My Top Ten Canadian Singles


Well, the Vinyl Cafe had a show on this weekend where the host, Stuart McLean, picked his top ten Canadian singles. Turns out it was a summer repeat and has already been covered in the blogosphere, but I was inspired to choose my favorite ten songs from Canadian artists too. (I didn’t limit myself to radio singles, as it’s been a while since that’s been relevant for me in terms of music I enjoy.) I graded high for songs that were co-written by Canadians, and included a slight bias against the Canadian songs I already talked about in my ‘Top 10 songs’ blogfest entry, which knocked all of them out of the running and brought up other great music, often by the same artists. (Many of the artists appear in my ‘Desert Island Discs’ playlist.)

And here we go!

1. When I think about first getting interested in truly Canadian music, Lisa Brokop immediately comes to mind. I loved music when I was young, but whether it was church music, borrowed pop, or Christian rock, Canadian content didn’t figure for me. But when I started my country phase in the winter of 1995, shortly before heading off to University, I was getting my fix from the New Country Network video channel on cable, (which later became CMT Canada,) and then local radio stations like CISS-FM in Toronto and CHAM AM in Hamilton. And I really loved the sound of some of the singers from north of the border, like Lisa. ‘Take That’ was one of the first videos that I loved so much that I recorded it onto a VHS tape so I could enjoy it over and over again.

There’s a story that I heard years later that I really love, that Lisa was on tour opening for a big-name band, (Little Texas?) around that time, and didn’t even realize that one of her own songs was hitting it big on the radio until the day that she started ‘Take That’ at a show and realized, to her amazement, that the crowd was singing the first verse along with her. 🙂

But I’m not putting ‘Take That’ on the list, partly because it was written by a couple of American Nashville songwriters. Instead, I’m going to name a song that I really love because it makes me think about writing and Nanowrimo and all of that cool stuff whenever I listen to it: “Write a Book About Me.” It’s off the album “Hey, do you know me” and was written by Lisa Brokop and Kim McLean.

2. “No Change in me”, sung by the Ennis Sisters, written by Murray McLauchlan and Ron Hynes. This is a bit of a two-fer, because I had to get the Ennis Sisters into this list. Murray’s version of the song is also amazing, but the only cut I could find on youtube is this slideshow with rather rough, half-spoken vocals by Ron. But I’ll get back to Ron Hynes later in this list.

3. “Kiss and Make Up,” by Beverley Mahood. Beverley is another Canadian artist who I’ve been a fan of for years and years; I still remember going down to the Toronto Beaches festival one summer day in the mid-90s, getting a front row for Beverley’s set, making a fool of myself with the applause, and buying a copy of “Girl out of the Ordinary” for Bev to sign the liner notes to. This is one of the best cuts off that album, heartfelt and yet upbeat. It was written by Beverley, Steve Hogg (another Canadian!) and Mark Dineen (an internet ghost I can find nothing about.) And it features another great Canadian singer, Ken Munshaw.

4. “The Marrow and the Bone,” by Megan Metcalfe. First off, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Megan very much for all her kind words in response to the top ten blogfest post, when she happened across it. As I said there, I didn’t really like the video for “The Marrow and the Bone”, but I loved the haunting instrumentals once I finally tracked down the CD, and the lyrics: “I’m not a scholar or a prophet. I got no vision in my head. I put my faith into a dream I wanna see before I’m dead.” The song was written by Megan Metcalfe and her Canadian hubbie, Robbie Steininger.

5. “Anywhere under the Moon,” by Dala. Click the link, I’ve already said enough about this one.

6. Leaving on the Evening Tide, by Ron Hynes.

This is actually one that I really discovered after nominating Ron’s album “Face to the Gale” to my Desert Island discs list. I love the honest regret about leaving home that runs through the song, and how it’s reflected three different ways – with the mother, he wants to be mature, make her proud, and is so worried about breaking down into tears himself. With his father, the bittersweet moment is complicated by resentments and disapproval, and with the girl he loves, he’s afraid again, afraid of losing his nerve – so he leaves a note instead of saying goodbye in person.

7. Train of Dreams, by Gary Fjellgard.

I don’t actually know that much about Gary. I hit upon some of his amazing music while searching the Napster Canada service at one point, finding two truly great songs: “Islanders” (which was also covered brilliantly by the Ennis Sisters,) and this song, which I always think about when I’m riding the GO train – as I will be this weekend, heading into the City for Fan Expo!

“We would wait for the trains, in that hot summer sun. If we listened to the rails, we could hear them hum.”

8. Fiddle and Bow, by Bruce Guthro and Natalie McMaster.

I think this song introduced me both to Natalie, an incomparable fiddle player, and Bruce, who wrote the song and provides the vocals. I love all of the harmonies, and the story about the fiddle being passed down from father to son throughout the generations.

9. Coyote Way, by Leahy.

I’ve got a lot of favorite songs by Leahy, but this one is possibly dearest just because I got Simon Tam and Kaylee Frye to dance to it in a fanfic.

10. The Last Saskatchewan Pirate, by the Arrogant Worms.

Now, I actually came across this incredibly funny and uniquely Canadian song from the Brad Johner cover, but on this list I felt I had to give credit to the Canadian group that wrote it.

The inevitable list of also-rans (or honorable mentions):

“French Perfume”, by Great Big Sea
“Just Another Plane”, by Carolyn Dawn Johnson
“Fare Thee Well Love”, by the Rankins
“Too Little, Too Late”, by Amanda Marshall
“The Big Bow-Wow”, by the Fables

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