TD Stage - Sunday June 16, 3:45 pm
About the Artist
TORONTO — In a time of confusion, anger and division, the Skydiggers’ 9th studio album, Warmth of the Sun, arrives as an eloquent and vital plea for compassion, honesty, healing and reckoning with the truth, rendered in the group’s classic folk-rock style.
The 12-track album, which reflects the group’s elemental guitar-based origins and plaintive layered vocal style, was recorded by longtime band associate Michael Timmins, of Cowboy Junkies, and will be released on Oct. 20th via Timmins’ Latent Recordings label on CD, digital download and — in a first for Skydiggers’ 30-year career — on vinyl.
The title track, a powerful appeal for reconciliation and renewal, sets the tone for the album: “Can the warmth of the sun/Heal anyone?/Can the stars and the moon/Reveal the truth?”
“I don’t think it was intentional, but I can hear a thread on these songs about reaching out, being honest with yourself and making a connection with people, in order to get to a better place. That’s definitely a goal for us, it always is,” says singer Andy Maize.
The urgency and immediacy of the songs is reflected in how the record was made. Several are presented in live-off-the-floor versions, often with live vocals intact, lending the LP an air of immediacy, vitality and intimacy, reflective of the band’s storied live shows. It’s also evidence of the strength of the road-honed band lineup featured on the record: the rhythm section of Derrick Brady (bass) and Noel Webb (drums), vocalist Jessy Bell Smith and the most recent addition, multi-instrumentalist Aaron Comeau.
Adds guitarist Josh Finlayson: “If there was an agenda, it was that we wanted more of a guitar centric record. We very much love this version of the band. Most of the tracks were recorded in two days and we didn’t spend a lot of time on overdubs.”
The songs draw from a number of sources, everything from recent collaborations between Finlayson and Maize (“Like A New Beginning”) to songs that date back to the dawn of their collaboration in the 1980s (“An Apology”). “Show Me The Night” features an emotive vocal from Jessy Bell Smith and dates to a songwriting session between Finlayson, Tom Wilson (Lee Harvey Osmond), Thompson Wilson and Stephen Fearing (Blackie & The Rodeo Kings). “Push Comes To Shove” was one of several songs drafted by Maize during songwriting retreats at the Banff Centre and Finlayson’s “When You’re On A Roll” (co-written with Kevin Douglas) was penned during his frequent songwriting sojourns in Nashville. The set also includes two heartfelt covers: The Tragically Hip’s “The Rock” (from “The Depression Suite”) and “The Air That I Breathe,” best known in The Hollies’ hit version.
“Warmth of the Sun is a reflection of the live band, how good the players are, how quick they are,” says Maize. “And we wanted to capture that energy and not overthink it.”
The result can only be described as a classic Skydiggers album, one that can sit shoulder to shoulder alongside milestone records in the group’s catalogue like Restless, Just Over This Mountain and Road Radio. “It’s a privilege to have had this opportunity to share our music with people for so many years,” says Finlayson. “Warmth of the Sun reflects our lives right now, and we’re lucky to share it with people and let it become part of their lives.”
Warmth of the Sun track by track:
1. Warmth of the Sun
Finlayson: I had been thinking a lot about truth and reconciliation with First Nations and aboriginals in Canada, which was sparked by my friend Gord Downie’s Secret Path project. I spent a lot of time working on that and trying to figure out what I wanted to say. That song took the better part of a year for me to finish. But it was a song that needed that time, musically and lyrically.
2. Push Comes To Shove
Maize: That song really came together in Banff. There are three different parts we combined to make one song. Sometimes I get fed up but I’m still hopeful — I have had a history of being unable to effectively articulate myself in my personal life…and to keep talking until I’ve shot myself in the foot.
3. Don’t Try To Explain
Maize: One of my all time favourite songs is “To Sir With Love.” My mom took me to see the movie in 1967, and I think I’ve been trying to write my own version of “To Sir With Love” ever since.
4. Show Me The Night
Finlayson: I wrote this with Tom Wilson, Thompson Wilson and Stephen Fearing, but for whatever reason it didn’t get beyond the demo stage. There was something about it that I really liked and I was playing around with it, started playing it as a waltz, almost like Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” which always made think of the Everly Brothers’ tune “Walk Right Back.” I sang it to Andy and he loved it. He said what if Jessy sang it? She can sing anything and we are lucky to have that.
5. The Rock
Finlayson: We were asked by George Strombolopoulos to share a song for a tribute he was putting together for The Tragically Hip’s 30th anniversary, and that’s a song I used to do with Gord when I played with him live.
Maize: We love the song. We love the band. We love the man.
6. An Apology (I Was Wrong)
Maize: The original idea dates back to early in the band’s life. I started fooling around with it on one of my writing retreats at the Banff Centre, raising the key to make it a little more plaintive. In the recording we added a solo and another bridge to try to get it to the two-minute mark. It’s nice to be able to reach back to older songs that for one reason or another never fell into place. Anything we have written is always there somewhere. Songs sometimes tell you when they are ready. They’re never gone.
7. Like A New Beginning
Maize: Another tune that started in Banff. I really wanted to say something positive, and the line “like a new beginning” seemed like a good place to start.
8. Needle & Thread
Finlayson: This song predates Skydiggers when Andy and I first started working with (Skydiggers’ original drummer) Wayne Stokes. We liked it but whenever we recorded it, it sounded so earnest. We tried it with this band, and it was literally the first take and Aaron Comeau is still learning the riff. It was so kind of haphazard, it just seemed cool, there wasn’t a lot of thought, nothing premeditated about it.
Maize: I love singing in rounds. In elementary school, I loved singing “Streets of Laredo, “The Titanic” or “One Bottle of Pop,” those great rounds. I always loved those. And when I discovered REM, they are fantastic at it. “Fall on Me,” “Harbourcoat.” – those songs blew me away. “I Will Give You Everything” was my attempt to meld my favourite stuff from elementary school with REM, and I see “Needle & Thread” as a continuation of that.
9. Time of Season
Maize: That dates from around the same time as “Needle & Thread,” 1986 or ’87. Josh, Wayne Stokes and I were getting together and playing music, and this is one of the first songs that we wrote. It was really the beginning of the band.
Finlayson: It was an open tuning I learned from a Bruce Cockburn song, “Foxglove.” It’s tough when you work in open tunings to get it right. It was nice to have it as a representation of where we were at that time and we were very happy to be able to figure it out and get a version.