Author Archives: Jessica

About Jessica

Jessica is our resident Canadian writer. She’s a journalism graduate with a passion for country music, but she can also often be found having a ‘90s alt-rock marathon. She loves discovering great new artists and helping expose them to the world.
Oct
19

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Carrie Underwood ‘Storyteller’ – Album Review

Carrie Underwood - Storyteller cover image

In 10 years, Carrie Underwood has gone from unknown Oklahoma farm girl to worldwide country music superstar, racking up an impressive array of awards including seven Grammys, 12 Academy of Country Music Awards, eight American Music Awards, 17 Billboard Music Awards, a European Country Music Award, and many more, not to mention the one she’s most proud of: her Grand Ole Opry induction trophy. She was inducted in 2008, just a few short years into her country music career, and to this day remains one of the most often-seen faces on the famous Opry stage in Nashville, despite the worldwide success that regularly takes her around the globe.

After celebrating 10 years in the business with last year’s Greatest Hits: Decade #1, Underwood kicks off a new decade of hits with this month’s release of her fifth studio album, Storyteller. The 13-track record is a fierce, no holds barred collection of stories that build on the sound Underwood has become known and loved for, and at the same time take her to new territories both musically and lyrically. Working with producer Mark Bright for the fifth time, Underwood also brought in Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Little Big Town) and Zach Crowell (Sam Hunt) to help push her into new sonic realms, and this new sound is readily apparent right from the first track. Continue reading

Oct
5

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Lauren Alaina – EP Review

LaurenAlainaEP

When Lauren Alaina released her debut album four years ago, shortly after finishing second on American Idol, a lot of people underestimated her, as is often the case with reality show singers. But Wildflower still stands, in my eyes, as one of the most impressive debuts of any major label female country singer over the past few years. It had a few hiccups, sure, but there were also some absolutely incredible songs on there that I couldn’t believe were coming from a 16-year-old. “Dirt Road Prayer” and “The Locket” are incredibly beautiful, heartfelt masterpieces, and I wish with every fibre of my being that country radio would embrace songs like that these days.

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Sep
21

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Shania Twain @ Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, Canada | September 17, 2015 — Review

Shania Twain performs at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Canada on September 17, 2015.

Shania Twain performs at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Canada on September 17, 2015. Credit: Jessica Melnychuk

Kicking off the first of two concerts on Thursday (Sept. 17) in Calgary, Canada, Shania Twain exclaimed “it’s good to be back.” The crowd agreed, roaring as the 50-year-old Canadian superstar launched into the tour’s title song, “Rock This Country,” from her 2000 blockbuster album Come On Over. To this day, that album remains the top-selling country album of all-time, with more than 40 million copies sold worldwide. And despite “Rock This Country” being the album’s lowest-charting single, the crowd at Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome sang along to every word, as they’d continue to do throughout the night. Continue reading

Sep
9

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“Cowtown” Returns To Its Roots, Showcasing Local Talent At New Music Festival

wide cut weekend

After an exciting festival season in Calgary, Canada, featuring local acts like Reuben and the Dark, Viet Cong and JJ Shiplett alongside international artists like Father John Misty, Lucinda Williams and more, a brand new roots music festival has just been announced. Continue reading

Aug
8

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Lindi Ortega ‘Faded Gloryville’ – Album Review

lindiortega-fg

Lindi Ortega has been making records for more than a decade, but in many ways it seems as though she’s just getting started. The Toronto-born, Nashville-based roots artist has garnered critical acclaim with Little Red Boots (2011) and Cigarettes and Truckstops (2012), and her 2013 effort Tin Star helped her become the Roots Artist of the Year at last year’s Canadian Country Music Awards. But up until this year, I was one of many to proclaim “I’ve heard of her, but I still need to listen to her music”.

If you still belong in that group, stop everything you’re doing and listen to her now. With a uniquely powerful voice and a love for music from decades past, Lindi is a bit of an enigma in today’s music community. There is no doubt she lives on the outskirts of country music, unafraid to avoid current trends and instead pull from influences long since faded. She is making music that is timeless, that would have been just as relevant in the ‘70s as it is today, and will be decades from now. Her latest album, Faded Gloryville, released August 7th from Last Gang Records imprint Grand Tour Records, is no exception. Continue reading

Aug
8

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Sarah Jane Scouten On New Country Music and Learning To Love Hank Williams – Interview

Sarah Jane Scouten performs with her band at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on July 26, 2015. (Photo credit: Jessica Melnychuk)

Sarah Jane Scouten performs with her band at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on July 26, 2015. (Photo credit: Jessica Melnychuk)

“Country music has got this total irony about it,” says singer-songwriter Sarah Jane Scouten, lounging back on a riverside bench at the 36th annual Calgary Folk Music Festival. The Stray Birds are playing her current favorite song in the background, and longtime friends pass by for a quick chat. At an event like this, it’s impossible to feel alone; the folk music community being as tight knit and supportive as it is.

We’re talking about her influences — Stan Rogers, Hazel Dickens, Iris DeMent — and what drew her to the genre, when the conversation turns towards the kind of country music currently hitting radio’s airwaves. “When [country music] stops being ironic, that’s when I feel like it gets moronic,” she says. Continue reading

Aug
6

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The Stray Birds On Writing On The Road And Recording With Ana Egge – Interview

The Stray Birds (L-R Maya de Vitry, Oliver Craven, Charlie Muench) play at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on July 25, 2015. (Photo credit: Jessica Melnychuk)

The Stray Birds (L-R Maya de Vitry, Oliver Craven, Charlie Muench) play at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on July 25, 2015. (Photo credit: Jessica Melnychuk)

Three years since the release of their self-titled album, critically acclaimed trio The Stray Birds (Maya de Vitry, Oliver Craven and Charlie Muench) are touring the world with their gorgeous three-part harmonies on heartache-inspired folk tunes set to a backdrop of artfully-arranged instrumentation.

Hailing from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the band followed up their full-length debut with 2014’s Best Medicine, which they co-produced with Stuart Martin. A 12-song project full of masterfully crafted storytelling interwoven with beautiful musicianship, Best Medicine provides ample material in live settings to either rev up a crowd or stop them in their tracks, pausing to reflect on how their own emotions connect to the stories. Continue reading

Jul
31

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Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015 | Day Four – Review

Lucinda Williams at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on July 26, 2015. (Photo credit: Jessica Melnychuk)

Lucinda Williams at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on July 26, 2015. (Photo credit: Jessica Melnychuk)

Check out my reviews for days one, two and three.

The final day of the Calgary Folk Music Festival featured one of the most stellar main stage lineups in recent memory: The Steep Canyon Rangers (who are Steve Martin’s backing band), Rhiannon Giddens (of Grammy-winning string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops), the one and only Lucinda Williams, and legendary American group The Mavericks. Continue reading