The Best of The Best To Start the Meaford Summer Concert Series

Joey DiMarco has been the go-to drummer for decades for gigs and recordings, working from his home base in Burlington.  He teamed up with Gabor Szepesi, who’s been providing keyboards for recordings and TV shows as well as live gigs since the 70’s.  The pair decided to draw on talented friends from their many years in music to create a gigging band they called The Collective.  The quality of their friends means The Collective is always on the money with a world class groove.

The Collective will be kicking off the Meaford Summer Concert Series on Friday, July 13th.  The band is made up of the best players you’ll hear anywhere.  When Chris Scerri says they have played with the Who’s Who of rock and R & B, movies and pop music, he means names like Iron Butterfly, Better Midler, Jack Dekeyser, Greg Godovitz, Grant Smith & the Power, Long John Baldry, Daniel Lanois, Etta James, Sharon, Lois and Bram as a small random sampling.

Guitarist Danny Weis co-founded Iron Butterfly but quit after their first album to co-found Rhinoceros.  After an album and a tour with Lou Reed, he was tapped to provide the sound track music (and hit song) for Bette Midler’s movie The Rose.

Danny had been born into music, the son of Johnny Weis, the famous Western Swing guitarist who once played with the Spade Cooley band.

“I fondly remember the years I would go see my dad, Johnny Weis, play guitar, backing people from the Grand Ole Opry at Bostonia Ballroom in El Cajon,” says Danny on his website, “I was age 9 to 12, and I used to stand right in front of the stage and lean on it with my elbows. I wasn’t too tall then, I guess. I remember Johnny Cash playing right in front of me with my dad backing him on guitar with the band. [Cash] always remembered me and would stoop right in front of me, saying, ‘Folsom Prison?’ I said yes with joy.”

In 2005 Danny Weis released a beautiful jazz album called “Sweet Spot”, about as far from Iron Butterfly as you can get.  Like the other players in The Collective, his wide ranging musical taste and pedigree can take you in any direction.

A common thread among the players in The Collective is that most of them played at one time or another in a legendary blues band called Sweet Blindness.  Lead singer of The Collective, Donnie Meeker rotated as lead singer in Sweet Blindness with the late Bobbi Dupont.

“The Toronto sound was the original Bluenote,” Michael Williams told Cashbox magazine, “we always had a soul thing going on because we were so close to Buffalo and Detroit…The big time for Sweet Blindness was opening for Kool and the Gang.”

In addition to touring with Sweet Blindness, Donnie Meeker becomes “Downtown Donnie” when he does a Blues Brothers thing with his own blues brother “Dirty Bertie”.

Max Breadner opens the show

Bring a camp chair and something for the food bank in time for the show to start at 7 pm with Max Breadner.  Max is a notable young local talent who has progressed from performing to song writing.  He’s played the Meaford Summer Concert Series before, and last year he opened for John Brownlow at The Red Door.

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Meaford Summer Concert Series Back For Third Year

By Bill Monahan

The third annual Meaford Summer Concert Series kicks off on July 13th at the Market Square with the first of four free live concerts lined up for Friday nights in July and August. Once again the series will feature young local performers opening for more seasoned acts.

“The idea behind the whole series when we first started it was to bring people to the downtown core,” says Chris Scerri, who originated the series and has organized it again this year. The concerts are designed to bring “tourists, residents, even cottagers enjoy a free show and bring some business into downtown Meaford.”

Chris has put together a program that brings together some of the great musicians he has seen and worked with in the area.

“I try to have different styles of music through the summer,” he says.

As the series of You Tube videos below indicates, what these acts have in common is an ability to capture the soul of a song in their performance.

The series kicks off on July 13th with The Collective, a band of seasoned veterans led by legendary vocalist Donnie Meeker, With many stages and stadiums in their collective past, these players have recently built a local following performing regularly at The Harbour Street Fish Bar in Collingwood.

“They are a collection of amazing artists that have played with the who’s who of rock and roll and everything else in North America over the last few decades. They play a bunch of Motown stuff, a little bit of rock and roll and a little bit of blues but it’s kind of like the hits of a few decades ago. And they’re amazing players. They have a lot of energy.”

 

Energy is an important component when choosing the acts.

“I try to bring in bands that have energy so that people are up and dancing, jumping around rather than just listening. I think that an outdoor festival should have a lot of those kinds of things.”

For the July 27th show, Chris has brought Chuck Jackson and the All Stars for a night of blues.

