Jane Harbury’s Discoveries at Hugh’s Room

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Submitted by Don Graham

Hugh’s Room in Toronto is an iconic listening room supplying established artists and legacy artists. A venue to showcase their talents in an acoustically good room with good sightlines and warm ambience. It’s a venue young aspiring acts dream of appearing at but can’t get booked without some history behind them to draw a crowd.

Enter Jane Harbury a fixture on the Toronto folk scene since her days working at the legendary Riverboat of Yorkville fame. In Jane’s words “I created Discoveries after repeatedly requesting opening act spots for some of the up and coming artists with whom I was working. Holmes Hooke, then booker of talent at Hugh's Room finally said to me, "we're gonna give you your own night to do whatever you want." I was fumbling in the dark as to what I'd do as well as what I'd call it and so Discoveries was born.I do not go looking for artists - there is always a waiting list - February 2017 is booked and now I'll start making decisions soon for next May.”

So it has now been 13 years and growing. Previous artists such as Nicole Rayy, emerging young country singer and Justin Hines as well as Julian Troiano, nephew of legend Dom Troiano have used this concept as a stepping stone.

And now on October 11th a new quartet of future stars will take the Hugh’s Room stage.

Christian Vegh is a guitar prodigy born in Detroit, Michigan in 1997. Christian’s first band “West Palm” was the youngest band to ever win “Long and McQuade’s Battle of the Bands” and Battle of the Bands for Cancer. His musical influences are Joe Bonamassa, Eric Johnson, Guthrie Govan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rush, Polyphia, Chon, Rush and Pink Floyd. His goal is to be a professional musician and to one day play on stage at Royal Albert Hall with Joe Bonamassa. Career highlights – Having Joe Bonamassa tweet about the band at its first big performance; getting support from musicians like Alex Lifeson, Dick Wagner, Robin Ford, Scott Holt and many local musicians and being featured in their magazine and performing at the American & Canadian Federation of Musicians Canadian Unity Conference. He credits his music teachers for inspiring him and changing his life.

Claire Hunter is a singer/songwriter who has honed her craft and each of her songs contains multiple layers, despite having a refreshing, down to earth simplicity. Add her seemingly effortless, soulful, voice and Hunter commands your attention.

Born just a few miles west of the capital of this great white north, in a town called Almonte, Hunter grew up in a household that nurtured her creative side.

Her father’s instruments, which could be found throughout her childhood home, began her fascination with music. In the years since, she’s found her way as a singer-songwriter, debuting with her EP titled "Something Safe." Released in February 2016, this debut features a collection of evocative works produced with the support of the Toronto Arts Council. She is currently playing in some of Toronto’s most charming rooms, attracting a devoted following in the process.

Claire plans to take her songs across Ontario and Western Canada with the VIA Rail Artists On-board program as this following continues to grow.

The group Jennis, Toronto Blues Society 2015 Talent Search Finalists, are currently on tour in Western Canada “Unique”, “Refreshingly different”, “Exciting”, “Fun”... these are some of the reactions and descriptions being used as the buzz grows. In the short time since their launch in June 2014, Jennis has made quite an impression.

Dennis Gaumond (Gomo) has been pushing the musical envelope in the blues/roots/folk scene for decades – guitar, dobro, harmonica, wazinator, banjitar. Jen Gillmor has been rocking the indie scene with diversity and passion – bass, cello, didgeridoo, flute, jaw harp. Individually they already had oodles of festival and club experience however when their paths crossed recently a new sound and a fresh energy was born. Live performances percolate with catchy songs and an ever-changing array of textures. A combination of bass-inspired cello chopping and wazinator makes for a strong, infectious groove. Fuelled by a genuine friendship, this dynamic duo exudes warmth, mirth and down-to-earth joy.

Their sound is at times bluesy, at times funky, jazzy or folky, with a hint of exotic ethnic influences. Jennis’ quirky originals (from new CD – ‘The Current’) celebrate the mysteries and poignancies of life, rooted in an unapologetic faith in peace and love as the highest powers. Dennis’ compositions, while rooted in blues traditions and inspired by the likes of JJ Cale and Ben Harper, hint at his love of Middle Eastern and African music. Jen, brought up by a musicologist father, infuses the duo’s sound with her passion for many styles and traditions from rock and reggae to funk, Celtic and African. The duo also entertains with an eclectic array of covers ranging from Bob Marley to Nina Simone, all given a distinctly original twist.

And the amazing Matt Nakoa whom I saw on the Hugh’s Room stage with Tom Rush. Matt is an internationally touring singer/songwriter, recently appearing at The White House, throughout India, and regularly with folk icon Tom Rush. Growing up on a small goat farm in rural NY State, Matt discovered music as a means of teenage escape and trained to be a concert pianist. Matt was ultimately accepted as a vocalist to Berklee College of Music where he studied alongside soon-to-be Grammy winners St.Vincent and Esperanza Spalding among others. After school, Matt landed in NYC’s vibrant piano bar scene. There he quickly became a star performer at Manhattan’s famous Brandy’s Piano Bar, with lines waiting outside the door each Saturday night.

As if illustrating two sides of himself, Matt’s first album, Light In The Dark (2012), is a sweeping pop opus, while A Dozen Other Loves (2014) explores an intimate acoustic palette. Across the board his song craft has garnered awards, including a win at Kerrville Folk Festival’s prestigious New Folk Competition.

Though not easily pinned down, “In sum,” as a recent review on CoverLayDown.com put it, "Matt Nakoa is a musical adept, one of those well kept secrets you just can’t help but celebrate: intimate and genuine, soulful and bittersweet, a, rich poetic songbook sung in praise to a complicated, emotionally present world."

So get yourself down to Hugh’s Room and catch this talent while can still see them in an intimate setting. The future of music is good hands.