If you don’t know Colin James’s work (and unless you’re a blues diehard, you probably don’t; he doesn’t get the radio play he deserves) you’re missing one of Canada’s too-little-sung musical treasures. James is a superb blues guitarist, a fine, gritty vocalist, often an inventive songwriter, and a musician unafraid to venture in new directions.
The Saskatchewan native was a high-school dropout; he heard the call of the blues early, moved to Winnipeg to form the HoodDoo Men and opened for the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan who, legend has it, had Colin James Munn shorten his stage name because it sounded as if they were saying “mud” every time they announced his name over the P.A. system.
His first two albums, the eponymous Colin James (1988) and Sudden Stop
(1990) were hits in Canada. Then James became an early convert to the swing revival with the brilliant neo-swing-blues-jazz Colin James & the Little BigBand (1993), six years later, after two more albums, following it up with a second retro-swing sortie that may have been even better.
I’m not disappointed by Traveler but was expecting more. It is, in some ways, a return to the blues, with a bit of power funk and Motown-inflected grooves punching up the thoughtful mellowness in many of the 11 tracks.
Most of the tunes are written by James, ballads such as I Know What Love Is and up-tempo, but somehow slightly subdued, rockers like She Can’t Do No
Wrong (the literate James showing off his drop-out status?). Throughout, his voice is in fine rasp and his axework, as always, is superb. Maybe I find the energy a bit low.
That’s not the case, though, on the opening and closing cover numbers, they are almost leisurely, but smouldering, covers of John Lennon’s I’m Losing You and Jimi Hendrix’s Rainy Day, Dream Away, in which James gets to make his guitar gently sweep.
A lot of people will like this album, and they should. Me, I’m going to do some swinging to Cha Shooky Doo a classic from his 93 album.
Billy Talent and a collection of other musicians are banding together to perform a concert at the Danforth Music Hall on August 11 in support of the #TorontoStrong fund following the Danforth shooting.
A benefit concert called Toronto Together will feature musicians such as Billy Talent, Pup, City and Colour, and other currently unannounced artists to raise money for the #TorontoStrong fund. The fund was started by the city of Toronto and Toronto Foundation to raise money for those affected by the April 23rd van attack and the July 22nd Danforth shooting.
The concert will also be taking place during Taste of the Danforth festival.
“What has happened in Toronto this summer and what happened on the Danforth a few blocks from our studio, has not only hit close to home, this has hit home,” Billy Talent said in a statement. “All we know is that we can’t just sit here. We don’t know what we want but we want to do something. We want to throw a concert to show the world and more importantly our community that Toronto is a place of love, of community, of kindness and compassion. The violence that has happened here this summer does not represent the majority.”
The Danforth Music Hall is only metres away from where the deadly July 22 shooting took place. 29-year-old gunman Faisal Hussain approached civilians in Toronto’s Greektown neighbourhood and open-fired, taking the lives of 10-year-old Julianna Kozis and 18-year-old Reese Fallon.
The Toronto Foundation wrote about how Mayor John Tory and the city of Toronto partnered with their foundation to establish the #TorontoStrong fund, which has gained over $3.5 million in donations for those affected by the van and Danforth attacks. “Serving as the Fund’s pro bono Fund Administrator, former Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall is working to disburse the entirety of funds to the victims in a timely fashion. Contributions will continue to be received up to August 31 with final disbursements made by September 30, 2018,” they wrote.
After the funds are distributed to the victims, the volunteer steering committee of the Toronto Foundation will generate further ideas to prevent future violence in the city and “long-term strategies related to city-wide impacts of mass acts of violence.”
One by one, they all fall down — men of power, men of money, but clearly not men of finesse. Simply put, men that are lacking any form of respect for their female peers, co-workers, or acquaintances. The movement that started with the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, has grown into a festering and disturbing monster over the past few months, with almost daily cases of high-profile men who are now being exposed for their alleged sexual misconduct. What do these stories prove to us? How has society allowed these powerful men to dominate and get away with locker-room talk and disgusting predatory behaviour?
For me personally, it started with watching the fall of British actor Ed Westwick. I was a fan of his work and I grew up watching soapy drama’s like Gossip Girl. Sure, his character on the show lacked morals, and the way he played with women’s emotions was atrocious, and that time he attempted to ‘rape’ a fellow character on the show…that was all teenage drama. After all, he was playing a role. He was being ‘Chuck Bass’ . But, when this transferred into real life, and woman after woman described similar scenarios where he pinned them down and forced himself upon them, I knew he had no right. I feel terrible for the women in these situations. While no charges have been filed against Westwick, his reputation is certainly paying the price, as his shows have either been cancelled or halted.
