Once again the Junos have come and gone and we think this year they got it right. The fans still love Michael Buble, the Arkells are still making great music, Kiesza is breaking through, Magic truly are magic, and Sam Smith is popular here. We are extremely please that Leonard Cohen received Album of the Year, which goes to show age truly doesn’t matter but talent tells it all!
Editor’s Note: In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th, we wanted to pay tribute to an amazing Canadian icon who has a great set of Irish/Scottish lungs – John McDermott.
John McDermott is a fascinating man - one who seems to have dropped in from another century. He’s outspoken, a politician, a musician, enterprising, spontaneous and always on the move. His life is a rigorous schedule.
The crown jewel of female Canadian county artists, Michelle Wright is shining as bright as ever. She has a new name for her fan club, The Wrighteous, along with a brand new single, ‘Laugh a Little’ now being released to radio. “It’s a very exciting time for me and I couldn’t be happier. There are a lot of good things going on and I have the best and most loyal fans in the world and calling them TheWrighteous just seemed to fit. I love them all so much and am so grateful they allow me to do what I love to do and appreciate and support me. They are Wrighteous.”Make no mistake Michelle Wright is not a legacy artist resting on her past hits but is always writing and recording new music. “I am so blessed to be in this business and love staying current with my music and feel better now than I have ever felt.”
Canada is well known for its great musicians, singers, songwriters, comedians and entertainers. George Bowser and Rick Blue, collectively known as Bowser and Blue, are each blessed with all five attributes. Each is musically talented, good vocally, write well crafted songs ,have comedic timing nonpareil and have entertained small intimate audiences as well as 5,000 seat venues. For over 35 years the duo has been crisscrossing the continent of North America with their unique brand of musical comedy and wry satirical wit and show no signs of slowing down.
Both George and Rick were born in England and both ended up in Montreal, Quebec where the duo was formed in 1978. George was born and raised in Sussex, England where he had a band called People Like Us with Roger Hodgson (Supertramp) and Bill Bruford ( King Crimson) and arrived Montreal in 1970. Rick was born in Liverpool, England, left when he was 8 months old (I didn’t have an accent yet)and took a more circuitous route to Montreal. He came by way of New Hampshire , Maine, New Jersey, Brooklyn ,Toronto ( I might have missed a few stops) and finally landed in Montreal. Once in Montreal each of them were in various bands and duos and solo acts performing in the vibrant Montreal club scene. Bowser made a couple of records and worked constantly; Blue did the same.
These are the lyrics from the first single release off the self-titled CD, Mimi. Mimi is sending out a message to be ‘Brave’ and be yourself and follow your dreams. A 21 year old singer/songwriter, with Native and French Canadian roots, the song ‘Brave’ is a testimonial to her own personal journey; with red dreadlocks and a retro sense of style, this young singer/songwriter is encouraging everyone to ‘just be yourself, don’t be afraid.’
Bravery is one of the more noble of human characteristics and comes in all different forms. Being brave can be fighting off an attacker, risking your life to save another or it can be as simple as facing a fear or phobia and staring it down. It can be fighting back against a bully, meeting cancer eye to eye and boldly facing the chemotherapy or pain involved. Being brave has no age limit, no colour barriers and no gender discrimination. We all have the “brave gene” if we so choose to believe it.
From the first enthusiastic sentence from this talented and beautiful artist, she lets you know she is grateful for it all. For her amazing husband (she jokingly says she did it backwards – she is an American who married a Canadian and moved here to be a wife and settle down.) She had no idea this is her musical journey would truly begin.
Heather Ballentine is a country girl right down to her roots. Born in the small town of Alma, Arkansas, she grew up around spinach farming and and a Dad who was Mayor for over 18 years. ‘Dad was a military man and really disciplined. He taught me to go after my dreams and pursue everything with a passion. To follow my dreams.’
Turns out her Dad was also the guy who influenced her with music. ‘Growing up on real country and western music and mixing in a little rock ‘n’ roll I loved listening to Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, The Everly Brothers, Elvis, Roy Orbison, Wanda Jackson, and Buddy Holly. I knew I wanted to play an instrument. My Dad used to always play in local bands so one night I picked up my Dad’s bass and held it – but it didn’t feel right but the other guy had a guitar. I picked it up and liked the feel of it right away. My Mom tried to get me to try piano but guitar just always felt right. I went on to learn mandolin as well. I actually wrote ‘Needle in a Haystack’ (co-written with Larry Bartley and Michael Peterson) on mandolin. I was blessed to learn my business sense from John Robert Ballentine – but I got my passion for music from him.
Cover Photo Credit: Bob Barry Submitted by Don Graham
There are certain names in the music business that when mentioned immediately bring to mind an image, a song, a story. The name Jimmy Webb conjures up all of the above. His songs are so much a part of the tapestry of the Americana fabric that ‘By The Time I Get to Phoenix’, ‘Galveston’, ‘Wichita Lineman’ and ‘MacArthur Park’ are already classics. ‘Up, Up and Away’, ‘Where’s The Playground Susie?’, ‘The Worst That Could Happen’, ‘Didn’t We’ are all up there as well. Jimmy Webb is right up there with the best, the Irving Berlins, Hoagy Carmichaels and Sammy Cahns.
Jimmy Webb was born in Oklahoma, moved to West Texas and ended up in Los Angeles, California where he arranged hymns for his Dad, a Baptist Minister's Church. “I listened to all the hits of the day, Elvis, Buddy and the Everly Brothers. I listened to the writing like Leiber and Stoller, who wrote those Elvis classics; Felice and Bouldeaux Bryant who wrote all the the Everly Brothers hits in the 50’s. Having a song recorded by the Everlys would be like having Elvis record one of my songs. And later on they did record a couple of my songs, ‘When Eddie Comes Home’ and ‘She Never Smiles Anymore’.
The nominations for the 2015 Junos were announced from The Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on January 27, 2015. Currently scheduled to perform on THE 2015 JUNO AWARDS are Hedley, MAGIC!, and Shawn Mendes, with additional talent announcements to be made in the coming weeks. THE 2015 JUNO AWARDS airs Sunday, March 15 on CTV and CTV GO from Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre.
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba to a large family, Jessie Tylre Williams grew up listening to her mom playing traditional country records like Hank Williams Sr. and later on the crystal clear sounds of Dolly Parton. “Dolly was a huge influence on me. I loved the way she sang and the songs she wrote. She was from a big family, grew up dirt poor and still managed to rise above it all. I was from a big family, 8 kids, and we didn’t have a lot. So I figured if she could do it, there was a chance for me.”
Jessie played her music for awhile but started a successful business and put the music aside, but only for while. “Once you have a calling there really is nothing else you can do. Nothing you do will feel right or have the passion than what you’re born to do in your soul. Music, singing, writing songs and helping people through my music is what I was put here to do. That’s why my mantra is “healing the world, one song at a time.” I know I can’t literally heal the world but I can shine a light for some folks. I always believe where there’s life there’s hope.” And shine JTW does. She is probably one of the hardest working people in country music when it comes to social media and internet radio promotion. And it’s paying off in spades.
Dick Damron is truly a Canadian treasure, one of the pioneers who mapped the road future acts would travel and wrote the book on Canadian country acts crossing borders. And although he has been a recording artist for 7 decades, recorded on vinyl, cassettes, 8 Tracks and CDs, Dick isn’t just lying in the sun in Mexico resting on his laurels and telling war stories of the past. He’s a busy boy. He has been working on another book, working title ‘Last Days of a Crazy Old Man in Mexico’ and when we talked last week from his home in Mazatlan, Mexico, I asked how it was coming along.