Lori Yates | Sweetheart of the Valley

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Sweetheart of the Valley

by Lori Yates

A dark alt-country masterpiece, film noir on the range. Eloquent lyrics, passionate singing and ace musicianship. Backed up by Hey Stella: David Gavan Baxter, Michelle Josef (Prairie Oyster), Bazil Donovan (Blue Rodeo) & special guests.
Genre: Country: Alt-Country
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. See Who I Am
3:34 $1.99
2. Ghost of Josephine
4:04 $1.99
3. Sweetheart of the Valley
3:39 $1.99
4. Laugh Till We Cry
3:49 $1.99
5. The Stray
4:17 $1.99
6. Trouble in the Country
3:29 $0.99
7. Shiloh
3:31 $0.99
8. Call My Name
4:44 $0.99
9. Angels With Bloody Knees
5:03 $1.99
10. Corktown
3:57 $1.99
11. What the Heart Wants
3:59 $1.99
12. Whatcha Gonna Do
3:27 $1.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes


Sweetheart of the Valley

Not many artists come up with the best work of their career three decades in, but, happily, Lori Yates has done just that. Her new solo album, Sweetheart of the Valley (to be released on Oct. 24, 2015), vividly demonstrates that the Hamilton-based honkytonk heroine is at the very top of her game.

This stellar collection of new songs showcases her twin talents as a compelling songwriter and the possessor of a voice with few equals. Since she first burst onto the Toronto roots music scene in the mid '80s with Rang Tango, Yates has dazzled audiences with that voice. It is an instrument that will regularly give you goosebumps as it shoots in a straight trajectory from the ears to the heart and soul. Pure and strong, it possesses an emotional eloquence that all those singers relying on vocal gymnastics to impress can only dream of. Add in her now sharply-honed skills as a writer and you have an unstoppable combination.

Lori had frequently performed with different sets of musicians since moving to Hamilton from Toronto in 2002. She has been creatively inspired by working with two ace Hamilton-based guitarists, the late Brian Griffith (Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Daniel Lanois) and Mike Eastman (Ronnie Hawkins). She was also a founding member of Hamilton punk/pop supergroup "The Evelyn Dicks" with Chris Houston, Buckshot Bebee, Jimmy Vapid, and Cleave Anderson, but when it came time to record Sweetheart of the Valley, a return to the studio with her comrades in Hey Stella! was the perfect choice.

Hey Stella! was an all-star grouping of roots music talents that was a popular fixture on the T.O. club scene from 1997-2002 (they released a self-titled album in 2001). The group comprised Yates, guitarist David Baxter, bassist Bazil Donovan (Blue Rodeo) and drummer Michelle Josef(Prairie Oyster), and together they still share a real musical and personal chemistry. "It's like dating a bunch of new people then realising your ex is the best lover you've ever had," Lori explains with a chuckle. "They understand the kind of songs I write and are masters at that kind of music.

Slipping back into recording mode with the guys at David Baxter's noted Toronto studio knob and tube proved effortless. "It was just a matter of giving them the songs beforehand, and they all brought their A game," recalls Yates. "Because of our shared history, in the room together we don't even need to talk. It was a cloudy and cold November, but we just hung out for three days of recording and it was magical."

Guest turns on the album are taken by guitarist Stephen Miller and pedal steel player Steve Wood, while Lisa Winn and Kara Lea Manovich add background vocals. Ensuring full aural clarity on Sweetheart of the Valley is the mastering work of Nick Blagona, a studio veteran who has worked with the likes of Deep Purple, the Bee Gees and The Police.

The 12 cuts on Sweetheart feature plenty of the retro-sounding country ballads that are a Yates signature. "Call My Name" is "something of a nod to Roy Orbison," says Lori. "I wanted to have something with those long beautiful notes he is famous for." Another winning ballad is the poetic “The Stray,” one embellished with some tasteful steel playing.

Lori mixes things up effectively with the up-tempo rockabilly-tinged shuffle "Whatcha Gonna Do" and the upbeat bar-room romps, "Corktown" and "Trouble In The Country." Those last two songs feature an A-list cast of many of Hamilton's best singers, including Rita Chiarelli, Terra Lightfoot, Treasa Levasseur, Mimi Shaw, Ginger St. James, Dottie Cormier, Lena Montecalvo, Buckshot Bebe, and Mary Simon. "We recorded vocals live This Ain't Hollywood, after I bought them all a couple of rounds of tequila shots, they loosened up” laughs Lori.

The songs on the album were all written over the past couple of years, and Yates observes that "I've now found there are themes running through these songs that I didn’t see at first. I didn't set out to write story songs, but there are a lot of people in these songs. 'Shiloh' is written about my father, who I met for the first time when I was 40. There's a lot of geography in the songs for me too, like on 'Laugh Till We Cry,' about my best friend who passed away suddenly. It's set in the big old rooming house we all shared on Indian Road in Toronto. These songs were felt, rather than being thought out."

"Trouble In The Country" is another autobiographical tune, one dating back to the time in the late '80s Lori was introduced to the star-making machinery of Nashville after being signed to a record deal by Sony Nashville. "That's about meeting the legendary producer Billy Sherill, who turned out to be a mean old guy. I remember him saying 'there's only one redhead in Nashville, and that's Reba. “It was quite intimidating."

