Music News Digest, Oct. 26, 2020
Drake (pictured) turns 34 and teases a new album, Music NB and Ontario Folk Music Awards are handed out, and the Harmonize: Music Video Mentorship is launched. Also making news are Tannis Slimmon, Dub J, The Washboard Union, Comedy Here Often?, Folk Unlocked, The Weeknd, Corb Lund, Ruby Waters, Chilly Gonzales, The Cold Manitoba Project, Gowan, The Music Hall, SNRK, LOTL, TiKA, and farewell Jerry Jeff Walker, Viola Smith, and Tony Lewis.
By Kerry Doole
On social media Sat. night (Oct. 24), Drake teased the upcoming release of a new album, Certified Lover Boy, one he announced is coming in Jan. 2021. The news came via a clip Drizzy shared on his Twitter account and that of his label, OVO Sound. The short video is set to a moody instrumental soundtrack. View it here. This will be Drake's sixth studio full-length album, and the follow-up to 2018's chart-topping Scorpion. That figure excludes the multiple mixtapes he has released. Drake turned 34 on Saturday and reportedly flew to Las Vegas from Toronto on his private jet to party down.
– The covid pandemic meant that the annual Music•Musique NB’s Festival (506) industry conference and awards show could not proceed in a normal fashion in Moncton this year, but a virtual event was held this past weekend. At the Prix 2020 MNB Awards Show, 19 different awards were presented, celebrating the artists and industry professionals who have made an impact on New Brunswick’s music scene. Les Hay Babies and Jamie Comeau & The Crooked Teeth tied as the biggest winners, each taking home three awards each. See a full list of winners here. Source: TheEastMag
– On Oct. 24, the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival announced the launch of the new Harmonize: Music Video Mentorship, supported by Slaight Music, at the annual Indigenous music showcase The Beat. Formerly known as The Bullseye Prize, the Harmonize: Music Video Mentorship is an opportunity for an Indigenous musician and Indigenous director team to collaborate on a music video. The video will premiere at next year's festival. Applications will open in Nov. at imaginenative.org
– The Folk Music Ontario Awards Weekend took place on Oct. 23 and 24. Winners included The Pairs (Songwriter of the Year), and Abigail Lapell (Recording Artist of the Year), with Songs from the Heart Awards going to Sultans of String (who won two), Lynne Hanson, Ken Yates, Rebekah Hawker, and Liv Cazzola, and Danielle Knibbe winning the Colleen Peterson Award, for Footnote. The Estelle Klein Award, something of a lifetime achievement honour, went to veteran singer/songwriter Tannis Slimmon. Read more on Slimmon at Roots Music Canada.
– Toronto hip-hop artists have united for a hip-hop track and campaign addressing the gun violence that has plagued the city's rap scene. Producer Dub J spearheaded the initiative, recruiting an all-star lineup for the new single, Wish I Could, comprising Maestro Fresh Wes, Roney, Jelleestone, Turk, Bizz Loc, JD Era and JRDN, with Dub J on the beat. As the Toronto Star reported, “at least 29 Toronto-area rappers have been shot dead since 2010, but 11 of those killings have come in just the last 12 months.”
Along with the single comes the launch of Dub J’s Enough Is Enough movement, designed to bring awareness to the heightened acts of gun violence in Toronto. The track is out on various digital streaming platforms including Apple Music, Spotify, and TIDAL. All proceeds will be donated back into communities impacted by gun violence. Sources: Hip-Hop Canada, Toronto Star
– Three-time consecutive CCMA Award-winning Band of the Year The Washboard Union has released a new single, If She Only Knew, from its album Everbound. Watch the lyric video below. The band will hit the road again next month for three shows: Nov. 12 at Cook County Saloon in Edmonton, Nov. 13 at TCU Place in Saskatoon and Nov. 14 at Conexus Centre in Regina. Ticket info and safety protocols here.
– Launching Nov. 18, the Comedy Here Often? Podcast Network will feature some of Canada’s top comedy and musical talent across more than 30 shows. 604 Records comedy label imprint Comedy Here Often? was founded in 2016 by 604 head Jonathan Simkin and local musician and producer Kevvy (Fake Shark). Simkin will co-host Sticks and Stones with chart-topping Cancountry star, Dallas Smith.
