So I was driving the other day listening to Matt May’s album “Coyote” when the song “Dull Knife” came on and I thought to myself “damn, that is one of the best Canadian indie rock songs out there, period”. Which then got me thinking about what of all the amazing Canadian indie songs would I put on an essential playlist for someone unfamiliar with the genre. So here is my stab at it (in no particular order). Bear in mind that I’m pretty into the roots-rock, Canadiana genre.
“Anti-social” – Cuff The Duke
It’s hard to pick my favorite Cuff The Duke song because they have so so many great tunes. This track comes Cuff The Duke’s first album, “Life Stories For Minimum Wage” and was re-recorded for their self-titled second release but this was the one in my mind that started it all. Wayne Petti and company have recorded six albums and two EP’s since 2002. They have toured with Blue Rodeo and Greg Keelor has produced their last two albums.
“Devil’s Got A Gun” – Whitehorse
Whitehorse is the husband and wife duo of Luke Doucet & Melissa McClelland who have both had successful solo careers before joining forces as Whitehorse. Their two person stage show is something to behold. “Devil’s Got A Gun” is from their Polaris Prize shortlisted album “The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss”.
“Dull Knife” – Matt Mays
Matt Mays is in my opinion Canada’s preeminent rocker. His latest album “Coyote” is his best work yet. It contains several great tracks like “Indio” and “Take It Faith” but for me “Dull Knife” stands out from the others.
“Three Thousand Miles” – The Dustin Bentall Outfit
Regular readers of my ramblings will know that Dustin Bentall is one of my favorite Canadian musicians. Yes, you recognize his last name for a reason. He is the son of the 90’s rocker Barney Bentall (& The Legendary Hearts). “Three Thousand Miles” is not a DB original but was written by Corin Raymond. Dustin has a slew of great original songs (i.e. Six Shooter, You Are An Island, Every Chord That Rings) but his take on this tune is infectious.
“Red Deer To Margaree” – The Skydiggers
Toronto’s Skydiggers are touring for their 25th anniversary. Over that time they have quietly amassed a nice body of work and are very much respected among other Canadian musicians. As part of the multiple releases marking their anniversary they recorded an album of covers of which “Red Deer To Margaree” is one. I can’t get it out of my head. They have a ton of originals that I can’t pick a favourite from…maybe another list some day.
“Nowhere With You” – Joel Plaskett
Joel Plaskett, like Matt Mays, is another east coast treasure. Since 1999 Plaskett has released a dozen albums both solo and with his band The Joel Plaskett Emergency. Originally from 2006’s “Make A Little Noise” EP the song “Nowhere With You” is likely his most recognizable. What I like about it is that it has a nice distinct east coast feel and it tends to get moving or at least tapping the beat.
“Loved On Look” – The Sadies w/ Greg Keelor
The Sadies have earned a reputation as being one of the best live bands in Canada. While they are typically country-rock they can play anything and have played with everyone. They did the Ratfink soundtrack. They backed Neko Case. They did albums with Jon Langford, Andre Williams and more. “Loved On Look” from 2001’s “Tremendous Efforts” album is an Elvis Presley cover that features Greg Keelor (Blue Rodeo) on lead vocals.
“Don’t Wanna Hear It” – Lindi Ortega
Toronto born, Nashville-based Lindi Ortega has released three albums of really good country music. Her second record “Cigarettes & Truckstops” was long listed for the Polaris Music Prize. “Don’t Wanna Hear It” off said album is my favorite by far. It’s about, in Lindi’s own words, half-assed apologies and how she doesn’t like them. Great tune.
“Oh Baby Lie Down” – Kendel Carson
While you may not be familiar with her name, Kendel has been a very busy musician. She has recorded two solo albums with her song writing partner Chip Taylor (Wild Thing & Angel of the Morning). She is a regular member of Dustin Bentall & The Smokes (formerly The Dustin Bentall Outfit). She is 1/3 of the Canadian fiddle “supergroup” Belle Starr. She has played with Elvis Costello, toured with Alan Doyle (Great Big Sea) and John Prine. She has played with The Paperboys, Outlaw Social and The Grand Cariboo Opry. Whew! Sadly her commitments with everyone else has put her solo career on hold. I hope the already recorded, elusive third album one days see the light of day. “Oh Baby Lie Down” is the highlight from her second album “Alright Dynamite”. (Yes this video is from the same Dakota Sessions as the above Three Thousand Miles – Dustin Bentall clip).
“First Day In The New Home Town” – Luke Doucet & The White Falcon
Luke Doucet is my favorite guitar player and one of the most respected in Canada. He began playing guitar for Sarah McLaughlin at 19 years old. He then played in the Vancouver based band Veal before striking off on his own and becoming one of the original Six Shooter Records artists.
So there you have it. That’s my essential Canadian indie playlist. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to leave your comments below.