Canadian Content



In 1994, I traveled north of the border on my second trip to Canada and what would be the first of many to Toronto. I fell in love with the city. And through the friend who worked in the music industry with whom I was staying, I fell in love with Canadian music. It’s been years now and it’s a very different city, but I hope it’s still as magical to those who visit.

So to mark Canada Day, here are some of the songs that made up the soundtrack of my 90s, from the albums that came home in my suitcase from that trip.

Bonne fête, Canada.

Spirit of the West 

Maybe a predictable choice; Faithlift is the bestselling album for the Vancouver-based Celtic/folk/rock band; one of their most straightforward rock efforts, it spawned their biggest hit single, “And If Venice is Sinking.”


Barenaked Ladies

It’s easy for casual listeners to peg BNL as lightweight comedians (something the cover art for the first album doesn’t discourage, although it’s not clear how the later switch to something like a Pepsi logo did much to add gravitas). But to do that is not to hear the darkness that has always lurked beneath the bubbly arrangements and cheery delivery–the numb despair of “Pinch Me,” the matter-of-factness of a deranged stalker in “Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank.” The domestic violence and stalking in “The Old Apartment” is just plain disturbing; it’s a variation on a recurring theme they explored on this track, wrapped in Kingston Trio harmonies: the thinness of the line between love and hate.



Listening to Rheostatics’ music proves to be quite a unique aural experience….To the uninitiated ear, the music may sound like a loosely organized cacophony of sound. Some assert that initial listenings are the musical equivalent of the hearing a foreign language. Before long, however, the listener has a moment of revelation, when he/she sees the brilliance and genius of the music, the cleverness and uniqueness of the arrangements. –

Well, that’s about as game an attempt as I’ve ever seen at describing them.


Tragically Hip 

Downie’s band, the Tragically Hip, is one of those enormous entities that cannot be understood outside its homeland. In Canada, we just call them the Hip, and Downie is simply Gord. And I am betraying something sacred by attempting to explain what he means to us. Gord is the country’s spirit animal in the only way a 52-year-old white man might legitimately be classified as a “spirit animal.” – Chris Koentjes, Slate Magazine, 2016

By any measure, this band should be on an RRHOF ballot.







10 thoughts on “Canadian Content

  1. I’ll have to re-listen to Barenaked Ladies now. Haven’t picked up on the darkness. Probably before your time, but Triumph had some good songs in the 70’s and 80’s. In some ways I think they were the Nickelback of their time, not getting a ton of respect. At least that’s what I recall.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny about Triumph. I know next to nothing about them and frankly, I’d forgotten about them. Then I went to a local repertory theater and lo and behold, Rik Emmett is appearing there later this year in an acoustic duo with fellow Canadian Dave Dunlop. Harold, if you’re curious, it’s the Center for the Arts in Natick. Not that you’d necessarily want to go to that show but they have a nice mix of live shows, documentaries, and old movies. That’s where I saw the John Coltrane documentary I just blogged about.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. TNAC is a great place for concerts. Saw Martin Barre (Jethro Tull) there last year, and a mashup of some Peter Gabriel band members with one of the guys from King Crimson. Thanks for the tip, will check it out.
        Michelle – I like “Hold On”.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. A nice set of music. I thought that the Barenaked Ladies sounded somewhat like Crosby, Stills, and Nash on this one. As to the Tragically Hip, I’ve only known the name. But I sure know about their lead singer. Damn shame.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good heavens, I’ve been gone a month? Yeah, I can hear CS&N some. You should try some Hip. I saw them, oh, 20 years ago (everything is 20 years ago now..ugh) and the Maple Leaf flags were out in force-there was nothing short of fervency in the air.


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