Working a day gig never made sense for Kevin Roy. Upon the release of the Winnipeg troubadour's 2014 debut, Taller Than The Trees, he left the stability of his high school teaching gig for a life on the road. Swapping in students wielding knives, saws and implements of destruction in the high school wood shop for more attentive audiences in North American bars and theatres, Roy hasn't looked back.
Now, he's set to release his latest collection, the Kickstarter-goal surpassing Heartworn Highways, to his country and roots rock-loving backers, and anyone else interested in pulling up a chair and listening to some genuine, good ol' storytelling songs.
These new listeners may want to be careful if they share a shot or a beer, as Roy is keen to include tales of anyone and everyone he meets in his songs, which also focus heavily on staying true to one's roots - something the Hank Williams, Neil Young and Corb Lund-inspired Roy does in spades. He even attended Kelvin High School, the very same educational institute Young himself famously failed to graduate from.
Those roots go back to his grandfathers (one a guitar slinger, the other had a wicked way with a harmonica - both instruments utilized by Roy). At age 10, he picked up a pawn shop six string to mimic his older brother - the only difference between Roy and his elders is that he stuck with it, and he's been weaving poignantly honest songs, peppered with a John Prine-esque wit, to critical and chart success for almost two decades.
The recording of the 10 song Highways found Roy re-teaming with co-producer Lloyd Peterson (Weakerthans) at Winnipeg's Paintbox Recording, where they were joined by a host of Winnipeg music scene luminaries, including William J. Western (co-producer of Del Barber's JUNO-nominated Prairieography) on pedal steel, Crooked Brothers' honorary percussionist Daniel Bertnick, and Red Moon Road's Daniel Peloquin-Hopfner on banjo. Vocalists Madeleine Roger (Roger Roger) and Amelia Peterson supply the golden harmonies. With most of the instruments captured live-off-the-floor, it feels as though the listener is right in the room with Roy and co., soaking in the twanged-up tunes.
Mastered by JUNO-winner Jamie Sitar, the recordings have a clean kick that sounds like old country through brand new speakers.
If you see Kevin Roy down one of life's many highways, tip your hat and buy him a round - it's sure to result in a story or two, and maybe a tune with a bit of old school twang.