Country

Good Together: James Barker Band, Meghan Patrick, and Jojo Mason Game On Tour, Toronto

Toronto hovered around the freezing mark on Friday, but inside of The Phoenix Concert Theatre, things were hot, sweaty, and fired up as James Barker Band brought the Game On Tour to town with Meghan Patrick and Jojo Mason.

As one of the fastest risers on the Canadian country music scene in the last few years, James Barker Band (JBB) have gone from the small stages in local bars, to the stages of sold out country bars in the city, and now they’ve hit a new level as they sold out The Phoenix – just nine months after they released their first EP at Canadian Music Week 2017.

The Game On Tour is in full swing, and if what we saw in Toronto on Friday night is any indication, there are going to be a lot of satisfied country music fans across the country when it’s finished. All three acts on the bill brought their A game to the stage, playing hits, fan favourites, and peppering in a few fantastic covers that only added to the excitement in the crowd throughout the night.

Jojo Mason at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour

Jojo Mason kicked off the night with a tight 25 minutes of music that revved up the Toronto audience and started the temperature rise in the building.

The Saskatchewan native looked right at home at The Phoenix, hitting the stage with his band and bringing the energy that he’s become known for. And as the 2017 Canadian Country Music Association Rising Star nominee rolled through songs like Red Dress, Good Kinda Love, and his current single, Edge Of The Night we could hear the crowd singing along simultaneously warming themselves up and getting the party started.

By the time Jojo wrapped his short set with It’s All Good, it was clear that things were only going to get louder and hotter on the Toronto stop of the Game On Tour. Jojo Mason did his job, and we should all be looking forward to the next time we get to see him on stage.

Related: Jojo Mason, Game On Tour Interview & Feature

More photos below…

Jojo Mason Setlist, Game On Tour, Toronto

🎤 Edge Of The Night 🎤 Red Dress/Chicken Fried 🎤 Good Kinda Love 🎤 Something To Wrap My Heart Around 🎤 No Diggity [Blackstreet] 🎤 It’s All Good

After a brief intermission, Meghan Patrick, the 2017 CCMA Rising Star and Female Artist of the Year awards winner, hit the stage at The Phoenix.

The Bowmanville, ON star came armed with a 10 song set that included songs from her debut album, Grace & Grit, and her January 2018 release, Country Music Made Me Do It. And as she played tracks from each album, the crowd got louder, more involved, and showed her the love that the pseudo-hometown concert had to offer.

Note: Meghan also took the chance to wish a happy birthday to the one and only Dolly Parton before she broke into a rousing rendition of Jolene.

Accompanied by a full band of five dudes on stage, Patrick’s sound was full and tight. Her voice, which has always been a strength, ripped through the speakers and met the voices of the Toronto fans as they sang along with her.

And to see and hear those country music fans sing along to new songs like Country Music Made Me Do It and George Strait with the same love that they use to belt out Grace & Grit and Bow Chicka Wow Wow serves as a confirmation (not that it was needed) that Meghan Patrick truly has become a star, burning bright and hot in Canadian country music.

Related: Meghan Patrick Q&A and Game On Tour Preview 

More photos below…

Meghan Patrick Setlist, Game On Tour, Toronto

🎤 Hardest On My Heart 🎤 Long Way From Waylon 🎤 Country Music Made Me Do It 🎤 George Strait 🎤 The Bad Guy 🎤 Grace & Grit 🎤 Jolene [D. Parton] 🎤 Be Country With Me 🎤 The Buzz 🎤 Bow Chicka Wow Wow

James Barker Band at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour 2018

In August 2015 we saw the James Barker Band on the Boots & Hearts stage as finalists in the Emerging Artist Showcase… in the two and a half years since the boys haven’t slowed down a bit.

The Game On Tour serves as JBB’s first headlining trek across Canada, and with a fist full of Canadian country music chart hits and fan favourites, these boys came ready to play in Toronto.

