Pick My Playlist: ONTARIO

I travel with cameras, phone and computer. I also travel with songs–several thousand of them–and after I leave a place, I have usually collected a few dozen more.

My digital reservoir of music reflects all the places I’ve been in the world. Some tourists collect tea towels or shot glasses–well, I collect songs. I find the musical landscape of a destination equal to its geology, dialect, cuisine or history, and despite the constant inflow of background music in our digital lives, my greatest musical discoveries still come through travel. For me, new places = new music.

Such is my hope for Canada. I came to Ontario with a single song on my new unnamed playlist: The Lakes of Canada by The Innocence Mission. A personal favorite, this guitar ballad is a musical photograph of a morning on the myriad lakes of Ontario. I freely admit to singing it (alone) whilst rowing on the lakes of Canada.

Since arriving in Ontario three weeks ago, I have added a second candidate to my future collection: Ontario singer/songwriter Kirsten Scholte, who I discovered near Ottawa.

As I explore this magnificent (and massive) province, I hope to collect the perfect soundtrack for Ontario–a symphony of songs where I can hit “Play” and wallow in that closing-credits-feeling for my great travels here, from Thunder Bay to Ottawa and all the great places in between.

And so–Ontarians and fans of Ontario–I need your help! Please pick my Ontario playlist: in the comments below, please suggest any (good) song that mentions Ontario, was recorded in Ontario, reminds you of Ontario, talks about Ontario, sounds like Ontario or feels like something very Ontario. I am pretty open musically, so lay it on me. From your suggestions I shall listen, gather and comprise a final soundtrack that I will use during my remaining travels in the province and as a musical souvenir of Ontario once I have left.

I’ll listen to pretty much anything, however, my only stipulation is thus: my Ontario playlist must include at least one song by local wunderkinds The Tragically Hip. I am still undecided as to which hip song that should be, so please feel free to barrage me with your best recommendations.

I look forward to reading through your informative comments and plan to post my finished playlist exactly one week from today.

Thank you/Merci!


Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic



  1. Stephen Hamelin
    Formerly Penetanguishene
    July 11, 2011, 4:38 am

    Bobcaygeon – Tragically Hip
    Sundown, Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald, If you could read my mind – Gordon Lightfoot
    Life – Our Lady Peace
    The hockey song – Stompin Tom Connors

  2. Kelley N
    July 11, 2011, 5:53 am

    Wow Stephen beat me to it! haha
    Tragically Hip – Bobcaygeon
    Gordon Lightfoot – Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
    Shania Twain – Come on Over
    Bare Naked Ladies – Brian Wilson (or anything of theirs)

  3. @kjpnow
    Huntsville, Ontario
    July 11, 2011, 6:18 am

    Fifty Mission Cap – The Trgically Hip (includes, hockey, fishing and a good mystery)

    Anything by Serena Ryder, but start with Millbrook Fair. What a voice!

    For something completely different try Hawksley Workman.

    Cheers Andrew!

  4. Scott
    July 11, 2011, 6:25 am

    Scotty Dynamo (from Toronto) “Make it Right”

  5. Kate S.
    Toronto, formerly from Barrie ON
    July 11, 2011, 6:29 am

    Songs that remind me of Ontario:
    Wheat Kings – The Tragically Hip
    Basement Apartment – Sarah Harmer
    Hasn’t Hit Me Yet – Blue Rodeo
    Coming Home – City and Colour

    Look forward to checking back on what other people reco!

  6. Andrew Evans
    July 11, 2011, 6:53 am

    All amazing suggestions, folks. Thank you Kate, Scott, Kelley, Stephen & @kjpnow. You got me listening to Shania Twain and the Tragically Hip back to back before 8 AM. Keep ’em coming!

  7. @_emy
    July 11, 2011, 7:02 am

    Your Rocky Spine – Great Lake Swimmers (or anything by them!)
    Mtn. Song – Evening Hymns
    Some are Lakes – Land of Talk
    More Than Alive – Hayden
    Orono Park – The Wilderness of Manitoba

    Enjoy the rest of your travels in Ontario!!

  8. Kerry Dexter
    July 11, 2011, 7:03 am

    Shania Twain — God Bless the Child
    Shania Twain–Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under
    Shania Twain — Today Is Your Day
    Leahy — High Places
    Leahy — Wedding Day Jig
    Leahy — Coyote Way

    and since she lives now in Ontario
    Natalie MacMaster — Josefin’s Waltz
    Natalie MacMaster — Appropriate Dipstick
    Natalie MacMaster — Touch of the Master’s Hand

  9. JeffGreg
    July 11, 2011, 7:10 am

    Helpless by Neil Young

    “There is a town in north Ontario,
    With dream comfort memory to spare,
    And in my mind
    I still need a place to go,
    All my changes were there.”

