Tag Archives: Etta James

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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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.

Cheryl Lescom is Canada’s Queen of The Blues

It was three decades ago that Cheryl Lescom was a student at Canada’s one true rock and roll university: Ronnie Hawkins band.  That puts her in a league with alumni that ranges from Robbie Robertson to David Foster.  Then she toured with Long John Baldry, another legend who, among other things, nurtured the talents of Rod Stewart and Reginald Dwight (a.k.a. Elton John) when they were first starting out.  As a highly admired backup singer she toured with Canadian icons Jeff Healy, Matt Minglewood, Dutch Mason and the Downchild Blues Band.  She’s recorded songs written by Jack De Keyzer, Donnie Walsh, Matt Minglewood.  With a CV like that, it’s no exaggeration to say that Cheryl Lescom is right up there on the Mount Rushmore of Canadian rock and blues.

Check out her moving evocation of an Etta James song (be prepared to shed a tear):

And she’s playing Saturday night at The Harbour Street Fish Bar in Collingwood, along with The Matt Weidinger Band.  He’s a young singer-songwriter from Kitchener who has been building his own reputation with a 60’s inspired sound that grabs the attention of both the old, young and everyone in between. He’s an “old soul” who easily commands the attention of any crowd.  His passion for music and performing is contagious.

The Harbour Street Fish Bar is a venue unlike any other in the area.  Located at The Cranberry Mews in the east end of Collingwood, it’s just a twenty minute drive from downtown Meaford.  It’s a spacious, glittery room at night, with a night club atmosphere and a crowded dance floor.  They’ve been specializing this past month in bringing in Toronto based names that are familiar to anyone who is a fan of the blues , including the legendary Tony Springer, The Johnny Max Band,Jack de Keyser and (still to come) Jerome Godboo.  You know that when you see a performer who has been rocking audiences for decades they know how to get you up on your feet. And every week they feature a house band with another blues veteran, Tamica Herod.  On top of all that, there are people who actually travel miles just for the food!

Be there or be square!

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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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