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August 14th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Music, Bands & Radio; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels

Jeremy Fisher, True Troubador

Jeremy Fisher isn’t a big person, but the singer-songwriter sure makes a big sound. It’d be hard to imagine more music coming from any other solo player. Along with his voice, his primary instrument is a weathered Gibson LG-2 guitar from which he punches out a great, full sound. His bright singing voice offers a lot of welcome contrast with that percussive Gibson, since I suspect it falls somewhere between the tenor and alto range. The lyrics he sings are deeply felt declarations that carry a personal, even existential quality.

I highly recommend all of Jeremy’s music, and particularly, his latest album, “Mint Juleps,”  a recording with five originals written by Jeremy and  covers of seven songs by such artists as Gordon Lightfoot, John Hiatt, and Greg Brown. Fisher makes each song his own in such a way that until I studied the album sleeve, I wasn’t sure which songs were his and which were the covers. “Spin, Spin, Spin” is a rare Gordon Lightfoot song, in that it hasn’t been sung by lots of other artists already. In a recent phone interview, Jeremy told me that was one of the reasons he chose it for the record. He said he wanted songs to which he knew he could add something new. That is certainly the case with Greg Brown’s ode to the bounty of summer, “Canned Goods,” about the pickles, tomatoes, and fruits his dear grandma put up for canning when he was a boy.

One of the highlights of attending the North by Northeast (NXNE) festival in Toronto in June was finally hearing Jeremy perform live. I had heard him on CBC Radio 3 many times, enjoying such songs as “Shine a Little Light” and “Jolene” (not Dolly Parton’s song of the same name) but I was unprepared for how bright, funny, and charismatic he is as a live performer. That week I heard him play at the Dakota Tavern showcase** hosted by his label Hidden Pony, and at the picnic hosted by CBC Radio 3 host and author Grant Lawrence, where I took this outdoor photo.

The title of the new album is not meant to remind listeners of the Kentucky Derby, or anything about America’s Old South. This Canadian composer wanted to evoke lazy summer days, or as he told me, “the kind of record I’d like to listen to while making brunch on a Sunday morning, or having a drink on a Friday afternoon.” He said he’s been playing other people’s songs ever since he started joining bands as a kid, playing songs by Canadian super-groups Blue Rodeo and the Tragically Hip. and later Beatles and Motown covers. They were the “starting point” for him as a songwriter. For the new album he played solo versions of the songs he’d decided to record and emailed the sound files to the musicians he’d asked to accompany him. This group included such standout Canadian musicians as Joey Wright, whose 2011 album “Hatch” I enjoy a lot. Adding a nice tough here, Wright plays guitar, mandolin, and tenor guitar. Based on his rough work-up, Jeremy told his musical recruits, “this is the feel I want, but I want fresh ideas every take. . . . I wanted the personalities of the players to shine through.”

The new album was engineered my Mark Ouimet, who also plays percussion and sings on several numbers. Among many favorite songs on the album, I’m especially enjoying “If It’s Alright With You,’ written by Gene MacClellan, which sports a great harmonica riff played by Jeremy himself. Listening to Jeremy Fisher’s latest recording of his favorite songs during this sweltering summer of 2012 one is left with an unmistakable impression of hearing a latter day Buddy Holly, a forgotten sibling to the Everly Brothers, or maybe Paul Simon. Even with all those classic rock and pop associations, which are not a stretch, Jeremy’s an original talent with a great feel for song–I recommend you listen to him for yourself.

**That Dakota showcase where I heard Jeremy Fisher also featured Erin Passmore, the Danks, Elephant Stone, and Rah Rah, each also clients of Hidden Pony. All five acts–including Jeremy who followed Erin–played great that night. Click here to view 15 of the photos I took during the showcase.

 

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July 26th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Media, Blogging, Internet; Music, Bands & Radio

NY Times Profiles CBC host Jian Ghomeshi


Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio’s ‘Q,’ one of my favorite talk shows on radio, has been profiled by the NY Times John Schwartz in an article headlined “A Wild Mix of Culture by Way of Canada.” I had recently written about Jian and ‘Q’ in this post, after he won the Gold Award for best talk-show host at the New York Festivals International Radio Awards. I am pleased to see him making so much headway in New York City, and throughout the States, where the program is now carried on 120 public radio stations, including WNYC 93.9 FM at 10 PM on weeknights. I took the photo below of Jian (l.) and CBC host Grant Lawrence when I was recently in Toronto for NXNE, and along with a group of CBC Radio 3 fans was given a tour of the broadcast facility.

 

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June 26th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Music, Bands & Radio; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels

There’s Music in the Trees!

