There was a cracked 12 string guitar, and a 6 string, newly repaired after falling off the pool table at a biweekly gig. A couple of trusty electric guitars and a bass made from a kit. A sip or two of Four Roses, and a few late studio nights right around the time of the passing of Gordon Lightfoot: “Years Gone By”, the first recording by Staig and Billings, was complete.
Chris Staig and Jonathan Billings are Toronto based singer songwriters with ten albums of original material in their collective history. Before the Covid 19 pandemic, they had played a few Toronto shows together and always planned to take the collaboration further. It was the discovery during lockdown that they could play regular online outdoor shows that solidified a musical partnership. A shared musical vocabulary grew, ten feet apart, outside on a porch, delving into the back catalogues of Lightfoot, The Everly Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young and The Sadies. Emerging out of lockdown, Staig and Billings began playing all over Toronto, both as an acoustic duo and as full band, inspiring audiences with their original material and vast catalogue of cover songs.
The four songs on Years Gone By chronicle characters recalling how they fell in love with music, barrooms, and occasionally other like-minded souls. While a sense of nostalgia for better, simpler times is present, it is balanced by a belief that if you hold on to what you truly value and believe in, there will be better days ahead. Musically, this is supported by the joy of 12 and 6 string guitars being strummed together, close harmonies sung live, and the simple pleasure of placing an old school exercise book on the snare drum to get “that sound”. Wisps of pedal steel, harmonica, and violin (courtesy of neighbourhood violin virtuoso Shelley Coopersmith) also bubble to the surface.
Staig and Billings will be supporting “Years Gone By” with performances throughout Ontario with an eye to perform across Canada and in the UK in 2024. A second EP is tentatively scheduled to be recorded in autumn of 2023. One day, Staig and Billings might even get around to repairing the crack in Jonathan’s 12 string guitar.
Some Words on "Years Gone By":
Staig and Billings infuse their take on country rock with a subtle assurance and wistful bonhomie so refreshing you’ll want to replay these tunes again and again.
Discreetly displaying their country rock credentials, the duo usher in opener I Remember Dreaming with quivering Buffalo Springfield guitar before name-checking a Deadhead favourite. Twin vocals blend with infectious rhythms and scrubbed acoustics to make this a spot-on calling card.
Staig lends a satisfying rasp to the charming Roaring 20s Song as chords twist ingeniously, conjuring the thought that the likes of Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet could cover this one to splendid effect.
Billings leads the pedal steel-laced Years Gone By with Staig’s vocals tucked in discreetly behind him, the pair imbuing the title song’s themes of yearning and regret with the cut-grass freshness of an early summer morning.
The gentle, affecting A Waltz, A Prayer, A Kiss spins a tale of a French-Canadian girl and the heart she won and broke. Not a word wasted, not a beat out of place, hallmarks, indeed, of the whole e.p.
Written by Roy Moller (Scottish poet/songwriter), June 29, 2023
Staig & Billings – Years Gone By (EP Review)
By Jenna Melanson on Canadianbeats.ca, July 28, 2023
The four-song EP, Years Gone By begins with “I Remember Dreaming,” a song that beautifully blends traditional country elements with a folk-infused, upbeat tempo. The lyrics recall moments of dreaming and drinking, emotions that once masked the pain of the absence of a loved one. The clever use of the phrase “Thinking of those days, such a haze” perfectly captures the nostalgic and blurred memories that often accompany past relationships. Regardless of whether you’ve known heartbreak or hold a fondness for deeply moving narratives, “I Remember Dreaming” is an enchanting track that will etch a profound impression on the depths of your emotions.
“Roaring 20’s Song” immediately caught my attention with its toe-tapping beat. The chorus, with its repetition of the phrase “Maybe in time, the words they will emerge, To a hopeful, happy, 21st-century Roaring 20s Song,” serves as a hopeful refrain, expressing the desire for a brighter future despite the current turmoil. It’s an anthem of optimism and resilience, acknowledging the difficulties while embracing the potential for positive change. With its meaningful lyrics and genuine folk-country sound, the song becomes a compelling and relatable anthem for those navigating the complexities of the modern age.
Overall, "Years Gone By ” is a beautifully crafted release that takes the listener on a musical journey that weaves together moments of introspection, nostalgia, and optimism through emotive storytelling, heartfelt vocals, and melodic instrumentation.
To read full article: https://canadianbeats.ca/2023/07/28/staig-billings-years-gone-by-ep-review/
Staig and Billings Upcoming SHows
Staig and Billings
Rod Gun And Barbers
Friday Sept 29th
9 pm till late
2877 Dundas St West
Staig and Billings Clips
Video for Roaring 20's Song by Staig and Billings: https://youtu.be/Og7GOIGQzZ4?si=zl3RTbkLVwGs7YwX
Staig and Billings Live Studio Take of "I Remember Dreaming" https://youtu.be/yrv0p0Hmiag
Staig and Billings Band Live from RoncyRocks Stage at the Polish Roncesvalles Fest, Sept 2022: https://youtu.be/F4qHio9i2ow
Staig and Billings Band Live from The Annex Social, Aug 2022 https://youtu.be/cyWHJ3VU2PA
Staig and Billings Band Live from The Tenny, Aug 2022 https://youtu.be/H89Rw4r6jQs