25 Country and Americana Artists You Might Not Know Are Canadian
Although it's a quintessentially American genre, country music isn't just the domain of U.S. artists. As it turns out, Canadians have made a significant impact on the genre's evolution, especially in the 1990s and beyond.
Although Anne Murray and Hank Snow found significant crossover success in the U.S., you can credit throwback iconoclast k.d. lang, jangle-folk troupe Blue Rodeo and country-pop superstar Shania Twain for helping Canadian musicians see that playing country music provided a viable path for stardom. In the years since their initial success, Canadian artists have dabbled in traditional country, as well as folk, alt-country and even rootsy Americana.
As a result, many of these acts have enjoyed chart success both at home and abroad. Read on to learn more about a few of Canada's most prominent country and Americana exports.
Today, Twain is a global superstar. However, the musician was born Eilleen Regina Edwards in Windsor, Ontario, and even played in (and toured with) cover bands before diving into original music. Twain is also a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2005.
The late Snow -- who was born in Nova Scotia and eventually relocated to Nashville -- was an early country superstar who racked up seven No. 1 U.S. hits (including "I'm Moving On" and "I've Been Everywhere") on his way to releasing nearly 50 studio albums.
Formed in 1984 by Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, Blue Rodeo remain one of Canada's most popular country-leaning bands. The Toronto-based Canadian Music Hall of Famers specialize in jangly folk-rock and vibrant roots-rock, with rich, literate lyrics that speak to life's emotional ebbs and flows. The group's most recent album, 1000 Arms, was released in 2016.
Born in Edmonton, Alberta, lang started her career forming and fronting the Reclines, a retro-leaning C&W band indebted to her iconoclastic idol, Patsy Cline (lang even worked with Cline's producer, Owen Bradley, on 1988's Shadowland). The Reclines found success in Canada, as lang cultivated a look she described as "cowboy punk." For good measure, she even won the 1985 Juno Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist.
For over two decade, this Alberta-born musician has been churning out vintage C&W with shades of folk, bluegrass and alt-country. With his band the Hurtin' Albertans in tow, Lund first broke through in 2002 with the gold-selling album Five Dollar Bill -- and hasn't looked back since. In 2012, he even had a Canadian country No. 1 with the album Cabin Fever.
Murray grew up in Nova Scotia, the daughter of a doctor and nurse, and began her career 50 years ago, with the 1968 single "What About Me," which became a massive Canadian hit in 1973. In between, however, Murray had even bigger hits with a string of Canadian country No. 1s, including the indelible "Sing High, Sing Low," "Cotton Jenny," "Danny's Song," and "Snowbird." The latter two were also big U.S. crossover hits on both the pop and adult contemporary charts. In the U.S., Murray was the first woman to have a country album go triple platinum and the first solo woman to win CMA Album of the Year.
A Nashville-via-Canada musician, Bradley specializes in the kind of pop-country favored by Thomas Rhett and Kane Brown -- a fact underscored by upbeat songs such as "Happy Hour" and "Boys Night."
Throughout their career, the Cowboy Junkies have dabbled in all manners of music: sparse folk-rock, rootsy rock 'n' roll and woozy alt-country. The Toronto band's most recent album, 2018's sophisticated All That Reckoning, is lovely and meticulous, like a filigreed clothing accent.
Born in Montreal, Quebec, but raised in Alberta, Clark has found plenty of success in both Canada and the U.S. with her gritty, traditional country tunes. Her first three albums went at least platinum in both countries; in fact, her 1995 self-titled effort went triple platinum in Canada. She's also amassed five No. 1s on the Canadian country charts. Most recently, Clark nabbed a No. 3 hit with 2018's "One Drink Ago," a collaboration with Dallas Smith.
Wall's dad, Brad, is a bona fide Canadian celebrity: He was once the Premier of Saskatchewan, the province which the family hails. However, the younger Wall decided to pursue music rather than politics, and released a Dave Cobb-produced self-titled debut in 2017. In October, Wall is harnessing this momentum and releasing a follow-up, Songs of the Plains.
