Key of A's Best Alberta Music of 2018

From Jocelyn Alice's latest Platinum hit, to Jenie Thai, up for a national blues award, to Captain Tractor celebrating 25 years as a band, this was a banner year for Alberta music.

Our annual roundup of the top musical releases from across the province

Clockwise from left: Jenie Thai, Jocelyn Alice and Cam Penner. (,,

From Jocelyn Alice with her latest platinum hit; to Cam Penner winning rave reviews across England, Scotland and Wales. Edmonton's Jenie Thai, up for a national blues award; to Captain Tractor, celebrating 25 years as a band, this was a banner year for music in Alberta.

Here are the top releases from Alberta that made it onto the Key of A during 2018:

Nuela Charles may have lost out to Michael Buble for a JUNO Award in 2018, but she's a big winner in other ways. Now signed to the APA Agency, whose roster includes Bruce Cockburn and Lights, and nominated for the Edmonton Music Prize, Charles seems poised for some long-awaited overnight success. Here she is, on her latest release, Distant Danger.

Edmonton's Jesse and the Dandelions brought in local hero Nik Kozub to produce their latest record, Give Up the Gold. It paid off with golden layers of calm, smooth psych pop that just might take you to your happy place. 

Calgary's Jocelyn Alice has come a long way since she started out as part of a duo with bass player Lisa Jacobs. Now Alice has a contract with Sony Music, and writes songs with quite a few different people. Her single, Bound to You, Platinum in Canada and included on Alice's new album Little Devil, is a co-write with Jacobs. A testament to the power of loyalty and enduring musical friendship.

Edmonton institution Captain Tractor celebrated 25 years together, with a double vinyl LP (silver, natch!). A mix of new songs and some of the band's greatest hits, Captain Tractor 25 Years On looks back on the band's many adventures, and ahead to a collaboration that shows no signs of stopping.

Transgender musician, writer, producer and storyteller Rae Spoon grew up in Calgary but now lives in Victoria, B.C. (getting it ready for the rest of us, they say!) and being close to the ocean has definitely affected their music. The album, titled bodiesofwaterfeatures songs about survival and resilience. 

Alberta expat Cam Penner  and his musical partner Jon Wood make an awful lot of noise for a duo (in a good way). Guitars, drums, loop pedals and Penner's alternately growling and soulful voice have earned them rave reviews as they tour across England, Scotland and Wales. The album, At War With Reason, is also winning well-deserved accolades at home and away.

Scenic Route to Alaska won Rock Artist of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards this fall. They're also nominated for the Edmonton Music Prize for their latest album, Tough Luck

Edmonton's Jenie Thai is trying her luck in Toronto these days and it seems to be working. Her latest record Night on Fire, is up for a national Maple Blues Award. She's also been invited to perform at the Maple Blues Awards Gala in February. Inspired by jazz and the blues, Jenie Thai's dark and soulful songs pick up where Tom Waits leaves off.

Reuben and the Dark released their 2018 album, Arms of a Dream on Canada's Arts & Crafts label; toured extensively, including selling out soft-seat venues like Calgary's Jack Singer Hall and Edmonton's Winspear Centre, and survived a terrifying van crash, to cap off their best, most intense year yet as a band. 

nehiyawak, an Indigenous trio from Treaty 6 territory blends their Cree heritage with new sounds and electronic grooves. They caught the ear of Arts & Crafts, one of Canada's top record labels, which released their EP, Starlight, in late November. Definitely one to watch in 2019.

Matt Patershuk lives in La Glace, near Grande Prairie, but he went to Nashville to record his latest album, Same as I Ever Have Been, with Canadian Steve Dawson, who has a genius for making every song sound its absolute best. Dawson's work on the album won him Producer of the Year honours at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. Terrific songwriting matched by beautiful production — a win-win partnership with great prospects for the future.

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About the Author

Katherine Duncan

Key of A Host

A classically trained musician, Katherine hosts CBC Music (formerly Radio 2) programs Choral Concert and Centre Stage, highlights original music by Alberta artists on CBC Radio 1's Key of A, and serves as Jury Foreperson of the Polaris Music Prize.


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