GWNtertainment #15 – Jaimie Vernon

Welcome, my friends, to the blog that never ends. That’s because there’s music all the time. Every minute of the day some dedicated musician is either starting or completing another idea that will plug the ear holes of music lovers somewhere, anywhere. The most amazing thing about music is that it never runs out. You can refill your music cup forever. The perpetual emotion machine, as it were. So, come along with us again today as we get your cup to runneth over with new Canadiana. 

*Ryan, Christina, and Oliver over at the Stomping Parrot Records store in Thamesville, Ontario is offering $10 flat rate shipping on vinyl. Check out their online store.

* Danny Brooks & Lil Miss Debi’s new recording Are You Ready? The Mississippi Sessions! has been nominated for three categories in the Independent Blues Awards: Best New Artists CD, Best Modern Roots Song “The Battle,” and Content Creator.

* After many years since hosting the Rock Talk radio show on CFRB in Toronto, Greg Godovitz (along with former Much Music fixture Ed the Sock) return with the vlog show Rock Talk on YouTube. Episode 1 premiered May 1st featuring an exclusive interview the legendary producer Eddie Kramer (Hendrix, KISS, Carly Simon, NRBQ).

* The Lee Aaron Band will release its next album, Radio On!, July 23 on vinyl, CD, and through digital platforms. Meanwhile, Lee’s guitarist Sean Kelly has been busy behind the scenes composing theme music for the trailer to the Anna Casamento Arrigo & Chris W. Tutty poem “Dragon Tears”from the audiobook Changeling. Says Sean about the project, “I haven’t had a chance to play guitar in this style since I was about 16 years old, it was a gas to break out the scalloped-neck Strat and summon up the Yngwie and Blackmore influences. Incredible mix and production from Frank Gryner.” The experience was such a rush Kelly adds, “I think I might have to set the time machine back to 1986 and make that instrumental guitar album I dreamed of while flipping through old Guitar For The Practicing Musician magazines.”

* Check out Bernard Frazer’s (from Church of Trees) podcast called The Essence of Cool where sits down and has round table chats with musicians and other people in the arts & entertainment community.

* Canadian soul-R&B artist Ty Richard is hitting “Restart” with this, his newly released single. The song – featuring Liv Marie – is a preview from the Toronto-area artist’s forthcoming 2021 LP In Time & Grace, and follows previous touring and studio collaborations with Brooklyn dream-pop outfit Cigarettes After Sex and Australian soul duo Breathe.

* Kenny Kirkwood is a Juno award-winning saxophonist who has played with Canadian icons Gord Downie and Kim Mitchell, and critically-acclaimed artists Kevin Breit and Jacksoul.  Kirkwood is now relaunching his website to feature his new singer-songwriter project, DEBWEWIN – 13 Songs For 13 Moons.  Debwewin is an Anishinaabemowin expression referring to one’s “heart-truth.”   The work features original songs and videos focusing on finding pathways to reconciliation, and are being released one single per month over the next year, culminating in a full album release in Spring 2022.  This month’s release is “Let’s Turn the World Around.”

* Don’t let the title fool you. The folk music forecast just got brighter and livelier with the release of “The Wind of Death” from Canadian acoustic quartet, Samways. As the second single from the folk group’s forthcoming debut album, the song juxtaposes driving rhythm and sunshine pop vocal harmonies to accentuate the 100 year-old poem “The Wind of Death” written by Canadian poet and journalist Ethelwyn Wetherald.

“The wind of death, that softly blows
The last warm petal from the rose
The last dry leaf from off the tree
Tonight, has come to breathe on me…”

Toronto songwriter, guitarist, and composer Nathan Hiltz – and the vocal trio of Shannon Butcher, Jessica Lalonde, and Melissa Lauren – have combined their formidable talents to form the creative core of Samways. The group performs original folk inspired jazz alongside 19th and early 20th century works of famed Canadian poets such as Bliss Carman, Susannah Moodie, E.J. Pratt, Agnes Maule Machar and of course, Ethelwyn Wetherald. “The Wind of Death” answers the musical question: What would it sound like if Sonny Greenwich joined the Gordon Lightfoot band? Greenwich, an arch top jazz guitarist from Montreal with a psychedelic, Coltrane-influenced style, and Canadian folk legend Lightfoot, are both big inspirations for Hiltz. Unlike the group’s first single “Untrodden Ways,” “The Wind of Death” is more akin to Lightfoot’s “Summer Side of Life” than “Long River.” Now, replace Lightfoot with three powerful female singers and you have Samways’ signature sound.

* Calgary-based vocalist K BESD‘s new single is “Our Love.” Creating the track, BESD says, “When I started writing this song, I was thinking a lot about what’s going on in the world.  Its current state brings out so many emotions in us including fear, which can show up as frustration and anger creating divides in a time (when) we need each other most. In addition to this, I was feeling very reflective and thinking about some things I wanted to change in and around me…I considered what had gotten me through my most challenging times thus far…” It was her ‘people’ that kept her together, she adds, saying: “Your family, whether blood or chosen, and your community (is) what gets you through.”

