Tag Archives: Sean Pinchin

Latin Grammy Winner Alex Cuba Headlines Weekend at Blue Mountain Village

On Saturday August 4th at 8:30pm Blue Mountain Village brings Latin Grammy and Juno Award Winner Alex Cuba to the Coca-Cola Village Stage, headlining the weekend’s Mosaic World Music Festival.

A musician since the age of four, Alex Cuba has in his veins the music of that tropical island whose name he has appropriated for the stage.  But his music is uniquely Canadian in spirit.

His Cuban music roots run deep. Seminal Cuban artists like Matamoros, el Benny and Compay Segundo filled his ears from infancy.   He played in his father’s ensemble of 24 guitarists alongside his twin brother Adonis Puentes, (who will be at Summerfolk this August), appeared as a teen on Cuban national TV, won a songwriting competition at the age of eighteen.

After studying electric and standup bass, he toured Cuba and internationally.  He was on a tour of Canada when he fell in love with a Canadian girl, Sarah Goodacre, daughter of a B.C. politician.  She returned with him to Cuba and they were married.  Later they emigrated to Canada, so that he could “creatively spread his wings” and to be close to Sarah’s’s family in Smithers, B. C.

In Smithers, he and his wife created an independent label Caracol Records, to distribute Alex’s music.  Working on their own, Alex and Sarah have built his career and a following in the Spanish-speaking world.  In Cuba, his music is not heard, in keeping with that country’s total rejection of artists who leave to find success elsewhere, abandoning the revolution.  Like Celia Cruz and Tito Puente before him, international success excludes the country of his birth.  Likewise in the U.S. labels still avoid Cuban artists, both in the aftermath of a longstanding blockade of trade between the countries and in anticipation of more of the same from the Trump administration.  He succeeds in spite of these drawbacks because what he offers has a distinctive difference.

Alex’s brother came to Canada as well and under the name the Puentes Brothers they made a great first impression on the Canadian music scene, picking up a Juno nomination nomination in 2001 for their first recording.  In 2004 they diverged into separate recording careers in Canada, but they continue to write together.

Not long after embarking on a solo career, Alex Cuba’s recordings on 2006 and 2008 won him Junos  for World Music Album of the Year.  Working from a Canadian base his music has had an impact on the Latin music world. He won Best New Artist at the 2010 Latin Grammy Awards, where his third album, self-titled, was nominated for Best Male Pop Vocal Album.  In 2011 he won a BMI Latin Award for his songwriting on Nelly Furtado’s #1 Spanish hit “Manos Al Aire” to which he contributed on more than half the songs.  In 2012, Alex received his second Socan Hagood Hardy Award for outstanding achievement in Jazz and World Music. And he continued to win Latin Grammies with every new release.

In 2016, his Latin Grammy win was as a singer-songwriter rather than for World Music, for an album which included duets with several Canadian artists, including Ron Sexsmith, David Myles, Alejandra Ribera and Kuba Oms.   His Canadian take on Latin music substitutes beautiful vocal harmonies and guitars for the horn riffs in the style of Beny Moré that normally punctuate Cuban music.  “Lo Mismo Que Yo,” his intoxicating duet with Sexsmith, became a hit in the UK Singles Chart, reaching #52.

Alex is aware that he sounds different from other Latin artists and he attributes that to his “Canadian identity”.

“I became a singer-songwriter, a producer, a musician in Canada. Canada has given me an identity,” he told Georgia Strait, “My music was made in Canada. No Latin artist in the Latin world can sound like me, because they don’t have this Canadian side that I have. They don’t have the situations, the inspirations, et cetera, that I have found in this country.”

Part of the Canadian influence on his sound is the guitar-oriented narrative tradition in Canada evolving from artists like Gordon Lightfoot and Bruce Cockburn to bands like The Tragically Hip.  Another part is the wilderness surrounding Smithers, where he has lived for fifteen years, which he credits with giving his music a more open and airy feel, and ensuring his themes have universal appeal.

“In Cuba,” he went on to tell Georgia Strait, “sometimes it’s all about the rhythm; it’s all about making you move, physically. But Canada, it’s different. It’s about making you move mentally, maybe making you move spiritually. You know what I mean? That inspired me to create that way, to incorporate that into my music—to pay more attention to the way I craft my music, my melodies, how many instruments I have on an album, et cetera, et cetera. It has given me a sound.”

