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Darkie’s Hollow

New album by Scott Parsons tells stories of Black Islanders

Scott Parsons—Darkie's HollowIn February, Island singer-songwriter-guitarist Scott Parsons will be releasing his new album, Darkie’s Hollow. 

This album continues Scott’s musical storytelling of Black Island history which began with his debut album Jupiter Wise and continued through his recent release, The Old Stock.

The album title refers to the location of the Shepard family homestead and local gathering place on the Seven Mile Road. While visiting with Stella Shepard, Scott collected stories and sayings ended up as song lyrics. For example, “He has the colour washed out of him, but the history lives inside of him still,” in reference to one family uncle.

Stella’s own story is told in “Stella’s Dream,” where the abduction of her baby by nuns to be sold into the US was thwarted by a conscientious Island doctor. Scott consulted Stella’s book Ashes of My Dreams for this account.

In another true story, Scott sings “Hattie’s Prayer” based on Hattie Hughes telling of when her father told the children to hide in the cornfield to escape “adopting out” by family services. Hattie died recently at the age of 88 but not before Scott played her his song and received her blessing on it.

Scott says that it is important to tell Black Island history based on the people and lives lived as opposed to relying only on court records which give a distorted view of what life was actually like for black residents of PEI over the years.

“Old Chocolate” is a musical portrait of PEI’s Black boxer George Godfrey who fought bare knuckle in Boston and was reportedly poised to defeat John L. Sullivan in a bout when authorities shut down the fight because racial laws wouldn’t allow it.

The album also mixes in songs of other subjects, delivered in folk, blues, reggae and country styles. Songs such as,”Bright Sun” after a trip to Jamaica “Little One” for a young girl Scott cared for in a treatment centre in Calgary and “Right From The Start” written for Scott’s nephew. There is also a recording of “Fish Bar,” a song by Scott’s long-time friend Peter Morrison. It’s the first time Scott has recorded another writer’s song on one of his albums.

To make the album Scott brought his friend Dennis Green to the Island from Vancouver to spend a month laying down guitar parts. Scott and Dennis played as a duo in Calgary but had been out of touch for 20 years. Dennis has a remarkable musical resumé which includes playing as a sideman on tour with Ike and Tina Turner, Al Wilson, Mary Wells and other Motown artists. In all, he spent about 25 years on the road, including time spent in Dallas, Texas where he worked with bassist Chuck Rainey. Dennis brings r ‘n’ b, and funky jazz licks to the tracks. 

When contacted for his comment on the recording Dennis said, “I play what I hear in the song and  Scott has written some great songs. He needs more than just Canada to hear him.” Sadly, Dennis Green passed away in January at his Vancouver home. His most recent recorded guitar playing is now preserved on Darkie’s Hollow.

Darkie’s Hollow was recorded at Barking Dog Studio in Blooming Point by Laura Powell and Peter Morrison. Mixing was by James Carrier. Debbie Misener painted the cover illustration. Other musicians were Mike Peters (guitar), Jason Furness (bass), Peter Richards (bass), Leona Carmichael (vocals), Elise Moher (vocals), Colin Campbell (harmonica) and Johnny King (drums).

The album launch will take place on February 23 at 7 pm at the Haviland Club in Charlottetown. The evening will include remarks from Stella Shepard and Linda Wigmore and a screening of The King Versus Jupiter Wise by Ryan Gallant.

Darkie’s Hollow is available at Back Alley Music in Charlottetown and from

Alicia Toner's new single

Alicia Toner—Dangerous HomePEI musician Alicia Toner has released a new single, “Dangerous Home,” co-written with Sean Panting and produced by Tim Chaisson and Stuart Cameron.

On the release you can hear Alicia Toner (vocals, acoustic guitar, violin, Organ), Stuart Cameron (electric guitar, lap steel), Tim Chaisson (vocals, guitar), Peter Fusco (bass) and Trevor Grant (drums).

Alicia Toner writes songs that tell the truth. Her Americana blend of folk, pop and country-rock offers a melody-driven sound built around her emotive voice. Alicia’s debut album I Learned the Hard Way earned her Music PEI’s SOCAN Songwriter of the Year Award.

This single release is part of Music PEI’s Golden Ticket program. The Golden Ticket Program was developed by Music PEI to assist emerging artists to record and release a single. 

Complementing the song release is a series of photos. Alicia worked with Toronto photographer Sam Gaetz to shoot the images for the project, which is about expectation versus reality.

