The Guitar Players-Lenny Breau

Lenny was born (1941) to a Canadian mother and American father, the family moved from Maine to New Brunswick when he was seven. He played in the family Country band until 1959, thereafter he was initially based in Winnipeg where he explored Jazz and improvisational styles. At the nation’s public broadcaster, the CBC he would have The Lenny Breau Show in 1963-4, he was also a performer at a club just outside of Winnipeg called the Forth Dimension. Speaking of great guitar players, Winnipeg was home to people like Neil Young and Randy Bachman watched Lenny as well.

His music made it to Chet Atkins. Let’s just say that via endorsement from Atkins, there is only one degree of separation between that and greatness. They collaborated on Lenny’s first two albums, he lived in Winnipeg until leaving for the US in 1976. He continued to perform, write, teach and started a family. He was finally kicking his long time drug habit when in 1983 his body was found in a pool at his apartment in Los Angeles. Murder was suspected but never proven. While forgotten by most, his memory and work is preserved by his daughter Emily Hughes and Randy Bachman (Guess Who, BTO).

His style is a blend, but was inspired by Fingerstyle legend Merle Travis, as was Lenny’s mentor Chet Atkin’s who is quoted as saying that Lenny was “the greatest guitarist who ever walked the face of the earth.”.

This clip from the Lenny Breau documentary is 8:45 long but I encourage you to at least see the segment from one minute to 2:30.

Blue Rodeo

This band was started by high school buddies Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy, after a lot of hard work they released their first album Outskirts in 1987. While the lineup has changed over the years, the bass player Bazil Donovan has been there from the start. To my knowledge they have never charted a song outside of Canada, yet here at home their many accolades and honours, not to mention over 4 million albums sold tell the story of one of the countries greatest bands ever. It’s not like they didn’t try and break into the US market, it just never happened. I do occasionally hear one of their songs on the Sirius XM Outlaw channel. So they do have pocket of fans south of the border and elsewhere. Several of my international blogging pals know of them. They must be doing something right after 36 years and counting.

So I admit to being bias and a bit of a fan, I have seen them play many times and they are some of the best at what they do. Their songwriting is nothing short of brilliant, great voices and their musicianship is first rate. Now, not everyone likes this style of music but if you don’t know them they are at least worth a listen. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite but I think “Try”(1987) is still their most popular and not a bad choice. Ok, I will add one more that is a guaranteed sing-a-long at their live shows, let’s just call it another ‘favorite’ and it’s titled “Lost Together”(1992).

Lot’s more to discover at

The Jazz Singers

I have enjoyed listening to these ladies’ over the years. This seemed as good an opportunity as any to give mention, they are all amazing.

Denise Pelley is based in my Hometown of London Ontario, she has a lovely and versatile voice and has been the ‘go to’ Jazz singer in this region for many years. To my knowledge she has just one album of covers of Jazz Standards. She is also well known for her community work.

Molly Johnson is a Toronto native and a well known artist across Canada. In addition to her Jazz vocal talents she has sung lead in Rock and Pop bands and is a dancer and actor. She has 10 albums to her credit.

Jully Black is another Toronto native and in truth known better for her R&B and Soul style. She has six albums to her credit as well as several Juno Awards and nominations. She made a bit of news lately as she changed one word of the Canadian National Anthem while singing it at the NBA All Star game earlier this year. Instead of “and Native Land” she sang “on Native Land”. Some think the change should be permanent.

Emilie-Claire Barlow is a Toronto native and Juno Award winner. She has released 12 albums and records in several languages. She covers Jazz standards and pop favorites. She is well known as a voice actor as well. The Canadians will like this bit of trivia, her Grandfather was Bob Homme, who was The Friendly Giant! For those who don’t know it was a staple children’s program that started in Public Television the US in the 1950’s and in 1958 moved to Canada and aired until 1985. I have included a cover or two of hers in past posts.

Her website is here

Holly Cole grew up in Halifax but moved to Toronto to pursue a career in music. She has released close to 20 albums both as The Holly Cole Trio and solo. If I am to have a favorite here it would be Holly. I really like her song choices and of course, that voice!


Great Big Sea

The band was formed in St. Johns, Newfoundland and had their first gig in 1993 followed by their first of ten albums. While they are no longer together as broke up some time after the departure of Séan McCann in 2013, they made an indelible mark on the Canadian music landscape. The lead singer Alan Doyle is a friend and co-performer with actor Russel Crowe, they met through another actor and Newfoundlander Allan Hawco.

They had a blend of traditional and Maritime songs along with some great original material as in the song above, “Ordinary Day” was written by Doyle and McCann. Part of the song below, which is a cover of a popular Newfoundland Folk song was used by Russel Crowe in his movie State of Play.

Jayli Wolf

Wolf was born in Creston, British Columbia and her heritage is that of the Saulteaux or Plains Ojibwe First Nations, although she new little of this growing up as she was raised Jehovah’s Witness. Jayli has overcome much in her lifetime and that experience comes through in her music. Our First Nations peoples in Canada have a story that needs to be heard. I was struck by the lyrics in the songs and the way that Jayli is telling part of it, as well as her own.

Here is a link to Jayli’s Youtube channel.