Review: The Paperboys at Horizon Stage

Last night The Paperboys completed a set of three Alberta performance dates at the Horizon Stage in Spruce Grove. The Paperboys’ performance was as polished as one of their many albums, but make no mistake polished doesn’t mean disconnected. Although the set-up for the Horizon Stage doesn’t readily allow for patrons to stand up and dance (without blocking their neighbours) from the first chord that The Paperboys struck serious seat-dancing, foot stomping and hand clapping occurred. With the final song of the night  the audience’s enthusiasm could no longer be contained and suddenly we were on our feet partaking in an audience wide dance party.

The Paperboys have been playing together (in various incarnations) for 20+ years and drew from that wealth of repertoire when compiling their set list, mixing older tunes such as “She Said” with newer ones off the album At Peace With One’s Ghosts like “City of Chains“. On “She Said” the individual members of the band showcased their musical talents with a series of solos, and with “California” had the sold out audience of the Horizon Stage singing along.

Twenty odd years is a longtime to remain a band—people move and become involved in other projects— so in the course of The Paperboys existence they have had to come up with creative ways of working. Geoff Kelly explained that due to the geographical separation of some of the band members homes  (Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver etc.) that much of their songwriting is accomplished on the road, and offered “The Baron’s Jig” as an example of one such tune written in on the road in the south of Germany. Another was the album Road to Ellenside which was recorded by The Paperboys while they stayed in a house, named Ellenside, in the north of England. The Paperboys’ sound is irresistibly infectious blending many genres into something new, and I for one am grateful that they manage the time to squeeze in the writing of new songs while on the road.

The Horizon Stage has more folk acts in the upcoming months including: Séan McCann on November 19th.

Review: Birds of Chicago & Ryan Boldt at New Moon Folk Club

Intimate, inspiring and, intense are just a few of the things that the Birds of Chicago show at Edmonton’s New Moon Folk Club was to me. The performance was sold out but I never felt overwhelmed by the sheer size of the crowd. Instead it was as if JT Nero and Allison Russell had invited us into their living room to share some songs, a feeling that began with Ryan Boldt‘s opening set.

Russell and Nero’s approach to life as demonstrated through their music was inspiring. Family and community were at the heart of many of the songs on last night’s two sets. In “Flying Dreams” Nero and Russell shared some hopes for their daughter:

I wish you flying dreams …
I don’t wish you wings …
’Cause if you grow those things, that’s everything
There’s no more dreams
There’s only silence in the night.

While, “Barley (in memory of Isobel Rodger Robertson)” written in memory of Russell’s grandmother was packed with personal resolve:

The wind that shakes the barley will not shake me
The wind that shakes the barley will not shake me
The wind that shakes the barley no it won’t won’t shake me
As my grandma told me this I sew though that I see

The intensity of the show was in part found in the audience’s balance of laughter and tears. In particular Nero had the audience chuckling and relaxing between songs while Russell captivated us with songs like “Kathy” and “Barley“.

To borrow a friend of mine’s words, the evening “was good for the soul.”

If the inclement road conditions kept you from the show last night, you can still get a copy of Birds of Chicago’s latest release, pair it with some wine and keep your eyes on the sky because hopefully these birds will be back with the summer.


New Moon Folk Club’s next show is Tom Russell on Nov. 18, 2016 and is expected to sell out so get your tickets early.

Interview and Preview with Birds of Chicago


The New Moon Folk Club prepares to welcome Birds of Chicago, comprised of Allison Russell and JT Nero, who will be performing this Friday.  This is Birds of Chicago first Canadian tour and Edmonton audiences will be delighted by their soul, gospel, and folk inspired tunes that conjure images of sultry summer heat. JT Nero, takes some time to chat with Folk on the Road before the show.

How has the tour been going so far?

Great.  The rooms have been full of humans, folks have been spoiling us … there are homecomings at a lot of these stops for Alli, who has family scattered across the country — and, of course, I made this trek a fair few times with Po Girl.

How do you feel audiences have been receiving Real Midnight since its release in February?

I feel like it’s been hitting em them in the sweet spot we hoped it would. It’s a cathartic bunch of songs for us, and it seems as though a lot of folks are needing to wring themselves out in a similar way.


