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Jason Wilson Introduces Generational Album 'Ashara' Blending Scottish Folk, Global Roots & Reggae


By Stevie Connor.



Scottish-Canadian visionary Jason Wilson ventures into personal ground with his latest album Ashara. Set for release on Friday 29 September, the record presents a joyful blend of Scottish folk, global roots and reggae, delving into Jason’s family history in such a way that connects his present life to a very distant past.

Inspired by the rediscovery of his late father's 8mm films which captured life in Ayrshire during the 1960s, Ontario-based Jason embarked on a musical journey to explore his heritage and Scottish roots. In this sense, Ashara is a deeply personal and generational body of work, showcasing Jason’s innate aptitude for storytelling through poetic lyrics and beautiful imagery.


Album special guests include Scottish musicians Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton on whistles, Jack Smedley on fiddle and John Somerville on accordion. The string section; Jill Daley and Brielle Goheen on violin, Amanda Penner on viola and Alex McMaster on cello. Patrice Barbanchon on trumpet, Herbie Barnes on banjo and Tim Bovaconti on mandolin.


‘Ashara’ was produced by Jason Wilson and recorded at Canterbury Music Company, Toronto and Valley Road Studio, Stouffville, ON. It was mixed and co-produced by Mars Giammarco and Carl Harvey at Red Egg Studio, Bolton, ON and mastered by Noah Mintz at Lacquer Channel Mastering, Toronto.


To celebrate, ‘Jason Wilson & Ashara’ throw their album release concert/party at The Redwood Theatre in Toronto on Saturday, September 30, 2023. Special guest openers are Toronto’s ‘The Two Bobs,’ featuring JUNO Award winner, singer, composer, multi-instrumentalist and The Satellites co-founder Fergus Hambleton.



ALBUM RELEASE

The Redwood Theatre, 1300 Gerrard St. East, Toronto, M4L 1Y7.

Saturday, September 30, 2023. Doors at 7:00 p.m.

$25 in advance / $30 at the door.



The award-winning musician, who is renowned for his stellar vocals and inimitable skill on acoustic guitar and piano, brings together an exceptional lineup of musicians for this album. His band Ashara, after which the album is named, includes legendary Jamaican-Canadian guitarist Carl Harvey (Toots & The Maytals), woodwind specialist Marcus Ali, vocalist Laurel Tubman, drummer Vince Reel and bassist Michael Shapinko. The album also features the musical contributions of Scottish talents including Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton on whistles, Jack Smedley on fiddle, and John Somerville on accordion.

In his previous work, Jason has explored the impact of place on memory, from the urban landscape of New York in Perennials (2016) to the historical trajectory of Toronto in Sumach Roots (2020). Ashara continues this thematic exploration, examining the musician’s Ayrshire roots and the profound cultural connections they hold.

Stand out tracks on the album include the enchanting Coila. Coila was the name of the muse that Robert Burns invented to help with his writing. For the poet, Coila was the embodiment of Ayrshire where he, and Jason’s own family, came from. This song explores the possibility that her voice called out to Burns from across the ‘Black Atlantic’, however, and lured him to Jamaica, where he always intended to go.


An Evening in Paris in Cumnock Tonight, another stellar track from the album, captures the magic of the small dances Jason’s parents would have attended in Ayrshire during the 1950s. ‘An Evening in Paris’ was a much coveted perfume at the time, and the premise of the song imagines a young lad who, armed himself with a brand new bottle of the famous French perfume, attempts to win the heart of a young lass he had his eye on.


Jason Wilson said: “This album is very personal, in that it is based around stories of my parents, aunts and uncles, all of whom have shaped my life in some way. The tales told throughout the songs stretch all the way back to my great-great-great-great-great-great uncle John Davidson, who appears in Robert Burns’ Tam O’ Shanter as Souter Johnnie, the shoemaker. In this way, it is a generational body of work; it is made up from my memories, mixed with those of my parents, and all that I know of my roots in Ayrshire, dating back hundreds of years.


“Ashara has a strong, folky sound, with my guitar pieces all in Celtic DADGAD tuning, thanks to Dick Gaughan, but also draws on Canadian influences, served atop, as always, a reggae foundation. It really captures my essence as a musician, fully matured. This record truly is where Scotland meets Jamaica in Canada!”

Jason Wilson is a two-time Juno-Awards nominee, Canadian Reggae Music Award winner and bestselling Scottish-Canadian Historian from Downsview, Ontario. He is the protégé of Studio One keyboardist Jackie Mittoo and has performed and recorded with UB40, Alanis Morissette, Sly & Robbie, Ron Sexsmith, Ernest Ranglin, Pee Wee Ellis and Dick Gaughan.

Born to Scottish parents, Jason was also one half of the successful Wilson & Swarbrick project with the late English folk icon Dave Swarbrick. An Adjunct-Professor of history, Wilson has eight books to his name, including the award-winning King Alpha's Song in a Strange Land: The Roots and Routes of Canadian Reggae (UBC Press, 2020).

Ashara was recorded over a ten-month period and captures the essence of the band's chemistry. The initial recordings took place at Toronto's renowned Canterbury Music Company, allowing them to capture the authentic magic of live performances while having the flexibility to refine their sound during subsequent editing and mixing sessions at Valley Road Studio and Red Egg Studio, respectively. The contributions of the Scottish musicians were recorded in their own respective locations, adding another layer of diversity to the album's sonic tapestry.

The album features predominantly original compositions by Jason, with notable exceptions being a heartfelt rendition of Roy Harper's When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease and an inspired musical interpretation of Alexander Montgomerie's sixteenth-century poem The Night is Near Gone.


In support of the album release, Jason and his band will embark on a tour, commencing with a series of dates in Ontario in September 2023. The band has exciting plans for further performances in Canada, a trip to the Cayman Islands, and a return to Scotland and England in 2024.


Ashara will be available on CD, vinyl and digitally from Friday 29 September 2023.




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