Music News Digest, May 17, 2021

The James Barker Band (pictured) signs a US record deal, Conor Gains boosts MusiCounts, and Drizzy features on a new Nicki Minaj cut. Also in the news are Michael Bridge and Kornel Wolak, the 2021 Canadian Song Conference, Theo Tams, Ian Janes, Mercantile Records, Chris Magerl, Nap Eyes, and farewell Curtis Fuller, Bob Koester, and Pervis Staples.

Music News Digest, May 17, 2021

By Kerry Doole

The James Barker Band (JBB)  has parlayed its success in Canada and beyond into a US record deal, with the announcement of a new signing of with Sony Music Nashville and Villa 40. The group has totalled more than 200 million on-demand, global streams to date. “It’s not every day you start working with an act that already has an engaged, global fan base,” says Villa 40 co-founder Brad Margolis in a press release. “We look forward to collaborating with our partners at  Sony Music Nashville in continuing to build the band’s success in Canada and making them a  household name in the US.” The new track Over All Over Again is the band’s first single through the new label. Stream it here.


– Canadian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Conor Gains (a past recipient of the Cobalt Prize Contemporary Blues Composition Award) ,is partnering with RSD Drops (Record Store Day Canada) on June 12 in support of MusiCounts’ Band Aid Program. On that day, he will donate all proceeds from the physical purchases of his new debut EP, Three, co-produced by Mike Wise (James Blunt, Britney Spears) and out now digitally via Wax Records. The exclusive RSDC edition of the vinyl retails for $10 and includes a new bonus track not available digitally. Three RSDC Edition, available only at participating record stores listed here, and limited to a hand-numbered run of 175. The Band Aid Program provides musical instruments and equipment to in-need schools, and recently awarded $1M to 95 schools across Canada.

– Nicki Minaj has delivered the first-ever streaming release of her 2009 mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty. Included are some new songs, including a track called Seeing Green, featuring Drake  and Lil Wayne. During an Instagram Live session prior to the mixtape and new songs’ streaming release, Minaj revealed that a new album is “coming soon.”


– The internationally acclaimed music and comedy duo of Michael Bridge and Kornel Wolak has launched the Bridge & Wolak Music Mentorship Program, designed to give students access to professionals in the industry who can provide a more precise understanding of how broad the music industry is. The program, in partnership with Queens University, The Isabel and The DAN School of Drama and Music, puts career musicians in the speaker seat. Classes start on July 3 and ongoing enrolment into future classes for the Bridge & Wolak Music Mentorship Program is available here.

– Music PEI has announced the 2021 Canadian Song Conference, held online from May 25-31. The event aims to create opportunities for artists and music industry professionals to develop multiple revenue streams for their music. Details on the panels are coming soon. The CSC also features the Canadian Songwriter Challenge. This year, the program connects pairs of artists from different provinces to create songs together through virtual collaboration. The conference is supported by Bell Media, the Province of PEI, ACOA and FACTOR through the Canadian Public Radio Broadcasters and the Government of Canada.

– Toronto pop singer/songwriter Theo Tams is making a splash with his current single, Jekyll Hyde Love, and has just released a video to accompany it.


– Highly-rated East Coast singer/songwriter Ian Janes has just debuted Episode 5, a project that pairs his fifth album with a physical companion book of lyrics, photos, and narratives about the writing and recording process. Both the book and album are now available for purchase exclusively via Bandcamp. The project has caught the attention of American Songwriter, which recently ran a feature on Janes.

– Canadian indie label Mercantile Records has signed Austrian rocker Chris Magerl and will release his new album, Places, on June 18. The label tells FYI that "Chris has come to Canada before with his prior band on tour and that is when we hit it off. They were opening for two much larger bands, one being on Epitaph and they outsold both bands merch wise and had bigger reactions every night crowd-wise. He is a touring machine and once Covid allows, he will tour extensively here." Here's an advance track.


– The ongoing pandemic situation has forced the City of Toronto to cancel major public gatherings until at least Labour Day. This has led to the cancellation of such major events as The Beaches International Jazz Festival, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), and the Toronto Caribbean Carnival (formerly Caribana).

