On our minds and on our playlists
Among connoisseurs of Canadian folk music, Newfoundland tends to be a blind spot — if it registers on radars at all. Cape Breton has its high-stepping fiddlers, but what about its neighbor? Two new albums on Toronto’s Borealis Records suggest there’s a lot to admire about Newfoundland’s vibrant, contemporary roots scene.
Singer-songwriter Ron Hynes found his muse for his new album, “Stealing Genius,’’ while on sabbatical in Woody Point on the western coast of Newfoundland. The austere landscape seeps into his songs, many of which were inspired by some of his favorite Canadian poets and authors, including Stan Dragland (“House’’) and fellow Newfoundlanders Donna Morrissey (“Blood and Bones’’) and Al Pittman (“30 for 60’’).
Meanwhile, everything old is new again on the self-titled debut from the Once, a young folk trio (below) that puts a contemporary spin on the province’s Irish and Scottish influences. Beneath its buzzing electric guitar, “Maid on the Shore’’ is a thoroughly modern sea shanty, while the ballad “Marguerite’’ salutes the majesty of the hills of Newfoundland and the nostalgia they induce. Close harmonies turn Tom Waits’s “The Briar and the Rose’’ into an elegy. The real stunner, though, is an a cappella cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Coming Back to You’’ that conjures the beauty and simplicity of the late Kate Wolf.