An evening with a great space with great people and great musicians is what every stressed out student needs to unwind while still doing something good for their brain and mental health. The music was thought provoking and relaxing.
Two stunningly beautiful sounding Canadian singer songwriters Justin Rutledge and Joshua Hyslop turned the Niagara Artists Centre into a warm house concert as they performed to an enthusiastic crowd.
Ending their tour leg together, the two artists wove narratives with lyrical prowess and took every audience member on a journey through their lives and across the country. Hyslop’s storytelling in between songs was engaging, funny and showed his flexibility and performing skill. His guitar playing and vocal melodies were interesting and enjoyable.
Similarly, Rutledge made the audience fall in love with soothing and simple, yet powerful music. The mandoline, guitar, and vocals worked beautifully together often creating more than charming harmonies.
After the show Hyslop talked about his inspirations and career. He said his influences include, “all the old greats like Paul Simon, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens,” and he “listen[s] to anything that’s older than I am,” along with lots of contemporary music of course like “Tallest Man on Earth”.
He also said that he does lots of reading. “As someone who writes, I think you absorb things all the time, so, subconsciously at least you’re taking everything in, so it’s not just books, it’s not just music, everything you see, everything you hear kinda seeps its way in.”
He is finishing up his tour and his last show was Sunday night in Toronto. Earlier this year he toured Europe as well.
“I was there for 27 days, … we played 20 shows,” he elaborated. “The shows themselves were fantastic, we had an absolutely wonderful time pretty much everywhere.”
In terms of the future of folk and singer-songwriter music, Hyslop says that he is “hopeful.” Even if streaming services like “Spotify” are seriously changing the way things work.
Before the show, I had the opportunity to do a short interview with Rutledge. When he chatted with me, he had a very down-to-earth demeanor.
His newest album is entitled East, as in the East Canadian Coast – more specifically Halifax. Rutledge told me that he had recorded all of his past material in Toronto and for this album he wanted to just disengage. “There’s something to be said [about] disengaging from your environment” he continued, he “stayed at [his] friend Dan Ludwell – the producer’s – place and his studio’s on their property.”
“[Ludwell] lives on a lake and it was really beautiful,” said Rutledge somewhat wistfully.
When I asked him about the process of actually putting together the album, he said that they put it together at a leisurely pace, doing it all in ten days.
“I don’t see any sense in overworking anything” he continued, “I like eight hour work days. So we’d start at 10:00 a.m. and end at 6:00 p.m.”
Rutledge’s back catalogue is some really great, Canadian singer-songwriter material and this change in setting definitely changes his sound while still retaining everything that made his other albums great.
I asked him if he had a favourite song off the record and he told me it varies. “The Great Ascension that is a little just outside of the box for me and it does stand out on the record. I’ve never played that kind of tempo or groove.” Then, “some days I think that the song Unsettled is an interesting song because I applied a lot of pop sensibilities in terms of the songwriting for that.”
Both Hyslop’s and Rutledge’s most recent work is online everywhere music is found.