Saskatchewan·Analysis

Sask. musicians who led the pack in 2018 and who to listen for this year

For many of us, music made right here in Saskatchewan was our soundtrack in 2018. And as momentum builds and Saskatchewan music continues to be heard around the world, here are several artists you should be keeping your eyes and ears on in 2019.

Bombargo, Samurai Champs, Danny Olliver and more have caught music buff Taron Cochrane's attention

Prince Albert, Sask., trio The Wolfe released an EP in 2018 called Strange Words. (Stephanie Kuse)

For many of us, music made right here in Saskatchewan was our soundtrack in 2018. These were the songs that helped us celebrate the highs, guide us through the lows, and serenade us through everything four seasons in the Canadian Prairies delivers.

Listen to a curated playlist of all the artists mentioned in this piece.

Belle Plaine

Recently crowned SaskMusic's Best Album of 2018, Belle Plaine's third full-length album, Malice, Mercy, Grief and Wrath,​ set the bar incredibly high in the folk, country and Americana musical landscapes. Enlisting the talents of fellow celebrated Saskatchewan singers Colter Wall (Is it Cheating?) and Megan Nash (Golden Ring), her successes following the release prove that with enough grit, determination and true talent you can achieve everything you set out to do.

In her stunning new album 'Malice, Mercy, Grief & Wrath' Belle Plaine takes inspiration from her complicated relationship with her Dad, the lessons she's learned from her Mom, and a close encounter her Grandma had with a train. She explores those relationships in our feature interview. 16:09

Bombargo

Saskatoon funk-infused dance floor fillers, Bombargo catapulted into ears everywhere when Taylor Swift added their song Mr. No Good to her first official Spotify playlist, "Songs Taylor Loves." (They were the only Canadian and only unsigned band to make the cut!) They kept the momentum going later in the year with the earworm Oxygen.

Rosie & The Riveters

A voice for change, this harmonic Bridge City trio became household names nationwide thanks to heavy airplay of their single Let 'Em Talk on CBC Radio 2 and a banner album aptly titled Ms. Behave.

Tenille Arts

The Pride of Weyburn, powerhouse country singer-songwriter Tenille Arts continued to take over the industry with hair-raising single Mad, Crazy Love and a supporting tour with Dean Brody.

Samurai Champs

In 2018, this unique R&B hip hop duo released several singles and kept stages lit as far away as Estonia. Founding member Merv xx Gotti (Marvin Chan) continued to set the bar high with a CBC Future 40 award and inclusion as the only Saskatchewan artist chosen for the SOCAN Foundation inaugural TD Creative Entrepreneur Incubator.

A founding member of Samurai Champs, Merv xx Gotti (Marvin Chan), snagged a CBC Future 40 award in 2018. (Athirdtime Photography)

In the spirit of diversity and inclusion, I spent the entire year keeping track of singles of all genres and styles released in Saskatchewan. You can stream the entire collection below on Spotify.

As momentum builds and Saskatchewan music continues to be heard around the world, here are several artists you should be keeping your eyes and ears on in 2019.

Colter Wall

Every year since 2014, I've included Colter Wall on my "artists to watch" list and every year since 2014, his career seems to grow in leaps and bounds. Steve Earle once referred to him as "the best young singer-songwriter I've seen in 20 years" and after seeing him live in support of his Saskatchewan proud 2018 release Songs of the Plains, I'd tend to agree. This year will undoubtedly bring more international attention to this down-to-earth prairie phenomenon.

Danny Olliver

In the 11th hour on Dec. 5, 2018, Regina singer-songwriter Danny Olliver released what may just be the song of the year: a reworking of his 2014 song Let Me Know with additional instrumentation, additional production and that signature vocal style we all know and love.

Regina artist Danny Olliver joins Saskatchewan Weekend guest host Peter Mills to talk about his brand new single, his upcoming album and tour, and how a change of scenery is bringing new inspiration. 7:39

Vanessa Gauvin

Recorded at Piapot's Skullcreek Studios, the incredible debut four-song EP Devil Man from this gifted Swift Current musician is just the start to what is bound to become an unforgettable career.

Surf Dads

Starting off by sending iPhone demos thousands of miles to each other, Regina's Gage McGuire and drummer Chris Dimas introduced Surf Dads through the release of several EPs over several years. The trend continued in 2018 with the blistering indie rock anthems on Long Weekend —an EP that would help open to the door to international showcases, birth their label Grind Central Records and prove that this is a band hell bent on making waves.

The Wolfe

Ending the year opening for Saskatoon rock juggernauts One Bad Son, the hunger for success in Prince Albert trio The Wolfe is undeniable. Appearing at the final Warped Tour in Toronto, their attention to detail in all aspects of their career from the visuals to the music has never been more apparent than with the release of their 2018 EP Strange Words.

About the Author

Taron Cochrane is a senior communications officer with CBC Saskatchewan and has been involved in the Saskatchewan music industry for over a decade.

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