Music News Digest, April 8, 2020

Shawn Mendes (pictured) and Jules McCools win Oshawa Music Awards, the SING! Fest is postponed, and Lady Gaga raises big bucks to fight the coronavirus. Also in the news are Black Hen, Bruce Springsteen, Tenille Townes, FAI, eOne, Corb Lund, Dolly Parton, and farewell John Prine, Hal Willner, and Neil Lasher.

Music News Digest, April 8, 2020

By Kerry Doole

The pandemic forced the cancellation of the Oshawa Music Awards ceremony on April 4, but a staggered series of online awards presentation began that night. That event, hosted by Sandy Horne (The Spoons), saw Pickering native Shawn Mendes and Oshawa’s Jules McCools become the first of the 2020 nominees to win. Mendes took home Single of the Year for his hit Señorita and McCools won Music Video of the Year for Encore.

The next awards show will be hosted online on April 11 at 7 pm EST to announce the winners of the Music Industry Leaders of The Year and Album of The Year awards. The Awards show will continue live streaming segments each Saturday until May 23. Tune in live by checking out the Facebook page.


– SING! The Toronto Vocal Arts Festival is postponed until Sept. 22 to Oct. 4, with a preview performance on Sept. 14. The event was originally planned to run May 19 to 31. Now in its ninth year, Canada’s premier a cappella festival will feature a full concert and workshop lineup including Micah Barnes in SING! Salutes Vegas – A Cappella!, Tom Wilson, and Countermeasure. The full festival schedule will be announced shortly.

– The Black Hen Roadshow Vol. 4 Canadian tour has been cancelled, given the COVID-19 crisis. Featuring Oh Susanna, Stephen Fearing, Catherine MacLellan and Steve Dawson, it had been scheduled to run across Canada, May 28 to June 15.

– Lady Gaga and advocacy organization Global Citizen have raised US$35-million to fight the coronavirus and will launch a TV special featuring Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Billie Eilish to combat the growing virus. Gaga said on Monday that the money was raised in seven days and will benefit The World Health Organization. The pop star and Global Citizen also announced One World: Together At Home, a televised event aimed at fighting the coronavirus. It will air April 18 at 8 p.m. Eastern simultaneously on ABC, NBC, CBS, iHeartMedia and Bell Media networks. Source: AP


– Fast-rising Canadian country singer/songwriter Tenille Townes has released a new song, The Most Beautiful Things. Sony Music Nashville recently announced a new partnership with RCA Records which will combine the efforts of RCA, Columbia Nashville and the SMN label group behind a global plan for Townes. In celebration of the release, Townes performed the song from her home April 5 as part of the official ACM Presents: Our Country pre-show. Townes also released a performance video of Bill Withers’ anthemic song, Lean On Me, last week.

– Responding to the challenges posed by Covid-19, Folk Alliance International (FAI) has organised a webinar entitled Coping with the New Norm by Connecting Folk. This will discuss changes facing folk music, share strategies and practices for staying centered and healthy, and envision ways of increasing community connection while adhering to physical distancing directives. This episode's panelists include Jennifer Leff (MusiCares), Amanda Power (Unison Benevolent Fund), and artists Matthew Sever and Rose Cousins. It is on today(April 8) at 1 pm EDT. Register here


– eOne has announced the hire of Maria Alonte its music services hub: music supervision, composers, soundtracks, synch, library and talent relations.. Alonte was head of synch at Nettwerk prior to joining Universal to head its synch department. More here

–  Bruce Springsteen will be guest-DJing on E Street Radio today (April 8). The Boss will spin music he’s been listening to while under quarantine, including songs by Sam Cooke, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and others. “I am here to wish you well and to play you some songs that kind of work with the times that we’re living through,” he said on the SiriusXM channel. The show will broadcast on SiriusXM’s E Street Radio at 10 am ET.


– Corb Lund’s new studio album Agricultural Tragic has been postponed to June 26, from its original April 24 date. The 12-song set is his first album of original material in five years. Canadian tour dates have been rest, and a major cross-Canada tour will run from Nov. 8 to Dec. 10.

– Country great Dolly Parton is earning praise for Goodnight with Dolly, a weekly YouTube series in which she reads aloud a children’s book from her Imagination Library project. She hopes to give parents and children “a welcome distraction during a time of unrest and also inspire a love of reading and books.” The 10-week series began on April 3.


John Prine, Americana legend and revered singer-songwriter, died April 7 from complications of Covid-19, at age 73. Prine’s family revealed his diagnosis on March 29.

The Illinois-born Prine was the songwriters’ songwriter, getting his start in the Chicago folk scene in the 1970s, where his early champions included Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan and "Cowboy" Jack Clement, the latter of whom convinced Prine to move to Nashville in March 1980. Kristofferson is often credited with discovering Prine and invited him onstage at his own show at New York’s Bitter End in 1971. The following day, Prine would get a record deal offer from Atlantic Records.

Well-known for his story songs with vivid imagery, countless artists covered Prine’s songs, including Johnny Cash (Sam Stone), Bette Midler (Hello in There) and Bonnie Raitt (Angel From Montgomery), as well as Zac Brown Band (All the Best), Miranda Lambert (That’s the Way the World Goes Round) and George Strait (I Just Want to Dance with You). He is also an uncredited co-writer on You Never Even Call Me By My Name, made famous by David Allan Coe and recorded by countless others.


