By Kerry Doole
It was all fun and games until somebody broke out the water guns. Who are we kidding? It was still fun and games - even after those veteran and wily wotten wascals The Good Brothers - Bruce, Brian and Larry - doused The Family Brown's brother-sister duo Barry Brown and Tracey Prescott Brown with water after presenting them with The Impact Award at this year's Country Music Association of Ontario's CMAOntario Awards. Old tourmates, these two groups, explained the liquid hijinks that somewhat set the tone for the show, which doled out 19 awards and a few surprises at Hamilton's Aquarius Theatre and was hilariously hosted by Jason McCoy and radio personality Shannon Ella (Mrs. Steven Lee Olsen.)
Presented on June 4 by Slaight Music, the wealth was spread out somewhat evenly among the evening stars who shared dual prerequisites for award consideration: that they're based in Ontario and, of course, share a love of - and ply their trade in - country music.
Only two performers grabbed more than one award: the irrepressible Robyn Ottolini claimed Female Artist and Single of the Year for Say It, while the sibling duo The Reklaws - unfortunately unable to attend - won Group or Duo of the Year and Compass Award honours. The 11th edition of the CMAOs also had a cavalcade of performers gracing the stage: aside from Ottolini, those who entertained the crowd included Jade Eagleson, Nate Haller, Karli June, Graham Scott Fleming, Sacha, Elyse Saunders, Vincent Bishop, Jason Blaine, Genevieve Fisher, Andrew Hyatt, Ryan Langdon, Owen Riegling, Julian Taylor, and The Western Swing Authority.
Eagleson also received a bit of a surprise: Currently boasting an impressive list of accomplishments including the accumulation of 270M global streams and a string of platinum and gold singles, he added another piece of gold to the list as CMAO president Steve Kassay handed him a plaque celebrating his latest hit, Shakin' In Them Boots. And among the Hamilton hometown honourees that received nods were Roots Artist or Group of the Year singer Mackenzie Leigh Meyer and Radio Station of the Year (Large Market), KX-947 Hamilton.
There were two poignant tributes: host McCoy and singer Nicole Rayy honoured The Family Brown with a medley of their hits, and the show was closed with a tribute to the late Gordon Lightfoot, who passed May 1. With the songwriter's widow Kim in the audience, Lightfoot's bass player of 55 years, Rick Haynes, gave a moving introduction and set the stage for a medley performed by The Good Brothers that included You Are What I Am, Carefree Highway, Sundown, Early Morning Rain, Did She Mention My Name and a rousing finish of Alberta Bound that brought out all the evening's performers to join in the chorus. A good time was had by all. See the full list of winners here. (Report by Nick Krewen).
– The popular free outdoor @ Do West Fest returns to the Dundas and Ossington area of Toronto, June 9-11. Produced by Transmit Presents and The Garrison, it features Cartel Madras, Weird Nightmare, Ducks Ltd., Scooter Jay, Gossamer Blue, and more, plus DJs and drag acts. More info here.
– Smartly scheduled for the middle of summer, the 10th annual Because Beer Craft Beer Fest takes place at Pier 4, Hamilton, on July 14 and 15. It is presented by famed local music company Sonic Unyon, so music is a key component of the fun. Set to appear are Born In the Eighties, Five Alarm Funk, Terra Lightfoot and Dwayne Gretzky. More info and passes here.
– On June 10, the Ancaster Memorial Arts Centre's Heritage Days event (near Hamilton) includes a free concert featuring the impressive lineup of Caroline Wiles, Jacob Moon, and Harrison Kennedy with the Steve Strongman Band. More info here.
– In a very understated way, Toronto-based Eric Warner has run one of Canada's most prolific indie labels, the aptly named We Are Busy Bodies. He has now launched a sister imprint, Record Record Label, one specialising in reissues of Canadian albums. Announced so far are reissues by The Monoxides, Wide Mouth Mason, and The Waking Eyes. Warner explains that "The label will issue 1-2 releases per month and has already scheduled 15 releases that are planned through mid-2024. The label is focused on limited vinyl reissues of albums previously only released on CD or that received limited vinyl releases." The label will start with an Aug. release of The Monoxides 1997 album that had a breakout single, (Can’t Get) Excited. The next month brings Wide Mouth Mason’s self-titled debut record, then The Waking Eyes debut album, Combing The Clouds in Oct.
– The Artist Entrepreneur West Program returns for its seventh year to Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre, and submissions from artists of all genres across Western and Northern Canada are being accepted until July 2. AE West is a five-week creative entrepreneurship program designed to help emerging artists from all genres build sustainable businesses and careers in music. It is an extension of CMI's (Canada's Music Incubator) highly regarded, Toronto-based Artist Entrepreneur program and is produced in partnership with CMI and NMC. Apply here.
– New artists have been added to the National Music Centre’s Speak Up! Exhibition. It will now highlight award-winning musician-actor Tom Jackson, Inuk artist and activist Elisapie, Métis folk singer-songwriter and poet Ferron, Juno-winning Cree and Salish musician Fawn Wood, and rapper and youth mentor Drezus. Studio Bell will be open with free admission on June 21 in honour of Indigenous People’s Day with a full day of activities that showcase local Indigenous song, music, and dance. Learn more here
– The National Arts Centre has launched Canadian Music Road Trip, an interactive digital collection featuring 36 music festivals and 47 Canadian artists. It also presents a collection of videos featuring artists from across Canada, sharing their stories of what makes their region home to them and how it inspires their music and art, including contributions from The Garrys, Tom Wilson, Celeigh Cardinal, Jenn Grant, Locarno, Kilo November, FMO and more. Info here.
–Johnny and The G-Rays were one of the most important rock 'n roll bands on the late '70s Toronto scenes (and one of this scribe's faves). Over the years, they've reunited for occasional shows, and a concert documentary film on the band, Live At The Palais Royale, directed by Randy Marsh, has been completed. Next week, there are screenings plus a live show at The Westdale in Hamilton (June 15. Tix here) and at The Paradise on Bloor (June 17. Tix here. Highly recommended.
– Haitian-Canadian songwriter Wesli has announced a string of new tour dates kicking off on July 15 with the Harrison Hot Springs Festival in BC. The tour comes in support of Wesli's 2022 album, Tradisyon, the first of a two-volume project. Fest appearances include the Mission Folk, Edmonton Folk, and Summerfolk Festivals. Check the itinerary here.
– Canadian vocalist and songwriter Robyn Black has teamed up with noted producer/composer Lou Pomanti on Show Me, a jazzy head-bopping R&B-pop track with sexy 90s vibes. Stream it here.
– Hotly tipped Hamilton rock band Golden Feather delivered Welcome\\Release, a full-length live album, on June 5, accompanied by two live performance videos by Mitch Fillion and the Southern Souls crew.
– On June 12, under the moniker of Ex Ox, Canadian musician Andrew Dickson (Tricky Woo, Soft Canyon, Mongrels) presents his first solo effort, Nervous Complaint, with an accompanying visual album. The record reflects upon Dickson's near-death experience from a car crash.
On June 11, The Casbah in Hamilton presents Empty The Chamber (featuring Darryl Gould with Kevyn Wright of Sailboats Are White) with special guest Dave Schoonderbeek in the Lounge. A PWYC gig.