Monday, May 28, 2012

Press Play> Vol.21 J R Shore Singer Songwriter, Calgary Folk Festival Song Contest

The music of J. R. Shore was my second revelation as a judge at the 2012 Calgary Folk Festival Song Writing Competition, which only goes to show you that I need to get out more.

The song he performed in the Pros and Prose category. The song is called  Dayton Free. It tells the story about a slave who writes a letter to his former master. You can read the letter and the history surrounding it  here and here. It's a great story well told in song.

On top of that, J.R. played a baritone ukulele I'm a sucker for that instrument and it's not something you see every day.

Both the performance and the song were worthy of one of the top prizes (2nd) in the contest.

J.R. is not a newcomer to the business, nor is he new to winning prizes in this particular contest (see bio and video below.) Here's his contest winning entry from a previous contest - 2010 in the Beaver Tales category.

excerpt from J.R.'s website bio

At the crossroads between Nashville Tennessee, Austin Texas and Calgary Alberta, lives the musical soul of J.R. Shore.

Kinky Friedman and JR 
Shore is equal parts storyteller, social commentator and performer. His songs provide a glimpse into years gone by, as well as present day characters with melody and lyrics that have audiences hanging on every line.

A multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Shore began his musical career in the early 90's with the Grateful Dead inspired, Hiway 2. Original projects, Sgt.Singalong and the Military and Panama Red followed, with Shore developing greater and greater depth in his writing and performing. In 2004, Shore and his wife relocated to Music City, U.S.A. He seized the opportunity to see first-hand, what it takes to write and play with some of the best in the business.

Extended journeys through the American South gave Shore a taste of where his music came from. Having the opportunity to rub shoulders with Buddy Miller, Chip Taylor and Guy Clark gave Shore the inspiration to spread his own wings wide and carve his own path. After two years in Nashville, playing such venues as The Bluebird Cafe, Mercy Lounge and The Basement, Shore was ready to return back to his home turf, Calgary, Alberta, and ply his songwriting trade in some familiar digs.

What have you been listening to lately? What is on your iPod, CD player, turntable these days?

I'm currently in the midst of a decade-long stretch of really digging Texas singer-songwriters. The new tribute to Guy Clark, This One's For Him, is chalk full of amazing songs and performances. Jerry Jeff Walker is also getting steady play, mostly on my turntable. Viva Terlingua is my current Jerry Jeff favourite.

What is the record (okay maybe two or three or four or more ) that influenced your music the most?
The music of The Band probably figures most centrally into my influences. I was bringing in songs by The Band with my first band in Edmonton in the mid-90s, and today I'm part of the Front Porch Roots Revue's, Tribute to The Band. The true songwriter approach from Robbie Robertson, combined with incredibly skilled and heartfelt performances from the rest of the band, and the rhythm just can't say enough about their influence on roots music today. Lyrically and stylistically, they captured the weirdness and beauty of the deep south that I've always been fascinated by myself.

What was the first record you bought?

My older sisters exposed me to a lot of their music before I bought anything myself. I remember listening to a lot of Elvis Costello and Squeeze as a kid. I think the first album I ever purchased was David Bowie's Lets Dance. I haven't listened to it in a while now. I think it would still stack up pretty well without feeling overly dated.

What’s your favourite cover tune? (Song and covered by whom?)

The new album of covers of Shel Silverstein poems and songs is fantastic (Twistable, Turnable Man - A Musical Tribute to the Songs of Shel Silverstein). John Prine sings a terribly sad song about his guitar not writing any new songs, called This Guitar is For Sale. It pulls right at the heartstrings of any songwriter. That's probably my favourite cover right now. 

What is the record that you count as a guilty pleasure?
I don't tend to feel too guilty about what I listen to. One of the things I love is the mainstream country artists who have covered some of Darrell Scott's material, like Travis Tritt and The Dixie Chicks. They are great tunes, and their ability to cross over into the mainstream is an interesting feat.

Long Time Gone from the Dixie Chicks 2001 record Home 
Long Time Gone from Darrell Scott's and Tim O'Brien's 2000 record Real Time

Currently, what’s your favourite record to listen to on the road?

