New music releases continue to arrive in droves from all over Canada into the Team GDW email inbox, but when I see references made to ‘old country charm’ and ‘pedal steel plentiful’ in some of the taglines, I quickly stop my skimming and take notice. It’s well known here at Team GDW that I’m a sucker for some good country music – and I’m not talking about the mainstream Nashville-pop that dominates the airwaves, but the old fashioned, traditional variety that holds a timeless charm and appeal.
While traditional (or alt-country, call it what you shall) is alive and well from the west coast to the Maritimes, and everywhere in-between, we have discovered over the years that Saskatchewan, of all places, is an absolute hotbed for this particular genre of music. No matter which style of country music you crave, whether it be traditional, honky-tonk, outlaw, west-coast, rockabilly, swing, or vintage mainstream, there is an abundance to be found in this prairie province – so much, in fact, that a few years back, I often referred to Saskatchewan simply as the Nashville of the North.
So many talented artists from across SK that have roots in any of these country styles have graced our pages over the years, and remain firm favorites here today – from Belle Plaine, Steph Cameron, and Kacy & Clayton, to Colter Wall, Blake Berglund, and The Dead South, the list is seemingly endless. And then there are those we’ve encountered along the way that may not fully identify as being country singers, but their brand of roots music has strong ties to the genre – the likes of Ava Wild, Megan Nash, and The Garrys, to name a few, have that crossover appeal to country audiences and beyond. So yes, SK is the undisputed hub for this brand of music north of the US border.
So, what about this email arrival with old country charm, I hear you ask? The answer, in a nutshell is that if you are looking for yet another exceptional alt-country band, allow us to introduce you to the sweet sounds of Regina, SK collective, Wolf Willow. I was intrigued the moment I saw their introduction, proclaiming that they play original country and western music, inspired by honky tonk, western swing and countrypolitan retro sounds. Such an apt description, and one that had me very quickly checking out the new single being offered, “All I Can Say,” that is released today via Grey Records (with an upcoming album, “Old Guitars and Shooting Stars” set to follow in October).
For the band, “All I Can Say” is an unapologetic celebration of the side of romance that is full of delight, desire, and excitement. A country vibe definitely beats as the heart of this tune, but I was not at all prepared for the sensory overload brought on by the accompanying instrumentation that blasts from my speakers. The song bursts from the gate with hot horns, a conga groove, and the almost doo-wop themed backing vocals courtesy of the ‘Garryaires’ (Lenore, Julie, and Erica of The Garrys), with interplay between the traditional electric guitar twang and Mitsy Mueller’s soft-spoken, upbeat vocals.
These sonic textures are used to explore the many sides of a romantic heart: desire, longing, mystery and loss. “All I Can Say” is drenched in enough sounds to remind us that just as country and western music was always more than beards and banjos, the songs too are more than bar rooms and brawls. Retro influences appear not only in sound, but in the accompanying video too, itself filmed and co-directed by the very talented Ava Wild – the first of three mini-movies for this upcoming album that will explore contrasting sides of romance. This single is a fun and glorious celebration of the simple joy that comes through connecting with another person, and just like the ‘Shooting Star’ in the album title, it really is a feeling of wonder and magic.
Photo Credits: Andy Beisel / Gina Brass