Music News Digest, Jan. 13, 2022

Alex Lifeson’s new band Envy Of None (pictured) is launched, BreakOut West is forced to go virtual, and the Blue Jay Sessions return to Calgary. Also in the news are Toronto Songwriting School, Indie Weekly, Opera Atelier, Karl Wolf, and the CFMA, and farewell to Vince Fontaine, Burke Shelley, and Ronnie Spector.

Music News Digest, Jan. 13, 2022

By Kerry Doole

Any new project featuring famed Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson is sure to attract attention, and that is definitely happening now with the launch of Envy Of None, a new Toronto-based band featuring Lifeson, Andy Curran (Coney Hatch), Alfio Annibalini, and singer/songwriter Maiah Wynne (drummer David Quinton Steinberg appears on the record). It has just been announced that the band's self-titled debut album will be released on Kscope on April 8. The first advance single, Liar, came out yesterday (Jan. 12). The album closer, Western Sunset, was penned by Lifeson in tribute to his dear departed friend Neil Peart.


– With Covid-19 cases surging across the country, BreakOut West has decided to move the 2022 events, set to take place in Winnipeg next month, to an online format. The conference will take place virtually from Feb. 2-6, with details on the festival component to come soon. Attendees can register for BreakOut West Online here. Anyone who had previously registered for the in-person events will be contacted to adjust their registration to online, or obtain a refund.

The 2021 Heritage Award, Kevin Walters Industry Builder Award, and Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees will be formally presented at a special virtual event in Feb. BreakOut West plans to convene again in Calgary this fall, for BOW’s 20th anniversary, with events from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2. The 2022 Western Canadian Music and Industry Awards will be announced in Oct.

– Toronto Songwriting School announces the return of The Art of Song, a 3-day virtual songwriting workshop Feb. 4-6. This year, participants will have the opportunity for a one-on-one mentor session to work on a song, which they'll then perform for all the songwriting mentors including Sarah Slean, Colleen Dauncey, and Barry Canning. The weekend also includes a Q&A session with host Murray Foster and keynote speaker Hawksley Workman. More info here.


– A Valentine's Day themed Blue Jay Sessions will take place Feb. 11-13 in Calgary, at The Prairie Emporium. What's Love Got To Do With It? will feature 16 musicians over three days. Performers include Brandi Sidoryk and Katie Rox (Nice Horse), Bobby Wills, Amy Hef, Aaron Pollock, ZENON, Chelsie Young, Taylor-Rae, and Nicole Rayy.

– The Indie Weekly series continues with episode #50 on Jan. 18 at 4 pm EST. The topic is Predictions for 2022, and the crystal ball gazers are Adam Lewis (Planetary), Eric Alper, and Darryl Hurs (Indie Week / CD Baby). Free registration here

– Opera Atelier has announced a return to live performance with a Valentine offering,  All Is Love - a fully-staged production celebrating love in all its splendor at Koerner Hall in Toronto, Feb. 19, at 8 pm and Feb. 20, at 2:30 pm, in strict compliance with provincial health orders. The concert includes repertoire by J.P. Rameau, M.A. Charpentier, and Renaldo Hahn - culminating in Act 1 of Debussy’s operatic masterpiece Pelléas et Mélisande - played on 19th century period instruments by Tafelmusik. All Is Love also includes additional excerpts by Henry Purcell, Matthew Locke, and G.F. Handel, and features Opera Atelier’s Artist In Residence - famed soprano Measha Brueggergosman-Lee.


– Hit pop/R&B artist Karl Wolf is expanding his creative blueprint after his song Omicron Queen took the web by storm. He is now releasing his first NFT collection of Omicron Queens, and his NFTs include his music, in collaboration with several specific digital NFT artworks. Wolf's pandemic-penned tune, a parody of Caribbean Queen by Billy Ocean, has gone viral on TikTok. 

– The Canadian Folk Music Awards organization is seeking candidates to become members of its Board of Directors, a working board with members from across Canada. Directors are expected to individually take on specific tasks, in addition to their general duties as part of the Board. Apply here no later than 16 Jan. 



Vince Fontaine, a highly-regarded Indigenous musician and co-founder of Juno Award-winning band Eagle & Hawk, died suddenly on Jan. 11, of a reported heart attack, age 60.

The news was reported by his niece, NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine, who posted that "Vince's love of music was only outshone by his measureless devotion to his family, friends and community."

