Growing up in Ontario I have had the pleasure of being exposed to all kinds on new start-up music. Playing music from a very young age I have had the pleasure of surrounding myself with great musicians and music enthusiasts (yes you Barry King and you Mike Kelly) that were willing to share. Cutting edge bands, rich lyrics, melodic catchiness.
My honest ignorant stereotype of Cape Breton music was either traditional Celtic music or contemporary renditions done by the likes of Ashley MacIsaac and his many followers, or cultural work songs in the spirit of Rita MacNeil that had a presence of polished honesty and purity to them. There are many great artists in this genre, and I promise to cover them in the near future. Every now and then I would hear something a little and different that would peak my interest through the rare coverage of the East Coast Music Awards that turned my head. What the heck was going on out there anyway?
I have to say that this other music scene has been one of the most enlightening and refreshing parts of my experience living in Cape Breton. The music is hardly Celtic or pure in nature. It has deep cultural overtones of the hardship of living here, coupled with major musical talent (everyone seems to play an instrument!) mixed with an artistic liberal flair. It is truly a breeding ground for all sorts of fresh sounds, in a time where everything on the radio has been sounding the same for an awful long time.
One of the most important elements of music is how easy it is to share. It is a way of bringing people together, defining one as an individual, conjuring memories or pushing people apart. It would be a real shame if I couldn’t share what I have experienced with friends in Ontario and celebrate with friends in Cape Breton. I am highlighting my top 5 acts that I have had the pleasure of listening to since I’ve been on the island. Here we go!
5. Crowdis Bridge
Crowdis Bridge put a unique spin on traditional bluegrass and folk music. In a cruel and complex world their music reminds me of simpler times but with very clever lyrics and music breaks.
This Cape Breton trio of multi-instrumentalists has been entertaining across the Maritimes since 2008. Their latest album “The Seasons & The Rhymes” explores universal themes of heartache, happiness and everything in between.
The three piece band is incredibly tight and really drive their passion through their music.
Here is a sample:
4. Black Tooth Grin
Black Tooth Grin have a clever, creepy and rich sound. Like what you would here if the monsters from Where the Wild Things Are showed up at your local tavern.
They have an interesting blues/ hard rock mix that is pretty unique.
Black Tooth Grinn has just released their debut album “Self Titled” in January 2014. The eight song album is a perfect introduction to the band, folk tales at heart that feel dangerous to your ears.
Check them out here:
3. Jonathan Kanary
Jonathan Kanary is a local solo artist that has been a fixture of Governer’s Pub. I guess I was most taken by his unique song arrangements, voice and great lyrics. We really need to jam sometime!
3. Colette Deveaux
Another fixture at Governors (where you go to find original music and up and coming talent in Cape Breton!) Colette blew me away with her acoustic rhythms and powerful voice. She is certainly someone who deserves much more exposure because she is ultra super talented!
She also needs to post more music, or at least tell me where I can find more!
2. Pretty Archie
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I first went to see Pretty Archie. I kept hearing stories of some poor kindred spirit that would entertain people in Glace Bay. The name is a tribute to this fella. What I ended up experiencing was magic.
A deep and genuine folk (yes real folk!) sound. Brian Cathcart has one of the best voices I have heard in a long time. I could honestly listen to these guys all night, every night. Rich lyrics. Makes you want to put on your dancing shoes. They really know how to warm up the room.
1. Carmen Townsend
Where do I start. Carmen is perhaps better known than the other acts on here. Anyone who listens to her performances can clearly tell she puts everything she has into her music. She treats every performance like it is her last, and brings you along for the journey. I have heard her with her full band and in a solo set a number of times. You get lost in her music. She has one of the most magical and powerful voices. This is pure rock, in the purest form. There is no heartache. Just satisfaction and goodness.
Rock and roll is alive and well and I feel alive!
This is by no means an exhaustive list. It is a start. I have had the pleasure of listening to so many bands in the last year. Cape Breton really promotes and showcases what it has to offer, and it has a lot. These folks deserve as much exposure as we can give them!
Chris Bellemore is a blogger from Ontario that moved to Cape Breton Island and is logging his experiences in this strange and wonderful place.