You’ve discussed the transformative and healing power of music, could you share a moment in which this was true for you?

There are lots of instances in which people will let us know that a lyric or a song has helped them through a particularly rough patch, and nothing in the world makes us happier than that… but as far as personal healing, it’s literally a daily thing – sort of a small and abiding miracle: you can feel miserable, sing a song about feeling miserable, and come out feeling LESS MISERABLE. Where else can I get that kind of trusty magic? Nowhere. Not that you feel miserable every day. But that you can transport through song — get yourself to a different place.. that’s the thing.

JT, you’re identified as the main writer for Birds of Chicago and Allison as the song interpreter – what does this collaborative process look like when you are beginning to work through a song for the first time together?

I play her a new song I’ve written for her … while she’s listening to it for the first time, I’ll hit pause every few seconds and say “do you like it? Do you love it?? You hate it, don’t you!!? I KNOW YOU HATE IT!!”
Uh, seriously, I try to skeleton a melody for her and a phrasing — but I am careful not to box her in too much, since she is such a masterful phraser and can do so much more with her vocal instrument than I can… I make sure to leave as much room for take it where it needs to go.

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Folk on the Road first saw you perform at Mariposa Folk Festival in 2014. At that time you had a little one with you on the road, has touring with the family changed at all in recent years?

Our babe is not a babe anymore – she’s a toddler with the disposition of a grizzled rocker. In all seriousness, she’s 3 months shy of her 3rd birthday, which I am fairly certain is a challenging stretch for all parents (right?) and it’s no different for us on the road. She’s a wonder of a human, with endless energy, and we have to make sure we are building park and library stops and such into our schedule. It actually makes for healthier touring all around

Any concluding thoughts you would like to mention?

This is our first proper Canadian tour, and we are so jazzed by the response. We are going to get back in the studio in January, then hopefully make it back to Canada in the summer for some fests.


The performance is Friday, October 14. The performance is sold-out. There will be no tickets at the door.

This preview is co-written by Sable and Twila.

Upcoming shows at the New Moon Folk Club include: Tom Russell and Danny Michel. For more information on their season, please see their website.

Metaphors & Motors: Review of West My Friend & Union Duke at Northern Lights Folk Club

Literary allusions and mechanical metaphors were the order of the evening at the second concert on the Northern Lights Folk Club 2016–17 series with West My Friend and Union Duke. Having been caught on the west (appropriately enough) side of Jasper by a rockslide, West My Friend arrived 45 minutes before the show was begin and proceeded to rip through a quick soundcheck. Even in a rush West My Friend was so spot on that audience members were wondering whether or not it was appropriate to applaud for a soundcheck.

West My Friend kicked their set off with ‘No Good Monster‘ off Quiet Hum their latest release. The song, as Eden Oliver told us, is about the little voice in our head that tries to stop us from doing great things — no one will like it anyway right? Luckily West My Friend has decided to face that no good monster head on and create a little bit of magic with their music. Oliver then led us through some of the literary references that punctuated their set including Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Christina Rossetti’s “A Birthday”. West My Friend’s sound is highly melodic and although at times it is gentle it is incredibly intense. When the end of the set was reached the audience just wasn’t ready for our time with West My Friend to be over. An encore called them back to the stage and they had the crowd sing ‘All Day Long‘ a song by Zachary Gough that ends rather abruptly, and caught a few of us crowd-singers out.

Following the break Union Duke  took to the stage. A high-octane folk/country quintet based out of Toronto, Union Duke had the audience clapping their hands, stomping their feet and even sharing their best vampire dance moves (on cue in ‘The Heartbreak Kid‘).

Union Duke is unrelentingly rhythmic with a touch of twang, and their lyrics have the occasional car reference, like carburetors in ‘Chasing Headlights’ from their most recent album Golden Days. Matt Warry-Smith kept the forward momentum of the show with his tambourine/cymbal combination beating out the rhythm of many of the songs. As Union Duke splits the responsibility of lead vocals Rob McLaren (electric guitar, fiddle) shared his Alberta roots with ‘Quit This Town‘ and then Ethan Smith his frugal tendencies with ‘Dime-Store Shirt‘ both off the Cash & Carry album from 2014. Northern Lights Folk Club usually doesn’t book a band without having experienced a live show by them, so Union Duke was a wild card for them having been booked based on YouTube and recordings. In this case the gamble paid huge dividends and Union Duke was called back to the stage for an encore which caused continued hand-clapping and feet stomping in the audience.

