Music News Digest, Jan. 10, 2020

Platinum-selling roots-popsters Strumbellas are postponing a 14-city Canadian tour after one of their members was hospitalized with an illness, CP reports. The person and their condition have not been named. The group's tour to promote the latest album, Rattlesnake, had been skedded to open in Victoria last night (Jan. 9) and was to feature five Toronto shows in different venues around their hometown. Tickets will be honoured for rescheduled dates TBA.

— Toronto's influential Wavelength Music series has its  20th anniversary this year. It celebrates with the Wavelength Winter Festival, described as "a live curated mixtape featuring twenty of the best independent music artists from the Canadian underground scene. The fest launches Thursday, Feb. 13, exactly 20 years since Wavelength’s first show at (the now-defunct) Ted’s Wrecking Yard. Participating venues include Sneaky Dee’s, Longboat Hall, Sonic Boom Records and The Garrison (Sun night). Performers include Haviah Mighty, Sandro Perri, Hidden Cameras, Kaia Kater, Little Scream, LAL, Les Mouches, Yves Jarvis, New Fries, Sheenah Ko, and Mimico. More details here.

 Billie Eilish leads the iHeartRadio Music Awards nominations with eight, followed by Lizzo, with six. Shawn Mendes is up for Male Artist of the Year as well as Song of the Year for his duet with Camila Cabello, Señorita. See a full noms list here. The Awards are on March 29. 

— Toronto jazz veterans the Shuffle Demons celebrate their 35th anniversary by releasing their ninth album, Crazy Time, on Jan. 17, their first studio album in six years. New to the group are saxophonist Matt Lagan and noted bassist Mike Downes, who join Kelly Jefferson, Stich Wynston, and Richard Underhill. Nine of the 10 songs were written by Juno-winner Underhill and one is credited to Jefferson. The album was recorded by iconic Jeremy Darby at Canterbury Music and produced, mixed and mastered by Jono Grant at Victory Drive Music.

— On Wednesday, Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage, announced funding of $499,824 for the Festival d'été international de Québec to support renovations and the purchase of new equipment at the Impérial Bell concert hall. The support is provided through the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund.

— The second edition of the International Indigenous Music Summit takes place in New Orleans in partnership with Folk Alliance International, from Jan 21-26.  The inaugural Summit took place in Montreal last Feb. Indigenous artists showcasing include Elisapie, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Quique Escamilla, and Sierra Noble.

— The Geary Lane Jazz Series in Toronto, supported by the TD Toronto Jazz Festival and the Ontario Arts Council, closes out with shows by Montuno Police (Jan. 25) and Colleen Allen's A.R.C.C. (Feb. 15). 

— Submissions are now being accepted for the 2nd Women's Freedom Song Contest that seeks the next “Female Anthem.” The deadline is March 1. More info here

— International Songwriters Day is set for April 9, and an accompanying Song Contest is now accepting submissions here.

— The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) presents an all-day block party on Jan. 25, featuring music from a l l i e and SlowPitchSound, plus dub poetry from Lillian Allen. Free with admission to the AGO. 

Obit

John Dudgeon, the lead vocalist from Steel River, passed away on Nov. 22, of cancer. Age not reported.

Starting in 1965 as a part-time Toronto R&B club band called Toronto Shotgun, Steel River became full-time musicians in 1969. Greg Hambleton signed them to his Tuesday Record label and the first single release was the Jay Telfer (A Passing Fancy) penned Ten Pound Note, which reached #5 on RPM's Weekly chart in 1970.

A single, Southbound Train, released through Quality Records, included a toy train in the promotional package, charted in Canada and had regional success in the US. Another single, Mexican Lady, reached #13 in Canada in 1972.

Steel River was booked in the '70s by the William Morris Agency and became an international touring success, performing on three major American tours with Humble Pie, Black Sabbath, The James Gang, Melanie, Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, Edgar Winter, Mountain, ELP, Sly and The Family Stone, and more.

The group put out two albums, 1970's Weighin' Heavy and 1971's A Better Road, and disbanded in 1974.

Four out of five of the original members reunited briefly in 1980 and released a single, Armoured Car. Dudgeon released a solo single in 1983, Put My Arms Around You, which received North American airplay. In 2004, he joined Mojo Grande, a funk/blues band from Markham.

In 2013 and 2014, the two Steel River albums were re-issued on producer Greg Hambleton's revived Axe Records label.

Hambleton tells FYI that " John was an open, honest, talented man with a great rock voice who will be missed by his family, friends and the musicians and bandmates of Steel River." — Sources: Greg Hambleton, Larry Leblanc, Wikipedia

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