Tag Archives: Tom Wilson

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.”

The Thursday Outlook – Oct. 19 to 23, 2017

The Band That Kills Hate, Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, is coming back to spread their vibe and their amazing music in our area, with a show on Sunday evening at Meaford Hall.  Along with killing hate and putting on a show that rocks the house, this is a band that represents the best in Canadian song writing.  Originally founded as a tribute to the late Willie P. Bennett, the band was conceived as a fun side project for the three artists (Tom Wilson, Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing) who all have their own careers, and two decades later they still bring that fun of an all-star jam to every show.  Throughout their career they have consistently made a point of shining the spotlight on Canadian songwriters and others from the wide world of music.  Touring with them recently is Tom Wilson’s son, Thompson Wilson, who dispels any hint of nepotism with engaging original songs performed solo on acoustic guitar.  Blackie and The Rodeo Kings is a band that every Canadian music fan should see and there’s no better venue for that than Meaford Hall.

Owen Sound based songwriter, Larry Jensen, whose original songs have spawned a tribute album by the leading lights of the local music scene, will be performing a special concert tonight at The Bleeding Carrot, starting at 7 pm.  This is an ideal small venue to be able to really enjoy the songs and stories he weaves.

Jacelyn Holmes, whose press touts her as a blend of Marilyn Monroe and Stevie Nicks, is at The Huron Club in Collingwood for the weekend.  Following her showcase performance at the 2017 Juno Awards she’s released a smoky blues single, “Fool”, and is working on an upcoming album.

The Shuvs Offer An Antidote to Chaotic Times

This Friday’s dinner shows at Bruce Wine Bar will feature The Shuvs, a Toronto based band that is imbued with the sound of soul.  Central to the band is the songwriting of Rob Nicholls but it is the group contribution that makes the band unique.

Rob Nicholls, originally from Victoria B.C. has been writing and recording music sing he was eighteen, playing piano and guitar.  With this new configuration in The Shuvs, he is bringing out some of his favourite influences, echoing the soul mastery of performers like Curtis Mayfield and Al Green but through his musical odyssey he has explored every genre.  Back in 2009 he had a band with Galen Rigter called LAND, which ranged through a catalogue of styles from heavy metal to ska, and did them all well.  It was persistence and a gradual defining of focus that brought him to The Shuvs.

Rob Nicholls is a painter whose visual expressions find their equivalent in the sounds he creates with his music.  In many musicians who are also visual artists (e.g. Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Tom Wilson), you’ll often find that their music, like their painting, has a concern with texture.  This can be seen, or rather heard, in the music of The Shuvs.

As a practising artist and instructor at OCADU, Rob works out of a studio in a Toronto heritage building known as The Coffin Factory.  He crossed paths there with the building superintendent Richard Verdin, who also happened to be a drummer.  As he told Digest DX3, Richard “went to an open mike with another band and saw Rob was there playing as a solo artist. I was watching him and I thought, ‘This guy’s great; he just needs some beat behind him.’ I asked him to jam and everything just went great from the start.

As they worked together they developed a sound that blended the lyrics approach of writers like Neil Young and Bob Dylan with the smooth soul sounds of a performer like Curtis Mayfield.  They added bass player Jack Gunn and percussionist/vocalist Laura Anderson, giving them everything they needed to create the sound they were looking for.

As Exclaim! magazine said in their review of the band’s debut album, “the band shines when vocalist Laura Anderson takes the lead, as on the opening/title trackCan’t Find Love.’ From there, the album rarely wavers from its steady rhythm, seemingly riding a breeze through to the final track. Vocal contrasts between Anderson and guitarist Rob Nicholls provide enough variation to keep things intriguing.”

“Listeners will find themselves coming around for another listen just to keep the feeling going —exactly what a lot of people could use in this era of constant restlessness.”

With an ear for atmospherics, the group used The Coffin Factory as a recording studio.  . They used vintage analog equipment and recording techniques to capture the warmth and directness in their music. Each track, recorded live off-the-floor and on tape, is coloured by the openness and echo of the building’s interior.  The result, “Can’t Find Love”, is a sweet, soul offering with lyrics to ponder.  As Stylus magazine commented, “The Shuvs are all about the soft touch. Breezy and mellow but with real intent, this record creeps up on you.”  In its review, Exclaim! said, “In contrast to the overwhelmingly anxious music of today, Can’t Find Love comes across as completely carefree. Listeners will find themselves coming around for another listen just to keep the feeling going —exactly what a lot of people could use in this era of constant restlessness.”

Bring An Open Heart To The Andrea Ramolo Concert

Andrea Ramolo will be coming to Owen Sound next weekend for two purposes.  On Saturday night, April 1st, she will be playing at Heartwood Concert Hall to promote her latest album, “Nuda”, on a double bill with Jenie Thai.  The following day, on Sunday afternoon, she will be hosting the latest in the Music Biz Tune Up series that’s been put together by Summerfolk to provide music business advice to local musicians.

The music of Andrea Ramolo, particularly on this latest release, is exceptionally personal and intimate.  She allows herself to explore openly the most vulnerable aspects of her life through her art.  As she has said in a press release, “It was written during an exceptionally dark time where I was painfully shedding pieces of who I thought I was — as an artist, as a lover, as a woman. I wanted the project to unabashedly expose that process; that battle with ego and identification in an attempt to just be, to reveal all my cuts and bruises in this process of becoming.”

Jim Barber, in Music Life Magazine, called the album “a compelling, emotional and truly powerful statement by an artist unafraid to confront her own pain.”  It was produced by The Cowboy Junkies’ Michael Timmins, who has provided her with the same understated and subtle sonic environment that contributed so much to the success of that band.

The extreme vulnerability of her work raises the question of how it will play in Heartwood.  This is a great venue with excellent sound and good sight lines but audiences there have been criticized in the past for talking loudly through performances.  Will the audience on Friday night show enough respect for the artist to allow a full appreciation of what she is offering?

Andrea has been performing since 2003, originally as a dancer and has collaborated with Tom Wilson, a great admirer of Canadian talent, and shared the stage with sensitive performers like Gordon Lightfoot, Ron Sexsmith and Adam Cohen. In 2004, Andrea was cast in Disney’s made-for-TV movie Once Upon a Mattress, starring Carol Burnett and Tracy Ullman. She toured for more than five years with Cindy Doire as the duo Scarlett Jane, releasing two albums to add to the two solo albums she had aleady put out.

On Saturday night she will be sharing the stage with Jenie Thai, another exceptional artist whose command of the keyboard, expressive vocals and heartfelt, blues-based original songs are sure to command the attention of the audience.

When she meets on Sunday with local musicians, Andrea will be talking about the process of getting gigs, and working with a manager.  She will offer advice about finding opportunities, communicating with venues, and arranging performances. She’ll also answer questions about managers, why artists higher them, and when it makes sense to.  Live performance is usually the main source of revenue for most musicians and her advice is bound to be valuable.

The Music Biz Tune Up will run from 1-3pm on April 2nd at the Suite Spots on 2nd avenue in Owen Sound. Registration is $20 but participants who register for the entire 7-part series will receive a 25% discount. Participating musicians can register online at www.summerfolk.org/musicbiztuneup or at the door.

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