Music News Digest, Nov. 29, 2021

Tyler Joe Miller (pictured) is Top of the Country, BreakOut West announces its  final wave of artists, and Drake and Kanye team up. Others in the news include Avril Lavigne, Jon Mullane, Music NL, Linda Byrne, Indie Weekly, Laura Simpson, Floodstock, BROS, Bryce Clifford and farewell Jim Skarratt and Stephen Sondheim.

Music News Digest, Nov. 29, 2021

By Kerry Doole

On Friday, early in Country Music Week, BC artist Tyler Joe Miller won the third annual SiriusXM's Top of the Country contest and $25K. Following performances by the three finalists, Raquel Cole, Miller, and Kelly Prescott, audience votes, and a judging panel of music industry professionals, crowned him the grand prize winner at a live event at the London Music Hall in London, ON, that also featured a performance by The Reklaws. As well as winning $25K, Miller earns an invitation to a SOCAN songwriting camp. Six months of virtual mentorship and content creation support goes to all three finalists.


– BreakOut West has announced the final wave of artists to showcase at its 19th annual fest, being held in Winnipeg. from Feb. 2-6. Acts from all across western Canada will play alongside international guests from Wales, Sweden, Iceland and other Nordic countries, as well as eastern Canada. This will mark the fourth year that BreakOut West has reached gender parity within its programming (in partnership with the Keychange Initiative), and BOW will see its highest number of BIPOC performers at the 2022 fest. Notable acts just named include Sebastian Gaskin, Megan Nash & The Best of Intentions, FXCKMR, Ghost Woman, Anthony OKS, Sam Tudor, BSÍ, Sierra Noble, Ayla Brook & The Sound Men, Emily Triggs, and Adwaith. See the full lineup here. with BOW 2022 wristbands available now

– The LA Times reports that Kanye West (Ye) has announced that Drake will join him as a special guest for a “Free Larry Hoover” benefit concert set to take place at L.A. Coliseum on Dec. 9. This signals an apparent end to the feud between the two stars. The concert’s cause is Larry Hoover, a former gang member and co-founder of Chicago’s Gangster Disciples, who in 1997 was convicted of murder, conspiracy, extortion and money laundering and is serving six life sentences in federal prison.


– Beginning in Moncton on May 3, Avril Lavigne launches her first Canadian tour in over a decade with the Bite Me Canada 2022 tour featuring special guests, grandson and Mod Sun. Lavigne recently signed to DTA Records and released the track Bite Me featuring Travis Barker, her first release of music since 2019. New music and a new album will follow in 2022, the 20th anniversary of her diamond-selling album Let Go". Her 14-city tour closes out in Victoria on May 25. Public on-sale begins on Dec. 3. $1 will be added to each ticket for the Avril Lavigne Foundation, which supports people with serious illnesses or disabilities. More info here

– Presented by Music NL, this year’s Unsung Hero Award goes to Linda Byrne, a folk singer from Kingwell, Placentia Bay. A leading proponent and torch-bearer of Placentia Bay Unaccompanied Singing tradition, Byrne has performed at every Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival since its inception.  Almost twenty years ago, she co-founded and continues to co-host a monthly Ballad Night at the Crow’s Nest Club in St. John’s, where unaccompanied singing is centre stage. The award will be presented tomorrow (Nov. 30) as part of the Industry Awards Reception at Music NL’s Music Celebration Week, running from Nov. 29 to Dec. 5. More info here.


– This week’s Indie Weekly session (the series’ 47th) features Laura Simpson, CEO of Side Door, and company co-founder Dan Mangan. This innovative Canadian company allows artists, promoters, and venues to host and monetize online streamed and in-person events in a manner that engages fans and attendees. It runs online on Nov. 30 at 4 pm ET. Free with registration here.

– MusicNL is set to launch Instrumental Connections, as a part of the National Connector Program, one designed to provide those in the music sector with valuable networking connections. Currently based in 35 communities and growing, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Instrumental Connections Program will be the first music industry-focused connector program in Canada. A press conference to announce more details takes place today (Nov. 29) with Minister Gerry Byrne at the Rotary Arts Centre in Corner Brook, NL at 10 am. More info here.


– East Coast singer/songwriter Jon Mullane released a new album, Feels Like Christmas, on Nov. 26, and the title cut single is grabbing attention. Mullane collaborated with some notable Canadian songwriters, artists and producers on the project, including fellow Jim Gelcer (Lee Aaron, Paul Hoffert), Johnny Douglas ( Hemingway Corner), and Creighton Doane (Melanie Doane, Harum Scarum).

