Tag Archives: Exclaim!

A Skydiggers Christmas Returns To Meaford Hall

This Thursday The Skydiggers bring their annual Christmas show to Meaford Hall.  This is part of a tour that actually started back in mid-November in Winnipeg.  The first part of the tour was to promote their latest album, “The Warmth of The Sun” and as we get closer to Christmas it has become a combination of songs from their album along with their Christmas favourites.

As Andy Maize told Exclaim! magazine, the new album “is a reflection of the live band, how good the players are, how quick they are, and we wanted to capture that energy and not overthink it.”  He added “I don’t think it was intentional, but I can hear a thread on these songs about reaching out, being honest with yourself and making a connection with people, in order to get to a better place. That’s definitely a goal for us, it always is.”

The original songs on the album were co-written, as always by The Skydiggers’ core members Andy Maize and Josh Findlayson. The title track was inspired by Gord Downie’s solo project “Secret Path”, which took a hard look at Canada’s national shame, the residential schools which wrenched indigenous children from their families right up until the 1990’s.  Josh Findlayson was particularly moved by the message of the album, and its accompanying graphic novel.  He was a close friend of Gord’s and played on most of the solo albums that he had released outside of The Tragically Hip.  He played in the live show of “Secret Path” last year, not long before Gord’s passing.

The Thursday Update – Oct. 12 to 16, 2017

Two new open stages are starting up in our area this weekend.  On Saturday afternoon, Amanda Dorey will be hosting an open stage at the Riverside Community Centre, and at Bridges Tavern in Thornbury, Josh Fletcher will be hosting an open stage on Friday starting at 8 pm.  These additions mean that aspiring performers and fans of the surprising grab bag that an open stage can be now have the opportunity to enjoy one every night of the week except Saturday and Monday.

In chronological order, the open stages nearby are The Barn Coop on Sunday at noon; Heartwood’s bi-monthly open mic Tuesday at 8; The granddaddy of all open jams at Ted’s Range Road Diner, and Bruce Wine Bar with Drew McIvor both on Wednesdays at 8; Chris Scerri at The Leeky Canoe Thursdays at nine; also on Thursdays, Dave Russell at The Corner Café and Craig Smith at CROW; Friday afternoon, at the Bleeding Carrot, Kelly Babcock hosts the open stage, and now on Friday evening there is Josh at Bridges and on Saturday afternoon Amanda at Riverside.   That adds up to a lot of free entertainment that mixes the best musicians in the area with undiscovered talents.

Ben Kunder and Sarah Macdougall at Desboro Music Hall

Once again, this Saturday night, The Desboro Music Hall is bringing a pair of musicians with international reputations to entertain local fans.  Again, as with the first two concerts in this year’s series, it is a man and a woman, except that this time they are not a couple.  In fact Ben Kunder and Sarah MacDougall are songwriters who have separate careers and their collaboration is enhanced by their individual creativity.

They originally met at The Cameron House in Toronto, when Sarah came to Ben’s gig because he was being accompanied by the bass player they shared, Anna Ruddick of Ladies of The Canyon.  Each of them was an established solo performer but interested in collaborating with someone, particularly in songwriting.  With Ben living in Toronto and Sarah in Whitehorse they wrote their first song by email.

“We realized we had many, many things in common,” says Ben, while Sarah has commented, “He’s like a long lost brother.”  Their collaboration led to touring together in Europe and the U.K earlier this year.  It was a great success, particularly satisfying for Ben who found that he was well known, enjoying “a great response from the people” and “a few sold out shows.”  He echoed many Canadian artists who have found success in Europe, noting that there is “a strong support for the arts there.”  This was his first tour of Europe, “but it won’t be my last.  I’ll be going back when I finish this new record.”

His first record, “Golden” was very well received, with Exclaim! saying , “Kunder’s extra special voice, along with gorgeous production, lends the record an almost velvety quality,”and NewCanadianMusic said the album: “features strong and warm vocals, nicely-crafted folk-rock songs, and top-notch production and playing.”

Sarah MacDougall, originally from Sweden, now living in Canada, was praised by the Swedish magazine Nöjesguiden as “One of Sweden’s best singer/songwriters”.  Her record, “Grand Canyon”, was called by CBC “as vast and as varied as its namesake” while Greyowlpoint said, “Grand Canyon is a refreshing addition to Canada’s singer-songwriter genre, but it’s also so much more. The album is filled with Sarah MacDougall doing what she does best: taking indie-pop expectations and shooting them full of fresh turns and honest lyrics.”