  10. USelaine
    July 11, 2011, 7:36 am

    Glad Jeff Greg already mentioned Neil Young’s “Helpless”. Albertan k.d. lang does a nice cover of that one on her album, Hymns of the 49th Parallel. Also on that album, “Love Is Everything” by Jane Siberry, and “One Day I Walk” by Bruce Cockburn (both Ontarians). (You’ll remember Siberry’s song “Calling All Angels” from the movie, Pay It Forward.)

    Showing my age with these, but it’s a lovely album.

  11. fryed
    Superior north shore
    July 11, 2011, 7:38 am

    Bobcaygeon of course, Edmund Fitzgerald too – but you got those already.

    My Home Town (here: http://www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3Dmrqg1oqfg_Y)

    Sudbury Saturday Night from Stompin’ Tom

    The Black Fly song (download here: http://www.angelfire.com/on/abitibicanyon/blackfly.html)

    Mounted Animal Nature Trail (The Arrogant Worms) see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SawuKi0lvs0

    The Arrogant Worms also did a song called Ontario Sucks, but clearly this is not the place for it. We love Ontario!!

  12. Brock
    Toronto, Ontario (Originally Schomberg, ON)
    July 11, 2011, 7:43 am

    Welcome to Ontario Andrew!

    Not sure how no one has mentioned this hit yet. I’m 23 but can remember my parents playing it when I was a kid.

    Sudbury Saturday Night – Stompin’ Tom Connors

    Feel free to say hi when you get to the T-Dot!

  13. Karen
    Alliston, Ontario
    July 11, 2011, 7:46 am

    The Arrogant Worms, Rocks and Trees. Ontario in a nutshell…. the northern part of it, anyway.

  14. Ellen
    peterborough Ontario
    July 11, 2011, 7:54 am

    helpless by Neil young
    Oh Canada by classified
    Bobcaygeon by the hip
    50 mission cap by the hip

  15. Kristy
    Stoney Creek, ON
    July 11, 2011, 8:19 am

    Weakerthans- Civil Twilight (Ontario mention)
    Arkells- Ballad of Hugo Chavez (Hamilton band)
    Kathleen Edwards- Hockey Skates or Back to Me (Ottawa singer)
    Stars and Metric are also good bets. Both formed in Toronto.

  16. Brian Hamilton
    Scotland, ON
    July 11, 2011, 8:25 am

    Helpless – Neil Young/kd Lang
    Bobcaygeon – Tragically Hip
    Lost Together – Blue Rodeo
    Song for a Winter’s Night – Gord Lightfoot (sure it was written on a rainy night in Cleveland, but it is magical)
    Anything by Hey Rosetta, Leahy or Serena Ryder
    Big League – Tom Cochrane (or for a humourous slant – Lunatic Fringe)
    Sandy – Bruce Springsteen (Since our summers are short but packed with summer intensity this great summer song fits wherever you enjoy the scene)
    Golden Slumbers – The Beatles (what playlist is complete without the Beatles?)

  17. annette baesel
    July 11, 2011, 8:25 am

    anything Bryan Adams for those moments where you just need to rock….especially from the 18 til I Die album

  18. Politixgirl
    July 11, 2011, 8:35 am

    My taste is eclectic but these songs/artists will certainly add some flavour to your list:
    Not in Love by Platinum Blonde
    Sunday by k-os
    Superstar by Ivana Santilli
    Charms by Philosopher Kings

  19. Paola
    July 11, 2011, 8:55 am

    Love so many of the suggestions folks have made so far!
    The Hip: Wheat Kings – the ultimate cottage/long weekend song
    Stompin’ Tom: The Hockey Song (just imagine 15-20 kids dressed up and ready for their hockey game singing along and try to resist)
    The Trews: Highway of Heroes
    Leonard Cohen / KD Lang: Hallelujah
    Bare Naked Ladies / Gordon Lightfoot – take your pick!
    Great Big Sea – I know, I know, they’re from Newfoundland but they’re my faves- again take your pick!
    Michael Kaeshammer – Lovelight – just fun.

  20. Karen
    Alliston, Ontario
    July 11, 2011, 9:11 am

    Everything the Barenaked Ladies have done is coloured by their Toronto roots, but for a specific Ontario mention, try “Peterborough and the Kawarthas”.

  21. Scott
    July 11, 2011, 9:18 am

    Great Lake Swimmers: Your Rocky Spine, Pulling On A Line

  22. Karen
    Alliston, Ontario
    July 11, 2011, 9:22 am

    Sorry for all the individual posts, but these songs keep occurring to me one at a time. Rush — Lakeside Park. Victoria Day in Ontario.

