Tag Archives: Jessy Bell Smith

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 Outlook – April 13 to 16, 2017

There’s a pretty special show going down at the Gayety Theatre in Collingwood on Saturday night when Bill and Joel Plaskett come to the area with their Solidarity album.  Joel was in Meaford last year and he talked then about doing an album with his dad, but this is no one-off collaboration.  In addition to teaching Joel how to play, Bill Plaskett has played banjo on Joel’s recordings as early as 2001’s Down at the Khyber, and became a full-fledged supporting player on 2009’s Three.  There have been eight Joel Plaskett albums since Thrush Hermit.  This one features a lot of his dad’s original songs.  Bill was deeply into the British Folk Revival, people like Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Davey Graham, before he emigrated to Nova Scotia from England.  When Joel was a little kid, Bill ran a coffee house, started trad bands and helped found the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival.  Saturday night at the Gayety gives Joel Plaskett fans a chance to see him play with his most important influence.

Richard Laviolette might have had a similar record with his dad if his mom hadn’t been sick.  Instead the record he’s celebrating at Heartwood Concert Hall on the very same Saturday night is a moving and entertaining look at life growing up in Tara and fields beyond.  Like Joel he grew up surrounded by family music, and learned from his dad how to play.  He’ll be sharing the evening with Jessy Bell Smith.

Tonight if you are old enough and yet retain some relevant memory of the sixties, or are young enough to think that Woodstock was real life, you can soak up the British Invasion from 1969 Revisited at Heartwood.

Tonight if you are old enough and yet retain some relevant memory of the sixties, or are young enough to think that Woodstock was real life, you can soak up the British Invasion from 1969 Revisited at Heartwood.  It was the time when bands from Britain taught white kids from North America what the blues was about.  This 7 piece band takes you back to your turntable or your favorite FM station.  Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

Richard Laviolette Took the Long Way Home to Tara


Saturday night at Heartwood Concert Hall, Richard Laviolette will be celebrating the release of his first album in almost seven years.  Taking the Long Way Home is a reflection upon his growing up in a musical family in the town of Tara.

“I’m definitely someone who was shown consistent love and was raised in this situation where I was completely surrounded by music,” Laviolette told the Guelph Mercury.  His original intention was to create this album with his dad, Darrell, who had taught him how to play guitar and mandolin.  The idea was that they would write and record songs together in an exploration of his family and home as he was growing up.  But his dad couldn’t participate, his focus necessarily shifted to the care of Richard’s mom, Marie, who recently passed away after a lengthy period suffering from Huntington’s disease.  Marie was one of eight siblings, five of whom were sisters, all of whom sat in together on family sing-alongs and jamborees. There is some irony in the fact that this is the same disease that struck Woody Guthrie, in some respects the prototype of the socially conscious singer-songwriter that pervades Richard’s own work, even if his more immediate influence is Neil Young.


“There is a deep sense of honesty and conviction ringing through my speakers through the multiple listens to

“Taking The Long Way Home

Richard began recording albums when he was a student at the University of Guelph.   His debut album was begun in autumn 2003 and released in 2005 under the name Mary Carl.  His second album, A Little Less Like a Rock, a Little More Like Home, was released on Burnt Oak Records in August 2006.

The Skydiggers’ Energy Warms A Wintry Night

Review by Bill Monahan of The Skydiggers at Meaford Hall Dec. 10, 2016

It was a wintry night when The Skydiggers stopped at Meaford Hall on Saturday.  That may have prevented a few from making the trip, so the audience was a little smaller than the full houses that the Opera House is getting used to lately.  But they brought a whole lot of energy to the room.  Vocal and mobile, they cheered every song, often spontaneously leaping to their feet and running into the aisles to dance.  From the opening bars of the first song Andy Maize had the audience in the palm of his hand.

They had said they were bringing their famous Horseshoe Tavern Christmas show on the road but since that longstanding tradition involved crowding the stage with friends from a quarter century career, it’s a little difficult to bring on the road.  But they did bring friends, and everybody caught the spirit.  The Skydiggers gave us a great show from end to end.

There was a solid band, with keyboards, drums and bass, accompanying singers Andy Maize and Jessy Bell Smith, and guitarist Josh Findlayson.  Their groove was locked in enough for Andy to execute some of his famous dance moves, ranging from leaping leprechaun to Chubby Checker, with some frenetic jazz hands thrown in for spice.  Michael Johnston, on keyboards, stretched out several times with some exciting solos.  Guitar leads were scarce, just hinted at when Josh briefly strapped on an electric guitar.  Mostly he played an acoustic, picking and strumming.

The most compelling aspect of The Skydiggers live show is the blend of voices.  Often everybody but the drummer was singing and it created a beautiful choral sound.  Andy Maize on lead vocals uses the full range of his voice to put across a variety of songs and when Jessy Bell Smith adds vocal harmonies things suddenly become ethereal.

She is the kind of vocalist that has you thinking as you listen “I wonder where she’s playing next.”  She’s been a member of The Skydiggers since 2013 when her version of one of their songs inspired them to release “She Comes In To The Room”, a collection of songs with female singers.  She has also released an album of her own recordings.  On stage she seems shy but relaxed.  When she takes the lead you are transported.  It’s one of those voices.

She did a version of “We Go Rambling On”, a song written by Peter Cash, one of the founding members of The Skydiggers.  She lost herself in the performance and so did the audience, which spontaneously leapt to their feet to give her an extended ovation afterward.  I think that’s what they call a show-stopper.

But the show was full of great renditions of wonderful songs.  “Remember Me” is a longing look at the years of Christmas parties at The Horseshoe.  Andy says it has become such a solid tradition, “I think they could have it without us”.  The audience disagreed and it sounded like several people promised to follow them to The Horseshoe for the big show next weekend.

Their version of The Tragically Hip’s “Are You Going Through Something?” was moving, and their take on Gene Clark’s “Eight Miles High” added some musical treats that weren’t there on the original Byrds version.

It was a show that was over too soon.  It was the kind of band you wanted to be able to listen to all night, and you got the feeling that they would be happy to play for you.  Maybe they’ll do that when they play two days next week at The Horseshoe.

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