Tag Archives: Juno awards

CROW Sessions Spotlights Stephen Fearing

By Bill Monahan

On Tuesday April 24th, Crow Bar and Variety in Collingwood presents the third in its special series of dinner shows, this time featuring singer-songwriter Stephen Fearing.  The early dinner-show format, with the admonition, “Shut the F@#k Up and Listen”, is designed to give audiences extra insight into the artists featured with a mix of stories and songs.  Part of the show on Tuesday will be an interview on stage conducted by writer and broadcaster Jeff Woods “asking some of the hard questions”.

Stephen Fearing, a veteran singer-songwriter, winner of  two Juno Awards, a Canadian Folk Music Award and a West Coast Music Award, has been building an international reputation since the release of his first self-titled, self-produced cassette in 1986.  He is probably best known as one of the founding members of Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, but during his decades with them he has continued to develop a solo career that includes collaborating with the Northern Irish singer-songwriter Andy White, almost two decades as a solo artist on the prestigious True North label, conducting songwriting workshops, and producing records by other artists that include Suzie Vinnick’s Juno-nominated “Happy Here”, for which he co-wrote most of the songs.

“When I started in this business it was a very different landscape and certainly there was a lot more emphasis put on just being one-dimensional,” he says, “You know, ‘don’t confuse the audience’, just be the thing that the record company is trying to sell you as and stick to that.  I think a lot of musicians have an interest to try different things, not just other styles but collaborating, performing with other players gives you a chance to try a different hat and that kind of thing.  The way the business is working now, you’ve really got to be able to spread yourself around, do different things, multiple income streams.  But just from a selfish point of view of keeping yourself interested, the more ways you find to can skin a cat, as it were, the better.”

Like a lot of veteran artists, Stephen Fearing has lived through the seismic change in the music industry that occurred with the advent of the Internet, and he’s learned to adapt.  He’s live through the change from the days when a musician was seen as “somebody who rolls out of bed at noon and picks up a guitar and then is just kind of magically transported to the show and then to a party afterward,” to the way things are now, “when so much that needs to be done is the artists’ job.”

Canada’s Queen of Soul Coming To Meaford Hall

By Bill Monahan

Jully Black, named by CBC as one of ‘The 25 Greatest Canadian Singers Ever’, will be gracing the stage at Meaford Hall on Thursday February 22, 2018.  This platinum selling artist, affectionately dubbed ‘Canada’s Queen of R&B Soul’ has a multi-faceted career that includes Juno awards, writing songs for major artists, and a variety of television appearances that highlight her ebullient personality.

Born to Jamaican immigrants and raised in the Jane/Finch area, Jully Black discovered her talent at an early age and was particularly inspired by Whitney Houston. After winning a local talent show and singing at numerous events, she began travelling to New York on weekends to sing and record when she was just fourteen.   The music industry was also quick to recognize her talent.  She was signed to Warner/Chappell Publishing and wrote for or collaborated with other well-known artists such as Nas, Destiny’s Child, Sean Paul, Kardinal Official and many others.  Her debut album was originally scheduled for release on MCA records in 2003 but the company folded before that could happen.  Signed to Universal, she released an album called “This Is Me” in 2005, which spawned the hit singles “Sweat of Your Brow” and “5x Love”.

The success of the album led to a cross-Canada tour opening for the Black Eyed Peas, which in turn led to that band’s drummer, Keith Harris, producing her sophomore album.  That album, “Revival”, won a Juno for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year and scored a Top Ten hit with a cover of Etta James’ “Seven Day Fool”.

That same year she starred in the theatre production of “Da Kink in My Hair” at the Princess of Wales in Toronto. The show was a great success and led to a TV series for which she wrote the opening theme and appeared in a few episodes.

Honeymoon Suite Rocked The Eighties

In his book about the now defunct  Music Express magazine, writer Keith Sharp talks about being a judge for the 1983 Q107 Homegrown contest.  Entries from regional bands were adjudicated in a three-hour listening session.  About the fourth or fifth track into the process they heard Honeymoon Suite’s “New Girl Now” and fell off their chairs. One of the judges was Warner Canada’s new A & R chief Bob Roper“It was like, ‘Wow! Who are these guys?’”

Honeymoon Suite had taken its name from its home town, Niagara Falls where it was founded with the help of producer Tom Pendergast.  He brought lead singer Johnnie Dee together with guitarist Derry Grehan to form the group which with the later addition of drummer Dave Betts, Ray Coburn on keys and Gary Lalonde on bass, became Honeymoon Suite.  He’d already scared up some interest in the UK and was in the process of pitching the band to Warner when Bob Roper was scribbling in his notebook at the Q107 Homegrown judging.  So it didn’t take long for things to happen.

“New Girl Now” peaked at #57 on the Billboard Hot 100, the video was a mainstay on MTV and three hit singles followed in Canada.  By 1985 the album was selling platinum in Canada and the band toured the world with bands like Billy Idol, Jethro Tull, The Kinks.  Their 1986 album went platinum out of the box. (By now those sales have tripled).

Jack de Keyser, Blues Legend, Coming to Harbour Street Fish Bar

This Saturday the Jack de Keyser band will return to our area to play the Harbour Street Fish Bar in Collingwood.  This two-time Juno winner and seven times recipient of a Maple Blues Award has been referred to by a U.S. publication as “a coveted super-hero in Canada”.   Jeff Healey’s assessment of Jack de Keyser as “The finest blues guitarist in Canada” is shared by many, including Bob Dylan, who commented,  “If Jack de Keyzer was from Chicago, New York or LA, he’d be famous”. Kathy Pellizzi, writing in Los Angeles Film & Music agrees: “If you think the hippest, hottest bands are coming out of Los Angeles, you are mistaken!   More power to Jack de Keyzer, come show the Americans what we’ve been missing!” 

Playing over 120 shows per year, he has been called “the master of live performance”.  The power of his recorded output, including the two Juno wins, is that he records live off the floor to capture the magic of his live shows and his great band.

Although he is known primarily for his guitar playing, he’s also been praised for his song writing and vocals.  .   Ruth Schweitzer in  Maple Blues magazine said “Multi-talented Jack de Keyzera gifted songwriter, a mean guitarist and a smooth, sultry singer”.    He won first prize in the 2007 International Songwriting Competition for his song “That’s the Only Time”.