Music News Digest, Oct.1, 2018
Alessia Cara (pictured) will perform at the Grey Cup, Sharon and Bram announce a farewell tour, and pot-sponsored concerts raise eyebrows. Also in the news are Seas, Tyler Shaw, The Del-Fi's, Patricia Cano, and farewells to John Leimseider, Otis Rush, and Marty Balin. Videos included for your enjoyment.
By Kerry Doole
It may not have the global clout of a performance on the Superbowl show, but in Canadian terms, the halftime show at the annual Grey Cup is a big deal. Just announced as the performer for the 106th Grey Cup in Edmonton on Nov. 25 is Alessia Cara. In a press release, she states "Performing at the Grey Cup as a Canadian is such an honour. Excited to be part of the halftime show and freeze all my fingertips off with you guys.”
– Much-loved children's entertainers Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison (aka Sharon and Bram) are hitting the road one final time. Marking their 40th anniversary, this will be the duo's farewell tour. Along with the late Lois Lilienstein, they debuted as Sharon, Lois and Bram in 1978, going on to become one of the most successful ever acts in this genre. You can expect fresh music and a new book from Sharon and Bram in 2019. Source: CBC
– With the legalisation of cannabis in Canada less than three weeks away, serious questions remain about the issue of pot-related music sponsorships. Hip-hop legends Wu-Tang Clan played a free show at Rebel in Toronto last night (Sept. 30), under the auspices of Quebec-based cannabis company HEXO Corp. In a statement, Health Canada said it's concerned about "some federally licensed producers of cannabis for medical purposes sponsoring events, such as music festivals, and engaging in other promotional activities." Once the Cannabis Act comes into force on Oct. 17, expect strict government regulations on how cannabis can be advertised or marketed, similar to restrictions for alcohol and tobacco products. Source: CBC
– Dine Alone Records has announced the signing of post-punk five-piece Seas to its roster. Featuring three former members of hardcore faves Moneen (Chris Hughes, Peter Krpan and Erik Hughes), alongside Michael Bolt and Adrian Mottram, Seas release their sophomore LP Cursed on Nov. 9 and perform as part of the PAAckin’ Beats Showcase at Baby G in Toronto, Oct. 10.
– Platinum-selling Canadian pop singer/songwriter Tyler Shaw released his sophomore, full-length album Intuition on Friday. It features the hit singles “Cautious” and “With You,” which currently sits at 3 million YouTube views. Shaw has Ontario dates this month supporting Magic!
– The Del-Fi's is a side project for prolific Toronto roots troubadour Jerry Leger. They play a Thursday night residency at Castro's, in The Beaches, and the sets we caught last week were seriously entertaining. Leger describes the band as representing his more rock 'n roll side, and the ace lineup includes guitarist Aaron Comeau (he now performs with Skydiggers), Pedal steel player Michael Eckhart, and longtime Leger sideman Dan Mock. Covers of Chuck Berry, Gene Clark, Velvet Underground, and George Harrison sat neatly alongside strong Leger originals. He tells us a second Del-Fi's album is expected out by year's end.
Those enjoying the set included Indie week's Cam Carpenter, who has booked Leger for the upcoming fest. Castro remains an intimate and fun setting for live music. It's owner, Anthony Greene, recently took over famed T.O. honkytonk The Dakota Tavern. Our congrats.
– Acclaimed Canadian-Peruvian singer-songwriter/actor Patricia Cano plays a musically ambitious concert at the Al Green Theatre in Toronto on Oct. 13. A night of Afro-Peruvian Latin Jazz will feature 18 member chamber orchestra, the Canadian Sinfonietta, in addition to her usual quintet, with orchestral arrangements by Jeremy Ledbetter.
John Leimseider, a keyboardist for Iron Butterfly and an expert in synthesizers, died in Calgary on Sept. 14, at age 66.
After playing with US rock group Iron Butterfly in the late '70s and early '80s, he gained a reputation as a synths wizard. Artists he assisted included Michael Jackson, Tom Waits and Lenny Kravitz.