If you missed last night’s concert, both Union Duke & West My Friend be heard in the greater Edmonton area over the next few months:

West My Friend
Monday Oct 10 in Sherwood Park (House Concert)
and throughout the prairies in Alberta: Lloydminster, Cochrane, Canmore; Saskatchewan: Maple Creek, Regina & Saskatoon; Manitoba: Flin Flon & Winnipeg.

Union Duke
Thursday Oct 13 in Athabasca (Nancy Appleby Theatre)
Friday April 28, 2017 in Spruce Grove (Horizon Stage)
and further afield in Saskatoon, Drayton Valley & Forestburg this coming year.

The Northern Lights Folk Club continues their season on October 22nd with Chloe Albert opening for Jez Lowe.

Review: Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra with Soap Box Duo at New Moon Folk Club

Last night the New Moon Folk Club kicked off the 2016–17 season with Victoria’s Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra and the local Soap Box Duo. Also known as, Alexander and Jenesa MacMullin, the Soap Box Duo entertained with songs rooted in their personal experience and shared snippets of their life before TMO took the stage.

I first started hearing about Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra in the early 2010s while living in Victoria, but I never managed to get out to hear them play. Fast forward a few years and through a series of missed opportunities by autumn 2015 I’d only managed to hear OQO (a TMO side project) at a house concert in Edmonton (a particularly memorable event as the host’s shirt caught on fire when he got a bit too close to a candle). Decidedly different from hearing OQO’s set in a cozy living room, last night the New Moon Folk Club was packed—the tables were all full and rows of chairs filled the far edge of the hall—with around 350 fans for TMO’s performance. Beginning with some songs from their 2012 release Follow my Lead, Lead me to Follow TMO shifted into some tunes off their more recent 2015 album Love.

In his introduction and welcome to the season Joseph Duperreault the New Moon artistic director described his own experience of first hearing TMO live in terms of losing track of time, and indeed his description had merit. Ian Griffiths (accordion/synth) or Mack Shields (violin) would often play a riff or two between songs that acted as connective tissue between the tunes. For me TMO’s performance was akin to driving thrimg_1455ough a series of small towns that are practically connected (think New England). Each town has its own quirks, but somewhere along the drive you’ve been distracted by the scenery and now you are no longer sure which town you are in or if it is two or three away from your starting point. Like an unexpected journey through a series of small towns, TMO’s show had the audience winding up in an unforeseen locale. A sizable dance group formed at stage right, while the rest of the audience joined together as TMO’s latest backing choir. The musical journey guided by TMO will continue with an EP expected in the spring of 2017 that they were recording tracks for in Olds, AB last week.

The start of the New Moon Folk Club season coincided with a black moon (the second new moon in a calendar month) a lunar event that happens only every year or so, luckily the next musical event (Birds of Chicago) isn’t as rare of an occurrence happening in two weeks on October 14th. Remember that the doors open at 6:30pm (a half hour earlier than previously) so you can have perogies and cabbage rolls for your evening meal rather than as a late night snack.

Preview: Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra at New Moon Folk Club

Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra

Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra opens  Edmonton’s New Moon Folk Club season at St. Basil’s Cultural Centre. A musical collective TMO formed while the musicians were all living in Victoria B.C., however in recent years they have spread out a bit geographically. Currently consisting of Ian Griffiths, Kurt Loewen, Paul Wolda, Mack Shields, and Keith Rodger the TMO musical nomads have been travelling across Canada and bringing their contemporary folk music works to audiences.

Gypsy-folk, jazz influenced, flamenco tinged, gypsy-ska-roots-grass, mega-eclectic, alternative-folk and, West Coast jams have been used among other terms to describe TMO’s sound. And that list doesn’t even touch on some of the band’s influences, both musical and natural. Such diversity of the creative energies in TMO allow them to continually reinvent themselves, making their sound anything but static—the constant is high quality music.

