Music News Digest, April 14, 2022
The Weeknd (pictured) leads a strong crop of Canadian nominees for the 2022 Billboard Music Awards, Erin Benjamin is up for an International Folk Music Award, and Daniel Caesar signs to Republic. Also in the news are CMW, Crown Lands, Mariposa, Alison Russell, The Ontario Festival of Small Halls, Cavendish Beach, Music BC, Crank Media, The Royal Conservatory, Tallies, Patrizia, Monique Barry, Mack MacKenzie, James Brown, The Northern Pikes, Sultans of String, and farewell Bob Luhtala and Chris Bailey.
By Kerry Doole
The nominees for the 2022 Billboard Music Awards have been announced, and Canada's global superstars fare prominently. Cited in 17 categories, The Weeknd is the top contender, leading Doja Cat (14), and Justin Bieber, Ye (formerly Kanye West) and Olivia Rodrigo, all with 13 nods. Drake is a finalist 11 times over, with Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, The Kid LAROI, BTS, Givēon and Swift trailing. The Awards will be held on May 15, in Las Vegas. This is the same night the Juno Awards are held in Toronto. See the full nominations list here.
– Last week, the nominees for the 2022 International Folk Music Awards were announced, and two Canadians made the list. Rising star singer/songwriter Alison Russell is nominated in the Artist and Album of the Year categories, while Erin Benjamin, President/CEO of the Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) has received the prestigious Spirit of Folk award. Winners of other awards will be named at the International Folk Music Awards on May 18 in Kansas City, during the FAI Conference. See the full noms list here.
Festivals and conferences
– Canadian Music Week’s 40th Anniversary Kick-Off Party will feature fast-rising and Juno-winning Indigenous rock duo Crown Lands headlining a bill at The Phoenix Concert Theatre on June 7 that also features BRKN LOVE & Sam Coffey and The Iron Lungs. Tix are on sale here. In a press release, CMW President Neill Dixon says "At CMW, over the course of 40 years, we’ve been in a privileged position to witness the evolution of Canadian talent and of the continuous growth of social awareness in our music. Crown Lands' music is both powerful and necessary, even as it entertains fans. It sets a standard for a generation that demands the truth about our hidden history. On June 7, we will celebrate the longtime role we’ve played in showcasing Canada’s best, while being mindful of our continued responsibility to a better tomorrow, musically and socially.”
– Roots-rock veterans Blue Rodeo and The Strumbellas have been added to the lineup of the venerable Mariposa Folk Festival, set to return to Tudhope Park in Orillia, ON, on July 10. The two bands join an impressive list of performers including Mavis Staples, Serena Ryder, Lennon Stella, JP Saxe, Allison Russell, Kathleen Edwards, Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, and many more. Fest tix are on sale here.
– The Ontario Festival of Small Halls has announced its series of live music concerts in small communities across Eastern Ontario, running May 13 -29. The star-studded lineup includes Ashley MacIsaac; Basia Bulat; Chris Murphy; Great Lake Swimmers; Harrow Fair; Hawksley Workman; Jessica Pearson & The East Wind; Kaia Kater; Skydiggers, and The Redhill Valleys. Tix are now on sale here.
– The Cavendish Beach Music Festival (CBMF) has named the Colliding Tides Kitchen Stage performers. Running from July 7-9, the series features Matt Stell, Nice Horse, Witchitaw, Tyler Rich, Tebey, Corb Lund, and more. Passes and info here.
– Music BC has announced the creation of an accelerator program that will advance the business, creative, and technical skills of recording artists to help them build a sustainable career in the music industry, at home and away. ARC is an artist-intensive accelerator program that will be supported by a three-year funding commitment of $600K from the BC government. Music BC is inviting applications from BC residents from now until May 15. An equitable, diverse jury consisting of industry professionals with expertise in various genres will determine 15 participants for the first round of the program, to be announced in early June. More info here.
