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FYI

Music News Digest, June 29, 2020

Alessia Cara (pictured) performs on the Junos tonight, Dine Alone and Dallas Green launch a charity raffle, and The SOCAN Foundation announces a new fund. Also in the news are Massey-Harris, the ECMAs, Indie Week 2020, Hamilton’s Canada Day concert, Dennis Ellsworth, drive-in shows, and farewell Graeme Williamson. With video.

Music News Digest, June 29, 2020

By Kerry Doole

The SOCAN Foundation has announced the launch of the SOCAN Foundation Relief Fund for SOCAN members during the covid-19 pandemic. This new fund is open to all members who have earned more than $500 in royalties in the four most recent SOCAN distributions. The Board of Directors has allocated a total of $500K for distribution, with each grant valued at $250. Applications are now open until Aug. 15 here .


– The first-ever virtual BET Awards were held last night (June 28). Drake had led the nominations list with six, but came away with just one award, for Best Collaboration, No Guidance, with Chris Brown. Other winners included Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo, Migos, and Roddy Rich. A full winners list here

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– Dine Alone Records and Dallas Green (City and Colour/Alexisonfire) have come together with the help of artists and industry friends to hold a raffle with all the proceeds to be donated to various charities in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now open, the raffle features dozens of items donated by various artists including one-of-a-kind items like test pressings, rarities, signed records, gear and memorabilia. If you've always wanted a signed Gold Billy Talent record, this is your chance. Other artists included are Alexisonfire, A$AP Rocky, Blind Melon, Foo Fighters, Daniel Caesar, Kevin Drew, Metric, Sam Roberts, Sum 41, The Hip, The Sheepdogs, The Trews and Wintersleep. To take part, visit here  

– A reminder that the 2020 East Coast Music Awards, presented by TD, hosts a two-hour special airing July 11 at 9 pm AT / 9:30 NT on CBC TV in Atlantic Canada and simultaneously on GEM at 7 pm EST on CBC Gem across the country. The show also celebrates the induction of folk singer-songwriter Ron Hynes to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF).

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CARAS and broadcast partner CBC have announced Juno Award-winner Alessia Cara as a performer and presenter on The Junos presented by TD, streaming tonight (June 29)  at 7 pm ET (4 pm PT) on the free CBC Gem streaming service, CBC Music’s Facebook, YouTube and Twitter pages, and for international audiences at CBCMusic.ca/junos.  Cara accompanies the previously announced lineup of guest presenters who will reveal the 2020 winners across all 42 Juno categories. The planned live event from Saskatoon was cancelled over coronavirus concerns. Cara will premiere Rooting For You, from her upcoming This Summer: Live Off the Floor EP, and will hand out the International Album of the Year Award. She tops the list of 2020 Juno nominees, with six nods. More info on the Junos here 

– Now on hiatus, Massey-Harris was a mainly acoustic Toronto folk-country ensemble fronted by singer/songwriter Scott Bradshaw (Scott B. Sympathy) and slide guitarist  Gord Cumming (The Lawn). In the late summer of 2012, in the last session at analog studio The Studio At Puck's Farm, Walter Sobczak (who had worked extensively with Scott B Sympathy) produced/engineered a self-titled EP that has just been released on all download and streaming platforms, the combo's only release to date. Recommended. 

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– Toronto's Indie Week 2020 is programming online sessions and upcoming events for a planned Nov. edition, and is seeking your help. A press release explains "we want to give you the opportunity to participate by suggesting a topic, be a presenter or by being a speaker/panelist yourself. For panel discussions the format we are working with is 1 moderator + 3 panelists. We are open to educational workshops, presentations, guest speakers, etc. Be creative! We are hoping to see submissions of ideas that are new and forward-thinking." Diversity and inclusion in the programming is being emphasized. More info here 

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–  Last Friday, new Toronto trio Psychological Rangers released its debut album, Dirt Bath, through Zunior and Bandcamp. The group comprises Matthew Bailey (Andy Shauf), Dave Clark (Rheostatics) and Graeme Moffatt (Buster Crabtree), and it claims to “toe the line between heartwarming and flat out bizarre.” Hear for yourself here.

– While the city of Hamilton can't enjoy its traditional Canada Day community gathering in Bayfront Park this year, it does host a Canada Day 2020 broadcast special presented by RBC. The one-hour show airs at 7 pm on CHCH, and streams live on chch.com. Produced by Sonic Unyon Records, its stellar lineup of local artists includes The Dirty Nil, Terra Lightfoot, Tom Wilson, John Ellison (writer of the hit “Some Kind of Wonderful”), Hamilton Children’s Choir, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra Brass Quintet, Harrison Kennedy, and Queen Cee. 

– Two top Canadian roots songwriters have collaborated on Made for You, a new single from PEI artist Dennis Ellsworth. In a press release, co-writer Donovan Woods notes that “I went to Charlottetown a week before a music festival to participate in a writing camp with some local kids. I was instead paired with Dennis who had released albums, had a publishing deal and was already a hugely competent and committed songwriter. I remember feeling jealous that Dan Mangan got a bunch of kids that he could bestow his wisdom upon and I got a guy who was probably better than me." The song is featured on Common Senselessness, a five song companion project to Ellsworth's much-lauded 2019 album Common Senseless.