  23. Randy
    July 11, 2011, 9:35 am
  24. Randy
    July 11, 2011, 9:39 am

    Highway of Heroes – The Trews

    Dark and twisted
    I am my mothers daughter – Dawn Langstroth

    Anything by Rush

  25. Anne
    July 11, 2011, 9:43 am

    Didn’t check to see if anything by Sarah Harmer has been suggested yet.
    Escarpment Blues comes to mind.

  26. Anne
    July 11, 2011, 9:46 am

    Here’s a link to a page about Sarah Harmer on the CBC with some samples of her music. Sarah is a singer/songwriter from Burlington, Ontario.


  27. Lisa Colbert
    July 11, 2011, 9:48 am

    Alexisonfire: Boiled Frogs
    City and Colour: Coming Home
    Marianas Trench: Good to You
    Avril Lavigne: I’m With You
    Alanis Morisette: Jagged Little Pill album
    Moist: Silver
    Platinum Blonde: Any song is fun

  28. Eva
    July 11, 2011, 9:56 am

    Seconding Bobcaygeon and 50 Mission Cap for The Hip, I’d add Fireworks and 38 Years Old (about a prison break in Kingston, ON) too. Wheat Kings is a great song but it’s about Saskatoon…

    Also a great call by some other folks on Helpless, easily the most Ontario-y Neil song.

    Hmm, what else? Brian Wilson is probably my favorite Barenaked Ladies song. Moxy Fruvous (Jian Ghomeshi’s one-time band) has a funny track called My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors. The Arcade Fire (at least some members) went to my high school in Ottawa and I love the whole Funeral album. Somebody already mentioned Blue Rodeo – yes, yes.

    If you want a taste of good Canadian hip hop, try Shad K (anything from The Old Prince album), K-Os (Joyful Rebellion) and K’naan. They’re all from the general Toronto-ish vicinity.

  29. Vicki
    West Guilford, Ontario
    July 11, 2011, 10:01 am

    Helpless – Neil Young

  30. fryed
    Superior north shore
    July 11, 2011, 10:23 am

    Sarah Harmer – all of her great stuff on the Niagara Escarpment
    Start with Escarpment Blues (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52vXPZAkDug) and then anything else she sings – all great stuff.

    Someone mentioned Great Big Sea – Newfoundland, yes, but Daryl Power’s cousin lives right here on the Superior north shore, so they have an Ontario connection.

    Breit Brothers from McKerrow, Ontario (Sisters Euclid http://www.myspace.com/sisterseuclid, Bryan Adams (Gary on keyboards), Norah Jones (Kevin on guitar), Corey Hart (Gary on keyboards) etc.

  31. @cindyisawol
    July 11, 2011, 10:31 am

    Sarah Harmer; Album: I’m a Mountain; Song: I Am Aglow
    Kathleen Edwards; Song: Asking for Flowers
    Holly McNarland; Song: Numb

    Oh, and there’s the “Log Driver’s Waltz.” The McGarrigle sisters are from Quebec, but it doesn’t get more Canadian than this!!

  32. Seas
    July 11, 2011, 11:01 am

    Rheostatics – anything from Music Inspired by the Group of Seven (Northern Wish or perhaps Boxcar if you want a specific song)

  33. Mark Lamb
    July 11, 2011, 12:10 pm

    Fred Eaglesmith-White Rose

  34. Judy
    Port Dover
    July 11, 2011, 12:23 pm

    Check out House Milner, who sings and writes songs about the commercial fishermen of Lake Erie. He has co-written a play entitiled “Wooden ships and Iron men”

  35. Matt
    Columbia, Missouri
    July 11, 2011, 12:52 pm

    I grew up in Toronto, for me when I’m feel nostalgic for home, I listen to Lowest of the Low.
    “Rosy and Grey”
    Really any song from “Shakespeare My Butt”

    Should give you good canadian street cred if some Lows are on your playlist.

  36. Anne
    July 11, 2011, 1:27 pm

    Along the same theme as @Cindyisawol, is the “Black Fly Song” by Wade Hemsworth from Brantford, Ontario. Hope you’re enjoying your northern Ontario journey!

  37. Jade Johnston
    Wellington, New Zealand
    July 11, 2011, 1:46 pm

    The CN Tower belongs to the dead by Final Fantasy!

  38. Anne
    July 11, 2011, 2:27 pm

    Hi, I am back again with a list of Ontario performers. I don’t know whether or not you have –
    Garnett Rogers or his brother Stan Rogers
    the Arkells
    Luke Doucet
    Daniel Lanois
    Melissa McClelland
    Jacob Moon

  39. Tracey
    July 11, 2011, 2:29 pm

    Max Webster, Patio Lantern
    K-os, Crabbuckit
    Got to have some Rush in there
    And The Shuffle Demons, Spadina Bus.

