As head of programming at Blues & Roots Radio I'm in a position, I think, that gives me a unique insight into the niche scene that the radio station is a part of, under the radar as far as mainstream music is concerned, just like many of the artists that are played on the many shows from across Canada on the daily schedule, from Roots, Blues, Celtic, Americana, Folk and much much more..
I have toiled with whether I should be a part of the new blogs on the website, would it be self serving ? Would it send out the wrong message ? Whatever that message may be.
Well it's here, and it's here because I feel that I have the opportunity to bring to your attention the many artists who I know about that you may not, and if that helps just one of them sell an album or it gets you to one of their shows to listen to them live then I figure it would be worthwhile to do this, it may also make you aware of the venues, small and large, that support independent artists as they travel across Canada, they are all as passionate about the artists as I am.
I will be all over the map, literally, from coast to coast to coast. Canada is a vast country with many diverse music scenes from city to city and province to province, I will write about what I know, and it's only a small part of what's out there, it will maybe help you discover some new music and artists along the way, I will cover new releases, emerging artists, established artists, festivals, venues and everything in between.
I hope you enjoy the read, if you find a new artist and go to their show, buy their music or merchandise, let them know where you discovered them, it all helps us to help them to help you.
I do have to state right from the onset that any views in these blogs are entirely my own and not necessarily the views of the station !
Lets get started !
Hello independent music lovers everywhere !
I am from Scotland, live in Port Credit, Ontario in Canada which is a part of Toronto's GTA and I love music .... I travel..... a lot, and I try and get out to as many performances as I can, but Canada being the size it is I can't get to every gig or venue, so if you have a particular favourite venue or festival that you think is worth a mention let me know by sending a mail to me, I'd be happy to research it and give it a mention in future blogs.
I am going to start with one or two of my favourite local venues, move on to festivals coming up from near and far and then mention a couple of artists both established and emerging with news on albums just released or coming out, Whatever I don't have a chance to mention I will try and cover in future musings.
My Local Venues
My local haunts for performances have to meet a strict criteria, they have to be listening rooms, where artists are given the respect from the audience for the works that they are presenting, there is nothing worse for me to be in a room where the voices get louder because the music has started, it becomes unbearable, I feel for any artist who has to stand in a venue underneath a TV screen while hockey night in Canada is on.
The Moonshine Cafe
I have been witness to some of the finest performers in Canada appearing at The Moonshine Cafe, this venue ( Capacity 60 ) has played host to artists such as the legendary Ron Hynes to Stephen Fearing, Gary King, Dave Gunning, Paul Reddick and the list goes on, it's a stones throw - well not quite - from my home. Situated in Oakville, Ontario The Moonshine Cafe is one of the best listening rooms in the province of Ontario if not Canada. Having been established over ten years ago by John and Jane and their welcoming statement says it all.
" We support, encourage and promote artists by providing a welcoming venue for the accomplished performer, the beginner and those who are "somewhere in between" to perform or showcase their art in a comfortable atmosphere. WE INSIST that performer's are treated respectfully during performances. This essentially means being quiet during the show. WE HAVE WORKED HARD to build a reputation as being one of the finest small venues in the country. WE GUARD that reputation jealously."
I like that !!!
Recently I saw Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar try out new material for her upcoming release as well as slay the audience with old favourites, ( She has just been down to Nashville to write with Colin Linden for the new album ), I also took in the launch of Lynne Hanson's new CD ' Uneven Ground ' which was featured as an album of the week on Blues and Roots Radio before she headed to Europe on a very successful six week tour.
The Moonshine - and I like the name too - is host to some great shows every night of the week, of note in June are The Sisters Euclid featuring Kevin Breit, The Beat Heathens featuring Steve Marriner ( MonkeyJunk ) and Mark Lalama is playing there too, see what I told you, wall to wall great independent music.
Stick Wednesday, September 13th in your dairy, I'll tell you why a little further down the column !
You can find out more from their website.
The Dakota Tavern
Toronto is awash with brilliant venues from The Horsehoe Tavern, The Great Hall, Massey Hall, Cameron House, the new Hugh's Room Live Venue and the countless great places on The Danforth or indeed any of the districts from the Distillery area to Roncevalles and beyond out into the GTA.
The Dakota Tavern has to be one of my favourites for the calibre of musicians that play there to the atmosphere that is very unique, situated on Ossington Avenue you descend steep stairs to a wondrous cavern with awesome music loving staff, an intimate atmosphere and depending on the night, any number of cool bands and artists from a varying genre and scene .... and Toronto is not short of scenes, it is where all transient musicians seem to end up at some point in their career.
June sees Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar, Derek Downham & The Beauties, David Essig, Leeroy Stagger with Dan Taylor and more, Sunday brunch is an event in itself with bluegrass delights for the afternoon.
