols in the next few weeks, that’s exactly what’s going on!

I also poked a little bit, asking about 2017 and touring and what’s going to happen. And while there weren’t a lot of details, it’s clear that JJ wants to be out on the road, playing the new album and introducing people to the songs they’ll be able to go home and listen to. He knows that he’s got to put in the work, and he’s all for it.

And having seen the man do his thing on a few occasions in 2016, we can tell you that he’s more than up to the challenge of getting out there, hitting the road and showing each and every one of you what he’s got to give.

Before JJ Shiplett wrapped his sets this weekend with Something To Believe In, he gave us something that we’ve seen and loved from Canadian musicians in 2016… a tribute to The Tragically Hip. JJ and his boys played Grace, Too – and while it wasn’t quite as emotional as Gord was in Kingston (or Calgary, where JJ saw two shows), it was special and appreciated. And you can watch it right here.

JJ Shiplett at The Dakota

Keep your eyes and ears open for more from both Johnson Crook and JJ Shiplett – these are names that are ready to be on the tip of your tongue when you’re talking about music with your friends and fellow fans.

And keep your eyes on this space for more, because we aren’t done with these guys yet!

More photos of JJ Shiplett at The Dakota Tavern, Toronto.

JJ Shiplett at The DakotaJJ Shiplett at The DakotaJJ Shiplett at The DakotaJJ Shiplett at The DakotaJJ Shiplett at The DakotaJJ Shiplett at The Dakota

More photos of Johnson Crook at The Dakota Tavern, Toronto.

Johnson Crook at The Dakota Tavern Johnson Crook at The Dakota Tavern Johnson Crook at The Dakota Tavern

12 months ago Views
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