From the jump, the warmed up (hot and sweaty) Friday night crowd was all in on the JBB set. And from the opening notes of It’s Working, they were loud and engaged. There were cheers and screams and laughs as James, Taylor, Bobby, and Connor played their set, cracking jokes, having fun, and clearly enjoying the chance to play for a sold out Toronto audience.

The band’s set was a well thought out mix of tracks from their 2017 EP, Game On, new songs that we expect to hear on their next record (including the brand new single, Good Together), and covers of Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, John Michael Montgomery, and Hank Williams. The pacing was smooth, the energy in the room never dipped, and it was clear that James Barker Band was in complete control of the crowd on the floor in front of them.

James Barker Band at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour 2018

These boys are serious about their music in that they work hard and have released some excellent songs, but they don’t take themselves so seriously that they can’t remember that this is supposed to be fun. So when they called up volunteers from the crowd to make their cover of Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident) an interactive event, it fit perfectly.

Note: When we talked to James before the tour started we asked about Sold and whether we should expect it in the set. James told us that he wasn’t sure it would be a JBB show without it, and we’re glad that was his answer.

With radio hits like Just Sayin’, Lawn Chair Lazy, and Chills in their set, we were ready for a lot of singing along, and we got it. The country music fans in Toronto weren’t shy about participating in the action, raising their voices to meet James, and making sure that they contributed to the overall sound at The Phoenix.

It all came together to create an amazing atmosphere and a Friday night party in the city.

The Game On Tour wraps in Vancouver on February 10th, but that doesn’t mean that James Barker Band are planning to slow down. Be ready to see a lot more of them soon, and if you have a chance to catch them before the tour is over, do it!

James Barker Band, Game On Tour, Toronto

🎤 It’s Working
🎤 Going Places*
🎤 Just Sayin’
🎤 Good Together
🎤 Throwback
🎤 Hey Good Lookin’ [H. Williams]
🎤 Living The Dream
🎤 I’m Gonna Miss Her [B. Paisley]
🎤 Keep You Happy*
🎤 Sweet Thing [K. Urban]
🎤 Looking At You*
🎤 Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident) [J.M. Montgomery]
🎤 Lawn Chair Lazy
ENCORE
🎤 Rock/Pop Medley
🎤 Chills

*new songs, unrecorded, names may be inaccurate.

James Barker Band Photos, Game On Tour (Toronto)

James Barker Band at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour 2018 James Barker Band's Bobby Martin at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour 2018 James Barker Band at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour 2018 James Barker Band's Bobby Martin at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour 2018 James Barker Band at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour 2018 James Barker Band at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour 2018

Meghan Patrick Photos, Game On Tour (Toronto)

 

Jojo Mason Photos, Game On Tour (Toronto)

Jojo Mason at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour Jojo Mason at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour Jojo Mason at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour Jojo Mason at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour Jojo Mason at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour

Edge Of The Night: Jojo Mason, Game On Tour Feature

Jojo Mason rolled into Toronto on Friday with the Game On Tour, ready for action and what comes next.

We caught up with Jojo before his opening slot on the James Barker Band show to talk about being on the road, his plans for new music, changing the game, and how excited he is to be doing what he does.

Note: Earlier in the day Jojo took over our Instagram account, posting photos and videos from a busy morning of TV appearances, a SiriusXM session, and the chance to meet Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta. Check out his timeline posts at @thereviewsarein.com.

The last time we hung out with Jojo Mason we were in Port Perry, ON in September 2017, and he told us that there were big things coming. He couldn’t share details then… but four months later, it’s all pretty clear. The Saskatchewan native is on tour with James Barker Band and Meghan Patrick for 21 dates, crossing the country from Halifax to Vancouver, playing a 25 minute set in each city, and getting the crowd ready for the rest of the night.

Jojo Mason at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour

We asked Jojo about the experience so far (a week in) and he gushed about the chance to get up on stage at sold out shows to share his music. He is loving the chance to play for Canadian country music fans, and they are responding in ways he never expected. Jojo is hearing those excited fans sing back to him at each stop, and it’s wowing him every time. The 2017 Canadian Country Music Association Rising Star nominee told us that the feeling of hearing his own songs being sung back to him is almost indescribable.

