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CBC Music First Play Live: Port Cities


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By Reuben Maan, CBC Music

Port Cities is a band on the way up. The Halifax-based group —and former Searchlight semifinalists — met at Gordie Sampson’s songwriting camp and found they had great chemistry together. Carleton Stone, Breagh Mackinnon and Dylan Guthro all have their own solo careers, but as a group they harmonize beautifully and write great tunes together. So naturally they are currently focusing their energy on Port Cities.

CBC Music had a busy week in late January when we set up shop at Joel Plaskett’s New Scotland Yard studio in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and recorded Plaskett on one night and Port Cities on another. Port Cities brought along Michael Ouellette on bass and Brian Talbot on drums and played a great set of new tunes. Port Cities’ debut, self-titled album was released on Feb. 10, and here now for you are 10 songs from the new release.

Watch more here.

Only An Island [Video]


Meeting so many beautiful and inspiring people in Trinidad, and feeling so grateful that we get to travel and make music with one another. Here’s a new song about that. Hope you enjoy 😘😘
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Music

Port Cities (2017)
1. Back To The Bottom
2. Don’t Say You Love Me
3. In The Dark
4. Sound Of Your Voice
5. How To Lose You
6. Half The Way
7. On The Nights You Stay Home
8. Where Have You Been
9. Burn That Bridge
10. The Out
11. Body + Soul
12. Astronaut

Bio

bio-picA port city is a place where cultures and histories collide, where goods and ideas are imported and absorbed into the local bloodstream. The trio of celebrated Nova Scotian songwriters who now call themselves Port Cities honour that tradition. Their chosen name isn’t just indicative of where they’re from (the harbour hamlet of Cape Breton) but what they do: fuse divergent styles and experiences into a singular roots-rock sound.

Port Cities’ self-titled debut may be the group’s first effort together, but its members share deep, intertwining roots in the Maritime music scene. In addition to releasing three solo albums, Carleton Stone has written songs for and with everyone from Quebecois soul sensation Bobby Bazini to beloved acoustic troubadour Donovan Woods. Dylan Guthro has parlayed his own folk/RnB fusions into match-ups with Halifax hip-hop hero Classified and EDM crew Neon Dreams (whose 2015 single “High” featured Guthro alongside rap superstar Waka Flocka Flame). And Breagh MacKinnon is a jazz-schooled chanteuse whose 2012 album, Where the Days Went, was nominated for an ECMA Award; she has since lent her voice to recordings by East Coast pop icons David Myles and Ria Mae.

Port Cities is a collaboration six years in the making. The trio first crossed paths in 2011 at a songwriter’s workshop hosted by Gordie Sampson, the Nova Scotia native who has become one of the most in-demand writers and producers in Nashville (his roster of past collaborators—Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and Florida Georgia Line among them—could fill up an entire Grammys telecast). That initial meeting would eventually lead to triple-bill tour in 2014 that, MacKinnon recalls, “was originally supposed to be a songwriter’s circle, but by the end, it had more of a band feel than three musicians performing separately. It was just magic when we sang together. Shortly after that, we started throwing around the idea of making it official and starting a band.”

After building a fervent fanbase in Eastern Canada through steady gigging over the past two years, the trio laid down the bed tracks for their debut album in Nashville, tapping into Sampson’s deep Rolodex of ace session players. But then they took the recordings back home and “just messed with things,” Guthro explains. “We’d do these big weird group vocals, create and experiment with sounds—and through that, we landed on a vibe that’s consistent across this whole record.”

The result is a perfect balance of Nashville and Nova Scotia, of the rustic and atmospheric, of indie intimacy and the sort of arena-pop anthems that betray Port Cities’ globe-trotting ambitions; the fall of 2016 saw the band set out on their maiden cross-Canada and European voyages. It’s a record that draws on Port Cities’ collective songwriting expertise, but also reveals the dark emotional undercurrents lurking beneath the heavenly harmonies and heart-racing stomp of “Back to the Bottom”, or the intimations of infidelity tucked into the relaxed country-rock lilt of “On the Nights You Stay Home.” Even on the album’s most ebullient tracks, nothing is as it seems on the surface: the gentle Afro-pop groove of “How to Lose You” coaxes the tension out of a love song that’s consumed with the possibility of loneliness; “The Out” is a disco-kissed break-up song perfect for dancing on your own.

As Stone explains, “One thing we all seem to connect with lyrically is showing a less-than-perfect idea of love, and not being scared to talk about how everything is not great, or call out a lot of what normal, traditional love songs would be about.”

The album closes with the desolate ambient ballad “Astronaut,” a song that invokes outer-space imagery only to send us crashing back down to Earth, contrasting childhood dreams of interstellar exploration with the harsh, hopeless realities of navigating adult life. It’s a fitting finale for an album that’s nestled in the liminal space between familiar and foreign, pairing sounds that comfort with lyrics that confront. Because that’s the thing about living in a port city: the place you call home is also a gateway into the great unknown—and, at any moment, that scenic, open-water vista can give way to crashing waves and fierce undertows.

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Shows

Shows

Friday
March 24th, 2017
The Mack Theatre
Charlottetown, PEI
Port Cities Trio Record Release
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets
Monday
April 3rd, 2017
Club One New Releases NL
St. John's, NL
Trio Only
Saturday
April 8th, 2017
Club One New Releases NL
St. John's, NL
Trio Only
12:00 AM
Sunday
April 9th, 2017
Club One New Releases NL
St. John's, NL
Trio Only
12:00 AM
Monday
April 10th, 2017
Club One New Releases NL
St. John's, NL
Trio Only
12:00 AM
Thursday
April 13th, 2017
Casino Nova Scotia Schooner Room
Halifax, NS
Full Band - CD Launch
8:00 PM
Buy Tickets
Saturday
April 15th, 2017
Evergreen Theatre
Margaretsville, Nova Scotia
Port Cities Trio
8:00 PM
Buy Tickets
Sunday
April 16th, 2017
Membertou Trade & Convention Centre
Membertou, NS
Cape Breton Record Release Full Band
9:00 PM
Buy Tickets
Friday
April 28th, 2017
St. Andrew and St. David United Church
Saint John, NB
East Coast Music Week 2017 Showcase - Warner Roots Room
8:40 PM
Buy Tickets
Friday
May 19th, 2017
Green Door Store
Brighton, GB
Port Cities Trio - Music Nova Scotia at The Great Escape
12:00 PM
Buy Tickets
Saturday
May 20th, 2017
Latest Music Bar
Brighton, GB
The Great Escape Festival 2017
8:30 PM
Buy Tickets
Saturday
May 27th, 2017
Lunenburg Opera House
Lunenburg, NS
Port Cities Trio - Lunenburg Folk Harbour Spring Concert Series
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets
Saturday
June 24th, 2017
Chester Playhouse
Chester, Nova Scotia
Port Cities Trio
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets

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Contact

Management:
Sheri Jones
sheri@jonesandcompany.ca
902.429.9005
Publicity & Promotion:
Grace Russell
gracelouiserussell@gmail.com
902.223.1460
Bookings:
Wayne O’Connor
whatwhatoconnor@gmail.com
902.452.4826
Bookings:
Tom Kemp
kemp@feldman-agency.com
416.598.0067