“Chuck Jackson is the front man for the Downchild Blues Band but he’s also had a band called Chuck Jackson and the All Stars going for many, many years,” Chris says, adding “In Port Credit they have a matinee they play every Sunday at the Rock ‘n Docks which is full every week. Usually it’s Pat Carey from Downchild that plays sax with him and Tyler Yarema will sit in on keyboards. When they’re playing here this summer it will be Tyler on keys, Pat on sax and they’ll have a drummer and bass player with them as well.”

The opener on that night will be Sophie Wensley, a young local R & B singer.

The concert on August 3rd features the Allison Young Quintet.

“Alison Young is a swing jazz sax player that was part of our show at the Marsh Street last year for their 90th Anniversary,” says Chris, “and she’s also a great singer and so she has a band that she’s going to bring up and they’re going to be more of a swing band and that’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Opening for her will be singer-songwriter Miranda Journey from Wasaga Beach who has impressed local audiences as part of Auburn Falling, a duo in which she performed with James Stephens.

Sean Cotton has played as a solo performer a few times at The Leeky Canoe, but his show on August 24th includes The Muskoka Connection.

“He’s phenomenal on his own,” says Chris, “but he’s a rock and roll and country kind of a guy and with a full band he’s a great electric guitar player and singer. He lives in Muskoka right now and he’s made up a great network of great musicians from there. So he’s going to bring a group of them down to play with him.

“And he has ties to Meaford too,” Chris adds, “He has family in Meaford as well so he’s indirectly local.”

Opening for Sean Cotton, Emma Wright will be playing with a full band, which includes some of the area’s best musicians: John Hume on keyboards, Rob Elder on guitar, Jaret Koop on bass, and Mike Weir on drums.

As usual the concerts are free and you are being asked to bring a contribution for the food bank, along with a camp chair. “There are some picnic tables there on site but it’s suggested that you bring a camp chair,” says Chris, “They are more comfortable and it guarantees you a seat wherever you want to put it.”

The shows start at 7 pm, giving you the chance to catch dinner at one of the restaurants across the street or you can “call in for an order and go and pick it up between sets”.

Chris is asking local artisans to be on hand so that “people will be able to come in to the area there and look around and talk to these artisans and then the music will start around seven o’clock with the young musicians opening. They’ll do maybe a half hour, forty minute set and then the headline band will start just before eight o’clock and play until ten.”

Again this year, it is the support of local sponsors that makes the Summer Concert Series possible.

“The BIA is again our key sponsor along with the Meaford Culture Foundation and the Municipality of Meaford. The Rotary has come on board as a sponsor this year and Long and McQuade always helps us with PA. Bill at Valumart and Dave at New Orleans feed our musicians and our sound guys and Peak FM and Bayshore Broadcasting work with us too to get the word out. I’m working with RTO7 as well to do some social media advertising with us this year.”

Through this community effort, we can look forward to four more summer Friday nights of great live music to ring through the streets of downtown Meaford.

 

Bring Your Own Vinyl night returns to The Red Door

Tom Thwaits, BYOV, Meaford

By Vic Michener

By his own admission, Tom Thwaits used to be “a bad record borrower”. He recently told Wei Chen, during an interview on CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning, that he had a habit of borrowing records from other collectors (which nobody else seemed to do), and then he’d never get around to listening to them. “I realized that if I was sitting down with those people, I’d probably listen to those records more. It was the socialization and the camaraderie that I was missing.”

His solution was to launch BYOV Meaford (bring your own vinyl). And on a Saturday night last July, a group of vinyl aficionados gathered in Meaford at The Red Door Grill and Pub to share their favourite disks and stories at the inaugural event.

To get a sense of the grab-bag of tunes you might encounter, here’s the playlist from that first night:

Bruce Springsteen – Reason to Believe
Travelling Wilburys – End of the Line
Bonnie Tyler – It’s A Heartache
Rolling Stones – Time Is On My Side (mono version)
Michael Jackson – Rock With You
Gino Soccio – Love Is
Thee Oh Sees – ?
Sons of Ishmael – Small Town Mentality / Break Free
Sadies feat. Kurt Vile – Easy Like Walking
La Luz – Sleep Till They Die
Bell + Arc – Song Long Marianne / She Belongs To Me
Gorillaz – Kids With Guns
Alice Coltrane – Journey to Satchidananda
Blood, Sweat & Tears – I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know
Roy Buchanan – Messiah Will Come Again
The Smiths – Am I Still Ill
Throwing Muses – Fish
The Kinks – Skin & Bone
The Men – I Saw Her Face
Pink Floyd – The Nile Song
MF Doom – All Caps
MF Doom – Rap Snitch Knishes
Frazey Ford – Done
Zapp – Be Alright

Since then, roughly once a month, the event has returned to The Red Door (with one exception – a BYOV Dance Party at Kimberley Hall in February.)