Soul Filter launches A Minor Conspiracy

Soul Filter—A Minor ConspiracySoul Filter will host a release party for their debut album, A Minor Conspiracy, on February 2 at The Silver Fox Entertainment Complex in Summerside.

The alt rock-pop band consists of Karen and Mike Penton from Summerside. The husband and wife duo has been performing together in cover bands (Junkmale, Pretty Tragic, and Karen & Mike Acoustic duo) for the past 16 years. In July 2018, Soul Filter released their debut single and video “Armor” and in August released a follow up single and video “Like Water.”

Recorded and produced at BigDogz Recording Studio and Penton Productions in Summerside, A Minor Conspiracy infuses a rock roots sound with pop, blues and folk. Acoustic rhythm is the backbone for most of the album; mixed in are melodic electric guitar riffs and funky smooth bass lines. Vocals weave between soft falsettos and full on power vocals. Soul Filter’s style has been influenced by artists such as Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, The Cranberries, Holly McNarland and Sass Jordan.

This 10 song collection takes you on a journey through love, loss and heartbreak from summery pop sounds of “Like Water,” through the soul-baring “Armor,” to the revengefully-angst ridden rock anthem “On My Own.”

A Minor Conspiracy is available on CD, Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, etc. The launch event starts at 9 pm and tickets can be purchased at the Silver Fox. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Grahame Rhodes launches Giant Steps

Grahame Rhodes (photo: Darrell Theriault)Grahame Rhodes is launching his fourth album Giant Steps with a CD Launch Party at The Pourhouse in February. Digitally released this past October, Giant Steps is Grahame’s fourth album and features top Canadian jazz players Don Thompson on piano, Neil Swainson on acoustic bass and Terry Clarke on drums. The album was produced by Dan Rowswell and Bruce Cassidy of  Blood Sweat & Tears with final tracking, mixing and mastering at The Sound Mill in PEI with engineer Jon Matthews.

Grahame is nominated this year for a Music PEI Award for Jazz Achievement Of The Year. His first album Almost Live in 1988 was followed by The Grahame Rhodes Jazz Experience in 1995 and Rhodes Less Travelled in 2002.

“Any discipline must evolve or die and such is the case for jazz trombone. I believe the only limits are those of the imagination,” says Grahame.

The CD Launch Party will be at 8 pm February 17 at The Pourhouse above The Old Triangle on Great George Street, Charlottetown. Grahame’s band will include Dan Rowswell on sax, Ian Toms on guitar, Chris Martell on bass and Alan Dowling on drums. Admission at the door. 

Bob Jensen and Tony McManus

The Swallowtail

The Swallowtail —Bob Jensen and Tony McManusSpoken word poet Bob Jensen has joined forces with Tony McManus to release The Swallowtail for Christmas. McManus, who is touted by many critics as the greatest Celtic guitarist in the world, is originally from Scotland but now resides in Elora, Ontario.

The Swallowtail is a true story. In 2015, Jensen took a frozen spruce into the house to decorate for Christmas and a couple of hours later, a beautiful yellow butterfly emerged, remaining in the house for the duration of the holidays. A dish of fruit was set out for the newly wakened visitor, and it spent many hours on some broken orange pieces, which seemed to sustain it.  “He was to me, a living metaphor for those who are lonely at Christmas,” says Jensen. “How could I not write a poem about him?”

And so he did.  It was originally recorded by PEI’s Lennie Gallant, but Jensen wanted to release his own version with music this year and recorded the poem in October with well-know Charlottetown guitarist and producer, Chris Corrigan, who has worked with artists such as Natalie MacMaster and Rita MacNeil, whose last album he produced. MacManus adapted a traditional keening song from the Isle of Barra for the piece, and recorded the guitar part in Woodstock, New York at the studios of Jerry Marotta. Jensen and MacManus are planning to release a full CD of Christmas poetry, short stories and music in November of 2019.

The Swallowtail is being released as a holiday single to CBC, campus and community radio across Canada, as well as into some international markets. It is available for sale and live streaming on digital platforms, including Amazon, Apple Music, iTunes and Spotify.

Rick Sparkes + The Enablers

The Trouble with the Light

The Trouble with the Light—Rick Sparkes and The EnablersSummerside musician and writer Rick Sparkes and his band, The Enablers, celebrated the recent release of their new LP, The Trouble with the Light, with an album release show at Evermoore Brewing Co. in Summerside in November.