-There is still no comprehensive open database of performing arts venues in Canada. This makes it difficult for these venues, and the productions they present, to be found online by audiences. To help rectify this, LaCogency, CAPACOA and many partners are presenting the Cultural Venues Datathon, bringing participants together to work in a relaxed environment to populate Wikidata with information about the many cultural venues we know and love. The project (offered in both languages) launches on April 25, concluding on May 2. More info and registration here.
– Vancouver-based Crank Media is expanding its music and film & TV divisions with several new hires, led by the appointment of music industry veteran Paul Jessop as Senior Director. Jessop spent over two decades at Universal Music Canada, in promotions, marketing and publicity roles, and he now co-manages Marie-Mai and manages Jonathan Roy. Additional new Crank Media hires include Chelsea Heaslip, as Digital Marketing Manager, Keith Shaw as Head Writer Crank Films & TV, and Sydney Schluter as Production Assistant, Crank Films & TV.
– On April 27, The Royal Conservatory releases its highly anticipated Celebration Series, Sixth Edition books, an essential resource for piano teachers. In recognition of the struggles of music teachers deeply affected by the pandemic, The RCM will gift more than 400K books to 20K music teachers in the US and Canada, ensuring they have the resources they need to continue their valued work. On the same day, the RCM will host a concert celebration (in-person and live-streamed) at Toronto's Koerner Hall. Music Lights The Way, headlined by StewartGoodyear and Jan Lisiecki, features world premiere performances of newly commissioned pieces from the series. RSVP for access to the live-streamed concert here.
In other RCM news, the org is partnering with some top US music conservatories and professional training programs to present a free virtual benefit concert to honor and support the people of Ukraine. The concert, introduced by celebrated violinist Midori, streams on The Violin Channel here on April 16, 3 pm EDT. During the concert, viewers will be able to make donations to support organizations providing humanitarian aid, supplies,transportation, and medical services to the people of Ukraine. Students from the RCM's The Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School are amongst the performers.
– Grammy-winning Toronto R&B artist Daniel Caesar has signed to Republic Records, Billboard reported yesterday. Caesar was previously signed to indie label Golden Child Recordings, which he co-founded in Toronto. He had previously been proud of this independence, but he now says “I felt like I was becoming a label executive and an artist at the same time. I wanted to keep artistry and business separate with a major label as my partner.” In 2019, Caesar won a Grammy for best R&B performance alongside H.E.R. for their track Best Part. Last year, he had a major hit via a featured role on Justin Bieber's Peaches, alongside Giveon. Source: Billboard
– Toronto indie-pop band Tallies have just finished shows with TOPS, and will head to the UK for shows May 5-16, including showcases at the FOCUS Wales and Great Escape conferences. Itinerary here. Last Saturday night, they played a house party in Toronto, one this scribe was lucky enough to attend (thanks Colin and Irina). After an entertaining set by Russian-Canadian sextet LostBerries, Tallies took to the stage. Led by the sweet vocals of Sarah Cogan and the fluent guitar work of Dylan Frankland, the quintet impressed with its well-crafted take on dream pop. Cogan told FYI that the band is gaining more attention in the UK than at home, and that's fitting, given that Tallies' key influences are British. One major inspiration is Cocteau Twins, so recently signing with Bella Union, a label run by that group's ex-bassist Simon Raymonde, is highly appropriate. Tallies' Canadian label remains Hand Drawn Dracula, and it will release the group's second full-length, Patina, on June 29. Here's its brand new single.
– Toronto-based rock/opera vocalist Patrizia recently announced her retirement, on the 8th anniversary of her last live performance, at the Mod Club Theatre in Toronto. A debilitating stroke that has paralyzed her left side has prompted the decision. In a press release, the soprano stated that "I am retiring because due to my stroke disability I can't perform at the same level I used to." Prior to the stroke, Patrizia was gaining international attention for her powerful fusion of hard rock and opera. A version of Queen’s The Show Must Go On recorded with and produced by WeWill Rock You guitarist Tristan Avakian garnered praise from Brian May. Earlier in her career, she worked with producers Kenny MacLean (Platinum Blonde), Paul Milner, and Steve Thompson, and in 2004 she received a SOCAN award for her Bravo! FACT-funded video Temptation. Here is footage from her final show.
