Music News Digest, March 23, 2023

Festivals news

Ziigwan is a new free three-day Indigenous music and arts festival set for Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto this weekend (March 24-26). Presented by The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund and Downtown Yonge BIA, in collaboration with ELMNT FM Radio, Red Music Rising, and Music Tourism, it boasts a highly impressive lineup of performers. That list includes Aysanabee, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Digging Roots, Northern Cree, DJ Shub, Julian Taylor, Shawnee Kish, Status/Non-Status, Boogey The Beat, Tia Wood, Bullhorn Singers, Noelle, Dr. Duke Redbird, and Sebastian Gaskin. A press release informs that " Ziigwan, the Anishnaabemowin word for springtime, celebrates the healing and learning power of music and art, the rebirth of spring, and the collective awakening." More info here.

–Organizers of the 52nd annual Regina Folk Festival have announced the first phase of the lineup for this year's edition, which runs Aug. 11-13 in Victoria Park. Notable names include Alan Doyle, Allison Russell, Halluci Nation, the Strumbellas, Abigail Lapell, Chad Van Gaalen, Kinnie Starr, Logan Staats, Polky, Shad, Socalled, TEKE::TEKE, and the Weather Station. The event’s theme is Web of Life, and The Regina Leader-Post reports that "the fest is taking a greener approach to this year’s outdoor festivities." More info and tickets are here.

–A just-announced list of performers at the 2023 TD Toronto Jazz Festival includes Herbie Hancock and George Benson, Snarky Puppy, Melody Gardot, Avishai Cohen, Cimafunk, Melody Gardot, Haviah Mighty, Cimafunk, the Anomalie Big Band, Braxton Cook, BadBadNotGood, Ashanti, Kokoroko, Colin Stetson, and Tanika Charles. The fest has 100+ free live performances plus ticketed shows and runs June 23 to July 2, starting with an Opening Party featuring Jully Black. More info here

–The Goderich Celtic Roots Festival announces that international Celtic Artists from Ireland, Scotland, Canada (including global star Loreena McKennitt) and the US will perform at the 31st Annual edition of the fest taking place Aug. 11-13, at Lions Harbour Park. Some artists will also share their talent and knowledge in the Celtic College & Kids Camp, Aug. 7-11. More info here.

Festival du Bois, the largest celebration of francophone music and culture in BC, is set for March 24 to 26 at Mackin Park in Maillardville, a Coquitlam neighbourhood with French Canadian history. More info here.

–The Stan Rogers Folk Festival (aka Stanfest) celebrates its 25th year in 2023, in Canso, NS, from July 20 – 23. Named after the East Coast folk great, this noted international festival of songwriters features 30+ artists/bands performing on three stages. Past headliners include Johnny Reid, George Canyon, Gordie Sampson, Reeny Smith, Joel Plaskett, Matt Andersen, Jim Cuddy, and Serena Ryder. Alan Doyle and Tara MacLean are amongst this year's artists. More info here.

Industry news

–Toronto impresario and bon vivant Jaymz Bee is celebrating his 60th birthday by curating a charity event for Unison Fund on April 12. It features a gala dinner followed by his “Caravan of Music” - a four-hour party that features 24 bands in 12 rooms at the historic Old Mill Toronto inn and music venue. A 2019 pre-pandemic event there raised over $30K for Unison. Bee always invites the cream of the crop of Toronto jazz singers and musicians, so a grand night is guaranteed. The gala dinner is co-hosted by  Royal Wood and Molly Johnson,, with Jessica Mitchell and Theo Tams performing. This year’s Caravan includes performances by Sammy Jackson, Genevieve Marentette, Irene Torres, Jay Douglas, George Koller, Errol Fisher, Friendly Rich, Danae Olano (feat. Jane Bunnett), Queen Pepper, Michael Occhipinti, Jordana Talsky, Ernesto Cervini, Robert Priest, Heather Luckhart Duo, Denielle Bassels, Alexander Brown, Julie Michels & Kevin Barrett, Whitney & Sam, Fred Spek’s Camp Combo, Lou Pomanti & Friends, Mark Lalama Presents, John Amato, Jocelyn Barth, and many more TBA. Tix here.

–The year 2023 has officially been dubbed “The Year of the Guitar” for the National Music Centre (NMC), with various guitar and rock ‘n’ roll-centred exhibitions and public programs running throughout the year.  The celebration soft launched in Feb. with the opening of the Showcase: Guitars exhibition, featuring 25 rare and legendary guitars curated from NMC's collection; and the recent unveiling of Canadian Music Hall of Fame: Nickelback in salute to the celebrated rock band. Now, even more, events geared towards all types of guitar enthusiasts are slated for the coming weeks.