Fontaine, a member of Sagkeeng First Nation, founded Indigenous music duo Eagle & Hawk in 1994 with Troy Westwood. They released 10 albums, and the 2002 full-length, On and On, was named Indigenous Album of the Year at the Juno Awards. The group also won Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, Western Canadian Music Awards, and Native American Music Awards, and international touring included appearances at the Olympics and the New Orleans Jazz Fest.

Fontaine was known for his work ethic early on and later as a mentor for young Indigenous musicians in Winnipeg and beyond.  Longtime bandmate Jay Bodner told CBC, "He picked up the torch from the original Indigenous acts in this city, like Shingoose and C-Weed and Billy Joe Green. He really, really worked his butt off to move the dial and push Indigenous music into the mainstream."

Fontaine was also a songwriter and released the acclaimed 2011 solo album, Songs for Turtle Island. He also founded folk-rock band Indian City, and a member of that group, William Prince, paid tribute on Facebook.

His post reads, in part, "The Supernation is in mourning. We lost a dear friend and pillar of the First Nations music community. A world-class musician and a true trailblazer. Vince Fontaine was a mentor and friend to me unlike any other. An award-winning musician with his bands Eagle & Hawk and Indian City, a guitar player that embodied the charisma of Zeppelin, U2 and The Eagles. He carved a path for so many of us with his seemingly endless musical ventures and vigour for following through. His determination led him to perform at the Olympics, open for The Eagles at the Winnipeg Stadium, and tour the world with friends he loved.


"I was a younger man in search of my own direction when he asked me to join the band Indian City, his version of Broken Social Scene, a band filled with Indigenous superstars making music together. That was the thing about Vince, he always made you feel like someone of importance. Perhaps a lifetime of people telling him what he couldn’t be because he was First Nations-led to this belief that we could all be something more. Vince believed it every day and he was right. We would eventually co-write and record two albums together with Indian City. Supernation and Colors both went on to take home Indigenous Music Awards. My first ever awards for songwriting. "

Some Canadian music industry notables were also quick to pay homage to Fontaine.


Michael Hollett (NEXT, NXNE) posted this on Facebook: "Heartbroken by the passing of Vince Fontaine Winnipeg. A dear friend, awesome teammate and wonderful man, Vince was an important leader in the Canadian and Indigenous music scene and a major talent. My condolences to his family and many friends. RIP Vince."

Artist manager/label head Brian Hetherman posted on FB that “I’m shocked beyond belief, speechless, deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Vince Fontaine…a truly wonderful kind, calm and sparkling human. I’ve become so used to seeing his smile at so many events both around the world and here in Canada. Vince gave so much to his community and friends, and to music, the music world has lost so many good people in the first few weeks of 2022, that it’s unfathomable, and this one is a true heart breaker…much love, spirit and support to his family, both his blood family and his musical family. Good night my friend.”

“Could never express how much you meant to me brother,” Troy Westwood tweeted. “So many precious memories. You taught me a great deal brother. Thank you. Much sympathy to his beautiful family.”

Noted singer/songwriter Steve Bell posted that “With shattered hearts, we mourn the tragic loss of my beloved brother-in-law, Vince Fontaine. I’m so proud to call Vince “brother.” And so terribly grieved for my sweet sister Dorothy and their amazing kids, Aleah, Gabrielle and Joe.”

Devin Cuddy tweeted that "I had the privilege of sharing the stage and the ice with him many times," referring to Fontaine's involvement in the Juno Cup. "A great musician, beautiful soul and a solid line-mate. Rest easy buddy, you will be missed."

On the Rising Sun Productions website, Fontaine is quoted as saying: "My purpose is to lift up Indigenous people of North America and show the beauty, existence, splendour and mystique of our culture. I want to be a musical beacon and cultural ambassador."

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said in a news release that "Fontaine never said no when it came to helping Indigenous people. This is such a tragic loss as he was a musical beacon and a cultural ambassador for First Nations throughout North America and throughout the world."

Fontaine is also being remembered as an integral member of his community. In a Facebook post Tuesday night, the Bear ClanInc. said he helped with their hamper program by delivering hampers every Wednesday to some of the city’s most vulnerable residents throughout the pandemic. “Rest easy Vince you will be missed,” reads another social media post from the organization.