– Singer/songwriter Monique Barryhas put out a video for her latest single Time. Her upcoming album, HAAK, is being released single by single in the order the songs will appear on the finished project, and Time is the eighth track.
– Award-winning keyboardist, composer, and arranger Lou Pomanti releases a new album, Lou Pomanti & Friends (on Vesuvius Music), on May 27, and he's pulling out all the stops for an album release party at the Paradise Theatre in Toronto on that date. Joining him on his new material are Marc Jordan, John Finley, Robyn Black, Irene Torres, and many more. Get tix here. Pomanti's new single is a cool cover of Fifth Dimension classic Stoned Soul Picnic, featuring Emilie-Claire Barlow and Randy Brecker. Stream it here.
– The latest single by veteran Montreal roots-rocker Mack MacKenzie (Three O'Clock Train) features a guest appearance by another pioneer of '80s cowpunk, Chip Kinman of Rank and File fame. The pair have worked together extensively in recent years.
– Toronto jazz guitarist/composer James Brown recently released a well-received album, Song Within The Story. He gets to launch it officially with an April 21 concert at Toronto's Paradise Theatre by his Quartet. Joining Brown are A-list players Clark Johnston, Anthony Michelli, and Mike Murley. Tix here. Brown also has a May residency at The Rex, Mondays, 5.30-7.30 pm.
– Prairie rock veterans The Northern Pikes will tour this summer, including two performances at Toronto’s Lee’s Palace, a London Music Hall gig, Iceberg Alley alongside Kim Mitchell and Honeymoon Suite, and Gateway Festival, alongside Chilliwack and countless others. Fall dates will follow. More details can be found here. A new Pikes album is slated for release later in 2022.
– The Power of the Land is a new collaborative single and video featuring acclaimed world music ensemble Sultans of String, Indigenous spoken-word artist Duke Redbird, and Ottawa folk duo Twin Flames. It is included on SoS' most recent album, 2021’s Sanctuary.
Robert (Bob) Luhtala, a veteran Toronto-based artist manager and head of R.L.M. Management, died on April 12, of cancer at the age of 72.
Luhtala was in a band with his two brothers in the '70s called Baby Point. One brother, Johnny Boyes, later partnered in Bob's management companies and worked as road manager for I Mother Earth.
Luhtala began his artist management career in the '80s with R.L.M. Management, then continued as Embrace Productions in the mid-'90s. He enjoyed early success with Slik Toxik, then helped guide I Mother Earth to double platinum-selling popularity. He would later handle the solo career of IME singer Edwin.
Other artists Luhtala managed in the '90s and early 2000s included Barbara Lynch, Lenni Jabour and J. Englishman.
In the mid-2000s, he secured a deal with Interscope for Montreal rock band Mobile, and that group won a Juno in 2007 as New Group of the Year. After Mobile broke up in 2011, Luhtala continued to work with lead singer Mat Joly [Mobile recently reunited].
In the late 1990s, Luhtala also headed an independent label, Liquid Records, working with such artists as Glueleg, Salmonblaster, Sunfish, and Lenni Jabour.
Recent management clients for Luhtala included Secret Broadcast, Mat Joly, Mobile, The Mission District, Keek, and production/songwriting duo the Lost Boys (comprising members of The Mission District).
As news of Luhtala's passing spread, artists and music industry notables were quick to pay fond tribute, with many mentioning the passionate enthusiasm he had for the artists he managed.
