Cover Story

Michelle Wright Answers the Call of the Hall!

Cover July 1, 2011

By Don Graham

Canada's country songbird and ambassador of all things good about Canadian entertainers, is poised to receive one of Canadian country music's highest honour. Michelle Wright will be inducted at the Gala Industry Event on Sun Sept 11 at the Hamilton Convention Centre into the CCMA Hall of Fame. On this historical occasion at the Canadian Country Music Association's annual event,  Michelle Wright will take her rightful place in Canadian music history.

In 1985, while performing in a Hamilton bar, Michelle was discovered by producer Brian Ferriman. Ferriman was so impressed with her deep alto voice that the pair signed a recording and management deal that has lasted 25 years, and now it is fitting that Hamilton is the place where she will be bestowed with this prestigious honour in the country music scene.

Speaking with Michelle from her home outside of Nashville, I could sense how centered and content she is with her life right now and how happy she is with the direction she has taken. Her reaction to the induction was simple and direct, "I don't think the reality of it will hit  me until the induction but it is truly an honour to be included in the list of such people and musical icons of Canadian talent."

Are you Friends Of Jack? You will be after you’ve heard them

Cover June 24, 2011

Story: Lenny Stoute

They got oil underneath their fingernails
and a country song in their heart
and the men of Friends Of Jack
don’t give a flying fart
First time I ever heard of Friends Of Jack was through a photographer friend lives on Brine Street and known to hoist a few on St. John’s totally rockin’ George Street. He’s the source of the rhyme above, which he swears was chalked on the wall of a popular leaking spot in an alley off George.

Paul John who sings and plays guitar with Friends Of Jack says the story just might be true, given the band’s large and loud following in St.John’s.

The group initially formed in St.Alban’s Newfoundland, hometown for core members and brothers Daryl and Chad and cousin Paul, all last named John. Within the kitchen parties of that small community the siblings cut their musical teeth with lots of help from family members.
: You could say it’s in the blood”, says Paul, “ I grew up with my dad and uncle playing guitar in bands. I was kind of a late starter and when I started I was more into rock”.

Aaron Pritchett – Finally ‘In the Driver’s Seat’

Cover June 17, 2011

By Sandy Graham

Take a combination of humble and driven, then put those two characteristics together and you have Aaron Pritchett. Add in talented, handsome, great songwriter and a focused artist and you have the whole package for success. The combination of all of this, and the fact that Aaron Pritchett is completely in charge of his destiny at the moment makes the title of his new CD ‘In The Driver’s Seat’ make perfect sense. For the first time in Aaron’s career, he is calling the shots and making sure the fans get what they want.

I had the pleasure of chatting with this artist, and can honestly say it was such a wonderful conversation, it reminded me once again why I am in this business in the first place – it is all about the music.

“I didn’t start out as a country music fan. I was a rocker. My really early influences were the rock ‘n’ roll legends my parents used to play. Elvis, Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Van Morrison, and one of my all time favourites, James Brown. I ‘graduated’ to rock in the 1980’s; the first record I bought was Loverboy, and I was heavily influenced by Canadian acts back then, especially Bryan Adams. (Pritchett’s new single ‘DRIVE’ was co-written by  Bryan Adams and British writer Phil Thornalley). I also loved Def Lepperd, AC/DC, bands like that;  they were all a big part of the rockier licks I use in my songs today. I grew to love country music because of the lyrics, the songs are all about true life experiences.”

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings-Send In The Queens

Cover June 10, 2011

Story:Lenny Stoute

A Time Zone mix-up has me calling the Man In The Black Fedora an hour early but Colin Linden is all graciousness in putting aside whatever he was into for a talk.

The Southern gentleman thing suits Linden like a well-worn pair of Levis. Not only has he been resident in Nashville going on 14 years but throughout the conversation, Linden heaps praise on all concerned in the making of the band's new album, Kings and Queens. It's not a false humility rather a genuine enthusiasm for making music.

"We still go at it strictly for the love of the song. It's never about what a song can do for us. It's always about how we can best serve the song, show it off at its best."

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings owes its genesis to this core idea. The band formed as a one-of vehicle to record an album, High Or Hurtin', The Songs of Willie P. Bennett, in celebration of the work of this unsung roots music hero. This was in 1996 and 15 years and six albums later, it's still about the songs.

Kings and Queens drops June 14 and threatens to propel the band into the serious spotlight. This lurks in the wings as the album features collaborations with some of the finest female singer/songwriters currently trodding the boards, among them Rosanne Cash, Lucinda Williams, Patti Scialfa, Holly Cole and Serena Ryder.

Dawson Reigns- Asks that you fasten your seatbelts and Enjoy The Ride

Cover June 3, 2011

Story:Lenny Stoute

Dawson Reigns. Is not the name of a shy guy. And who gets ahead in the music biz on shy? Especially when you're coming outa Cambridge, not exactly the centre of the media music universe. So how's a boy who won't wear a meat dress get noticed? Getting a wicked-sounding countrified new name is a good start.

" I wanted something that would make me stand out," explains the amiable singer from his Cambridge home. "We got the Dawson part first and then we tossed around words, looking for some kind of sound and then settled on 'Reigns'. It just sounded right and that's been my name for the last six years". The name change was in conjunction with the birth of Dawson Reigns the artist, marking the transition from cover band star to weaver of his own particular dreams.

" Playing in a cover band, you have to be able to play a lot of different songs. I knew all along I wanted my own voice to be heard, that I wanted to sing my own songs. It was good for me; the two years of playing covers helped me focus on arriving at my own sound. I have it now; it's the sound you hear on (debut album) Enjoy the Ride."

