Archive for the ‘Leeroy Stagger’ Tag

Skinny Dyck & Friends- Twenty One-Nighters review   1 comment

Akinny Dyck

Skinny Dyck & Friends Twenty One-Nighters

For as long as I can recall, the Alberta roots music environment has been healthy and exciting. From the big-ticket folk festivals in Edmonton and Calgary, and the more regional events held annually in Fort McLeod, Driftpile, East Coulee, and innumerable other sites, to a radio network that supports Alberta roots artists to an incredible level, a roots musician in Alberta seemingly has an entire province at the ready. Still, mainstream success remains rare, and while folks can make a living with their guitars, vans, and songs, breakouts are few—we can count the Corb Lunds and k. d. lang’s on one hand.

Not every artist contained on Ryan Dyck’s visionary Twenty One-Nighters collection is from Alberta, but all are western Canadian and the vast majority call the Wild Rose province home. Recorded adjacent to a Lethbridge pizza place over a series of evenings across nine months of 2016 and 2017, twenty folk and country troubadours answered Skinny Dyck’s call to share their songs, all original and most previously unreleased.

A core band is featured, primarily Skinny Dyck, Tyler Bird, Evan Uschenko, Jon Martin, and Paul Holden on a variety of stringed instruments and drums in various configurations. With twenty different focus acts, the approaches to the music and songs are as varied as the lineups, but each of the seventy minutes the music envelopes the listener with waves of familiarity that are most welcome.

Picking highlights is the chore of a fool. The godfather of southern Alberta roots scene, Lance Loree  kicks things off with “Watching Daddy Dance,” definitely a noteworthy performance, but so is that of Leeroy Stagger and Mariel Buckley (the gorgeous and devastating “New Pair of Shoes”) and Fervor Coulee-mainstay John Wort Hannam (“Acres of Elbow Room,” a preview of the album coming in early spring.)

Sentinels of the pubs, bars, stages, and community halls abound: Tom Phillips, Kent McAlister, Sean Burns, Scott MacLeod, and Dave McCann offer-up terrific numbers, with McAlisters’s “Hall of Shame” and McCann’s “Sticks and Stones” weaving their way into the audio-memory. The legion of Carolyn Mark fans will be interested in “My Love For You,” a two-minute ditty that pulls in ’bout every rural Alberta cliché you would dare drop into a country song.

Many a clever turn of phrase are included on this wide-cut country collection, as are a number of folks we had not previously encountered, although they are certainly known to others—we can’t hear everything! Folks from whom I will be looking for more include Shaela Miller (The Virginian era Neko Case-y sounding “Willow Tree”) Justin Smith (“Seedin’ Time”), and Taylor Ackerman (“Layin’ By Your Side.”) Terrific stuff. Carter Felker offers up an outstanding new song, “I Can’t Believe”—a gem among jewels—and Steven Foord’s “Sweet Alberta” is deserving of airplay.

If there is a single discovery to be found on this album (and there isn’t—unless you were part of the core group putting this set together, I doubt many have heard everyone on this wide-ranging set: there is a lot to discover!) I would suggest it may be George Arsene who delivers a stunning song, “‘Ol #6,” a diner tale that brings to mind the master of the dusty road song, Robert Earl Keen.

Rather than reading my ramblings about this important set capturing the contemporary southern-Alberta roots scene, head over to, give a listen, and then pick up a copy there or at one of the upcoming shows Skinny Dyck has planned for November. Original roots music appears live and well in the home province: support it, dammit!


Roots Song of the Week: 2014 Polaris Music Prize Edition   Leave a comment

[June 20- Since posting this piece on Thursday, the Long List has been announced.  While I have never seen more than three of my initial ballot choices make the Top 40 list, I don’t know if I’ve previously gone 0 for 5; likely, I have. I don’t get offended by this, but I do scratch my head. How can so many other jury members- 190 I believe this year- get it so wrong?

