Talking music with Tony Ploughman meanders quickly into deep, heartfelt, and passionate discourse. And so it should: how many things exist in this world we can all agree on that we love? Music has united and defined cultures forever; music is the soundtrack to our parties, the shows & movies we watch, pivotal moments in our personal lives.

Tony is as much a musical institution as Fred’s Records itself. So who better to talk Christmas gift tips with than him? “Music is a classic gift,” he says. “It’s instant pleasure, creates immediate rapport with friends and family, we sing along, or dance, or simply lean into that which inspires us no matter who you are. Music at holiday time is essential. Music was, is and always will be a great gift,” he says. “It’s qualitative on a scale that speaks to our humanity, our nature, our soul.”

What have been some of the top-sellers or top picks among staff at Fred’s this year, in terms of 2018  releases by local artists?

2018 has been another stellar year for all genres of local music, led by The Once, Rum Ragged, Fortunate Ones, Ennis Sisters, Mick Davis, Craig Young, Anita Best & Sandy Morris, Swinging Belles, Irish Descendants, Waterfront Fire, Denis Parker and Sherry Ryan.

You can witness right there the variety of styles and artists. As massive as some of these releases have been, the Fred’s staff favour several  unique titles like Brad Tuck, Glen Collins, Swamps, Ken Tizzard, and everyone digs the latest Mark Bragg, a deserving MusicNL triple award-winner this past month.

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen great interest in the debut from Jenina MacGillivray, the sophomore releases from Youngtree & The Blooms and Patrick Boyle; the latter is now on vinyl. One of the big surprises of 2018 has been the release of Fur Packed Action, “The Dull Thud Of Fur” on double vinyl. Their fan base both provincially and nation-wide have pounced on the opportunity to acquire a copy.

What’s a local album or two, not from 2018, that continues to sell well as a Christmas gift at Fred’s?

Each and every Christmas there are artists that never drift off the gift buyer’s radar. The Once, Hey Rosetta!, Amelia Curran, Fortunate Ones, Ron Hynes, and Matthew Byrne are always in demand. They’re all enormously important names, their works valued and loved by so many. It’s always fun to engage in chat about all and any of those performers, and share thoughts on their distinctive albums.

What about local Christmas albums, got a suggestion or two?

We have maybe 75 different titles, and more coming out this year. Rum Ragged was huge last year, and a really fun record. And you have so much variety with original albums from The Once, Hey Rosetta!, Fortunate Ones. There are three Ennis Sisters Christmas albums, and long-time favorites like Simani, Masterless Men, and Ed Kavanagh come immediately to mind.

In the past few years, Matthew Byrne and Shelley Neville sparked great interest. I’m looking forward to hearing the brand new Ian Foster & Nancy Hynes Christmas release, and the Fretboard Journey album in early December.

What local albums would you recommend folks buy for people on their shopping lists who are …

Fans of Rock?

Strong local Rock albums for consideration this year would be Mick Davis, Mark Bragg, Waterfront Fire, and Another North.

Fans of Pop or radio-friendly music?

Radio Friendly releases to suggest would have to include The Once at the top of the list. Right now, and I say this without the slightest hesitation, Geraldine Hollett has perhaps the finest voice in Canada for the style of music the band delivers. The newest album, Time Enough, sounds like the record Fleetwood Mac should have made after “Rumours.” Gerri’s vocal contribution, her sense for nuance, subtlety, and pure emotion is at times jaw-dropping.

Fortunate Ones is a shimmering Pop record and although it hit the streets in December of last year, Kellie Loder’s new record is a strong choice in this category.

Fans of Traditional Music?

Trad/NL is always aplenty with choice. Rum Ragged lead this year’s pack of solid titles. Anita Best & Sandy Morris teamed up for a beauty, while The Ennis Sisters and Irish Descendants continue to record vital folk music, in what have been consistently strong careers.

Brad Tuck has been the surprise hit of 2018, and Mark Hiscock of Shanneyganock  fame has just released his second solo effort. Mark’s new one has a nice mix of Country & Western with Celtic foundations, and is expected to be one of the hottest choices this Christmas.

Quieter, folkier singer-songwriter stuff?

This is my favorite category and features a plethora of tasty picks. Jenina MacGillivary’s Marion is one of the year’s most pleasant surprises. This record possesses the kind of intimacy you would experience while sitting on the couch with someone as you go through a photo album, and hear the stories behind the picture. I’m very impressed with this one.

Ken Tizzard released a beautiful tribute to the late great Ron Hynes. I like how Ken kept things very simple and chose an intriguing cast of numbers. This album will appeal to not only fans of Ron Hynes but folks who enjoy county/folk done right.

Also in the class of folk/singer-songwriter is the brand new Youngtree & The Blooms. We just launched this album here at Fred’s. Fans of John Prine, Gram Parsons, Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell, and late 60’s Dylan will find this truly interesting. Guitarist-extraordinaire Craig Young fits nicely in this vein as well. Consistency is Craig’s calling card. Finally, one of my top picks would be Sherry Ryan’s latest, without question the best album of her life.

Fans of Something Different?

Glen Collins falls suitably into this bracket. An album of robust instrumentals, it’s an electric guitarist with a full band running the gamut from classic rock to Jeff Beck-like fusion, and features guest vocals from Dana Parsons, Janet Cull, and rap from Neil Conway.

Denis Parker, joined by his daughter Sarah and a veteran cast of local blues and rock musicians has a much celebrated new record, while Patrick Boyle leading a cool jazz quartet, Joel Hynes’ edgy contemporary fusion of folk/rock, and Swinging Belles kiddies’ (and parents) delight, present some of the better off the beaten track releases.

If this interview hasn’t zeroed you in on a few gifts, Tony stresses that “we have an enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, eager to help and make suggestions.” Pop on down, support local, and surprise yourself with a new album or two for yourself.