On Facebook, music scribe Karen Bliss termed him "such a lovely man, one who was instrumental in my early days as a music journalist, always telling me about his new acts, including I Mother Earth, before they were signed. A month ago, his daughter assembled a beautiful pre-birthday video for him, featuring messages from people who were dear to him in his life."
Another Toronto music writer, Kim Hughes, posted this on FB: " Like many, I knew Bob through the music industry. He was a charm: smart, kind, courteous, thoughtful, concerned foremost about his artists. His loss is very sad, but his legacy is assured."
Toronto musician Lonny Knapp posted that "Bob was an old-school rock and roll band manager. He guided my "career" with a few different bands [J. Englishman, Mudmen] and was always passionate and in my corner. I loved him. I remember those long hauls over mountains in Ryan McCaffrey's old short bus and can picture him waiting side stage pumping his fist as we left the stage after so many gigs. This hurts. Rest easy Bobby Boogie. I'll keep crushing it in your honour."
Tim Trombley, formerly with EMI Music Canada, posted that "Bob had a lot of passion for his artists and was a good man."
A celebration of life is planned for May 9, on what would have been Luhtala's 73rd birthday. It is at Toronto's Bovine Club, 6-9 pm, and all are welcome. Sources: Canadian Pop Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, Solanaa Luhtala
Chris Bailey, lead singer of the seminal Australian rock band the Saints, died on April 9, age 65. No cause of death has been reported. ‘Chris lived a life of poetry and music,’ the band posted in announcing the news.
Bailey was born in Nanyuki, Kenya, to Irish parents in 1957 and lived the first seven years of his life in Belfast before his family emigrated to Australia. They lived in Brisbane, Queensland, and he met bandmates Ed Kuepper and Ivor Hay at Corinda state high school. They originally named their band Kid Galahad and the Eternals, changing the name to The Saints in 1974.
Kuepper, who left the band in 1978 after musical disagreements with Bailey, expressed his sadness at Bailey’s death, saying the pair had “an extremely strong artistic partnership” and he “couldn’t have hoped for a better singer”.
The group had their first hit with (I’m) Stranded in 1976. Now viewed as a punk classic, it came out a few months prior to The Damned's New Rose, viewed as the first British punk single. I'm stranded was also the band's debut album, released in 1977. It was followed by 1978's Prehistoric Sounds and Eternally Yours, and this trio of albums, all featuring Kuepper, are widely considered the band's finest. The Saints went on to release 11 more albums, with Bailey the only member to be with the band its entire run. 2012’s King of the Sun was the last Saints album. Bailey also released several solo albums under his own name in the 1980s and ’90s.
In the mid-80s, The Saints found moderate success in the US and Canada with the albums All Fools Day and Prodigal Son. A track on the former, Just Like Fire Would, caught the attention of Bruce Springsteen, who later recorded his own version of it for his 2014 album High Hopes.
The Saints were the core of the Australian punk scene in the 1970s, along with Radio Birdman. In a promotional video for (I’m) Stranded's UK re-release, INXS frontman Michael Hutchence credited the Brisbane band for creating the sound that led to the rapid rise of the Sex Pistols.
Bailey had a huge impact on another legendary Australian rocker, Nick Cave, who posted an eloquent tribute on social media. It reads in part, "One week ago today, I was standing in front of a photo on display in the Stranger Than Kindness - The Nick Cave Exhibition in Montreal. It is an extraordinary photo that came to light a few years ago — it shows the singer, Chris Bailey, of The Saints, sitting collapsed on stage in a small club in Melbourne, watched by a very young and unformed Nick Cave. Chris and I got to know each other well and went on to do a bunch of things together over the years, but it is this photo that I will treasure."
“It is with immense sadness that we learn of Chris Bailey’s death,” Cave added. “Too many great singers have died recently and, once again, I don’t have the words that will in any way adequately measure the extent of our collective loss. I can only simply repeat, for the record, that, in my opinion, the Saints were Australia’s greatest band, and that Chris Bailey was my favourite singer.” Sources: The Guardian, The Conversation