As the Juno Awards loom on the horizon (April 6, 8 p.m. from the Corel Centre in Kanata, Ont.), attention turns to the burgeoning roster of Canadian musicians – old and new – who are making a mark on the world stage.
While anticipating the successes of favourite Juno nominees including the likes of fan-choice nominees Celine Dion, Diana Krall, Avril Lavigne, Nickleback and Shania Twain – music lovers might want to keep an eye out for a couple of new CDs, one by a Canadian icon and another featuring a lesser-known artist whose star seems to be on the rise.
Before the year 2000, Kenny Butterill was virtually unknown. Then his debut CD, No One You Know, hit the airwaves and his rootsy, alt-country music with its feel-good charm found an audience. His single, How Far Can We Go?, about driving from Canada down the eastern seaboard to Florida in a beat-up Fiat Spyder convertible, became the first Americana-format song in almost two years to crossover and become a number-one country hit in Europe, after spending several months on the Canadian country charts.
Now, Butterill’s new offering, Just a Songwriter, released in January at the MIDEM Music Festival in Cannes, France and available on this side of the ocean later this spring, may build this popularity.
“Kenny Butterill eases into a shuffle like no one this side of a Southerner on a steamy night,” says Bob Klanac, reviewer for Scene magazine in London, Ont. “(His) style borrows liberally, yet effortlessly, from country, folk and pop, touched by his wistful, almost off-hand vocals, full of gentle pleasures.”
While he has lived in the States since the 1980s, many of Butterill’s songs speak to Canadians, particularly his melancholy tribute to Balsam Lake, the tranquil cottage near Peterborough, Ont., where he spent countless summers learning to water ski, ski, fish and play the guitar.
As much as Butterill’s songs are new to the Canadian ear, another CD, released in November, compiles a selection of Canadian pop and rock anthems no-one listening to music in the sixties and seventies can fail to remember. Randy Bachman’s Every Song Tells A Story, recorded live in Vancouver last spring, lives up to its title.
Bachman, original member of The Guess Who, songwriting partner of Burton Cummings and founder of Bachman Turner Overdrive, not only breathes new life into the songs but tells the stories behind more than a dozen classics. Laughing – borrowed from the Bee Gees, with an extra finger on the fretboard; Undun – a Bob Dylan lyrical snippet, set to jazz chords Lenny Breau taught him; Taking Care of Business – a combo of The Beatles’ Paperback Writer, Santana’s Oye Como Va and a DJ’s patter. And how about These Eyes, which he describes as “the song that changed our (his and Cummings) lives forever?” Well, he married the girl, but that’s only half the story.
Every Picture Tells a Story is also available on DVD from randybachman.com, with all the CD tracks plus plenty of old pictures, live footage and even two versions of the Prairie Town video featuring Neil Young.
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- “Butterill’s … homespun material gives the feeling of ‘been there before’; however, a second listen will stamp his own musical signature firmly with the listener…” says Walt Grealis, former editor of RPM Weekly, Canada.