End-of-year music releases are typically few and far between, but this year we’ve seen a plethora of country recordings from both emerging artists and go-to favourites. This may be due to the fact that performers are preparing to hit the road again now or in the New Year, and they need some new product to trot out before the masses. Whatever the reason, a ton of tunes have come across Open Spaces’ monitor and here are some of the best digital stocking stuffers.
Back in January when Open Spaces interviewed Winnipeg country band Petric about their latest album “Flashbacks”, one could sense that these guys had real chemistry and would be a force to contend with. Surprisingly, they received no Canadian Country Music Award (CCMA) nominations this year but the Manitoba County Music association who are obviously ahead of the curve recognized them with four major awards including Album and Group of the Year. Their latest single “When I Asked You To Dance” is a catchy little ditty that showcases the band’s uplifting harmonies which are an extension of what they were feeling in the studio. “From the first moment we started recording the song in the studio, it has been a complete expression of fun and joy for our band. “When I Asked You To Dance” is a song about asking someone you just met to hit the dance floor. It’s about those first moments in a new relationship. Those moments in life are very exhilarating and exciting, and we are excited to finally get the opportunity to share this track with everyone, and even more excited to start working it into our live show.”
A performer who did receive multiple 2021 CCMA award nominations, winning one in the process, is Calgary’s, Lindsay Ell. When Open Spaces spoke to her last August about her new album “heart theory”, she said she was trying to include “a lot of songs with grooves, and those Motown, soul, rock and roll and blues elements that have influenced so much of who I am and my musical vocabulary.” Well, Lindsay’s latest single “Can’t Do Without Me”, a duet with Season 19 American Idol winner Chayce Beckham, certainly packs a lot of soul. The song soars with powerhouse vocals, and Chayce’s gravelly voice is perfectly complemented by Ell’s bluesy flair. “There is such a raw intensity in this song that when it was brought to me, I knew I had to cut it—it hit me like lightning,” says Lindsay. “Chayce, wow, did he bring it on in this song. I had heard so many great things about him, but he more than understood the assignment on this one.”
When Open Spaces spoke to MacKenzie Porter late last year, she confided that one of her biggest dreams was to play the Grand Ole Opry. That dream came true last month when she made her Opry debut, and now she’s back with a brand new single called “Pickup”. The track finds Lindsay looking in the romantic rear-view, flashing back to her first love and wondering what might have been if not for a fork in the road. “Since the day we wrote “Pickup”, it has felt like a really special song,” she says. “The writers’ room had something magical that day and I hope people sing this at the top of their lungs about the person they miss the most.”
Multi-award-winning, platinum-selling group The Reklaws make their highly-anticipated return with the party track, “Happy Hours”. The group says the song was “born by embracing the world’s desire to feel a sense of normalcy by doing something as simple as going out to grab a drink”. This release comes after the Ontario duo received a career milestone of six 2021 CCMA Award nominations, and won the Group of the Year Award. This has been a record-setting year for the brother-sister duo. Known for breaking the mould, the pair went viral on TikTok earlier this year with their hit “What The Truck,” which was the most streamed Canadian Country song ever released during a one-week period and the fastest-ever Canadian country song to go gold in the streaming era.
The pride of Bailieboro Ontario, Jade Eagleson, has released his sophomore album, “Honkytonk Revival” Saturated with the sounds of old-school instruments like dobro, steel guitars and fiddles, the album highlights the booming vocals the singer is known for. With a career goal of re-establishing neo-traditional country’s place at the top of the charts, Jade has always been laser-focused on creating music that celebrates the history of the genre. Growing up listening to the greats like George Strait, Alan Jackson and Randy Travis, to name a few, he believes that a 90’s country revival is inevitable. “What grabbed me the most about country music when I first heard it as a kid was the instruments as much as the lyrics and the vocals”, he says. “As a kid it made me feel like I was in a honkytonk, even before I knew what that was. I hope that country fans can hear the influence of my heroes on this album and are as inspired by all the elements of the music as I was.”
Alberta’s High Valley delivers a one-two punch with the release of “Whatever It Takes” and “Never Not”, which feature the group’s signature sound of bluegrass-tinted country. Led by lead singer-songwriter Brad Rempel, High Valley is the highest-selling Canadian band with over half a billion streams to date. The band’s soaring harmonies and memorable songs are influenced by artists such as The Everly Brothers and Ricky Skaggs, the latter of whom has served as both a mentor and collaborator.
In terms of seasonal offerings, you can’t go wrong with The Hunter Brothers’ album “Joy To the World”. Featuring their fabulous sibling harmonies, the Saskatchewan natives put their spin on holiday classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (featuring Madeline Merlo), “Santa Claus is Coming To Town,” and “What Child Is This?” as well as two new original tunes. And you haven’t really lived until you hear their jazzy take of “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch”.
Finally, it’s been out for a while now but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention “Homebound”, the latest release from Twin Kennedy. Comprised of west coast sisters Carli Kennedy on guitar/vocals, and Julie Kennedy on fiddle/vocals, this EP carries on their tradition of delivering seamless harmonies and heartfelt songwriting. Born and raised in Powell B.C., Carli and Julie are currently based in Nashville and this EP is an ode to their journey of finding a home in their transition from Canada to Music City. “Creating this album has truly been a homecoming,” the duo share. “Being on stage sharing our music with people we love has always felt like coming home. This was the inspiration for us in titling our album”. The music video for the title track features a stunning performance at The Warehouse Studio in Vancouver and intimate family footage of the sisters growing up in their hometown of Powell River.
Have a great Christmas holiday season everyone!
From Roman Mitz – Open Spaces
and Music Express Magazine