Ten tunes for 2021

Great new music from local artists brought some energy to a dreary year


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There was a fair share of wow in Manitoba’s music scene in 2021 to go along with all the woe.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/12/2021 (277 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There was a fair share of wow in Manitoba’s music scene in 2021 to go along with all the woe.

Between the COVID-19 waves created by Delta and Omicron variants this year, there was a chance for artists to perform before live audiences at stages around the province big and small.

That allowed singer-songwriters such as Del Barber, the country-folk artist who lives near the western Manitoba farm town of Inglis, a chance to perform in Winnipeg and set up a tour — fingers crossed — with Ariel Posen, another Winnipegger, in Europe for February.

Winnipeg hip-hop artist Anthony Sannie, a.k.a. Anthony OKS partnered with Begonia for the single Fortified Bond. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

It allowed the country group Petric, big winners at the Manitoba Country Music Awards in November, to play the Canada Life Centre in an all-Canadian triple bill with High Valley and Dean Brody just a couple of weeks later.

Most notably, there was a window of opportunity to hold the Manitoba 150 concert, headlined by Tom Cochrane and Bachman Cummings. While it took place at Shaw Park instead of the Manitoba legislature grounds, and it was close to the 151st anniversary of the province’s entrance into Confederation rather than exactly on the 150th, it ought to be remembered as one of the cities greatest outdoor concerts, and not just because it brought the Guess Who greats back together one more time.

Manitoba artists also kept on recording, whether at one of the many studios in town, or, as Slow Leaves’ Grant Davidson did, in do-it-yourself studios built in unused spaces in houses.

Here are 10 songs from Manitoba artists released in 2021 that are worth another listen, and in many cases, another look at innovative videos.

Del Barber, Meantime — It’s hard to believe Barber had this song, or at least the core of it, gathering dust in his closet prior to releasing it in June as part of his new album Stray Dogs (Collected B-Sides / Vol. 1). Guitarist Grant Siemens’ slide-guitar lick sets a melancholy mood before Barber takes us to rural scenes of lament that include one of the better lyrics you’ll find anywhere in 2021: “I think it takes a little courage to learn to forget / The smoke puking out from my argument.” A second volume of Stray Dogs from Barber would be a treat for 2022.

Anthony OKS feat. Begonia, Fortified Bond — This duet between two of Winnipeg’s top artists created such a wonderful contrast, with Begonia’s soaring vocals and OKS’s stirring raps providing a give-and-take in a song about a tight relationship. OKS, known for his work with the Lytics, came out with a solo EP, In the Garden, in September that included Fortified, and the recording’s rhythms deserve a full dance floor to sway to.

Jocelyn Gould, Off Minor — The Winnipeg jazz guitarist and music professor at Toronto’s Humber College brought home a Juno Award this year for her 2020 album Elegant Traveler, and kept up the momentum with new videos and performances in 2021. Gould shows some serious dexterity and style on this track released in October, a cover of a Thelonious Monk classic. Pianists, let alone guitarists, know to tread carefully when performing Monk’s offbeat melodies, but as the video shows, it’s no sweat for Gould to add her six-string flourish to it.

Sierra Noble, Let Me Get Out of Here — Noble made a return to the Manitoba music scene at the Manitoba 150 concert, showing off a new look and a new pop style while performing with Doc Walker. A couple of weeks later, the singer-songwriter and Métis fiddler released this song and revealed details of sexual abuse that took place while trying to build a career in Music City.

Slow Leaves, Holiday — It’s back-to-back fine albums the past two years for Winnipeg’s Grant Davidson, the man behind Slow Leaves. His latest, Holiday, takes a more positive turn but his expressive falsetto remains. I think we all could use a holiday right now.

Faouzia, Hero — While Variety magazine prophesies big things for the Carman singer in 2022, this year wasn’t too shabby either, thanks to this pop tune she co-wrote with Los Angeles producer Alex Koste and released in July. Hero showcases Faouzia’s incredible vocal range once again, but amid the song’s dance rhythm are lyrics we all consider at the start of relationships: “If I was your hero, would you be mine? / I know this ain’t a fairy tale, this is real life.”

William Prince, Run — This year was a quieter one for the Peguis First Nation singer-songwriter, who released two LPs in 2020. Instead, this year he pooled his recording resources into this memorable single that was part of the CBC show Terry Fox: The Power of One, which commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope.

Don Amero, My Poor Mama — Country-rocker Amero had a busy year. He made headlines across Canada this year with a solemn rendition of O Canada prior to a Winnipeg Jets game that followed the discovery of unmarked graves at a former residential school in British Columbia. In My Poor Mama, which came out in November, he shows his humorous side — not to mention tongue-in-cheek lyrics. The video is a must-see, with Amero, his son, his brother and mother decked out in Wild West finery to match the old-time setting.

Orit Shimoni, Horse — The Free Press has written about this travelling musician, who was stranded in Winnipeg in March 2020 when the pandemic hit, and how it’s forced her to have a place of her own for the first time in a decade. She’s made the city her home base and played a couple of shows this summer, but it’s her 2021 album, Lorum Ipsem, that’s worth a listen on Bandcamp. You can hear influences from across the musical spectrum, but Horse certainly has a Dylanesque quality, and that’s a good thing.

Boy Golden, KD and Lunch Meat — City singer-songwriter Liam Duncan became Boy Golden, a riff on the symbol atop the Manitoba legislature and his mother’s maiden name, in 2021. It’s a cute moniker, and so was his single KD and Lunch Meat, which caught the attention of listeners across the country, earning the No. 15 spot on the year’s top-30 list from SiriusXM station North Americana, joining stars such as Brandi Carlile, the Robert Plant-Allison Krauss duo and Blue Rodeo.

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Alan Small

Alan Small

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

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