February 2015

Folks Happily Brave the Winter for Winterfolk

Ben Sures.jpg

Submitted by Lee Fraser
Photo: Ben Sures

This is a tale of bitter cold and welcoming warmth. Somehow, here in Toronto, the right light bulb went on over the right head.  Winterfolk is the creation of Brian Gladstone. Having spent most of his life in the corporate world, it seems that Brian chose to explore his creative side when others were embarking on mid-life crises.  With almost five decades behind him, he decided to record an album.  Through hard work and self-promotion, he got radio play and record label distribution in Europe.  But when he tried out for the home-town holy grail, Mariposa, Brian didn’t make the cut. Out of defeat comes innovation: the idea of a folk music festival in the dead of winter.  Winterfolk was born.


Winterfolk plays out over five stages within close proximity on the Danforth, just east of Broadview.  If the weather hadn’t been in the neighbourhood of minus twenty all weekend, you could have darted between shows without your jacket.  Given the fact that it was bitterly cold, with the wind only making things worse, it was easy enough to settle into one warm room and spend hours of your time there.  Winterfolk has two aspects to it: ticketed shows and a wristband.  This year, there were five ticketed shows offering line-ups of 4 to 6 artists following a theme per show, while the $10 wristband gets you in and out of all the other shows.

Mimi Says Be Brave

Cashbox Canada MIMI.png

Submitted by Don Graham

Be Brave
with your crazy hair
Be crazy
Like nobody’s there
Be happy
Just be yourself, don't be afraid
Just be
Be Brave
Lyrics from the song BRAVE©SOCAN

These are the lyrics from the  first single release off the self-titled CD, Mimi. Mimi is sending out a message to be ‘Brave’ and be yourself and follow your dreams. A 21 year old singer/songwriter, with Native and French Canadian roots, the song  ‘Brave’ is a testimonial to her own personal journey; with red dreadlocks and a retro sense of style, this young singer/songwriter is encouraging everyone to ‘just be yourself, don’t be afraid.’

Bravery is one of the more noble of human characteristics and comes in all different forms. Being brave can be fighting off an attacker, risking your life to save another or it can be as simple as facing a fear or phobia and staring it down. It can be fighting back against a bully, meeting cancer eye to eye and boldly facing the chemotherapy or pain involved. Being brave has no age limit, no colour barriers  and no gender discrimination. We all have the “brave gene” if we so choose to believe it.

Heather Ballentine Music’s Favourite Pin Up Girl

Cashbox Canada Heather Ballentine Cover.png

Submitted by Sandy Graham

From the first enthusiastic sentence from this talented and beautiful artist, she lets you know she is grateful for it all. For her amazing husband (she jokingly says she did it backwards – she is an American who married a Canadian and moved here to be a wife and settle down.) She had no idea this is her musical journey would truly begin.

Heather Ballentine is a country girl right down to her roots. Born in the small town of Alma, Arkansas, she grew up around spinach farming and and a Dad who was Mayor for over 18 years. ‘Dad was a military man and really disciplined. He taught me to go after my dreams and pursue everything with a passion. To follow my dreams.’

Turns out her Dad was also the guy who influenced her with music. ‘Growing up on real country and western music and mixing in a little rock ‘n’ roll I loved listening to Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, The Everly Brothers, Elvis, Roy Orbison, Wanda Jackson, and Buddy Holly.  I knew I wanted to play an instrument. My Dad used to always play in local bands so one night I picked up my Dad’s bass and held it – but it didn’t feel right but the other guy had a guitar. I picked it up and liked the feel of it right away. My Mom tried to get me to try piano but guitar just always felt right. I went on to learn mandolin as well. I actually wrote ‘Needle in a Haystack’ (co-written with Larry Bartley and Michael Peterson) on mandolin. I was blessed to learn my business sense from John Robert Ballentine – but I got my passion for music from him.

BTW-Starring Astral Swans, Swans, Michael Feuerstack, Dave Rave, Emilia, Bob Dylan

Swans.jpg

Submiited by Lenny Stoute
Photo at right: Astral Swans

This week, it’s all about the Swansy. First up, Astral Swans, which is mostly just Matthew Swann. Astral Swans just laid down All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson, a collection of stark psychedelic folk from the mindsets of Calgary’s Matthew Swann. Songs steeped in universal anguish, marveling at the world’s knack for enterprise and cannibalism, come across instead as subtle, reassuring lullabies.

Chart Attack premieres the latest single from Astral Swan’s debut LP, “What Calms You Down, Freaks Me Out”. Steeped in serene 60’s folk, 80’s no-wave alienation, and the insouciance of 90’s grunge, the track bears the ominous pleasance of Syd Barrett, Arthur Russell, Nick Drake, and fellow Calgarian Chad Van Gaalen.

Set for release on Dan Mangan’s Madic Records on February 24, these twelve songs come wrapped in taco shells of sardonic reflections, in his own words, “confronting our strange ways of experiencing personhood, in the moral gorge between ideals and inadequacies”. Tracked live in Swann’s living room, and later embellished in an old Calgary warehouse with local experimental/improv mainstay Brad Hawkins (Ghostkeeper), All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson is flawed if not for its air of accidental perfection, normalizing existential struggle with rhythm and harmony, a natural marriage of the sweet to the acrid. Y’all can catch the dude live all over the country as he’s currently on the never-ending tour with Dan Mangan + Blacksmith.

Proudly Canadian: Martha and the Muffins

Martha and the Muffins.jpg

Submitted by Cashbox Canada
Source: Wikipedia

Martha and the Muffins are a Canadian new wave band, active from 1977 to the present. Although they only had one major international hit single (1980's "Echo Beach") under their original band name, they had a number of hits in their native Canada, and the core members of the band also charted in Canada and internationally as M + M.

The group's initial line-up came together in Toronto in 1977, when David Millar asked his fellow Ontario College of Artstudent Mark Gane to help him start a band. Millar recruited Martha Johnson to play keyboards; Johnson brought in a friend from high school, Carl Finkle, to play bass; and Gane's brother Tim signed on as the drummer. With Millar and Mark Gane as guitarists, and Johnson as lead vocalist, this is the line-up that debuted at an Ontario College of Art Hallowe'en party in October 1977.

They chose the name "Martha and the Muffins" to distance themselves from the aggressive names adopted by many punk bands of the era. According to Mark Gane: "We decided to use it as a temporary name until we could all agree on something better." The name ended up sticking for the next seven years.