SOUND SEEKERS: Slo’ Tom’s Toe-Tapping Tune to Get Out the Vote



Singer-songwriter Slo’ Tom Stewart and his band The Handsome Devils released a video for the song Family in the Mansion on Parliament Hill, in mid-September. The song is a gentle jab at politics and excess, a jaunty bit of civic engagement urging people to get out and vote.

Stewart has long been a part of the Ottawa music scene with dad band Hey! Buster, metal band Manpower, and legendary back-in-the-day indie band Furnaceface. His Handsome Devils are Rey Sabatin Jr., Rob Snasdell-Taylor, and Jon Kiely. Here, some fun facts about this bluegrassy jam.

The band takes a country music trope and turns it on its head, taking into account the Centennial Flame and the big manicured lawn in a tune about apathy and indulgence.

“There are a million traditional country songs about a mansion on the hill,” Stewart says. “In these songs, there’s always a millionaire who is brokenhearted or a family that is rich, but has no love — that kind of thing. Rey Sabatin [Thomas Mulcair in this video] wrote the tune. He is playing on this classic theme brilliantly by making Parliament the mansion and the four leaders the family.”

It’s a damn catchy call-out that urges people to vote – and Elizabeth May is not left out. She’s played by Handsome Devil Rob “Chops” Snasdell-Taylor in this video, while Jon Kiely is Trudeau, and Stewart is Harper.

There’s humour, discontent, protest — all delivered with jangly group harmonies.

The song is from the forthcoming album Gov’t Town, which is about living in this fair city. Songs such as “One Way Street,” “It’s a Condo Now,” and “2 a.m. Elgin Street,” give a sense of what’s to come.

The band had been laying tracks earlier this year. When the election was called, they put this tune at the top of their schedule and shot the video in a weekend with Hey Buster’s Sherwood Lumsden.

Stewart says the video is meant to be non-partisan. It’s a gentle, humorous poke at the entitlement and elitism of all politicians.

“With the plea at the end calling for people to vote, it’s really more of a public service announcement than a political statement — plus, it’s funny,” Stewart says. “The Handsome Devils want people to vote.”

Sound Seekers: CityFolk Versus Neat in the Woods


Ben Caplan, playing at the first ever Neat in the Woods festival in two weeks

It’s the folk music equivalent of David vs. Goliath. Or, perhaps more appropriately, David Crosby vs. Stills, Nash and Young.

CityFolk (Sept. 16-20) features five nights of multi-stage lineups in Lansdowne Park — five days after that, Burnstown’s Neat Café hosts the first Neat in the Woods festival (Sept. 25-27) with a one-day lineup of official performances (there’s a weekend camping option that promises surprise acoustic musical session on Friday night and Sunday).

It’s probably unfair to compare the lineup at the Glebe’s mega festival with that of a small community event (especially since they’re happening at different times). Moreover, folkies aren’t supposed to be competitive. But that said, festival-goers trying to decide between the two do need to know which one will hit the right notes — and the answer isn’t just blowing in the wind.

And so, to equal things out, we stacked up comparable artists for a festival head-to-head under the following categories:


Wilco, playing at this year’s CityFolk Fest

Alternative Rock Royalty

Wilco vs. The Trews
Wilco’s ninth studio album, the newly released Star Wars, reconfirms what anyone with functioning eardrums and a modicum of musical taste already knows: the Chicago-based alt-rockers are out of this world. Frontman Jeff Tweedy can go toe-to-toe – err, finger to fret? – with the best songwriters in modern rock history.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotian natives, The Trews, have five albums under their belt and a reputation as one of this country’s finest noisemakers. Fan favourite songs like “The Power of Positive Drinking” and “What’s Fair is Fair” should be spellbinding in a forest setting. But Wilco is simply out of the The Trews’ orbit. For now, anyway.

Edge: CityFolk

Local Flavour

Marvest vs. MonkeyJunk
CityFolk features Marvest, the festival’s free lineup of nearly 60 local musicians at shops and venues along Bank Street, as well as Lansdowne’s Aberdeen Pavilion.

But Neat has Ottawa’s best band – the perpetually JUNO-winning blues crusaders, MonkeyJunk. Steve Marriner and company will teach Mother Nature a thing or two about the blues. [Silver Creek’s local take on southern rock also flows into the smaller fest’s lineup].

