We’ve been saying it all year—right now it is women taking the leadership role in trying help to save country music. But they’re not the only ones, and if you wanted to look for another significant segment of artists doing more help than harm to the genre, there’s no better place to look than north of the border. Here are six Canadian showing the type of creative leadership country music needs.
If you’re looking for one modern-day Canadian who can stand tall in his boots and go toe to toe with the American born country legends, it would be the abominable, the incomparable Corb Lund. Whether you’re talking about Corb Lund the songwriter, Corb Lund the singer, or Corb Lund the performer, he’s one of these five-tool musicians who can do it all. Growing up on a ranch in Southern Alberta, he’s lived as an authentic country life as any. Many American-born country artists could learn from Corb Lund’s appreciation for true country music, and the wit he instills in his music that crosses all borders and notions of taste. Corb Lund is the current King of Canadian Country.
She isn’t just a pretty face and a short skirt. The ravenesque Lindi Ortega’s songwriting can rival that of the boys, and her US-born counterparts. A true throwback with a dark, neotraditional style all her own, she once told Saving Country Music, “I don’t care about money. I honestly don’t,” and it shows in the old soul approach to her music that takes into consideration creativity and self-expression above everything. If Corb Lund is the current King of Canadian country music, Lindi Ortega just might be the queen.
If you’re looking for Canada’s equivalent of old school Hank Williams III or BR549, then look no further than Daniel Romano. But Romano is not a neo-traditionalist in the traditional sense. He’s not trying to regale the modern ear with a new take on the classic country sound. Instead he is like the method actor of classic country, carving out his niche by offering a strict interpretation of classic country’s modes with striking accuracy. It’s not a retro sound, it is a strict, methodical re-enactment. Everything fits the period–the words, the instrumentation, the song structure, and it takes you back to a time when music still had meaning.
The artistry of the Deep Dark Woods is astounding, and their ability to touch virtually the entire array of American roots music is what makes them special. Gothic, poetic Americana, Gospel, bluegrass, and strait-laced country elements like steel guitar, they are all interlaced harmoniously with a broody pall cast over everything for a cohesive sound and an immersing experience. They would be Canada’s current Americana band of note, being nominated for the 2012 Americana Music Awards “Emerging Artist of the Year” category.
The fact that we don’t hear more about the Sadies on a daily basis is borderline criminal. This band whose nucleus is the two brothers Dallas and Travis Good is one of the most awe-inspiring assemblages of musical talent ever amassed under one band name in the history of country & western, or rock & roll music. Though they might be best known for backing up such big names as Neko Case, John Doe, Jon Langford, or Andre Williams, in both the recorded and live formats, they really shine when they simply let loose as their own band. The Sadies are like a controlled explosion, shocking you with how good they are, bringing mod style and stupid good musicianship to the country & western context.
This band is so good and sprouted so many solo projects, it may be appropriate to call them a supergroup at this point. Frazey Ford, Samantha Parton, and Trish Klein started playing music together in tree planting camps in British Columbia. Nearly 15 years later, they’re one of Canada’s legacy folk country bands. Solo artist Jolie Holland once called The Be Good Tanyas home as well, and their excellent blend of roots and superb singing inform the band’s folk, country, and bluegrass influences. Samantha Parton recently was involved in a series of car wrecks that have left her unable to tour. Friends are raising money to help her out.