* Burlington’s Lense appear to be cranking out a new song every 10 days from their basement studio bunker. Here’s the newest one entitled “Misery Loves Company.”

* Toronto’s group PACKS – Madeline Link (vocals), Shane Hooper (drums), Noah O’Neil (bass), and Dexter Nash (guitar) – have launched their first single “Two Hands” off their upcoming debut album take the cake due May 21st on the Brooklyn, New York label Fire Talk Records.

* Calgary blues-based rock band Dr. Friday have a new video out called “Cruisin’.”

* Tania Joy, a regular at Toronto’s SongStudio songwriting workshops, has released the new single/video for “Blink.” The song, co-written with James Linderman, has been featured by American Songwriter Magazine in its Daily Discovery section.

* JJ Roots is an international multi-award winning songwriting/performance duo from Nova Scotia, and they have a new track out called “Boxcars & Memoirs.”

* There’s nothing more Canadian than a band named GORD. There’s nothing more exhilarating than it being driven by former Sinisters bassist Troy Sinister. And they’ve returned after a pandemic hiatus with a new song called “Monkey Brain.”

* David Symons & Sami Ghawi bring us an intimate and live living room performance of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses.”

* Don Norman continues digging through pop music’s exceptional back catalog for a cover of “Tragedy.” The song was written by Gerald H. Nelson & Fred Burch in 1958, and first recorded by Thomas Wayne And The DeLons in 1959.

The Colour Of Happy
I don’t believe that I’ve had a love for an independent artist longer than James Clark – dating back to 1993 when he appeared on my record label’s Unsigned, Sealed & Delivered compilation series with a song called “Letter To Dartford” from one of the many demos he was shopping at the time. I’ve marveled at the growth from the pop-centric The Land That Tim Forgot in the late 1990s up to 2016’s Yesterday’s Misadventures (with other singles and albums in between). I often wished a large label would scoop him up so that others could hear what we do. But then a label might very well squash, manipulate, and dilute the very thing that makes this brilliant songwriter and performer what he is.

And what he is is a pop music maestro in the traditional definition of the word. Clever lyrics, hook laden choruses, and the tenacity for evoking moods and dynamics in his 3 minute masterpieces. 10 brand new songs have landed on my doorstep where James Clark and company continue on the path of relationship exploration and self-reflection. The album is a tad more moody than previous installments, but with the crushing weight of the pandemic on the shoulders of the world, it’s no wonder James asks the musical question: “What is the colour of happy?”

The answer might very be “Yellow.” It’s the name of the second track on the CD. The lyrics invoke an immediate mental image of old photographs and former glories.

Curtains thick with cigarette smoke have yellowed with time
and your patience for my party jokes have yellowed with time.
We can try to hide it all behind friends and alcohol, but our vows
and our know how have yellowed with time.
Yellow used to be the colour of happy now we’re facing the facts.
We’ve become so yellow bellied while we’re fading to black.
Fading to black. Fading to black.”

We’ve had to come face-to-face with ourselves and our emotions lately. Mr. Clark explores this on many different fronts including the song “Broken Boy” with this internal monologue:
“I’m a lonesome toy forgotten in the past. I’m a broken boy with no one to sign my cast.
But when I heal I will run again. Far from here to find a new friend.”

But then he switches gears and offers a different answer to the question. Maybe the colour of happy is blue and red as in the song “Blue In the Red Room.”
“Here where the ignorance is bliss and their material possessions are based upon all the ass they kiss,
As I’m faced with another face that will follow me right up until the end.
What am I doing here with you? What am I doing here with you?
Why should I stand so tall and ever so blue here in the red room? Here in the red room.”

This is thinking man’s pop music. The kind that raised the likes of The Smithereens, Elvis Costello, The Jitters, Jules Shear, Squeeze, and The Pursuit Of Happiness above the throw away pulp that occupied music charts over the last 40 years.

Speaking of TPOH, that band’s driving force – Moe Berg – helms the production, and additional guitar duties again as he did for a good portion of the Yesterday’s Misadventures album. With him comes the Institute team of players to help James’ songs breathe life: Chris Bennett, Jeff Dunk, Greg Condie, Claude Kent, Paul Stevenson, Sean Ryan, Dean Carl Glover, and Lauren Hawkins.

The first single, “Next Best Thing,” is already making the rounds. I expect that “Little Powder Keg,” “Better Than I Remember,” and “Truth Serum Time” to follow suit. These are tracks that shift the album dynamics, and weave more of those patented James Clark hook elements into sustainable, memorable classics as bookends to the sleeper album tracks. The entire package (including the beautifully shot Sean Ryan cover art) is a must have for anyone who believes in the power of independent music.

This issue was brought to you by the makers of Super Happy Daisy Scented Underwear Freshener – “it’s like that new car smell, but in your pants.” Send us your news, views, and all manner of CANADIAN musical releases to promote and wave a flag for. Join the GWN Facebook page and drop us a message:

Keep up the fight!
Jaimie Vernon, 2021


Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 41 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 24 years. He is also the author of The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and editor of “Sunny Days: The Skip Prokop Story.” Available through Amazon. 

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