Photo: Stewart MacLean
Photo: Stewart MacLean

Essentials… with Lawrence Maxwell

Each week, Essentials allows Canadian musicians to share the things that have helped them get through the pandemic, and why they still can’t live without them.


Anyone who has followed country music over the past couple of years knows that it is experiencing a renaissance with an infusion of new voices eager to take it in new directions. That was certainly one of the goals Lawrence Maxwell set out to achieve when making his third album Ballad Of Miles, a dynamic 13-song collection encompassing a wide range of songwriting approaches.

From the outlaw-tinged opener Listening To Keith Whitley—a tribute to the legendary ‘80s star who tragically died young—to the sweet, John Prine-esque closer Happy Little Life, Maxwell’s craftsmanship shines through on every track, powered by his naturally twangy delivery.

Maxwell hails from Prince Edward Island, with its rich country music history rooted in every citizen’s relationship to the land and sea. In fact, before launching his musical career, Maxwell served in the Royal Canadian Navy upon graduating high school where, during downtime aboard his warship, he would compose thoughts that would lay the groundwork for his 2018 debut album Not Your Outlaw.

That record immediately put him on the Americana map and earned him his first Music P.E.I. Award. Maxwell followed it up in 2020 with Almost Natural, which further displayed his skill at blending the traditional sounds of folk and bluegrass with modern themes and production values. It garnered Maxwell his first East Coast Music Award nomination and an AmericanaFest-UK showcase in 2021, while proving his music’s ability to unite fans of both the old and new.

Lawrence Maxwell’s Ballad Of Miles is officially released on Jan. 21 on all digital platforms, Bandcamp and through


Essential Album: Shane Pendergast, Second Wind (Independent, 2021)

I first listened to this album while out for a run. Every album needs to go through the ‘run’ test for me. The tempo is irrelevant. I’ve been known to turn on the jets to a heartbreaking ballad if it hits right. Not only is the title, Second Wind, quite fitting for running, but I soon found myself listening in my car and at breakfast. I’m lucky to be friends with Shane and have toured with him after this album was released. Autumn Rain is my personal favourite from the record. Start to finish, it’s a masterclass in thoughtful storytelling and earnest songwriting.


Essential Book: Brian Burke with Stephen Brunt, Burke’s Law: A Life in Hockey (Penguin Random House, 2020)

I had the pleasure of meeting Brian Burke twice: Once at a Boston University hockey game and once, when I was in the Navy, he came aboard our ship in Toronto. He was generous and classy in both instances. His memoir gives a peek behind the curtain of the NHL in the ‘90s and ‘00s. I remember being a kid and playing hockey in that era. This book really gave me a greater perspective on what was transpiring in those days within the league. Beyond talking about hockey, he shares stories of his family and points out his own triumphs and failures through success, tragedy, and lessons learned. I appreciate the honesty in every sentence.

Essential TV: Ozark (Netflix, 2017-present)

I love a storyline with ‘anti-heroes.’ I love to be able to root for someone despite their flaws. I think I resonate most with characters who aren’t perfect but who display integrity. Ozark is full of those characters and the plot is constantly moving. Perhaps it’s just coincidence, but season four comes out the same day as my new album. So maybe there’s some type of synchronicity there.

Essential Movie: Green Book (2018)

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali are fantastic in this movie. Based on a true story, we’re given a portrayal of jazz pianist, Don Shirley and his time spent touring as a Black musician in the southern United States in the sixties. I loved the evolution of Don’s relationship with his driver/bodyguard, Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga. Frank is a tough guy and his ignorance is often forgivable because you realize he’s acting based on his limited worldview. It’s heartwarming to see how he and Don warm up to one another through the hardships they endure on the road. This one checks the boxes of laughter and tears.

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