They haven’t, of course. The size of the jury provides for a wide range of opinions that collectively come to a consensus. I don’t agree with it- come on, no Kim Beggs or Leeroy Stagger? No BARK or Steve Dawson? I can only assume that my fellow jury members, in their efforts to listen to every pretentious and noisy skinny-boy band with ‘indie pop’ in their bio didn’t have time to listen to the amazing roots albums I include on my ballot. I suppose that since the artists I’ve chosen know how to use capitalization properly, use their real names, and are- in some cases- more than 40 years old- they don’t appeal to folks who are in the jury.

I don’t actually mean those last two sentences. What I do know is that there were a lot more folks who liked the Arcade Fire album than Doug Paisley’s. And that is okay, just sad. Numbers tell us there will always be more people on the look out for the ‘next’ big thing in electronic, pop, post-rock, and modern whatever than there will be listening to mature and, at least sometimes, meaningful roots music.

Now I need to listen to even more albums in the next week so that I can revise my choices, some of which- Timber Timbre, Rae Spoon, The Kennedy Sessions– received serious consideration for my first ballot.]

With less than a day to go before the 2014 Polaris Music Prize Long List is revealed, I thought I would catch up on my Roots Song of the Week by going for the quint- five roots songs of the week, Polaris edition.

My initial Polaris Ballot is traditionally roots centric. I was invited into the group several years ago to bring my roots- folk, country, bluegrass, blues- perspective to the jury, and I continue to take that responsibility seriously. Still, I’ve never knowingly ignored an album simply because it didn’t comfortably fall into the roots world.

Today, I thought I would share a link to a song from each of the five eligible albums I consider to be the ‘best’ released in the past year.

albums-kim-1024_largeRanked #1 on my Polaris Music Prize ballot is Kim Beggs’ independently released Beauty and Breaking. My full review of the album is available here , and I believe it captures my thoughts. I’ve listened to the album dozens of times, and it continues to positively impact me whether I’m driving, entertaining, reading, or simply puttering about the house.

My favourite song on the album- and there is considerable competition from songs like “Gold In The Ground,” “A Sailor’s Daughter,” “Le Chemin de Rondin/Corduroy Road,” and “Moonshiner”- is “Not Only Only From the Whiskey,” a live performance of which is here.

I am confident is fewer things daily, but I am certain that Kim Beggs is one of our country’s great singers and songwriters. She makes beautiful music.

Leeroy Stagger’sTruth Be Told was the first album I heard last summer that I knew was going to make my Polaris Top 5 ballot. It is an aggressive creation, and I wrote about it here

At Leeroy’s website, he has a few of his songs available for streaming, including “Goodnight Berlin” which is a loud ‘n proud slice that might do Nazareth proud: roots rock defined.

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings has shown up on my Polaris ballot previously, and South is again well deserving of inclusion. I wish I had championed the album earlier, but I only purchased it rather recently. BARK has their formula down, and their songs remain fresh and lively. If you navigate around this link a little you’ll find “North” and other songs ready for streaming. It is an excellent album.

For me, the most surprising album to make my Polaris ballot is Steve Dawson’s recording of solo guitar explorations Rattlesnake Cage. I haven’t heard anything else like it this year. Long acknowledged as a master of acoustic and slide guitar, Dawson has repeatedly proven that he can do just about anything he sets his mind to. This time out, he has decided to simply play his guitar. Give a listen to the title track here, and prepare yourself to be mesmerized.

Doug Paisley’s “Strong Feelings” is an excellent example of mainstream country music, if by ‘mainstream’ one means accessible, catchy, and well-written as opposed to bro-country rap-a-longs about beer and trucks. At there is a promo video featuring an excerpt of “What’s Up Is Down” and audio of “Song My Love Can Sing” and a live performance of it via Q.

If you haven’t encountered these albums yet, you are well advised to do so at your earliest.

The Polaris Music Prize Long List will be announced early in the afternoon of June 19, 2014.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.

Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Roots Music Albums of 2013   2 comments

These types of lists are fairly self-indulgent, but most things we do seem to be. What the heck, then?

