Music News Digest, May 6, 2021

The memoir of Tegan and Sara (pictured) heads to TV, the CCMA has reasons for Pride, and Global Toronto is set for June. Others in the news include Jann Arden, ISC, Radio Starmaker, Art of Time, Leonard Cohen, Flaming Lips, Russell Louder, Kenny Kirkwood, Sidewalk Sounds, and farewell Phil Naro, Ed Ward, and Tommy West.

Music News Digest, May 6, 2021

By Kerry Doole

Hit Canadian pop duo Tegan and Sara’s best-selling memoir High School will be adapted as an original series for Amazon’s IMDb TV free, ad-supported streaming service. The show, announced as part of Amazon’s first-ever NewFronts presentation Monday, will be executive produced by identical twins Tegan and Sara and writer-director-actor Clea DuVall. The coming-of-age scripted series is described as “a transcendent story of first loves and first songs.” The series, to stream exclusively on IMDb TV, is produced by Amazon Studios and Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment. Source: Variety

– In preparation for Pride, the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) has announced that its lifestyle brand, LIVE COUNTRY, has released a limited edition Country Pride t-shirt, now available via pre-order here. This limited run of adult and youth t-shirts will see 100% of proceeds directed to LGBT Youthline, a Queer, Trans, Two-Spirit youth-led organization that affirms and supports the experiences of youth across Ontario. The CCMA has also announced its Pride Month Conversation Series. Launching on June 4, this series will highlight important voices in the LGBTQ2+ community via discussions hosted by Stephen Krajinovic.


– Jann Arden has announced her live-stream event, Jann Arden On Stage, set for May 20 at 5 pm PDT. Arden will perform some of her biggest hits and share first-time performances of covers of Paul McCartney and The Cure songs. Tix on sale here

– The 2021 edition of Global Toronto (GT21) takes place online from June 14-18, 2021, and this year’s theme is Now What: Making Space, Enacting Change. This year Global Toronto has 22 Spotlight Artists (4 international and 18 Canadian) who will each showcase to the international music community. Programming and discussions will be guided by the org's three principles – equity, accessibility, and sustainability, with socially relevant panels and webinars. A Pay What You Can (PWYC) option is being offered. More info here 


– The prestigious US-based International Songwriting Competition (ISC) has announced its 2020 winners. Check out the full list here 

– The deadline for Radio Starmaker Fund Round 79 Applications is May 20 at 5 pm EDT. Info here. This round includes the new Orion program, dedicated to supporting music creation by members of the Canadian music industry who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour. It was established to distribute funds in a manner that lowers the barrier to entry for eligible BIPOC artists who have not yet met Starmaker sales criteria.

– The acclaimed Art of Time Ensemble presents a tribute to Leonard Cohen,  through a Virtually Live concert featuring performances from its 2018 show: A Singer Must Die. Available for free streaming on YouTube from May 6 at 7:30 pm - May 9 at 7:30 pm. The performers lineup includes Steven Page. Sarah Harmer, Sarah Slean, Gregory Hoskins, and Tom Wilson aka LeE HARVeY OsMOND. Bookmark the free streaming page here.

– The Flaming Lips join a growing list of big-name acts to announce an extensive 2021/22 tour. Of note are the planned Canadian dates, at Montreal's MTelus on Nov. 18 and two nights at Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom, May 2-3, 2022.. See the full sked here.


– Kenny Kirkwood is a noted Toronto-based saxophonist whose credits list includes Gord Downie, Kim Mitchell, Kevin Breit, and Jacksoul.  He has now branched out as a singer/songwriter, and is focusing upon a new socially-conscious project,  DEBWEWIN – 13 Songs For 13 Moons.  This has a theme of reconciliation, and features the  release of one single per month, culminating in a full album release in spring 2022. Check out the latest track below. More info here.

– Russell Louder, a transgender performance artist, musician and producer co-based in Charlottetown and Montreal, has released a music video for Home, taken from the current album Humor. Louder’s style ranges from experimental to dark dance pop.


– Hamilton’s Sidewalk Sounds, founded in 2016 by the Concession Street BIA, has announced a strong lineup for its 2021 online concert series. It spotlights top music, dance and drags acts from Hamilton and the surrounding area over the course of 10 free events from May 15 until Sept. 18. Notable music names include Logan Staats and Hachey the MouthPEACE (who launch the fun on May 15), Heather Valley, LTtheMonk, Mother Tareka, Chopped Liver, Laura Cole, and DJ Fazooli. 

– Music NB is inviting its members and the New Brunswick music community to submit applications and suggestions for the 2021 Prix MNB Awards, slated to take place in October.


Phil Naro (born Phillip Sampognaro), a Canadian/American rock singer and songwriter known for his work in Talas and The Platinum Rock All Stars, passed away on May 2, following a long battle with cancer, age 63. His manager, Bruce Pilato, President/CEO at Pilato Entertainment Marketing & Media, broke the news, sharing a statement from Naro’s family.

Oft-termed “a singer’s singer,” Naro had become a mainstay in North American venues ranging from clubs to large performing arts centers and massive arenas. He had just completed the debut album from the band Lips Turn Blue (formerly D Drive) which had secured a worldwide record deal, and a reunion album with Billy Sheehan & Talas, of which he was a member in the 1980s.

