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Five New Canadian Songwriters to Watch

Building on the legacy of Neil, Joni, Leonard, and others


Canada has, for generations, made incredible contributions the contemporary folk music world. Songwriters like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen have produced lifetimes of incredible, dynamic poetry which has influenced innumerable other artists for years. And, it's become clear that Canada's influence over American folk music is poised to continue, with a swath of newer artists making some serious waves in the realms of traditional and contemporary folk, roots, and Americana (or, shall I say, "Canadiana") music. Check out these Top 5 New Canadian Artists and see what you think.

1. Whitehorse (Luke Doucet & Melissa McClelland) | Toronto ON, Vancouver BC

Whitehorse - Luke Doucet and Melissa McLelland
courtesy Six Shooter Records
As husband-wife duos go, it doesn't get more synergistic than Whitehorse. Doucet and McClelland had been backing each other on record and live in concert for years. It was really just a matter of time before they formed a duo and made it official. Doucet is widely hailed as one of Canada's finest guitar players (he's toured extensively as such for Sarah McLachlan's band), and his songwriting is often bitingly insightful. Pair that with McClelland's more dreamy style and throwback-sounding vocals and you get music which is haunting, beautiful, and well worth looking out for.

2. Rose Cousins | Halifax NS

Rose Cousins
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Halifax singer-songwriter Rose Cousins dropped a doozy of a record this year titled We Have Made a Spark - a disc full of collaborations with her friends in Boston. In addition to backing vocals by some of the finest singer-songwriters New England has produced in recent years (Rose Polenzani, Edie Carey, Kris Delmhorst, others), Cousins duets on the disc with Mark Erelli. Besides, her songwriting is heartbreakingly astute - clear and emotional at once. These are all reasons why I named Cousins one of the New Folk Music Women to Watch back in 2010. Indeed, she remains one of Canada's finest singer-songwriters.

3. Elliott Brood | Toronto ON

Elliott Brood
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Toronto-based trio Elliott Brood plays a creative blend of traditional folk music stylings together with an indie rock and punker spirit. Heavy on the rhythm and choppily distorted banjo licks, these guys have been burning their way through the North American folk and roots music festival circuit. In the course of their 10-year career, they've dropped four albums (including 2011's Days Into Years and have earned a number of Juno Award nominations, including for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year in 2006 and '09. If you've yet to hear them, now is the time to tune in.

4. Corb Lund | Taber AB

Corb Lund
© Alexandra Valenti
Corb Lund is one of Alberta's finest exports, covering the realm of traditional country music with plenty of creative charisma. Together with his band the Hurtin' Albertans, he's scored a number of Juno and Canadian Music Awards, as well as nominations from the Americana Music Association. While his music is decidedly twangy - fitting snugly in the area of country music - his is not a contemporary pop-style country music. It's more in the area of the punk-spirited cowboy tunes collected by John Lomax and those later popularized by folk-influenced country singers like Johnny Cash.

5. Deep Dark Woods | Saskatoon SK

Deep Dark Woods
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Saskatchewan's Deep Dark Woods is a stirring troupe of acoustic singer-songwriters playing harmony-driven, beautiful indie folk music. Over the past few years, they've become a staple at American festivals like Pickathon and the Americana Music Association's festival in Nashville. They've dropped four albums in their short career but have managed to win the hearts of American fans and critics alike through their memorable live performances.
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