Back To The Country: Modern Twists On a Traditional Sound

Twang and Steel

As somebody who was raised around the sounds of traditional ‘old-school’ country music, perhaps my senses are a little more fine-tuned when it comes to picking out this particular genre from a crowd. But surely, I am not alone in detecting a strong resurgence of the vintage country variety lately – where music from rural America and Appalachia crossed paths with folk, swing, and gospel influences? If, like me, you have a feel for pedal steel, and twang is your thang, here are some recent cuts that you cannot afford to miss.

Brooks & Bowskill, “Distant Cowgirl”

Ask me to name-drop an artist rewriting the traditional country rulebook right now and I’ll cry out Brooks & Bowskill with no hesitation. Recently releasing their “Too Many Roads” debut album, this collaboration between Cobourg, ON duo Brittany Brooks and Jimmy Bowskill (Blue Rodeo) is nothing short of amazing. Drawn together by their mutual love of old country music, the duo creates a sound that could convince anybody of being a true blast from the AM dial past. While Jimmy is no stranger here at GDW, we’re loving what we hear from Brittany too – offering a sound similar to Kacy Anderson, but with a little more of Geraldine Hollett’s stage and studio presence. Highly, highly recommended.

Whitehorse, “If The Loneliness Don’t Kill Me”

Having followed the careers of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland for well over a decade now, I can say with conviction that Whitehorse are possibly the most diverse musical duo on the scene today. Currently calling Winnipeg, MB home, Whitehorse have experimented with all sorts of sounds, concepts and genres across their illustrious career. Whether pumping out pop jams or shimmery psyche rock, Luke’s guitar-heavy twang has been ever-present – so even though their latest “I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying” album is a complete trad-country surprise, it really isn’t a surprise. No, this is THE album that we didn’t know we needed, until we found it – and now, well, there’s really no turning back.

Les frères Goyette, “Paquet de troubles”

Delve into the world of Francophone music and prepare to be overwhelmed by the volume of traditional country offerings – many that have a unique French flavor stamped on them – from the neo-trad folk and fiddle leanings of Les Cowboys Fringants to the modern bilingual music of Brittany Kennell. This recently released tune from Champlain, QC brothers Mario and Sylvain Goyette leans closer to the slightly quirky folk-country offerings that the band are renowned for.  Mixing indie guitar riffs with both Mellotron and discreet pedal steel, adding a seismic timing shift and bursts of instrumentation down the stretch, this may not be traditional country, per se, but sure is a fun and worthy addition here.

Duke & Goldie, “Courage”

Giving up their lives in Toronto and seeking a much quieter pace of life out on a small island in the pacific northwest, Eric “The Duke” Duquette and Jena “Goldie” Gogo really did not know where their musical journey would take them. Cue the burst of pedal steel to kick off “Courage,” and it sure led them to into my world. “Courage is an attempt to recapture a natural high, and the incredible feelings that come with moments of creative fulfillment and release,” the duo share. “It can be difficult to carry that feeling forward with you into the more challenging, every day slog that inevitably follows. Finding the courage to face your fears and self-limiting beliefs, to do what it takes to heal and grow.”

Cat Clyde, “Not Going Back”

Cat Clyde’s name had mysteriously avoided our listening radar until learning of her 2021 collaborative “Blue, Blue, Blue” album with Jeremie Albino, itself anticipating our desire to hear the London, ON (now QC-based) artist’s latest “Down Rounder” album released this past February. With plenty of vintage guitar rings on offer, we can forgive the omission of pedal steel across the album, because the twang is delivered through Clyde’s beautiful, crooning vocal delivery. You’ll find no shortage of vintage country moments here, but to further accentuate the reflective and emotional emphasis from her voice, we encourage you to give this solo-acoustic version of “Not Going Back” a few spins. Timeless!

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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