Together the two artists collaborated on a song called “Better Days”.  In concert they share the stage, “kind of like a song circle”, taking turns with their individual songs and singing together on some.

The Desboro Music Hall, a converted church, is developing a reputation among performers that has artists coming to them.  Ben was directed to them by Suzie Ungerleider, who performs as Oh Suzanna, and played the venue last year.

“Suzie is a good friend of mine,” he says, “She said I should play there.  Then I discovered that Josie [Phil’s wife] and I actually went to the same college together.  So it’s a double connection.”

In addition to a great booking policy guided by the love of original music, the Klages brothers at The Desboro Hall always give great value, adding an opening act.  This time around it is celebrated multi-instrumentalist Rob Elder, a highly respected local musician who opened last year’s series.

Return to Front Page for today’s update

Click on album covers to link to iTunes where you can preview, browse and download music by Ben Kunder and Sarah MacDougall

Heartwood Presents An Intimate Evening With Danny Michel

This Thursday Danny Michel will be playing at Heartwood Concert Hall in Owen Sound.  He’s touring to promote his new album, “Khlebnikov”, a recording that is special in many ways, the least of which is that it may be the most northern album ever recorded.

Danny was invited by astronaut Chris Hadfield who invited him to join Generator Arctic, an expedition in the Arctic Ocean aboard the Russian ice-breaker Kapitan Khlebnikov with scientists, photographers, writers, videographers.

In an interview with Tom Power on CBC Radio’s Q The Music, he explained, “The goal was for all of us to go up there, experience the arctic and to come back and share it with the rest of the world.”  His job was to write a song about it.  “I can write more than one song in eighteen days,” he said, so, ensconced in his tiny cabin, he created an entire album’s worth of material, recruiting as session musicians Colonel Hadfield and the vessel’s dishwasher.  He brought the recordings back to civilization with him and, collaborating with multiple award winning composer Rob Carli, created this singular album.

Joseph Mathieu of Exclaim! calls it “a pensive album that illustrates a nautical and northern life. It’s all majestic scenery with well-oiled machinery at the forefront, with a story of picturesque fishing villages, ancient graves of explorers and even the dreams of the Russian crew.”

Danny told Aaron Tang of Killbeat Music, “One evening at 4:00am I woke to massive muffled booms and thuds of the Khlebnikov lurching through the Arctic ice,” recalls Danny. ”Too curious to sleep I put on all of my gear and went outside to see what was happening. There alone, at the bow I witnessed one of the most glorious moments of my life. Under an endless sky and midnight sun, I watched pieces of ice the size of tennis courts break, flip, and bounce around like bowling pins under the hull of the mighty Khlebnikov. Later that day I wrote “24,000 Horses”

Danny Michel was a natural choice to capture this expedition in song.  His musical output has always reflected his love of the planet.  He describes himself as “an environmentalist, pacifist, romanticist and space enthusiast.”  In 2011, he created “The Ocean Academy Fund”, helping raise scholarships for the Caye Caulker Community School, a small non-profit community high school in Belize. To date, he’s raised over $70,000.00 for the school and volunteers there.

He is also a fireball of creative energy who expresses himself in a variety of projects that bring together musical friends.

He created and single-handedly produces  “Dan’s Space Van” ,a web-series that takes place in an original customized 1978 GMC Vadura (airbrushed in a Star Trek theme), featuring interesting people and musical guests who perform in the van’s diamond quilted, crushed red velvet interior.

He also created a special series at Toronto’s Roots Rock mecca, The Dakota Tavern, that he calls “School Night Mondays”.  He’s given life to the slowest night of the week for any venue with a “relaxed early show for no other reason than friends playing music”.  It’s been sold out for eighteen weeks in a row, with guests that have included Sarah Harmer, Jim Cuddy, Col. Chris Hadfield, Ed Robertson, Tom Cochrane, Royal Wood, Whitehorse, and more.

Danny Michel’s music is a gift, an art and a joyful celebration of life, sure to brighten up a cold Owen Sound winter’s night this Thursday.  Doors open at 7:30 and the show starts at 8:30.  Most tickets, priced at $25, are available on line, with a limited number of hard copy tickets available at Heartwood Home, just below the venue.

Return to Front Page for today’s update