I am fairly confident in my choices this year- I created lists as the months passed, and have considered well in excess of a hundred albums for placement.  Here then are my favourite roots music albums of the year, accompanied by links to longer pieces I’ve written or, alternately when I didn’t write about a particular album, video.

[Update: #25 has been revised. Someone asked why so little mainstream country. Answer, I don’t listen to most of what would be considered modern country. I didn’t listen to the Brandy Clark album enough yet to place it in my Top 25, but I am really enjoying it. Whether that is mainstream…]

Favourite Album Covers-

skaggs1. Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby- Live Cluck Ol’ Hen

2. Guy Clark- My Favorite Picture of You– Great story behind this one. Well executed.

3. Noam Pikelny- Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe– some concert posters in the background may have pushed it over the top

4. Sturgill Simpson- High Top Mountain

5. Jack Lawrence- Arthel’s Guitar

Favorite Covers and Tribute Albums-

1.Don Rigsby- Doctor’s Orders: A Tribute to Ralph Stanley

2. Let Us In Americana- The Music of Paul McCartney

3. Unsung Hero : A Tribute to the Music of Ron Davies

4. Joe Mullins & Junior Sisk- Bluegrass Hall of Fame

5. Jack Lawrence- Arthel’s Guitar arthel

6. Martyn Joseph- Tires Rushing By in the Rain

7. Ben Sollee- The Hollow Sessions

8. You Don’t Know Me: Rediscovering Eddy Arnold

9. Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs- Under the Covers, Vol.3

Favourite Reissues and Archival Releases of the Year-

1. George Jones- The Complete United Artists Solo Singles george

2. Steve Forbert- Early On: The Best of the Mississippi Recordings and the Alive on Arrival/Jackrabbit Slim twofer, more concise and accessible than the previous Rolling Tide reissues

3. Townes Van Zandt- Sunshine Boy: The Unheard Sessions & Demos 1971-1972

4. Guy Clark- Dixie’s Bar & Bus Stop

5. The Bottle Rockets- The Bottle Rockets/The Brooklyn SideThe Bottle Rockets was and is one of the greatest Americana/ albums ever recorded. The bonus tracks provide further context for the days that I wasn’t aware of until they were over. So enthralled with that album, I’ve allowed The Brooklyn Side to sit on the shelf untouched since the first and only time I played it all those years ago. My mistake. One I won’t allow to be repeated.

6. Billy Bragg Life’s A Riot with Spy vs Spy, 30th Anniversary Edition A most concise vision of the power of words and music; comes with a recent live encore of the 7-track e.p.

7. James Keelaghan History: The First 25 Years

Favourite Various Artists and Compilation Albums-

1.  Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War imagesJ2S505VN

2. The Daughters of Bluegrass- Pickin’ Like A Girl

3. God Didn’t Choose Sides

4. Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways

5. Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

The following are my favourite stand-alone albums of 2013, often the albums I spent the most time with this past year (or, in the case of late year releases, the albums I feel I will end up spending the most time with):

1. Guy Clark- My Favorite Picture of You: The elder statesman does it again, producing another exceptional collection of songs, all but a cover of a Lyle Lovett song co-writes. Beautifully sung and played. Clark’s thirteenth album of new material, recorded at age 71, was head and shoulders this past year’s finest roots music album. If there is justice, and voters were actually listening, he’ll receive a Grammy in January.

2. John Reischman- Walk Along John

3. J. R. Shore- State Theatre

4. Slaid Cleaves- Still Fighting the War: Gives ol’ Guy a run for his money.

5. Mike Plume- Red and White Blues: Following up the very excellent 8:30 Newfoundland, Mike Plume returned not only with a most sincere Stompin’ Tom Connors tribute, but a set of songs- almost equal parts Maritime stomper and prairie balladry- that will soon stand with his best.

