Coal-blackened ghosts haunt the music of Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Gillian Welch, who keeps the spirit of America’s musical beginnings alive with her backwoods blend of Appalachian, bluegrass and gospel influences. The New Yorker describes her style as “at once innovative and obliquely reminiscent of past rural forms,” – her sparse, dark style is as much modern mood as it is Smoky Mountain muse. With partner David Rawlings, Welch has released five critically acclaimed albums, as well as contributing to the landmark soundtrack Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Her most recent album, The Harrow & The Harvest, was her first in eight years, and signaled the return of an artist who has helped shape a newfound appreciation for old time traditions in mainstream music. History loves matches made in musical heaven, and together, Welch and Rawlings have already made a lasting contribution to the roots community.
ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO & THE SENSITIVE BOYS
Named Artist of the Decade by No Depression Magazine in the 90s, underground sensation Austin punk and roots rocker Alejandro Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys joins the inaugural Interstellar Rodeo lineup. Escovedo’s music has found fans in music’s mainstream, and when he fell ill, the number of marquee acts that stepped forward to help with medical bills attests to Escovedo’s reputation in the artist world, including Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, The Jayhawks and John Cale. This true blue, blue-jean clad musician has played on many of our favourite bills, including regular showings at Austin’s “granddaddy” Continental Club. Escovedo’s most recent album, Street Songs of Love, won praise from all corners. Described by Paste Magazine as a “low key legend”, Escovedo has a new record, Big Station, scheduled for release on June 5 ’12.
Formed as an improvised backing group, there is nothing accidental about The Sojourners’ success. With three original members who grew up singing in churches in three different states, and a fourth picked up along the way, the Sojourners both make authentic gospel music and make good on their name. It’s not just for Sundays – the Sojourners’ approach is self-described as equally at home in a road-house as in a revival tent, an unbuttoned mix of doo wop, R&B, country and blues. Comprised of Marcus Mosely, Will Sanders and Khari McClelland, The Sojourners have released two records made with Canadian roots kingpin Steve Dawson. We first heard them at the Western Canadian Music Awards last year in Whitehorse, YT and we were blown away by their performance. You will be too.
Edmonton’s own Michael Rault crashes, booms and bangs with blatant talent and a brash appetite for musical exploration. From the family tree (his dad is local blues man extraordinaire Lionel Rault) to indie EPs to his recent solo work, Rault has moved in punk, rock, blues and roots circles since an early age. The latest incarnation of this western wunderkind reveals a traditional rootsier bent, which Rault twists into new shapes with the help of unexpected instrumentation, ranging from unique minimalism to thick soundscapes. We’re proud of all things YEG, so what better way to launch a festival than by showing off such a great homegrown talent.
Jason Plumb and the Willing
The best thing about launching a festival is having all our friends right there with us. We’ve worked with Jason Plumb, the flagship artist on SoccerMom Records and we’re proud to have him on the Interstellar Rodeo stage. This roughrider has been in the music business for a long time, formerly as frontman to 90s stars and Juno winners band The Waltons, and brings Saskatchewan Pride to every thing he does. With his band, The Willing, Jason Plumb plays country rock with a prairie heart. Jason along with each and every member of The Willing will release a new album at the same time this year on SoccerMom.
Afie Jurvanen isn’t from the Bahamas. He’s a Finnish-Canadian from Barrie—a working class town in rural Ontario. But his chosen epithet is fitting. Since 2009 he’s been making music under the name Bahamas, writing songs about sunsets, love affairs, and making out with crooked smiles. Through simple arrangements, he charts an escape route from the snowbelt to the coral reefs.
“Memorable, inspirational vocals” – Rolling Stone
With mega-hit “Wake Me Up,” Californian Grammy nominated Aloe Blacc proved he has an irresistible power to capture the complexities of human emotion. Adding an of-the-moment twist to the music of legends like Sly Stone and Stevie Wonder, Blacc’s third solo album Lift Your Spirit, pushed further into a folk/soul/pop fusion that’s both undeniably joyful and eye-opening in message. Blacc notes that one of his main ambitions is to use his popularity to affect social change while continuing to infuse his music with a mindful positivity.
