Mr. Misunderstood, Understood

November 9th 2015 9:48 am


In yet another act of distinctly setting himself apart from the rest of the wheel, Eric Church got his Drake on and dropped a fully-produced, 10 song album into his Church Choir’s inboxes – an “old school” subscription paid fan club – giving thousands of $49.99/yr fans a WTF morning on November 4, later revealing it to the world on an international broadcast. This album is more than a surprise Eric Church album – it is an effort to lead the charge and assist with the turning of the Nashville tide. A ceremonious passing of the torch opened up the 49th annual CMA’s between Hank Jr and Church, aviators and all, and if we are keeping to the theme of Surprises – yes – Hank Jr on the CMAs. Hank last appeared in 2011 just following his reference to Obama playing golf with Speaker of the House, John Boehner, as “That’d be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.” The comment which ended his 20 year relationship with Monday Night Football. Something had to be up. Oh right, and they covered Waylon (well, Neil.) Then the lucky duck gets to sing again – two points for Church.

I downloaded Chief and The Outsiders the first day of each respective release and dove in. One went over much better than the other but still never satisfied my appreciation for his writing as a whole since the Sinners Like Me album. With last week’s streaming of Mr. Misunderstood, Church reminded us that the movement will not happen if the guy in charge isn’t writing Grade A shit, himself. He accepted the role.

Before we get to the songwriting let’s lay down a few of the facts. It was claimed, in hand-written letters by Church himself, to select media movers and shakers that with a new guitar that his son named “Butter Bean” he wrote 20 songs in 18 days and had 10 recorded 20 days to follow. The recording wrapped up mid-October putting the beginning of the project’s stamp around late August 2015. But Eric, what about in July when you debuted your new song (and Mr. Misunderstood’s closing track), “Three Year Old” at Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater? Fishy. Because Math. Doesn’t matter. Part of any orchestration is a sellable story, works for me.

An album in 40 days. Kinda like that Jesus figure that he claimed was needed on Chief – resisting temptation from the devil that he sold himself to in Tracks 9 and 10 of The Outsiders?

If there’s one thing that Church does well (aside from his writing on this album…there, cat’s out of the bag) is narrate the story of Eric Church. He reminds us of his motives and solidifies his character. He’s a marketing genius walking in the backdoor of a megascene. I’d love to state altruism and become a fan again solely for his writing chops but I will buy a ticket to his next regional arena show because of his smarts.

So the writing is fucking great. The title track gives us what we love about Church – him and a guitar. Thank you sir. It crashes into a melody so familiar that I spent the next 20 minutes playing a G and C chord back and forth mumble-singing words to try and place it. ‘Mr. Misunderstood’ once again puts “Old Eric” as the compassionate refuge for today’s “They Just Don’t Get Me” Generation as he did throughout The Outsiders. Church also knows his early fans. The ones that let him go. He name drops Ray Wylie Hubbard and Jeff Tweedy clean out of the box; he raised our eyebrows, turned the corners of our mouth down, and had us nod. The song is Mellencamp-esque (which the CMA broadcast eluded to us is Keith Urban’s coming direction).

It’s ends with a pleasing drone dragging us into Track 2, just incase he didn’t have us back.

‘Mistress Named Music’ is stylistically peppered with the coming trend – soul. Authenticity will be the new manufactured selling point – whether it be natural or not. Soul music is the most accessible entrance in that development – uh, remember how good you felt the first time you heard Garth’s ‘We Shall Be Free’? Church mixes in a little Richie Sambora style solo, tone and all, and moves the album’s progression into Track 3, ‘Chattanooga Lucy’ – complete with Memphis born singer-songwriter, Joanna Cotten on back-ups. Memphis eh, kinda like that Timberlake character – with that said, at 1:06 Church beats Timberlake to his own coming sound. I swear I just saw Timberlake performing at a funeral…anyways.

The women of this album deserve they’re own blogging effort – his collaborations are strategic and legit. ‘Mixed Drinks About Feelings’ has long-time producer Jay Joyce calling up his old buddy Susan Tedeschi of Tedeschi Trucks Band (formerly known as Soul Stew Revival) and wife to Derek Trucks (of the Allman Brothers) lending her insanely soulful voice (soul, soul, soul) to the powerhouse track. Church clearly reminds you at this point in the album that he can write. And sing.