Edge: Neat in the Woods

The Sadies, playing at this year's

The Sadies, playing at this year’s Neat in the Woods festival

Big-name Veterans

Van Morrison vs. The Sadies
Sure, Van Morrison is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — and the Irish legend will have every eye in the crowd riveted on him (brown or otherwise). But Van the Man isn’t known for his stage banter and warmth. He’s all business — it just happens that business is making great music.

Veteran Canuck alt-country band, The Sadies, have been together for over 20 years, and have collaborated with the likes of Blue Rodeo, Gord Downie, and Neko Case. Simply put, they’re good guys, and that collaborative spirit shines through in their live shows. (Their last album, 2014’s And The Conquering Son, was with Downie. If the Hip frontman makes a surprise appearance in the woods, Burnstown won’t be getting much sleep.)

Edge: Even

Best CanCon

Patrick Watson vs. Blackie and the Rodeo Kings
Montreal’s Patrick Watson (the band is named after its frontman and primary songwriter) crafts sublime orchestral pop. They took home the 2007 Polaris Prize for a reason; Watson’s a master craftsmen of indie rock.

Meanwhile, Hamilton’s Blackie and the Rodeo Kings are a folk-rock, alt-country, super group featuring Tom Wilson, Stephen Fearing and Colin Linden.

Edge: CityFolk

Female persuasion

Lucinda Williams, Lord Huron, Terra Lightfoot, Scarlett Jane, Lisa Leblanc, Elle King etc. vs. Mother Nature
CityFolk is chock full of talented female artists, but there’s nary a woman on Neat’s current roster. Nature herself will have to play the misses.

Edge: CityFolk (if you’re keeping score, at this point CityFolk is winning)


Matt Andersen is playing at Neat in the Woods

The Real Deal

Corb Lund vs. Matt Andersen
A genuine Albertan cowboy and honky-tonk country singer vs. a shaggy-haired blues guitarist from New Brunswick?

Edge: Even


Kitty, Daisy & Louis vs. Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers
Three British 20-something siblings inspired by Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan, and Louis Prima vs. a gritty Canuck folksinger with a long, wiry beard and half-growled vocals (Ben could be Tom Waits long-lost brother)

Edge: Neat


CityFolk has a slight edge when it comes to one-on-one contests, but Neat draws even thanks to its unique, woodland setting. Folk music is at its best when it has room to breathe — especially around a potential campfire. Still, the concentration of talent — that also includes the likes of The Sheepdogs and Of Monsters and Men — at Lansdowne is a near-impossible siren call to ignore.

If you’re a true music lover, both festivals are can’t miss.

Edge: Even

SOUND SEEKERS: Go past the park and under the bridge – House of PainT



This past weekend held an event unlike any other in Ottawa (to this humble city-dwellers knowledge): House of PainT’s Festival of Urban Arts and Culture. Just past Brewer Park under the bridge was a rapping, poetry, breakdancing, and graffiti party. Pizza E Panini and Broadhead beer were on hand to serve up the complementary combo as well as a few street wear vendors selling some of our favourite brands – new and second hand (scored some sweet sunnys).

Entertaining and energizing, I found myself out of my usual rainy day funk and inspired by Ottawa’s growth. Events such as this used to be heard of only in Toronto, but are now common place in our fair city. And the best part? It was literally fun for everyone: babies! Kids! Dogs! They were everywhere!

If you missed it, make sure to like the Facebook page so you’ll be in the know on future events.


One of my favourite sights: babies in headphones. This cutie was attending her second music fest


A thugged out muppets crew in progress




Break dancing battle: Fresh Connection and Venom (in white)





Ottawa act, the Souljazz Orchestra, release their first all-vocal album. Photo by Alexandre Mattar

The new Souljazz Orchestra album—out September 4—continues a theme started long ago with their debut, Freedom No Go Die, released in 2006. Nearly a decade on, the globetrotting Ottawa act continues its power-to-the-people rhythms with Resistance (Strut Records/Do Right! Music). Find it on CD, vinyl, and digitally on September 4.

Resistance finds the Souljazz Orchestra in fine form and thoroughly flexing a new muscle. The band, which began as an instrumental outfit, steps out with its first all-vocal album. It sees keyboardist Pierre Chretien, drummer Phillipe Lafreniere, sax player Ray Murray, and percussionist Marielle Rivard each taking a turn at the microphone delivering trenchant social commentary, political wake-up calls, and mobilizing mantras.