“Vivid, wildly ambitious… musical realms where straightforward hooks never go.” – NPR
Music Vancouver’s Dan Mangan’s unique and celebrated brand of folk pop deftly unfurl complicated ideas through simple and subtle lyrics. With his signature gravelly vocals and understated humour, Mangan offers a perspective that isn’t overly precious or delicate, but that evokes the wonder and absurdity of the human condition. With multiple JUNO and Polaris awards and nomination to his credit already, Mangan’s most recent album, the Unmake EP, was released in 2016.
“A sultry country classicist with a tremble in her voice, Whitney Rose is partial to the magisterial gestures of the 1950s and 1960s.” – New York Times
Texas-via-Toronto-via PEI’s Whitney Rose is a songwriter whose unique blend of classic country and vintage pop has made her an international going concern. Her most recent release (and her Six Shooter debut), the self-produced love letter to her new home state, South Texas Suite, has powered radio charting, incredible reviews and a four month world-tour. With her defiant, be-who-you-want-to-be feminism and a crystalline country voice, Whitney Rose is on the rise.
With her grandfather’s Telecaster in hand, Chloe Doucet has become a regular at Toronto’s open mic nights. Growing up with musician parents has meant that music venues have always felt like home turf, but Chloe has taken the job of finding her own voice very seriously. From writing her first songs to recent experiences recording in New York, from her solo performances to her roles in other bands, Doucet’s initial steps into the business have been taken with confidence and curiosity. She will release her first EP in 2017.
Ask a songwriter who is on their list of influences and you’ll hear the name Randy Newman – an artist for whom the Oscar category Best Original Song seems specifically created. Known for his sharp, sardonic eye and melodic ear, Newman crafts stories, characters and opinions that set the modern standard for songwriting and lyricism. While his work is often covered, Newman’s voice leaves an unmistakable stamp on all his work, whether it be a song about corruption in New Orleans in 1927 or a toy cowboy come to life. Nominated an unbelievable twenty times for Academy Awards (he’s won three), Newman is also a three-time Emmy and five-time Grammy award winner. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002, and as a Disney Legend in 2007 for his work scoring animated movies, including Toy Story and Monsters, Inc.
Delivered from the mythic Muskoka wilderness, Hawksley arrived on the scene over a decade ago with a fearlessness rooted in an undeniable vocal panache. This Juno Award winning wild card has already cemented his place as an emblem of Canadian culture here and abroad. From the compelling opening yodel found on his debut album, For Him and the Girls, to this very day, Hawksley roams like a rogue force, bouncing from pop tunes to country jangles, from anthemic rockers to hip-hop dance beats to gut-wrenching ballads, making his notably excellent performances as unpredictable as they are dramatic and exuberant. We know him well and we give the Six Shooter pinky swear that Hawksley’s live show, complete with Mr. Lonely by his side, is simply incomparable.
We’d travel to the other side of the world to see this band, but luckily, this time Wagons are coming to us. Six Shooter Records is the proud Canadian home for this rowdy band of Australian outlaw countrymen, who are led by fireball frontman and showman extraordinaire Henry Wagons. They made their North American debut in 2011 with Rumble, Shake and Tumble, an album perfectly described as “poppy, soulful cow-punk…as clever as it is swaggerific.” (Now Magazine) In fact, the words rumble, shake and tumble effectively capture Wagons’ raucous style, a mix of rock ’n’ roll, country, cabaret, psychedelia and soul. The band’s live shows balance just on the edge of total and majestic chaos.