– Montreal singer-songwriter Tedy has released a video for his latest track “War, his second major label (Sony) single. The clip was filmed in the bare streets of downtown Toronto during quarantine. Tedy has been busy building his Tik Tok following, amassing 769K+ followers since April. A debut EP, Boys Don’t Cry, is slated for fall 2020.

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– Good news for lovers of live music in the London, ON, area is a plan for drive-in concerts to commence there shortly. All going well, local hero Bill Durst and country veterans The Good Brothers  (plus other acts) will play two shows at Thorndale’s Purple Hill Country Opry, July 10 and 11 respectively. More details and tickets here. Source: London Free Press

Obit

Graeme Williamson, frontman for the ‘80s Toronto group Pukka Orchestra, died June 25 in his native Scotland with his wife Iris at his side. He was 71, and the cause of death was a stroke.

Williamson co-founded the Pukka Orchestra with Neil Chapman and Tony Duggan-Smith in 1979.

Veteran music publisher Frank Davies told FYI that “I signed the Pukkas to ATV Music in the early '80s and got them a record deal, with Solid Gold. The Strawbs covered their wonderful song I Might As Well Be On Mars (I'm that far away from you). I financed a video for the song which is absolutely one of my all-time favourite videos (cost $2,500)! It was so understated compared to the over-the-top video era we were going through but, fortunately, John Martin loved it and added it to MuchMusic.

"The band won a CASBY award in 1985 for Most Promising Group after they broke through nationally with the Tom Robinson/Peter Gabriel song I suggested they cover, Listen to the Radio. Solid Gold didn't feel they could get any of their songs on hit radio (just FM) - too original, too different - so I went looking for a song (which ATV didn't publish btw). Graeme was a sweet guy, a wonderful writer and talent. I loved his voice."

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The Pukka Orchestra's self-titled debut album came out on Solid Gold in 1984. One of its songs, Cherry Beach Express, was criticized by Toronto Police for highlighting police brutality by 52 Division officers. "I've got a bone to pick with you / not-so-friendly boys in blue," sang Williamson. "When they come out of the station and into the street / everybody beats a hasty retreat." The recent focus on Toronto police misdeeds has reawakened interest in the song.

Shortly after the CASBY win, the band's label went into receivership and Williamson suffered kidney problems while visiting relatives in Scotland, where he later underwent a transplant.

Upon his return to Toronto, the Pukka Orchestra released a four-track EP, Palace of Memory in 1987. Health problems plagued Williamson, though, and he returned to Scotland for treatment. In 1992, the group released Dear Harry, a collection of previously-recorded material. A CD reissue of the band's debut album came out in 2000.

Tony Duggan-Smith recalls the story of the Pukka Orchestra to FYI: “One of the first people I met when I arrived in Toronto in 1975 was guitarist Neil Chapman at a music shop called the Toronto Folklore Centre on Avenue Road. From that first meeting with Neil, I was able to find a great place to live and learned of a wonderful songwriter he had met recently, Graeme Williamson. They had been demoing some of Graeme’s songs and I was invited to his place to listen to them.

"They were amazing. I had grown up in the UK with players like John Martyn and Bert Jansch and Graeme’s songs were in that league and not derivative of anything I had ever heard. I was spellbound by his talent. The next thing I knew the three of us were jamming and then writing tunes together and then going out and playing them in pokey little bars where we could really get our sh*t together. It was like we were on a creative conveyer belt and someone had pushed the ‘on’ button. One thing led to another and the Pukka Orchestra was born.

"We had a wonderful number of years of writing, recording and touring and it was as creatively satisfying and soulful as anything could possibly be. Then all at once it was over and the trajectory we were on was cut short. The record label we were signed to took a nose dive taking all the musical acts on it with them, and as it turned out all of our recording tapes and masters were destroyed in a basement flood during the bankruptcy/receivership process.

"At the same time Neil and I were at the 1985 UKnow/CASBYs picking up an award, Graeme was back in Scotland on holiday. The next thing we hear is that Graeme has collapsed from kidney failure due to a birth defect and that he needs a transplant asap.

"It was surreal and although we did our best to recover from these events it became clear that Graeme would not be able to continue. The beautiful thing was that at the core of everything we were three best friends and everything else was just ‘stuff out of our control.'

"Our friendship has continued for decades and Neil and I have written tunes together with Graeme, taken trips to Scotland multiple times, and done all the things that best friends do. It was a shock to learn of his stroke and his wife Iris has been incredible over the last few days. Tears have flowed but at the heart of everything we want to celebrate Graeme’s life. Having been in his life brings immense joy to us all and 'joy' was the one ingredient of the Pukka Orchestra that cannot be denied. Goodbye friend.”

Duggan-Smith explains that "Graeme's health was an ongoing issue throughout his life post-Pukka with many stays in hospital and multiple transplants and infections. His health meant he was unable to perform. He earned a degree in English and French Literature as well as an MPhil in Creative Writing (one up from a Masters) which he got after he permanently moved to Scotland, and he tutored at the University of Glasgow in English Literature."

Williamson’s short fiction and poetry has appeared in magazines on both sides of the Atlantic, and in 2002 his first novel, Strange Faith, was published.

Sources: Tony Duggan-Smith, Frank Davies, Wikipedia, Canadian Records & Artists Appreciation Society website.

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