Mason also talked to us about learning and growing on this tour. He told us that he is taking every chance he gets to talk to his tour mates about his set, asking for advice, tips, and feedback about what they’re seeing. He knows that JBB and Meghan Patrick have been on big tours before, and he knows there’s a lot for him to soak in. That willingness to put his ego aside to learn and improve fits perfectly with everything we already knew about Jojo Mason… and it is only going to make him a better performer as his career progresses.

Here’s the thing about Jojo Mason – he’s legitimately the best dude. There isn’t anyone we’ve met that has said anything to contradict that opinion. We’ve experienced it ourselves, we’ve heard stories from fans and industry folks, and it’s all true. In fact, when we talked to James Barker the night before the Game On Tour kicked off in Halifax and asked him to describe Jojo in three words… and he said: The Nicest Guy. And here’s another thing – Jojo gives the best hugs. We’ve been saying it forever, and on Friday night it was echoed in his introduction from KX Country’s Mike Fuller and Jerry Archer. The secret’s out!

Jojo Mason at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour

In June 2017, Jojo Mason released his debut album, Both Sides Of The Bar, and gave country fans a collection of 10 songs, including singles, It’s All Good, Good Kinda Love, Red Dress, Made For You, Something To Wrap My Heart Around, and his most recent release, Edge Of The Night. The energetic singer has played those songs on every stage possible since then, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t also been working on the music that comes next.

Back in September, Jojo told us that he had started doing some writing for his follow-up project, and on Friday he told us that after a November trip to Nashville for more writing, the demo-ing process has started.

There was an excitement on Mason’s face and in his voice when he talked about what he wants to do with his new music… and for good reason. Jojo Mason wants to pave his own path with his next album. He’s looking to change the game a little bit, and carve out some space for something new.

As a kid, Jojo grew up on country music. And soul. And funk. And now, as an artist and fan of music, he’s looking for a chance to put those influences and passions together. He calls it Country-Soul, and he’s looking to make it happen.

Jojo told us that he’s already started to push producer Dan Swinimer for new sounds on the new songs, including horns. And while we haven’t heard any of the demos, it’s easy to imagine them as fun, full, energetic, and packed with all of the things we get from Jojo now.

Jojo Mason with Joshua Murray at Toronto's The Phoenix in the lobby prior to the Game On Tour

Mason also told us that the next single he releases won’t be from Both Sides Of The Bar, and that it will be a new brand track. He didn’t tell us when it’s coming, but it is on the way.

Before we wrapped our chat and let Jojo Mason get ready for the show, we talked a little more about the tour and how it’s been going so far. Jojo told us (with a big smile) that it’s been a blast. He compared it to hanging out with his friends back home. Getting the chance to be with the James Barker Band boys and Meghan Patrick every day has been a lot of fun (and work). And whether they’re talking about hometowns, their dogs, relationships, life, or having Nerf gun fights (check out Jojo and Meghan’s Instagram stories) it’s all coming together to be a good time.

In fact, Jojo told us that he’s ready for Meghan Patrick (his bus-mate) to take him hunting and fishing.

We’ll all have to wait and see if the two country kids get out in the woods together, and we’ll do our best to be patient as we wait for new music from Jojo… but until then, we’ll be remembering the show he put on at The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto on Friday night.

Jojo came out strong in his opening slot performance, playing a tight 25 minute set with the band, and rolling out the hits and surprises as he made the most of his time.

We could hear the crowd singing along, we could see them dancing, and when Jojo Mason and his boys played a cover of Blackstreet’s No Diggity, complete with a banjo, we were in 90’s hip hop/country music fan heaven.


Jojo Mason is a dude with a lot of career ahead of him. He’s ready to work, ready to learn, and ready to take chances. And, he’s ready to entertain the hell out of anyone that wants to come on out.

If you’re west of Toronto and you like to have a good time listening to live country music, we highly recommend that you get tickets for the Game On Tour stop near you.