The word vocalist does little to express the versatility and potency of Shakura S’Aida’s talent. Known primarily as a blues singer-songwriter, the global adventurer worked in world music, jazz and backing vocal gigs before embarking on a blues belting solo career that has brought acclaim and awards. “Shakura’s voice just might be the sound of the blues in the 21st Century,” writes one critic (PopMatters). In 2011, Shakura won both the Maples Blues Award for Vocalist of the Year and the Indie Award for Best Blues Artist, and she’s also earned multiple Juno nominations. We are big fans of this impressive woman (we’ve even been on a date with her!) and her performances are thrilling each and every time.
Called “Toronto’s Velvet Undergound,” by ‘Wild Thing’ gambler/songwriter Chip Taylor himself, The Beauties’ brand of working man bourbon blues fuses the musical legacies of Nashville with New York, New Jersey with new wave. The band was crowned Toronto’s Best Roots Band, but their infamously raucous live show attests that The Beauties don’t rest on their honky tonk laurels. They’ve shared stages with Broken Social Scene and Alejandro Escovedo, Drive-By Truckers and Jim Cuddy. The band has also backed up such noteworthy songwriters as Ron Sexsmith and Serena Ryder, and their talent and versatility makes them the musical backbone of choice for artists across Canada. Six Shooter is proud to be a home for The Beauties – it’s no coincidence that The Beauties have been on stage for some of our favourite shows of the past few years.
Polaris prize contender, pioneering rapper and rainmaker in Canada’s impressive hip-hop arsenal, Cadence Weapon is a perfect fit for the Interstellar Rodeo. YEG born-and-raised, Rollie Pemberton aka Cadence Weapon is a force to be reckoned with, known for his unique hybrid of psychedelic soul, old school rap, IDM and mutant disco. Cadence Weapon returns with a new record this spring, a highly anticipated follow-up to the much-acclaimed Afterparty Babies (Anti-/Epitaph). The rapper has also recently completed a turn as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate. We are so pleased that this hometown champion will be a part of this year’s Interstellar Rodeo.
“She is a fireball onstage.” – The New York Times
Ontario-born Serena Ryder joined the ranks of Platinum-selling artists with Harmony, a record that brought her astonishing vocal prowess to a higher plane of radio and commercial success. This triumph is rooted in her unparalleled voice and her spirited roots-rock songwriting. Harmony was a departure from the folk sound that had previously defined her on the Canadian scene. Serena Ryder’s live show is engaging and entertaining, and with new music out now – a dynamic album called Utopia – Ryder will arrive at Interstellar Rodeo at an exciting time in her career.
John K. Samson and the Winter Wheat
“John K. Samson continues writing songs of solace and expansive generosity.” – PopMatters
Searching for connection and community, Winnipeg’s John K. Samson is one of preeminent poets of the prairie condition. Samson returned in 2016 with a new album called Winter Wheat, a determined, beautiful, resilient response to difficult and extraordinary times. Samson, a solo artist and also a member of famed indie group The Weakerthans, whose articulation of Winnipeg’s complex psyche made an indelible mark worldwide, fuses a punk rock outlook with nuanced, deft arrangements.
“Empowering, inventive.” – NYLON
Basia Bulat’s Polaris Short Listed album Good Advice, released in 2016, is a fizzing, phosphorescing collection that solidified Bulat’s place in the uppermost echelon of critical esteem in Canada and beyond. Desire andredemption get a heady, psychedelic charge in an album that saw Bulat transcend the folk realm of previous work to forge a new path into radiant, contemporary pop territory. With unique instrumentation and a singular voice, Bulat’s celestial, shimmering presence has secured her status as one of Canada’s exceptional musical talents.
“An explosive, neo-soul sound.” – CoS
The Suffers, a 10-piece funk band from Houston, Texas, have redefined the sound of Gulf Coast Soul. Formed in 2011, The Suffers quickly progressed from packing Houston venues to international touring, while remaining a local Houston favourite. The band officially released their much-anticipated self-titled album in 2016 and performed on both The Daily Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live. The band includes bass, keys, trumpet, sax, trombone, drums and more, fronted by the soaring vocals of Kam Franklin. Interstellar Rodeo is thrilled to bring The Suffers to Edmonton for their first ever performance across the prairies.