Ironically many Canadians won’t understand his narratives because they don’t understand Spanish.  His music has a spiritual and rhythmic beauty that can be enjoyed even by someone who doesn’t understand the words, but like other Canadian artists, he has something important to say.  He cares about his lyrics.

It is special to him when he gets a chance to perform for “people that understand Spanish, that understand the power of my words,” he continues. “This has been happening for me in Mexico, as well. I’ve been playing solo shows down there; the last one I did, I played for 2,000 people on my own, and it was unbelievable—all those people singing my songs. I felt like a kid, you know? Like I wanted to play nonstop for four hours. It was beautiful!”

The Alex Cuba concert is the highlight of a weekend of world music at Blue Mountain Village that includes Bamkanda Drumming, Greek Dancing lessons, belly dancing, and the Beinn Gorm Highlanders, along with some great rock and roll from Sean Pinchin, The Summit Band and Alysha Brilla.

 It’s all free!

Here Come The Christmas Concerts

This week brings the beginning of December, which means Christmas is just a few weeks away.  For fans of live music, it means Christmas concerts.  There are three to note this coming week, each with its own flavour and each showcasing local talent.

The big Christmas show at Meaford Hall, put together by Chris Scerri, called “Rockin’ The Hall” happens this Saturday night.  It promises a high energy rock show under the direction of Tyler Yarema and featuring performers that have endeared themselves to local music fans this past year, including Gracie, Drew Wright, Virgil Scott, Victoria Yeh and the phenomenal Emma Wright.  It is part of the annual Christmas celebration of the Meaford Hall Cultural Foundation and will coincide with the silent auction which is already under way.  One of the by-products of the active local music scene this year has been the impromptu after show parties at The Leeky Canoe, where fans stream across the street from the hall after a concert to enjoy more live music in an intimate setting.  Chances are good that this will be the case this Saturday, when Luke Martin appears at the Leeky.

Trevor and Tara MacKenzie

Trevor and Tara McKenzie are part of Santa With Muscles show at Heartwood Hall

On Thursday Heartwood Hall in Owen Sound hosts one of many Christmas events this week with a concert they call “Santa With Muscles” (not to be confused with the Hulk Hogan movie), a collection of local performers focussed on Christmas classics that span from the 60’s to the 90’s.  The guest performers include Trevor and Tara MacKenzie and Pete Devlin along with many others.  Two days later they host the Great Canadian Fiddle Holiday Show on Sunday.

goldenaires_origOn Sunday afternoon, Meaford’s women’s choir, The Goldenaires, celebrates Christmas at the Meaford United Church with their semi-annual concert.  This will be the first Christmas concert with their new musical director Catherine Robertson.  It also features Pauline Dale on flute and the Classic Bronze Bells.  It is an afternoon concert starting at 2:30 on Sunday, so you can head over there after taking in the open mic brunch at The Barn, and still have time to catch the fiddlers in the evening at Heartwood.

the celtic tenors

The Celtic Tenors help Meaford Hall celebrate 10th Anniveresary

This week celebrates the 10th anniversary of the renovation and rebirth of Meaford Hall and, in addition to the Saturday night concert, there is a concert on Thursday featuring the Celtic Tenors.  This classic trio has been performing to acclaim around the world for fifteen years and has sold over a million albums.  In recent years they have augmented their traditional sounds with a more contemporary edge and that, along with their sparkling on stage performance makes theirs an exhilarating show.

If the Celtic Tenors whets your appetite for the Irish sound you can get a further taste of it on Saturday night at The Bruce Wine Bar with Ryan O’Reilly.  Although he and his band have evolved from street buskers in London, England, he has an Irish feel to his music.

There are lots of other live music opportunities this week as the holiday season moves into high gear, including a chance to see a couple of performers you might have missed earlier this year.  Owen Sound poet laureate Larry Jensen returns to the Leeky Canoe with his heartfelt original songs on Thursday, accompanied by Pete Devlin.  Extraordinary blues guitarist Sean Pinchin had to cancel his Leeky appearance a month or so ago due to a last minute family emergency, but he is back in the area this week with a Tuesday appearance at The Huron Club in Collingwood.