The only way to confront a decision or turmoil over a decision is to own it. That’s the outlaw way. Track 5, ‘Knives of New Orleans’ does just that. Screaming “I did what I did, I have no regrets, when you cross the line you get what you get” – admitting to us (his old fans) and vying for our forgiveness. Keep going Eric, I’m coming around. Boom. ‘Round Here Buzz’ – classic Church. This will be the transition song in his career…I’m guessing the next single judging by the percussion.  The “new country” will not be able to deem success without the intelligent lyric – no more cookie-cutter shit. It’s still that tailgate-getmydrinkon-missyou cliché but it’s backed up with a solid narrative and lyrical payoff. The Bridge Song.

‘Kill a Word’ brings in another heavy hitting, legit, female vocalist Rhiannon Giddens. Fellow Tar Heel and lead vocalist of Americana mainstay band, The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Yet again a surprising turn also features a virtually unknown singer/songwriter, Andrea Davidson. Google her name and a Toronto Real Estate agent pops up. ‘Kill a Word’, once again, brings in the Outsider theme and attacks bullying head on. These songs are never done right and the movement more often than not comes off as insincere. Church knocks it out of the park.

He then steals Chesney’s fanbase from under the megastar’s nose channelling his inner Buffett admitting he is ‘Holdin’ My Own’ and literally telling us “I mix blues and soul“. I got a JJ Cale kinda groove to this. (Speaking of Cale, kinda, Church has achieved another online milestone by having his name appear about Clapton’s when typing “Eric” into a search engine.) Church on Church.

Yes! Finally – the double entendre song. ‘Record Year’ is great. Remember Martina’s ‘Crying on the Shoulder of the Road’? Nashville writing at it’s modern best has the double entendre as a staple approach. This song does not fall short. Church’s love affair with vinyl is apparent in his writing – he shows The Outsiders on vinyl in the ‘Mr. Misunderstood’ music video and walked the walk with this magical little album release by sending out Vinyl of the album to select fans prior to the surprise inboxing. Vinyl takes months to create, the manufacturing is an art in itself…nevermind – I’m going back to the timeline of the release. Because Math.

Finally, ‘Three Year Old’ – dammit man, you got me.

Mr. Misunderstood is an incredibly well-written release chalked (see what I did there) full of Church’s best. Did he stalk-pile his material while inking his deal with the devil and release it with a great marketing story – let’s say he didn’t. In that case, Church wrote a unified album in 18 days that WILL bring his old fanbase back into his world; his ticket sales will sore and EMI will make damn sure that he is the number one priority. I might do Eric a solid and order this one in from Dave down at X-ray; I’ve listened to it in it’s entirety five or six times and will continue to do so. It has set a standard and in an attempt to fulfill the prophecy of Christ’s return was set in place with a whopper of a marketing plan and execution – but while Church was filling his contract with Satan on arena stages, Stapleton did so in private…

Church created Chief and The Outsider personnas, and Stapleton focused on himself. The roll-over orchestration had Hank Jr giving Church a christening only to have his evening robbed. Frequently hopping up and sharing stages, Church and Stapleton will lead this front – and everybody knows “friendly” competition is great for Capitalism. But my money is on the fact that Church is pissed.

Are you ready for the country?

Tracker Troubles and The Story of Two Bulls

November 6th 2015 9:18 am

In an enlightening move, a prominent Canadian country radio Music Director took to his personal blog last night in effort of calling a spade a spade. With all facets of the machine so closely interdependent, it was quite admirable for Mike McGuire of Big Dog 92.7 (Regina, SK) to educate his followers, specifically, independent artists on the realities and risks attached to hiring a tracker. Excuse me. The wrong tracker.

Upon releasing my second solo album in 2010, a handful of songs loosely lent themselves to country production (or my version of) and in an attempt to broaden the masses, I believed I had a fighting chance of getting on the radio. But how? It was an elitist group and I hadn’t the first clue of the process. I was soon directed to the concept of the tracker, a middleman/woman, one to be paid for not only what they know but who they know. My well crafted introductory email and submission was responded to modestly, not promising anything, directing payment, and game-plan put in place.

But be damned, it wasn’t weeks in and upon arriving at stations for a little PR and arranged interviews, I had MD’s (music directors) saying that they spoke to someone who I had no idea was representing my song. An outsourced minion. A hustling henchman. I paid for not only “what they know but who they know.” What they knew was one can’t be making all the calls when representing multiple artists at once and who they knew was in the spreadsheet tossed to a neighbouring desk.

The campaign ended with a disheartened Blake giving up on Canadian Country Radio dreams and ready for experiment number 2. Community, College and Campus radio.

