Know The Mountain (Merriweather Records)
Murder ballads, waltzes, fiddle tunes, old-time traditional tunes, silly kids’ songs: Hannah Shira Naiman has it all on her new disc, which I call Hogtown Appalachiana. Shira Naiman definitely has tons of cred in the world of old-time music. Her dad, Arnie Naiman, was playing clawhammer banjo way before it was cool on Queen Street, and she has spent a lot of time in Appalachia, making field recordings and soaking up the culture. She has done way more than just parroting what she heard down South, but is well on the road to using the old-time genre as a building block to her own style. She has used the talents of producer Don Kerr, who has produced rock acts such as The Rheostatics, and a great cast of backup musicians, including her dad and most notably percussionist Gary Craig (who also plays with Bruce Cockburn). I mean, when was the last time you heard drums on an old-time record? Shira Naiman’s songwriting is also developing, not radio-friendly material but evolving towards songs that tell a story. Take The Blue House, a long ballad about a young woman who is lured to a cabin by a fiddler, who ends up digging her grave with a silver spade. Or Callum MacDonald, a tale about love for a Scotsman that was never meant to be. With a clear, unaffected voice, Shira Naiman is well on her way to carrying on her family’s musical tradition.