6. Kimberley Rew- Healing Broadway: Pub roots.

7. Bruce Foxton- Back in the Room: If by roots you mean rock n roll.

8. The Gibson Brothers- They Call It Music

9. Chris Jones & The Night Drivers- Lonely Comes Easy

10. D. B. Rielly- Cross My Heart & Hope to Die

11. Darden Smith- Love Calling

12. Robbie Fulks- Gone Away Backward

13. The Del McCoury Band- The Streets of Baltimore: Experience counts for a whole lot.

14. Leeroy Stagger- Truth Be Sold

15. Alice Gerrard- Bittersweet

16. Noam Pikelny- Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe

17. Marshall Chapman- Blaze of Glory: Another great album of honest roots rock.

18. Holly Williams- The Highway: Purchased after reading a couple reviews and having never heard her; glad I did.

19. Sturgill Simpson- High Top Mountain: I’m glad all music isn’t this well-grounded in the country tradition. Makes it all the more special when you find it.

20. John Paul Keith- Memphis 3 A.M.: A long-time favourite singer.

21. James King- Three Chords and the Truth: Only bought this one before Christmas; need to listen more, but nothing to lead me to believe it isn’t going to stay with me for a long time.

22. Kim Beggs- Beauty and Breaking: an exceptional collection of song that are already familiar. With more listens, I’m confident  it will become even more appreciated.

23. Jeff Black- B-Sidea and Confessions, Volume Two

24. Peter Rowan- The Old School

25. Blue Mafia- My Cold Heart Was in consideration right up until I wrote the final draft. Another listen brought it forward, knocking Emmylou & Rodney out of the 25th spot. I’m sure they will recover.

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell- Old Yellow Moon: Once upon a time, an album this stunning would be much higher that #25; that is one indication of how great the last year has been.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee so often in 2013, and I hope you will continue to find roots music opinion of interest in 2014 and beyond.

As always, Donald @FervorCoulee on the Twittering thing.

Leeroy Stagger- Truth Be Sold review   1 comment

This review is a long time coming. Pretty much the theme around the Fervor Coulee bunker of late.

I bought the download of Truth Be Sold in early summer when it was released. The publicist sent me the disc a couple months ago. I’ve been listening to it the whole time, falling deeper under its complex spell the whole time. While it sounds just fine on the iPod, Truth Be Sold is an album that needs to be heard through an old-school stereo system- speakers vibrating the pictures on the walls. My apologies for the delay in featuring the album here at Fervor Coulee.

staggerLeeroy Stagger Truth Be Sold Gold Lake Records

Leeroy Stagger’s eighth album Truth Be Sold aggressively announces its presence with a bold burst of rock ‘n’ roll power. “Memo,” replete with harsh reality, is just the opening salvo in a collection of songs that should stand as testament to Stagger’s well-established versatility.

Written in conjunction with guitarist/bassist Evan Uschenko and drummer Nick Stecz, the eleven songs comprising Truth Be Sold aren’t all modern noisy boy representation of power glam influences…but, mostly they are. Some hear Stooges and Stones, I hear Mott the Hoople and T.Rex, and on “Have a Heart,” Slade. The rambunctious “Goodnight Berlin” and the lead-off “Memo” are beautiful meldings of garage rawness and glam bluster.

More in your face than his previous Radiant Land, Truth Be Sold continues that excellent album’s themes of searching and alienation- elements that have been Stagger’s bread & butter for a decade- but lacks- intentionally, I believe- that recording’s overarching gentle beauty: if Radiant Land was the weekend’s promise, then Truth Be Sold is its aftermath.

Interspersed between the salvos of testosterone-fuelled bliss, Stagger and his crew demonstrate they are no one-trick bar band. “Celebrity” and “Break My Heart” are gentler, but no less fierce. Working with producer Steve Berlin for the first time, this Stagger outing doesn’t necessarily sound ‘better’ than previous releases, but it does feel different, more worldly and less personal. Truth Be Sold represents the ‘band’ Leeroy Stagger, the powerful live act that he is so comfortable fronting rather than the singer-songwriter on a stool persona he frequently assumes.  Both are genuine, but they are completely different beasts inhabiting the same body.

