Favorites: Top Picks of 2013 From Bonnie Ste-Croix to Gypsy Soul
2013 was jammed packed with music for me. I hope it was for you, too. I thought as the year draws to a close, I would share some of my favorite new bands and performers, most of whom are creating wonderful original material that has yet to break out into the national consciousness.
Since I had spent the better part of the year recording and producing my new CD, I wanted to do as much promotion and networking as possible. So I went to three regional Folk Alliance conferences in three completely different parts of the country: Kerhonksen New York, Austin Texas, and Irvine California. I did my fair share of shmoozing, and what I got in return (and the better part of the bargain, I think), was the opportunity to hear dozens of artists playing their hearts out in the most modest of circumstances, often to only a handful of listeners. Their enthusiasm and passion never dimmed, professional to the last. I only have room to name a few, and here they are.
Bonnie Ste-Croix is a Canadian folk-roots singer-songwriter from Gaspe, Quebec, now based in Halifax, NS. For her new album Canadian Girl she recorded one song in each Province and Territory of Canada and invited guest artists from each area to be part of the recording process. Ste-Croix began her travels in BC and headed East from there, hitting the studio with some of the finest indie roots and folk artists in each region of the country—including Natalie MacMaster, Stephen Fearing, Laura Smith, The Once, B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame member Shari Ulrich; Saskatchewan-born WCMA-winner Joel Fafard; and East Coast CFMA-winner Catherine MacLellan. But it is the expertly crafted songs themselves that captivate the listener, and transport us to the frozen Yukon, or the seas off the Newfoundland shores. Ste-Croix’s resonant and compelling vocals are the icing on the cake, delivering straight to the heart no matter the story.
Check out this video of the song “Canadian Girl” and hear more songs at http://bonniestecroix.com
I don’t know what it was about Canada for me this year, but the trio known as Red Moon Road swept me up again in their rousing story-songs, haunting three part harmonies, mandolin, Banjo, Guitar, Delay pedals and a single bass drum. “A lush and lively take on modern roots,” says their website, and I have to agree. Daniel Peloquin-Hopfner got his start as a progressive metal guy. Daniel Jordan trained as a big-band jazz drummer. And Sheena Rattai, who fronted a funk band before this, grew up singing in church choirs. Truly more than the sum of it’s parts, RMR is at once familiar and warm, deep and mysterious, goofy and unpretentious. A remarkable combination of qualities, personalities and talents. Here's a video of "Mighty Glad You Came."
I first met Kate Klim when we were NewFolk finalists at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. She looked about 12, but had and has a maturity beyond her years. She sang a song called “Gepetto” that made me cry. Her piano accompaniment was perfectly balanced to her strong yet lilting voice and drew me in immediately and has kept me there for the last 6 years. Her CD, Kamikaze Love contains her strongest songs yet, including the two than won her the New Folk competition in 2010. She just raised funds through Kickstarter for a new album, so keep an ear out for that! She has been called “the new Carole King” by one reviewer, but I think she’s better. See for yourself. Here's a video for "Even When It's Bad."
Gypsy Soul is Cilette Swann and Roman Morykit. They say that theirs is “music to set your heart free,” and that their goal is “To create music and art we love that people take to their hearts. Music that inspires listeners to reconnect with themselves and others; reigniting passion for their lives.” You said it, brother and sister. Anchored by lyricist Swann’s crystal-clear and expressive vocals and composer/arranger Morykit’s multi-instrumental musical ability, with a sound that ranges from full-on Americana heartland rock to country, blues, R&B, world beat and Gospel, from the first notes I heard at their Official Showcase at the western Folk Alliance conference, I was transfixed; the music, and their obvious connection to it, has a mesmerizing effect, so you find yourself not so much listening as having it pass through you like a lush but nevertheless electric current. Check out their new CD The World Is My Country and take a listen here:
Finally, my favorite song of the year comes from my friend Jimmy James Page, who I met at a songwriters’ showcase a few years ago. An unpretentious but confident guy, who wrote the most tender and vulnerable guy song I’ve ever heard, called “She Thinks I’m Beautiful.” Hear it here:
Happy Holidays. I hope they are joyful and tuneful. Thanks for reading me this year. I look forward to 2014 with you. Last but not least, here’s a holiday song for you all, from my new release “Life Wide Open”- something for everyone. Get out the lighters. Click here to listen.
Singer-songwriter Laura Zucker wins audiences over with a hard-won perspective and a positive spin. The powerful imagery of her songs and stories ring so true you might think she’s read your diary – and you’ll find yourself humming her infectious melodies for days to come. She’s a two-time finalist in the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk competition in Texas, 2013 West Coast Songwriters Association Best Song of the Year, and has received numerous accolades and awards from the organizations around the world. She has released three CDs of original songs and is poised to release the 4th, "Life Wide Open," early this fall. More at LauraZucker.com
Jimmy James Page
Red Moon Road
Bonnie St. Croix