BEN CAPLAN: I first saw Ben Caplan in a riveting production of The Pillowman that the Kings Theatrical Society did when I was doing my undergrad at Dalhousie and I was struck by what an extraordinary actor he was and how dark and intense and wildly theatrical and dangerous this KTS production was. Then I started hearing his name everywhere in the Indie music scene and seeing these incredible posters where he looked like a Hipster Rabbi and so I knew I had to check out his album (with his awesome band The Casual Smokers), In The Time of the Great Remembering (which makes it sound like a Land Before Time movie). He was nominated for two ECMAs this year, Rising Star Recording of the Year (which he won) and Folk Recording of the Year. In The Time of the Great Remembering is a jaunty and lyrically poetic album with Caplan’s gruffly melodic voice pulling you in by the heart. There is a perceptible Tom Waits quality to many of the tracks as well, which is a fascinating ingredient to toss into an eclectic mixture of musical instruments, styles and dramatic storytelling and creates something richly meditative and at times even other-worldly. His natural theatrical prowess only makes the performance of these songs more captivating and fun to revel in and I am looking forward to seeing more Ben Caplan in Halifax once he finishes his swanky tour. Download his Mobile App here to follow him along on the road. Or follow him on Twitter. Take a listen:
GRAMERCY RIFFS: Sister of Soulpepper/ Republic of Doyle star Krystin Pellerin is Mara Pellerin, a member of the Indie band Gramercy Riffs, whose 2010 record It’s Heartbreak is one of my favourite things to ever come out of St. John’s. They are rockers with great vocal harmonies and poetic, spare lyrics and songs that are fun to listen to and easy to dance to. Mara has a sweet and haunting voice, check her out in this video!
HEATHER GREEN: Before each film of the OutEast Film Festival last Spring a little bit of Heather Green’s song “Day I Was Born” played and every time it lodged itself deep into my ear and my heart and prompted me to buy her album Your Last War. She has a smooth and soulful voice and her songs have a great pop-rock quality to them that are simultaneously infectious and vulnerable. She was nominated for 2 ECMAs this year in the Pop and Rising Star categories for Your Last War. I still haven’t seen her perform live, but I am looking very forward to it. In the meantime, check out this video.
MARY JANE LAMOND & WENDY MACISAAC: If you love the Gaelic and the fiddle (and if you don’t, I’m not sure we can be friends ;)) there isn’t much more blissful than Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac’s 2012 record Seinn. I am in complete love with it and it has been on repeat in my house for the last three months, especially their rendition of “Òran An t-Saighdeir/Soldier Song.” Even though the song is sung in Gaelic the emotional arc of the song is so palpable and it’s catchy- you will find yourself singing along and butchering the language as only non-Gaelic speakers can. They were nominated for ECMA Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year. Check this out:
I wrote a lot of Ashley MacIsaac love in this piece about a show I saw on Friday evening, but I need to give him and Mary Jane a special shout out for “Sleepy Maggie,” which I adore. Check it:
TANYA DAVIS: The Mayor’s Poet Laureate for Halifax, Tanya Davis’ heart-on-sleeve spoken word poem music captures for me so distinctly the character of the North End of Halifax and our immediate time and place. Yet, I think that it is in her specificity and her vulnerability that her music resonates much more broadly. She is brimming with sheepish wisdom and quiet profundity. Check this out: