Jason Fowler is a highly respected Toronto singer/songwriter, session guitarist and producer. He has released six independent CDs under his own name and has played on over 100 albums. In addition to his solo career, Jason is also the Musical Director & Guitarist for renowned Irish tenor John McDermott, and has toured with him since 2001. During the pandemic Jason and his wife Melanie Conly, spent many evenings singing and playing together at home. The culmination of that musical alchemy is a unique mixture of modern, folk and classical music. Since the world started to re-open they’ve been performing as a duo.
Jason has played with a who’s who of the Canadian roots music scene including Anne Lindsay, April Verch, Amy Sky, Marc Jordan, Susan Aglukark, The Cottars, Quartette, Susan Crowe, Nana Mouskouri, Murray McLauchlan, Brent Titcomb, Ian Tamblyn, Jory Nash, Ember Swift, Madison Violet, and Evalyn Parry. A two-time winner at the Walnut Valley National Guitar Championships, in both the Fingerpicking and Flatpicking categories ( a rare accomplishment), Jason is acknowledged as one of Canada’s most gifted guitarists (he also holds a degree in Classical Guitar Performance from McGill University). In 2004 he was the inaugural winner of the OCFF’s Instrumental Composition of the Year Award. As a “hired gun”, Jason is a rarity: he is a consummate musician with an extraordinary command of musical styles from folk, country and bluegrass, to blues, rock, jazz and classical. In 2003 he was the recipient of the CEC McEachern Porcupine Award for Outstanding Musical Accompanist in his native Toronto. These awards are handed out each year by Steve Fruitman (CIUT Radio) as a way to shine some light on those who deserve to be noted for their work at enshrining Canadian folklore into the sub-conscious realm. Fruitman said of Jason’s guitar accompaniment: “His guitars are like lungs breathing airs of brilliance behind a variety of foregrounds."
Film soundtrack work includes Arbitrage, Tinker Bell, Going Back & Big Fat Lady. Television work includes Franklin, Relic Hunter, Mantracker, By The Rapids & Eight Days To Live. Jason has played on myriad commercials including spots for Tim Horton’s, LCBO, McDonalds, Hyundai, General Motors, Ford Motors, Fairmont Hotels, Lotto 649, BPI Mutual Funds, Chapman’s Ice Cream, Sportsline and Chieftain Products.
He has opened for Robert Plant, Steve Vai, Deep Purple and Ted Nugent.
He has contributed to Acoustic Guitar and Fingerstyle Guitar magazines and has been recognised as one of the city’s finest music teachers in that Toronto’s NOW magazine Reader’s Poll.
With all of the hours hours Jason has logged in recording studios playing on records and working with some of Canada’s top producers, it was a natural step for him to start producing other artists. His studio savvy combined with his musical literacy and vast stylistic knowledge has led to his producing John McDermott’s Journeys, David Bradstreet’s Lifelines, Kevin Hutchings “Light To Shine”, D’Arcy Wickham’s Feather Fingers, John McDermott’s On A Whim (co-produced with Brigham Phillips and Phil Dwyer) and Blake Papsin’s Entwined. and Serious Boy.
He has composed, produced and arranged a number of relaxation albums for Somerset Entertainment Inc. (Solitudes, Avalon) including Southwest Spa, Unwind, and Peaceful Country, in addition to playing guitar on dozens of other albums for their various label affiliates.
His latest solo recording, Lumens of Light, was released in 2010. It features 10 new songs, including 2 instrumentals, and is an amalgam of roots rock, country, folk and instrumental guitar.
Penguin Egg’s magazine said of it, “There’s a pleasing stylistic gamut that Jason Fowler runs through on his latest album, one that shows off both his at times understated guitar work (I Could Die Here), knack for observational lyrics (Now There’s You) and general attention to song craft throughout. Country-folk unhurried and steeped in reverie, but hooked in such a way that you’ll always come back.”