It’s all very informal: when you’re ready to play a song, you step up to the mic and introduce it with a few words, and then Tom spins the disk.

BYOV 11 returns to The Red Door at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 21, and according to Tom, “It’s summer and Chef Ben said he might have sound wired to the patio in time for the next vinyl night!”

Join the Facebook Group or check out playlists at BYOV Meaford.

Blue-Eyed Soul, Meaford Style

Review by Bill Monahan of “Diving In” by Jayden Grahlman

Jayden Grahlman has completed his new album of original tunes and is planning a release party in Owen Sound at Heartwood Concert Hall on June 28th.  The album should please anyone who invested through crowd funding to help make it a reality.  There is a real soul feel to the album, often bringing to mind Earth, Wind and Fire or K-OS.  Jayden’s experience playing with local funk band Higher Funktion has obviously influenced him.  Rich with danceable grooves and excellent playing, the album has a unique quality that seems to reflect its origins here in Meaford.  It can’t be called an urban sound, despite some impressive hip-hop passages, and maybe should be labelled (if a label is necessary) small-town funk, primarily because of the nature of the lyrical content.

The water theme is recurrent throughout the ten songs, reflecting the fact that it was conceived here beside the big lake.  And in place of the gritty, dark mood of much of urban music, there is a soaring sense of joy and love, a positive outlook that echoes the artist’s world view.  Angels appear in almost every song.

Jayden Grahlman is well respected as a guitarist who can play just about anything. He combines an impressive technical ability with a light touch and sensitivity as a player that makes any style he approaches his own.  This album is full of great instrumental passages, from the easy groove of the guitar that opens “You Got The Power”, reminiscent of J. J. Cale or Eric Clapton, to the fiery solo in “Magnet”.  There are also a few very impressive piano solos (sounding like the work of Tyler Yarema) that decorate the title track, “Diving In” and “Stars”.

Along with the individual standout instrumental solos, every song sits on a bed of beautifully arranged sounds.  The vocal harmonies throughout, some evocative percussive elements and, on “Give Thanks”, a seductive pedal steel, make for sweet listening.  Much of the credit for this is probably due to the production work of Craig Smith.  Two albums released in the past year, by Drew McIvor and Jon Zaslow, have that same quality, where layers of musical accompaniment are so subtly and sensitively arranged that they create moods that greatly elevate the original tunes, and they too featured Craig Smith at the console.

While instrumental virtuosity makes a great first impression, it takes more than that to make a timeless album.  The greatest albums always have a special way of reaching down into your inner being and becoming part of your own personal soundtrack.  They attach themselves to your favourite activities and they inspire you to feel deeply and believe in life.  This album has all of those qualities.

It’s easy to imagine the joy of listening to these songs while cruising through a hot summer night with the windows down, head bobbing and heart beating to the insinuating rhythms.  And it’s just as easy to imagine sitting back and sinking into the songs, opening your heart to the messages contained in the lyrics.  In a world that is increasingly harsh, cynical and disturbing, these songs provide a balm.

There are simple messages of love and an odd reflection on the life of a goldfish (it’s hard to tell if it is an extended metaphor or a rumination on what it must be like for a fish isolated in a fishbowl), but there are also songs that would nicely serve as daily confirmations for anyone looking to elevate their spirit.  In particular “You Got The Power” and “Give Thanks” remind you of the value of the life you hold in your hands.  And songs like “Angel” and “Magnet” remind you what love is really about.

Although Jayden delivers both his vocals and his rap segments with an impressive punch, his voice isn’t burdened with the mannerisms that are usually built in to songs with funky beats.  It’s a pure voice, echoing a sense of optimistic youth despite his mature mastery of the form.  That, too, adds to the album’s special quality.  And sprinkled throughout the songs there are other voices in the background, shouting out for joy or laughing.  It seems to reflect the community of supporters that helped make this project a reality.

This album works on so many levels it deserves to be a hit that resonates well beyond its small town origins. Meaford can be proud of this young talent.  He will go far.

The album release party for “Diving In”, featuring Jayden with a stellar band, happens June 28th at Heartwood Hall in Owen Sound.  Advance tickets are $25.