– The Georgia Straight reports that 10 Vancouver bands will play the Rickshaw Theatre on December 10 to raise funds for the Canadian Red Cross British Columbia Floods & Extreme Weather Appeal. Floodstock will feature performances by Old Soul Rebel, JP Maurice, the History Of Gunpowder, Brass Camel, Chase the Bear, Raincity, Bad Magic, Spendo, Wazonek, and Crooked Rider. Tix here.

– BROS (comprising Ewan and Shamus Currie of The Sheepdogs) have released a new Christmas double-single on Dine Alone Records, Yet Another Bros Christmas. This release is the 3rd edition of their annual Christmas double single, following 2020's A Very Bros Christmas Vol. 2 and 2017’s A Very Bros Christmas Vol. 1. 

–Hamilton-based roots-rock troubadour Bryce Clifford and his group Brother Superior are readying the release of a new album, Rebounder, on Dec. 3. He tells FYI “the album comprises 12-songs I began work on 3 years ago and then slowly produced between Ontario and Texas.” He’ll launch it with a Dec. 3 show at Clifford Brewery, assisted by such local luminaries as Greg Brisco, CJ Altmann, Heather Valley, and Mary Simon. Recommended. 



Jim (James Anthony) Skarratt, a veteran Hamilton-based concert promoter, died on Nov. 25, age 76.

Skarratt, owner of the Lazy Flamingo in Hamilton's Hess Village, began his career in concert promotion in the late '60s as entertainment program director at McMaster University, his alma mater. Among the acts he booked were Frank Zappa, The Bee Gees, Cat Stevens, Neil Young, Chicago and The Turtles.

He went on to establish Skarratt Promotions, a company that produced more than 200 concerts a year at venues across Canada, including Massey Hall, Hamilton Place, and Copps Coliseum.

In 1988, Skarratt started the Spy Records label with Gerry Young and Steve Propas. Industry veteran Young (Current Records) tells FYI that "Jim and I formed SPY Records in 1988 when I played him Big Bang's finished album. Jim suggested that he would pay all costs of the project, if we formed a new label composed of himself, Steve Propas, and myself. Thus the name SPY Records. We cut a Canadian distribution deal with A&M's Gerry Lacoursiere." The Big Bang album was Spy's first release, and the label also put out releases by Ray Lyell before closing down.

Young recalls that "Jim was a terrific promoter and a gregarious and likeable guy."

At one stage, Skarratt proposed an all-Canadian music radio station, but his idea did not pass a CRTC hearing. 

Skarratt was also an accomplished musician, playing tenor sax with Bobby Washington and the Soul Society. In the '90s his promotion office evolved into the Lazy Flamingo, which continues to be active as a music venue. 


In 2016, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hamilton Music Award for his contributions.

Cremation has taken place. A Celebration of Life will be held on Sat. Dec. 11 at 11 am the Marlatt Funeral Home, 195 King Street West, Dundas. For those who wish, the service will be live-streamed at Sources: Dignity Memorial,Hamilton Spectator, Gerry Young, Nick Krewen


Stephen Sondheim, a songwriter and composer whose music and lyrics raised and reset the artistic standard for the American stage musical, died on Nov. 26, age 91.No cause of death has been reported.

In its obituary, The New York Times called Sondheim “an intellectually rigorous artist who perpetually sought new creative paths. He was the theater’s most revered and influential composer-lyricist of the last half of the 20th century, if not its most popular."

“His work melded words and music in a way that enhanced them both. From his earliest successes in the late 1950s, when he wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy, through the 1990s, when he wrote the music and lyrics for two audacious musicals, Assassins, giving voice to the men and women who killed or tried to kill American presidents, and Passion, an operatic probe into the nature of true love, he was a relentlessly innovative theatrical force.”

The first Broadway show for which Mr. Sondheim wrote both the words and music, the 1962 comedy A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, won a Tony Award for best musical and went on to run for more than two years.

In the 1970s and 1980s, his most productive period, he turned out a series of strikingly original and varied works, including Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Pacific Overtures (1976), Sweeney Todd (1979), Merrily We Roll Along (1981), Sunday in the Park With George (1984) and Into the Woods (1987).

Read more on Sondheim in the NYT obit here, and also here - AP, Toronto Star

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