As we head into another month of social-distancing and self-isolation, at least we have music, right? Perish the thought of having no new tunes to enjoy during these dark days. I have made several references lately that isolation breeds creativity, and judging from the numerous new singles appearing in our email inbox these last few weeks, some of our favorite artists have been VERY productive.
Amanda Walther, “I Will Be The Light”
On the surface, you could be forgiven for thinking that Scarborough, ON, singer-songwriter Amanda Walther (DALA) has been quiet for a while now. And yes, she and her buddy Sheila Carabine did release a Christmas single late last year, but trust me, while Sheila has been working on her current Kennedy Road album with Brian McMillan, Amanda has been equally busy and focused on an exciting new venture of her own. “I Will Be The Light” is the debut solo release from this JUNO Award nominee, the first of 15 new tunes that Amanda wrote, composed, and recorded for the soundtrack to an upcoming indie movie, “Walk With Me.” Both produced and joined by her good friend (from her Dizzy and Fay jazz project) Mark Lalama (keyboards), along with Rich Moore (bass) and Davide Di Renzo (drums), Amanda shines with this sneak peek of her upcoming movie score. “Because we all need a little more light these days, I’ve decided to share my song,” Amanda states. Team GDW were fortunate to hear a live performance of this single last Fall, and learned that this particular tune would accompany the closing credits of the movie. “It was a very overwhelming experience,” she shared that evening. It was the first time I’ve worked on a film, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.”
Northern Quarter Band, “Trainhopper”
Released just last Friday, “Trainhopper” is the latest single from Canmore, AB, quartet Northern Quarter Band. Composed by lead vocalist Kerry Hunter, this tune surprisingly pre-dates the release of their 2018 debut “Cold Dark Night” EP; being one song that missed the cut for the EP due to the time restraints surrounding that recording. “Not making the EP actually worked out really well though, because we had some time to really add some fresh ideas to it,” shares drummer Dave Crewe. “We invited trumpeter Matt Burke from Manchester in the UK to add the horn section, and it’s amazing.” Joined by regular bandmates Carlos Nadeau (guitars) and Wendy Crewe (bass), “Trainhopper” offers a great bluesy tale of a fugitive on the run. What she is running from, we don’t know, but her ending does not appear to be a happy one. “I’d already added a gospel choir and some backing vocals, and then Matt wrote his fabulous horn part around that,” Dave adds. “I love how it sounds together, even though both Kerry and Carlos have never met Matt in person.” Don’t miss out on the brief solo from Carlos, stepping up to the plate following the choral and brass backed chorus to deliver some truly outstanding retro ringing guitar licks. This band is high on my list to hopefully catch live one day.
Laura Hickli, “Listen”
Alberta is well represented this month, as we share another track here from Laura Hickli, an award-winning baroque-pop / chamber-folk artist who calls Calgary home. Following her 2017 “Flowstate” album, Laura received an invitation for a songwriting residency at the prestigious Banff Center for Arts and Creativity in late 2018; writing and recording this new single during that time. “Listen tells the story of a young artist recovering from traumas that affected her trust in herself,” Laura offers. “It is cognitive behavioral therapy in action. The slow and steady reassurance in the legitimacy of one’s own thoughts and value after years of self-doubt and second guessing.” Accompanied by some soft, meditative instrumentation, Laura shows no fear in delivering some punches during the opening verse: “I am ashamed of how I feel / I cover up my own depression and anxieties / to put everyone else at ease,” before drawing similarities to prominent vocalists such as Kate Bush and Tori Amos when raising her voice to match the intensity of her piano keys that follow. Described as indomitable, Laura Hickli strives to shatter any expectation of the way a piano can be played, a voice can be lifted, or a life can be lived.
Jill Barber feat. Yann Perreau, “Summer Nights In Montréal”
Okay, so it’s not quite summer yet, but as days turn into weeks, and weeks into months, we are fresh out of excuses to have summer thoughts already, right? Fortunately, with thoughts of summer comes the knowledge that Vancouver, BC, singer-songwriter Jill Barber is close to releasing “Entre Nous” on June 19th, her latest album since “Metaphora” (2018), and her first full-length French language offering since “Chansons” (2013). Jill released “Summer Nights In Montréal” last Friday as a teaser for her new material, a duet with popular Québecois recording artist Yann Perreau, and unlike the album version, has been recorded in English. “On Summer Nights In Montreal, I savour the memory of a past encounter: a sweet recollection of a steamy evening in Montréal,” Jill shares. “But more than that, it is a love letter to Montréal, to the intoxicating effect it has on me, and the ‘joie de vivre’ that I feel each time I am there.” Knowing that she wanted to record this single as a duet, Jill had no reservations in enlisting her musical partner. “I loved the idea of this song being a back and forth ‘dance’ between a woman and a man, so I approached Yann Perreau about singing it with me,” she recalls. “He is a coup-de-coeur of mine and I am thrilled to have him as my duet partner on this song.”