At this point I was performing around 100 dates a year and thought it would be in my best interest…and I regret using the cliché in hindsight, but “go for broke.” Making contact with an industry advisor on the west coast I was directed to an independent company out of Toronto specializing in rock radio and led by one silver tongued son of a bitch. Quickly talking me out of my song decision, radio format and my $2000.00 max budget, we released to rock radio. Starting the campaign before the contract was signed I was on the hook for the initial payment of 2G and was continued to be fed the “successes” on his end such as having the most influential names in the industry considering my release for adds. “We’re almost there bud, it’s gonna break but we have the amp up the campaign…send more money.”

Coincidently, other business at the time happened to have me fly out to his home turf and in a personal gesture, I suggested we meet for lunch. At his request we met at a thirty-dollar-fucking-salad-bar not without making me feel that by meeting him in person I was taking away from his tracking time.  These kinds of bastards are good – I was once again sold on continuing the campaign as it would be an absolute shame to have wasted the initial time put in to set the success up. Another $2000 deposit.

With weeks to follow and $4000.00 in, we had one add. One. I abruptly ended the campaign and was informed that I had a remaining balance of over $3000.00 – which included his thirty-dollar-fucking-salad-bar and parking that given afternoon. Seeking legal advice I quickly learned that regardless of a signed contract an email giving the go-ahead was as good as gold and that I best pay the remaining balance and wash my hands. One add. One. As a side note, I ran into the scum at Canadian Music Week the following year and he had no idea who I was.

I wish my tracker troubles ended here. You really would think a guy would learn.

Let’s get back into the Canadian country music radio market.

Because I’ve re-infuriated myself tonight digging up bones, we’ll make the story quick. The industry is small and it’s very easy to make good friends with people quickly – as I did with the then MD in the Swift Current, SK market. Upon receiving my “tracking report” for yet another single in 2013, I simply did not believe that this certain MD said what was reported; a phone call not only proved me correct but there was never contact in the first place. In questioning where the information came from my tracker responded with honesty – he never bothered contacting the station because he “already knew what he was going to say” and hence forwarded that assumption.

These were my experiences on three separate accounts and it’s too bad that missteps, assumptions, and a downright con can colour one of the most important roles in the radio world. With all this said I have heard nothing but accolades for the professionalism and approaches of groups such as With a Bullet , Dale Speaking, & Frontside Group – but as an indie artist one must understand the realities and truly what the goals are when releasing to radio. A great song and a great team will shoot you up the charts but if you are rockin’ and rollin’ as a lone wolf in the radio world here are a few tips and benefits of taking the bull by the horns.


1. BUILD AND REBUILD A SOLID DATABASE – It’s as difficult to track radio employees as it is a single. Changes and transfers are made on a regular basis so stay on-top of it. I generally like put in a couple hours a week into my database whether I’m pushing a single or not. I use google drive spreadsheets so I can team up with other artists and we all have access to the same info and each other’s updates.

2. LEARN YOUR DATABASE – You did it for Grade 9 Biology, do it for your radio career investment. Flashcards – know who is running what stations at the drop of a hat.

3. KNOW THE RECEPTIONIST’S NAME – They are your first line of contact. Any missing info in your database is accessible with a phone call. Greet the receptionist by name and you drastically better your chances at getting the info you need.

4. LISTEN LIVE – Almost every station has a listen live option on their website. Make it a habit to boot up their player and keep it on while you are going about your workday. Save the link in your database for easy accessibility.

5. DON’T ASK FOR AN ADD, ASK FOR A FEATURE – One spin goes a long long ways. You are representing yourself independently, you don’t have time to chart – you can only market. Features add up and if by the grace of God momentum starts rolling, that’s when you revisit the contact and inquire about light rotation.

6. PLAY THE MARKETS - Duh. Radio tours are great ways to personally connect but why wouldn’t you take advantage of being able to reach such a massive audience as an invite to the live performance. Whether it’s that night, the following week or plans to return in a year – if you wanna release to all of Canada, plan to tour all of Canada.

7. DROP IN - Your mom and dad did it to the neighbours all the time. Chances are they brought beer. Why would this be any different?

8. BUY SOME AIRTIME – If Jim Johnson Chev Olds can snag a 30 second slot to sell something, so can you. Remember when I spent over $10,000 on trackers? Think about the results if that was spent in advertisement.

9. LATE NIGHT AND WEEKEND DJs ARE THE SECRET WEAPON - Just like the morning show and afternoon drive hosts, they have a microphone in front of them and the ability to push play. Give some love to the one’s putting in the late shift…wouldn’t you rather be sleeping or hanging out with your family on the weekend?

10. ONE BY ONE – It’s only a matter of time until you build a personal relationship with everybody. You aren’t in this to chart, you are in this to market yourself – charting will be the bi-product. Write what you write and slowly garner relationships. Representing yourself for as long as need be gives you a huge advantage when the tipping point comes, all relationships will be personal and successes swift.