Matt Lauer is a face I grew up watching. I thought of him as a respectable and well-known journalist on NBC. Waking up and watching the today show with Matt Lauer and Katie Couric was a tradition that many people can recall over the 20 years he has been working at the American network. And it was all ruined in a few minutes after hearing he was terminated for sexual misconduct. Lauer allegedly sexted interns and gave co-workers sex toys with notes about how they should use them. There is also the tape that TMZ found of Lauer telling once co-host Meredith Vieira, to ‘keep bending over like that’, when he thought the cameras were off air. My view has certainly changed. How was this behaviour tolerated? Obviously the fact that he was the highest paid reporter and attracted over four million viewers with his charm each morning have him a lot of sway.
I’m now prepared to be disappointed by the familiar faces I see in the media and whose work I once admired as brilliant. Just this morning, entertainment mogul Russel Simmons stepped down as CEO from his string of companies after he was accused of “sexual misconduct”, where a woman alleged he forced her to have sex with him
Nothing gives these men the privilege to put women through years of mental and physical abuse? Probably just that — they are…. so-called men.
Let us continue to speak out against any form of abuse to women and may the fall from grace for these powerful men mark a turning point in history for women around the world .
Struggling musicians have a tough time surviving in expensive cities like Toronto. Not only is the price of transportation, food, and general expenses quite heavy on those who may not be making a full salary, but they have to live in the urban centre in order to make money. This is increasingly difficult in Toronto’s inflated housing market.
That’s why it’s so great the non-profit Toronto Music is designing a pilot project focusing on affordable housing specifically for musicians. They are using a vacant property at the eastern edge of Regent Park, at the corner of Dundas St. E and Sumach St. The development would include 100 units as well as a performance area, a recording and rehearsal space, and desk space for music professionals. There would also be opportunities for the musicians to host and take part in educational events that would focus on music business management practices.
A report created by the Toronto Music Advisory Council for the City of Toronto in February 2016 includes a focus on affordable housing for musicians in the city’s core. The city wants to help musicians find homes to alleviate the difficulty these artists face regarding gentrification, rising housing costs, and redevelopment of inner-city neighbourhoods. The city is working on partnerships with organizations like Artscape, a local non-profit that creates affordable housing for artists, to promotes local art initiatives. This should help Toronto become a ‘Music City’, something city staff and the mayor, John Tory, sorely want. The city is also considering zoning bylaws that would allow performers to have workspaces at home so that they can rehearse music and promote their careers further.
Toronto is following the footsteps of Nashville and New York. The Ryman Lofts in Nashville successfully launched 60 units dedicated for local musicians while New York recently announced 1500 affordable apartments for musicians with low incomes. Only musicians would qualify for the housing in New York, and it would include 500 work spaces within the affordable housing building. The rising trend of housing for musicians is positive because it encourages more creative and innovative communities, and a culture immersed in the arts.
Affordable housing for musicians is a intrinsic development to the building of a healthy inner-city environment. If there was free performance space for musicians to offer their music to the public, it would promote a beautiful urban culture in Toronto.
What do you think of a musician-only affordable housing unit? Let us know in the comments below!
Plato once said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” I spent last week listening to several women-led bands that played Canadian Music Week (CMW) in Toronto, and I can say with certainty that Plato knew what he was talking about. Here are a few of the acts I saw at the festival — and the bands you should start to listen to asap!
The first band was playing at the Garrison on Dundas St. West. No Sinner, from Vancouver, filled the venue with deep growling rock n’ roll with singer, Colleen Rennison roaring into the mic. No Sinner was one of my favourites at Canadian Music Week because they brought a refreshing and classic sound amidst the keyboard loving shoegaze that has overtaken popular music. Instead, No Sinner brought bluesy rock to Toronto, showing that western Canadian bands can compete with the overwhelming presence of Toronto bands at CMW.
Rennison is a force to be reckoned with on and off the stage and doesn’t think that gender should be a factor within the music industry. “You just have to rise to the occasion regardless of what’s between your legs,” said Rennsion. “The other day, I arrived at the venue before the band and I was trying to get some information from the promotor and he assumed I was someone’s girlfriend in the band. After they saw sound-check, they change their tune.”
No Sinner is due to release their upcoming album, “Old Habits Die Hard” on May 20 and they played their new song, “Hollow” at the CMW show. It is a passionate track about heartbreak and you can really feel Rennison’s pain in her thriving vocals. “So much of what the album is about is the human condition, being an enemy to yourself and the consequences of that,” said Rennison. The whole show had a very visceral feel to it, as if you could experience her pain in yourself. No Sinner is well worth seeing live.
From the Garrison, I jetted to the Mod Club on College St. to see The Wet Secrets perform their set for a packed audience. The band, hailing from Edmonton, is an alt-rock band that uses horns, percussion, coordinated dance moves, and marching band uniforms. The act features two women members, Emma Frazier on the trombone, and Kim Rackel on the trumpet. The band won the Peak Performance Project Award in 2014 where they were given a $100,000 award.
