Music News Digest, April 19, 2021

Serena Ryder (pictured) recruits Steve Earle for a new duet, Kardinal Offishall wins the first Canada Listens contest, and Music Declares Emergency tackles the climate crisis. Also making news are Miriam Baghdassarian, Klô Pelgag, Ken Tizzard, INDIE 101, Greg Keelor, eMusic Live, BAD CHILD, SOCAN, LTtheMonk, POP Montreal, MusicNL, APA, Jay Ferguson, and farewell Micky Erbe, Black Rob, and Rusty Young.

Music News Digest, April 19, 2021

By Kerry Doole

Serena Ryder has just released a special duet of her current single Better Now,  featuring a very high-profile guest, Steve Earle. The tune is about getting sober and Ryder describes it as “kismet” to have Earle join her on the track. The original version of Better Now appears on Ryder’s eighth studio album, The Art of Falling Apart, while the new take will appear on an upcoming full-length, The Art Of Falling Apart (Collaborations), that features guests such as Kevin Drew (BSS) and Shawn Hook.

Mutual admirers, Ryder and Earle met nearly 20 years ago when she opened for him on her first solo overseas tour. The duet was premiered last week on BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris show. Ryder is scheduled to perform an online streamed concert on May 29, presented by the Supercrawl fest. Tix here


– Quest for Fire: Firestarter Vol. 1, the 2001 second album from Toronto hip-hop pioneer Kardinal Offishall (now a top A&R exec at Universal Music Canada), has won the inaugural edition of CBC Music’s Canada Listens contest. Championed by writer/podcaster Kathleen Newman-Bremang, it beat out four other albums, including runner up Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Illuminations. The four-day debate series is available on demand via CBC Listens.

– Music Declares Emergency (MDE) is a group of artists, music industry professionals and orgs calling on all those within the music industry to join in declaring a climate emergency and working towards improving the situation. Launched in the UK in July 2019, it has signed up over 2000 bands and musicians, including The 1975, Radiohead, Robyn, Billie Eilish, and Massive Attack. 

The Canadian chapter officially launched at the end of March, and a notable list of supporters includes Tegan & Sara, Dan Mangan, Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Melissa McClelland (Whitehorse) The Weather Station, Amy Millan (Stars), Sarah Harmer, Amy Cole, Good Lovelies, Katie Munshaw (Dizzy), Scott Helman, Caribou, Hannah Georgas, Ron Hawkins (Lowest of the Low), and Moscow Apartment. Full list here. You can view the launch panel discussion here.  Climate songs playlist here.


– Armenian-born, Montreal-based vocalist Miriam Baghdassarian first made a splash as a finalist of 2017’s La Voix , following appearances on the Armenian version of the X Factor. She is now taking a major career step forward with the release of Run Away, her first musically original statement. Baghdassarian co-wrote the song with Montrealers Dan Cinelli (Nikki Yanofsky, Florence K., Dany Bedar) and Lucas Liberatore a.k.a. Lucastheproducer (Ariane Moffat). In a few months, an announcement will be made about a major international theatrical production for which she has been signed to a major role. One to watch.

– Rising Quebecois star Klô Pelgag is nominated for two Junos this year for her latest album, Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs. Coming up are two shows (dubbed Le Spectacle Spectral), April 23 and 24. Tickets here and a teaser below.

– Ontario roots songsmith Ken Tizzard (known by many as bassist in The Watchmen and Thornley) has spent some of the pandemic lockdown assembling an album of covers of some of his favorite tunes. He changed things up by inviting musical peers and pals to contribute guest instrumental and vocal parts, then assembling their remotely recorded additions to his core vocals and guitar work. The resulting record, All Together Now (credited to Ken Tizzard & Friends) comes out on May 18. The impressive cast list includes members of Nickelback, The Headstones, My Darkest Days, The Young Novelists, Matt Mays, Ron Hawkins, Dave Gunning, The Watchmen, and Big Wreck. Last week, Tizzard released the first video from the album, a fresh cover of the Tears For Fears tune, Mad World, with visuals  by Newfoundland artist Marcel Levandier.  


– A reminder that the online INDIE 101 series starts tomorrow (April 22). It is focused on education for artists and emerging music businesses, covering everything from music creation, production, distribution, publishing, rights & royalties, marketing and exporting your music + career. For a full list of speakers from around the globe, visit Register here

– With a minimum of fanfare, Blue Rodeo co-founder Greg Keelor released his sixth solo album, Share the Love last Friday (via Warner Music Canada). The album was recorded live off the floor, over a two-day session with a band at a community centre near his Kawartha farm. Below is a new lyric video for the track Black Feather. Blue Rodeo's annual summer date at Budweiser Stage in Toronto has been rescheduled to Aug. 28, 2021, subject to the covid situation of course.

– eMusic Live has announced three events to be streamed worldwide from Vancouver shortly. Juno winning indie rockers Said the Whale perform on April 23, classic rockers Prism play April 24 (6 pm), and Royal Oak close the series on April 24 ( 9 pm). Tix and more info here

– Canadian singer-songwriter/producer  BAD CHILD has released a music video for his latest single Rouge, out on 21 Entertainment/Universal Music Canada. The track is featured on his debut album, Free Trial.

– SOCAN members who earned royalties in the 2020 calendar year can now cast their votes to elect the next SOCAN Board of Directors, who will govern the organization from 2021-2024. All eligible voters can easily vote online from their SOCAN member account. 2021 has seen a record 62 writer and publisher candidates nominated for the SOCAN Board, and you can vote, and get to know them, via the SOCAN Board election website here


– Hamilton hip-hop artist LTtheMonk has released Dark Italians, the second single and video from his forthcoming album On The Wall,  available Aug. 20 on Sonic Unyon Records. “Dark Italians is inspired by hip-hop music’s long time obsession with mafia culture, and the link that Sicily itself has with Black history, due to its occupation by the Moors of North Africa many centuries ago," says LT in a label press release.