This is the first full-length album that features Rick Sparkes + The Enablers (Paul Koberinski, lead guitar; Ruth Ann MacMurdo, backing vocals; Stephane Bouchard, bass guitar). The Trouble with the Light was recorded at Studio Dimanche with engineer and co-producer Brent Chaisson, who also played drums on the record. The first single from the album, “Nashwaak,” was released this past May to critical acclaim and has been receiving regular airtime on CBC and local Maritime radio stations.

Though there are elements of folk and country, at its core, The Trouble with the Light is a rootsy rock record. The release follows Sparkes’ 2017 EP Dirty Little Love Songs which was nominated for two 2018 Music PEI Awards.

Rick Sparkes and The Enablers have performed many notable stages across the Maritimes including the Tay Creek Folk Festival, the Summerside Arts Festival, and the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival.

In 2016, Rick won the esteemed Milton Acorn Poetry Prize for his collection of poems Confessions of an Island Cartographer, Charlottetown, 1965 at the Island Literary Awards.

CDs and vinyl are available at or at any of their live shows.

Bob’s Boots

Bob Jensen

Bob Jensen—Bob's BootsBob’s Boots marks the first release of Bob Jensen’s music since his LP, First Time Since August, in 1984.

“I think this is what’s known as a slow build,” jokes Jensen, who no longer performs music and now writes poetry and also collaborates with songwriters from around the world. “I’ve had all this material kicking around for many years—studio outtakes, demos and live recordings from the 1980s—so I decided to put it out there as a kind of semi-official bootleg, hence the title.”

Of the 16 tracks on the release, half were recorded by CBC Radio in 1987. “I performed a show with a couple of sidemen at Rasputin’s, quite a famous little venue in Ottawa, and CBC Radio came out and recorded the whole thing. It’s a mix of original songs and some trad stuff and the production values are quite good,” says Jensen. There are also several original songs that were recorded in Ottawa for a second LP that was never released. Two of the cuts are from a live recording from a gig in northern New Brunswick in 1984. Several of the songs on Bob’s Boots have been covered by other artists. Valdy used to perform The Ritz Café and William Casey and Jackie the Liar and Christmas Song have been covered by Ray Bonneville and Black Umfolosi respectively.

“One of the tracks is a kids’ song,” says Jensen, “A little ditty I made up when my first child was born, and that I used to sing while rocking him as an infant. It’s a bit out of place, but I think it’s probably one of the better songs I have written, so I threw it in the mix as a bonus track.”

Bob’s Boots is available as a free download and live streaming on Soundcloud. Says Jensen, “I just wanted to give new life to the material. Last year I signed a worldwide deal with SGO, a really great music publisher out of the UK, and the more ways I get the music out there, the better. For me though, this is just a hobby. I have no plans to give up my day job.” Jensen’s SoundCloud account is called Bob Jensen’s Music.

Friends Floors

Little Cities

Little Cities—Friends FloorsLittle Cities is a proper name for a band from the Canadian Maritimes. With modest stomping grounds in Charlottetown, PEI, and the gun still smoking from releasing their debut EP Friends Floors, they’ve set their sights on bringing their shiny, soaked-in-synth pop-punk collective nationwide.

The new EP speaks of friendships, tom-foolery, late nights, memories, heartbreak and finding your ride-or-die through six tracks. The project is produced, engineered and mixed by Colin Buchanan (Paper Lions, Sorrey, Racoon Bandit) at Hill Sound Studio right here in Charlottetown and Mastered by Dan Weston in Toronto.

The band is Mathew Hannah (lead guitar, vocals), Mitch Gallant (vocals, rythym guitar), Josh Pitre (synth, backing vocals), Chris Barrett (bass), and Ryan P. Gallant (drums). Think early Blink-182 and Seaway, meets MxPx and Fall Out Boy—unrelenting energy coupled with thoughtful musicianship and boyish charm, say band members. Their goal is to breathe life into a dormant brand of punk music and they’re doing it under the radar, with unapologetic focus and vision.

You can find Friends Floors on Spotify, Apple Music and all other major music streaming services. Check out their release show November 10 at Sportsman’s Club with Kids Losing Sleep (NS) and Conversation (ON).

