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The top 5 folk bands to watch in Toronto

Posted by Ryan Ayukawa / May 12, 2014

Toronto Folk BandsThere's long history of folk music in Toronto, including back to Yorkville in the 60's, the Riverboat Cafe, and early appearances by Silvia & Ian Tyson, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young. Today Toronto has open stages, the Tranzac, Free Times Cafe, Dakota Tavern, and draws musicians reflecting folk genres from around the world. While the Toronto folk scene is diverse and difficult to pin down (DIY folk song-writer / touring artist Angela Saini and retro-folk-80's cover band McFlies are both honourable mentions) here are five folk bands definitely worth the watch in Toronto.

Captain Dirt and The Skirt
The duo of Lyndell Montgomery (Captain Dirt) and Kristin Sweetland (The Skirt) demonstrate their multi-instrumental adeptness as part of the new collaboration Captain Dirt and The Skirt. their new album showcases their years of touring in an instrumental album of ever-changing stories. Live, they bring vocal and visual storytelling to their performances.

Sarah Burton Band
She's been called Canada's answer to Lucinda Williams. With multiple national tours under her belt, she's played NXNE, CMW, Winterfolk, and Alberta's North Country Fair. Her single "Then Run Away" was called Best Folk Song in Toronto Exclusive magazine (2009). Burton regularly plays with Luke Stackhouse, Jay Swinnerton, and a rotating cast of special guests. For those looking to get a more Americana Sarah Burton, she can be heard as part of the Ole Fashioned (powerpop fans check out Hot Peach).

Blue Sky Miners
This five-piece is a reminder of that Canada is not as big as we often imagine it, with friends from different coasts reuniting in Toronto. Their songs show off their regional experiences as well as coast to coast. Humber96.9 named them band of the month in March 2014, and they're fresh from playing CMW (Canadian Music Week) in May 2014.

The Boxcar Boys
Incorporating music from North American folk, Dixieland, Gypsy and European Klezmer, the boxcar boys bring a unique blend of genres and instrumentation with John Williams (Clarinet), Rob Teehan (Sousaphone), Karl Silveira (Trombone), Ronen Segall (Accordion), and Laura Bates (Violin). Whether onstage or busking, they manage to put humour and fun in every performance.

Graydon James And The Young Novelists
The Young Novelists continue to build a name for themselves with their penchant for story in every song, and folk-rock that's often dance worthy. They continue to develop a following as part of international folk festival showcases, house concerts, intimate Graydon and Laura duo performances, and beard etiquette. In addition to a Galaxie Rising Star award, three album releases, Graydon recently published a novel "The Mall of Small Frustrations".

Writing by Ryan Ayukawa, photo of Captain Dirt and The Skirt from Facebook.



Bolo / May 12, 2014 at 10:41 am
Future Sailors
We're future sailors
Electronic castaway
Digital stowaway
Fabio / May 12, 2014 at 11:02 am
Hell yeah, folk bands! I'm so excitZZZZZZZZZZZ....
Luke / May 13, 2014 at 09:29 am
jebediea / May 13, 2014 at 12:02 pm
For shame. Everyone in Toronto knows that @queenofthedleet are Toronto's premiere folk band. Think mermaids singing sailor songs ....but with a lana del rey twang.
David Newland / May 13, 2014 at 03:43 pm
Nice to see folk getting some attention here. Great to see my friends Captain Dirt and the Skirt and Graydon James and the Young Novelists get the nod here.

I also appreciate the honourable mention for The McFlies, of which I'm a founding member.

I feel like there could be DOZENS of bands on this list though, and some venues have been left out too - most notably Hugh's Room, which has helped maintain the folk/acoustic/roots scene for the past dozen years. The Cameron House doesn't always feature folk, but they often do, and at a very high level.

Note that folk BANDS are only part of the scene. Singer-songwriters, duos and trios are a huge part of it, and this city is brimming with some of the best in the business.

Finally, it's really worth noting that many terrific acts and artists who began during the Yorkville days are still on the scene, making great music and influencing a generation (in some cases, two generations) of younger acts. Brent Titcomb (father of Liam) is a great example. David Woodhead is another (his kids were in Spiral Beach.) They both remain pillars in our community.

A huge amount has happened between the late sixties and today, but it's a continuum and some brilliant artists worked awfully hard to keep things rolling during the lean years, when 'folk' was the uncoolest thing to be. Let's hope it never gets so cool that we forget it's a community, first and foremost.
Rachel / May 13, 2014 at 05:40 pm
NUA!!! www.trionua.com
QOTF / May 17, 2014 at 11:55 am
I think the person meant "queen of the fleet" great band . Saw them do a nirvana song. They need to be on this list.
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