Music News Digest, Feb. 11, 2021

The first rounds of Maple Blues Awards winners include Ken Whiteley (pictured), The PASSPORT: Music Export Summit goes virtual this month, and the Mariposa fest is cancelled for 2021. Others in the news include Stephan Moccio, CCMA Country Music Week, the Light of Day Foundation shows, Shred Kelly, John Rowlands, TSO, The Tragically Hip, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, The Ontario Creates Film Fund, Bet Smith, Chin Injeti, and farewell Elliot Mazer and Mary Wilson.

Music News Digest, Feb. 11, 2021

By Kerry Doole

Canada's premier The Maple Blues Awards, are handing out the honours in stages during February, with four presentations from four cities. The first live-stream, from Toronto, announced five MBA winners including Garrett Mason as the winner of the Guitarist of the Year award, Jack de Keyzer for Electric Act of the Year, Matt Andersen for Acoustic Act of the Year, The Ghost Town Blues Band for the B.B. King International Artist of the Year, and Smoke Wagon Blues Band as the Recording/Producer of the Year. That stream featured performances by Dione Taylor, and de Keyzer, plus a tribute to the late John Valenteyn, co-founder of the Toronto Blues Society.


On Feb. 8, the Ottawa segment revealed more winners: Angel Forrest (Female Vocalist of the Year), Dawn Tyler Watson (Entertainer of the Year), Ken Whiteley and Joe Murphy (tied for the prestigious Blues With A Feeling Award) and John Dymond (Bass Player of the Year). JW-Jones and Crystal Shawanda did the performance honours, while a memorial segment honoured Michael Fonfara, Stew Laing, Guenther Kapelle and several others from the blues community. The third event streams from Montreal on Feb. 15. The sessions are streamed at 8 pm EST via Facebook on the Toronto Blues Society's YouTube channel.

– The PASSPORT: Music Export Summit launches a Virtual Edition for 2021. The confab, a FACTOR-funded  partnership between Manitoba Music, Music Nova Scotia, and Canada’s Music Incubator, is a professional development program 'offering real-world knowledge from international and domestic music industry professionals' that 'will assist some of Canada's export-ready talent in navigating the global music industry'. This year's features guest mentors from the UK, the US, Germany, South Korea, and Canada,. The new round of parallel sessions will take place virtually for artist managers and music companies (Feb. 16-19) and for self-managed artists (Feb. 23-26). Visit here for a list of participants.


– Grammy and Oscar-nominated songwriter and composer Stephan Moccio has released a solo piano version of Earned It, a track he co-wrote and co-produced with The Weeknd for the 2015 blockbuster film Fifty Shades of Grey. It follows The Weeknd’s performance of the song as part of his Super Bowl half-time show. Moccio’s music could also be heard in the pre-Super Bowl performance by Miley Cyrus of Wrecking Ball, another song he co-composed. The new single release follows Moccio’s debut Decca Records album, Tales Of Solace, released last August. He has reached 100 million global streams since signing to the label less than a year ago.

– Originally slated for September, the CCMA Country Music Week's dates have been pushed to Nov. 27-30, 2021 in London, ON.  More info here

– Organizers of the storied Mariposa Folk Festival, held in Orillia, ON,  have announced the cancellation of this year’s festival scheduled for July 9-11, 2021, due to the pandemic. A press release states that "In the spirit of Mariposa’s values, including maintaining trust, it was important to us to consider the interests of everyone with a stake in Mariposa Folk Festival as we made the decision on the fate of the 2021 festival. The  festival, even at reduced capacity and/or programming, no longer seems viable under the current conditions with the number of Covid-19 cases, a continuing lockdown, the unavoidable setbacks in the rollout of vaccines and the low likelihood of receiving permits in time to do the extensive planning that is required. As a result, organizers have determined that cancellation is the only appropriate course of action."


–  Famed Canadian rock photographer John Robert Rowlands is in fragile health after a series of strokes have weakened him, impaired his mobility, and at least for the time being cost him the use of one hand. He has struggled to catalog his collection, an expensive, laborious, and time-consuming process, even as financial difficulties have made it hard for him to establish a stable base of operations. Two friends, Sandra Mendez Rosenbaum and Canadian rock promoter Nick Panaseiko, have set up a fundraiser for Rowlands to assist in this work, and they term Rowlands “a national treasure. His photographs are an irreplaceable treasure trove.“ To learn more or contribute, visit the fundraiser here


– Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt and the Disciples of Soul have officially been added to the Light of Day Foundation’s Winter Love Fest 2021 lineup, a virtual concert running Feb. 12-14. Others performing include Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Willie Nile, Jesse Malin, Dramarama, Steve Forbert, Jill Hennessy, Jeffrey Gaines, Low Cut Connie, and John Eddie. The show will air live on Facebook and YouTube. Started in 2000, Light of Day raises money and awareness in the fight against Parkinson’s Disease and its related illnesses. Springsteen’s support has helped the worldwide charity concert series raise over $5.5 million.

