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Indie roots, global blues, jam band, aboriginal alternative?
Call them what you will but Digging Roots are marching to the beat of their own drum. The five-piece band from Toronto seems to have found the right balance of fairytale good fortune, old-fashioned hard work and the creative chemistry to make a go of it.
Frontman and frontwoman respectively, Raven Kanatakta and ShoShona Kish met at an audition for a music festival when they were both still students. Until then, they had been playing small cafes and open mics between studying for exams.
They won their first gig after their chance meeting that day and haven’t looked back.
They started writing songs and were playing the odd show as a duo when music manager Derek Andrews approached them in 2005, the same year they signed a record deal, put together a band and started touring. Digging Roots was born. The following year they released their debut album Seeds to a wealth of critical success, awards and a Juno nomination.
Digging Roots recorded the bones of their most recent album we Are while held up in a little cabin on the shores of Lake Simcoe with a host of collaborators including the iconic Kinnie Starr, DJ Bear Witness and avant-garde Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq.
The album delved into a unique mix of roots, alternative, hip-hop and reggae with bluesy undertones that went on to win international critical acclaim and amassed a respectable collection of awards including a 2010 Juno.
After three years of heavy touring in cities and in remote corners of Canada, the U.S., Europe, Mexico and Australia (including the Canadian and Norwegian Arctic), Digging Roots is ready to release their newest album project Love Drive.
Inspired by their travels, Love Drive is a stripped-down roots and blues-infused set of songs from the inner cities, the back roads and all the places in between. The husband and wife songwriting team have co-written a collection that reflects a maturing sense of storytelling.
Rich with subtle references and sounds of their Indigenous roots, the lyrics go on further to tell the tales of travellers, troublemakers, lovers, and heroes. There are stories of desperation and resilience, of simple pleasures, and wide open spaces.
With a whimsical thread of idealism, they propose the idea that love can keep the darkness at bay, with songs like the moody The Time Has Come for Going and the lazy summer afternoon of Sunshine or the intimate longing of Stay.
In contrast, Highway 17, Cut My Hair and Together take a fierce bluesy stand against the darkness in our own nature. And still there is a relaxed, unaffected inhibition on the old school optimism of Tall Grass and Natural High.
The album’s 12 songs are an eclectic tapestry of light and dark sound. Raven and ShoShona trade lead vocals fluidly complimenting each other’s strengths while going from whispery intimacies, to smoky wails.
With lush harmonies and a pocket rhythm section the melodies are accompanied by ukulele, banjo, mellotron, fiddle and of course Raven’s bombastic resonator slide guitar; which are woven into something that sounds old and new all at once.
Firmly inhabiting roots and blues but with a nomadic wanderlust to explore other terrain, Love Drive is gearing up for release this spring with a supporting tour already in the making with performances across Canada, the U.S. and Australia.
Digging Roots performs March 9 at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale at the Sid box office and online at www.sidwilliamstheatre.com.
— Sid Williams Theatre