Music News Digest, Sept. 11, 2017

“Titanically,” the third single from Heather Rankin's self-titled debut solo album, co-written with David Tyson, was inspired by the 2013 auctioning of the violin played by Titanic bandleader Wallace Hartley as the famed ship was sinking.

The violin, in a music case, was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean, still strapped to Hartley's body, by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett Cable Ship. Hartley's body was taken to Halifax and then sent home to his family for burial, but his violin and case were sent directly to his fiancée, who had given the violin to Hartley, engraved with their names, as an engagement present.

As no record of the violin leaving Halifax was archived with later Titanic research, scholars and enthusiasts debated for decades about what happened to Hartley's violin, whether it went down with the Titanic, or was lost or stolen between Halifax and Liverpool. It wasn't until 2006 that the violin came to light when it was found in an attic in England. It went through a series of tests to authenticate it and was then auctioned off for $1.7M. It is the most expensive Titanic artifact to date. "Titanically" is told from the perspective of Hartley's violin, yearning to be returned to the man who loved and played it. The music video was directed by Thom Fitzgerald and is a fanciful exploration of the immortality of music, of the musician's spirit and the enduring stories surrounding the Titanic. The single is produced by Doug Pettigrew of Emotion Pictures.

— Singer-songwriter Kalsey Kulyk was named the winner of ole’s third annual on the spot competition, held during Canadian Country Music Week in Saskatoon on Saturday. The Hudson Bay native won a deal with artist development label red dot worth up to $40K. on the spot featured live performances from 10 finalists, plus last year’s winner, Maddison Krebs. To cap off her stellar weekend, Kulyk also earned the CCMA Discovery Award trophy.

—Near-perfect weather on the weekend helped make Hamilton's annual Supercrawl festival a roaring success. It was an all-Canadian lineup this year, and the Hamilton Spectator's music scribe Graham Rockingham informs us that the packed James Street was hopping on Saturday night for the likes of The Sheepdogs and Sam Roberts Band. We caught the fun on Sunday afternoon, enjoying sets by Harrow Fair, Andy Shauf, Thompson Wilson, and, in their first Supercrawl performance, Blackie and The Rodeo Kings.

Music Canada Live's third annual general meeting will be held on Sept. 18 at Velvet Underground in Toronto. It will feature a discussion on the intersection of content creation and the live music space with Vice Media’s Chief International Growth Officer, David Purdy. RSVP by Sept. 12 to 

— Canadian Jazz/pop singer, pianist and arranger Laila Biali is the host of the brand new CBC Radio 2 show, Saturday Night Jazz, which launched on Saturday evening. This Friday, Biali will make her debut appearance at Toronto's Kensington Market Jazz Festival, which was launched last year by fellow jazz singer Molly Johnson. Biali pays the Poetry Jazz Café,  joined by her longtime bassist, George Koller, and her husband, Ben Wittman, on drums.

— Three Indigenous recording acts from Manitoba have landed nominations for the Native American Music Awards (NAMA) and Indian Summer Music Awards (ISMA). The nominations for 17th annual NAMA gala, which takes place October 14 in New York State, includes country singer/songwriter Billy Simard and classical singer Rhonda Head, each with two nods. Earning three nominations for the ISMA was Indian City, cited in the pop, country and rock categories.

—Highly-regarded singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith makes his debut as an author this week, when Dundurn publishes his novel Deer Life on Sept. 16. The Toronto Star has just named it "one of 25 must-read books this fall." It quotes the author as suggesting "you suspend your disbelief for a while (it is a fairy tale after all) as I tell you a story of good and evil and bravery.”

—Sibling singer/songwriter country duo The Reklaws have just entered into a worldwide co-publishing and administration deal with independent music publishing and rights management company ole. Based in Cambridge, Ontario, The Reklaws won the 2012 CCMA Discover Program and the 2013 Boots and Hearts Emerging Artist Showcase. Their single, “Hometown Kids,” is currently climbing the Canadian country charts behind the upcoming release of their debut album. 


Don Williams, an award-winning country singer with a long string of hits, died Sept. 8, from emphysema, at age 78. Before retiring last year, Williams had 17 No. 1 country hits. Nicknamed 'the Gentle Giant," Williams had a mellow sound that influenced a later generation of singers. Keith Urban has said Williams drew him to country music. He was also popular overseas, touring in Europe and Africa and charting on British charts. Eric Clapton recorded his “We’re More Than Friends” and Pete Townshend covered Williams' “Til the Rivers All Run Dry.”

He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010. Earlier this year, he was the subject of a tribute album that included performances of his hits by Lady Antebellum, Garth Brooks, and Chris Stapleton. Before launching his solo career in 1971, Williams was a founding member of the Pozo Seco Singers.

Troy Gentry, one half of popular US country duo Montgomery Gentry, was killed in a helicopter crash in Medford, NJ, on Sept. 8. He was 50. The helicopter's pilot also died in the incident, but the reasons for the crash remain unclear. The country duo also featured Eddie Montgomery. Formed in 1999, they had released eight studio albums and notched five Number One songs.

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