This week’s playlist theme is songs that blend sensibilities of pop, folk and country, and tend toward the acoustic end of the spectrum. Acoustic doesn’t necessarily mean quiet, though, as you’ll hear when you check these songs out.

Hold On – KT Tunstall

This Scottish pop sweetheart made her name with a song called Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, and earned stardom with solo live performances that made liberal use of a looping pedal, turning herself into a one-woman band. Hold On comes from Tunstall’s second record, Drastic Fantastic, and is a good primer for her mastery of melody. If you enjoy clever lyrics, you’ll like Tunstall’s turn of phrase, even if she tends to stick to a simple pop music vocabulary. This tune’s simple, rhythmic arrangement makes it an easy one to bop down the highway to. Buy: iTunes |

12 Bellevue – Kathleen Edwards

Ottawa native Kathleen Edwards is known for her heart-on-sleeve alt-country songs, and never more so than on her first album, Failer. This is a collection of personal songs, many of which are about her childhood and early years as a musician. 12 Bellevue is a showcase for this record’s low-fi production, combining banjo, a horn section and a killer guitar solo by fellow Ottawa musician Jim Bryson that will have you simultaneously cranking the volume and dropping your right foot. Buy:

Sunburn – Gordie Sampson

Gordie Sampson mainly makes his living writing songs for other musicians, but occasionally he releases albums of songs he decides to record as his own. Sunburn is one of those, and it proves why he’s in demand. He doesn’t have the most distinctive singing voice, but he pairs up with Damhnait Doyle – who most certainly does – to punch up the sound big time. The title is a nod to summertime, but the metaphor he draws and the imagery in the lyrics make this tune well-suited to a hot, bright day in the car. Buy: iTunes |

Heroes of the Sidewalk – Two Hours Traffic

Heroes of the Sidewalk, a jangly ditty from Prince Edward Island’s Two Hours Traffic, seems to tell a story of a young couple on an aimless summer evening wandering around their small town.  Are they up to no good?  Or are they a modern-day Robin Hood and Marian, “buying the mallrats money” because they “live a rougher life than we”. Whatever their intentions, it’s obvious they’re having fun. Ringing acoustic guitars push the melody forward while a shimmery hi-hat drum keeps time. This is a pure pop song with no inhibitions about it, a great song to sing along with whether you’re stuck in traffic or barreling along a dusty two-lane road in the middle of nowhere.  Buy: iTunes |

Bride’s Song – Yukon Blonde

Bride’s Song, by British Columbia-based band Yukon Blonde, is a song both new and familiar. It feels like something I’ve been listening to for decades, with its retro seventies prog-rock Alan Parsons-inspired sound and echoing yet muted harmonies. The catchy-as-heck repeating guitar riff’s chord progression is just unusual enough to make you tip your head to one side and listen harder, because it doesn’t do what you think it will.  The extended jam section at the end is perfect for long boring drives where you just want to headbang a little and maybe you don’t care who’s watching. Buy: iTunes

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