With swagger, patience, and drive you will get spins, lots, but approach with the long-term in mind. It’s about relationships not charting. The classic scene from Dennis Hopper’s 1988 film Colors, might just describe the approach best with Robert Duvall telling Sean Penn the story of two bulls. Take your time and walk down.



I seem to have forgotten a very important piece of info for those that have never released before. The means of distribution for a single and industry standard is via an online hub called DMDS. One can independently load their single and choose the market in which to deliver but I strongly suggest going through RDR Music Group. Joe or Trudy will pick up the phone when you call and walk you through the process. Good luck out there team.


August 17th 2015 3:13 pm

Thank you to Brent Nielsen, Creative City Centre & CBC Saskatchewan for debuting a new original song, “Rain Delay”, this morning through the online series ‘An Empty Room’. Creative City Centre is showcasing Saskatchewan based artists by giving them two opportunities to have their original works presented in a minimalist approach, captured with class and presented in collaboration with The Morning Edition on CBC  at 8:15 on Monday mornings until October. Already having performed “Town to Town” with my road/cooking/cribbage partner, Belle Plaine, CCC is yet to present another duet with Ms. Plaine and a guitar-diddy with my right hand man Bryce Lewis, one we’ve been playing on the road for years; Me + Trav. Fun stuff – Thanks CCC, CBC, & BN.

“Rain Delay” is a rodeo song.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the mainstream come around to the concept (at least Canadian country radio) when the newest release from CCMA Female Artist of the Year Nominee, MacKenzie Porter is simply titled “Rodeo” and shooting up the charts. I approached this excitement in the same sense I’d approach meeting Ian Tyson for the first time – If I can avoid meeting him then I drastically lower my chances of a less-than-perfect encounter; that’s giving a lot of credit to how excited I must be about a song called “Rodeo” on the Radio.

In the beginning stages of putting together thoughts of what this blog is to become my curiosity got the best of me so I moved in for a handshake. Dammit, “Rodeo” isn’t about rodeo but simply repeats the hook made famous by Hank Cochrane; “…this ain’t my first rodeo” and yes, is about a woman telling it how it is in the process of getting “picked up” – fuck, I knew it. I could probably move past the subject at this point if it weren’t for Actor Studmuffin X putting his cowboy hat on backward at 00:14. In defence of Denim Studmuffin, I could be subject to the same mistake if I was out for early evening toke in my chevy and I happen to see MacKenzie walking in the middle of nowhere, fiddle in hand, dressed to the nines.

I wish fellow CCMA nominee Jess Moskaluke had a guy with a backwards cowboy hat in a video – I’d call her up and harass the living shit out of her – then again, Jess sings rodeo songs. Holla.

Unlike many subjects epitomized through country music one must tread lightly in the approach to the rodeo song. As their popularity also demands authenticity – one could easily expose oneself as a fraud with the slightest slip on jargon, expression or research. Rodeo songs have carved their niche and propelled the careers of artists such as George Strait, Chris LeDoux, and Ian Tyson. The romance of the sport is so compelling that it offers the most accessible entrance into the cowboy lifestyle and culture, outweighing it’s own controversy at times. Rodeo’s practicalities are exercised daily by it’s competitors for reasons far exceeding their involvement in the sport and for this reason alone, is held sacred to many.

Aaron Watson paid homage to rodeo great, Lane Frost in his 2012 release of “July in Cheyenne” and has since surprised the music industry by being the first male artist to debut at #1 on The Billboard Top Country Chart with a self-released and independently distributed/promoted studio album, The Underdog. Frost being killed in the arena at the rodeo staple event; Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo and portrayed by Luke Perry in the film 8 Seconds. 

Rodeo songs lay the foundation for a tension that personifies the sport and demands a decision is made much akin to the classic line which has riddled my past “make your choice, it’s either me or the band.” Maybe herein lies my main attraction to its appeal.

It wore away Garth’s youth and King George lost a wife and a girlfriend to the damn thing – but nobody captured it’s struggle better than Chris LeDoux. LeDoux would eject himself from under the stage so fluently, it’s as if he experienced the act of being airborn on a regular basis, you’d think he spent ten years as a professional bareback rider. Wait, what? You mean, not only did he pen some of the greatest rodeo songs of all time he also won the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) in 1976? Yep.