“Saturday-night hellbender spirits meet Sunday-morning evangelical fervor.” Rolling Stone
Oklahoma native Parker Millsap has created a sound all his own, with a blend of fire and brimstone, rock, country and blues, all with a very Waits-ian bent. From Oklahoma to California to Nashville, the young Millsap has honed his chops alongside elite Americana artists, and the young songwriter is one of the rising stars of the genre. His most recent album, The Very Last Day, was released in March 2017.
“The place where where synth-pop meets old soul and scrappy meets sexy.” – NPR
In part known for her voice in the Juno Award winning harmony driven group Chic Gamine, but now gathering buzz under the new name Begonia, Manitoba-based Alexa Dirks has a timbre that recalls the golden age of soul, proud and courageous. Guided along by 90s synth waves over top of a warm rhythm section, Begonia made her official entrance with a new EP called Lady In Mind, released in February 2017, which fuses battle hymn and breakbeat body mover.
Christine Fellow’s songs are “antique yet avant-garde, and quietly theatrical” (NOW Magazine), populated by solitary travelers in wintry northlands, spinster pigeon-fanciers, grumpy flying foxes, and intrepid runaways. Her sixth full-length solo album, Burning Daylight, was released alongside her first collection of poetry in 2014. Based in Winnipeg, Fellows collaborates with artists from all disciplines to create and produce performance works and recordings.
It’s been said before that love is a battlefield, and on his latest album Love Versus, Leeroy Stagger comes well-armed. The eleventh studio release by the British Columbia native is also a milestone, marking the first recording made at Stagger’s home studio in southern Alberta. With the new album, Stagger’s ever-evolving fusion of roots, rock and pop opens a new chapter, and promises to reach many more ears.
Born and raised in Edmonton, folk/roots songwriter Ken Stead has spent the last two years on the stage, learning the craft and exploring ideas of family, love and acceptance in song. Stead truly hit his creative stride with his first full-length album, Fear Has No Place Here (2015), which received four Edmonton Music Award nominations.
From the outskirts to the centre, Blue Rodeo has been the beating heart of the roots-rock scene since the 80s, and has shaped the soundtrack of perfect summer nights for nearly three decades. In fact, we couldn’t even imagine this music festival without our friends on the bill, it just wouldn’t be right without them. With 12 records that include an unbelievable number of iconic hits to their name, as well as an impressive 7 Junos on the shelf, the band has set the standard for excellence and longevity – “Blue Rodeo still crank it for all it’s worth,” said the Edmonton Journal on their last visit to town. The classic contrast in styles of frontmen Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor has fostered a rare creative partnership that grows more fertile with age. Now, in 2012, the band will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Whitehorse (Featuring Luke Doucet & Melissa McClelland)
Six Shooter Records’ Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet tie the musical knot with the debut of their new band, Whitehorse, marrying their talent and chemistry on stage as a smoldering duo. Gutsy and resolute in their pursuits of sound and substance, Luke and Melissa’s fusion of the personal and professional brings to mind the road-tested romance of Johnny and June. Whitehorse is the culmination of years of honing solo skills as singer-songwriters. Luke and Melissa have worked side by side for nearly a decade, contributing to one another’s records, touring and performing together, unknowingly yet instinctively moving towards the day when each would entrust their life and work to the other. More than the sum of considerable talents, Whitehorse showcases the rarity of true give and take in partnership, uniting falcon with songbird to dramatic effort. We get goosebumps when they take the stage.
