Snappy Singles: (An Almost) Canadian Country Compilation

Snappy Singles May 2023

We may be slowing things down a little as far as the frequency of our non-live-music related content, but many of you know just how much we enjoy the challenge of finding four amazing new tunes for the monthly Snappy Singles feature. With an abundance of great new music continuously coming our way, we’ve decided to collectively theme this particular installment, bringing you a selection of fabulous new folk-country singles, and – better yet – from four previously featured artists who are making a long-overdue return to our pages today.

Matt Paxton & The Pintos, “Southside Of The West Town”

If you spend time enjoying the local live music scene in Hamilton, ON, it’s likely that you are already familiar with the music of Matt Paxton. You may have knowingly seen him up on a stage in front of the microphone, or have caught a passing glance on those evenings he works behind the scenes to help promote and bring shows of all varieties to The Hammer. Bottom line: Matt is a very passionate advocate for the folk-roots and country music scene – so when chatting with him late last year about this latest music project, we knew immediately that their debut release was a perfect candidate for this feature. “Southside of the West Town / Your shimmering eyes / Feels good to be home / With them by my side / Rain down the window / Through the neon light / Head full of highway / Down the 6 tonight.” Written by Matt, and produced by Tim Allard (The Redhill Valleys) at Westmoreland Studio in Hamilton (with mastering by Joao Carvalho), this single is a delightful slow-burner of a country song, itself one that leaps out due to the additional musicianship of The Pintos – Carrie Clark (bass/vocals), Chris Altmann (pedal steel/piano), and Robin Pirson (drums) – and leaving this particular listener hovering constantly over the repeat button. Sucker for steel, after all…

Shane Pendergast, “Bluebell”

Always a popular favorite here at GDW, it was late in the summer months when we last heard new music from Tracadie Cross, PEI folksinger Shane Pendergast, making our decision incredibly easy to feature this fresh-hot single today. For Shane, “Bluebell” is a heartfelt number that captures the excitement, vulnerability, and uncertainty of falling in love – one handled perfectly as always by Shane’s smooth crooning vocal delivery and his meticulous lyrical creativity.  In the dead of winter, 2022, Shane began an all-new chapter in his life, taking up residence in an old homestead on the banks of the Winter River in Corran Ban, PEI, and under the shadow of a pandemic (itself a good enough excuse to seek out self-discovery), found himself inspired by a Scottish song book where bluebell flowers were used to symbolize budding romance. Over the course of a January evening, the promise of spring was woven into a song, and “Bluebell” was born. Produced by Andrew Murray, and mastered by Sergey Varlamov at Crabbe Road Productions, Shane is joined once more by his circle of talented friends: Josh Langille (guitar), Sam Langille (bass), Ben Aitken (piano), and Connor Nabuurs (drums).  And, as we’ve come to expect, their Maritimes-flavored folk-country remains at the heart of the music.

Desiree Dorion, “Love You To Death”

It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since we checked in with Dauphin, MB JUNO-Award nominee Desiree Dorion.  Released in April to coincide with Alcohol Awareness Month, Desiree offers her most personal single to date – a poignant and deeply moving ballad about setting boundaries with a loved one struggling with alcohol addiction. Most of us can name a stereotypical country song about beer and whiskey, for sure, but how about those tackling the negative reality, as opposed to the simple glorification of alcohol consumption? “This song tells my story of imposing boundaries on a loved one to protect my spirit,” Desiree shares. “Music heals. I hope if you’ve ever loved an addict that you find comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. And know that you can take control of what seems like an out-of-control situation.” Exceptionally personal, the narrative is further accentuated by some haunting instrumentation that captures the hollow and empty feelings one must confront at such a time. “I wasn’t going to release this song, until I heard Charles Kelley’s (Lady A.) personal song about being an addict,” Desiree confesses. “For me, music is most touching when it’s honest. His honesty compelled me to share this story.”

Al Orbit, “Blue Hotel”

Our final hand-selected tune today is an alt-country delight from across the pond, and while Al Orbit may not be a familiar name, it is the latest recording moniker for our good friend Ali Neil. You may remember Ali’s “Land Before Us” EP, reviewed here by GDW contributor Richard Clark last summer, and for those of you riding shotgun with us since our early days, may recall Ali’s indie-alt-country band Lewisburg too (and as the name of a PA town fairly local to GDW HQ, was to good of an opportunity to not feature). So, upon learning of Ali’s latest endeavor, his short 13-minute 4-track EP makes for a quick, yet very satisfying listen. “Another night trapped in this Blue Hotel / Another night of monsters in a darkened well / ‘Cos you tried to tell me / That your love had gone / Hey, why’d you have to be the one,” Ali offers during the EP’s opening track, “Blue Hotel” – complete with a deliberately somber pace and moodiness akin to that of Canadian acts Barzin, and The Deep Dark Woods. “As crazy as it might sound, I have started a new country music project,” Ali shares. “The intention … is for me to rediscover and explore deeply the joy of creativity, and get closer to who I am as a musician [and] songwriter.”  Once again, Ali demonstrates a knack and passion for some darker, brooding alt-country fare.

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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