Music News Digest, June 12, 2017

WILD 953 and Alberta Music have announced this year's Top 12 Artists for Project WILD, a professional development program designed to educate, promote, develop and launch the careers of some of Alberta's up and coming country and roots artists. The 2017 Top 12 artists, in alphabetical order, are:

Andrea Nixon (Edmonton)
Brad Saunders (Calgary)
Charlie James (Calgary)
Dustin Farr (Olds)
Karac Hendriks (Sherwood Park)
Lucas Chaisson (Edmonton)
Lucette (Edmonton)
Mark Times (Parkland County)
Mikaila Cooper (Calgary)
Nice Horse (Calgary)
Ryan Langlois (Red Deer)
Tanya Ryan (Okotoks)

Each of the Top 12 Artists will make their debut with Project WILD at Knoxvilles on June 25th, then play a series of showcase events running through to the November 2017 finale.

Adminstered by Alberta Music and funded through WILD 953, Project WILD is part of a seven year, $4.9 million program, designed to kick-start the international music careers of emerging Alberta artists annually. Prizes this year for the Alberta Project include a $100,953 top prize, $75K second prize, $50K third prize, as well as a $5K Development award given to each Top 12 artist. Last year's inaugural winners were The Dungarees.

— As frontperson of Metric and a long-time member of the Broken Social Scene collective, Emily Haines has attained Canadian indie-rock stardom. Her ctitically-lauded 2006 solo album Knives Don't Have Your Back showcased her more adventurous side, as will her upcoming full-length solo record, Choir of the Mind, due out on Last Gang Records/eOne on Sept. 15. The album, released under the name Emily Haines and The Soft Skeleton, was co-produced by Haines and her longtime Metric band mate Jimmy Shaw.

A press release notes that "Emily continues to grapple with some of the harder-edged life subjects on her new LP; life, loss and being a woman in the world." The debut single, "Fatal Gift." is now out. Of note: Haines is the daughter of a famed Canadian poet, the late Paul Haines, and is the sister of TV journalist Avery Haines.

— Last night (June 11), Hugh's Room Live hosted a sold-out concert honouring Toronto jazz guitar hero Ed Bickert. The occasion served as the launch party of Edification, a tribute recording featuring all-star trios led by top local guitarists Rob Piltch, Reg Schwager, and Lorne Lofsky. All three trios performed at HRL.

The project is produced by João Carvalho and Al Gorman, and all involved donated their time and services. As per Bickert's wishes, all proceeds from album sales are going to The MS Society of Canada, in honour of his late wife, Madeline. It is released on Cornerstone Records.

Long retired, Bickert appeared on the world stage with Paul Desmond and Milt Jackson, and was an integral member of the Boss Brass and the Moe Koffman Quintet. As a leader, he won two Junos and was named to the Order of Canada in 1996. Read a 2012 homage to Bickert here

Allison Lynch is playing a show on June 15 at the Festival Hall in Calgary to mark the release of Skin & Flame, her debut album. The Calgarian is well-known locally as an accomplished actor, having won three Betty Mitchell Awards for her performances.  Lynch made a splash in 2015 with her "bad-ass" depiction of the heroine in The Shakespeare Company's production of Romeo and Juliet .

She fronts the Allison Lynch Quartet and recently told The Calgary Herald's  Louis B. Hobson that “it just seemed like the right time to make an album. “I have all the songs and a great band so there really was nothing stopping me." The record mixes standards and originals, and is described by Lynch as "a jazz, folk and pop mash up." Legendary trumpeter Al Muirhead guests.

— Songwriter Jenson Vaughan recently received a SOCAN No. 1 Song award for co-writing High Valley’s double-chart-topping song “I Be U Be” with band member Brad Rempel. The song – published by Ultra Music Publishing Canada and Sony/ATV Music Publishing Canada – scaled the peaks of both the Nielsen BDS Country Chart and the CMT Canada Countdown in May. 

The Dartmouth-raised, Toronto-based Vaughan has written for and/or collaborated with the likes of Madonna, Snoop Dogg, Kelly Rowland, Britney Spears, and JRDN.


Nigel Grainge, founder of Ensign Records, on June 11, after complications from a recent surgery. Age 70. Grainge began his career in the record industry at Phonogram UK in 1970, working as their head of A&R from 1974 to 1976, with signings including Thin Lizzy and 10cc. He left to form Ensign Records, in independent label supported by Phonogram. Ensign scored hits with The Boomtown Rats, Flash and the Pan, Eddy Grant, Light of the World, and more. Grainge sold the company to Chrysalis Records in 1984, but continued to run it until the early 1990s. During this period, the label's roster included Sinéad O'Connor (their most successful act), The Waterboys, World Party, and the Blue Aeroplanes. After EMI acquired Chrysalis Records in 1991, Grainge left the company.

He relocated to Santa Monica, California, in 2002. He co-founded the soon to be launched cultural search-engine TunesMap, and worked as Special Advisor on the HBO drama series Vinyl. Grainge is the older brother of Sir Lucian Grainge, the chairman and chief executive officer of Universal Music Group

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