Bernard AdamusBernard Adamus recently launched a third album, once again with a unique title: Sorel Soviet So What, a total nod to Megadeth’s So Far, So Good… So What! (1988). Nobody but Adamus could’ve come up with such a title. Alongside Lisa LeBlanc, Jean Leloup, Safia Nolin and their ilk, the lanky Adamus belongs to a coterie of charismatic characters that inhabit a certain corner of Québec’s musical panorama — lovely weirdos we yearn to know more about.
Sitting down with his mineral water(!) to tell the story behind the album title, Adamus is on fire: “One Halloween night, I went to a party dressed as a biker, and I wrote that on my arm; I thought it was really funny. But at the same time, it was a way to liberate myself from the judgement of others, a way of saying, ‘Let’s cut the crap, they’re nothing but songs!’ So, that utterly psychedelic title really is nothing more than the punchline of a really good joke. I thought it sounded good, so I kept it.”

Working with words, especially in the vernacular, is really important for Adamus. When you hear his songs, the words are fluid, they flow naturally. On songs like “Les pros du Rouleau” and “Donne-moi-z’en,” he reaches new heights in textual density. His delivery is machine-gun fast, so much so that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else but him breathing life into those words! “I can spend two days on a single sentence until I’m satisfied it sounds good,” he says. “Even if some people think I’m vulgar or whatever, it’s what the language brings to a song that makes it work, first and foremost. Everything stems from the relationship between the rhythm of the words and the meaning of the lyrics.”

Bernard AdamusIn “Le blues à GG,” Adamus went as far as writing music to the words of an author that shares his vision: Gérald Godin. “I tried to find something that spoke to me,” he says, “something I could naturally inhabit. This collage of a poem by Godin, I really could’ve almost written it myself!”

The Wee American Empire

For a long while, the working title of this album was Dix tounes américaines (Ten American Tunes). “In the end, it’s American music,” says Adamus. “I still play a mix of blues, cabaret tunes and ‘chanson.’ but I was getting fed up of being the token singer-bard. I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to go, but I sure knew where I didn’t want to go. The main thing was the groove. I wanted the music to be more alive. This album was built as a band album, not just musicians accompanying a singer.”

This quest for grooves led Adamus in uncharted territories, as on “Hola les lolos,” the Hawaiian-tinged single launched last summer. How can anyone resist the “L” alliteration in the celebratory chorus mantra? And yet, this homage to the female breast nimbly avoids the pitfalls of vulgarity (Ed Note: very loosely translated):


Le poids de ma noix quand l’vert jaunit (The weight of my noggin when green turns to yellow)
Dans l’creux d’tes mains que l’ciel est gris (While your hands gently cradle me and the sky is grey)
À snoozes-tu ben au p’tit matin (There’s nothin’ like snoozin’ in the early mornin’)
Ma belle grande face entre tes deux seins (My gorgeous face between your breasts)

“When I told the guys what I intended to do, they thought it was risky,” says Adamus. “I don’t believe I’ve offended anyone with that song; it’s the most politically correct on the album!” To wit: the song reached Montreal radio station CKOI’s Top 6 at 6.

Is Bernard Adamus on a quest to widen his audience, to win over new listeners? “The goal is to never compromise,” he says. I do my thing, and come what may. I think it’s very cool “Hola les lolos” made it on CKOI rotation, it’s great gift. In the world of pop, albums with two, maybe three good songs – and the rest is filler – are commonplace. I prefer to build a long-term relationship with my fans rather than having a radio hit. I prefer playing to a sold-out room in Trois-Rivières, especially since I really dig touring and playing live.”

Indeed, even before his album launched, Adamus already had more than 20 shows booked throughout fall. As a matter of fact, all of Sorel Soviet So What was written and composed on the road. He covered a lot of road and met a lot of people. “There’s a lot of movement involved,” he says, “and this album is a good reflection of the last three years which I’ve spent on the road.”

Between local legends and self-descriptive fiction, Adamus depicts a small, swarming, colourful, intriguing world. He looks tenderly, but without complacency, at the weirdos who inhabit his songs, before slipping back out of their strange world. “I shed part of my melancholy,” he says. “I’m still me, with the same perspective, talking about my life, but I also talk about others and less about my state of mind.

Even though it was formed a mere five years ago, Montréal’s Half Moon Run already belongs to the World Rock Major Leagues. As their second album is coming out, the band met with us to talk about their world-conquering ambitions. 

It seems like it was only yesterday. With only one song, the hypnotic “Full Circle,” Half Moon Run had staked its claim at the heart of a music scene already replete with quality bands. In less time than it takes to yell “Arcade Fire,” the band was tipped as the Next Big Thing out of Montréal. But unlike many other bands who faltered before making it to the international scene, Half Moon Run proved that it would stop at nothing to make it.

Following the release of their first album, Dark Eyes, launched in Canada by Montreal-based Indica Records – and by Communion, a subsidiary of Glassnote Records (Mumford and Sons), for the rest of the world – the band embarked on world tour that saw them play more than 350 dates. This infernal rhythm has nowadays become the band’s routine.

