Villages is an indie folk group heavily inspired by the spirit of the Maritimes. However, creating music inspired by their Cape Breton roots seemed like a long shot when the members first started performing together. Back in the late aughts, Matt Ellis, Travis Ellis, Jon Pearo and Archie Rankin formed the indie rock group Mardeen and fled Cape Breton Island for Halifax. Aiming to participate in a music community with a penchant for melodic indie rock, the group strove to carry on the torch of their heroes in Sloan, The Super Friendz and Thrush Hermit.
After releasing several acclaimed albums and EP’s, there was a turning point in that endeavour. “One late night, a few years back, a singalong of Rankin Family tunes broke out” says vocalist Matt Ellis. “I remember saying to the rest of the band that we need to write something that evokes the sound of home.” Soon after that night, Ellis wrote just that song. It was called “Hymn After Hymn” and it captured the Maritimes musically and lyrically in a new and authentic way. This song was followed by a burst of creative output and the group quickly jumped into the studio to record these songs with east coast stalwart and producer Joel Plaskett. “Joel has such a strong knowledge of folk music from the UK and Ireland, he really brought our songs to life”. The problem was, these new songs had nothing in common with the edgy indie rock that Mardeen is known for. These songs needed their own home.
Inspired by an essay that comic artist Kate Beaton wrote about her hometown in Cape Breton, the project was named Villages. The group released their first single in October 2016 and have been writing, recording, and touring in the time since.
In February 2019, Villages will release their self-titled debut album. Recorded at their home studio in rural Nova Scotia with producer Thomas Stajcer (Joel Plaskett, Erin Costello), and mixed by Kevin Ratterman (My Morning Jacket, Basia Bulat), Villages solidifies the group’s vision in capturing the spirit of the Maritimes in a fresh, yet familiar way. Combining Celtic and British folk music influences with the atmospheric arrangements of groups like the War on Drugs and Fleet Foxes, Villages’ debut record is just the first step of a journey into rediscovery and reinvention.
J.P. Cormier is a man with many musical talents. He is a skilled songwriter, a gifted singer, & an extraordinary musician who has accomplished success with more than one instrument. During his long career, he has won many competitions, including the Canadian Open Guitar Championship, the Southern U.S. Fiddle Championship, & the Southern U.S. Banjo Championship. He has also worked with a number of big-name artists and appeared on the ever-popular Grand Ol’ Opry over 24 times. His debut album, Out of the Blue, was released when he was only 16 years old.
Cormier was born in London, Ontario, Canada. When most kids were just starting kindergarten, he was already showing a strong interest in music. Soon that interest proved to be an impressive natural talent. He taught himself to play the guitar. It would only be the first of many string instruments he would master in the coming years.
Not long after Cormier’s ninth birthday, he won his first guitar competition, holding his own against musicians of all ages. He landed his first steady professional job when he was only 14. It was a weekly bluegrass television show called Up Home Tonight. Two years later came the release of a debut album filled with instrumental bluegrass music that showcased his guitar skills. After some time appearing at a number of festivals, Cormier became the mandolin player for the famous bluegrass-gospel group the Sullivan Family. He spent a number of years afterward touring with the group, and with other major artists.
In 1997, Cormier, all grown-up, finally finished a sophomore offering, Another Morning, for his fans. The award-winning recording was followed by a third full-length album, Heart & Soul. Along the way to making a name for himself, Cormier has performed with countless artists, the list reading something like a who’s who in music, including Alan Jackson, Marty Stuart, Bill Monroe, Waylon Jennings, Travis Tritt, Vince Gill, Kitty Wells, and many others. If his musical career had crashed to an end with the start of the new millennium, Cormier would still have touched enough parts of the music world to ensure that his legacy lasted long after.
Stellar songs, dynamic vocals, and superior musicianship marks the emergence of Port Cities onto the Canadian music scene. An exciting new group from the east coast, Port Cities brings together the award winning talents of Carleton Stone, Breagh Mackinnon, and Dylan Guthro.
The trio began writing together when they met at the Gordie Sampson Songcamp in Ingonish, Cape Breton. The result was a strong friendship and ongoing collaboration as they each released and toured solo albums.
Port Cities has now surfaced as the result of a genuine connection and a shared belief that the music they make together has endless possibilities. The outcome is a rootsy pop sound with an emphasis on powerful harmonies, outstanding songs, and an engaging camaraderie onstage and off.
The members of Port Cities are no strangers to great music, with six [solo] albums released collectively to date and collaborations with the likes of Juno award-winning duo Classified and David Myles, along with Hawksley Workman (Tegan and Sara, Serena Ryder, Great Big Sea), Howie Beck (Feist, Hannah Georgas, Hayden) and Jason Collett (acclaimed singer/songwriter and member of Broken Social Scene).
The band worked with mentor and friend, Gordie Sampson (Carrie Underwood, LeAnn Rhymes, Rascal Flatts), writing and recording for their debut release Port Cities, which just came out.
Still riding high in the wake of a well-received self-titled EP released last October, folk-pop group Hillsburn is, like many of us, looking forward to a spring and summer of festivals. Plus a full-length album in the fall.
Made up of brother and sister Clayton and Rosanna Burrill, Jackson Fairfax-Perry and main songwriter Paul Aarntzen, the band started playing together after a health scare of Aarntzen’s. A prolific songwriter, he ended up writing a selection of songs for a yet-unformed band at his house in Hillsburn, NS after a hospital stay. Recruiting some friends, the evolution of the band was easy. “It was something that felt really natural, and we all had a lot of fun with it,” says Clayton. “All four of us were sort of in transitional periods, evaluating what we wanted to spend our time doing, and Hillsburn really just presented itself to us.”
Hillsburn’s thoughtful, melodic songs come from Aartzen’s literary background. “Lyrically, [Paul] makes up a lot of first-person stories. He’s also writes fiction, so a lot of our songs end up sounding a little like short stories set to music.”
Though rooted in folk, the band prefers to dodge genres in favour of just doing what sounds best. “We don’t necessarily think of ourselves as working within the folk tradition. I think we adopted the folk-pop label because we play mostly acoustic instruments, many of which are staples of folk and bluegrass—acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo,” says Clayton. “But really these were just the instruments we had kicking around when we started trying to arrange some of Paul’s songs. We also use saxophone, keyboard and ukulele. We’re certainly not folk purists. We have one song that’s just a Rhodes keyboard and three-part harmony. So we tend to use whatever instrumentation sounds best, regardless of what genre the song sounds like as a result.”
Come discover your inner artist with a night of creativity, conversations, and maybe a few cocktails! Patricia MacNeil is lending us her expertise for a funfilled night. $45 includes canvas, paints, brushes, aprons, palette – everything you need to create your very own masterpiece. Space is limited.
The Jillick at the Inn will play host to 8 market vendors, who handcraft and or grow their own products. We like to encourage buying local, as well as young and old entrepreneurship alike.
Details to follow.