By Kerry DooleToronto-based roots rock veterans Skydiggers release their eighth studio album, Northern Shore today (April 17). The record comes out via Latent Recordings, the label set up by Cowboy Junkies main man Michael Timmins, while some of its tracks were recorded at the Woodshed, Blue Rodeo's studio, and the Tragically Hip's Bathouse recording facility.
This confirms the peer respect Skydiggers have long enjoyed within the Canadian music scene, and that is something they don't take for granted.
"One of the themes we went into the recording with was the theme of community," singer-songwriter Andy Maize tells Exclaim! "At this stage of our lives, we've found ourselves as part of a community we are very grateful for. Skydiggers is almost like a collective. People come and go, and there is material we draw from with all these people, but there's a core that moves the projects ahead."
The material on Northern Shore includes two songs -- "Wake Up Little Darling" and "You've Been Gone So Long" -- written by songsmith-turned-MP Andrew Cash. His brother, Peter Cash, was a founding member of Skydiggers, and he returns to the fold with a guest performance on "Barely Made It Through."
Now well into the third decade of their career, Skydiggers continue to revisit their prolific past. Their previous record, 2009's The Truth About Us, was a career retrospective, while a deluxe four-disc, 45-song edition of Northern Shore that is about to be released online includes both new (ten extra songs recorded during the Northern Shore sessions) and older material.
"We've been archiving a lot of our old multi-track recordings," Maize explains. "They had been sitting in basements and we were worried they were starting to decompose. We have a friend who can bake the tapes and bounce them onto the digital format so we can have them archived. We realized that over the years we have a lot of unreleased songs, dating back to the very first demos we did at Grant Avenue in 1988 with Michael Phillip Wojewoda."
Material from these sessions is included on Northern Shore's deluxe set, while one of its discs comprises material recorded in early 1996, just before Peter Cash left the group.
"We recorded demos at Chemical Sound with Darryl Smith, but that record was never released," says Maize. "Some of the songs ended up on the Cash Brothers record, but these are the original versions. Listening to tracks from 1988 and 1996 is a really interesting way to see how the band evolved and progressed."
Maize is proud of the fact that this archival material doesn't sound dated. "Josh [Finlayson, Skydiggers guitarist/songwriter] recently said that our goal is to make music that's timeless. It is not identified in time by the production or any gimmicks."
As previously reported, Skydiggers will be taking Northern Shore on a Canadian tour this spring. You can see all the dates below, as well as find a stream of the standard edition of the album.
4/26 Burnstown, ON - Neat School House Stage 4/28 Peterborough, ON - Spring Spectacular Market Hall Performing Arts Centre 5/2-3 Vancouver, BC - The Railway Club 5/4 Duncan, BC - Duncan Garage Showroom 5/5 Victoria, BC - Lucky Bar 5/7 Nelson, BC - The Royal 5/9-10 Edmonton, AB - Haven Social Club 5/11-12 Calgary, AB - Ironwood Stage 5/24 Saskatoon, SK - Lydia's Pub 5/25 Regina, SK - The Exchange 5/26 Winnipeg, MB - The West End Cultural Centre 6/5 Hamilton, ON - Molson Canadian Studio Hamilton Place 6/6 Guelph, ON - Dublin Street United Church 6/8-9 Toronto, ON - Hugh's Room 6/19-20 Halifax, NS - The Carleton 6/22 Charlottetown, PE - Hunter's Ale House 6/29-30 Wakefield, QC - The Black Sheep Inn