Prine placed 15 albums on the Billboard 200 chart since his self-titled debut arrived in February 1971. His two most recent works, though, earned key career milestones: 2016’s For Better, Or Worse, an album of duets featuring classic country songs, marked the veteran’s first top 40 success on the chart, while The Tree of Forgiveness secured his first top 10 album, reaching No. 5 in 2018.

Prine was born in Maywood, Ill. He began writing songs as a teenager and was drafted in the Army in the summer of 1966, where he continued to pen songs while stationed in Germany. His first song during that period was Paradise, which has since been covered by countless bluegrass bands.

Prine was honoured by the Recording Academy as their 2020 lifetime achievement award recipient and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019, where he and Raitt performed Angel From Montgomery. He was highly regarded within the Americana scene, as he was named artist of the year by the Americana Music Association in 2017. 


Prine’s life wasn’t without suffering. In 1998, doctors removed a cancerous tumour on the singer’s throat. When surgeons removed the tumour, they took some of Prine’s neck. As a result, his head was left permanently slumped. In early 2020, Prine was forced to cancel his Bluesfest performance in Australia following a hip injury.

The singer-songwriter’s last release,  2018's The Tree of Forgiveness, marked his first set of new music since 2005’s Grammy-winning Fair & Square. He had been named as a headliner for the Mariposa festival this July.

Amongst the peers rushing to pay tribute was Bruce Springsteenm, who called Prine "a true national treasure and a songwriter for the ages." Sources: Billboard, New York Times, Rolling Stone

Hal Willner, a US record producer famed for his left-of-center tribute albums and concerts, and as the long-time sketch music producer for Saturday Night Live, died on April 7, of complications related to the coronavirus, age 64. He was diagnosed with coronavirus in late March.

Among the artists for whom Willner produced albums were Marianne Faithfull (recently diagnosed with her own bout of Covid-19), Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed (including his final major studio release, Ecstasy) and Lucinda Williams.

He had been involved with SNL, as the man behind the music skits, since 1980, and was the music coordinator on the Lorne Michael executive-produced Sunday Night (also known as NightMusic), an eclectic weekly music series hosted by David Sanborn for two seasons in 1988-90, one of them on NBC and one in syndication.

He remains perhaps best or most fondly remembered for the full-length salutes he helmed, like 1988’s Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films, which had artists as disparate as Ringo Starr, Michael Stipe, Bonnie Raitt, the Replacements, Yma Sumac, Harry Nilsson, Tom Waits and beloved Sun Ra

Prior to the Disney collection, he produced Amarcord Nino Rota in 1981, That’s The Way I Feel Now: A Tribute to Thelonious Monk in 1984 and Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill a year later, employing guests ranging from Deborah Harry to Wynton and Bradford Marsalis and John Zorn. In 1992, he produced Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus, a mostly instrumental salute to the jazz legend. 

Willner's last major compilations came in 2006 and again in 2013 in the form of pirate-themed Rogues Gallery albums, which featured Bono, Nick Cave, Richard Thompson, Sting, Bryan Ferry, and the pairings of Michael Stipe with Courtney Love and Patti Smith with Johnny Depp.

Willner had been at work for years on a T. Rex tribute album, with tracks already in the can by U2 and others, that is yet to be released.

In later years, most of his tributes took the form of concerts, including all-star salutes to Leonard Cohen in Canada and a 2001 tribute to Harry Smith’s Anthology of Folk Music in Los Angeles.

In October 2018 Willner was the subject of his own tribute show, which took place at a small venue in Brooklyn. The concert featured guests including Laurie Anderson and David Johansen, with taped salutes from Cave, Bill Frisell and Diamanda Galas. Source: Variety

Neil Lasher, who became best known as an intervention specialist in the 2010s after decades in the music industry, has died from coronavirus complications. He was 73.

In 2012, Lasher was one of the honorees at the eighth annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert (receiving a tribute alongside Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell) after he had become a certified alcoholism and substance abuse, counselor. Sober for a quarter-century at that point, he was active in creating alcohol and substance abuse programs for those in the music industry and served as a consultant for MusiCares and its Safe Harbor Room program.

With more than three decades of experience in the music industry, Lasher had gone on from being a disc jockey and radio promotion executive to focus on the publishing side. In his later years, he was a senior consultant for Sony/ATV Music Publishing in New York. He also served as VP of promotion, marketing and artist relations at EMI Music Publishing. Source: Variety

Jade Eagleson
Ryan Nolan

Jade Eagleson


Canadian Country Music Association Awards 2024 Nominations: Jade Eagleson, Mackenzie Porter Lead The Pack

The two platinum-selling singer/songwriters have scored six nominations each for the CCMA Awards, with The Reklaws and Josh Ross hot on their heels. The biggest night in Canadian country takes place on Sept. 14 at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

Today (July 18), the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) announced the official nominees for the 2024 CCMA Awards. Topping the list of contenders with six nods apiece are Jade Eagleson and MacKenzie Porter, the latter of whom will co-host the awards show alongside American country star Thomas Rhett.

Hot on their heels with five nominations apiece are The Reklaws and Josh Ross, while High Valley, Owen Riegling and Dallas Smith are each cited in four categories. Other notable Canadian artists making the list include Dean Brody, Steven Lee Olsen, James Barker Band, Brett Kissel, Tenille Townes and Lindsay Ell.

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