– The ongoing pandemic has forced the cancellation of Folk Alliance International's annual in-person conference. Instead, FAI has just announced a virtual conference, Folk Unlocked, happening on Feb. 22-25, 2021. The event allows the entire international folk community to come together for panels, workshops, showcases, affinity and peer group meetings, exhibit spaces, networking, and mentorship. More info here
– The Weeknd has put out a new music video for his song Too Late, and its scary nature means it is well-timed for Halloween. Check out the clip, directed by Cliqua, here. In other news, a collaborative The Weekend and Ariana Grande track is expected on her new album, coming later this week. Source: BlogTO
– Roots troubadour Corb Lund has been forced to reschedule the Canadian tour he had booked for Nov/Dec 2020. Most shows have been rescheduled to Oct/Nov/Dec 2021. Updated tour and ticket info here
– Métis singer-songwriter Ruby Waters has released a seven-song EP, If It Comes Down To It, distributed by The Orchard. Her earlier single Quantum Physics amassed over 1.3M streams in just a few months, while another single, Supernatural, peaked at #5 on both Canadian Alternative radio and Rock radio charts this summer.
– Internationally-feted composer, producer and pianist Chilly Gonzales can now add "music critic/author" to his resume. Through Invisible Publishing, he has just put out an exploration of the work of new-age icon Enya, entitled Enya: A Treatise On Unguilty Pleasures. A sample line: "New Age music had that spiritual dimension, and was musically healthy, good for you, like raw carrots, in a way that Guns N' Roses wasn't." Read a longer excerpt from the Toronto Star here.
– Blue Rodeo member Michael Boguski has released his third single, Land & Tide, with The Cold Manitoba Project. He was inspired to spearhead this collective of artists by Gord Downie's call to action for Canadians to do whatever they can to help move towards healing and reconciliation. To date, The Cold Manitoba Project has raised $42K for the Native Addictions Council of Manitoba through the release of their singles, Cold Manitoba and Hometown Down Heart. 100% of the proceeds are again being donated to the charity.
– Gowan performs live from the Empire Theatre in Belleville in a live-stream airing Oct. 29 at 8 pm EST. He has hinted that some new solo material will be included. Live-stream link here.
– The Do Well By Hamilton concert series hosted by The Music Hall continues its online concert series by presenting indie rock faves Zeus in a live-stream, Oct. 29, at 8 pm EDT. Sponsored by LIUNA, the campaign is making a contribution to the Down Syndrome Association of Hamilton for every campaign perk purchased during this concert. More info here.
– BC hip-hop duo SNRK (Snotty Nose Rez Kids) duo rounds out 2020 with the release of Where They At, their fourth collaboration with Drezus. SNRK recently won Breakout Artist, Indigenous Artist of the Year and Rap/Hip Hop Artist of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards (WCM’s). The group has recently made a splash in film and TV, being featured in acclaimed new doco Inconvenient Indian, and with five songs included in the CBC drama, Trickster.
– Hosted by the legendary Toronto music venue, The Horseshoe Hootenanny Concert Series features full-band multi-camera pro-shot live-streamed performances by bands on that stage. Just announced is the appearance of Lowest Of The Low, set for Nov. 28 at 8.30 pm EST. Tix on sale here. Purchase includes access to the livestream and the ability to rewatch the show until Dec. 23. On Nov. 23, UIC launches the new album, FM Hill, there. Tix here.
– Canadian songwriter, composer, and model TiKA releases her debut album, Anywhere But Here, via Next Door Records on Feb. 26. She is reportedly inspired by the legacy of such Black Queer women of the ’90s as Meshell Ndegeocello and Tracy Chapman. Here's the first single, Sideways.
Jerry Jeff Walker (born Ronald Clyde Crosby), an American country music singer and songwriter best known for writing the 1968 song Mr. Bojangles, died on Oct. 23, age 78, of throat cancer.
Walker has been described as the vagabonding gonzo musician known as one of the founding fathers of modern Texas country music. While Walker was familiar to Texans as the purveyor of the Luckenbach sound, he was known wider as the writer of Mr. Bojangles, a tune he penned after meeting a homeless street performer while in a New Orleans jail cell for public intoxication.