  40. Kerry Dexter
    July 11, 2011, 3:49 pm

    stopping back by I notice that no one seems to have mentioned the legendary Ontario (she’s from Chatham) singer and songwriter Sylvia Tyson, who has buckets of great songs from her Ian and Sylvia days, as a solo artist, and with the group Quartette as well.

  41. Shauna Rae Saroufim
    July 11, 2011, 7:13 pm

    The Sober Second Thoughts are an AWESOME Ontario Band!!!


  42. Anya
    Eastern Ontario
    July 11, 2011, 7:16 pm

    Cuff the Duke – Oshawa (Take My Money and Run)
    Brothers Chaffey – Ottawa – (Thrill on the Hill)
    Amanda Marshall – born in Toronto (Sunday Morning After)
    Amy Milan – also in the band Stars
    K’Naan – Toronto (TIA, Waving Flag, Dusty Foot Philosopher)
    Treble Charge – Sault Ste. Marie
    Enter the Haggis – Toronto (Suburban Plains)
    Dream Warriors – Toronto (My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style)
    Paul Anka – Ottawa

  43. Trish Manning
    Port Sydney
    July 11, 2011, 7:28 pm

    Check out Katherine Wheatley. Her song “Water Moves Me” is what Ontario is all about. http://www.katherinewheatley.com/music.html

  44. Tanya
    July 11, 2011, 7:30 pm

    Try one of my friends who has been singing along time in Ontario and Toronto. He plays with his wife at Hey Lucy on Sunday afternoons usually in Toronto.

    Another favourite is local Ottawa favourite – The Mighty Popo – plays a jazz, african beat. He now has a facebook page.

    In Ottawa check out the XPress for the latest local shows

    Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Qc is a good place to catch some good music too (I know not exactly in Ontario but close enough) Barrymore’s (iconic music hall), Zaphod’s (Rolling Stones shot a video there), Manx Pub all Ottawa haunts.

    Don’t forget either that Alanis Morrisette is originally from Ottawa too. She has some good stuff on her Jagged Little Pill album.

    As for the Tragically Hip, can`t say which is my fave. They just played a pretty good concert at Ottawa Bluesfest.

  45. Tanya
    July 11, 2011, 7:54 pm

    My post didn’t seem to post the first time.
    Try the Mighty Popo – http://www.mightypopo.ca/EN/index.html – Ottawa Juno winner
    Black Turtle Dove (from Toronto) – http://www.blackturtledovemusic.com/fr_home.cfm – They play Hey Lucy on the weekends.
    Alanis Morrisette – Ottawa Native – Jagged Little Pill

  46. Victoria Hadden
    July 11, 2011, 9:26 pm

    No doubt about it, this is ‘THE’ Ontario song by the award-winning Mary Lamont! http://www.marylamont.com/ontario.htm

  47. Ellen e
    Oxford Mills ON
    July 11, 2011, 9:34 pm

    +1 on Sarah Harmer and Lowest of the Low.

    Also, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, especially “Lean on your Peers” as a fine slice of Hamiltonia. And anything by David Francey (maybe “Torn Screen Door”?)’, Meredith Luce, or Brock Zeman for a soupçon of Easterrn Ontario.

    Lastly, the late,great Dik Van Dykes, either “Curling” or “The Lime Green Slime of Home”, an ode to Hamilton’s Dundurn castle.

  48. Mr. McCall
    Perth WA, formerly Tilbury Ontario
    July 18, 2011, 8:39 am

    Feversham – Off The Mark, an old punk song about growing up in Feversham ontario

  49. Boomergirl
    July 18, 2011, 8:46 am

    Best road trip tune: Life is a Highway, Tom Cochrane,resident of Oakville, Ontario

    The Black Fly Song by Wade Hemsworth (1949) about working in the wilds of Northern Ontario. Classic Canadian folk music.

    And definitely agree with others re picks from Neil Young, Bare Naked Ladies (If I had a million dollars), Stompin’ Tom’s Hockey Song and Gordon Lightfoot’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (can U believe that wreck was actually named for a previous Edmund Fitzgerald wreck which sank off Long Point, Ontario back in 1883).

  50. ellen
    peterborough, on
    July 18, 2011, 2:58 pm

    i already posted once, but person who mentioned black sheep reminded me of….
    DAN MANGAN!! heard him for first time there, and it was quite by accident.
    songs by him…. ‘road regrets’ and ‘pine for cedars’

  51. […] appealed to you for true-blue Ontario music, and boy oh boy, did you deliver. In the comments and across Twitter, I […]

  52. […] appealed to you for true-blue Ontario music, and child oh boy, did we deliver. In a comments and opposite Twitter, […]