After this weekend’s Grammy Awards and all the attention and accolades Canadian artists received at the ceremonies, it’s easy to overlook a number of other great Canadian artists making their mark on the international stage. Sarnia, ON native Donovan Woods is an excellent singer-songwriter and performer in his own right, garnering a loyal following North of the 49th parallel while making a name for himself in the U.S. after Tim McGraw recorded his song “Portland Maine” and Charles Kelly of Lady Antebellum covering Woods’ “Leaving Nashville” on his debut solo LP. Woods has graciously accepted our invitation share a list of some of his favourite songs for today’s Guest List post.
Donovan Woods is taking to the road on a nationwide tour, making a stop nearby QBiM HQ to play the pride of Niagara’s arts scene, the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines on March 2. Woods’ new album Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled, arrives next Friday, February 26, on his own label, Meant Well.
DONOVAN WOODS’ GREAT CANADIAN PLAYLIST
Andy Irvine & Paul Brady “Arthur McBride”
This is a traditional song so there’s all types of versions but this is the one I first heard. Gordie Sampson played it for me a couple years ago at his Song Camp event in Ingonish, Cape Breton. I was floored when I heard it, and I didn’t know what they were saying 60-70 percent of the time. I’ve now worked out most of the lyric now, but I don’t really know exactly what’s going on. It doesn’t matter. The melody! I could honestly listen to the fella sing about tax code in that melody. It’s pretty, and tough, and defiant. It’s just a great song. One of my favourite activities (especially with songwriters) is to sit around playing each other songs on a good stereo, trying to blow each other’s minds. Gordie blew my mind with this one. I run to listen to it whenever I think of it.
Fred Eaglesmith “Katie”
This is a murder ballad, so all types of problems here, but the amount of story that Fred is able to tell in these scant verses is pretty wild. There are only 142 words, not counting repetitions, in the song. Consider this verse:
“Joe tried to talk / He just coughed / My heart stopped / The gun went off / Katie screamed out his name / And then the gun went off again”.
It’s a real sparse beauty, this one. And when you really dive in to think about the protagonists’ motivations, there’s really a lot of stuff there. Fred is on another level to me. Clear, blunt, pithy, poetic language. Every time.
Jann Arden “Could I Be Your Girl”
First of all, the title is perfect. Just a clear statement of intent (I think the best pop song title of all time is “I Want You Back”). She’s just going for it. This song contains some of the most badass lines of longing you’ll hear anywhere, and your mom bopped it in her Ford Tempo while she drove you to gymnastics. Jann, to me, is so in touch with the duality of language; everything means both things. Things are funny and snide and sad and angry, all at the same time. She doesn’t really want to be his girl, but she really does. Love isn’t really a demon, but it TOTALLY is and you’re the one it’s coming for.
Sam Roberts “Bridge To Nowhere”
I have always loved this song. It’s got such a tired, weary feeling in it. He sounds like he’s just exhausted with himself, which I can relate to. I don’t really know what it’s about, but I don’t care. Most of my favourite songs exist in that kind of nebulous space. They’re just about some kind of tumult. That’s it. They’re about that nagging feeling that you fucked something up, or that somebody somewhere is on to you and they’re gonna get you. “Your debt’s paid off, but it don’t feel gone.” That type of thing.
Stars “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”
If you don’t know why this song is great, I cannot help you. It captures a human moment so well. “God that was strange to see you again.” It’s about seeing an ex-lover, I guess, who does not seem to be dead. I have no idea. I don’t care, it’s fucking perfect. “I’m not sorry I met you, I’m not sorry it’s over, I’m not sorry there’s nothing to say.” ALL IS VANITY.
[We love this version of “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” from a Stars Daytrotter session, and hope you do, too.]Tags: Donovan Woods, Fred Eaglesmith, Jann Arden, Sam Roberts, Stars