A top ten is as unfair as flank tickle powder (not a real thing) but in an effort to list a handful of personal favourites – number 10:

Rodeo Man – Chris LeDoux

9. Buckles & Boots – Ridley Bent

8. Franklin Wildhorse Buckoff and Dance – Quinton Blair

7. Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old) – Garth Brooks

6. Farther Down The Line – Lyle Lovett

5. Bull Rider – Rodney Crowell (also recorded by Johnny Cash)

4. Still Make Cheyenne – George Strait

3. Bareback Jack – Chris LeDoux

2. Someday Soon – Ian & Sylvia

1. Amarillo By Morning – George Strait

With the passing of LeDoux, the aging of Tyson, and the “retirement” of Strait & Brooks the rodeo song might not single-handedly turn the tide of the elementary approach to country music content but it’ll sure give it a run for it’s money.

And MacKenzie, I openly invite you to slay that fiddle like I know you can when we head into studio to record a few rodeo tunes for the next album – better yet, let’s cover this one.


August 4th 2015 9:05 am


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 4 2015 (Regina, SK) – Prairie Sweethearts Belle Plaine and Blake Berglund are releasing a collaborative double-single, gold-toned 7” vinyl record on September 4, 2015 supported by a double-bill tour from Regina to Victoria. The release pays homage to fellow Saskatchewan songwriter Zachary Lucky. The couple recorded two tracks from his back catalogue: “Town to Town” (radio release August 4, 2015) and “Saskatchewan”. All 298 copies of the limited edition vinyl are expected to sell during the tour. The singles will also be available via iTunes.

The recording was produced by former frontman of The Waltons, Saskatchewan alt-rock JUNO winner,Jason Plumb [Colter Wall]. Plumb’s warmth toward the pair is evident, “I’ve been a fan of both Blake and Belle for quite some time. After seeing their live performance, I couldn’t wait to get them in the studio together. It’s always interesting when songwriters choose to record another artist’s material. The art is in the interpretation. And with these two, you can hear their chemistry on the recording.”

The live show is a classic double-bill with a twist. Belle and Blake will each perform a set with their own sideplayers – Elizabeth Curry on bass and Jeremy Sauer on Keys for Belle Plaine and Bryce Lewis on guitar for Blake Berglund. To close each the ensemble will come together for a selection of duets including “Town to Town” and “Saskatchewan” from their co-release, Kris Kristofferson’s “Chase The Feeling”, and Ian & Sylvia’s “Summer Wages”.


Sept 2 • Saskatoon SK • Village Guitar & Amp

Sept 4 • Edmonton AB • The Blue Chair

Sept 5 • Jasper AB • The Jasper Legion

Sept 6 • Usona AB • House Concert

Sept 7 • Red Deer AB • Fratters Speakeasy

Sept 8 • Calgary AB • Wine-Ohs

Sept 9 •  Revelstoke BC • Mustang Bed & Breakfast

Sept 10 • Salmon Arm BC • R.J. Haney Heritage Village & Museum Fundraiser

Sept 11 • Sicamous BC • Owl Head Creek Bed & Breakfast

Sept 12 • Penticton BC • The Dream Café

Sept 13 • Vancouver BC • The Railway Club

Sept 15 • Vancouver BC • Private Performance

Sept 18 • Victoria BC • BreakOut West Showcases

Sept 19 • Victoria BC • BreakOut West Showcases

Sept 24 • Duchess AB • Red Roof Studio

Sept 25 • Maple Creek SK • Spring Valley Guest Ranch

Sept 27 • Regina SK • The Artesian w/ Zachary Lucky


Word’s Gettin’ Around (Live at Steam Whistle)

April 20th 2015 10:34 am

Morning Team – Happy 4/20!

We had the opportunity this past January to head out to Toronto and work with some incredibly creative minds over the course of a week.  From the beautiful Catherine North Studios in Hamilton to the renowned Canterbury Music Company in downtown Toronto.  The highlight came when the staff at Steam Whistle (one of our favourite beer companies) gave us the run of the place for an afternoon. Taking advantage of the natural reverb in their historic Roundhouse we recorded a video in support of our upcoming EP (Summer 2015).

Thanks to Adrian Vieni of Wood and Wires for capturing the experience, Matt Weed and David Beazely at Steam Whistle for the space (and a gazillion free beers) and Jason Plumb for the mix-down.  More to come!  Here’s Word’s Gettin’ Around. Enjoy.



April 13th 2015 4:40 pm


Blake Berglund/Quinton Blair Press Release

February 12th 2015 3:18 pm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2015 (REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN) – Roots Country Troubadours, Blake Berglund (Kennedy, SK) and Quinton Blair (Steinbach, MB) will come together for a series of 8 shows amidst their respective winter tours this February. With their writing styles influenced by the likes of Kristofferson, Jennings, and Lovett they will showcase their unique brands of music while being backed by Regina’s very own, The Vultures.

