Tag Archives: Waylon Jennings

Heartwood’s Second Anniversary With The Celebration Army

This weekend Heartwood Music Hall is celebrating its second anniversary.  It takes courage and faith in your local audience to create a venue like this dedicated solely to providing live music concerts.  The fact that Heartwood has reached this milestone is good news for local music fans.

A large upstairs room with a proscenium stage at one end, a good sound system and a good tech, built for music, is a rarity in this area, and before Heartwood there was nothing like it in Owen Sound.  There’s a dance floor at the front, tables for four and stools at a shelf along the walls, and a conversation area at the back by the bar.  It was designed for the enjoyment of high energy music and, from The Peptides to Higher Funktion, the venue has provided consistent high-energy entertainment for two years.

So it makes sense that to celebrate their anniversary, they’ve brought back the Toronto band, The Celebration Army, as part of a two-day celebration.  This is the band that rocked the Boxing Day party.

Their debut eponymous recording was released just this past February but the band sounds much more mature than that.  They can set up a groove the way that The Band did, but instead of that blend of rustic voices, The Celebration Army has one of those lead vocalists that make you stop and pay attention.

Apparently, a Canadian Idol judge told Oliver Pigott he was the most talented performer to ever audition for the show.  Listen to any Celebration Army song and you’ll hear what he means.  He can take on any vocal style and deliver it in a compelling way.  The band is one solid groove behind him and they layer beautiful harmonies on every song.

Séan McCann Radiates The Joy of A Man Awakened

On Friday, May 5th, Séan McCann will be bringing his stories and songs to Meaford Hall, presented by Irish Mountain Music as part of the Grand Reopening Event to celebrate the balcony renovations and re-opening of the Opera House.  He’s going to love it.

A founding member of Great Big Sea, he spent twenty years in the music business touring the world in one of Canada’s most popular party bands.  When he left the band in 2013 it wasn’t an amicable situation.  At that point a trio, it was pretty much impossible for the other band members, Bob Hallett and Alan Doyle, to carry on without him.  But it was something he had to do.

There were several reasons.  He was already heading off in another direction, having released his first solo album, “Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes” in 2010, and around that same time he realized that he had been an alcoholic for most of his life and he managed to quit.  That naturally created tensions in a band whose song lyrics, as he’s said, are 90% about drinking.  “The longer I’d gotten sober,” he told CBC at the time, “I realized that Great Big Sea was one of the many things that really weren’t working well in my life.”   But it wasn’t just that he was odd man out in a band in which “every night was Friday night”.  When he sobered up, he was like a man awakened, and he began to face a lot of truths that alcohol had previously helped him to bury.  He began to see the big arena shows as something of a cheat for the audiences.

“I want to instill joy in people through my songs,” he says, “and get them to sing.  But I want the words to mean something.”  He was looking for “a deeper engagement, less superficial.”

Of course alcoholism is not something you just shrug off and throw away like an old coat.  Overcoming it and regaining your life is an ongoing struggle and it involves facing a lot of painful truths and finding a way to glean strength from every day.  “When you face the truth, it frees you,” he says, “There’s a joy in facing your problems.  I’ve found a way to write songs that help me stay sober.  My being open and singing is my therapy.  Music keeps me out of trouble.”

Along with dealing with some personal issues, he began to see in a clear-eyed way, for the first time, that the music industry was falling apart.  “I’ve learned that there is a lot of denial.  There’s no way to actually monetize the actual product, which is music.”  He approached his post-Great Big Sea career as a small business owner, finding a way to make a living while at the same time being true to his personal values which were increasingly coming into focus as he recovered from his years in the bottle.

Three years into his sobriety he released “Help Your Self”, a record produced by Joel Plaskett that represents a credo that he has learned to live by.  He has taken on complete control of his career, acting as his own manager and booking agent (saving 35% of his gross income in the process), a change that has allowed him to become more of who he really is.  “You can eliminate unnecessary things,” he says.

So one day he found himself driving through Meaford, having come from Owen Sound, and he noticed this beautiful concert hall in the middle of town, with Dan Mangan up on the marquee.  He went in and introduced himself to Susan Lake and asked about playing there.  She showed him the Opera House and he saw a perfect venue for the type of audience connection he’s looking for.

Music is a very big part of who he is.  “When you’re born a songwriter you can’t change that.”  He sees the changes in the music industry as a downturn that has “separated the wheat from the chaff” and it’s a good thing.  “If you pressure art, art gets stronger.”  While the infrastructure of international record labels is going the way of the 8-track cassette, the quality of the songs, he notes, is getting better.

“Music is too important to lose.  It’s been emancipated.”