During NXNE at the unofficial CBC Radio 3 picnic in Toronto’s Trinity-Bellwoods Parks organized by host and author Grant Lawrence, the musicians Adrian Glynn and Zach Gray literally climbed a tree to perform the three songs that made up their excellent set of music. They had funny banter from aloft, including about their band moniker, which I’ve confirmed with Adrian Glynn is Emperor of the North AKA Murder on The Canadian AKA the Caboose Boys. I managed to record one of their tunes as a video on my IPad. I’m glad I got it, even if it cost me a stiff neck to train my device on the two of them for 4 + minutes. Fun stuff. For more info on Adrian and Zach you should go to www.adrianglynn.com and www.thezolasmusic.com.  

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June 19th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Music, Bands & Radio

A Brilliant Instrumental Trio [Updated w/News of Their Revival]

June 19 Update: I wrote on this blog in March that the three albums of the great instrumental trio Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet are being re-issued and now I’m delighted to see that a revival of the band is being mounted this summer. Filling the spot of the late bassist Reid Diamond is The Sadies‘ Dallas Good. CBC Music’s Vish Khanna did an interview with them after the first of their new live shows, which you can read and view at this link.


Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet were a brilliant instrumental trio whose modified surf sound can still be heard as the theme music on the always funny TV show “Kids in the Hall.” That theme song, “Having an Average Weekend,” and a few others can be heard on this 4-song sampler of their work. I love their insistent beat and inspired musicianship. I believe they wouldn’t be insulted to be called the Ventures of Canadian rock ‘n roll. I believe The Sadies have been influenced by Shadowy Men. According to this item, their three albums are being reissued. [Original blog post published March 19, 2012.]

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June 17th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Music, Bands & Radio; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels

Day 5 in Toronto for NXNE

Last night’s musical performances were everything I had hoped they would be. Early in the evening, at 8 PM, I went to hear a set by a little-known band called Amity Beach. They were a young five-piece from Grand Bend, Ontario, 18-year olds who play their own songs and some great covers. Afterward, at the merch table I met the dad of the lead singer, who told me of the band’s origins and how they’re writing and recording their own music. I enjoyed learning about their process.

From Rancho Relaxo on College Street, I used the Spadina Ave. streetcar to get back down to the Horseshoe Tavern on Queen St. West for the CBC Radio 3 showcase, where Yukon Blonde put on a tremendous, high-energy set in the 10 PM slot. Afterward, I took the streetcar and subway to Lee’s Palace on Bloor Street where Matt Mays played a tremendous 90-minute set with his band El Torpedo. He forged–even already had–a strong bond with his appreciative audience and the last four or five songs (“Tall Trees,” “City of Lakes, Cocaine Cowgirl, etc.) turned into exercises in mass-participation.

After Matt Mays, I cabbed back down to the Horseshoe Tavern, where I heard the end of the set by the stomping, hollering blues trio Catl. The evening ended there with a pleasant surprise–a really good set from a band I’d never heard of, Fast Romantics. As tired as the audience was they began at 1 AM, the crowd got pulled into it and all were won over to what amounted to a new discovery for those around me.

Publication of photos on this site will have to wait till I’m home, since as I’ve learned, adding photos to WordPress from the IPad is no simple trick. Still, I will put some up on Facebook to go along with this brief post.

Now, it’s Sunday morning and I’m heading off to the bluegrass brunch at the Dakota Tavern where a number of Radio 3 friends are meeting at 11 AM. Later, at 4 PM, Ohbijou will be playing as part of the Luminato Festival. This will be my last full day in Toronto, before heading back home to NYC Monday afternoon.

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June 16th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Music, Bands & Radio; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels

Coming up–Day 4 in Toronto at NXNE

Evening update: The unofficial Radio 3 picnic this afternoon was a blast. Grant Lawrence arranged for a fabulous group of musicians to play in the leafy setting of Trinity-Bellwoods Park. We were treated to three-song sets by Portage & Main; Emperor of the North; Jeremy Fisher; Ian Foster; and The Matinee. Close to 100 people showed up for the bucolic blend of music, food, and conversation. Afterward, I walked with R3 friend Matt to hear Kathleen Edwards play an outdoor set as part of the Luminato Festival. She and her terrific band played a great set as fans swayed under the hot sun. Edwards gave a shout-out to all the great culture in Toronto this weekend, and said she’s going later tonight to listen to Richard Ford talk about his new novel, Canada, which I have loved reading.

In a few minutes I’ll be off to the night’s activities–the CBC Radio 3 showcase at the Horseshoe Tavern, with Yukon Blonde playing. Later, I’ll head over to Lee’s Palace on Bloor Street for Matt Mays and his band El Torpedo.

Following on yesterday’s tour of CBC HQs and the fabulous showcase featuring Hidden Pony musicians at the Dakota Tavern, with Erin Passmore, Jeremy Fisher, the Danks, Elephant Stone, and Rah Rah, Saturday promises to be another great day of music and friends.