“We toured so much that there were days when we didn’t know who and where we were… We were numb,” remembers Conner Molander, the band’s guitarist, vocalist and keyboardist. “When we finally stopped, we couldn’t see straight and we almost lost it. Luckily, that whole tour made us much better musicians and we found a way to channel that energy into something positive using our common language: music.”

“Nothing is premeditated in Half Moon Run: we know what we’re looking for only once we’ve found it.” – Conner Molander of Half Moon Run

When Dark Eyes came out, there was much talk about the somewhat “artificial” nature of the band, because it was born out of a Craigslist ad and united two B.C. natives, the aforementioned Molander and Dylan Phillips, as well as the Ottawa-born singer Devon Portielje. All three of them were in Montréal to study, but chose the rock life instead. Theirs is far from an unusual story, since Montréal welcomes, year in and year out, dozens of musicians seeking a similar path.

Few, however, make it with as much brio as HMR did. Signed to Indica before even going on stage once, the band had to evolve at warp speed. When the folks at Glassnote tapped them and Half Moon Run started playing the world’s biggest stages alongside Mumford & Sons, it was obviously too late to go back to playing bars.

“One thing’s for sure, believe me: there’s nothing like pressure and adversity to build solidarity,” says Molander. Today, he can confidently say that the guys in Half Moon Run are literally like siblings: “We went through crazy times, like that one time in Europe where we played 33 gigs in 30 days. That stuff can drive people mad, but if you get through it together, you have a bond that’s nearly unbreakable!”

Half Moon RunStrangely, the absence of deep friendship between certain members of the band was never a problem, to the contrary, even. The internal dynamics of the band evolved at the same time as their sound, in a very organic way. When one points out to Molander that the band doesn’t seem to have a leader, he immediately concurs.

“I’m actually happy you say that, because that is how we’ve felt since the first day,” he says. “Obviously, Devon is at the forefront, because he’s the lead singer, but we’re all equals in the band and everyone contributes. Even though we didn’t know each other at the beginning, we rapidly found our common language. In the same situation, a lot of musicians would’ve gone into power struggles, huffing and puffing to impress the others, but in our case it was very different: we were [each] very subdued and paid great attention to the others.”

To get a feel of how well the guys gelled, one need only listen to the vocal harmonies that are present on almost all of their songs, the best example of the fact that it’s better together. “That’s definitely something that defines Half Moon Run,” says Molander. I”f you want to be in this band, you have to sing! But seriously, that’s also something that happened on its own. At our very first jam, we all started singing and it stuck with us.”

Isaac Symonds joined the band after the recording of Dark Eyes, and HMR further refined its musical approach, which is a blend of instinct and hard work. Keys and strings became part of the mix, but without affecting the original recipe, or turning their back of the influences that were already becoming obvious on that first album.

“To us, the joy of creating music doesn’t come for establishing a goal and doing everything we can to attain it,” Molander explains. “Nothing is pre-meditated in Half Moon Run: we know what we’re looking for only once we’ve found it. It’s very cool to be able to jam together, but you still need to know when it’s time to stop, because when you play the same thing over and over again, you risk exhausting the original impulse and killing the song.”

In order to break their routine – and to surf a little during their downtime – the band members went to California to work with British producer Jim Abbiss on their follow-up album. They only had a few demos in their pockets and a desire to take their sound further. “Sometimes, you only realize in hindsight how much you’re influenced by your environment,” says Molander. “We went to California to see some new sights, and now, when I listen to the album, I find some of the songs have a bit of a beach-y feeling to them, notably ‘Hands in the Garden,’ which is definitely the most Californian of the lot.”

The Sunshine State is omnipresent on that song, replete with Byrds-like folk-rock and Beach Boys harmonies. In between those Cali sessions and the work they completed back in Montréal, the guys in Half Moon Run realized that their well was far from dry, so much so that Molander says they already have enough songs for a third album, even though the plan now is to devote all their attention to the promotion of the new one, Sun Leads Me On. “It’s become my full-time job, so I’m giving it my all,” says Molander. “I’m like everybody else: I get up early in the morning, I go for a run and then get to work. And I’m not just about music: I’m interested in all aspects of our career, from the creation to the marketing. I’m not too into the marketing side of things because I find that there’s just a little ego flattering involved, but I’m really into establishing partnerships and developing strategies to help the band’s career grow.”

Strategies? Partnerships? Is Half Moon Run’s conquest of the world a commercial venture? A game of Risk? One could be forgiven for getting that impression when listening to Molander explain it in military terms: “We’re going to start with a few small dates in the States, then move on to Europe where our fan base is solid so that we can grow it and galvanize the troops for the final assault. Of course, truly making it in the more difficult U.S. market is our goal. But it’s not a make or break issue for us either. Our main objective remains to make good music.”

Luckily for everyone, Half Moon Run knows how to do that well. Judging by the initial reaction to Sun Leads Me On, as well as a mini tour of Québec to hone the tunes, it seems unlikely the band will run out of steam. Yet, if by some unfortunate set of circumstances, international success does not materialize, Half Moon Run will always be able to count on Montréal: all four of the concerts slated at Métropolis in 2016 were sold-out in a few hours.