'Paper Promises'-The Larry Harvey Documentary. A Promise Kept

Cover May 27, 2011

Story: Sandy Graham

Speaking on the telephone with Larry Harvey, you can actually picture the 'twinkle' in his eye when he recounts his life of love, music and family. Although over 80, his voice is young, vibrant and most of all excited about the future.

'I was born in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland but my Mom and Dad moved to Carmanville (about 45 minutes away from Cornerbrook) and that is where I grew up. Nashville reminds me of Carmanville; with all the hills you have to run up and down to get places. The main street in Nashville, which is Broadway, looks like an East Coast town, going up and down the street and visiting Ernest Tubbs Record Store. It hasn't changed in decades and neither has Carmanville. I used to sing in church with my Granddaddy; the South is the same with those traditions.'

Harvey returned to Nashville, over fifty years later to achieve his personal dream of playing The Ryman Theatre, a legendary venue whose stage has been graced by a roster of greats which would read like a Country Music Award Ceremony. This is where the story of "Paper Promises" really begins, as Larry's son Shane decided to give Dad a very special Birthday present. Shane Harvey, Larry's youngest child, had this idea that at the age of 80, his Dad could sing and play again. Somewhere, somehow.

Father and son started rehearsing, and it sounded pretty good. They visited one of Larry's old haunts, just to say that Larry had hit the stage again and the sound kept getting better and better.

Stony Plain Marks its 35th Anniversary with CD/DVD Collection

Cover May 20, 2011

By Sandy Graham

Stony Plain Records is a major Canadian independent record label, which specializes in roots music genres such as country, folk and blues

In 1976, Holger Petersen along with partner Alvin Jahns, launched ‘the little label that could’, and despite all odds in this fickle business of music, they have made a success of it. Now 35 years later, it doesn’t look like Petersen plans to slow down at all. He also hosts the weekly series, ‘Saturday Night Blues’ on CBC Radio, a well-listened to and well-rated radio show, as well ‘Natch’l Blues in on the CKUA Radio Network in Alberta  and also os programming the ever popular GALAXIE Blues Time channel  on Satellite Television.

Victoria Banks-The Write Gal For Country

Cover May 13, 2011

Story: Lenny Stoute

Easing through Monday morning Nashville traffic on the way to work, Victoria Banks is breaking all manner of laws talking on her car phone. The fast-rising Ontario native is currently working nine to five like a Dolly Parton song in a large corporate office. Song writing office, that is, hoedown tunes and hurtin’ croons. Written down in the service of a major publishing house in the country music capital. It’s the kind of gig many a hustling songwriter would give someone else’s right arm for.

"Writing songs every day with the best in the business, with the best in recording and production studios right there, yes, it’s pretty incredible.

"I’d never imagined myself a big performer, it was always about the writing, the stories. I was already at that stage where songs were coming through at the most inconvenient times. I was driven, couldn’t rest until I wrote them down. Couldn’t stop until it was finished.

"Each song presents itself differently, Some just arrive and are the ones you get down quickest, others you sometimes fiddle with for years and still have that nagging feeling it isn’t finished and keep going back to it. Down here they have a saying about songs; it works or it’s work.

"A song’s finished when all of the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. That can happen all at once or it can happen over time. Even when you’re not particularly tailoring a song for a specific artist, songs will come through that you know aren’t for you. 

Burton Cummings-Still Not Phoning It In.

Cover May 6, 2011

Story:Lenny Stoute

It’s not often an Order of Canada medal winner phones up to apologise for something that had nothing to do with him. Ok, never before. Especially when you consider this particular OC winner has sold millions of albums around the world and is responsible for penning such classic singles as ‘These Eyes’ and ‘American Woman’ and really doesn’t need the pixels.

Still and all, this little incident says loads about the class of the artist, the Order of Canada and the gracious Canadian-ness of it all. 

What followed was a 17-minute, information packed, down-home and open talk with Burton Cummings. Loosely structured around the upcoming tour, Cummings is such an enthusiastic wealth of information the digressions are often as much fun as the structured bits. Kinda like jazz. Which, like r’n’b was an influence on the very young Cummings.

“  When I was a kid, it didn’t get any whiter than growing up in Winnipeg. So I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to like black people. When I heard all this great music on the radio, black or white wasn’t an issue. I was into the sounds, the voices; when I heard Sam Cooke sing I can’t recall even thinking about what colour he was”.

For a taste of jazz influence on the later Cummings, check the flute solo on ‘Undun’. The Sam Cooke vibe surfaces on what many Aficionados rate as Cumming’s sweetest soul vocal, a relatively obscure track called ‘Broken”. 

Country Music of Ontario Host 1st Open Mic in Toronto

Cover April 29, 2011

By Sandy Graham

CMOA PHOTO Gallery here: cmao-open-mic-pics

In 1976, during an RPM Magazine function, The Academy of Country Music Entertainment was founded which would include the founding of Country Music Week. The very first awards for Canada were called the RPM Big Country Awards, and by 1982 the Association inaugurated its very own Canadian Country Music Awards. By 1986-1987, the Association’s name was officially changed to the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA).

With a successful business model to follow, it was a natural progression that there would be an Association that would now develop and nurture the growing number of country music artists that are situated in Ontario.  The Country Music Association of Ontario (CMAO) is an undertaking by a number of energetic individuals in the country music industry in Ontario. The goal of the Country Music Association of Ontario is to foster and support the growth and development of Country Music in Ontario, as well as its artists - singers - songwriters - musicians - bands – to promote the same to Canada and the World. When we speak of country music, we speak of its subs as well, such as folk, alternative, bluegrass, roots and Canadiana. 

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