Coles Whalen is a woman who makes things happen. When she wanted to jumpstart her music career she bought a pickup truck, toured the country and sold CDs out of the back. Then, when opportunity knocked and kept knocking, she picked up her guitar to open for artists like Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Rufus Wainwright, and yes, even Akon in Montreal, Nashville, Denver, and all points in between. But it isn’t just sheer will that’s gotten Whalen to where she is today. Her homespun blend of bluesy, swampy folk has something to do with it. On Wake Up Easy Whalen breezily sings, You’re making coffee, making the bed / I kind of feel like making something else instead. A languorous piano, creaking washboard and softly shaken percussion help create a mood of sleepy-eyed seduction. Those coy turns-of-phrases continue in The Getting Side, a bluesy mid-tempo strut where Whalen warns, If you’re giving your love, make sure it’s me on the getting side. A backwoods coquette, Whalen knows how to woo her listeners. Make sure you stay on the getting side with this one.
“Wake Up Easy” – Coles Whalen
Jordyn Mallory was so gung-ho about starting her singing career she convinced her parents to let her double up on her schoolwork and graduate one year early. Once free from the shackles of high school, the Oklahoma native wasted no time moving to Nashville and jumping in to her new profession. Already Mallory has opened for Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, Emerson Drive and many more salient country acts. Credit her success to her strong songwriting chops and powerful voice”like Taylor Swift, if Taylor Swift could really belt it out. Ready is pop country terrain with a swelling chorus that sounds similar to Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper. Summertime Song and I Don’t Want It Again both follow the downward trajectory of love gone wrong, building the pathos with shuffling beats, keening fiddles and pretty falsettos. Mallory may have been done dirty by a past paramour, but she’s kicked the dust off her boots and has moved on to greener pastures. Sometimes success is the sweetest revenge.
“Ready” – Jordyn Mallory
Sarah Cripps is just entering her twenties, but she’s already got more than a decade of experience under her belt. The Canadian songstress has been playing since the age of nine, and has shared the stage with famous countrymen like The Barenaked Ladies, Johnny Reid, Doc Walker and Jason McCoy. Cripps delivers polished folk-county marked by steel guitar and the singer’s silken vocals. Practice is a lazy love song with a coy proposition. Just think how good we’ll get if we practice, Cripps sings. Just Sing is another flawless country ballad, just acoustic guitars and Cripps’ easy vibrato. If slow dancing’s not your style, skip to Getaway Car, a bluesy caveat where electric guitars lash out and the tambourine shakes like a rattlesnake. Cripps is already a pro, and she’s just getting started. Then again, practice makes perfect.
“Getaway Car” – Sarah Cripps
Country rock may have gotten its start in the American South, but over the years it’s ambled north of the border into new lands, taking root in Canada from sea to shining sea. Manitoba’s got Doc Walker. Alberta’s got Emerson Drive. And now, Saskatchewan’s got WYATT. Like Mr. Earp himself, Ride On is about kicking the dust off your boots and getting out of Dodge. Over the whinny of electric guitars, frontman Scott Patrick sings about white lines, blue skies and holding on tight for one helluva ride. WYATT’s melodies are big and meaty, primed for radio play. All the proof you need is in the cocksure strut of Next to You, or the junky guitars and squealing organ of If I Had A Dollar. There’s a lot of great music coming out of the new heartland. WYATT’s Saskatonian country rock is some of the best of it.
If you’re an artist looking for a break in Nashville, chances are you’ll play at least once at the Bluebird Café, the city’s unofficial woodshed for raw country talent. Jesse Terry has performed his fair share of showcases at the Bluebird, which has helped to establish him as one of Nashville’s most promising up-and-comers. The singer-songwriter crafts big, soulful country music polished to a shine in the studio. The Runner is a tale of restlessness, where yawning guitar riffs, piano pangs and the mournful warble of lap steel bear the chorus up. Dark and sultry, Devil May Dance explores infidelity and the bottle. AM static on the radio / Looking for last night’s clothes, Terry sings over the wail of an organ and electric guitar. Trading alcohol-fueled fire for a more contemplative sobriety, Edges takes the production down a notch, letting a poignant guitar and dusty percussion do the talking. Terry’s got a lot of material, and the talent to become one of country’s great storytellers.
Katelyn Dawn may not have won Canadian Idol, but she placed high enough to give her a taste of musical stardom, and encourage her to keep going. The Manitoba-born singer-songwriter (and Canada’s Top Model semifinalist) certainly has the singing chops and the good looks to get a boot in the door. Though we prefer her with just a guitar, singing soulful acoustic numbers like Hallelujah”which she played on a showcase for the Discovery Channel”her own style leans more towards Taylor Swift than the great Leonard Cohen. Rescue Me is as mainstream pop as it gets”soaring, airbrushed, and just a little cloying. We recommend sultrier, minor-key fare like There You Go Again. Best of Me is as catchy as it is sly”Dawn’s breathy coo entrances while guitars thrust like daggers. Although the singer is prone to sweetness (if you think you heard the words cocoa kisses in her song Puzzle Pieces, you are correct), she’s best when she saunters in with a bad attitude.