Jojo recommends it too. And a nice guy like him wouldn’t steer you wrong.

Jojo Mason Setlist, Game On Tour, Toronto

Edge Of The Night
Red Dress/Chicken Fried
Good Kinda Love
Something To Wrap My Heart Around
No Diggity
It’s All Good

Jojo Mason at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour Jojo Mason at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour Jojo Mason at Toronto's The Phoenix in the lobby prior to the Game On Tour Jojo Mason at Toronto's The Phoenix - Game On Tour Jojo Mason at Toronto's The Phoenix in the lobby prior to the Game On Tour Jojo Mason with Joshua Murray at Toronto's The Phoenix in the lobby prior to the Game On Tour

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!

Why Maren Morris Hitting Number One Matters, And Why It Shouldn’t

On Friday morning, Maren Morris excitedly announced on her social media channels that I Could Use A Love Song will become her first solo #1 hit on the Billboard Country Airplay Chart. It is a major achievement for the young country singer who has turned heads with her voice, energy, and most importantly talent since she introduced herself to country fans.

It’s a big deal for Maren Morris, it’s exciting for her fans, and it should be. Having the number one song in the country should always be seen as an achievement. However, in the case of Maren Morris, and other female country stars, this achievement and excitement comes far too infrequently and that matters too.

Almost 2 years ago exactly (Jan 19, 2016) Morris released her debut single My Church. The song launched her career, became her first top 10 single on the country airplay charts (reaching #9), and went on to win a Grammy for Solo Country Performance of the Year in 2017. Now, I understand that it takes time for new singles to chart and climb the charts to reach their highest point, including #1. But, if we use the last two years as a sample size of 104 weeks, we can see the ongoing trend, and unfortunate reality, that it really doesn’t matter how long a female country artist waits, or how good her song is, number one probably isn’t coming.

In 2016, four weeks of 52 saw solo a female artist at #1 On the Billboard Country Airplay chart. Both Carrie Underwood (Heartbeat, Church Bells) and Kelsea Ballerini (Dibs, Peter Pan) earned and celebrated those spots, as they should have. In 2017, only two weeks out of 52 saw the same result, with Lauren Alaina (Road Less Travelled) and Carly Pearce (Every Little Thing) each earning one week at #1.

In two full years of country music releases from women, six songs accounted for less than 6% of weeks spent at #1 on radio in the country. That’s not good.

If we want to start splitting hairs and getting generous to make the numbers look better we can add six more songs that were duets featuring female artists. But it should be noted that all of them were released and listed as singles by male artists featuring their female duet partners. With that increase 5.75% turns into 12.5%, and that’s still not good.

ArtistSongArtistsSong
Carly PearceEvery Little Thing (Nov. 25, 2017)Kane Brown ft Lauren AlainaWhat Ifs (Oct. 28, 2017)
Lauren AlainaRoad Less Travelled (Apr. 22, 2017)Thomas Rhett ft Maren MorrisCraving You (Jul. 22, 2017)
Kelsea BalleriniPeter Pan (Sept. 24, 2016)Kenny Chesney ft PinkSetting The World On Fire (Nov. 5, 2016)
Carrie UnderwoodChurch Bells (Jul. 30, 2016)Dierks Bentley ft Elle KingDifferent For Girls (Oct. 1, 2016)
Carrie UnderwoodHeartbeat (Mar. 26, 2016)Chris Young with Cassadee PopeThink Of You (Mar. 14, 2016)
Kelsea BalleriniDibs (Mar. 5, 2016)Luke Bryan ft Karen FairchildHome Alone Tonight (Feb. 13/20, 2016)

I’m going to take one minute to try to ensure that none of this is twisted. I believe that male country artists deserve to reach #1 on the charts if they release good music and the achievement is warranted. And there are groups and duos with female members that have topped the charts as well. But, like all requests and attempts to reach equality and/or fairness, this is not about putting down one side to raise the other up. This is about recognizing, and acknowledging that all the pats on the back we’ve given ourselves as fans and industry have not remedied the issues that became widely recognized with Tomato Gate in May of 2015.