An outdoor Celebration of Life in honour of Vince Fontaine will be held Jan. 16 from 1-3 pm at the Oodena Celebration Circle at the Forks, and will include performances by his musical family. All are welcome. A GoFundMe campaign to help the family cover costs is here. Sources: CTV News, iHeartRadio, Facebook, CBC


– Burke Shelley, founder, frontman, and bassist with Welsh rock band Budgie, has died, aged 71. No cause of death has been reported.

Shelley formed Budgie in 1967 with guitarist Tony Bourge and drummer Ray Phillips. They released their debut album in 1971, and by 1974 they had reached the UK Top 30 with their fourth album In for the Kill!

Their most celebrated song, Breadfan, from 1973’s Never Turn Your Back on a Friend, was frequently covered by Metallica in live shows, with a version included on their compilation Garage Inc. Soundgarden, Van Halen, Megadeth and Iron Maiden would also go on to cover Budgie songs.

The band saw their success wane somewhat in the late 70s as their lineup – always featuring Shelley – frequently changed, but they had a second flush of fame in the early 1980s as the new wave of British heavy metal they helped to inspire came to fruition. The albums Nightflight and Deliver Us from Evil returned them to the UK charts, and they supported Ozzy Osbourne’s debut solo tour across Europe in 1980.

Their career waned again in the mid-80s and the band only occasionally toured during the next two decades, but re-formed to record a final album, You’re All Living in Cuckooland, in 2006. Source: The Guardian

– Ronnie Spector (born Veronica Yvette Bennett), the trail-blazing lead singer of the 1960s all-girl group the Ronettes, has died at age 78.

A statement from her family said she passed "after a brief battle with cancer. Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humour and a smile on her face.,"

The rock and roll star rose to fame with hits such as Be My Baby, Baby I Love You and Walking in the Rain..

Born in 1943, she shot to fame in 1964 at the age of just 18 while performing with her older sister and cousin. With their beehive hairstyles and liberal use of mascara, the multi-racial group caught the attention of record producers while performing in New York clubs.

In 1968, the lead singer married Phil Spector, who pioneered the "wall of sound" recording technique. They were married for six years and adopted three children together before their divorce.

It was under his direction that the group recorded hits Be My Baby and Baby I Love You. 

The BBC notes that "the group's bad-girl personas are credited with paving the way for future female musical artists." "We weren't afraid to be hot. That was our gimmick," Spector wrote in her memoir in 2004, titled Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness.

"When we saw The Shirelles walk on stage with their wide party dresses, we went in the opposite direction and squeezed our bodies into the tightest skirts we could find. Then we'd get out on stage and hike them up to show our legs even more."

The group's only album, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica, was released in 1964 by Philles Records. It contains hits including Chapel of Love, I Wonder and a cover of Ray Charles' What'd I Say, and five of its 12 songs have made it to the US Billboard charts. Be My Baby was used in the opening sequence of the films Dirty Dancing and Martin Scorsese's 1973 Mean Streets.

The Ronettes opened for major rock bands including The Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds. In 1966, the Beatles picked them to join their US tour. 

The trio broke up in 1967, having never released a second album, and Bennett and Spector’s marriage turned abusive — with Ronnie later saying she was essentially held prisoner by the producer in their California relationship for most of their marriage. She recorded one solo single for Spector, the George Harrison-penned Try Some, Buy Some, but the song stalled at No. 77 on the Hot 100 and subsequent follow-ups were never released.

Her solo career continued with little success until 1986, when rocker Eddie Money invited Spector to feature on a new single, Take Me Home Tonight, which allowed Spector to recreate her epochal Be My Baby hook on the chorus (following Money’s vocal lead-in, “Listen, honey, just like Ronnie sang…”). The song was an enormous hit, peaking at No. 4 on the Hot 100 — the highest-charting single of Money’s career, and Spector’s highest since the original Baby — and giving her career a second wind.

She was also embraced by the punk rock community, as shown when she collaborated with Joey Ramone, including their version of the Johnny Thunders classic You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory.

The Ronettes were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Billboard reports that "following Spector’s death, her family has requested that donations be made 'to your local woman’s shelter, or to the American Indian College fund.' The family will also be announcing “a celebration of Ronnie’s life and music” at a date to be determined.

Read more at BillboardVariety The Guardianand BBC


Red Hot Chili Peppers
Pavel Suslov

Red Hot Chili Peppers


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