By Alex HudsonYesterday (July 1) was Canada Day, and Toronto's Skydiggers are celebrating the occasion by releasing an album of Canadian covers. Entitled No. 1 Northern, the band have announced the album and simultaneously released it as part of their 25th anniversary festivities.
Coming via Latent Recordings, the nine-track collection includes covers of tunes by classic Canuck artists like Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and Ron Sexsmith. As you'd expect from Skydiggers, there's a rootsy bent to their song choices.
Along with the tracklist below, read commentary from singer Andy Maize on each song, explaining the band's cover choices and what he loves about the selections. Scroll past that to hear the entire album. In a statement, the band described this as "Volume 1," meaning that more covers could be on the way.
Also as part of their 25th anniversary celebrations, Skydiggers released a live set earlier this year.
"A favourite song of ours from the first time we heard it, the chorus of Jason Collett's 'Bitter Beauty,' 'And you're dreaming, with eyes wide open, your heart has spoken, for the first time,' tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."
2. Burning Bridges (Linda McRae)
"A great song from former Spirit of the West's Linda McRae's first solo album... The sentiment of the chorus 'And now my head's on my shoulders and not in the clouds, And I don't believe in burning bridges down' are words to live by."
3. Don't Cry No Tears (Neil Young)
"A Neil Young song that we've been playing since the 'Mr. Soul' times of Borrowed Tunes… "And there's nothing I can say, to make him go away..."
4. Snowbird (Gene MacLellan)
"An iconic Canadian folk song, written by an iconic Prince Edward Island songwriter, Gene MacLellan. It was the sad, wistful lyrics that led us to the sparse, acoustic arrangement on No.1 Northern."
5. Precious Time (Alex Madsen)
"When Josh was producing an album from Moncton's finest country rockers, the Divorcees, a couple of years ago, singer Alex Madsen had a demo of this song which didn't end up making it on their record. It reminded us of a Buddy Holly ballad — say no more!!"
6. Spin Spin (Gordon Lightfoot)
"This is a song of Gordon Lightfoot's that Josh and I have been fooling around with for years. A great folk lyric on an uptempo single from 1966."
7. Just My Heart Talkin' (Ron Sexsmith)
"Nothing's as well crafted as a Ron Sexsmith song... and the lyric 'Some people tell my eyes are windows of the soul, but eyes can be like empty sockets' seals the deal."
8. Red Deer to Margaree (Charlie Angus and Andrew Cash)
"A cross country travelogue with a chorus that screams out Ian & Sylvia... written by the two of the best songwriters in or out of parliament, the right honourable Charlie Angus and the right honourable Andrew Cash."
9. Stars (Michael Johnston)
"Michael Johnston's beautiful, heartfelt ballad re-imagined as a duet, featuring the fabulous Jessy Bell Smith."