And that brings us to something else that happened on Friday. About an hour and a half before Maren Morris tweeted about going number one, Kelleigh Bannen tweeted about a meeting she had where and she was told, “the numbers still say women don’t want to listen to other women”.

To learn that an artist was told this in a business meeting about her career is sad and discouraging. And I acknowledge that as neither an artist, or more importantly, a woman I truly cannot comprehend the full weight and impact of that kind of statement.

But as a man I do feel qualified to say that a three-part response to that tweet talking about how great of an ally you’ve been to female artists in country music is misplaced at best and a “not all men” statement at worst.

I have great respect for the career, accomplishments, philanthropy, and work of Bobby Bones. However, I don’t believe that replying to Kelleigh Bannen’s frustration and displeasure with statements like “All the meetings I’m in while discussing format in macro sense, it’s the opposite.” and “Rome won’t be rebuilt in a day. But some of us started nailing together boards a long time ago” is helpful.

We get it Bobby, you’re a friend to women and support them on your show. But it doesn’t change the systematic flaws that resulted in 5.75% solo female #1 hits in 2016/17, or an even smaller 3.3% since the chart started in October 2012 (9 of 271 weeks).

The list of women who have made great country music in the last two, three, four, five years is incredible. And yet, artists including Miranda Lambert, Cam, Jennifer Nettles, Kacey Musgraves, Reba, and even Taylor Swift (before her genre-shift) haven’t reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Country Airplay charts since its debut on October 20, 2012.

Note: This post has been entirely focused on the US market, but could be replicated for Canada where the charts are eerily similar in their lack of female representation, and have seen no Canadian women reach the top in that five year period.

Country music fans, artists, and other industry members have long known about the quality and talent that Morris brings to the table. Hell, her album, Hero, reached #1 on the sales chart. But here we are, 43 weeks after I Could Use A Love Song debuted, celebrating it as her first number one single. It has earned and deserves every single one of the spins that it receives at country radio. It is a well written, well sung, and well produced track. And, it has certainly earned that #1 spot on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.

Note: In September 2016 during 5 Quick Questions interviews, Shae Dupuy and Kira Isabella both named Maren Morris as the artist they thought people should be paying more attention to. And in October 2017, three-time Canadian Country Music Association winner for Female Artist of the Year, Jess Moskaluke gave the same answer in her 5 Quick Questions segment. It is no secret that Maren Morris has been, and continues to be, one to watch.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any quick and easy solution for this situation. It seems to me that the only remedy would be the decision of country music radio program directors to play more songs by women more often.

As fans we have the opportunity to use our personal platforms, like social media, to advocate for the female country artists we love. We can request their songs be played by our local country stations, and we can continue to stream, download, and share their music.

Leave a comment here with the name of the female county star and the song you think deserves more radio spins. And if you know the contact information for your local radio station (Email, Phone, Twitter), include that too. Every little bit helps.

I would encourage you to do all of those things while we wait to see a more advanced shift in the country music radio landscape and charts.

In the end, we should celebrate every artist and song that reaches #1 on any chart. But we should be celebrating because of the achievement, not because it hit the 1 in 30 women’s #1 lottery.

New Music Spotlight: Birds of Bellwoods, Jack White, Our Lady Peace, Vance Joy and Wes Mack

In our second January New Music Spotlight, we’re highlighting three Canadian acts, one Australian act and one American act. Genre-wise we’re recommending some alt-folk, some rock, some folk-pop and a little country music.

In this spotlight, we’ve got five videos with some very different concepts. Sit back, have a watch, and a listen and let us know what you think.

Let’s do this!

Artist: Birds of Bellwoods
Hometown: Toronto
Genre: Alt-Folk
Related: Duncan FellowsYoung in the CityThe Corcoran Brothers
Song: Feel It Still – Cover – Portugal. The Man
Notes: One of my favourite Toronto bands. I’ve been talking about their talent for a few years now. Birds of Bellwoods cover Portugal. The Man’s hit, which currenlty sits with over 94,000,000 views on YouTube. It’s a great song and an amazing cover.