Lafreniere calls for a better life for workers and the poor in “Greet the Dawn,” a hip-strutting call-and-response dazzler that sets the tone for the rest of the album.

“Shock & Awe” has a rat-tat-tat firing-round vocal delivery. Contrasting that militaristic sense are lyrics celebrating revolt and the power of people to come together in the face of adversity. (Check out the SJO’s video for that tune here and grab a free download of this album’s Occupy-inspired tune “Bull’s Eye” via PopMatters).

That vibe carries into “Life Is What You Make It,” while “As the World Turns” shows Marielle Rivard’s vocal chops. Those came to light on the group’s previous album, Inner Fire, when she covered Andy Bey’s “Celestial Blues.”

Keep “Courage” and “Ware Wa” on your dancefloor playlist and wind down with the sweetly contemplative “It’s Gonna Rain.”

This is the band’s sixth release in 13 years. The Souljazz Orchestra’s early albums showed their fluency in Afro and Latin genres along with their deep appreciation for jazz, roots, and the work of Fela Kuti.
Last year, the band released its back catalogue on 180-gram vinyl (we picked our fave tunes from over the years in this post from 2014).

The globetrotting group will continue their travels this fall. An international tour is soon to be announced. The band makes regular stops in France, Germany, and the U.K. Check out this archived Souljazz tour diary for a few laughs).

SOUND SEEKERS: Momentum Builds for Music City North

DJ Trevor Walker, at the Mercury Lounge. Photo Alex Vlad

DJ Trevor Walker, at the Mercury Lounge. Photo Alex Vlad


11053362_757288087721136_5596478891406457668_nThe inaugural Ottawa International Music Conference (OIMC) kicks off this week with three nights of music and two days of panels and networking events. The goal is to connect audiences, venues, and artists in Ottawa around a mutual love of electronic music.

Most events take place at the Maker Space North warehouse at City Centre and at satellite venues around the city including Babylon, Overkill, Ritual, Le Petit Chicago, and at the Mercury Lounge in the Byward Market.

There are dozens of acts to see including Kenny Dope, Nomadic Massive, Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, and Ottawa’s own Souljazz Orchestra.


DJ/producer, Kenny Dope

Check out the poster for the full list and find the lineup on Facebook and the OIMC site. The conference starts Friday, May 29 and continues through to Sunday. Full passes are $85. Individual ticket options can be found here. (P.S. We’re giving away a full conference pass. See our Twitter feed for details).

OIMC executive producer Claudia Balladelli has worked as a talent booker at the Mercury Lounge for years.

As part of her work there, she’s attended ADE (Amsterdam Dance Event), Canadian Music Week, and WMC in Miami regularly over the past decade. She wanted to bring some of those ideas back to the capital.

“Ottawa is getting better, but still needs more underground festivals. Some festivals are too commercial and others are too indie,” she says. “This year seemed like a good time to make it happen. [Mercury owner] John Criswick bought and renovated Maker Space North. It is truly the perfect space to make it happen. OIMC is a chance for musicians and entrepreneurs to start solidifying their networks and to transform Ottawa into a better place for arts and music.”


DJ Trevor Walker, at the Mercury Lounge. Photo Alex Vlad

The OIMC follows similar events in Ottawa in recent months. Megaphono and Ontario Scene generated conversations about what needs to be done to make Ottawa a music scene town in the way of Austin or Nashville. A Kelp Music scene report, released in March, discusses economic spinoff benefits, and makes practical infrastructure suggestions. The report is a great step toward building a music city.


OIMC executive producer Claudia Balladelli

Still, a lot of this discussion seems familiar. I’m sure we had this conversation when nearby Montreal was hype central. Or when The Washington Post praised O-town’s “unselfconscious cool.” The recurring inferiority complex seems to be the hallmark of our urban identity, a case we’ve made before. It would be nice to get off this pivot and move toward making Ottawa Music City a reality.

There is some traction. It’s been nice to see some champions at City Hall making an on-paper commitment to get this moving. Kelp Music’s idea to get an immediate point person to lead this change seems like a great next step.

The OIMC also provides momentum. Its organizers hope to continually develop Ottawa as a key player in the world of music. Balladelli says it’s important to show entrepreneurs and artists that they are essential in making the city a music hub by developing  and drawing people to local festivals, events, and venues.