His skills caught the attention of the National Music Centre (NMC) in Calgary, which hired him to restore many of the museum's prize acquisitions. He led the restoration of the famed TONTO synth made famous by Stevie Wonder. The Globe and Mail reports that "at the time of his death, Leimseider was preparing to formally inaugurate TONTO with its inventor, Malcolm Cecil, at the NMC's Bell Studio."
While living in Calgary, Leimseider played in a local Beatles tribute band and reunited yearly with Smoke, his high-school band. Source: The Globe and Mail
Otis Rush, the influential blues guitarist, died Sept. 29, aged 84, reportedly of complications from a stroke he suffered in 2003. A key figure on the Chicago blues scene in the '50s and '60s, Rush is considered an influence on the likes of Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, and Jimmy Page.
Born in Philadelphia, Mississippi, Rush settled in Chicago as an adult and began playing the local clubs, wearing a cowboy hat and sometimes playing his guitar upside down for effect. He catapulted to international fame in 1956 with his first recording on Cobra Records of "I Can’t Quit You Baby," which reached No 6 on the Billboard R&B charts.
He was a key architect of the Chicago “West Side Sound” in the 1950s and 1960s, which modernised traditional blues to introduce more of a jazzy, amplified sound. “He was one of the last great blues guitar heroes. He was an electric god,” Gregg Parker, CEO and a founder of the Chicago Blues Museum, told AP. He enjoyed strong followings in Europe and Japan, and frequently performed in Canada.
Rush was inducted into the Blues Foundation hall of fame in 1984 and won a Grammy for best traditional blues recording in 1999 for Any Place I’m Going. In one of his final appearances on stage at the Chicago blues festival in 2016, Rush was honoured by the city of Chicago. Sources: AP, Chicago Tribune
Marty Balin (born Martyn Buchwald), songwriter and singer in Jefferson Airplane, died, Sept. 27, aged 76.
That group helped create the San Francisco psychedelic rock revolution of the mid-60s, and in his role as co-founder of the city’s Matrix club, Balin gave valuable exposure to many other artists.
Balin recorded a couple of solo singles for the Challenge label in 1962, which were unsuccessful, despite featuring Barney Kessel and Glen Campbell on guitars. Balin then became lead vocalist with a folk group, the Town Criers, and in 1965 was briefly a member of the Gateway Singers.
He was a founding member of Jefferson Airplane in 1965. That group's second album, Surrealistic Pillow (1967), alerted the wider world to the creative San Francisco scene. While Balin did not write the album’s two hit singles, "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love," he did contribute "Today" and "Comin’ Back to Me," haunting songs indicative of his poetic, folk-influenced sensibility.
He wrote material for the band’s subsequent albums After Bathing at Baxter’s (1967) and Crown of Creation (1968), and co-wrote the anthemic title track of Volunteers (1969).
Balin’s sensitive tenor voice and knack for arresting melodies provided a valuable contrast to the group’s sometimes chaotic instrumental outpourings, which encompassed blues, rock and jazz styles. He left the Airplane in 1971, but later joined its new incarnation, Jefferson Starship, writing and singing the track "Caroline" from the album Dragon Fly (1974). He wrote and sang on several Jefferson Starship hits, notably" Miracles," a No 3 from the album Red Octopus (1975). Balin left the group in 1978 after recording the album Earth.
He co-wrote and produced the rock opera Rock Justice (1979), and pursued a solo career. He recorded 13 albums between 1981 and 2016. The first of these, Balin, was the most successful, reaching 35 on the US album chart. In 1985 he formed the KBC Band with Jack Casady and Paul Kantner, and in 1989 he was part of the Jefferson Airplane reunion album and tour.
He joined Kantner’s Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation project in 1993 and remained a member until 2003. In 1996 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Jefferson Airplane, and in 2016 he received a Grammy lifetime achievement award. Sources: The Guardian