“There are things that can make you lose your mind, and that’s one of them,” enthuses Molander. “When we heard that all of those concerts were sold out, I got a little dizzy, so I went for a run at Jarry Park to kind of re-centre myself. Believe me, that’s not something we take lightly. Montréal is where our band was born and raised. It makes me incredibly proud to know that our hometown crowd is on board with us in this adventure.”

And that pride is mutual.


Blues is in Colin Linden’s blood. His introduction to blues culture, and the turning point in his life, was when a friend of his brother’s turned him on to Howlin’ Wolf (a.k.a. Chester Burnett).

Shortly thereafter, in November 1971, an 11-year-old Linden met the blues legend before his Saturday matinée gig at Toronto’s Colonial Tavern. The pair chatted for hours and became fast friends. On Rich in Love, the guitarist/producer’s first solo record in six years, the Renaissance man collaborates with his musical mates and some industry heavyweights, and finds inspiration from dearly departed friends. The result: a dozen deep cuts that ooze with buckets of soul, and lure you in to listen. In each well-crafted note, you can hear whispers of Howlin’ Wolf — and the many other blues icons — who’ve shaped Linden’s musical journey.

“It never loses its thrill,” says Linden, in reference to putting out a solo recording. “It doesn’t feel that different from when I was 20. Interestingly enough, I didn’t even know it would feel that way until it came out.”

“I’m just happy to have some songs that feel honest and real.”

Rich in Love is a collaborative effort. “It’s really a story about Johnny [Dymond], Gary [Craig], and me,” Linden says. “The three of us playing together and the decades of friendship and music that we share.”

Bassist Dymond and drummer Craig have shared the limelight with Linden for so long that there is a simpatico and mutual musical understanding whenever the trio convenes. Rich in Love was mostly recorded in Linden’s Nashville home studio. Legendary blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite and keyboardist Reese Wynans (Stevie Ray Vaughan), also lent their talents. And, even though he passed away in 2007, Linden says, “The spirit of [keyboardist] Richard Bell looms large on the record.”

When I catch up with the guitarist/producer, he’s in Music City, driving to the set of the hit TV drama Nashville – currently in production for Season Four, airing this fall on ABC. Linden is the show’s music supervisor, plays 75 per cent of the guitar you hear on the show, and teaches all the actors their singing and playing parts.

The last few years have been a prolific period for the 55-year-old. Linden has toured as a guitarist with Bob Dylan, performed at The White House, played on Rhiannon Giddens’ Tomorrow Is My Turn, and released another Blackie & The Rodeo Kings record (South). As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also produced records for many other musicians, including the latest (Telling Time) from up-and-coming SOCAN member Lucas Chaisson. Somehow, in between, the musician carved out time to write songs for and record Rich in Love.

Most of the songs came together over a couple of years. “It started off with Johnny, Gary and I setting up in a little room in my house,” Linden recalls. “Blackie & the Rodeo Kings had just finished playing at The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco and the pair came back with me to Nashville afterwards. We said, ‘Let’s just take a few days and see what’s there.’”

“I had to go off to a shoot for the TV show [Nashville],” he continues. “When I came home three hours later, the couch had been moved out of the studio and in its place was a set of drums. Janis [Linden’s wife] and Johnny had put up a set of curtains and Gary had set up a bunch of cushions from the couch to make the room sound a certain way… it was all there; that’s how we started. We recorded the first two or three songs as a sort of reconnaissance recording. We figured the worst that could happen is these would be demos, but they ended up being the first couple of songs we cut for the record.”

A number of songs on Rich in Love were inspired by the words of friends now gone but not forgotten. For example, “No More Cheap Wine” has a whole lot of the late musician and novelist Paul Quarrington in it, says Linden: “When Paul was diagnosed with Stage Four lung cancer, the first thing he said was, ‘OK, no more cheap wine!’ I thought that was a great way of dealing with it and looking at the limitations your life may have. It was a great inspiration.”

Despite all his success, Linden remains ever humble. “I get bashful when I talk about songwriting,” he says, “because when you’re playing guitar and ‘Desolation Row’ is coming out of the monitor in front of you, by the guy who wrote it [Bob Dylan], it makes you reconsider how high your bar is as a songwriter. I’m just happy to have some songs that feel honest and real.”

Publisher: warner Chappell Music Canada Ltd.
Selected Discography: Rich in Love (2015); Still Live (2012); From the Water (2009); Big Mouth (2003); Southern Jumbo (2005); South at Eight North at Nine (1993); The Immortals (1986)
SOCAN member since 1992

Track Record

  • “Delia Come For Me,” from the new record, was partially inspired by the 2011 execution in Georgia of Troy Davis for murder; a case that reminded Linden of the old country-blues murder ballad, “Delia.”
  • Linden played on Gregg Allman’s Grammy-nominated Low Country Blues;
  • He’s an eight-time JUNO award winner.