Dallas Smith and Billy Ray Cyrus   Photo: Global
Dallas Smith and Billy Ray Cyrus Photo: Global

Music News Digest, Aug. 7, 2019

Drake dominated the showbiz news in his hometown over the holiday weekend. It began with the surprise release of Care Package, a new compilation of 17 tracks serving as the official release on streaming services for many previously leaked songs, or singles that he released on SoundCloud or blogs. The 'package' was timed to kick off his OVO Fest weekend in Toronto. In the Toronto Star, Raju Mudhar offers a track by track look at the comp.

Drizzy then took centre stage on the final night of OVO at Budweiser Amphitheatre on Aug. 5. His shows at the shed are typically star-studded, and this one was no exception. Those taking guest turns included Cardi B, Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Offset, Chris Brown, and Tyga. Here are show reviews from The Star and Variety

Dallas Smith and Billy Ray Cyrus are co-hosting the  2019 CCMA Awards presented by TD. Smith, the first and only Canadian country artist in the Nielsen BDS era to have seven #1 singles, is nominated for four 2019 CCMA Awards (Apple Music Fans’ Choice, Male Artist of the Year, FORD Album of the Year, Entertainer of the Year).

The Awards air live on Global from Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome on Sept. 8 at 9 pm. Global has also extended its broadcast to stream on Twitter and broadcast live on Corus radio stations Country 105 (Calgary), CISN Country 103.9 (Edmonton), and Country 104 (London/Woodstock). Show tix are available at ticketmaster.ca. For each ticket sold, $1 will go directly to the MusicCounts.

– Last weekend's edition of the Sawdust City Music Festival in Gravenhurst, ON, was reportedly the most successful yet. It was also the last under that name, as fest creator Miranda Mulholland has announced a rebrand for 2020. Now called the Muskoka Music Festival, it will run July 31 to Aug. 2 next year.

– Creative renaissance man (and regular FYI contributor) Bill King remains typically busy on many fronts. On the heels of another successful Toronto Beaches International Jazz Festival he curated comes news that his photographic skills are being showcased in the new (Aug/Sept) issue of famed magazine Photo Life. The lavish spread includes an interview and reproductions of King's stellar work. 

On the recording front, King and his ace ensemble Rhythm Express continues its mission of shining a spotlight on reggae veterans now living in Toronto. The first in the series was done in 2015 with the godfather of ska, Ernest Ranglin, for Side Door Records, and this new offering features famed lovers rock vocal trio The Mighty Mystics

– The federal government has announced that, through Western Economic Diversification Canada, it is funding several Manitoba-based projects, including Music Manitoba's Indigenous and Francophone music business development programs. MM reports that "this investment allows us to offer new programming to increase the business capacity of Indigenous and Francophone music entrepreneurs, bolster industry activity, and support artists and music companies from across Western Canada as they reach beyond borders."

– Pop troubadour Ed Sheeran is about to achieve a major feat. The singer-songwriter's Divide tour will be officially the biggest, most attended and highest-grossing of all time when he plays in Germany soon. BBC reports that "the tour began on March 2017 and will culminate at Chantry Park in Sheeran's local town Ipswich later this month. By the time the finale comes around, he will have spent 893 days on the road, compared to the 760 days [previous record-holder] U2 toured."

"According to trade publication Pollstar, the Divide tour's final show tally is 255 compared with U2's 100 dates on their 360 Tour. Sheeran also surpassed U2's tour attendance record of 7.3 million with a gig in France in May. The volume of Divide shows was the key to breaking the record despite Sheeran's lower average of 34,541 per show, nearly half of U2's 66,091."

– kd lang has been touring the UK, reprising her classic 1992 album Ingenue, and earning unanimous rave reviews in the process. Despite that, she's musing about retirement. In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Front Row recently, she stated "I'm not feeling any particular urge to make music right now. The muse is eluding me. I am completely at peace with the fact that I may be done."

– The Toronto Canadian Entertainment Charity Golf Classic in support of Unison Benevolent Fund took place on July 30. Over 200 players gathered at Lionhead Golf Club and Conference Centre to raise funds for Unison in support of the Canadian music community. The tournament raised $100,000 for the charity’s efforts providing emergency financial assistance and counselling & health solutions to Canadian music professionals. Those who missed the event, but would still like to support can sign up for the Montreal Golf Tournament on Sept. 24. The tournament will take place at Club de Golf Le Mirage, owned by Celine Dion. For sponsorship opportunities and to register for the tournament, visit here

– Bassist/singer/composer Brandi Disterheft will headline the Aug. 18 lineup of the 2019 TD Markham Jazz Festival. The fest-closing show is free.

– MusicNL is offering a travel subsidy (up to a maximum of 50%) to all its members who attended ECMW 2019 in Charlottetown, PEI. The deadline to apply is Aug. 23. More info here

– Toronto band Eden Warsaw has released a debut full-length album, Calm the Coast, produced by Juno-winning engineer Carmon Barry and mastered by Grammy-nominee João Carvalho. Here's the focus track The Sunrise.

– A tribute /Celebration of Life service for Freddie Keeler is set for on Saturday, Aug. 10 at 2 pm at The Bridge - A Church for All Nations, 477 Kingston Road, Pickering, ON. The guitar great passed away on July 14.

