Cover Story

The Abrams Brothers-From Bluegrass to ‘Newgrass’

Cover, Julu 29, 2011

Story: Lenny Stoute
If John Abrams is a typical 20-year-old Canadian youth then our country is in for a bright future. Right on the rim shot of 9 a.m. the front man for bluegrass rockers The Abrams Brothers is on the line from home base Kingston, Ontario with the story of the Coldplay connection.

Just before new album Northern Redemption closes out there’s the unlikely explosion of Coldplay’s anthemic ‘Viva La Vida’. Since the originals are pretty cohesive on the theme of music’s redemptive power, quite how that one fits in is a puzzlement.
“ Ok, that one was just for us,” laughs John. “We’re huge Coldplay fans and we thought it would be really cool to do a bluegrass country rock version. We started playing it live and people liked it so then we thought to make a video, really just for fun.
It took some doing but we ended up getting the song to Coldplay. They sent word back that they really liked our version and gave us permission to go ahead and do the video for free.

Robin Givens tells on the ‘Church Girl’

Cover July 22, 2011

Story: Lenny Stoute

As usual in Toronto, once mid-summer hits all thoughts turn to cottages and aid conditioning. Down on the baking streets, flocks of colourful sundresses return from their annual migration, eagerly followed by the Common Shorted Male and everywhere, dogs of every size and shape shuffle and pant. All hot, all dragging ass. Just looking at them makes you hot too.

Kit Andrew Brings The Big Time To Little Burl's Creek!

Cover July 15, 2011

By Don Graham

On the weekend of August 26 to 28, 2011, the biggest names in country music will make an appearance in the little town of Burl’s Creek (Oro Station), Ontario, just minutes from Barrie, Ontario, which of course is just up the road from Toronto, Ontario. The first annual CMT Music Festival will bring together some of the finest talent for a weekend of music, family fun and celebrations.

That is the great thing about country music and musicians. Where else would you get this many headliners sharing a bill and a stage? It really is what rock ‘n’ roll used to do. Back in the days of Woodstock, Monterey and Newport, rock bands would unite in a festival atmosphere and create a great environment for music and good times. It seems now that all the rock bands prefer the arena/ stadium route and don’t want to share the bill and revenue with other bands.   But country music still believes in bringing the music to the people and The CMT Music Festival is a perfect example of this way of thinking.  Country music is like the “cool” uncle that everybody wants to hang out with, easy to get along with and fun to be around. Rock music is more like the big brother that everyone wants to hang with because he’s cool and struts around like he’s got the world by the tail.

The Swing and The Sting Of Ashley MacIsaac

Cover July 8, 2011

Story:Lenny Stoute

There has never been a fiddlin' fool like Ashley MacIsaac and Lord knows it'll be a long time 'till we see his like again. So it's great to know he's still with us and kickin' it Ash-style. Which translates as: Send lovers, guns and money and take no prisoners. Oh wait, that's Ashley Bad Boy and dude says he ain't down with that no more.

Or not. Depends. Not that he'll ever roll over and take shit but the former ‘enfant terrible’ acknowledges since he’s no longer ‘enfant’ he’s likewise past the ‘terrible’ for its own sake stage.

“ I just came in from checking the gutters because now I have a normal life and I can still stay creative. I’m mainly focused on the music now but I guess I’m still somehow pissing people off because I regularly get death threats. Been getting them for years.”

Here’s where the going gets tricky. The man’s a known media manipulator who takes an impish glee in the prospect.  Here’s a typical exchange on that subject, of the sort which continued throughout the conversation.

“ How did you deal with all the trash that was written about you?”

Michelle Wright Answers the Call of the Hall!

Cover July 1, 2011

By Don Graham

Canada's country songbird and ambassador of all things good about Canadian entertainers, is poised to receive one of Canadian country music's highest honour. Michelle Wright will be inducted at the Gala Industry Event on Sun Sept 11 at the Hamilton Convention Centre into the CCMA Hall of Fame. On this historical occasion at the Canadian Country Music Association's annual event,  Michelle Wright will take her rightful place in Canadian music history.

In 1985, while performing in a Hamilton bar, Michelle was discovered by producer Brian Ferriman. Ferriman was so impressed with her deep alto voice that the pair signed a recording and management deal that has lasted 25 years, and now it is fitting that Hamilton is the place where she will be bestowed with this prestigious honour in the country music scene.

Speaking with Michelle from her home outside of Nashville, I could sense how centered and content she is with her life right now and how happy she is with the direction she has taken. Her reaction to the induction was simple and direct, "I don't think the reality of it will hit  me until the induction but it is truly an honour to be included in the list of such people and musical icons of Canadian talent."

Are you Friends Of Jack? You will be after you’ve heard them

Cover June 24, 2011

Story: Lenny Stoute

They got oil underneath their fingernails
and a country song in their heart
and the men of Friends Of Jack
don’t give a flying fart
First time I ever heard of Friends Of Jack was through a photographer friend lives on Brine Street and known to hoist a few on St. John’s totally rockin’ George Street. He’s the source of the rhyme above, which he swears was chalked on the wall of a popular leaking spot in an alley off George.

Paul John who sings and plays guitar with Friends Of Jack says the story just might be true, given the band’s large and loud following in St.John’s.

