Beyond Alanis and Kathleen: 10 Ottawa-area artists to watch in 2020

LYNN SAXBERG Updated: January 10, 2020 Ottawa Citizen

The Ottawa-area music scene could get a shot in the arm in 2020 with the impending return of two of our most successful artists, Alanis Morissette and Kathleen Edwards. 

Pop superstar Morissette, who took some time away from the music industry to have a family, last month dropped an urgent, piano-driven single about addiction entitled Reasons I Drink. The 45-year-old also plans to release Such Pretty Forks in the Road, her first album in eight years, on May 1. 

What’s more, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Morissette’s landmark album, Jagged Little Pill (now the inspiration for a Broadway musical), she’s embarking on a major North American tour this summer that features Garbage and Liz Phair as guests. So far, though, the only Canadian date is July 11 in Toronto. 

Edwards, who’s 41, is also planning a return to the music biz after stepping away from the limelight six years ago to open her Stittsville coffee shop, Quitters. Her first original tune in years popped up last month just in time for the holiday season. It’s Christmastime (Let’s Just Survive) offers a hilarious take on all that can go wrong at the most special time of the year, highlighted by a chorus of meows. A full album of non-holiday fare is expected later in the year, likely with tour dates to follow. 

Of course, they’re not the only artists with roots in the Ottawa area gearing up for new music in 2020. If you’re prompted to dig a little deeper into what’s happening in the National Capital Region, here are 10 up-and-coming artists we’ll be watching this year:  

Artist is Birdie Whyte and the Sound Ponies featuring on guitar Sal Valley and on mandolin (right) C.A. Jackson. WAYNE CUDDINGTON / JPG

Birdie Whyte: A self-taught singer-songwriter and banjo player, Birdie Whyte is the stage name of Tiah Aske, who’s also the charming host of open-mic nights around town. Her long-awaited debut album, Here’s Where I Find Myself, full of country heartache, will be released Jan. 26 during a family-friendly shindig at the Record Centre. She also hosts the Ideal Folk Night on Fridays from 7 to 10 p.m. at I Deal Coffee, 176 Dalhousie St., where a musical guest is featured each week. 

Lynne Hanson. JEN SQUIRES / JPG

Lynne Hanson: After teaming up with fellow Ottawa singer-songwriter Lynn Miles and recording a great album together as The Lynnes, Hanson returns to her solo career. Her seventh album of rootsy country-folk-blues, the Jim Bryson-produced Just Words, is due for release next month, led by a searing title track about the damaging power of words. The release show is Feb. 21 at the Les Lye Studio at Meridian Centrepointe Theatre. She will play with her band, the Good Intentions. 

Mia Kelly: Still in her teens, Kelly is a singer-songwriter from Gatineau with a depth of talent beyond her years, characterized by a robust and soulful voice and a knack for writing heartfelt songs in both official languages. Her debut EP, Cardboard Box, came out last year. She has plans for new songs and videos in 2020, and hopes to land some festival gigs. Don’t miss her show at the Black Sheep Inn on Feb. 7.

A Leverage for Mountains. LÉVY L. MARQUIS / JPG

A Leverage for Mountains: From the wilds of Val-des-Monts, Que. comes the acoustic trio of Nick Loyer, Jay Trepanier and Jeremy Flynn, who won over audiences on both sides of the Ottawa River in 2019 with their lilting melodies and irresistible vocal harmonies. A new album, Sunny Days, is expected this spring, and they will be part of a double bill with The Pairs in Almonte on April 25, part of the village’s Folkus concert series. It’s already sold out. 


Charles Cleyn: It’s been more than a year since Cleyn left his job at Shopify to pursue music, and in that time, he’s proven his ability as a singer-songwriter with a dynamic stage presence and a string of soulful pop tunes, including the breezy summer track, Decisions, winner of a Berlin Music Video Award. There are plenty of great songs available on his YouTube channel, with more to come this year.

Graven performed in the Barney Danson Theatre Sunday July 8, 2018, at RBC Bluesfest on the City Stage. ASHLEY FRASER / POSTMEDIA

Graven: Despite being displaced by last spring’s flooding, singer-songwriter Matty McKechnie, who goes by the stage name Graven, has managed to record a new album, entitled Years. Produced by Ottawa’s Jim Bryson, the music is described by McKechnie as “alt-country thunder-twang dad rock” with nature-themed songs that mark his bittersweet awareness of time passing. Accompanied by a new band, he plays Irene’s Pub on Jan. 24 to celebrate the release.

Jasmine Trails: The Ottawa artist formerly known as Trails is back as Jasmine Trails, with a debut EP coming out this year. Her dusky voice and melancholy songs channel a vulnerable soul but also the hopeful tone of someone looking forward to the light at the end of the tunnel. She launches the new project with a show Feb. 8 at Club SAW. 

OC Session of trumpeter Ed Lister’s Prime Rib Big Band playing tunes. JEAN LEVAC / JPG

Prime Rib Big Band: One of the most popular monthly gigs of the last couple of years features Ottawa-based trumpeter Ed Lister and no fewer than 10 of the finest players in town, all digging in to create a beefy platter of big-band originals and standards. From their gigs at Irene’s Pub the first Wednesday of every month, they discovered an appetite for the music, and finally got into the studio last year. A new album is expected in the coming months, while the first-Wednesday residency continues. 

Peter Hum: Our esteemed colleague, the Citizen’s restaurant and food critic is also an accomplished jazz pianist with a musical response to the social and political tumult of our times. It can be heard in the high-energy but lyrical compositions contained on his upcoming album, Ordinary Heroes, recorded with an all-star lineup of longtime friends. The sextet performs at the NAC’s Fourth Stage on March 9 as part of an eastern Canadian tour. 

Raphael Weinroth-Browne. JONATHAN LORANGE / JPG

Raphael Weinroth-Browne: The virtuoso cellist and composer known for his work with the eclectic groups The Visit, Musk Ox and Kamancello — as well as recording and touring with the Norwegian progressive metal band Leprous — unveils his debut solo album this month with a release show at the NAC’s Fourth Stage on Jan. 11. Produced by Dean Watson, Worlds Within combines elements of contemporary classical music, post-rock and electronics, although every one of its vast array of sounds is created by the cello.

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