Tag Archives: Dakota Tavern

Danny Michel Brings School Night Mondays To Crow

by Bill Monahan

Monday is the one night in the week when live music doesn’t happen.  When Danny Michel decided to rectify that six years ago at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto he was bucking conventional wisdom.

“Everybody said I was crazy,” he says, “nobody will come on a Monday.  It turned out to be the opposite.  People loved that there was something happening on a Monday.  But it was early so they could be home by around 9:30.  The other thing is that there was no competition.”

The first series he did at the Dakota sold out for eighteen weeks in a row.  He always invites friends to join him and his band.  The Dakota series included a who’s who of artists, including Sarah Harmer, Jim Cuddy, Ed Robertson, Tom Cochrane, Amelia Curran, and Royal Wood among others.

“It’s created for no other reason than for musicians, friends, to get together to play and enjoy it.  The rest of our lives is all stressful gigs that are about your career and trying to sell tickets.  I kind of missed that whole thing about getting together just to play for no reason.”

Danny Michel has a habit of thinking outside the box with his musical projects.  The empathetic nature of his songs mirrors a career that follows his heart.

Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar at The Marsh Street Centre

This coming Saturday, Feb. 18th, the Marsh Street Centre in Clarksburg will be presenting a fundraising concert featuring Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar.  Centred on the vocal power of Samantha and her backup singers, Sherie Marshall and Stacie Tabb, this is a band that straddles the lines between soul, blues, gospel and country.  Of course that’s not really a stretch when you consider that those genres are really just different shades of the same music – music that comes from a deep inner authenticity to reach out and touch an audience.

If you review the band’s press clippings, and those of its predecessor, The Haggard, you’ll find that the constant refrain is enthusiastic praise for Samantha Martin’s voice.  Her vocals have been compared most often to Janis Joplin, but also to  singers like Mavis Staples, Etta James, and Tina Turner.  This is fitting because these singers have always been among her favourites.  In making these comparisons, reviewers emphasize the group’s authenticity, with phrases like “this is a group that just gets it, gets it all,” and “this truck driver’s daughter is the real deal”.

It seems like the blues has pulled her like a magnet to get to this point.  She grew up in Lion’s Head and migrated south to Owen Sound, where her earliest recordings were made with the help of Trevor and Tara Mackenzie of The Mackenzie Blues Band, resulting in the 2004 EP, “Fade”.  She began to write her own songs in 2005, and moved further south to Toronto, where she was originally introduced to audiences there at the C’Est Wha? Open stages, and then found a home at The Dakota Tavern.  In 2008 she recorded her first full length CD, “Back Home”, produced by Derek Downham.

Members of the Kensington Hillbillies helped form her first band The Haggard.  Ostensibly alternative country, her vocal style pulled it more toward the blues spectrum and the eventually it morphed into Delta Sugar, bringing along guitarist Mikey McCallum from the first band.  In the studio they relied on hand claps and foot stomping to provide the percussion but that became difficult to sustain live (“It was hard for me to catch my breath” she explains) so they added drummer Dani Nash.  This is the lineup that will be performing at The Marsh Street Centre.

Samantha Martin has a voice “that grabs you by the throat while causing the hairs on the back of your neck to tingle”

“As a five-piece,” she says, “we are really, really tight.”  While horn sections and drums and bass are often the meat on the bones of soul music, Samantha finds that there is an advantage to leaving a little more space in the sound.  “Somebody will come up and say, ‘I really liked such and such a song, you should add a pedal steel to make it more country’, and then someone else will come up and say ‘you should add horns’ – and they’re talking about the same song.”  People hear what they want to hear when she gives them room to do so.

But leaving that space, she says, is “a double-edged sword.  It makes me hard to market.” On the other hand they can rock the house with the best of them or “do a 1 a.m. set at a festival, or play a house party without compromising what we do”.  She adds, “The simpler it is the bigger it sounds.”

And it’s a sound that works.  She was pleased to be asked by Colin Linden to join Blackie And The Rodeo Kings on stage at Massey Hall in a few weeks to sing a song from their “Kings And Queens” album, a sold out concert that kicks off their latest tour just before they too come to the area to play The Gayety Theatre in Collingwood.

When this sound and this voice fills The Marsh Street Centre next Saturday night, to be sure a lot of people will experience what reviewer Kerry Doole, writing in Exclaim!, calls “a force of nature, one of those voices that grabs you by the throat while causing the hairs on the back of your neck to tingle”.

Visit http://www.marshstreetcentre.com/events-cmql for tickets.

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