Gord Downie has been posthumously named as Ontario's first poet laureate. The Poet Laureate of Ontario Act in memory of Downie, the beloved Tragically Hip lead singer and lyricist, passed Thursday during the final sitting day of the Ontaro government's legislative session for the year. The private member's bill by Percy Hatfield, NDP MPP for Windsor-Tecumseh, was first introduced in 2017, two months after Downie died at age 53 of an incurable form of brain cancer, glioblastoma. The role aims to promote the arts and literacy in Ontario, raise the profile of poets in the province, and act as an ambassador for Ontario poetry and literature.
In 2001, Downie published a book of poetry, Coke Machine Glow, in tandem with his debut solo album of the same name. This is one of the best-selling volumes of poetry ever published by a Canadian writer. Source: CBC News
— Platinum-selling Canadian rockers Billy Talent have released the first episode of a multi-part short film. Shot by award-winning Canadian director, Michael Maxxis, the film stars UFC fighters Rose Namajunas and Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone in a story set in a bleak dystopian desert. This first episode, Forgiveness I, features music from the recently-released Forgiveness I + II album. The next chapter will appear in early Jan. Here's the debut episode.
— Hometown band and The Sheepdogs will headline this year's Junos kick-off concert in Saskatoon on March 12 with other notables including Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Jim Cuddy and members of Billy Talent, Eagle & Hawk, Hollerado, The Hunter Brothers, Splash'n Boots and The Strumbellas.
— True North Records is offering its seasonal spin with the 13 (free album) downloads of Christmas through Dec. 24. Simply log in to your account and click on ‘my downloadable products’. Note: one needs to opt-in to the newsletter to receive the daily download code. Freebies so far include Matt Andersen’s Spirit of Christmas, Sue Foley’s Ice Queen, and Wonderlove by Jeremy Benjamin.
— Alberta Music is celebrating its 35th anniversary with province-wide performances, Jan to March 2020. Artists participating include 100 Mile House, Amelie Patterson, Amy Nelson, Carter & the Capitals, Cristian De La Luna, Crystal Eyes, Debra Power, Ellen Doty, Joe Nolan, Josh Sahunta, Kate Stevens, Mouraine, Post Script, Ryan Langlois & Trevor Panczak. These artists will perform in groups of three in Edmonton, Stony Plain, Calgary, Canmore, and Lethbridge, Alberta. All shows ($10 at the door) are supported by The Government of Alberta, ATB Branch for Arts & Culture and CKUA Radio. Full tour details here
— The inaugural SPEAK Music Be Kind Festival takes place at Toronto's Tranzac Club, Jan. 17-19. This non-profit, all-ages, roots-accented Canadian music festival will give net profits to the Unison Benevolent Fund. Performers include Abigail Lapell, Dave McEathron, The Barrel Boys, BLISK, The Lifers, Tragedy Ann, So Long Seven, Lunar Bloom, Al Qahwa and others. A 3-day wristband pass at the early bird price of $15 (until Dec 31, here) is a real bargain.
— The Christmas concert season is in full swing now. Folk favourites Good Lovelies are noted for their holiday shows, and they play Toronto's Danforth Music Hall on Dec. 17. The group also has concerts in Oshawa (Dec. 16), Ottawa (Dec. 19), London (two shows on Dec. 21), and Port Hope Dec. 22) Another local fave, Skydiggers, celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the legendary Skydiggers Christmas concert with a Dec. 21 show at the same venue.
— Ottawa folk duo Silent Winters recently released a third album, Christmas Morning (on Fallen Tree Records), and it's receiving well-deserved kudos. Check out the fresh take on White Christmas here.
— For a fine rockin; original Xmas cut, check out Christmas At My House, a new song from Hamilton rockers The Dirty Nil.
— Music BC is accepting applications for its Let’s Hear It Live 2020 series in Vancouver and Victoria. A successful first year of showcases in 2019 featured 18 emerging and unsigned artists from around BC, Submit here
— Nova Scotian singer/songwriter Jenn Grant has announced three February shows: Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, Halifax (Feb. 14), Petit Campus, Montreal (Feb. 27), and National Arts Centre, Ottawa (Feb. 28). Grant is also sharing a new song, The Party.
— Québécois electronic duo Mélisande is attracting attention for its intriguing hybrid of folk and electronic elements, as showcased on recent album Les myriades (out on Borealis). The group showcases at APAP in NYC on Jan. 11 and at Folk Alliance International in New Orleans, Jan. 25.
— Manitoba Music has published a very helpful list of sources that provide info on how musicians can find revenue streams.
Gershon Kingsley, a composer and synth-pop pioneer, died on Dec. 10, age 97.
Best known for his synth-pop composition Popcorn, he had a long and varied career, including keyboard performance, conducting, arranging for musicals and even scoring the slasher film Silent Night, Bloody Night.
Kingsley was an early adopter of the Moog synthesizer and incorporated electronic sounds into much of his work. In the mid-sixties, he collaborated with Jean-Jacques Perrey on the albums The In Sound from Way Out and Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Electronic Pop Music From Way Out.
His 1969 album Music to Moog By featured the track Popcorn. The Hot Butter take on the song became a worldwide 1972 hit. Source: Synthopia
Roy Loney, the original frontman of US garage rock pioneers Flamin Groovies, died on Dec. 13, age 73. Cause of death has not been reported.
Loney fronted the influential San Francisco group from 1965 to 1971, appearing on their first three albums, Supersnazz, Flamingo, and Teenage Head. Following his departure in 1971, lead guitarist Cyril Jordan took over as frontman.
Loney released eight albums as Roy Loney & The Phantom Movers between 1979 and 1993. His most recent project was 2009’s Got Me A Hot One! with Señor No. Sources: Pitchfork, Best Classic Bands