This week’s Tune Up highlights artists you probably haven’t heard of, though not through your lack of attention or their lack of trying. These are musicians with serious songwriting talent and musical chops who have either taken a pass on big-time commercial success, or who simply haven’t attracted the attention of a money-hungry mainstream music industry that prefers more radio-friendly mega-stars.

Transcanada – Ana Miura

Full disclosure: I went to high school with Ana. We were even in a band together for a couple of years – okay, so it was the school concert band, but close enough, right? She’s gone on to some success since then, releasing three records and becoming the driving force behind a musical breast cancer fundraising effort, Babes for Breasts. Transcanada comes from Ana’s debut EP, Tenacious Heart. Check out the violin work, a great reminder that it’s not just a classical instrument.
Buy: iTunes

Mahogany Veneer – Twilight Hotel

My first exposure to Twilight Hotel was in January of this year, when my wife and I and friends drove an hour in a blizzard to see this duo play a badly-attended show in a tiny community centre auditorium in Morrisburg, Ontario. Despite the small audience, Dave Quanbury and Brandy Zdan brought passion and talent to the stage; this song stood out and remains my favourite from their most recent and very good record, When The Wolves Go Blind. I love the instrumental chorus and the gorgeous, heartbreaking final lyric: “Radio was static/the moon was out of sight/I watched you sleep beside me/turned off the dashboard light.”
Buy: iTunes |

In Perfect Time – Jill Barber

Jill Barber is more well-known now than she was when the Oh Heart EP was released, from which In Perfect Time is taken. Still, she’s not exactly a household name, in spite of a lovely voice and a talent for blending pop, folk and jazz sensibilities into her compelling songs that ring true even when spinning tales of the fantastic or phantasmic. If you want some more current material, her latest CD Mischievous Moon was released earlier this year.
Buy: iTunes |

Beautiful Things – Emm Gryner

Emm Gryner is the best Canadian female pop songwriter you’ve never heard of, which is strange, because she’s toured as a member of David Bowie’s band, and her piano-and-vocal version of Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar On Me (from her Girl Versions record) got the attention of that band’s singer, Joe Elliott, who she now counts as a friend. She’s a hardworking musician who plays the piano like a vicious lover, prides herself on financing all of her recordings and tours with her own money, and runs her own record label, Dead Daisy. Beautiful Things comes from the shimmery 2002 album Asianblue. It’s the only album of hers not available at online music sellers, but check out the song and video here.

High School – Jeremy Fisher

You might think a musician loony for touring across the continent – from Seattle to Halifax – on his bike in 2001 to promote his first CD, as Jeremy Fisher did. High School is from his 2004 album, Let It Shine. Put Fisher in a similar box, style-wise, as Emm Gryner, for his talent for writing clever pop songs that nonetheless attract little attention from commercial broadcasters. He’s gone on to be a moderate YouTube sensation in recent years and has two more excellent albums under his belt. He’s a little Paul Simon, a little Jason Mraz, and one hell of a lot of heart.
Buy: iTunes |

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