10 montreal folk artists you should know

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i’ve been having an affair with electronic music for almost a decade now, cheating on my first true love, folk music. it doesn’t feel wrong though – electronic music is the younger, hotter babe i take out on the dancefloor, but folk music is who i’ll always come home to. folk, indie, bluegrass, country, gospel; i probably shouldn’t lump them all together, but all have been a part of my life in the same way. they’re my roots, in a weird way, the first kinds of music that really got me connected to music. and for that i owe them a lot. they’re genres i’ve always loved and always will. i might not be listening to dance music years from now, but i know for sure that folk will always be part of my catalogue. montreal in particular has a very special folk scene, heralded by a group of young up-and-comers who have the soul of a 90 year old. so, of course, this post – part of the 10 montreal series – was an absolute necessity. roots.

the wind & the wild /

the collaborative effort of jake watson, chris snow, mitchell chevrier, and eric leger, the wind & the wild is four-piece folk project from ottawa and montreal. with gigs all over both cities (including pop montreal) under their belts, the group is quickly making their way in the montreal music scene. they may be a boy band, but don’t expect coordinated outfits and choreographed dance moves – the wind & the wild has a deep, rich sound (think bon iver, jason isbell, or john paul white). their debut self-titled EP, a stunning self-released 8-tracker, dropped last year.

victoria laberge /

i met victoria laberge through the site she helps run with al lafrance, bloody underrated. it was such a pleasure to hear that she was also a singer/songwriter, and i eagerly attended her performance at le bull pub’s open mic night. i was floored. vic plays the uke, which for all intents and purposes is having a bit of a moment in music right now, but she’s not the “precious” type you’d expect. her debut EP, songs about boys, is charming, witty, and beautifully written. her voice is honest and unassuming, and that’s a really amazing thing in music. “stoner boy” is a personal favourite, and vic’s version of daughter’s “landfill” was one of the most moving and poignant performances i’ve seen.

allyson reigh /

although she’s currently based out of saskatoon, allyson is a part time montrealer, and i just couldn’t leave her off this list. you might remember that i interviewed her a while back about her EP, letters, a stellar construction that balances indie-pop with folk and soul. her sound has a distinctly rustic, windy tonality. part time member of girl band, rosie and the riveters, allyson has her hands in a lot of pots, and it’s clear her vast musical experience is lending a lot to the knowing sound of her music.

lakes of canada /

lakes of canada won my heart when they were voted montreal’s 4th most pretentious band, and proceeded to give absolutely zero fucks about it. made up of greg halpin, jake smith, gwen bergman, conor o’neil, and tim dobby, lakes of canada has been around a couple years now, winning hearts with their gospel-tinged, warm, down home tunes. their live is a really phenomenal experience – multilayered and intricate, they truly performs as one. don’t let the hipster beards fool you, there’s nothing cliche about this group.

the TEA band /

the tea band – comprised of thanya, emilie, and ali – is the first of two female trios on this list. with an intriguing set up of upright bass, flute, harp, violin, piano, trumpet, and of course, vocals, these ladies mix folk with jazz for a sound that is distinct and directional. their debut self-titled full length came out in 2012, full of beautiful multifaceted numbers that are pretty without being dainty or fragile. “loose threads” is on another level.

motel raphael /

and now for a band that really needs no introduction, motel raphael has quickly grown into a montreal mainstay. when i spoke with emily skahan, clara legault and maya malkin almost 2 years ago for littlecity, it was one of their first ever interviews. back when it was just the three of them, and their music spoke to me so much. years later, it still does. the group is set to release their highly-anticipated debut album this spring/summer, and although their band has grown to include more members, but the heart of their sound remains the same. feminine, classic, homegrown.

the fox hunt /

made up of adam rice, matthew mannucci, jack kaladjian, and joanna selvarajah, the fox hunt is the new moniker for considering anyone present. they are a fantastic little group with a lot to offer: a smooth acoustic sensibility, great chemistry, and a good sense of humour to boot. the vocals have a very familiar feel – their whole sound is kind of comforting in that way. having recently added a new member and changed their name, i’m sure they have a lot more up their sleeve. be sure to check out some of the covers and live performances they’ve uploaded on their facebook page!

johnny griffin /


full disclosure: johnny griffin is sitting across from me at the cafe while i write this piece. i decided that instead of going over to say hi, i would rather just write about it in a blog post and come off as a stalker of the digital age. i’m mostly embarrassed because i don’t want to admit to his face that his song “books” has been on repeat on my soundcloud for about a week now. his music – just him and his guitar – is gritty and real, and much of that is owed to his phenomenal way with lyrics. there’s a lot of soul in his words and his way of singing them, exactly what folk music should be.

emily skahan/

i couldn’t bring myself to leave emily skahan off this list, despite having included her band, motel raphael. emily is my music girl crush. her debut album, mean things i’ve said about other people was a long awaited release for me. after witnessing her busking in the metro a few times, i was completely smitten, not only by her stunning vocals and captivating presence, but by her sincere songwriting. not convinced? take a listen to “far,” then let’s talk.

matt large /

who better to close off this list than the incomparable matt large? the so-called king of bluegrass in this city, matt is a montreal mainstay, and basically single handedly responsible for the keeping the genre alive and thriving. not only is matt the frontman of notre dame de grass (great pun), but he’s also the promoter behind hello darlin productions (one of the forces behind the montreal folk fest). we owe a lot to matt’s devotion to this scene. sadly matt and NdG don’t have a soundcloud or bandcamp either, but if you’d like to give them a listen, follow this link. you won’t be disappointed.

++ top photo (c) amanda dionne photography

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