I caught up with Frazier at CMW after their show at the Mod Club. “The show was great. It was an amazing crowd and good energy.” She also explained that in addition to being in a band together, Rackel and Frazier also perform in a burlesque troupe in Edmonton. The two musicians use a set of coordinated dance moves in their marching band outfits and the performance often has sexual undertones. “Getting on stage is fucking rad. I don’t think it should really be a problem. If I’m sexualized, that’s their problem and not mine. I just like performing,” said Frazier.
Other women-led bands that performed CMW included Nao, from the U.K, who performed at the Mod Club as well. Nao is an electronic D.J who has developed a large following because of her well-developed snyth-pop sound. The show was packed and Nao delivered. Adee from Sweden also played at the Nightowl, which was a smaller venue. She brought an R&B sound mixed with hip hop riffs and got an audience member to join her on stage to sing. She was lively and positive about the small crowd attending her gig.
CMW was a wild ride and watching several female bands perform was enlightening. There are so many talented women performers out there and seeing the variety of styles in their music had my body grooving. Take a listen to these ladies and remember, support women in music! I will definitely be attending CMW next year to see the next wave of women to light up the stage in Toronto.
Rock n’ roll is not dead, at least not according to lead singer of a scrap metal rock n’ roll band, Urvah Khan. Women’s Post caught up with the female rocker and namesake of the band after her show at Lee’s Palace. Khan was sporting a blonde Mohawk and a traditional Pakistani bindi and jewelry.
“Rock n’ roll is the sound of an oppressed nation. It is a liberation front for people who don’t have freedom. I found my freedom through rock n roll,” she said. “I want to spend the rest of my life creating a sound called scrap rock. We build our music from the scraps of what is left behind, and mix it with Indian and south Asian sounds.”
Khan hails from Pakistan and grew up in Dubai. She was 12 when her family moved to Canada. She is a self-proclaimed feminist who firmly believes rock n’ roll can help to spread the message of gender equality. She also passionately loves her chosen style of music and believes that you have to truly love rock n’roll in order to make a killer rock song.
Khan got into rock in her early 20’s after performing a song with the band The Central Nervous System. She was a rapper prior to this performance, but after listening to N.I.B by Black Sabbath, she fell in love with the music. She also sees rock n’ roll as a source of liberation for women in the East.
“I want to make rock music for Muslim girls where I came from. I’m making music for brown women who need to realize freedom is not a choice, it is a right,” said Khan. “Why do we have to walk with hijabs for a man to feel good? Why can’t we just do it because we want to or we don’t want to. As a woman in the West, I can do anything I want. Let’s take rock to the East.”
The headliner band at Lee’s Palace, Old James, believes the message in the music is the key to a great rock song as well.
“Music with a message is what stands out. The difference between our band and every other band is that we have guys that aren’t cool. We aren’t cool. We are happy being in our band, pissing in bottles, and touring the world. It is about the music.”
Old James and Urvah Khan both stole the audience at Lee’s Palace, bringing heavy rock melodies to a venue often filled with popular hipster indie bands. Khan is a fascinating artist to watch live and an avid advocate of on-stage energy, even pulling a fan on-stage to “scrap” with her.
“Sometimes when I’m performing, I run out of breath and my notes aren’t perfect. My rap isn’t perfect but I believe that if my energy is perfect, I can afford to compromise myself,” said Khan.
Lead singer of Old James, Brian Stephenson, is an unstoppable force of nature on stage, bouncing from end to end while hitting every note seamlessly. As a fan that has seen Old James perform previously, each show is different and equally interesting to attend, making them unforgettable to watch on-stage. The band also surprised fans by performing new songs from their upcoming album, due to be released later this year. They performed “Speak Volumes”, their title track, as well as “Lovefire”.
Old James often performs with women and Stephenson was excited that Urvah Khan was on the bill.
“We love her message. She has taken several pieces of different genres and created her own music,” said Stephenson. “With women playing and sharing the stage, there is a massive amount of respect. They are sticking their necks out because they have to put up with a lot of crap still. A lot of the attitudes towards women in music are unfair. It doesn’t matter what gender or colour you are.”
Both Old James and Urvah Khan believe in the power of music with a message. Though their focuses differ, attending a gig where the music is deeply meaningful is inspirational and has the ability to change the world. As it turns out, rock is definitely not dead.
“Rock n roll came from the blues and came out of an oppressed generation of people. Once I found that out, my band and I decided to create the next wave of rock n roll,” said Khan. “People say that cannot be because the pioneers of rock n roll are done but I don’t agree. Let’s take rock to India, Pakistan and to places where women don’t know what freedom means.”