– The 12th annual Light of Day Canada concert fundraiser is set for Feb. 19 and 20. The impressive live-stream lineup includes Tom Morello, Wayne Kramer, Jake Clemons, Steve Earle, Chris Koster (Glorious Sons), Dave Rave, the Partland Brothers, Peter Elkas, Rusty Young, Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers, Gowan, Jesse Malin, Ron James, Stephen Stanley, and Miss Emily. Ticket info here.

– Folk-rock combo Shred Kelly has begun a month-long weekly Virtual Festival tour, in partnership with 8 Canadian Music Festivals across Canada. The band is live-streaming via its Facebook page every Saturday night from Fernie, BC, with upcoming shows set for Feb. 13, 20 and 27. 25% of proceeds will be donated to Protect Our Winters Canada. Ticket link here.


– The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) is Calling for Artists on two projects. Red Sky Performance and the TSO are seeking four Indigenous music creators from across Canada and the US, who will explore and learn together with eight TSO musicians. The work culminates in a digital performance of Red Sky’s award-winning production of Mistatim, scheduled to première next fall. Deadline to apply here is Feb. 12. Submissions by Canadian composers are also open for the TSO's next orchestral composition career-development session with the Canadian Music Centre. Hear your work rehearsed in a professional setting, and gain feedback from the Artistic team including Music Director Gustavo Gimeno. Deadline to apply here is March 15. 

– The Tragically Hip is suing the Mill Street Brewery over the name of one of that company’s beers, “100th Meridian.” The Toronto Star reports that “A legal statement of claim, filed in federal court on Tuesday, asks that Mill Street stop selling or promoting products bearing the phrase '100th Meridian.'" The Hip song At the Hundreth Meridian, from the 1992 album FullyCompletely, is one of the band’s most recognizable and popular songs. Mill Street started selling its 100th Meridian beer in April 2014.


– The 16 nominations for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2021 are in and the list comprises Jay-Z, Foo Fighters, Mary J. Blige, Iron Maiden, Tina Turner, the Go-Go’s, Rage Against the Machine, Kate Bush, Devo, Chaka Khan, Carole King, Fela Kuti, LL Cool J, New York Dolls, Todd Rundgren, and Dionne Warwick. The top vote-getters will be announced in May and inducted in a Cleveland, Ohio, ceremony in the fall. To be eligible for this year’s ballot, each nominee’s first single or album had to have been released in 1995 or earlier. Source: Rolling Stone

– Creative Manitoba's annual survey has been completed, with the participation of over 300 individuals. Check out the results here

– The Ontario Creates Film Fund – Production streams (Drama and Documentary) provides support to Ontario producers for feature film projects in the final stages of production financing. The program deadlines for the 2021-22 cycle have been set: March 10, July 7, and Nov. 17, 2021. More details here.

– Canadian roots/alt-folk artist Bet Smith released a new album, Downer, on Feb. 2. She informs us that “as the name of the album implies, it’s a rather sad one, although I think it’s pretty soft and cozy as well. It’s somewhat of a political release, though most of the tracks can also be taken in plainly as love songs.” It is meeting a positive response and merits checking out.

– Hit songwriter/producer Chin Injeti (Drake, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre) continues to release his own tracks. His new single, For The Love of Life, features Teon Gibbs and Injeti explains that "it paints the picture of how women of colour are mistreated in society. Women are the vital backbone of the family unit. They are the givers of life… when we disrespect them, we disrespect life."


Elliot Mazer, Engineer-Producer for Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, The Band, and many more, died on Feb. 7, at age 79. The cause was a heart attack after years of battling with dementia, his daughter told Rolling Stone.

Mazer is best known for producing multiple albums by Young, beginning with 1972’s Harvest. He’d go on to produce the 1973 live LP Time Fades Away, his lost 1975 album Homegrown — which Young finally released last year — as well as 1983’s Everybody’s Rockin’ and 1985’s Old Ways. He also introduced Young to digital recording. “Elliot Mazer was in the right place at the right time,” Young told Jimmy McDonough in his biography, Shakey. “He let me do my music and recorded it.”