After fronting Talas, Naro paired his powerful voice on a number of recording projects with KISS founding member Peter Criss and later with Canadian rockers Coney Hatch. He also co-wrote and recorded several tracks with guitarist and founding member of The Rascals, Gene Cornish, and co-wrote three songs for Lee Aaron for her 1989 album Bodyrock.


Naro balanced a solo career with a number of high-profile projects with other musicians from bands such as The Rascals, Vanilla Fudge, Whitesnake, Yes, ASIA, and guitarist Ron Thal (ex-Guns N Roses) as a member of The Platinum Rock All Stars.

Talas leader Billy Sheehan took to social media to pay tribute to Phil Naro, stating: "One of the finest human beings I have ever known. I’m deeply saddened to report his passing. A dear friend, spectacular singer and performer, songwriter, and lead singer in the “version 2” Talas - actually version 7 or 8–as we were just completing a new record together, when we found out the [health] situation. Phil fought like a champion and brilliantly performed and completed vocals for the album, in spite of shouldering the knowledge that he was in a serious health situation.” 

The new Talas album is set to be released through Metal Blade. Sources: Bravewords, Loudwire, Blabbermouth


– Ed (Edmund) Ward, a noted music journalist and scholar, former Rolling Stone editor, and author of several authoritative histories of the history of rock & roll, died on May 3, age 72. Rolling Stone reports he had been suffering from health issues, including diabetes.


Ward’s career began writing for underground magazine Crawdaddy in 1967. In 1970, at the recommendation of Greil Marcus, Ward moved to San Francisco to become the reviews editor of Rolling Stone, replacing Marcus in that job. Leaving RS by year’s end, Ward went on to become a contributing editor at Creem for much of the Seventies, while still writing for Rolling Stone.

In 1979, after moving to Austin, Ward became the music critic for the Austin American-Statesman, a job he held until 1984. In 1987, Ward was also involved in the launch of South by Southwest, the Austin music conference that would become one of the most important annual gatherings for musicians, writers, and industry types.

He later left the Statesman, for The Austin Chronicle. Ward was also the staff rock historian for NPR’s Fresh Air until 2016.

In 1983, he published Michael Bloomfield: The Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero, on the late Sixties and Seventies blues guitarist. In 1986, he was the co-author (with Ken Tucker and Geoffrey Stokes) of Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock & Roll. In 2016, he published his own narrative study of the music, The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1.  A second volume arrived in 2019. In a planned but uncompleted third volume, he was hoping to tackle “punk, disco, MTV, rap, grunge,” and other genres, he said.

Ward lived in Europe for 15 years, writing about art and food, and returned to Austin in 2013.

"Ed Ward was the critic of all music critics," said author and journalist Joe Nick Patoski, who recommended his friend Ward to replace him as music critic for The Austin-American Statesman. "From the early days of Rolling Stone magazine through Creem and the Village Voice to the Austin American-Statesman, 'Fresh Air,' and beyond, he never shied from voicing his opinion on cultural matters that counted most for his generation."

Fellow famed rock scribe Charles Shaar Murray paid tribute to his friend on Facebook: "Ed was even wittier and more knowledgeable in person than he was in print, if that's possible. He's also the only person I ever met who could truthfully claim to have chased Jann Wenner round the original Rolling Stone office wielding a broom-handle and roaring threats of grievous bodily harm." Sources: Rolling Stone, Austin American-Statesman, Charles Shaar Murray

– Tommy West (born Thomas Picardo Jr), a music producer, singer and songwriter who played a role in the short-lived career of musician Jim Croce, died on May 2, of complications associated with Parkinson’s disease. He was 78.

“His musical career began in 1958 as co-founder of the doo-wop group, The Criterions, with childhood friend and future Manhattan Transfer founder, Tim Hause.

West and Terry Cashman put out an album, Moondog Serenade, in 1972, and had a moderate hit with the single American City Suite. The duo also wrote songs for The Partridge Family television musical sitcom, featuring David Cassidy and his stepmother Shirley Jones.

West partnered with Mary Tyler Moore’s MTM Records in Nashville in the 1980s to produce for country artists including Holly Dunn and Judy Rodman.

In his later career, West went on to operate his Somewhere in New Jersey studio from inside a barn. Source: AP

Lana Del Rey performs on "Christmas in Graceland"
Katherine Bomboy/NBC

Lana Del Rey performs on "Christmas in Graceland"


Yes, Lana Del Rey’s Headlining Coachella Set Was Perplexing — And Profound

The iconic artist's night one headlining set included a guest appearance from Billie Eilish, a hologram of herself and so much more.

Not only did Lana Del Rey start her Coachella headlining set early, but her entry was epic.

On Friday, April 12, at 11:16 p.m. the festival main stage screens showed an aerial view of Del Rey and her entourage rapidly approaching. As she neared, it became clear her crew was not rolling up on the expected golf carts that often shuttle stars around the Indio, Calif. fest, but rather motorcycles. And as a snippet of her never-to-be-officially-released song “Jealous Girl” played – with the lyric “Baby, I’m a gangster too” on loop – Del Rey’s motorcade took a lap through the crowd as she smiled and waved to the thousands of fans gathered for this very moment.

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