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October’s Top 5 Videos

Here we go again, remembering local music from the past month by offering an arbitrary Top 5 of the videos shown on these pages. They are all simple performance videos, so it’s the performance rather than the videography that makes them special.  They are all original songs, written by the performer.  If you listen through the five of them you’ll not only get a recap of some great performances that happened here locally, but you’ll hear some exceptional original songwriting.

#5 – “Galician Night” and “I Want You More” by Searson   This lively family band has performed all over the world and they came to Meaford Hall the last weekend of October.

#4 – “Folksinger” by Steve Poltz.  He is known for his storytelling in front of an audience, and in this video he is on home turf, performing at Java Joe’s in San Diego.  He stopped at Meaford Hall at the end of October in the middle of a tour of Southern Ontario.

#3 – “Lily Of The Valley” by James McLaughlin  He plays occasionally at open stages, works in Collingwood, and writes songs.  This is, he says, his first song with a country feel, recorded specifically for this website.

#2 – “Who She Was” by Greg Smith.  This is another video made for this website, an original song by a recent GBSS graduate who is launching his career with a five song CD that features original songs linked in a “song cycle”.

#1 – “Dirt Poor Blues” by Sean Pinchin.  This is a show that never happened.  He called at the last minute to cancel because of a personal emergency.  But his performance in this video is so impressive we all hope there is a make-up date not too far in the future.

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Start Your Busy Live Music Weekend at the Red Door Pub

David J. Russell at Red Door Pub

Dave Russell live tonight at the Red Door Pub and Grille

The Red Door Pub and Grille at the renovated Meaford Motel has the potential of adding a significant element to Meaford’s night life.  Since its renovation the Meaford Motel  (126 N Sykes) has offered lunch with a creative, fresh, local menu created by Chef Jordan Fraser, utilizing great ingredients in unique dishes. With the help from local supplier of Grandview Farms Berkshire Pork, Farm Fresh Eggs and Local Vegetable producer Royal Acre Farms, he is now expanding to dinner service.  To celebrate tonight the restaurant, now called The Red Door Pub will be featuring live music from Dave Russell, well known to local music fans as one of the warmest and most talented of our local crop of guitarists and singers.  He’ll be playing there tonight (Oct. 29th) from 8 to 11 so if everybody makes a point of dropping by the establishment will be encouraged to make live music a regular feature.

With this venue added to the lively music scene that has developed around The Leeky Canoe, Captains Corner and Meaford Hall, we are one step closer to making Meaford a year-round destination for lovers of live music.

But it is a busy weekend for live music in Meaford and surrounding towns, so you have a lot of options.

Steve Poltz live

Steve Poltz tonight at Meaford Hall

Sean Pinchin

Sean Pinchin tonight at The Leeky Canoe

The much anticipated Steve Poltz concert is happening tonight at Meaford Hall.  Across the street at the Leeky, exciting blues singer-songwriter Sean Pinchin will be performing.

Amanda Dorey in Hepworth

Amanda Dorey plays Opry North show in Hepworth tonight

Fans of local country singer Amanda Dorey will want to make the drive to the Hepworth Shallow Lake Legion where she will be part of a big Opry North concert celebrating classic country music (and, just a reminder, if classic country makes your heart beat faster, set aside next Saturday, Nov. 5th, to head out to the Woodford Community Centre where Trish and The Tractors will be playing a country dance fueled by old time favourites – more info on this to come).

Don’t wait for the evening to start your enjoyment of live music.  Remember that the open stage at The Barn, hosted by Luke Martin, has moved to Saturdays, from 2 to 5.

If you’re heading out Owen Sound way, the great Krueger Band will be hosting a masquerade ball tonight at Heartwood Hall.  Every time this band plays it is a special event and this looks like a music lover’s best bet for a Halloween celebration.

Greg Smith at Heartwood Hall

Greg Smith at Heartwood Hall

Lauren Mann Heartwood Hall

Lauren Mann at Heartwood Hall on Sunday

In the opposite direction, you can catch husband and wife itinerant duo Winnie Brave, playing Americana style music at The Huron Club.  Their adventures as musicians on the road are similar to those of Lauren Mann and her husband Zoltan.  They will be playing a Sunday night concert at Heartwood Hall in Owen Sound featuring local singer-songwriter Greg Smith.  A great way to top off a weekend of excellent music.

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