RIP 

Charles F. P "Skip" Beckwith, Nova Scotian bassist, arranger, composer, and producer, died on July 31, at age 79.

In his teens, he studied piano at the Maritime Conservatory of Music and played string bass at a musician-run, Halifax jazz club, 777 Barrington Street. Studies in string bass, arranging, and composition followed 1959-61 at the Berklee School of Music, Boston, then at the Advanced School of Contemporary Music, Toronto, as a pupil of Ray Brown (bass), Oscar Peterson (piano), and Phil Nimmons (arranging and composition). Brown would remain a primary influence on Beckwith's steady, fundamental approach to jazz bass.

Regular work in Ottawa then Toronto clubs followed, and Beckwith also worked in CBC and CTV studio bands for shows starring Bobby Curtola, Catherine McKinnon, and others. From 1969-75 he worked as music director for Anne Murray.

Returning in 1975 to Halifax, he was music director for Pepe's Upstairs Jazz Café, accompanying many major artists there. Concurrently he was music director and a studio musician for CBC TV pop music shows 1975-87 starring John Allan Cameron, Denny Doherty, the Irish Rovers, and more. He produced or co-produced LPs by Dutch Mason, Bruce Murray, Reg Schwager, Joe Sealy, and others at this time.

Beckwith appeared with Oliver Jones intermittently 1985-89, and in 1987 he began teaching at St Francis Xavier University and joined JazFX, a faculty sextet established the previous year. JazFX made the LP JazFX in 1987 and toured Canada in the summer of 1989. With the saxophonist Don Palmer and the drummer Jerry Granelli, he established the trio Alive and Well in 1989, performing in the Maritimes on a club, concert hall and university circuit that Beckwith himself was instrumental in organizing.

His discography also includes LPs by Brian Browne, Oliver Jones, and Joe Sealy. Source: Canadian Encyclopedia

Damien Lovelock, the frontman of Australian rock band the Celibate Rifles, died on Aug. 3, from cancer, at age 65.

He led the Sydney-based band since 1980, and it earned a cult following internationally. He was also a solo artist, author, spoken-word performer, football broadcaster for the ABC, Sky, and SBS (alongside the late Les Murray), and yoga instructor. 

Lovelock came from a musical family: his mother, Joan Wilton, was a jazz singer; father Bill wrote and produced songs for a young Nina Simone.

The Celibate Rifles released nine studio albums, along with a clutch of EPs, compilations and live releases. Source: The Guardian

DA (Donn Alan) Pennebaker, noted US documentary film-maker, died Aug. 1, at age 94.

The Guardian notes that "the history of documentary film-making would look very different without DA Pennebaker. Though best known for his revelatory film Dont Look Back, about Bob Dylan’s 1965 UK tour, Pennebaker made bold and idiosyncratic films across a broad range of subject matter, from White House politics, show business, and the car-maker John DeLorean, to global energy supplies, and a competition among elite French pastry chefs. He was also a pioneer of portable cameras that could record sound synchronised with images, a technical leap that revolutionised documentary-making and inspired the “direct cinema” movement of the late 1950s."

Dont Look Back helped further the mystique of Bob Dylan, and it stands as one of the most memorable and influential films of its era, as both a musical and social document. In 2007 Pennebaker released 65 Revisited, which included full-length musical performances absent from the original Dont Look Back.

Pennebaker went to Yale University, but his studies were interrupted by the second world war, during which he served as an engineer in the naval air corps. He graduated from Yale in 1947 with a degree in mechanical engineering and started Electronics Engineering, a company which exploited then-primitive computer science to create a pioneering airline reservation system.

His first film, Daybreak Express (1953), was a dynamic vision of New York shot from an elevated subway train, with a Duke Ellington soundtrack. As part of the production company Drew Associates, he then made films for a variety of outlets, notably the ABC News series Close-up and Time-Life Broadcasting’s Living Camera. Their first major effort was Primary (1960), focused on the 1960 Democratic presidential primary, which led to the nomination of John F Kennedy.

In 1963 Pennebaker helped form Leacock Pennebaker Inc. He was soon at work on Dont Look Back (sic), shot in 1965 and released in 1967. Later that year Pennebaker made Monterey Pop, another memorable artifact of the period capturing the eponymous California pop festival.

He made another celebrated pop music film with Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1973), documenting David Bowie’s final Ziggy Stardust concert, at the Hammersmith Odeon in London.

Pennebaker got back on the rock’n’roll tour bus for 101 (1989), a film about Depeche Mode, which focused on the 101st date of the band’s world tour at the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena. However, in contrast to Pennebaker’s earlier nimble hit-and-run style, this was a consciously grandiose effort.

Music and showbusiness continued to exert an attraction. Branford Marsalis: The Music Tells You (1992) was a portrait of the jazz saxophonist, while Down from the Mountain (2000) was a documentary and concert film about the country musicians who recorded the soundtrack for the Coen Brothers’ movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?

In 1970 Pennebaker made Original Cast Album: Company, about the soundtrack recording of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical, and in 2004 he delivered Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, a documentary record of the Company star’s one-woman show.

In 2012, Pennebaker received an honorary Oscar for his lifetime body of work. Sources: The Guardian, Rolling Stone

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