His previous recording, Buckets Of Rain, was released in 2009. It was recorded at his home studio and is a collection of his favorite songs that he’s been singing for most of his life; songs by Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Blake, Doc Watson, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, John Prine, Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan, Gordon Lightfoot, Tom Waits and Hoyt Axton.
His fourth solo album, Temporary Ground, was released in 2004, and contains fiery bluegrass ensemble work, breathtaking solo guitar and a number of highly personal songs that tell of his recent life journeys. It came on the heels of the dissolution of his marriage, as well as extensive touring with Irish tenor John McDermott. His travels gave him new inspiration and new musical friends with which to collaborate. Canadian bluegrass virtuoso Ray Legere lends searing mandolin ands fiddle work on 2 tracks, Anne Lindsay plays a soulful chorus on the instrumental version of The Tennessee Waltz, veteran Canadian musicians Al Cross (drums) and David Woodhead (bass) lay down a solid groove on My Daily Burden, and Gary Breit, keyboardist for Bryan Adams (and brother of Canadian guitar whiz Kevin Breit) lends some soulful organ playing to a few tunes. It received the widest and warmest reviews of his career, doubtless due to his growing reputation as a tasteful and versatile Guitarist For Hire. The Toronto Star’s Greg Quill stated "The guitarist rips off some astonishing licks in the pursuit of melodic enrichment, never just for show. This is as fine as acoustic guitar gets."
John McLaughlin, of The Vancouver Province’s wrote,"A guitarist with flashes of brilliance on a par with Cooder, Doc Watson and Tony Rice. A great find."
Penguin Eggs, Canada’s roots music magazine glowed, “…a nicely crafted CD, with some exquisite guitar work…Fowler’s depth as a songwriter and instrumentalist is evident; there is nothing temporary about Temporary Ground.”
In 2000 Fowler released Big Hill, Little Hill, an all-instrumental album of modern fingerstyle guitar music, that clearly demonstrated Jason’s compositional skills as well as his guitar virtuosity. Recorded at a friends home studio over the course of a years worth of Sunday night sessions, Big Hill, Little Hill signalled a brief departure away from songwriting that coincided with becoming a father and having less time and inspirational fodder for songwriting. What precious time there was for the guitar, often meant lulling his baby daughter to sleep and in the process composing the pieces that would become the new album. It included a cover of Garnet Rogers Green Eyes and the classic Irish tune Shi Big Shi Mhor by blind Irish harpist Turlough O’Carolan. When Borealis Records put together it’s first volume of Canadian instrumental guitar musi, they included Jason’s version of the piece. The album’s producer, Bill Garrett said, “Jason plays this famous Turlough O’Carolan melody as well as anyone on any instrument. It’s quite simply beautiful.”
Well-known Canadian musician and artist Kurt Swinghammer reviewed the album on his online blog:
“This beautiful sounding disc is by an extremely accomplished acoustic guitarist from Toronto…The album’s centerpiece is a 6 plus minute long trilogy that unfolds like a classic narrative, expressing an interest in European modernism with unusual voicings far beyond the expectations of Americana folk forms. A strong step forward for a local artist seeking recognition in a crowded, competitive forum.”
His second album, Life Is Rich, released in January 1998, was also well received. Walt Grealis of RPM Magazine wrote: “Fowler is known for his exceptional finger work and his thought provoking lyrics and he follows through with this release of Fowler originals.” The Ottawa Citizen succinctly summed up the albums’ impact, “At this stage of the game, ‘life is rich’ and it’s nice to hear somebody write about it so honestly.” The title track, “Life Is Rich”, as well as the closing song on the album, “The Latest Miracle”, were featured on the popular television shows Party Of Five and Time Of Your Life.
Jason released his debut CD, Hiss of Distance, in October 1995 to widespread critical acclaim. Billboard magazine called him “a gifted guitarist, singer, songwriter…a real gem”, and Nashville’s Performing Songwriter described him as “…another accomplished writer and musician from Canada.”