He was born in Oneonta, New York, and began playing music in the area as a teen. He left home to roam the country in the 1960s and spent time in New York City's Greenwich Village and Key West, Florida before migrating and settling in the Austin area in 1971, a region he became most widely associated with, as the live music capital began to earn its reputation.
He recorded mainstream country music albums for MCA and Elektra before setting out on his own independent label, Tried & True Music, according to his biography. The label and business enterprise was managed by his wife, Susan.
Known for tunes like his own Gettin' By and Sangria Wine, and Ray Wylie Hubbard's, Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother, he followed up with ballads such as Mr. Bojangles, and Gary P. Nunn's, London Homesick Blues.
In 2018, Austin American Statesman writer Peter Blackstock said Walker may have written more about the country's social scene in the 1970s than he was given credit for. "Jerry Jeff Walker, the notorious rowdy raconteur who left a thousand beer-drinkin', hard-partying' imitators at honky-tonk roadhouses all across Texas in his wake, penning songs of social consciousness? It's not really all that far-fetched, as it turns out," Blackstock wrote.
While Walker was known for songs, his associations with other musicians may have been as epic as his repertoire. He was credited with giving singer-songwriter Guy Clark his big break by recording L.A. Freeway, and That Old Time Feeling, Blackstock wrote. Parrott heads everywhere may have Jerry Jeff to thank for Jimmy Buffett's long-time association with Key West and the Margaritaville sound. Michael Martin Murphy and Gary P. Nunn also went on to successful solo careers of their own after their time in Walker's Lost Gonzo Band.
In a Facebook post, Walker friend and peer Rodney Crowell noted that "if you weren’t around in 73-74, it’s hard to grasp just how much larger than life Jerry Jeff Walker actually was. He, Willie Nelson and Doug Sahm defined, for me, the era on which the Austin, Texas music scene still hangs its hat."
– Viola Smith, a swing-era musician who was promoted in the 1930s as the “fastest girl drummer in the world”, died on Oct. 21, of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, age 107.
With a kit featuring 12 drums, including two giant tom-toms placed near her shoulders, Smith was, from 1938 to 1941, the centrepiece of the Coquettes, an “all-girl” big band that developed a modest national following. Her showcase was The Snake Charmer, a jazzy arabesque with explosions of drumming pyrotechnics.
In an era when the dance bands of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw dominated the charts, Smith belonged to a coterie of female bandleaders who struggled to gain respect for their musicianship. She championed greater inclusion of women in the almost completely male preserve of big bands,
Smith had created the Coquettes from the remnants of her Wisconsin family’s all-female band in which she was one of eight musical sisters. She later turned over baton duties to Frances Carroll. The band, soon known as Frances Carroll & the Coquettes, played at nightclubs and dance halls and appeared in several short films and on the cover of the entertainment trade magazine Billboard before dissolving.
Smith later sat in with bands at New York’s Paramount Theater as many able-bodied male drummers of the day were drafted into military service for World War II. She then played under Phil Spitalny, whose all-girl band — heavy on harps and chiffon gowns — offered unadventurous material but a steady income. The group, where she remained for a dozen years, was featured on Spitalny’s “Hour of Charm” radio show and in two movies: When Johnny Comes Marching Home (1942) and the Abbott & Costello comedy Here Come the Co-Eds (1945).
Smith later drew attention as a member of the Kit Kat Band jazz quartet featured in the musical Cabaret, which ran on Broadway from 1966 to 1969 and then toured nationally. Source: Washington Post
Tony Lewis, the lead singer and bassist of The Outfield, died on Oct. 20, at the age of 62. A cause of death has not yet been confirmed.
Lewis was born and raised in London’s East End and formed his first band with drummer Alan Jackman while still in school. Jackman and Lewis would later recruit guitarist John Spinks to form a trio.
The band endured several incarnations and hiatuses before adopting the name The Outfield, under which they released most of their best-known material.
The Outfield scored their biggest hit in 1985 with Your Love, which was penned by Spinks. The track reached number six on the Billboard Charts and launched Lewis’s career as a professional musician.
In the following years, Lewis continued to tour with The Outfield. During their heyday, the band supported the likes of Starship, Mike and the Mechanics and Journey. Lewis continued to collaborate with Spinks until the latter’s death in 2014.
Lewis had been working on a new EP prior to his death which was due out via Madison Records in Spring, 2021. Source: NME