Kickin’ It

Emerald Junction

Emerald Junction—Kickin' ItCountry-folk duo Emerald Junction has released their debut album, Kickin’ It, as a digital download and the physical version should be available in November after Charlottetown’s Kaneshii Vinyl signed on as manufacturer. The entire project—recording, editing, mixing, mastering and manufacturing (plus photography and graphic design)—was completed in PEI.

Emerald Junction, consisting of Anne Quinn and Ron Kelly, has been releasing pairs of tunes every few weeks after recording at Chris Gauthier’s Dunk River Sound in Breadalbane. A couple of songs have received airtime on radio stations in PEI and Nova Scotia.

Kickin’ It illustrates the duo’s philosophy of mixing musical styles. Five of the ten tracks are Emerald Junction compositions, while five are covers of songs performed by other artists—Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner; Loretta Lynn; Highway 101; Lacy J. Dalton; and The Rankin Family. There’s classic country and contemporary country, solos and duets, folk-pop songs and tunes that don’t fit into any category.

The recently-released tracks are “Sixteenth Avenue”, a cover of Lacey J. Dalton’s tribute to Nashville musicians, and “Every Day (for Nathan and Martine),” a love song for a wedding. The other eight songs include: Borders and Time, a cover of the Rankins’ classic; Precious Child, about the suffering of immigrant children due to war, violence, poverty; The Bed You Made for Me, a rockin’ version of Highway 101’s country hit; Take Me Back, December, a nostalgic ballad; Under Saskatchewan Skies, Prairie love won, lost and won again; If You’re Not Gone Too Long, a barrelhouse version of Loretta Lynn’s tune; All’s Fair, a military family deals with PTSD on the home front; Say Forever You'll Be Mine, a harmonic reworking of the Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner duet.

The CD was co-produced by Jon Rehder and Chris Gauthier who also contributed their musicianship to the project. They were assisted by Matt Bridges, Keelin Wedge and Johnny Ross on various tunes.

Kickin’ It is available on CBC Music and Soundcloud and can be purchased on CD Baby and Hear Now. It can be accessed on most of the major music streaming services—Spotify, Amazon, iTunes/Apple Music, Deezer, and Pandora.



Vishtèn—HorizonsAcadian roots trio Vishtèn celebrated 15 years together, with the release of their sixth album, Horizons, in September. It’s the latest opus from the East Coast group—sisters Pastelle and Emmanuelle LeBlanc from PEI and Pascal Miousse from the Magdalen Islands—who perform a fiery blend of traditional French songs and original instrumentals. While in the process of completing close to 60 Canadian, American and European performances in 2018, the trio has also been officially selected to perform at the WOMEX18 Conference in Las Palmas, Spain, in October.

These multi-instrumentalists, and ambassadors for Francophone culture, arrange traditional Acadian songs in a unique way, while penning originals in Acadian and Celtic styles, all conveyed with a contemporary sensibility that includes indie-rock production. It’s no surprise that Vishtèn has won four East Coast Music Awards, four Music PEI Awards, and a SPACQ Award since 2002.

On Horizons, the rhythms of tapping feet and lilting mouth music blend with the fiddle, guitar, accordion, octave mandolin, whistles, piano, bodhrán and jaw harp to offer a musical experience that illustrates their widescreen view of the world, and breathe new energy into traditional sounds.

The first song, “Elle Tempête,” incorporates Celtic influences, beefed up with an indie-rock feel. The sibling harmonies ride a wave of bodhrán and droning violin. “Bi Bi Box,”is about a message in a bottle bringing hope to a lonely heart. It enhances a classic idea with a modern groove, vocal production, and electric piano. In the title track of the 11-song album, penny whistle and fiddle lead the charge, on a gently percolating three-song medley that paints a musical portrait of the seascapes that are ever-present for these native islanders.

Cajun song “Les Clefs de la Prison” juxtaposes dark lyrical content, about a prisoner facing execution, with a bright, uptempo melody. “L’autre Femme” and “Âmes Soeurs,” are both departures from the rest of the album, with dreamy electric guitar textures, and a moody, ambient feel. The latter is an anthem to sisterhood.

The band has performed at international events and venues, including the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics (CA), Philadelphia Folk Festival (US), New Orleans Jazz Festival (US), Festival Interceltique de Lorient (FR), Woodford Folk Festival (AUS), Shetland Folk Festival (SCO), Cambridge Folk Festival (UK), Tønder Festival (DK), Les Nuits de Fourvières (FR), WOMAD (UK) and Temple Bar Trad Festival (IRE), among many others.

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