Mazer started his career at Prestige Records, when he was just 21, where he organizing tapes and delivering records to radio stations. The first album he worked on was 1962’s Standard Coltrane, assembled from a collection of John Coltrane outtakes he had found.

Mazer then took a job at Cameo-Parkway, an independent label in Philadelphia, working with Chibby Checker, Clark Terry, and more.  Through the late Sixties and early Seventies, Mazer took his love of pop and began working on albums like Big Brother and the Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills and Ronstadt’s 1970 LP Silk Purse

While at a dinner party in Nashville in early 1971, he met Young, who spontaneously asked him to produce Harvest. Mazer  connected Young with the Nashville session players who comprised  the Stray Gators. A majority of the album was recorded at Mazer’s Quadrafonic Studios as well as inside the barn of Young’s Broken Arrow Ranch in Redwood City, California. On his website, Young paid tribute to Mazer this week. It read, in part, "A master in the studio, Elliot was a really good guy. He had a great way about him and I wish we had gotten to do more together. I am happy and thankful though that we got what we did get. Harvest is one of my most recognized recordings and it all happened because of Elliot Mazer. Thanks Elliot. Lots of love bro.”

Mazer often worked with Canadian acts. He produced several albums for Gordon Lightfoot, including 1968’s Back Here on Earth and 1969’s Sunday Concert, engineered The Band’s 1978 live album The Last Waltz, and worked on  albums by Valdy, Ian & Sylvia, The Paupers, and Garfield.

Other artists he produced and/or engineered include The Dream Syndicate, the Dingoes, Frankie Miller, Juice Newton, Barclay James Harvest, It's A Beautiful Day, and Bob Dylan. 

In addition to producing and engineering, Mazer was innovative in the music industry, working at Stanford University’s Computer Center for Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) and working out of His Master’s Wheels, his San Francisco studio. He co-invented the “D-Zap” — a device that detected hazards in the studio — and the AirCheck, a monitoring system that identifies songs for radio and TV broadcasts. Mazer and co-creator Jon Birge later sold the system to Radio Computing Services.

The family has asked that all donations be given to MusiCares. Sources: Rolling StoneWikipedia

– Mary Wilson, the co-founder of hit Motown band the Supremes, died on Feb. 8, age 76. No cause of death was given.

The Motown founder, Berry Gordy, said he was “extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family. The Supremes were always known as the ‘sweethearts of Motown’.’ Mary, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, came to Motown in the early 1960s. After an unprecedented string of No 1 hits, television and nightclub bookings, they opened doors for themselves, the other Motown acts, and many, many others.”

Wilson was born in Greenville, Mississippi, and moved with her family to Chicago and later Detroit. At primary school in Detroit, Wilson met Florence Ballard while singing in a school talent show.

In 1958, Ballard recruited Wilson and Diana Ross to form the Primettes. The group performed covers at local events and made a name for themselves locally. Aspiring to sign to Motown, Ross asked her former neighbour, Smokey Robinson, to get them an audition with Gordy.

After initial reluctance, in January 1961, Gordy signed the group under the proviso that they change their name. At first they failed to make an impression on the charts but their first big hit came in 1964, when their version of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Where Did Our Love Go topped the US charts and reached No 3 in the UK.

It was the beginning of an international chart streak that included Baby Love, Stop! In the Name of Love, and You Can’t Hurry Love. The trio also became known for their glamorous attire, and in 1966, their album Supremes A’ Go-Go became the first record by an all-woman group to top the US album charts, knocking the Beatles’ Revolver off the No 1 spot.

The group broke down by the end of the decade as Gordy primed Ross for solo success and Ballard experienced depression and alcoholism: she died of a heart attack in 1976.

Wilson was the only consistent member of the group until their demise in 1977. After a legal battle with Motown, Wilson re-signed with the label as a solo artist, to middling success. She found herself on top again in 1986 when her memoir, Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme, broke sales records. She also enjoyed success in musical theatre. Protracted business negotiations left Wilson out of a Supremes reunion planned for 2000, which was ultimately cancelled owing to low sales.

Wilson later became an inspirational speaker, an advocate for musicians’ rights, creator of a touring exhibition of the Supremes’ famous gowns, and in 2019 appeared on US series Dancing with the Stars.

She had been planning to release solo material, including her unreleased 1970s album Red Hot In a video uploaded to YouTube two days before her death, she expressed her wish that some of her recordings would be released by her birthday on 6 March. Sources: The Guardian, Rolling Stone, Variety

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