–Following its debut at POP Montreal 2020, the documentary film portrait of that festival, The POP Movie, it is now available to stream here (for free). It was shot by filmmaker Andi State at the 2009 edition of the much-loved fest. The film was made possible with a grant from the Conseil Des Arts et Lettres du Quebec received during the pandemic.

– The Collingwood Summer Music Festival has announced its second season, presenting a diverse array of Juno and Grammy-nominated classical and contemporary artists this summer in the Ontario town. Running July 10-16, the festival partners with Mountain Goat Film Company, bringing a virtual concert hall experience from the New Life Church. This year, the fest features six Indigenous artists, three "Canadian Premiere" performances, two acclaimed poets, and several activities for youth, including a special sing-along event with the noted folk singer Jerry Gray. More info here. Source: Broadway World


– MusicNL has announced its newly elected executive for 2021/22: Chair Amy House (serving final year), Vice Chair Nigel Jenkins (serving first of a two year term), Treasurer Marlene Cahill (serving final year), and Secretary Théa Morash (serving final year). Check out MusicNL's entire Board of Directors here. To learn more about joining MusicNL's Board in 2022 contact Amy House Chair of Governance Committee at

– APA is hiring a Conference Production Manager for Contact East 2021. This is a contract position beginning May 27 and finishing Sept. 30, after the completion of Contact East 2021. Info here.

– Sloan's Jay Ferguson has a solo performance via Side Door set to stream on April 24, at 8 pm ET. His bandmates Chris Murphy and Patrick Pentland have already had similar shows. Tix here.


Micky (Richard) Erbe, a US-born, Toronto-based musician and composer, died on April 11, of cancer, at age 74.

As a young man, Erbe became a very accomplished trumpet player. After several years touring North America as a world class musician, he settled in Toronto. There he met Maribeth Solomon, a musician and composer who would become his lifelong writing partner.

Together, the pair created a company, Mickymar Productions, and married. Their company became well known internationally for its music for TV and Film, including many IMAX movie scores.

The pair wrote and produced in a wide range of styles including many large orchestral recording sessions. Their joint work won countless awards, including a Genies, Geminis, and an Emmy nomination (for Earth: Final Conflict). Credits include the TV series E.N.G. and Street Legal, and feature films Milk and Honey, Threshold, and Ticket To Heaven.

Erbe also found success in the Spitfire Band, a Toronto dance band, formed in 1981 as a studio orchestra by the singer Jackie Rae. Erbe played trumpet and served as music director and arranger and appeared on its popular albums. 

Details of a celebration of life to follow. Sources:, Lenny Solomon, IMDBCanadian Encyclopedia


Black Rob (Robert Ross), a Harlem rapper best known for his 2000 hit Whoa, died on April 17, at the age of 51. 

The death was confirmed by former label mate Mark Curry, who posted an emotional video message on Instagram Saturday. Curry had recently shared a GoFundMe appeal to help Ross “find a home, pay for medical help & stability during these trying times.”

The appeal was launched after the hip-hop community grew concerned about Ross, who had remembered the late DMX from a hospital bed, in a series of videos that described his many medical problems. “Four strokes. I don’t know what to tell you… I don’t have no house to live in,” the rapper said.

Black Rob joined Puff Daddy’s Bad Boy Records in the mid-’90s, and will be remembered by his infectious, hook-laden single from his debut album Life Story.

Whoa! peaked at 43 on the Billboard Top 100, but remains a regional favourite. Black Rob was also well known for his verse on P Diddy’s Bad Boy For Life, alongside Curry. Source: Page Six

Rusty (Norman Russell) Young, a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist best known as co-founder of Poco, died on April 14, of a heart attack, at age 75.

Poco is widely considered to be one of the founders of the classic Southern California country rock sound, and Young was an integral member of the band throughout their influential six decade career.

“Rusty was the most unpretentious, caring and idyllic artist I have ever worked with, a natural life force that he consistently poured into his music,” stated Rick Alter, Poco and Young’s manager of more than 20 years, “To fans and fellow musicians alike, he was a once-in-a-lifetime musician, songwriter, performer and friend.”

Born in Long Beach, California, Young began to play the lap steel guitar at the age of six and taught both guitar and steel guitar lessons during his high school years. 

Prior to forming Poco, Young played steel guitar on Buffalo Springfield’s final album, Last Time Around, in 1967. Soon after, he joined forces with Richie Furay, George Grantham and Jim Messina to form West Coast country-rock band Poco, enjoying a more than 50-year run. Young was instrumental to the band, being a core member writing many of the band’s songs, including Rose Of Cimarron and Crazy Love. Additional bandmates included Paul Cotton, Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit throughout the years.

In 2013, Young was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. He stayed on the road with Poco as the sole original member until the pandemic sidelined the band in 2020. Young is the only group member to have played at every single live concert and on every Poco recording since 1968.

Young finally released his debut solo album, Waitin’ For The Sun (Blue Elan Records), in 2017. Sources: American Songwriter, New York Times

Celine Dion

Celine Dion


Céline Dion Rumoured for Paris Olympics Comeback Performance

The Quebec superstar hasn't performed since before the announcement of her Stiff Person Syndrome diagnosis in 2022, but she could be singing at the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 26.

A Canadian icon may be making her return to the stage this week.

Céline Dion hasn't performed since before she publicly announced her diagnosis with Stiff Person Syndrome in December 2022, but the superstar reportedly planning a comeback performance at the Paris Olympics. Variety reports today (July 23) that Dion is rumoured to be singing during the Opening Ceremony this Friday, July 26.

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