Panels at this weekend’s conference will offer artists practical tips on running your own business, securing grants, programming, and surviving clubland.

Each panel deals with on-the-ground realities and skills needed to build Music City North, particularly its electronic music culture. (A discussion on the culture of music will also take place during OIMC. I’m on that panel with some swell dudes.)

Policy talk is mixed in with parties all weekend and the festival closes with a sunset warehouse party at Maker Space North on Saturday. See you there.

P.S.: We at Ottawa Magazine would love your thoughts on what would make a great Music City North. Comment, tweet, and add your two cents.

SOUND SEEKERS: Ontario (Scene), Yours to Discover — Kalle Mattson’s Snapshots


Ahead of the NAC’s Ontario Scene extravaganza, we tap into hometown homie Kalle Mattson’s Instagram account to get a snapshot of the province through a musician’s eye. Mattson will play with The Sadies and The Wooden Sky on May 8 at the Bronson Centre, just one of many concerts and events taking over the city in the coming weeks. Find full details online.

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SOUND SEEKERS: Hey Buster, Busting Out

Hey Buster

Hey Buster performs at an outdoor concert for kids (and dads, and moms)

Dad Band Moves from Domestic Sphere into Civics 101


Hey Buster, the band of Ottawa dads that makes catchy music for kids, has moved away from family life on their latest album I Like My Bike. Its focus is civics for little ones, with songs like “Community Begins With C” emphasizing the art of neighbourliness. The tune, sung by Hey Buster’s Slo’ Tom Stewart, underlines that while community begins with ‘c’ – it really starts with YOU and ME!c26eb7_174d7d2d211548f48c1b192d705c41d6.jpg_srb_p_1259_730_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srb

Hey Buster formed in the late 2000s and released the album Bing, Bang, Bong in 2010. It documented the travails of family life with plenty of rhyming stanzas about poo, pee, pink eye, and getting lice.

Their 2013 release, Yeti Likes Spaghetti, moved away from bodily functions to household management with tunes such as “Go to Bed”, “Mom Eat Your Broccoli”, and “Without a Hat.”

Their new album will be released Sunday, March 29 at an afternoon show at the Mayfair Theatre. I Like My Bike speaks to kids who are less concerned about poo and pee, and who are starting to open their eyes more and more to their surroundings.

The title track opens with a catchy little riff and pays tribute to a banana-seated, long-handled jobbie with a shiny kickstand. It’s a sweet ode to a hassle-free, two-wheeler commute. That ecological undertone carries throughout the album. The songs don’t come off as Jane Jacobs’-style blight-fighting agitations; rather this album is a jaunty introduction to the complexities of city life. Think of it as rumpus room urbanism for grade schoolers.

To carry that spirit forward, Hey Buster will offer lesson plans around recycling, public transportation, urban gardens, and sustainability to go with each song. (Check their website for updates throughout the year). The plans are aimed at kids in Grades 3 to 8, and have been organized by Hey Buster drummer Stephen Skoutajan, who is also a teacher with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.c26eb7_702b877b39944b8dbba1409815eadf72.jpg_srb_p_1259_730_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srb

The band plays regularly at school events where kids join in when Hey Buster rips into their popular live hit, “Here Comes the Bus,” which sees the guys dancing around in cardboard cutouts of OC Transpo buses labelled with popular Centretown West routes.

The band launched as a weekend project of friends Geoff Paisley, Matt Young, and Sherwood Lumsden, and has since expanded its membership to include Slo’ Tom Stewart, Skoutajan, and guest musicians Al Bragg, Dave Kerr, Dave Draves, and Michael Ball. They play often at festivals, block parties, and at taverns during the afternoon. Hey Buster has a growing fan base of kids that like to dance while their parents get a beer in between their regular poo, pee, and lice-picking duties.

SOUND SEEKERS: Tara Holloway Nails It with Little Ghosts


Tara Holloway, the powerhouse vocalist with the perfectly raspy voice, has put together an album that showcases her many dimensions. On Little Ghosts she sounds pained, mischievous, whimsical, awesomely raging, sage, and saucy. The new album — recorded at Ottawa’s Bova Sound and to be released in late February on Vancouver label Light Organ Records — has a bit of blues, a bit of folk noir, and a ton of charm with plenty of top-drawer offerings.