Born in Toronto, eclectic country/folk-pop songwriter Ortega has earned success on both the U.S. country and indie charts, courtesy of albums such as 2015's Faded Gloryville. Now based in Alberta after a stint in Nashville, she most recently released the Top 50 country album Liberty.
Hailing from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Hicks made a name for himself right out of the gate with 2012's "Get By," which was co-written with (among other people) Florida Georgia Line. Since that song became a huge seller and crossover hit in Canada, Hicks has continued to be a dominant force on the Canadian country charts, most recently with 2018's Top 10 hit "Loud."
It's easy to forget now, but the Band originally coalesced in Toronto, around a rockabilly artist named Ronnie Hawkins. Then known as the Hawks, they eventually also backed up Bob Dylan and then kickstarted their own career as the Band with 1968's Music From Big Pink (which was reissued in 2018).
Although now based out of Nashville -- where she's found success as a songwriter and musician -- Ell is a proud native of Calgary, Alberta. The move was beneficial, however: In addition to touring with Keith Urban and Sugarland, she also nabbed a No. 1 Canadian country hit with the yearning "Criminal."
Brody is a decorated musician who's won two Juno Awards for Country Album of the Year (2013's Crop Circles and 2015's Gypsy Road) and a handful of Canadian Country Music Association awards. The British Columbia native's popularity is easy to parse, however, as his approach takes its cues from grizzled Texas country and steely songwriting.
Carolyn Dawn Johnson
Johnson first rose to fame in 1999 by co-writing Chely Wright's No. 1 "Single White Female" and then, soon after, touring as a backup vocalist/player with Martina McBride. Since then, the Grand Prairie, Alberta, native has been a steady solo presence on the charts with songs such as "Georgia" and "Taking Back My Brave."
If Brandt's music career ever falls through, he has a solid Plan B: being a nurse, as that's what he was when country music stardom beckoned. The Calgary native's first three albums landed at No. 1 on the Canadian country charts, while his first five singles also topped the charts. Brandt has also found success in the States: In 1996, CMT named him the Top New Male Artist, after both "I Do" and "My Heart Has a History" became U.S. Top 5 hits.
Before Emerson Drive found success under their current name, the Alberta-formed band was known as 12 Gauge, and even nabbed a Top 40 country hit with the song "Some Trains Never Come." As Emerson Drive, however, the group has been much more successful -- especially in the U.S., where they landed a No. 1 (2006's "Moments") and several Top 5 hits, including the indelible "Fall Into Me."
Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Isabella stormed the Canadian country charts in 2012 with her debut album, Love Me Like That, which launched the hit title track and "Work to Do." Isabella has continued to be a reliable pop-leaning artist, and most recently charted with 2018's "Little Girl."
This Canada-via-Australia artist has been recording since the early '00s, but Bamford first hit it big with the 2010 Top 10 hit "Day Job." Over a dozen Top 20 hits have followed, including the No. 1 "When Your Lips Are So Close."
Ottawa, Ontario native Edwards has spent the last few years running a coffee shop called Quitters, although in 2018, she's been dipping back into live performances. That's great news indeed, as Edwards' dusky, folky alt-country and smart lyrics get to the heart of emotional turmoil and romantic travails.
Prior to becoming a country star, Smith honed his performance style as the frontman of the rock band Default, who had a hit in 2001 with "Wasting My Time." Since switching genres, however, the British Columbia native has become a perennial chart-topper, thanks to tunes such as "Autograph" and "Side Effects."
James Barker Band
One of the most promising new country bands hails from Canada -- Ontario, to be precise. The James Barker Band's first five singles have all hit the Top 10 (and include a No. 1, "Chills," which also made U.S. radio inroads), while the group's debut, Game On, won the 2018 Juno Award for Country Album of the Year.
High Valley -- aka, the duo of brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel -- are small-town siblings made good, between the No. 1 "I Be U Be" and the effervescent "She's With Me," which was a hit in both the U.S. and Canada.
The Alberta-born Kissel was a teenage phenom who released four albums before he turned 18. However, the musician's career really picked up after he signed with Warner Music Canada for 2013's Started With a Song, a Top 30 hit that launched five Top 10 Canadian country singles and set the stage for Kissel's No. 1 2015 hit "Airwaves."