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

Artist: Jack White
Hometown: Detroit / Nashville
Genre: Rock
Related Artists: The RaconteursThe White StripesThe Black Keys
Song: Connected by Love
Notes: The video, which was released on Wednesday, already has over 500,000 plays. The imagery is visually compelling and the music is dirty, synthy and bluesy all at the same time. Jack White gives us a great emotional performance and delivers lyrics we can all relate to with grace.

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

Artist: Our Lady Peace
Hometown: Toronto
Genre: Rock
Related Artists: Big WreckCollective SoulMatthew Good
Song: Falling Into Place
Notes: Our Lady Peace gives us a great story video. It’s classic sounding OLP with a positive message. I challenge you to watch it and not smile.

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

Artist: Vance Joy
Hometown: Melbourne
Genre: Folk-Pop
Related Artists:
Song: We’re Going Home
Notes: We’ve been fans of Vance Joy since we the first time we heard him. We’re Going Home is from his upcoming album Nation of Two which is out on February 23rd. The instantly recognizable voice is layered with beautiful backgrounds and real people. The chorus is catchy and I’m expecting to hear a lot of this track on the radio.

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

Artist: Wes Mack
Hometown: Calgary
Genre: Country
Related Artists: Jojo MasonAndrew HyattPetric
Song: House on Fire
Notes: First let us say that we’re very happy that there’s new music from Wes Mack. It’s a fun video, with a boys vs. girls story. House on Fire is fresh and summery and it’s something we can use a big helping of. I’ve already got the chorus stuck in my head and if country music is your thing, I think you’ll really like this one too.

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

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.

Trish’s 10 Most Listened to Albums of 2017!

One of my favourite things to do, as we get to the end of a year is look back. It’s a great time to reflect, a great time to look forward and a great time for Top 10 lists.

Note: I suggest that you listen, while you read.

Recently, someone said to me, “I don’t know how you find time to listen to music.“. My response was, “I don’t know how you live without music in your life every day.”. For me, music is a constant. It lifts me when I’m down, it drowns out the noise of the world when it’s too much and it gives me hope.

2017 has been an interesting year for me music-wise, and I think my Most Listened to Albums list reflects this.

Following Joshua’s lead, my list isn’t in any order and I’ve added an honourable mention section at the bottom.

Let’s do this!

 Imagine Dragons: ƎVOLVE (2017)

Most played track: Thunder

I’ve been a huge fan of Imagine Dragons since the release of their debut album Night Visions. Having been lucky enough to have caught the band live for both the Smoke + Mirrors tour and the ƎVOLVE, it was an easy call to put this album on my list.

When they started teasing this album in 2016 I was excited and when they released Believer on February 1st, I listened and I was over the moon. It gives us the awesome signature drums we associate with the band, plus there are so many words in this song, and Dan sings them like it’s nothing (trust us, is a huge deal), and their use of “the drop” in this song is perfection.

The track Yesterday is one of my favourites and a big part of that is because of the experience of hearing this song live, with tens of thousands of people singing along. I still get goosebumps and tear up every time I hear this track.

And yet, when I head to Spotify, Thunder is always my first choice. There’s just something about it that I love.

ƎVOLVE debuted at number two on the US Billboard Top 200, ending up at number one in both Canada and on the US Rock chart. It’s gone platinum in the US and Austria and gold in France, Italy, Poland and Sweden. Singles Thunder and Believer both charted in the top 5 and Whatever it Takes has over 112 million views on YouTube.

Imagine Dragons also captured a spot on my Highlights and Top Memories of 2017 post.

Imagine Dragons - Evolve Cover Art

 Oddisee: The Iceberg (2017)

Most played track: Built by Pictures

The Iceberg opens with minimalist horns and finger snapping and just like that, you’re in.

Oddisee, with Good Compny behind him, has put together the perfect combination of a super talented live band paired with important political hip-hop.

