Music News Digest, Aug. 30, 2019

The Washboard Union (pictured) and other Canadian stars to play Fan Village, Shawn Mendes and Tim Hortons team up, and Partner tackles Rush for Polaris. Also in the news: Stars, Re:Sound, CMAO, NMC: ON, Naya Ali, NSMW, FME, Iggy Pop, and farewell Donnie Fritts and Nancy Yu.

Music News Digest, Aug. 30, 2019

By Kerry Doole

The Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) has announced the details surrounding Fan Village at Country Music Week 2019 in Calgary. The Cowboy’s Tent (321 – 11th Ave SE) hosts three free days of programming that includes artist meet & greets, a pop-up shop, and plenty of performances.

Supported by Pure Country and TD, Fan Village sees more than 30 artists perform, Sept. 6-8. The star-studded list includes James Barker Band, Morgan Wallen, MacKenzie Porter, Don Amero, David James, Bobby Wills, Hunter Brothers, Chad Brownlee, Tim Hicks, The Reklaws, The Abrams, Aaron Goodvin, Sons of Daughters, Dan Davidson, Andrew Hyatt, JoJo Mason, Madeline Merlo, Aaron Pritchett, Black Mountain Whiskey Rebellion, and The Washboard Union.


– Ahead of the first sold-out stadium show by Shawn Mendes in Toronto on Sept. 6, Tim Hortons has announced a campaign and partnership with the Canadian star. This features limited edition Mendes-themed cups nationwide and reusable cups in select restaurants through the purchase of a small, medium or large hot beverage from today (Aug. 30) until Sept. 6, or while supplies last. The campaign also includes this short film.

– The Polaris Music Prize has released the video for its third and final SiriusXM Polaris Cover Session for 2019,  featuring rock duo Partner covering Limelight from Rush’s 2016 Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize-winning album, Moving Pictures. Partner made the Short List in 2018 for In Search Of Lost Time. An in-studio performance video of the song is now available via the Polaris YouTube channel. An audio stream can be found on the Polaris Soundcloud channel.

– Re:Sound has announced its 7th Annual RE:WIND: Like…Totally 80’s charity fundraiser will take place at Lee’s Palace  in Toronto on Sept. 26.  RE:WIND will once again feature live musical performances from Re:Sound, SOCAN and Sony bands, with Music Canada spinning the tunes on the 1s and 2s. For the fourth year in a row, funds raised go to support the Unison Benevolent Fund, as well Performing Arts Lodges Toronto.


– The Country Music Association of Ontario (CMAO) has announced that London, ON, will host the 2020 CMAOntario Festival and Awards, May 29-31. Presented by Slaight Music, the 8th annual CMAOntario Awards close out a weekend of festivities on May 31 at Centennial Hall. London hosted the event in 2017 and 2018. For up-to-date information check here  

– The National Music Centre has announced NMC: ON – a new flagship brand sponsored by ATB Financial that includes a series of conference-style multi-day summits, exploring a diversity of topics in music, the music industry, and music’s evolving place in the world. lt takes place as part of the annual Alberta Electronic Music Conference (AEMCON) from Nov. 13–17, focusing on trends in today’s global electronic music movement. The first NMC: ON will feature synth pioneer Suzanne Ciani, Mellotron guru Markus Resch, EDM tastemaker Nick Middleton (of The Funk Hunters), and more artists TBA.

– Rising Ethiopian-born Montreal rapper Naya Ali has had a busy summer, impressing at such fests as Canadian Music Week, NXNE, FEQ 2019, and Osheaga Festival, with upcoming performance stops at Festival de Musique Émergente, Up Here Festival and OUMF 2019.


Signed to Coyote Records/Universal Music, Ali's 2018 track Ready To Go has over 15 million views on YouTube as part of Parks Canada's "Memories Await You" campaign. She has released a music video for her latest single, Get It Right.

– Indie rock faves Stars are preparing a theatrical production, Stars: Together, that will run at Toronto's Crow's Theatre, Nov. 26 - Dec. 8. It is described as a concert/play/tragicomic fantasia. Frontman Torq Campbell is also an acclaimed actor and playwright.


–  Nova Scotia Music Week (NSMW) 2019 hosts delegates from around the world in Truro, Nova Scotia, Nov. 7-10, while showcasing and highlighting over 100 Nova Scotian musical acts from a variety of genres. This year's conference delegates include Dr. Susan Rogers from the Berklee College of Music, Rachel Jackson from Roc Nation, and Iggy Amazarray from Marshall Arts. In the coming weeks, NSMW will announce the complete schedule and further conference components and events. 