A successful 2014 saw Berglund performing at The Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas, NV, showcasing at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City, MO, and continuing promotional efforts leading into the release of his fourth album; Jasper, in mid-September. As described by Stylus Magazine as “good old-fashioned, true faded denim blue country music” as well as “the real deal”, Berglund is excited to align himself with Manitoba’s Blair.

“We have this nice little group of pickers and writers on the Prairies that are upping each other’s writing abilities by sticking together, staying true to what country music stands for, and continuously writing better songs than the next. I think I stood up four or five times in appreciation for Quinton’s word usage at his last show in Regina. We are all pretty hard on each other and it’s making us something to look out for.” 

Blair’s musical contributions have lead to associated albums being nominated for Grammy, Juno, and Western Canadian Music Awards and not only do his touring efforts take him east to west, but also north to south performing everywhere from Kugluktuk, Nunavut to as far as Tennessee. Verb Magazine gives credit to Blair as playing “country music as it was meant to be played.”

“Berglund’s album is firmly planted in my rotation alongside Hag, Waylon, and Sturgill Simpson. It’s a hard moment to describe when you feel the heart and soul of your own music align with someone you’ve just met. From small towns, to livestock, to relentless touring, this is real country music.” 

In true Waylon and Willie fashion, Berglund, Blair, and The Vultures will be stopping in at Rebeltone Ranch in Lethbridge, Alberta on February 25 to record material with producer/roots rocker, Leeroy Stagger. An effort that should result in more dates to come, the boys will share the stage across Saskatchewan and Alberta between February 19 and 26. Performing songs off their newest releases, they will also include a few covers that keep them rooted in their sound. Dates listed.

Preview Jasper HERE

Preview Blues Man HERE


Top 10 of 2014

December 31st 2014 12:02 pm

2014 marked many strong albums and a handful of phenomenal ones.  In all honesty, I didn’t listen to as much Canadian content as I usually make an effort to – with that said, saw more live performances locally…and local bands, nationally.

Our brothers in The Dead South had a lightning year galloping across borders and getting to the bottom of pints – it was a task alone to stay on top of where they were on the planet and all the successes that came their way. Congrats boys.  I was blown away by Library Voices at this year’s Gateway Music Festival and Kathleen Edwards‘ intimate performance (backed by Aaron Goldstein) in a curling lounge above the Bruno Skating Rink for Pickers’ Cup (Bruno, SK).  I got excited about Soundcloud links sent over of Colter Wall and new original material from Iron Bison. I was also very lucky this year to share the stage as many times as I did with my better half, Belle Plaine; learning how to harmonize and stronger singing techniques (not to mention being more organized and eating better!) – We collaborated in studio with our bands and Jason Plumb and are very excited to release new material together in 2015.  And don’t even get me started on the pride I feel for the year Jess Moskaluke had – I wonder if her, Chris Henderson and I could get more than 8 people into the Community Hall in Young, SK now?  Lastly, our loss of Derek Bachman – however people find comfort in beliefs and whatever those beliefs may be, I feel there’s another realm.  One of peace and positive energy that when asked it allows itself to become transparent – if you reach out to it, it will reach back to help you.  Here’s to a strong 2015 locally, provincially, and beyond.

My “top 10 of 2015″ list has zero reference to a ranking of artistic integrity but simply what I filled my ears with and a quick opinion that matters as much as “tits on a boar” as my old man would say.

10. Chris Henderson – My Turn – We’ve played greasy ass honky tonks and beautiful theatres together, coffee shops and house concerts; there is no other male country artist with the potential of becoming Canada’s greatest vocalist in the genre than Chris.  From his power to tone to pitch to inflections – they are spot on resulting in my favourite ‘voice’ – I wondered where it came from and then my thoughts were answered with this song – Taking Sides was recorded with Chris’ Road Warrior Father, Donn Henderson.  I highly doubt 2015 will go by without i) me recording something Chris wrote and  ii) not having his Dad on my album.  Chris’ tunes are genuine on this release and the production is clean. I’m gonna try and get a beer in with him at some point today – I’ll dig at the bugger to put more material out ASAP.

9. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams – I’ll be honest, I anticipated this release would have inched higher up on the list but it’s strictly me getting used to the direction Mr. Adams took.  A great man (and steel player) once said “You can either choose to have a chorus pedal in your rig or a tuner” - Tim Herman.  Ryan somehow chose the chorus pedal and kept the tuning spot on…impressive.  Gimme Something Good is a monster track and I refuse to listen to Shadows before going to bed at night – check back in with me next May…I know this album is stellar, it will have inched up to #5.