Another song ripped from the pages of real life, "Corktown" is set in the Hamilton tavern at which Lori played regularly upon moving to town. "It was when I started to play a matinee there that the city started to embrace me. At the time it was voted Hamilton's Best Live Dive, and playing there showed people I was no diva! The people embracing me were the punks, like Chris Houston, Lou Molinaro. “ The Forgotten Rebels member actually makes an appearance in the song's lyrics.

Lori's own punk roots shine through on another album highlight, "Angels With Bloody Knees," complete with a Johnny Thunders reference. "My musical background early on was always punk, country and rockabilly."

Yates did incorporate some folk elements on her previous album, 2007's much-acclaimed The Book of Minerva. A sparse and acoustic-based record, it featured multi-instrumentalist and co-producer David Baxter and guest vocal contributions from Yates fans Justin Rutledge and Tom Wilson. The substantial merits of this country-folk gem were recognized by the Hamilton Music Awards, with Lori winning trophies for Songwriter of the Year and Alternative Country Recording of the Year.

She's an artist who prefers to look forward, not back, but Lori has a fascinating musical history. She first started writing and singing at age 19, as a member of Toronto punk/new wave band The Last Resorts. They played such legendary haunts as Larry's Hideaway and the Turning Point, and once opened for scene heroes Teenage Head.

The burgeoning cowpunk sound (the terms alt-country and Americana had yet to be coined) then caught Yates' attention, leading to the formation of Rang Tango in 1986. Fronted by Lori, their fresh sound and high-energy performances quickly made them favourites on the vibrant Queen Street West club scene. 

Yates actually deserves far more recognition than she has received for the evolution of roots music in Toronto. Amidst the city's post-punk/new-wave scene in the mid '80s, roots music was given a much-needed new lease of life by the likes of the emerging Blue Rodeo, honky-tonk troubadour Handsome Ned, Cowboy Junkies, and Rang Tango.

Spotting the star potential of the charismatic young firebrand, Sony Nashville signed Lori as a solo artist. The result was her 1989 debut album, Can't Stop The Girl, recorded in Music City with producer Steve Buckingham with top players, including Marty Stuart. She recorded a spontaneous midnight session at Cowboy Jack Clement’s studio with Bob Johnston producing. This led to gigs supporting such American stars as Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle, and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Lori also got to record a duet with Gregg Allman for the movie Next Of Kin. She met and mentored by: Tammy Wynette, Harlan Howard and Roy Acuff at the tail end of Nashville’s golden era, when those legends were still alive.

When her Nashville deal lapsed, Yates was signed by Virgin Music Canada. Released in 1993, her second album, Breaking Point, was a musically diverse treat, one that earned Lori both a Juno and CCMA Award nomination. The record was expertly produced by Colin Linden and John Whynot at the famed Bearsville studio in Woodstock, NY, and notable guests included Rick Danko (The Band) and Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo) on harmony vocals.

An intriguing musical departure followed with the 1998 album Untogether, an ethereal-sounding collaboration with trip-hop duo Opium Concepts, whose lineup included Juno Award-winning producer Eric Ratz. From there, it was a return to her roots with Hey Stella!

Meticulous in her approach, Lori has always kept performing and writing songs, choosing to record only when she feels she's ready. Over the course of her career, she has written with such legendary songsmiths Guy Clark and Don Schlitz ("The Gambler"), as well as Colin Linden and David Baxter. Quebecois pop singer Martine St. Clair scored a No. 1 hit with the Yates-Baxter song "Usure Des Jour," and Toronto singer Jadea Kelly covered Lori's tune "Walking Wounded."

Along her career path, Lori has regularly received rave reviews for her work, in Canada and beyond. Early praise for Sweetheart of the Valley calls her latest workWriting about The Book of Minerva for Americana UK, Sian Claire Owen called it "heartfelt and touching ''' one humdinger of an album. Amanda Putz, host of CBC Fuse, noted that "there are few voices of Lori's caliber in country music - or any music for that matter - that are also gifted with the ability to pen their own poignant lyrics and melodies with which to wrap their voice around."
John Sakamoto of The Toronto Star chimed in with this: "The luminous voice behind Toronto alt-country bands Rang Tango and Hey Stella! makes a long overdue return with the kind of austere, atmospheric ballad you could imagine being performed by Emmylou Harris or Gillian Welch." Along with Lucinda Williams and Roseanne Cash, Welch is one of her musical peers that Yates most admires. In turn, younger artists like Neko Case and Whitney Rose have drawn comparisons to Lori.

As well as raising a family, Lori has found another creative outlet in photography, and her work has been featured in as several photography exhibitions. Her experience as a songwriter has spurred her to create a Creative Genius Songwriting Workshop in which she mentors young artists in songwriting, recording and live performance.

She has also proved to be a successful producer and promoter of musical variety shows, via sold-out performances of two shows, Johnny Cash- The Original Punk and Your Good Girl Is Gonna Go Bad, each running annually at This Ain't Hollywood in Hamilton, from 2012-2014.

Lori's sights are now clearly set on the release of Sweetheart of the Valley. Get ready to fall in love, all over again!



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