– On Friday, much-heralded Halifax indie rock band Nap Eyes released a new four-cut EP, When I Come Around, via Royal Mountain Records, and shared a video for their cover of Bonnie Raitt’s Thank You (below). The EP's title cut is a Green Day cover.


Curtis (DuBois) Fuller, a trombonist, composer, and NEA Jazz Master who was a key player in cultivating bebop language on his instrument, died May 8, at age 88. The cause of death was not disclosed; however, Fuller had been inactive as a musician for about five years due to health problems.

Fuller was the pre-eminent trombonist of the hard-bop era, known for his technical prowess—particularly his ability to articulate wide intervals—and rhythmic ingenuity.

As testimony to his predominance, Fuller belonged to two of the most important bands in hard bop: the Benny Golson/Art Farmer Jazztet, of which he was a founding member, and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, participating in one of that band’s most storied periods (with Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Cedar Walton, and Reggie Workman).

He also made nearly three dozen albums under his own name and appeared on many significant and popular recordings as a sideman with the likes of Bud Powell, Sonny Clark, Lee Morgan, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Jimmy Heath, and Count Basie.


However, his single most famous moment on record is undoubtedly his solo on John Coltrane’s classic Blue Train, recorded on Sept. 15, 1957. He also played in Dizzy Gillespie’s big band and the Count Basie Orchestra.

In later years, he became a jazz educator, with his final album Down Home released on the Capri Records label in 2012. Source: JazzTimes

– Bob Koester, founder of Delmark Records, the oldest US indie label for jazz and blues, died on May 12 from complications from a stroke. He was 88.

Koester also ran a retail space, the Jazz Record Mart, that was a fixture and destination point for music lovers, occupying several downtown Chicago locations before closing in 2016. Almost immediately afterward, Koester would open a new store called Bob’s Blues & Jazz Mart on W. Irving Park Rd.

Born in Wichita, Kansas, Koester to Chicago in the late 1950s and opened his first store. Alligator Records founder and president Bruce Iglauer, a longtime friend and colleague, described Koester as “an incredible hero of blues and jazz recording. Junior Wells cut an album for him in 1966 called Hoodoo Man Blues’ which was the first album ever by a working Chicago blues band. So instead of trying to make singles for the radio, he was making albums that documented what musicians were doing every night. It’s a landmark recording because it’s the first capturing of Chicago blues club music.”


Bob Koester recorded blues legends like Junior Wells and Magic Sam to Otis Rush, as well as the Chicago jazz revolutionaries in the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

His Jazz Record Mart store also had a huge impact on the city’s music scene, with many of its employees later becoming noted musicians. Bruce Iglauer worked for Koester as the Delmark Records shipping clerk prior to his starting Alligator.

The store on Irving Park Rd. will remain open, run by Koester’s son. Source: Chicago Tribune

– Pervis Staples, member of famed Staple Singers, died on May 6, at age 85.

Staples' tenor voice complemented his father’s and sisters’ in the legendary gospel group The Staple Singers.

He sang gospel songs with his father, the guitar-playing Roebuck (Pops) Staples, and sisters Mavis, Yvonne and Cleotha in Chicago churches before gaining a national following when they began recording songs such as So Soon, If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, and Uncloudy Day for Vee Jay records in the 1950s.

The group gained fame in the 1960s by singing music that urged change on a variety of social and religious issues. The Staple Singers gained a huge audience with their first No. 1 hit, I’ll Take You There in 1972 and followed with top 40 hits Respect Yourself, Heavy Makes You Happy, and If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me).

However, Pervis Staples’s last album with The Staple Singers was their first for Stax Records, Soul Folk in Action, in 1968. The album featured new songs such as The Ghetto and their interpretations of tunes such as Otis Redding’s (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay and The Band’s The Weight. He went on to manage the girl group The Emotions and operated a popular nightclub, Perv’s House.

Staples was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his family in 1999. The group also received a lifetime achievement award from the Grammys in 2005. Source: AP

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