Concert promoters like to talk about the “concert experience” and “audience engagement” and Toronto impresario Jeffrey Latimer -- manager to Canada’s Three Tenors – can honestly say he’s offering this to audiences in spades with his second annual summer series at the famed Casa Loma castle built on love by Sir Henry Pellatt for his bride Mary Dodgeson. The Monday night shindigs are headlined by the silky smooth Sean Jones with an all-star seven-piece band and they unwind a kit bag of rhythm and blues and pop chart song standards in an outdoor surrounding that is second to none in the city. Tents are available in case of rain, and the white linen table service pumps up revenues for the events that get one in the door for a modest $25, with a buck from each ticket sold donated to the Kids Help Phone counselling service.
Latimer’s secret sauce for these events is to have two surprise guests each Monday night, one established and one an act he’s championing. They each perform two songs: an original and one the audience can instantly recognize and, the night I was there, get up and dance to. Last year’s surprise guests included Johnny Reid, Alan Frew and Divine Brown. Latimer has also lined up a tony cluster of big-ticket sponsors including BMO and Nordstrom which help up the presentation with ultra high-end big screens set amongst the greenery, and top notch audio. The next Soul in the City starring Sean Jones takes place this coming Monday, July 18. The venue can accommodate seating up to 1,000.
-- The red hot album of the week goes to Afraid of Heights, the latest Billy Talent LP that shipped to radio yesterday afternoon and has its commercial release on the 29th of this month. It’s the Canadian band’s first since 2012’s Dead Silence, a Juno contender that racked up a string of hits that included “Surprise Surprise” and “Viking Death March”. BT opens the Guns N’ Roses show at Rogers Centre in T.O. this Saturday. After that it’s a couple of festival dates in Quebec…and then, quite literally, the world: Australia, Japan, US, UK, and Europe with Warsaw the final date of the 2016 leg on Dec. 13.
-- Indigenous roots rock ensemble Digging Roots has fired back against gun violence in the US that is making global headlines, and leading to a growing number of demonstrations across the urban landscape to the south of us. “I think we can use the word ‘epidemic’ when it comes to gun violence in society today,” says singer ShoShona Kish whose powerful and inspirational new video “AK-47” calls for an end to violence and oppression through love and understanding. The track is taken from the For the Light album. The duo, comprised of Raven Kanetakta and wife ShoShona Kish, is currently on tour, playing festivals in western Canada, Quebec and the Northwest Territories.
-- Promoter Jeff Parry has just announced a 12-show, eight-city run for A Night with Janis Joplin that opens with a two-night run in Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Sept. 26-27 and includes three nights at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, Oct. 14-16. The lead has not been named yet. Red Umbrella is handling PR.
-- Two of Canada’s rising young female artists are pairing up for a North American Know It All tour this fall. Pop singer Alessia Cara and newcomer Ruth B plan to hit the road for a 22-city tour starting in late September. The duo will wind through the US starting on Sept. 29 before playing their two final shows in Montreal on Nov. 1 and Toronto on Nov. 2. Dates on the tour include a stop at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. Cara’s big hit is “Here” and Ruth B has recently had a top 30 hit with “Lost Boy”.
-- Call it the Wonder-ful power of Stevie. Earlier this week we quoted the soulful superstar’s eloquent words on the issue of Black Lives Matter. Yesterday, his lyrics were used to lighten the mood at the funeral service for the five slain cops in Dallas. That city’s very impressive black Police Chief David Brown recalled that he would quote Stevie Wonder lyrics to impress girls he fancied. He quoted such lines as “I’ll be loving you until the rainbow burns the stars out of the sky” to stress how much love he has for his fallen officers. In response, President Barack Obama joked that “I’m glad I met Michelle before he did, ‘cos she loves Stevie Wonder!” A nice bit of levity at a sombre occasion (KD).
-- -- Congrats to Canada’s polka king and three-time Grammy winner Walter Ostanek on wining a million-dollar home in a London, ON hospital lottery. The octogenarian is going for the cash instead and staying put in St. Catharines. He was gearing up for his second set of the day at Marineland in Niagara Falls when he heard the news earlier this week.
-- Joel Gibb’s successful Canadian indie pop band The Hidden Cameras has teamed up with Outside Music to release Home on Native Land, a project of epic proportion that includes Mary Margaret O'Hara, Rufus Wainwright, Feist, Bahamas, Ron Sexsmith, Neil Tennant and long-time collaborator and producer Don Kerr. The album comes out in the fall; meantime here’s a link to hear the advance single – “Day I Left Home” -- and it’s not at all what one might expect.
-- A Tribe Called Red’s next LP is We Are Halluci Nation and it’s set for release on Sept. 16 via Pirates Blend. Guesting on it are Yasiin Bey, better known as Mos Def; Tanya Tagaq, native American author, poet, actor, musician, and political activist John Trudell; Shad; and Black Bear (aka Matthew Musto). Currently on tour, upcoming dates include Way Home Festival, Halifax’s Marquee Ballroom, and the PNE. Here’s the title track.
Loud Hailer is the title of Jeff Beck’s new album that comes out this Friday. Judging from the title track, classic rock FM will be winging for an edit. UK-based Bones front singer Rosie Bones is front and centre on the album’s title track. The two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer explains the title: “I really wanted to make a statement about some of the nasty things I see going on in the world today, and I loved the idea of being at a rally and using this loud device to shout my point of view.”
-- Ottawa teen Michelle Treacy took the music world by surprise two years ago with an impromptu concert duet with Lady Gaga in Montreal, and now she has just released her first major label single via Sony. “Armageddon” is produced and co-written with fellow Canadian studio stars’ Todd Clark and Stephen Kozmeniuk. Both have worked with acts such as Phillip Phillips and Kendrick Lamar prior to teaming up working with Treacy.
-- BreakOut West will be held in Regina, Oct. 13-16. Yesterday the annual announced its host and the performance lineup for the 2016 Western Canadian Music Awards, set for Casino Regina on October 13. The host will be young country star Brett Kissel, and he’ll also perform, alongside headliner Colin James, David Morin, Diyet, Justin Lacroix. Lexi Strate, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, Rosie and the Riveters, and William Prince.
-- The Hayloft Dancehall venue in rural Prince Edward County launched last summer, to great success. The rustic barn is attracting some big names this season too. Hey Rosetta! and Charlotte Cornfield played last night, with Canrock veterans 54-40 set for Thursday. A Sadies show on Aug. 5 promises to be another highlight.
--Applications for music and industry award nominations for the 2016 Music Nova Scotia Awards will be accepted at Music Nova Scotia until Wednesday, August 3 at 5:00 p.m. ADT. To submit an application for an award nomination for any category, visit: nsmw.ca