When learning late last year that Matt Andersen was taking his band, The Big Bottle of Joy, on a cross-Canada spring tour, I promptly took notice. With a follow-up announcement advising that Calgary-based ensemble, The Hello Darlins, would accompany him on this tour – I transitioned into a full Looney Tunes Roadrunner character, going ‘beep beep’ to pull up Matt’s website in record-setting time to secure tickets during the online presale. Finding a Saturday night show at The Aeolian in London, ON – one of our favorite music venues – we looked forward to the passing of winter, knowing that this date was circled on our calendar with a bold Sharpie.
Back in June 2020, The Hello Darlins stamped their name on the folk-roots scene with their stunning debut single, “Still Waters,” which coincidentally featured guest vocals from Matt Andersen. Indeed, this single would earn multiple spins and a dedicated feature here at GDW upon its release – landing on my personal 2020 favorite singles list, while also earning The Hello Darlins the distinction of being named my 2020 Breakthrough Artist of the Year too. Here we had a band who very quickly elevated themselves to the top of my “must-see-live” bucket list – hence the reason for snapping up those tickets once the formal announcement was made.
As shared in our previous features, The Hello Darlins did not just magically appear overnight on the music scene – having spent many years as touring artists and studio session players for artists considered household names. At the core of this ever-changing ensemble, the husband and wife duo of Mike Little (organ(s)/accordion/vocals) and Candace Lacina (vocals) decided it would be fun to hold on to a few of their own tunes, to record for themselves. Following up with some more stunning singles along the way (in particular, “Aberdeen (ft. Joey Landreth)” and “Prayer For A Sparrow”), The Hello Darlins released their highly anticipated debut album, “Go By Feel,” in June 2021, which solidified their status as one of Canada’s hottest new Americana acts, and a well-earned honor in my Top Four Album picks of the year.
With a 40-minute opening set at The Aeolian (on the first of three consecutive sold-out shows in London), The Hello Darlins brought an unprecedented amount of energy to the stage. Currently touring as a five piece band, Mike and Candace called upon the talented team of Kyle Mosiuk (guitars/vocals), Brett Ashton (bass/acoustic guitar/vocals), and Adam Dowling (drums/vocals), and collectively not only delivered a mix of new and old tunes, but did so much more than expected from a band entrusted with simple warm up duties. On any other night, the quality of what we experienced in London would be a headliner-worthy performance in its own right.
“This is the very first time that we as a band have played in London, so this is so special to us … to be on tour with the incredible Matt Andersen,” Candace offered. “So, we’re gonna share some songs that are new for us. The last few years have been real weird, and we wrote this song [“Lay Down Low”] about when things are just not perfect, and aren’t gonna be perfect. You don’t know how to make them perfect, so you just try to make the most of what you can, right where you are.”
Having just released an EP (to coincide with this tour), titled “In The Sundust,” the band acknowledged these latest tunes as a teaser of new music currently in the early stages of a planned upcoming double-album release (date TBD). Several cuts would be shared from the EP, notably “Highway 355,” “Do It Up Right” (lead vocals from Kyle), and the beautiful country-flavored “What Is A Broken Heart For” – one that Candace announced as a tribute to musician Linda Rondstadt. And upon hearing this tune when first sampling the EP, I believe her. Surely, I was not the only one at The Aeolian detecting instrumental cues from Mike’s keys and Kyle’s guitar rings offering similarities in sound and style to “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” Ronstadt’s popular 1977 hit single, and one resurrected by Canadian country artist Terri Clark in the mid 1990s?
“I should say that as a band, we’ve never played in London, but the band is put together by professional studio and touring musicians,” Candace would later clarify. “That is what we’ve done our whole careers. Mike and Adam, they’ve been on the road for many years, and we’ve been a different variation of bands in the studio together, and that’s kind of how we came to be. And it’s been a wild and fun ride so far.”
It would be asking too much to expect Joey Landreth to be waiting in the wings to accompany Candace on “Aberdeen,” but Brett was more than comfortable filling some rather large shoes in the process. “When we were putting this band together, Mike and I were thinking [of] who we could call on to lean on, our friends to collaborate with us, or partner with us, or even go on the road and make some music,” Candace shared prior to performing this duet. “One of my all-time favorite vocalists on this planet is my friend Brett Ashton. He can sing the phonebook, and in contrast, he’s a completely terrible human being. He’s horrible.” The room burst into laughter. “I’m the worst,” Brett responded in jest. “Everybody brings something. I just bring LESS.” As for the ensuing performance of “Aberdeen” – flawless.
Kyle would take the lead vocals once again to share an unreleased tune titled “I’m Not Giving Up Yet,” and the band would return briefly to their debut record to deliver the title track. With time left for one more number, The Hello Darlins raised their game even more, and left absolutely nothing on the table when closing their show with another unreleased song – one with distinct bluegrass flair and even a little yodeling from Candace, which earned much appreciation from the room. I know I speak for everyone around us that night that we wanted to hear much more music from this band, and fortunately, that opportunity did arise. You’ll just have to wait patiently for our recap of Matt Andersen’s headlining set to learn more.
- Will The Circle Be Unbroken/I’ll Fly Away (Traditional)
- What Is A Broken Heart For
- Lay Down Low
- I’m Not Giving Up Yet (*Unreleased*)
- Highway 355
- Go By Feel
- Do It Up Right
- Died With His Boots On (*Unreleased*)