At noon we have a CBC Radio 3 picnic in Toronto’s leafy Trinity-Bellwoods Park, coordinated by R3 host and author Grant Lawrence, with what I’m sure will be great guest musicians. Also this afternoon is a free outdoor concert with Dan Mangan and Kathleen Edwards, as part of the city’s Luminato festival. Tonight will be the NXNE CBC Radio 3 showcase at the Horseshoe Tavern including Yukon Blonde, Also tonight is a personal fave, Matt Mays with his band El Torpedo at Lee’s Palace. It’s going to be a great day!

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June 13th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Music, Bands & Radio; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels

Settling in and First Bands at NXNE

Registration and checking in today was fun. Compared with last year, when I was a neophyte, I knew what to look for in the exhibits of the Interactive strand of this tri-partite conference and festival. There were game designers, graphic artists, music tech people, inventors, and everyone’s extremely friendly.

Other than encountering some problems with my cellular service here in Toronto–owing to the fact that incredibly, Verizon in NYC had failed to properly set me up, even though I dealt with half a dozen over the past several weeks, things are going great.

I’m at the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, with good wifi, where the Tracks on Tracks showcase is happening. It’s between sets right now. The evening features all the bands that just traveled across Canada from Vancouver and headed east to Toronto over the past five days. Shred Kelly, named in honr of the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, were fantastic. They’re a five-piece, driven by a terrific rhythm section–Jordan on bass, who I met after their set, and a barefooted drummer, who kicked the hell out of his bass drum–a female keyboard player named Sage; a rhythm guitarist; and a fellow who played banjo and mandolin. They played foot-stompers, including the showstopper, “I Hate Work,” but also some more pop-sounding tunes. A great blended sound.

I’m here with many CBC Radio 3 pals, as we’re enjoying a reunion, since many of us met here last year.

I’ll get photos from their set up on the blog later. For now, I’m going to take a break from live-blogging and get ready to listen to the next bands.

Late Update: Following Shred Kelly, the highlights for me were the bands Portage&Main and then The Matinee,” a lively five-piece with a great lead guitarist and dynamic lead singer. On the walk back to my hotel, through lively blocks filled with locals and tourists I took photos of many interestingly designed storefronts, photos I will post later. Near the end of my stroll, I stopped at another music venue listed in the NXNE guide, Cameron House, and discovered a great four-piece called Dodge Fiasco. They had a sort of NRBQ-feel, and also reminded me of the great Canadian all-instrumental group, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, famous for providing the theme music to the classic TV show, “Kids in the Hall.” I also a female singer-songwriter, Erika Werry, friend of the band, who told me she’s recording new songs of hers tomorrow, and is hoping to hear Andre Williams and the Sadies on Friday night. It’s always fun to make one more musical discovery before the night is over.

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June 11th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Music, Bands & Radio; Publishing & Bookselling

Done with BEA, on to NXNE

With Book Expo America (BEA) now a wrap–and time enough over the summer to review the publishers’ catalogs I collected and follow up on email with people whose business cards I exchanged for my own–this week I’m preparing to attend North by Northeast (NXNE), Toronto’s annual music/film/digital festival. Among the band and artists I’m eager to hear live I’m especially excited about Belle Game, Shred Kelly, Adaline, Daniel Romano, Julie Doiron, The Elwins, Brasstronaut, Jeremy Fisher, Plants & Animals, and that’s only through Friday on the schedule, leaving me the weekend line-up to scrutinize. Last year when I went to NXNE I was a bit overwhelmed with all the choices, but still had a great time. Even with a year under my belt, I’m feeling daunted again, but with useful guides like this one by producer Elliot Garnier on the Radio 3 blog, I know I can’t go far wrong. I’ll be blogging, posting to my wall on Facebook, tweeting from NXNE, and connecting on LinkedIn, so please watch for updates if you’re not attending NXNE and would like to know what’s going on in Toronto.

While I’m packing my bag and readying my kit for a Wednesday morning flight to Toronto, friends from the CBCRadio 3 listener community have been traveling by train since last Saturday from Vancouver, B.C., across the Canadian Rockies and prairies, in a musical excursion called Tracks on Tracks, that has placed ten indie Canadian bands on a train with dozens of indie music fans, including Radio 3 host and author Grant Lawrence. It’s a 21st Century version of 1970′s Festival Express, when Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, The Band, and other musicians all trained across Canada. The documentary chronicling that trip is still fun to watch all these years later.

While in Toronto from June 13-18, I’ll also be meeting and working with Speakerfile, my new client who I introduced to many bookpeople during BEA. They have a great Internet platform that connects the events industry and conference organizers with authors, experts, and thought leaders. I’m pleased to host a promo from them at the upper-right hand corner of my site, so if you do public speaking, or work with authors who do public speaking, and you’re curious about what they can do for you and your authors, please click on the promo and surf through to their website. I can also provide you with information, if you want to ask me for it directly.