I didn’t used to like driving through Canada. The sameness of it, hour after hour after endless hour; miles and mountains and rivers and barren towns and more miles, for the most part, without interruption – just more. I used to give up finding anything on the radio because, mainly, Canadians like to talk and the music stations are comparatively few. I spent a winter in Washington state once where I was close enough to the border that the station with the best reception came from Canada; I got sort of used to more talk than music and actually came to appreciate that our neighbors to the north take very much interest in their government and hold them accountable by various means, one of which is talk radio. It’s informative, too, when the talk ventures into something aside from First Nations or Parliament or the PM. Assisted suicide was a topic one time that I found interesting. The hosts had done their research on Oregon’s law where it pertained to that subject, and I thought it was pretty cool that Canadians would discuss the topic without hysterics or religion, but with respect to a person having the right to choose how to die if, perchance, such a choice was available. Other times, the discussion would veer toward the economy and get lost, same as here in America; or education or food prices or industry. No matter what was being discussed, it was obvious Canadians love their talk radio and do their part to keep it alive.
I’d heard from a friend, who happens to be very much Canadian, that their music radio is pretty good. I couldn’t disagree nor could I vouch for having been exposed to much of the music other than KD Lang’s, whose music I used to listen to some years ago. Ask me if I know other Canadian musicians and I’ll probably only come up with one other name, Hank Snow, which doesn’t exactly put me into the bracket of a modern music connoisseur; however, I know what I like and I’ll listen if I hear either of them come on the radio.
I took a different route than I normally do when I’m making the trip, and headed east and then down through Alberta to Montana. I discovered Canadian music radio, CBC Radio, which I was unable to slot into country, country western, rock, Indie or anything specific other than I could listen to song after song and not find something that annoyed me. In America most of the stations I hear have been corporatized and the playlists are never unique. What you hear in Seattle, you will hear in Portland or Anchorage – all Top 40 of every genre and not very inspiring. In Salmon, Idaho the station was different and played stuff I hadn’t heard since 1974. I heard Faron Young right after Bob Dylan and then the Beattles and maybe the Gaithers. I listened for a couple of hours and found I knew most every song, each of them making me feel good because I hadn’t heard them for decades. Canadian radio, when I found the music stations, made me smile.
Whether the artists were performing covers or their own material, there was a freshness about what I was listening to. There’s a feeling that Canadians like their music to be independent, to taste homemade, seasoned with wide open spaces and sought-after companionship. It made an effort to touch something, and I guess it connected with me just fine because driving down the highway I’d be digging for an envelope or receipt to write down the name of the song or the artist so I’d remember I wanted to pay $1.99 to download it to my own personal playlist. I liked the music.
Whitehorse is the name of a duo I found I liked. I listened to this particular song late one night outside of Calgary. It haunted me for weeks until I looked it up on YouTube, and then found it on iTunes. I paid the $1.99, and then downloaded a couple more, two covers – I’m on Fire, and It Ain’t Me, Babe. I chose another one, too, because I like their sound. Even though I don’t speak French, the song is a beaut. I wish American radio could play music like this. Maybe it would serve as a salve to some of the road rage out there, a lot of which I wouldn’t have a hard time believing comes from listening to the same old crap, no matter where you go or come from. Listen. Enjoy. Then listen to Canadian radio.