Lori Yates


Long recognized by her peers and respected as one of Canada's top talents, Lori was called "alt-country" long before the phrase existed – the pioneer of a genre in the making.

This is an artist who met Johnny Cash, hung out with Tammy Wynette, wrote with Guy Clark, Don Schlitz, and Colin Linden, jammed with Jerry Jeff Walker, drank with Harlan Howard, sang with Greg Allman, Rick Danko, and Jim Cuddy, and ate jelly beans with Roy Acuff. As the saying goes, she's "been to the show."

Lori's nominations include the Juno award,  Canadian Country Music Award,  Polaris Prize award (long list), City of Oshawa Lifetime Achievement Award nomination. She has won: Songwriter of the Year, (Hamilton Music Awards) Alt-Country Recording of the Year (Hamilton Music Awards) SOCAN #1 award.  Most recently a City of Hamilton Arts Awards Lifetime Achievement Nomination.

Her lyrics have been immortalized in Hamilton's Gore Park. A dynamic and often hilarious performer, what sets her apart is her golden voice; part honey, part growl. You believe every note that comes out of her mouth, she's that kind of singer, the real deal.  Her lyrics are gritty, tender, and poignant.

Born in Oshawa, Ontario, Yates grew up in Downsview, a working-class suburb of Toronto, under the shadow of the Yorkdale Mall. She's the kid who at 8 years old proclaimed to the world she was going to be a singer after seeing The Supremes on the Ed Sullivan show sing "Stop in the Name of Love. She was heavily influenced by Tanya Tucker, Patti Smith, and Dolly Parton. She started to secretly take singing lessons while working in a self-serve gas station. Lori was the kid who'd never been on a plane until Sony Music bigshots sent her a ticket. 

Lori quickly gained a reputation as a "country fireball" (Now Magazine 1989) because of her high energy live performances when she burst onto Toronto's Queen West music scene in the late 80s with her cowpunk band Rang Tango. 
 She was always the "cowgirl singing her heart out in the punk clubs." This enigmatic, rebellious veteran blended country, roots, rockabilly, and folk to create her own sound that eventually gets her signed to Sony Nashville, and Virgin Music Canada

Her first major recording "Can't Stop the Girl" (Sony Nashville) would prove prophetic. She's an artist who battled and overcame her own personal addictions and quietly moved on to help others. She's planted graveyard flowers, painted houses, worked in record stores and homeless shelters, sold her paintings and photographs all in order to support her career during turbulent times. A writer, singer, poet, storyteller, funny person, coach, mentor, partner, and mom.

 Rick Danko of the Band described Lori's sound as "that desperate Canadian sound".

Lori moved to Hamilton in early 2001, she was drawn to the post-industrial steel city of Hamilton, Ontario because of its rich musical heritage. Hamilton is where Ronnie Hawkins and The Band cut their teeth in whisky-soaked bars like the Flamingo and the Golden Garter and where Conway Twitty wrote "It's Only Make Believe" in a Herkimer Street apartment, and where the famous Washington family (Jackie Washington and his brothers) opened their home to Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Mississippi John Hurt when they gigged in town. And this is where she played with the late great Brian Griffith when he wasn't touring with Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson. Lori relocated with her baby son and partner in 2002. She took up a residency at the Corktown tavern when it was voted "best live dive" and won the hearts of her new hometown.

Hamilton lovingly embraced Lori, awarding her with "Songwriter of the Year" and "Alt-Country Recording of the Year" at the 2007 Hamilton Music Awards for "The Book of Minerva."

"Sweetheart of the Valley" was recorded with old bandmates, and roots heavyweights Hey Stella -  Bazil Donovan (Blue Rodeo), David Baxter (Justin Rutledge), and Michelle Josef (Prairie Oyster). They recorded live off the floor in three whirlwind sessions. "Not many artists come up with the best work of their career three decades in -  but Lori Yates and Hey Stella did just that (Kerry Doole FYI Music).  The recording was "Longer Listed" for the Polaris Prize. 

The words from her song, Angels with Bloody Knees have recently been immortalized in Hamilton's Gore Park.  Artist Dave Kuruc created "Music City Markers" which included lyrics from prominent Hamilton and Hamilton influenced artists; Robbie Robertson, Terra Lightfoot, The Arkells, etc. Look for Lori's "Concrete rises hits you like a kiss".

2015 - Sweetheart of the Valley - Laly Music

2007 - The Book of Minerva - Laly Music

2001 -  Hey Stella! - Independent

1996 - Untogether - Virgin Music Canada

1993 -  Breaking Point - Virgin Music Canada

1989 - Can't Stop the Girl - Sony Music Nashville

1987 - Rang Tango - State of the Heart Records



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