I actually love the fidelity of car speakers playing music really loud. When I'm in the car on my own these days, I'm listening to a lot of the new Felice Brothers Celebration Florida and the new Tom Waits Bad as Me. Both are very well produced albums with a lot of instrumental nooks and crannies. Perfect for the car.

Which of your records is your favourite?

I think the album I just recorded is my favourite. It's a beast of an album with 12 originals and eight covers. It'll be out sometime in winter 2013. It was a great chance for me to put my material up alongside some of my biggest influences like Gram Parsons, Neil Young and The Grateful Dead.

What’s the record you bought that you wish you didn't?

I've got my fair share of albums I've listened to, only a time or two. To be honest, none come to mind specifically, so they must be pretty forgettable

Follow JR Shore on twitter @jrshore
Like JR Shore on Facebook
Email JR Shore

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Press Play> Vol. 20 Joe Nolan, Singersongwriter, Guitarist, Calgary Folk Festival Songwriting Contest Winner

My first and only encounter, so far, with Joe Nolan adds up to a single song.

It turned out to be a very important song. A wonderful song. One good enough to win him first prize in the 2012 Calgary Folk Music Festival Song Contest in the Pros and Pros category. He received a not-too-shabby prize - $3000 in cash and an appearance at the Calgary Folk Club. I was on the four-person judging team for the contest and we all agreed it was worthy of the top prize.

Here's part of the lyric and a link so you can listen.

High as the Moon

"You only love me when you're high as the moon, 
you only live me when you're high.
Well I'll see you later, on the street
Where we'll trip into each others evening
You only love me when you're falling down, 
you only love me when you're falling."

Even though I've only ever seen him perform just one song, I can tell that Joe is an amazing talent. Between his beautiful lyric and soulful guitar playin (he made his blue telecaster cry!) he won me over right away. His talent has been noticed by some other heavy hitters. He was accompanied during his contest appearance by one of Calgary's master musicians Russell Broom

His 2010 record Goodbye Cinderella includes a who's who of Nashville hotshots and was produced by Colin Linden and engineered by John Whynot.   

Joe was nominated in the Best New/Emerging Artist category at the 2011 Canadian Folk Music Awards. He has been performing non-stop over the past few years building an ever growing fan base. He has been sharing stages with established artists including Todd Snider, Colin Linden, Sam Baker, Gurf Morlix, Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women, Matthew Barber, Oh Susanna and the legendary Peter Asher. He'll be trading licks with even more at the 2012 Calgary Folk Music Festival where he is appearing. I know I'll be checking him out at Prince's Island Park because, frankly, one song is not enough. 

I asked Joe Nolan to PRESS PLAY> and it's no surprise his influences are a mixture of roots, blues and rock n roll. 

The Great Muddy Waters
What have you been listening to lately? What is on your iPod, CD player, turntable these days?

What is the record (okay maybe two or three or four or more ) that influenced your music the most?

It was definitely guitar playing, especially when I was younger, that influenced me. Same with rock and roll and melodies. Melodies were huge. My favourite song for years was Crimson and Clover.

When I was young I loved the Monkees, Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Bruce Cockburn, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix...

As I got older I was attracted to Lyrics more and more. Waits, Young, Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Bruce Springsteen, Rickie Lee Jones, and I'm really loving the Tragically Hip these days. Gord Downie makes some of the nicest melodies.

These are a few the records that have influenced my music among many many others...

Tom Waits - Closing Time 
Neil Young  - Decade
Dire Straits - Dire Straits
Bob Dylan  - Blonde on Blonde
Eric Clapton - Cream of Clapton

What was the first record you bought?

Joe's garage sale purchase
It was either Offspring - Conspiracy Theory at a garage sale or Blink 182 - Dude Ranch

What’s your favourite cover tune? (Song and covered by whom?)

Right now it would be Jeff Buckley's version of I Know It's Over, a song written by The Smiths.

What is the record that you count as a guilty pleasure?

Hmmm, I don't really have one. I dig everything I listen to and I don't have any problem saying it or defending it.

Currently, what’s your favourite record to listen to on the road?