8. Hard Working Americans – Hard Working Americans  – Safe to say best Supergroup of the Year? I’d think so.  This release timed up well with me reading Todd Snider’s I Never Met A Story I Didn’t Like. As a fan of what Todd does (and not to shy away from the other boys in the band) I like his ‘less talk, more action’ approach with The Americans.  It’s back to a greasy rock feel that was present in his recordings from the 90’s yet still so different.  This album is a work of covers, from what I understand completely written by their peers. Nice. As I write this I realized that the release of The First Waltz slipped through the cracks! It’s downloading as we speak.

7. English Oceans – Drive By Truckers – The Truckers have benefited the most from my fascination of the ‘pre-order’ option on iTunes over the last few years.  English Oceans proves again that The Truckers do whatever they God-damn please. Long songs and distorted vocals tie this record together – In opposition to Todd Snider’s 2014 approach, Patterson Hood nails us with stories and as much as I buy The Truckers for their songs, I do for their artwork. I mean, it’s Wes Freed man, he does no wrong in my books.   MOOSN (matter of opinion side note): I think the world would move in the right direction if our friend Jason Isbell and the rest of The Truckers got in a room together again.

6. Temples – Sun Structures – A thank you to Travis Rennebohm for two things in 2014…well three.  His banana bread, putting in an honest effort to try and get me allowed back into the German Club, and introducing me to Temples.  It’s psych and wet. Reverb is at 11 and vocals are mixed as loud as the drums. This shit trips me out. I drank less in 2014 and thanks to this album…smoked more.  The writing is incredibly strong but it’s the achievement in sound that pops this Doors-y/Troggs-y in my top 10.  Temples is at the top of my need to see list for 2015.

5. Rosanne Cash – The River and The Thread – From what I see, this album is the hip chart topper for the year.  I’m late to the party and consciously so. I didn’t really like Rosanne and have heard diva like stories through the grapevine (1 degree away) but the buzz was enough to add this recording to my collection.  Steaming the first half on my way to Christmas in Tisdale, SK with Melanie, I was floored.  It’s the grooves that got me first and then the production decisions.  Very out of the box, strong vocals, catchy hooks, amazing guitar tones and a deadly mix (insert more adjectives Blake) – If it wasn’t for the fact that I head this for the first time about 8 days ago it could have been at #2.

4. Del Barber – Praireography – He does it again. Knowing the process in which it was recorded, having a co-write on the single, and seeing the songs evolve from the original demos to their live execution with The Profiteers, I’ve felt invested in this album from the get-go…not to mention happy that somebody found inspiration from those god-forsaken pigeons shitting all over the windows of my old apartment (Farewell, God Bless You, Goodbye) – So, they made a reverb chamber out of an old silo…basically what this means is they played the album into a grain bin with mics set up to capture how it sounds in the structure then mixed that track back into the original recording to create the reverb on the final cut. Fuck yes.  Not to get too personal or disclose anything I shouldn’t – I’m jacked for Del’s new place out on the Manitoba Prairie more than anything, if this is what he wrote living in the city of Winnipeg I can’t imagine what’s to come being in his new space.

3. Lee Ann Womack – The Way I’m Livin’ – So get a radio hit with I Hope You Dance, get Willie another one with Mendocino County Line and then remind us all that you’re legit as shit, know exactly where your roots are, and sweep us off our feet with that twangy voice.  I love the Hayes Carll cover Chances Are and wish I wrote The Way I’m Livin’. The male harmony is mixed quite high throughout the recordings as if the songs are uncredited duets demanding attention to the melody. In retrospect, Lee Ann’s under the radar marketing worked for me…I couldn’t wait for her new material after hearing her sing on Jamey Johnson’s Hank Cochrane Tribute Album and on my #1 pick for 2014.  I hope Womack can break a couple of these tunes to mainstream this upcoming year, top the charts again, and take credit for the turning of the tide.

2. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music – Dave Cobb, please expect my handwritten letter with down deposit, whenever your schedule clears up please fit me in to do a record. Sincerely, Blake Berglund.

