The top 5 alt-country bands to watch in Toronto
The top alt-country bands to watch in Toronto may be under-the-radar now even to long time fans of twang, but y'all (sorry) better plan on seeing them around. Toronto continues to be home to both established and emerging alt-country (alternative country - think country for indie fans) artists. More recognizable names include Justin Rutledge, The Wooden Sky, The Strumbellas, Elliott Brood, Cuff the Duke, and now in Nashville, Lindi Ortega.
It was Grant Lawrence (CBC) who said, "Blue Rodeo were alt-country before the genre existed." Even those country-rockers who started in '84 owe a slight something to Handsome Ned (Robin Masyk). As much of Toronto's alt-country scene still lives on Queen St., Handsome Ned began his country music career there in the early '80's, leading to a residency at the Cameron House, and a few 45rpm singles. Ned, who died of a suspected drug overdose, remains an influence on later artists Blue Rodeo, the Skydiggers, and the Sadies.
Here are five alt-country bands worth keeping on your radar.
Ali Raney and Zoe Neuman have accomplished a lot with their combination of vocal harmonies, fiddle, mandolin, and acoustic guitar in only a few years. Their crowdfunding campaign raised $30,000 and they continue to chart on the iTunes country list. Fans also know them for their natural charm, hilarity - and limes and tequila.
There's more to Dani Nash than just her bio-advertised leather pants. This rising musician is brimming with talent. Nash delivers her own country rock and also performs with The Pining, Samantha Martin and the Haggard, and others. Also keep an eye out for her visual art, which reflects her Northern Ontario roots.
Joshua Cockerill looks to have made the rights moves, as far as his music career - he knew he wanted to be a musician since age 10. Cockerill moved from Alberta to Toronto, and self-released "The Trick With Your Heart I'm Learning To Do" after forming the alt-country band (with a touch of pop) Animal Parts. The band has gone on to release 3 albums in 14 months. Dubbed mammalites, they all claim to be good for a hug at their shows.
Local 164 bring murder ballads, harmonies, and big dreams to the Big Smoke with their alt-country/roots sound. Gordon Bolan (vocals), Jenny Young (banjo), Dave Chan (drums/mandolin), and Jason O'Brien can be regularly found playing the Tranzac on the 2nd Wednesday of the month.
Kayla Howran's debut album "Pistol" has been called, "a twangy back-to-basics alt-country album." After finding her way from Peterborough to Toronto's Queen St. and the Cameron House, Howran established a Friday night residency there for a year. She can now be seen live on most first Fridays of the month at the Cameron House.
Writing by Ryan Ayukawa. Photo of Dani Nash via Facebook