Last Ditch on the Left :: Eyes & ears on the road ahead


by Sheldon Birnie

Consider, for just a moment, Winnipeg’s music scene as something of a forest. You have gnarled old veterans and spry young saplings growing side-by-side, competing for light and resources, yet also dependent on each other for survival in the ecosystem web. With Last Ditch on the Left, a duo made up of Brent Warren and Kerri Stephens, you have a bit of both. Each are veterans in their own right. But the project is something new for each of them. A truly collaborative work, Last Ditch on the Left builds off of their previous musical lives while bringing something fresh and new into the world. Like when you see a budding young pine tree growing from the stump of an old oak or out of the a felled length of birch. With the release of their debut, self-titled record coming up this weekend, Brent and Kerri took the time recently to chat with Stylus about Last Ditch on the Left, and what it takes to make raw, honest music without regard to commercial success. Continue reading “Last Ditch on the Left :: Eyes & ears on the road ahead”

Matt Epp :: Bringing “Luma” home

photo by Jen Squires

by Sheldon Birnie

Winnipeg’s own Matt Epp returns to take the West End Cultural Centre stage after years of hard travelling. This hard core troubadour, a prairie prodigal son, has been tirelessly working the roads across North America and Europe for the past ten years, carving a name for himself as one of the pre-eminent songwriters of his generation. After some much needed downtime in T.O., Epp returns to Winnipeg with a new album, Luma, in tow. Epp took time out of pre-production on yet another new record in the works to talk to Stylus about life on the road, becoming a father, and what’s next. Continue reading “Matt Epp :: Bringing “Luma” home”

Why Taylor Swift was right to break up with country music


by Matt Williams

For years now, the relationship between Taylor Swift and country music fans has been strained at best. Swift has been on an unstoppable rocket to peak fame and stardom, traveling at light-speed, since the beginning of her career, and until recently, she had at least managed to satiate her country fans, albeit less and less with each album. Red, arguably her best record to date, was almost devoid of anything resembling country, instead trading in the twang for new tricks like dubstep-lite (“I Knew You Were Trouble”) or straight-up bubblegum pop (“22”). But still, until Monday’s release of “Shake It Off,” the kickoff single from Swift’s upcoming “very first documented, official pop album” 1989, many still believed there was a chance for their saviour to come back home, or at least keep things country enough that she could pass for a slot at the CMAs. Continue reading “Why Taylor Swift was right to break up with country music”

Heartworn Highways :: Outlaw Country Workshop continues at Park Theatre

photo by Matt Duboff
photo by Matt Duboff

by Seamus Hamilton-Pattison

If it ever made sense for a Canadian city to tip its trucker hats to outlaw country music, it’d make sense in Winnipeg. The mixture of “good ol’ boy” congeniality and whiskey-and-beer soaked brazenness that defined the greatest works of Cash, Nelson, Jennings and many more distinctly parallels our gritty little underdog of a city.

Heartworn Highways is a concert series the Park Theatre kicked off in the dead of this past November and is billed as an “Outlaw Country Workshop.” Conceived by the Park Theatre’s own Kevin Mozden, Micah Erenberg and the Buffalo Band, the series has been an exploration into the rawest side of the country genre, with our local artists sharing the bill and mixing their own brash, outlaw-inspired originals with numerous covers of old country classics, all backed up by the Buffalo Band themselves and hosted capably by Erenberg. According to Kevin Mozden, the “diverse and talented pool of country musicians” in Winnipeg were perfect to bring back “the nostalgia of outlaw country.” Continue reading “Heartworn Highways :: Outlaw Country Workshop continues at Park Theatre”

Hillbilly Highway – Ryan Boldt on the dangers of the Highway, and Winnipeg Folk Fest 2014


by Sheldon Birnie

There’s no secret that Saskatoon’s Deep Dark Woods are a favourite of ours out here on the Highway. As such, we’re very fired up as the Winnipeg Folk Fest starts to creep up on us. I spoke with Ryan Boldt of the DDWs a month or so ago, and if you’ve seen the June/July 2014 issue of Stylus on stands, you may have read our feature. But not everything made it to print, and some of the best stuff was left on the cutting room floor. As I continue to listen to the Deep Dark Woods excellent Jubilee on repeat while I check my camping gear for all its essentials, here’s a bit of our conversation… Continue reading “Hillbilly Highway – Ryan Boldt on the dangers of the Highway, and Winnipeg Folk Fest 2014”

Nudie – Remember This

1 panel front out & in for export.indd


Veteran Canadian country picker and songwriter Nudie returns with a sophomore solo release, Remember This. Nudie is contemporary country music written, recorded and performed as an homage to classic country — think Daniel Romano or Jonny Fritz — and he accomplishes the task admirably. His songwriting is strong throughout the album, the arrangements tasteful and the performances tight. “Sex Kisses” would get the dust up off most honky tonk dance floors. “Pawn Shop” is a clever down and outer, while the title track has all the makings for a tear-in-your-beer ballad. What Remember This lacks, though, is the flash of a spark to ignite the whole package, to burn it into the listener’s memory. Nudie comes dang close with this one, but then again this ain’t horseshoes we’re playing, here. (Independent, Sheldon Birnie Continue reading “Nudie – Remember This”

Hillbilly Highway – Top 5 Acts I’d Love to See Up At Birds Hill This Year


by Sheldon Birnie

With the Winnipeg Folk Festival line-up announcement scheduled for this weekend, thousands of summer craving Manitobans are itching for those five days in July. While last year’s 40th Anniversary celebraish was a snooze-fest as far as most of the line-up went, it’s always possible the head honchos were playing it safe in stacking the line-up with some old (stale? mouldy?) faves. Now that the big anniversary has passed, many feel it’s high time the Folk Fest brass does something bold in terms of lineup in exchange for charging an arm & a leg for admission. Considering a weekend camping pass now runs nearly as much as a weekend pass for a Big Time Festival like Coachella or Bonnaroo, I’ve spoken with plenty of folks who’ve given up on the whole thing, choosing instead to save a load of cash and satisfy the craving for summer camping and good tunes at one of the many backwoods parties that have sprung up across Manitoba of late. Continue reading “Hillbilly Highway – Top 5 Acts I’d Love to See Up At Birds Hill This Year”