True to their roots, there is a collaborative spirit heard in TMO’s work and specifically their most recent album, LOVE. Whether it’s the two strings playing a relaxed unison melody on Boo Boo’s Waltz and or the nostalgic-sounding keyboard rhythms and faraway back-up vocals in the expansive Wolfe et Montcalm, there is an ease that is audible among the musicians.

It is a rare (some might say eclectic) opportunity to be able to enjoy a beer and homestyle Ukrainian perogies while taking in a folk music performance. TMO’s laid-back folk tunes will be the perfect pairing with the atmosphere at St. Basil’s Cultural Centre.

The performance is Friday, September 30. Tickets are available in advance at Tix on the Square and at the door. Click here for more ticket information.

This preview is co-written by Sable and Twila.

Upcoming shows at the New Moon Folk Club include: Birds of Chicago, Tom Russell, and Danny Michel. For more information on their season, please see their website.

Review: Royal Wood and Jessica Mitchell at The Arden Theatre

The first musical stop on The Arden Theatre’s Made in Canada 2016 Professional Series, celebrating Canada’s upcoming sesquicentennial was Ontario with a performance by Royal Wood with Jessica Mitchell as the show’s opener. Mitchell may have been the opening musical act of  but there was nothing in her performance that suggested she was a novice to the stage. A fact also evident in her nominee nod from CCMA earlier this year for their Roots Artist of the year award.

fullsizerenderJessica Mitchell came on stage addressing the audience with a tone of familiarity that made her feel like she was already a close friend. Her performance didn’t merely invite the audience to be her friend, she engaged with us as if we were her personal confidantes. At times, she sang with searing clarity when her resolve was evident, yet other moments featured a breathy vulnerability. Whether she was sharing her insights on love, growing up, or how music has served an important role in her own mental health — she sang with honesty that asked us as audience members to know her as a person.


Royal Wood

A singular incandescent bulb glowed on the stage at the start of Royal Wood’s set. While the ghost light is normally lit after the theatre closes, Royal Wood decided to invite the spirits of the theatre to share the stage with him. The light would glow with varying intensity throughout the show or stay silent in the darkness.

imageFive white clothe panels suspended from the stage created a versatile visual backdrop for lighting effects. When lit from the bottom, the fabric displayed a rough texture not unlike concrete but when the backlight turned on to shine from behind the panels, the outline of tattered drapes hung as another layer behind the fabric. While such lighting theatrics could have easily turned into a haunted house effect, the vibrant purples and pinks projected created an inviting warmth. If there were indeed ghosts sharing the stage, they appeared happy to be present among the living musicians on the stage.


Musicians entertain, they tell stories both through music and between songs. It can be a difficult balance to strike — How much banter is appropriate? Should I just sing the next song? Should I suggest a sing-along for this song? Would the audience even know what to sing if I did suggest it? Royal Wood’s performance didn’t seem hindered by such questions. When if came time for the audience to dust off our own vocal chords, for Woods’ “Forever and Ever” he taught us the part, rehearsed it with us and then cajoled us from a few people singing sotta voce into a choir that resonated the intimate ~500 seat theatre.

There is a sense of professional design in Royal Wood’s show: the flow of his set list alternating between solo numbers and arrangements with his full band, an appropriate amount of audience sing-along that felt inviting but not imposing, tdsc_0275he lighting design, even his styling was consistent with his trademark vest. While this artifice could appear disingenuous, his stories of preteen love and clear passion for sharing the stage with his band members made his generosity palpable. He recognized each one of his band members throughout the show. The audience developed quite an affection for Robbie playing the keyboard, who also happens to hold a Doctorate in Physics. During his encore, Royal Wood invited Jessica Mitchell back to the stage to share the spotlight with him for a closing duet. The congenial atmosphere cultivated on-stage by the musicians transferred to the audience as they spilled out into the St. Albert night.

For more information on The Arden Theatre’s Professional Musical Series visit their website. Some upcoming Artists include: Monkeyjunk, Terra Lightfoot, Andrea House, Fred Eaglesmith, and Fortunate Ones.

This review is co-written by Sable and Twila.

One Summer + Two Folkies + Five Festivals