– The 17th edition of the FME fest in Quebec runs Aug. 29 to Sept. 1. Acts on the diverse bill include Kid Koala, FET, NAT, The Sadies, Loud, Material Girls, Half Moon Run, La Force, Daniel Romano, and Les Soeurs Boulay. More info here

–  Starting next week, ahead of the release of his new album Free on Sept. 6, Iggy Pop, the godfather of punk, is being celebrated with a photo exhibit at Toronto's Liss Gallery, for a one-week run.


Nancy Yu, a noted publicist in the Toronto music and film industries, died on Aug. 27, of cancer, age 58.

Frank Davies, former President of ATV Music Canada, tells FYI that "Nancy's first job in the music biz was as our receptionist in 1982. She was with us until Michael Jackson bought the company in 1985/6 and shut all the offices down. I then had to let everyone go. Nancy was a sweet, enthusiastic, lovely, caring young person full of energy and smiles. Incredibly sad news and so young - in age and at heart."

From 1985 to 1998, Yu worked as the National Artist and Media Relations Manager at Virgin Music Canada. In 1996 she won a Music Industry Award for Publicist of the Year.

Former Virgin Canada head Doug Chappell recalls to FYI that "my first memory of Nancy was from meeting at various Toronto Dance Pool meetings. I was at A&M, and Nancy was at ATV. I was impressed by the passion she showed while working the dance records. We talked and became friends. I still visited the Dance pools when at Island and Nancy was then at Virgin.


"When I arrived at Virgin there she was, ready to work her magic. She was a giant for us with dance music and led the way for our label to be a larger player in the music than our actual size. She was not big in stature, but she was always a giant in my mind. RIP, Nancy." 

Yu later moved into film publicity, as VP Publicity and Promotions at top Toronto firm V. Kelly and Associates, from 1998 to 2008. She then headed her own publicity company, NYU Communications, and continued working with V. Kelly and Associates on special projects like Hot Docs.

Fellow publicist Joanne Smale says "I had the unique privilege in working with Nancy over the decades both in music as well as film. We share great memories."

Friends may call at the Turner & Porter Yorke Chapel, 2357 Bloor St. W., at Windermere, east of the Jane Subway, in Toronto on Friday, Aug. 30 from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m.  A funeral service will be held in the Chapel on Sat. Aug. 31, at 1 p.m. 


Instead of flowers, donations to the Canadian Cancer Society will be appreciated. 

Donnie Fritts, the Muscle Shoals songwriter, actor, and longtime Kris Kristofferson keyboard player, died on Aug. 27 at 76.

Fritts was an architect of Southern soul music whose songs were covered by dozens of artists from Waylon Jennings to Dusty Springfield.

Fritts had roles in a handful of films, including the Sam Peckinpah-directed Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, and Convoy. He also appeared in the 1976 version of A Star Is Born, and his most recent on-screen role was in the 2012 film Jayne Mansfield’s Car, written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton. 

Born in Florence, Alabama in 1942, Fritts began playing drums in local bands at age 15 and later developed into a session keyboard player. Working closely with the likes of Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill, Dan Penn, Arthur Alexander, David Briggs, Jerry Carrigan, and Norbert Putnam, Fritts was involved in many of the early songs and recordings that came out of the Muscle Shoals music scene.

In 1965, he was signed to a Nashville publishing company and had songs recorded by Charlie Rich and Jerry Lee Lewis. He later joined Kris Kristofferson’s band, remaining a friend and collaborator for more than two decades.

As a songwriter, Fritts penned songs including We Had It All, recorded by Ray Charles, Willie Nelson and others, Breakfast In Bed, recorded by Dusty Springfield, Chrissie Hynde and UB40, You’re Gonna Love Yourself In The Morning, and Choo Choo Train, among others.

Fritts was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 2008.  Sources: Rolling Stone, Celebrity Access

Allison Russell accepting the Billboard Canada Women in Music Breakthrough Artist of the Year award
Marc Thususka Photography

Allison Russell accepting the Billboard Canada Women in Music Breakthrough Artist of the Year award

Music News

Allison Russell Named Billboard Canada Women In Music Breakthrough Artist of the Year

The Nashville-based musician from Montreal has been having a huge year, including her first Grammy and her first Hot 100 appearance. Accepting the award on June 19 at the iHeartRadio Canada studio, she talked about her LGBTQ+ advocacy work and the importance of playing with underrepresented musicians.

It was a special Juneteenth for Allison Russell.

Not only did she serve as the special Toronto opener for Sarah McLachlan on the Canadian icon’s Fumbling Towards Ecstasy 30th anniversary tour, but she earned another big honour: Billboard Canada Women In Music Breakthrough Artist of the Year.

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