Tag Archives: Johnny Cash

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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The Thursday Outlook – June 22 to 25

It’s a good weekend for Meaford fans of the harmonica, or to be more exact, blues harp.  On Friday night Al Lerman, founding member of Fathead, will be at The Red Door Pub and Grille from 7 to 10. With a 45 year history as a bluesman, playing harmonica, sax and guitar, and a shelf full of Junos and Maple Blues Awards, he’s the real deal.  He’s been around long enough to have sat in with the likes of Muddy Waters, Sunnyland Slim, and Willie Dixon.  Just as any true blues fan wants to hear those same songs over and over, you’ll want to hear him again and again, so head over to The Harbour Street Fish Bar in Collingwood to catch him tonight and then come hear him again tomorrow in the more intimate setting of The Red Door.

And if you were at The Harbour Street Fish Bar last night you were able to hear another blues harp great, Jerome Godboo, performing with Tamica Herod.  If you missed them or you just can’t get enough, make a point of being at The Leeky Canoe on Saturday, where they’ll be accompanied by guitarist Dylan Burchell.

Speaking of performers worth hearing again and again, one of them is Johnny Cash.  Although he’s gone his legend lives on in the form of tribute shows and one of the most highly regarded is presented by Jim Yorfido, who has a show called Johnny Cash: From Memphis to Folsom tonight at Meaford Hall.  June Carter will be represented by Jim’s wife Pam Yorfido, who is also renowned for her tributes to Tammy Wynette.  With the two of them and Marie Bottrell, it’ll be kind of an all-star event reproducing the talents of Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton as well.

With summer underway, it’s time for outdoor festivals.  Collingwood has a full lineup of local artists at the Port Music Festival happening Saturday and Sunday at the Shipyards AmphitheatreBambalamb will be heading up an kid-friendly festival of percussion at St. George’s Parish Hall in Owen Sound on Saturday afternoon.  And there’s the big ticket festival on Friday and Saturday at Kelso Beach called Summertime Blues 2017 with blues greats like Buddy Guy, Colin James, Matt Anderson and The Trevor Mackenzie Band, along with rockers The Sheepdogs and Teenage Head, with Bahamas thrown in for good measure.

 

One of the best bargains for fans of original songwriters is a program that showcases a triple bill.  Greg Smith has put together a special showcase featuring young talents Taylor Holden, From Forest and Field, Page Ballagh for a mere $10 tonight at The Bleeding Carrot in Owen Sound and on Sunday afternoon a PWYC showcase at The Garafraxa Café in Durham brings Bill Monahan, Dave Hawkins and John Brownlow back together for a triple bill of upbeat originals.

Jazz fans will perk up to hear that John MacMurchy Trio will be performing  with jazz vocalist Jocelyn Barth Friday night at the L.E. Shore Library in Thornbury.

And for something completely different, in a category all its own, Franny Wisp will be joined by Dave Loopstra and Bambalamb Kidd, along with a very special guest by the name of Glacial Erratic, will be bringing tuneful comedy to The Shelagh Fox Gallery in Thornbury on Saturday evening.

And that’s not all.  Peruse the listings at the right and you’re sure to find something to suit your taste and budget in this best of all areas to spend your first weekend of the summer

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Being Alive With Sean McCann

Review by Bill Monahan of Sean McCann in concert at Meaford Hall, May 5, 2017

So the question is, when a pivotal member of one of Canada’s best known party bands, celebrated for its drinking songs, decides to get sober, leave the band and go out on his own, filled with an overwhelming enthusiasm for abstinence, what kind of concert can you expect?  On Friday night at Meaford Hall, Sean McCann, formerly of Great Big Sea, provided the definitive answer…Parteee!!

The concert, from the moment he came dancing out on stage to the encore when he and accompanist Chris Murphy walked singing through the audience, was an endless ode to the joy of being alive.

Well maybe not entirely.  The opening song, though stirring, was a grim sea tale in the true tradition of Newfoundland, where an ebullient life meets daily with the dangers and tragedies of the sea.  Sean walked across the stage, down the steps and stood on the floor in front of the stage, daring to open his concert without the benefit of amplification.  “Can you hear me?” he asked the hushed audience, “I’m going to start here.”  And he sang a cappella, “Safe Upon the Shore” the title song from Great Big Sea’s 2010 album, about a girl who asks the sea to return her sailor safely to her.  Seeing him floating on a spar washing in toward her, she “thought with bliss how she would kiss the lips she did adore” only to discover as he came closer that he was a corpse.