Holloway, 34, has toured and couch surfed for years (she once claimed “the iPhone is my home”), frequenting B.C., Tennessee, and California. She has spent most of her adult life on the stage and as a result is a natural with the chatty stage banter. It’s fascinating to watch her go from being potty-mouthed and gregarious to plaintive and pained, as she starts into another tune with those killer pipes. At times she brings to mind another redhead who put the capital on the map. Holloway’s album has all the hallmarks to blow up big. Could it be another Failer?

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SOUND SEEKERS: The New Year’s Edition

Lefty McRighty

Lefty McRighty


To ring in 2015, Sound Seekers polled a few music scene notables for their wishes, resolutions and cat selfies. Herewith, the big plans of half a dozen O-town bar owners, guitar slingers, podcasters et al.

My Name Is: Lefty McRighty

I: sing and promote country music. I play a decent lead guitar and I DJ at CKCU.

I resolve to: actually pick up my guitar and play more than once a week.

I wish: not to be blacklisted at certain venues anymore.

My Name Is: Yogi

I: co-own the mighty House of Targ with Mark McHale and Kevin Birger. I also record and produce records at Yogi’s Meatlocker studio and play guitar in Metal Patrol and Blackbread.

Yogi with son Felix

Yogi with son Felix

I resolve to: bring Rush to Targ, acquire a Spy Hunter and Joust arcade machine, secure a private island with a secret bay for our submarine, and introduce the world to our delicious handmade pierogies by serving them in international waters!

I wish: for an explosion in the Ottawa music scene that will be felt worldwide. Oh wait, that’s already happening!! Okay, how about bell bottoms for everyone? Ha! This city is bananas and the support keeps growing — never give up.

My Name Is: (stage name) Master Cameron Eric Leon

I: perform as a drag king around Ontario, which basically means I get to shatter people’s ideas of gender and sexuality in the most fun way possible.

I resolve to: better represent drag kinds at the local, national, and international level and to support the LGBTQ+ community on whatever scale I can.

I wish: for a bigger closet so I can use my living room again.

Master Cameron Eric Leon. Photo by Angela McConnell

Master Cameron Eric Leon. Photo by Angela McConnell

Kevin McGowan

Kevin McGowan

My Name Is: Kevin McGowan

I: co-created with Ben Yung and Steve Fouchard, which grew out of my old Ottawa Citizen blog. It was a simple little idea for a local music site, but has grown to be pretty massive. I’m currently the admin guy, but hope to do more writing in 2015.

I resolve to: get out to see some of the bands I’ve been listening to and writing about. I’m as old as the hills and have little kids, so late nights are a real pain in the ass. I also resolve to check out Targ and eat a big plate of pierogies and see if I still have my mad Pac-Man skills.

I wish: that the new owners of Zaphod’s will keep their early gig schedule. It’s pretty much the only way I can see a show, be home by midnight, and still be physically able to make breakfast at 6 a.m.

My Name Is: Lynne Hanson

I: write songs that sound like I’m from way further south of Ottawa. I just released my fourth album River of Sand this past fall. I’ve got tours out west and in Europe this winter and spring, in between surgery and rehabbing the knee I destroyed playing touch football this past summer.

Lynne Hanson

Lynne Hanson

I resolve to: stick to the set list — or at least let my band know which song I’m playing if I do decide to stray off course; remove ALL guitar picks from my pockets before putting jeans in laundry; limit binge Netflix viewing to only three episodes at a time; learn how to dance.

I wish: someone had told me bionic knees had not been invented yet. Had I known, I would have been considerably more careful with the ones I have while running around chasing quarterbacks.

My Name Is: Jason Andersson

I: am the singer-songwriter and guitar player in Cooper MacLaren. I also play mandolin in Ray Harris & the Bastard Sons of Bitches. I busk a lot and I’m also going to play electric guitar in a brand new project that we don’t have a name for yet.

Jason Andersson

Jason Andersson

I resolve to: keep not making resolutions.

I wish: for continued collaboration and good vibes from those I know (and don’t know) in our community.

SOUND SEEKERS: 2014 Ottawa Mix List (A Present Just for You)



It’s Sound Seekers’ annual tradition! Call it our Blogged 50 — but it’s more like a Blogged 7. This is our EP-length list of hot tunes released from Ottawa artists this year.

Stream the tunes here and read about the songs below. Find our 2013 and 2012 mix lists here.

For 2014, we asked each artist to reflect on the year that was and the year to come.

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