For novice players, NMC will host an Electric Guitar Garden on March 25, an interactive display of guitars that visitors can touch, hold, and even play to experience the different sounds and textures each one produces. On April 2 to coincide with International Guitar Month, NMC will host “You’re too loud!", a conversation between guitarists hosted by Juno-winning producer and acclaimed guitarist Russell Broom (Jann Arden, Ian Tyson), and featuring Reed Shimozawa, Amos Garrett, and Miesha Louie (of Miesha and the Spanks). More info here.

–On April 1 (at 7.30 pm), the Kitchener Public Library hosts the second annual Mel Brown Music Festival and Symposium Fundraising Concert, featuring Juno-winner Carlos Morgan. Tickets are available now here. The late Mel Brown, an acclaimed blues guitarist, had long made Kitchener his home.

– Two vintage Canadian rock albums, Whiskey and the Devil 30th, the 1990 debut solo effort of Coney Hatch mainman Andy Curran, and Harem Scarem’s 1993 sophomore offering Mood Swings, were recently reissued as limited-edition releases only available on SING Market. Each release includes a vinyl package and a matching digital package, which also contains digital-only extras. More info here.

– Fans of the late great guitar ace Jeff Healey have been remembering March as 'Healey Month,' given that his birthday falls on March 25 and that he passed away on March 2, 2008. The recent passing of Jeff Healey Band drummer/co-manager Tom Stephen leaves bassist Joe Rockman as the one surviving member of the platinum-selling trio. He tells FYI that "I must say it feels weird to be 'the last man standing' of the original trio that launched everything. I take this fact seriously and will absolutely assist in keeping Jeff’s legacy alive until I stand no more."

–A celebration of the life of leading Toronto concert promoter Rob Bennett is set for Sun. May 7 (2-4 pm) at Monora Park Pavilion in Mono, ON.

Artists news

–Cape Breton’s award-winning roots group Villages are presently touring in support of their album Dark Island. They play Mills Hardware in Hamilton tonight (March 23), The Horseshoe in Toronto (March 24), The Rainbow in Ottawa (March 25), and Trailside in Charlottetown on April 22.

 –Mythos, a BC duo comprising Paul Schmidt and industry veteran Bob D'Eith, is currently celebrating the notable milestone of 80M catalogue streams of its material, compiled over 25 years together. The eclectic group has placed on the Billboard New Age Albums chart, won two West Coast Music Awards, a Juno Award nomination, and has had music featured on numerous film and television productions. The classic remastered tracks EP Redux is being released in June. 

–A music matinee at Clifford Brewery in Hamilton's East End on Sunday featured two solo sets by rootsy singer/songwriters Greg Smith and Mark Sasso. Smith is an in-demand bassist for the likes of The Weakerthans, Lowest Of The Low and The Fembots, and Sasso fronts Juno-winning roots-rockers Elliott Brood. Hard to believe this was just Sasso's second solo gig in 20 years. He delighted with cool covers (Steve Miller and Middle Brother) and originals (including EB favourite Nothing Left), and he told FYI he's now planning more solo shows. Smith impressed me with his original tunes, and the fine craft beer added to the enjoyment.

–2022 East Coast Music Award winners (Songwriter of the Year), Newfoundland folk duo Rube & Rake began a spring tour of Eastern and Western Canada on Marc 22 in Saint John. Following more dates in NB and NS, they head to Alberta and BC for two weeks in April in supporting a current album, Leaving With Nothing. Itinerary and tix here.

Award-winning veteran folk singer/songwriter Lynn Miles released her new album, TumbleWeedyWorld, on True North Records on March 17. Tomorrow (March 24) she plays an album release party at the Tranzac in Toronto, a Hugh's Room Live presentation (tickets here). Miles had two hometown record release shows at Red Bird in Ottawa last weekend. 

– Roots music renaissance man Colin Linden travels up from his Nashville base for a couple of solo shows in Ontario this week. He's at Market Hall in Peterborough tonight (March 23) and The Mule Spinner in Hamilton on March 25 (tix here) . Highly recommended for blues lovers.

–Singer/songwriter/guitarist James Bryan (Philosopher Kings, Prozzak) is hosting a Big Birthday Revue at Revival in Toronto on March 29 (a Hugh's Room Live presentation). His impressive list of guests includes Divine Brown and Sammy Jackson, Barbra Lica, Charmie and guitarist Jeff Gunn. Tickets here

– Nine-year-old New Westminster piano prodigy Joshua Wang was recently chosen from among scores of Canadian musicians to take the stage at a prestigious new Toronto festival, the Music Lights the Way Festival, held at Koerner Hall. Wang and seven other BC pianists were selected as finalists in the fest, with the finale held on March 21 and 22. Read more about Wang in this CTV News feature.

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