“Cities on Fire” is a folk song filtered through Joe Strummer while “Break My Heart” mingles longing, self-doubt, and pedal steel reminding one of the clarity Alejandro Escovedo once brought to alcohol-induced introspection.

For me, the album’s standout tracks comprise the album’s final third. “Sold Down the River” and “Mister” are edgy songs balancing Stagger’s straightforward lyrical grace with the lively intensity a rock band affords: Slaid Cleaves meets the E Street Band. Admittedly, that sounds stupid- but it’s all I’ve got.

Like most of Truth Be Sold, “Mister” – first heard a couple years ago on Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1 has a catchy chorus, but unlike much of this album’s songs, the character sketched has great dimension and density: if you aren’t the guy who works for near minimum wage, whose aspiration exceeds his grasp, you know him. Truth Be Sold isn’t so much about story as it is about emotion.

This theme of wanting something different for yourself, but not having a clue how to go about achieving such connects the songs, and comes fully realized in the closer, “Jackie.” “But all I brought for you is a song,” the narrator admits, and one can’t be sure if he is incapable of bringing more, or if he’s just so caught up in his own spider webs that he can’t be bothered.

The repeated misuse of ‘your’ for ‘you’re’ within the lyric booklet is a minor irritant.

Truth Be Sold is a complex, diverse album- loud ‘n’ proud, political and opinionated, lost and found, hopeless and hopeful- that continues the path previously forged by Everything is Real and Little Victories, but is no step backward. Early on it earned a place on my 2014 Polaris Music Prize ballot, and it remains there- can’t see it falling off.

“We’ll listen to the record play, listen to the record play on…”

In December Leeroy Stagger, along with John Wort Hannam and Dave McCann, will be touring select Alberta locations with the annual Highway 3 Roots Review. He is also part of Barney Bentall’s Cariboo Opry  in Bragg Creek, November 30.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee, Donald

Twitter @FervorCoulee

House Concert- Hannam, McCann, and Stagger   Leave a comment

My wife and I just got home from a really enjoyable house concert in Sylvan Lake tonight. Our friends Ross and Cheryl hosted twentysome of us for a ‘songwriters in the round’ with John Wort Hannam, Dave McCann, and Leeroy Stagger. The Highway 3 Roots Revue, it was.

I went in knowing how much I enjoyed John, who I truly feel is one of the most original and talented songwriters and vocalists working today. His voice is pure and his words resonate; every song has cinematic qualities that allow the listener to see the events dance with the words he sings with the imagination providing additional details.

The biggest surprise was that he didn’t sing “Church of the Long Grass,” followed closely by his decision- well-timed as it was- to perform Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas From the Family.”  It provided a nice, light interlude within the evening of (often) more serious songs. Each of John’s songs were warmly received by these ears with “With the Grain” and “Lucky Strikes” being favourites. Oh, and “Requiem for a Small Town.” And don’t forget about…Buy his music. You’ll be glad you did!

I was very familiar with Dave McCann as well, having enjoyed his albums and having caught him on a few different occassions. He didn’t disappoint, with “Circle of Stones” and “Leaving this Town” being highlights. He got a lot of sound out of his Gibson, and the intimate setting allowed listeners to hang on his every word.

Leeroy Stagger was a bit of a surprise as I am not overly familiar with his music. He quickly won me over with songs like “Stormy” and “Brothers.” “Beautiful House” was dedicated to the hosts and is another fine song. I’ve already downloaded one of his albums from iTunes and imagine that others will soon follow.

The entire evening was perfect. Each performed only six songs, but I can honestly say I enjoyed them all and the singers did jump in and play and sing a little on each others tunes, always a nice touch. Stories were told, laughs were had. Snacks were eaten. Recipes were swapped.

A great night. Thanks to the hosts for making it possible, to the friends to attended and supported the performers, and the three very talented men who stopped by Sylvan lake on too cold of a night. Hopefully we get to do something similar again before too long. See for a listing of the remaining shows on this tour- they are back in Central Alberta Monday for a show in Red Deer.