Something of particular interest to me - because I am involved in it - is Four Chords and The Truth on Thursday June 29th, hosted by multi award winning Andrea England the songwriters series features a who's who of the Canadian music scene across a broad spectrum of genres, it's been a sell out for every show, quarterly, since 2015, well worth buying a ticket for. Featuring songwriters in the semi-round confessing all about their songs which they then perform.
Four Chords And The Truth - Songwriters In The Semi-Round
Your Local Venues
There are many venues I don't know about I am sure, drop me a line and let me know, I'd be happy to spread the word but don't have the space to mention all at once, so be patient with me, we've only just started on this journey together !
Festivals In June
Some festivals in Canada in the month of June
Paisley Blues Festival - Paisley, ON - June 2 - 4
Sound Of Music Festival - Burlington, ON - June 10 - 18
Festival Folk Sur Le Canal - Montreal, QC - June 14 - 18
Beaumont Blues & Roots Festival - Beaumont. AB - June 16 - 18
NXNE - Toronto, ON - June 23 - 25
Ottawa Jazz Festival - Ottawa,ON - June 22 - July 2
Montreal Jazz Festival - Montreal, QC - June 28 - July 8
Ian Foster - Sleeper Years
Ian is a personal favourite from the East Coast of Canada, he fits right into the mould of songwriting troubadours who are in abundance in the maritime region, he in my mind is right up there with Dave Gunning, Amelia Curran, Ashley Condon just naming a few, Ian was very much respected by and carries the mantle in Newfoundland in my opinion of the late great Ron Hynes, of which a tribute song is contained on this release, and it's a special one.
Ian's new release came out a few weeks ago and he has been supporting it with a tour of Ontario, if you get the chance to see him you must go, he is a fabulous and witty storyteller as well as being a very gifted writer and performer.
Mike Biggar - Go All In
Mike has been on the scene in New Brunswick and beyond for a while but his latest release ' Go All In ' is a seriously brilliant album, it has it all, soaring vocals, top class musicians ( Charlie A'Court, Chris Kirby ) and the songs each and everyone are stand out.
He has just completed his first tour of Newfoundland to much acclaim which was on the back of his first sojourn through Ontario, I said earlier to keep a date in your diary free because Mike will return to Ontario in September and one of the dates will be at The Moonshine Cafe, Wednesday September 13th. It's the first time he will play the venue and with only 60 seats available I would book my ticket early for what promises to be a knock out debut.
Harrison Kennedy - Who U Tellin' ?
The release of a new album on Toronto based Electro-Fi Records can mean only one thing for Hamilton based Juno Award winner Harrison .... more awards ! The man has class stamped all over him and whatever he does is more than fine with me.
Harrison is a Canadian blues, R&B, soul singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He is best known for being the lead vocalist on the Chairmen of the Board song, "Chairman of the Board", but has had a varied solo career since the mid-1970s. He was awarded the 2016 “ Blues Album of the Year ” Juno Award for his release, This Is From Here.
Artists To Watch For
A couple of releases I recommend you get a hold of
Mike McKenna Jr - Pacific Northwest Bound
Originally from Cape Breton now living in Montreal, Mike has travelled far and wide with interesting stories from China to Australia, and across Canada and into the USA, he is an extremely talented new to me songwriter and storyteller through song, his new release is fabulous. He is also a very funny and genuine guy, i spent my birthday last year with Mike, photographer Randy MacNeil ( A fellow Cape Bretoner ), Craig Mills, and Anne Connor where I got an insight into the concept of the album ( Over a few beers ), it truly is a wonderful production.
Mike has said that if he never makes another album he will be content that he made this one.
The Durham County Poets - Grimshaw Road
A very cool bunch and extremely talented, I met them a couple of years ago and was impressed by their live performances and enthusiasm for the blues and roots music they so eloquently deliver, their new release is superb
The band are from the Chateauguay valley located in Quebec, Canada. Their influences are varied, from blues to folk, from jazz to ragtime, with elements of the Band and even James Taylor.
It's this weeks Blues & Roots Radio Album Of The Week.
A Diverse Nation
Diverse in culture, diverse in music, as we near the July 1st Canada Day celebrations I will be highlighting the many artists whose cultures have been here for many more years than 150, whether they be First Nations, French Canadian, Irish, Scots, English, Asian, Caribbean or African descent, they all have a huge impact on the musical landscape that enriches the nation.
There is a whole lot more I could / should share if I had the time and space, for now I will leave you with this blog as an example of what lies ahead. If you have the inkling click the share button below for Facebook and Twitter and spread the word, come back again, send me suggestions of venues or festivals near you worth mentioning.
Thanks for putting up with my ramblings and until next time I hope to see you along the musical road we all travel.