I watched a top 40 radio DJ stop tweeting about Blake Shelton’s “amazing new song” or questions about who the “hottest guy in country music is” and post “Now I get it. Sturgill’s here. that other shit doesn’t matter anymore”.  I’ll back that.  I listened to the first chord of the opening song into about 0:15 on the album, hit stop, poured a whiskey, packed a hoot and had a bath – knowing what I was about to discover the setting was in place.  Son of a bitch.  I struggled with having this at #2 on not #1 in spite of my iTunes ‘total plays’ saying otherwise.  This is an album that you tell everybody about – as simple as that.  It’s converted the puppets to believers and filled up the dry writing wells of inspired artists everywhere.  Sturgill reminded me of the path and what the new standard is.  And it’s effortless – he wears chucks and simply strums a Martin, keeps arrangements simple and leans on his uncanny talent string words together.  Nobody is gonna catch him – and that’s a damn good thing.


1. Jim Lauderdale – I’m a Song – Jim over Sturg is because Jim is comfortable and confident in the uniqueness of his sound as much as Sturgill is going to be.  I’m a Song is akin to a marathon of twang.  It’s like a band with 40 years of hits not leaving the stage and as you watch you recognize them all – this isn’t a greatest hits, but it feels like it. 20 tracks, all dried out like an old dance floor and as graceful as the one’s dancing on it. I developed a kink in my neck from twisting my head every time an unexpected chord change occurred.  The album twists like a bar rag and Jim’s voice bends in and out of pitch like a bar waitress crossing a packed dance floor to get shots to the band.  Lee Ann Womack knew exactly what she was doing by getting on this recording, Patty Loveless and Buddy Miller scored even more street cred.  I love to cool factor, I love the whine, I love the homage.  There wasn’t an album like it this year and there won’t be another until Jim puts it out. I’m a Song is my top pick for 2014.

jim lauderdale

This was put together without even having listened to the new releases by Marty Stewart, Lucinda Williams, John Mellencamp, Shovels and Rope, and Shakey Graves.  I want to end on a positive note but first I’ll ask the question, why did almost every note to come out of George Strait’s mouth on his The Cowboy Rides Away live album have a disturbing amount of auto-tune on it? There, that’s out of the way.

At the risk of length, there’s one more top 10, in no particular order. Taron Cochrane, Jeff DeDekker, Ken Kuzminski, Sheldon Birnie, Alex Macpherson, Danny Dyck, Pat MacIntyre, Rebecca Windjack, Lorena Kelly, and Derek Bachman. Thanks for doing what you do.


On tour with Del Barber & The Profiteers

October 2nd 2014 11:52 am

We are excited to announce that we’ve been invited to open up the shows across western Canada for the newly formed Del Barber & The Profiteers. 

Tour Dates are as follows:

Friday, October 3 – Calgary, AB – The Palomino Smokehouse                                                      w/Del Barber & The Profiteers (Duo)

Saturday, October 4 – Black Diamond, AB – The Stop
w/Del Barber & The Profiteers (Duo)

Monday, October 6 – Edmonton, AB – The ARTery
w/Del Barber & The Profiteers (Duo)

Wednesday, October 8 – Penticton, BC – The Dream Cafe
w/Del Barber & The Profiteers (Duo)

Thursday, October 9 – Vancouver, BC – Rogue Folk Club
@ St. James Hall w/Del Barber & The Profiteers (Duo)

Friday, October 10 – Rossland, BC – The Flying Steamshovel
w/Del Barber & The Profiteers (Duo)

Saturday, October 11 – Jasper, AB – The Jasper Legion
w/Del Barber & The Profiteers (Duo)

Sunday, October 12 – Cadillac, SK – Rangeline Tavern
w/Del Barber & The Profiteers (Duo)

Del Barber Tour Poster

REVIEW – Jasper – Stylus Magazine (September 30, 2014)

October 2nd 2014 11:06 am

Jasper, Alberta is not only home to some of the most stunning landscapes in the country, but also one of the best venues to see live roots acts as well. So it’s fitting that Saskatchewan’s Blake Berglund picked the Jasper Legion to record a live record with his band the Vultures. Berglund is an honest to goodness country & western singer, the Vultures are a gritty, hot-shot country band, and the rowdy crowd at the Legion clearly dug their down and dirty ditties and the occasional tear-in-the-beer heartbreaker the boys serve up so well. Made up of songs Berglund and the boys have been playing for years, as well as a few new cuts thrown in for good measure, Jasper is a great snapshot of a country artists on the rise. From the boot-scootin’ boogie-woogie of “Hangin’ By a Thread” to the too-tough-to-cry “Funny Thing About Leaving You” to the gut-bustin’ greasy good times of “Love is Like a Rodeo,” the boys don’t let up, delivering track after track of good old-fashioned, true faded denim blue country music. If that sounds up your alley, forget about Dan Romano, because Blake Berglund is the real deal. (Independent,  – Sheldon Birnie