The group initially formed in St.Alban’s Newfoundland, hometown for core members and brothers Daryl and Chad and cousin Paul, all last named John. Within the kitchen parties of that small community the siblings cut their musical teeth with lots of help from family members.
: You could say it’s in the blood”, says Paul, “ I grew up with my dad and uncle playing guitar in bands. I was kind of a late starter and when I started I was more into rock”.

Aaron Pritchett – Finally ‘In the Driver’s Seat’

Cover June 17, 2011

By Sandy Graham

Take a combination of humble and driven, then put those two characteristics together and you have Aaron Pritchett. Add in talented, handsome, great songwriter and a focused artist and you have the whole package for success. The combination of all of this, and the fact that Aaron Pritchett is completely in charge of his destiny at the moment makes the title of his new CD ‘In The Driver’s Seat’ make perfect sense. For the first time in Aaron’s career, he is calling the shots and making sure the fans get what they want.

I had the pleasure of chatting with this artist, and can honestly say it was such a wonderful conversation, it reminded me once again why I am in this business in the first place – it is all about the music.

“I didn’t start out as a country music fan. I was a rocker. My really early influences were the rock ‘n’ roll legends my parents used to play. Elvis, Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Van Morrison, and one of my all time favourites, James Brown. I ‘graduated’ to rock in the 1980’s; the first record I bought was Loverboy, and I was heavily influenced by Canadian acts back then, especially Bryan Adams. (Pritchett’s new single ‘DRIVE’ was co-written by  Bryan Adams and British writer Phil Thornalley). I also loved Def Lepperd, AC/DC, bands like that;  they were all a big part of the rockier licks I use in my songs today. I grew to love country music because of the lyrics, the songs are all about true life experiences.”

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings-Send In The Queens

Cover June 10, 2011

Story:Lenny Stoute

A Time Zone mix-up has me calling the Man In The Black Fedora an hour early but Colin Linden is all graciousness in putting aside whatever he was into for a talk.

The Southern gentleman thing suits Linden like a well-worn pair of Levis. Not only has he been resident in Nashville going on 14 years but throughout the conversation, Linden heaps praise on all concerned in the making of the band's new album, Kings and Queens. It's not a false humility rather a genuine enthusiasm for making music.

"We still go at it strictly for the love of the song. It's never about what a song can do for us. It's always about how we can best serve the song, show it off at its best."

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings owes its genesis to this core idea. The band formed as a one-of vehicle to record an album, High Or Hurtin', The Songs of Willie P. Bennett, in celebration of the work of this unsung roots music hero. This was in 1996 and 15 years and six albums later, it's still about the songs.

Kings and Queens drops June 14 and threatens to propel the band into the serious spotlight. This lurks in the wings as the album features collaborations with some of the finest female singer/songwriters currently trodding the boards, among them Rosanne Cash, Lucinda Williams, Patti Scialfa, Holly Cole and Serena Ryder.

Dawson Reigns- Asks that you fasten your seatbelts and Enjoy The Ride

Cover June 3, 2011

Story:Lenny Stoute

Dawson Reigns. Is not the name of a shy guy. And who gets ahead in the music biz on shy? Especially when you're coming outa Cambridge, not exactly the centre of the media music universe. So how's a boy who won't wear a meat dress get noticed? Getting a wicked-sounding countrified new name is a good start.

" I wanted something that would make me stand out," explains the amiable singer from his Cambridge home. "We got the Dawson part first and then we tossed around words, looking for some kind of sound and then settled on 'Reigns'. It just sounded right and that's been my name for the last six years". The name change was in conjunction with the birth of Dawson Reigns the artist, marking the transition from cover band star to weaver of his own particular dreams.

" Playing in a cover band, you have to be able to play a lot of different songs. I knew all along I wanted my own voice to be heard, that I wanted to sing my own songs. It was good for me; the two years of playing covers helped me focus on arriving at my own sound. I have it now; it's the sound you hear on (debut album) Enjoy the Ride."

'Paper Promises'-The Larry Harvey Documentary. A Promise Kept

Cover May 27, 2011

Story: Sandy Graham

Speaking on the telephone with Larry Harvey, you can actually picture the 'twinkle' in his eye when he recounts his life of love, music and family. Although over 80, his voice is young, vibrant and most of all excited about the future.

'I was born in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland but my Mom and Dad moved to Carmanville (about 45 minutes away from Cornerbrook) and that is where I grew up. Nashville reminds me of Carmanville; with all the hills you have to run up and down to get places. The main street in Nashville, which is Broadway, looks like an East Coast town, going up and down the street and visiting Ernest Tubbs Record Store. It hasn't changed in decades and neither has Carmanville. I used to sing in church with my Granddaddy; the South is the same with those traditions.'

Harvey returned to Nashville, over fifty years later to achieve his personal dream of playing The Ryman Theatre, a legendary venue whose stage has been graced by a roster of greats which would read like a Country Music Award Ceremony. This is where the story of "Paper Promises" really begins, as Larry's son Shane decided to give Dad a very special Birthday present. Shane Harvey, Larry's youngest child, had this idea that at the age of 80, his Dad could sing and play again. Somewhere, somehow.

Father and son started rehearsing, and it sounded pretty good. They visited one of Larry's old haunts, just to say that Larry had hit the stage again and the sound kept getting better and better.

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