I’m the first to admit that I’m late to the Oddisee party and I’m doing my best to catch up. The Iceberg has some of my favourite lyrics of the year including this one from Hold it Back.

I make more than my sister
Cause I was born as a mister
And I ain’t never been to college, and she graduated honors
Yet the bosses think that I’m a better fit, huh
– Oddisee

The album is funky, abundant with thoughtful lyrics and stories that give us a snapshot of life, and although I couldn’t find it on any Billboard charts, it struck a chord with me. Give this one a listen, there are 12 tracks and I can bet at least one of them will stick with you.

Oddisee - The Iceberg cover art

Johnson Crook: The Album (2017)

Most played track: Hardwired

This Toronto-based band is familiar to you if you’re a regular reader. We’ve been tracking the guys since we first came across them as Boots and Hearts Emerging Artist entrants. Since that time we’ve gotten to know Noel Johnson, Trevor Crook, Nathan Crook and Jared Craig pretty well. We’ve watched them hone their craft and come into their own.

The Album is the first full-length offering from Johnson Crook and it’s a rich collection of stories, harmonies, textures and melodies. It gives you a little bit of everything and wraps it up in a tidy package. You’ll find fun upbeat party tunes, anthemic songs and tender, soft and sometimes sad love songs.

Putting this album on the list was an easy choice, I have a copy in my car and I listen regularly on Spotify. Choosing a most-played track, now that was the tricky part. It’s rare that I put this album on and don’t listen straight through and my favourite song changes based on my mood. In the end, I went with Hardwired mostly because I feel it and I think you will too.

I’m going to say it again, you should be listening to Johnson Crook. The band got a nice little bump in their streaming numbers when Spotify included their dark and sorrowful song Shadows on the Folk 2017 Playlist. They’re in some pretty special company on that list.

Johnson Crook The Album cover

Midland: On The Rocks (2017)

Most played track: This Old Heart

There’s something campy about Midland. And by campy I mean great. They don’t take themselves too seriously, they’ve found a way to mix classic country with today’s more modern sound and it’s working.

With a September release date, you’d think it would be tough to get on a year-end list, but I’ve had a chance to hear Midland live twice this year, first at Toronto’s The Dakota and then again at Boots and Hearts. These guys are super talented and I’m glad that they’ve taken time from their busy schedules to work on music together. It’s amazing.

In case you didn’t know, Midland is lead singer Mark Wystrach who was an actor and underwear model, bass player Cameron Duddy who’s an MTV Video Music award-winning video director (Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars) and lead guitarist, Jess Carson. They come together with luscious harmonies and great guitar work and we get the feeling of a honky-tonk loud and clear.

On The Rocks has a beefy 13 tracks and after This Old Heart, I’d include Electric Rodeo, Drinkin’ Problem, Check Cashin’ Country and Burn Out to my list of favourites.

This Old Heart is a great story song and one that I embraced wholeheartedly.

Andrew Hyatt: Iron & Ashes (2017)

Most played track: Most of Me

I first saw Andrew Hyatt in 2015 at Burlington’s Sound of Music and I saw the spark of what was to come.

Since then Hyatt has gone on to release his first full-length album and he’s started a professional relationship with Dallas Smith, with Smith is now acting as Andrew’s manager. This change saw him heading out on tour with the Canadian Country star and releasing a brand new single, Do It With You, which is brand new music. This has us looking forward to even more new music.

Iron & Ashes is a record about changes and life. It includes three tracks from his EP Never Back Down including Goodbye Gone, Running on Empty and my most played track, Most of Me. There are twelve tracks and they run the spectrum including some heartbreaking stuff (She Ain’t You), some fun, upbeat party songs (MGR, That’s How I’m Livin’) and songs that are fresh and hopeful (On Me, Laid Back And Easy). 

If you’re a fan of country, rock or even pop, give this one a listen.