One thing’s for sure, Sean McCann has landed safe upon the shore after his painful parting from Great Big Sea and conquering his alcoholism.  The concert was a great big celebration of resilience and courage and most of all, the power of love.  And if that sounds all a little too sober, it was the opposite, with every song set in that alternatively rollicking and heartfelt style that characterizes the music of Newfoundland.  Throughout the concert he had the audience singing along.  And they were so into it, when he sang a line from the old chestnut “You Are My Sunshine” just as a little aside, the audience immediately and without urging sang the entire song.  This was indeed a communal celebration of life, the kind of thing that Meaford Hall (“built from love” he said) is built for.

Throughout the concert Sean repeated how happy he was to be here, saying it was a night he would long remember.

The music was wonderful.   Sean occasionally plays some delicate finger-picking but he usually revs up his acoustic guitar with fast strumming, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Murphy added beautiful textures to every song in a way that dressed them up very nicely.

Séan McCann Radiates The Joy of A Man Awakened

On Friday, May 5th, Séan McCann will be bringing his stories and songs to Meaford Hall, presented by Irish Mountain Music as part of the Grand Reopening Event to celebrate the balcony renovations and re-opening of the Opera House.  He’s going to love it.

A founding member of Great Big Sea, he spent twenty years in the music business touring the world in one of Canada’s most popular party bands.  When he left the band in 2013 it wasn’t an amicable situation.  At that point a trio, it was pretty much impossible for the other band members, Bob Hallett and Alan Doyle, to carry on without him.  But it was something he had to do.

There were several reasons.  He was already heading off in another direction, having released his first solo album, “Lullabies for Bloodshot Eyes” in 2010, and around that same time he realized that he had been an alcoholic for most of his life and he managed to quit.  That naturally created tensions in a band whose song lyrics, as he’s said, are 90% about drinking.  “The longer I’d gotten sober,” he told CBC at the time, “I realized that Great Big Sea was one of the many things that really weren’t working well in my life.”   But it wasn’t just that he was odd man out in a band in which “every night was Friday night”.  When he sobered up, he was like a man awakened, and he began to face a lot of truths that alcohol had previously helped him to bury.  He began to see the big arena shows as something of a cheat for the audiences.

“I want to instill joy in people through my songs,” he says, “and get them to sing.  But I want the words to mean something.”  He was looking for “a deeper engagement, less superficial.”

Of course alcoholism is not something you just shrug off and throw away like an old coat.  Overcoming it and regaining your life is an ongoing struggle and it involves facing a lot of painful truths and finding a way to glean strength from every day.  “When you face the truth, it frees you,” he says, “There’s a joy in facing your problems.  I’ve found a way to write songs that help me stay sober.  My being open and singing is my therapy.  Music keeps me out of trouble.”

Along with dealing with some personal issues, he began to see in a clear-eyed way, for the first time, that the music industry was falling apart.  “I’ve learned that there is a lot of denial.  There’s no way to actually monetize the actual product, which is music.”  He approached his post-Great Big Sea career as a small business owner, finding a way to make a living while at the same time being true to his personal values which were increasingly coming into focus as he recovered from his years in the bottle.

Three years into his sobriety he released “Help Your Self”, a record produced by Joel Plaskett that represents a credo that he has learned to live by.  He has taken on complete control of his career, acting as his own manager and booking agent (saving 35% of his gross income in the process), a change that has allowed him to become more of who he really is.  “You can eliminate unnecessary things,” he says.

So one day he found himself driving through Meaford, having come from Owen Sound, and he noticed this beautiful concert hall in the middle of town, with Dan Mangan up on the marquee.  He went in and introduced himself to Susan Lake and asked about playing there.  She showed him the Opera House and he saw a perfect venue for the type of audience connection he’s looking for.

Music is a very big part of who he is.  “When you’re born a songwriter you can’t change that.”  He sees the changes in the music industry as a downturn that has “separated the wheat from the chaff” and it’s a good thing.  “If you pressure art, art gets stronger.”  While the infrastructure of international record labels is going the way of the 8-track cassette, the quality of the songs, he notes, is getting better.

“Music is too important to lose.  It’s been emancipated.”