By Melody LauThis country's greatest musical legacy, historically, has the strength of our singer-songwriters, dating back from before the pantheon of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot. This year, a new generation of performers that combine strong voices and stripped-down instrumentals proudly repped the maple leaf to the world.
Kathleen Edwards Entering 2012 with a newly-evolved sound, fourth album Voyageur finds Edwards (pictured above) at her most vulnerable, channelling emotional wreckage into her most complete album to date. It's a perfect collection of songs that paint a portrait of heartbreak that's both universal and unique, earning her a shortlist nod on this year's Polaris Music Prize.
Halifax's Rose Cousins repeats the success 2009's The Send Off with We Have Made a Spark, a lush collection that capitalizes on her penchant for hearty melodies atop wondrous pianos and sweeping strings. The album recently earned Cousins her second Canadian Folk Music Award for contemporary singer of the year.
Al Spx debuted one of the year's most memorizing voices on I Predict A Graceful Expulsion, which burst onto the scene with a uniquely gothic take on the classic singer-songwriter aesthetic. The result was an album that's gorgeously gospel, soul and rock, all highlighted by Spx's bone-chilling voice. Both her music and her elusive persona made a mark that paid off with a Polaris Music Prize short list nomination.
Roots-rock power couple Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet joined forces as Whitehorse. The happy marriage of respective strengths — saccharine melodies marked with electrifying riffs — on debut full-length The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss put them on a growing list of singer-songwriters that dominate the country music landscape.
Juno-winning St. John's, Newfoundland native Curran pushed the boundaries of folk we know her for even further on Spectators, which explores some of the most strikingly dark and sombre songs of the year. Through the thick cloud of grimness, though, a light shines thanks to the horns, piano and percussion that have elevated her music to a new level.