Rickie Lee Jones - Sermon on Exposition Boulevard.
Bruce Springsteen - Born in the USA

Which of your records is your favourite?

My favorite one has not been made yet.

What’s the record you bought that you wish you didn’t?

Well I remember when I was way younger I bought Pink Floyd's record - The Division Bell from Walmart. I listened to it and found it quite distasteful. I brought it back and said it was scratched. Not sure I feel that way anymore now though.

Follow Joe on Twitter @joenolansongs
Find Joe on Facebook here and here 

Get in touch with Joe's manager:
Get in touch with Joe's agent:
Get in touch with Joe's guy in Europe:
Get in touch with Joe:

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Press Play> Vol. 19 Ann Vriend, Singer, Songwriter, Pianist

If you get the chance to see Anne Vriend live, do it. I was introduced to her music a few months ago at a small venue in Calgary and was knocked out by her performance, just her and her piano.

She has a wonderful way of telling a story in a song, whether she rips a page from her family history or sings about affairs of the heart.

Her piano playing is impressive. I was a little surprised to hear influences of stride piano in her approach. It's not what I'm used to from singer songwriters whose instrument is piano.

Then there's her voice. As she shared with us during her show, one critic describes it this way - "where Dolly Parton and Aretha Franklin meet (see quote below). That critic is not wrong. There are shades of country and soul in her singing. From a growl to a whisper. On top of everything, she has a great sense of humour.

SOME PRESS QUOTES (from her website..)

First, the voice: “Soulful, inspiring, brave and bluesy” (Rip It Up, Adelaide) with a “vocal range from vulnerable delicacy to blasts of soulful power” (Halifax Chronicle) Vriend's vocal sound has been described as an enchanting cross between Dolly Parton and a young Aretha Franklin and as “almost confronting” by The Sydney Morning Herald.

ANNE VRIEND HISTORY (from her website..

Ann Vriend (pronounced Vreend) was born in Vancouver B.C. When her parents discovered their 3-year-old could play nursery songs on a Fisher Price xylophone, they encouraged her musical development by enrolling her in violin lessons.

At age nine, when Vriend sought to accompany herself as a songwriter, she took piano lessons from an elderly woman down the street who charged $5 per visit.

In high school, in order to be able to do submit her home-made recordings for a school project, Vriend was coerced into performing three of her compositions at the school talent show.

Accolades from her fellow students evolved into projects with older students in bands, interest from record labels, praise from critics, and loyal fans around the world.

Ann Vriend has a strong following in her home province of Alberta, and I think she's a viral video away from  a much wider audience.

I am so pleased Ann came through for me when I asked her to PRESS PLAY> 

What have you been listening to lately? What is on your iPod, CD player, turntable these days?

What is the record (okay maybe two or three or four or more ) that influenced your music the most?

As a kid I would say Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon and Garfunkel). And Raffi, everything by Raffi. Which later I found out was produced and arranged and nearly all instruments played by Ken Whitely. So, really, he has to be in that list, too.

What was the first record you bought?

Graceland (Paul Simon) with money from my first flyer route.

What’s your favourite cover tune? (Song and covered by whom?)

Hallelujah performed by Jeff Buckley. (written by Leonard Cohen)

What is the record that you count as a guilty pleasure?

OK ComputerRadiohead  

Currently, what’s your favourite record to listen to on the road?

Bruce Springsteen, the album with Lucky Town on it, but only because my drummer, as the driver, gets to determine the playlist and he thinks it's funny to put that song on whenever I am trying to have a nap. And yet I keep hiring him..... hmmm.

Which of YOUR records is your favourite? (or one where you appear as a guest?) 
NOT Ann's favourite of her records

Oh man, I haven't guested much other than on some very obscure recordings (is this a sign? hmmm...) so by default I would have to say one of mine, but I always have an uncomfortable relationship with my own albums, so my answer, which I hope comes true, is: one in the future (title yet to be determined).

(Musical Immigrant's note: here's a review of
Love & Other Messes)

What’s the record you bought that you wish you didn't?

Milli Vanilli ..(just kidding)

(Musical Immigrant's note: I'm not sure whether her "just kidding" means a) she's really glad she bought it or b) she never actually bought it.)