 Joey Bada$$: ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ (2017)

Most played track: ROCKABYE BABY (feat. ScHoolboy Q)

The latest offering from New York’s Joey Bada$$ dropped on April 7th, 2017. So far we’ve seen three singles – Devastated, Land of the Free and Temptation. If we’re looking at numbers, and we are, AABA peaked at number 5 on the Billboard Top 200 chart

There’s a distinct split on this album, the first half, that he refers to as “The Heroes Side,” is laid-back. It’s melodic and while the music is less dark, the subject matter is anything but. The second half, which Joey refers to as “The Vindictive Villainous Side,” is a collection of tenacious songs.

The album is rife with controversial topics including oppression and the consequences of that oppression, police brutality, and to my delight, Donald Trump. There are lots of other artists featured on AABA including J. Cole, Chronixx, ScHoolboy Q and more.

My favourite track on the album is Rockabye Baby featuring ScHoolboy Q, there’s something about the piano part that gets stuck in my head. The lyrics and yeah, there’s a “Fuck Donald Trump”. This song makes my body move, the chorus is impossible to ignore. I love his delivery and with this album, he’s created a fan in me.

Joey Badass - ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADASS Cover Art

USS: New World Alphabet (2017)

Most played track: Work Shoes

New World Alphabet is the fifth studio album for USS. It’s full of catchy choruses paired with thoughtful and provoking verses. It’s classic USS and the first single, Work Shoes, is my most listened to track. Jason and Ash have been making music together now for 10 years and there’s a maturity about this album.

The guys did a very cool kick off to their tour with six shows in the six. They started at the Cameron House followed by The Mod Club, The Opera House, Rivoli, Adelaide Hall and finished up the six at The Danforth Music Hall. It was a fun, exciting time and fans of USS were thrilled.

USS - New World Alphabet Album Art

Lindsay Ell: The Project (2017)

Most played track: Waiting On You

I love this album and I especially love Waiting On You. I find it impossible to not sing along when this song comes on. It’s rock and roll, it’s bluesy, but it’s still country.

The record, produced by Sugarland’s Kristian Bush is produced beautifully and it’s full of positive messages and love.

The Project is twelve songs and it includes previously released promo singles like Good, Criminal, Space, and Worth the Wait as well some brand new songs. It’s a put it on and leave it album. It’s a great listen anytime.

Lindsay Ell - The Project Cover Art

James Barker Band: Game On (2017)

Most played track: Chills

This EP and especially this song were impossible to ignore. It was everywhere and I played it a ton on Spotify. In fact, Chills was my most played song of 2017.

This is great songwriting paired with great delivery. James Barker wrote the song with Travis Wood, Gavin Slate and Donovan Woods who are kicking out country hits like nobody’s business. Chills was the third single released from Game On and the band’s first number one.

The band toured with Dean Brody during 2017 and they’re set to headline their own tour starting January 11th in Halifax with Meghan Patrick and Jojo Mason. We’ll be chatting with them soon and we’re expecting there will be new music coming!

James Barker Band - Game On cover art

Ferraro: Losing Sleep (2017)

Most played track: Losing Sleep

Losing Sleep is the first full-length album from the Cameron House’s Ferraro brothers. It’s got an old time rock and roll feel and while prepping for my interview with the band prior to this year’s NXNE, it got stuck in my head. And it stayed there. I’m a fan of 50’s music and there’s a hint of that here but the music doesn’t feel dated. It’s fresh, fun and full of amazing harmonies.

This record falls into the put it on and leave it category for me. Ten great tracks and while the title track Losing Sleep gets my most played track nod, Shake It Off and Coffee & Smokes are close behind.

Ferraro - Losing Sleep Cover Art

Honourable mentions

Barney Bentall: The Drifter and the Preacher, Cage the Elephant: Unpeeled, Crown Lands: Rise Over Run, Dallas Smith: Side Effects, JJ Shiplett: Something to Believe In, Jess Moskaluke: Past The Past, Lady Antebellum: Heart Break, Matthew Good: Something Like a Storm, and last but definitely not least a single, that I couldn’t leave off my year-end list – Goodnight, Sunrise: Remember Now.

Header photo by Edu Grande on Unsplash

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