The arrogance and dividing efforts were displayed in spades last May when radio consultant, Keith Hill used the painfully weak metaphor of a tossed salad to provide an unsolicited opinion on how to “fix” your radio ratings. I could get behind the usage of the term lettuce to describe mainstream’s masculine forces in the sense that it all tastes the same and if used sparsely, does have its place in a sandwich but Hill bit off more than he could chew when referring to females as tomatoes. Furthering his notion, “…take the females out…they aren’t the lettuce…the females are tomatoes”. Ok, so maybe Hill accidentally voiced a misogynistic viewpoint in an attempt to “do good” (used in the same looseness as the previous referral pertaining to masculinity) but even following the verbal unleashing by heavyweights such as Martina McBride, Jennifer Nettles, Carlene Carter and Terri Clark, Hill took his opportunity to respond by saying he was a “victim of all this passion”. Fail.
In a dated mindset of separating the boys from the girls, the movement is obvious. A powerhouse front of females leading and defending traditionalism in the throes of country music. Even if select few lack a sense of twang it’s made up through their devotion to craft, business-sense, and authenticity. Outside of the cutsie-retro-costumers peppered throughout the country there’s a breed of songwriter that needs no facade. An approach defined by hustle and backed with raw talent. No two the same. Ambitious Road Warriors. And in respect to modern efforts of equality…gentlemen, we are not equal.
Just so happens, these ladies are all from Saskatchewan.
Kacy Anderson (Kacy & Clayton) – Kacy haunts. Not in the sense of an apparition that periodically shows up only to quickly dissipate into the matrix but the kind that forces empathetic qualities. Gives you a visual of ache and hangs around, daylight be damned. Kacy’s tone is that of Canadian folk royalty, complimenting her first cousin’s unique finger-picking clunk. Wood Mountain is home to the province’s oldest running rodeo and the country’s oldest adolescent duo.
Jessica Moskaluke – I’m sorry Kelly Buchberger. I’m sorry Gopherville. Langenburg, SK now boasts Jesse. Let’s cut to the chase, in an industry hierarchy, Jess’s back-to-back awards as CCMA Female Vocalist of the Year puts her at the top. The rarity is that she’s the best female vocalist in the country. Moskaluke is H.A.F. as I personally witnessed her walk a half mile in high heels at 3 am toting a suitcase with a windchill of -30 degrees Centigrade. Well earned Moskaluke.
Ellen Froese-Kooijenga & Kasia Thorlakson (In With The Old) – We should disregard age at this point because it seems to be irrelevant when considering sound and influence among Saskie Youth. Already having headlined 200 seat venues completely independently, Ellen and Kasia have their trio completed with the quirky charm and innocence of their male counterpart, Jaxon Lalonde. In With The Old’s tightness will be displayed at the esteemed Merlefest this April in North Carolina.
Eli Barsi – Raised a mile and a half north of yours truly, Eli was quick to replant in Tennessee. The America played home to her for years but never altered the localities of her sound. Eli’s embodiment of authenticity was recognized in 2015 by receiving the prestigious Wrangler Award for ‘Best Original Western Composition’ for “Portrait of a Cowgirl” by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. An award shared by only one other Canadian – folk hero, Ian Tyson. And then there’s this…
Val Halla – Sitting confidently on the country fringe, Valerie McLeod takes no shit from anyone. Aside from personally valuing of her loyalty as a friend she shows the same devotion to all aspects of her artistic autonomy. Self producing and mixing recordings, self promotion, self bookings, and self-worth, Val is our lone wolf. She gracefully moves back and forth between her expansive networks on both sides of the border as we anticipate her upcoming release.
Kara Golemba – Kara’s sound settles somewhere between Joy Williams (Civil Wars) and Cary Ann Hearst (Shovels and Rope). Owning the gift of Wordage while wrangling melodies gives her smokey approach to songwriting its own bluesy flavour. Golemba heads in to work with Jason Plumb this April as her sound is recognized by the producing ear of The Dead South and Colter Wall.
Jen Lane – another songwriting veteran that runs her independent artistry like clockwork. Set a plan in place and execute mercilessly. Jen’s newest release is produced by West-Coast Brilliance, John Ellis, and has just wrapped up its first leg of promotion. Regulars to the Cameron House Residency in Toronto, Jen’s strategic approach titles her as one of the most intelligent workers in the industry.
Belle Plaine – As only a live album could, Melanie Hankewich (AKA Belle Plaine) displayed her folk/jazz/country hybrid song chops with a seven piece band on the newly released ‘The Unrequited Love’. Backing up Willie’s belief that jazz has it’s place in country, Melanie storms across the country playing concert halls to honky tonks with her devout core trio comprised of Jeremy Sauer (keys) and Elizabeth Curry (bass) and line-ups that compliment their placement-drop. It’s her wit that made her my better half, then her soul. Belle’s a perfect fit with my Vultures, the smooth to Colter Walls grit, and the feminine front to Regina’s progressive twangsters, The Lazy MKs.
Megan Nash – As earthly as she is cosmic, The Nash approaches a myriad of material that spans taxidermy to timelessness in an eloquent folk-twang tinge. Megan has proven herself provincially as the one who’s nose is to the grindstone celebrating weekends off as they are few and far between. With an album in hand that has topped ‘best of’ lists for the past year, the title hints of a quick follow-up which we are desperate to receive. She needs no band, carrying a performance through organized scatter that truly proves time’s relativity.
Tenille Arts – finish school, jump in the car, head to Nashville, become huge. A fellow Southeasterner, Tenille writes hooks big enough to catch Marlins. Troubadouring herself through the Nashville club circuit and dedicating herself to basically making the world a better place having teamed up with Cystic Fibrosis Canada raising awareness through the release of her latest single “Breathe”.