Six Shooter’s fondness for cult icon Richard Buckner is more than just fandom – his record The Hill was one of the first albums in our catalogue (and he’s even lived in Edmonton!). We go way back. Buckner is an original pioneer – since his debut record Bloom in 1994, his albums have been major influences on the resurgence of traditional folk, roots and country movements in music today. Buckner’s poetic lyricism is expressed in many ways, from the simplicity of acoustic troubadour styles to more experimental avant-garde forms, and Pitchfork calls him “one of the most intriguing songwriters working”. We are excited to present him at the inaugural Interstellar Rodeo. In August, 2011 Buckner released the long-awaited new record Our Blood on Merge Records.
Carolina Chocolate Drops
Picture Nashville’s historic Ryman Theatre, filled to capacity for the 2010 Americana Music Awards. The Carolina Chocolate Drops take the stage, perform just one song, one incredible, stop-you-in-your-tracks amazing song, and get a standing ovation. They’ve been on our mind ever since. This Grammy-winning jug-band energetically fuses virtuosity with history, reinvigorating traditional old-time fiddle and banjo music from the Carolinas, and showcasing the central role African-Americans played in the history of popular music. Don’t be mistaken – The Carolina Chocolate Drops are not simply recreating music from the 20s and 30s, they put a truly modern and truly unrivaled stamp on all the music they make. Their live shows have been described as “end-to-end displays of excellence (New York Times) and their new album, Leaving Eden, is out on Nonesuch Records.
Click your ruby shoes three times and imagine a modern day Judy Garland, an artist with a technicolour voice and mischievous spirit. Jenn Grant’s voice is widely recognized as one of the most mellifluous, melodious and melodic out there, and Six Shooter Records is proud to have released two beautiful records by this talented east coast nightingale. “She’s one of the best singers in the world right now,” says frequent collaborator Buck 65. We’re not the only fans – Jenn has also performed for Royal newlyweds William and Kate, a fitting audience for songs from the Juno-nominated album Honeymoon Punch.
“Sounds Like: One in the morning at your favorite cabaret bar.” – Rolling Stone
San Diego, California’s Andra Day makes her Edmonton debut at this year’s Interstellar Rodeo. Day is a soul singer whose debut album, Cheers To The Fall, netted two Grammy nominations in 2016. Day’s jazz background and soulful sound draw comparisons to Amy Winehouse, Billie Holiday and Sharon Jones, but she is deftly carving out her own place in the retro-soul landscape with a brassy yet alluring voice that is as powerful as it is expressive. Day was discovered by Stevie Wonder, who brought her in to an elite musical world to make her first record. Reflecting the LP’s theme of resilience through struggle, the crown jewel of the album is the universally timeless “Rise Up,” which Andra describes as “a song about any type of relationship.” She says, “I look at all of us as brothers and sisters and a body working together. ‘Rise Up’ is saying one piece isn’t better than the other, and when one part is struggling, I’m going to help and lift you up. I will rise up with you.”
“It’s honky-tonk in technicolor!” – Billboard
For over forty years, Marty Stuart, a five-time Grammy winning multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, photographer and historian has been building a rich legacy. Born in Mississippi, Stuart got his start in Johnny Cash’s back-up band in 1979. He soon enjoyed solo success as well as hits performing with other country musicians, including Travis Tritt and Willie Nelson. On his latest release with his band The Fabulous Superlatives, the double-disc Saturday Night & Sunday Morning, released in 2013, Stuart captures all the authentic neon and stained-glass hues of country music. In twenty-three tracks, Stuart travels love, sex and heartache, hardship, family and God.
Calgary’s Coppherhead is a four-piece band gathering buzz for their blues heart and rock ‘n’ roll soul. Copperhead blazed on to the scene in 2014, winning the Calgary Folk Festival songwriting contest with their blend of dark, throaty mo-town, swaggering rock & roll and folk with a rusty edge. The group consists of Liz Stevens (vocals, keys), Kirill Telichev (guitar), Amos Bradley (bass), and Kane Bender (drums). Copperhead released their debut self-titled EP in September 2015.
Schedule for 2018 to be announced in early March.