Cover Story

Max Layton A Leonard Cohen Approved Album

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Submitted by Don Graham
Cover Photo Credit 
Eric G. McBride

Max Layton, son of Canadian literary icon Irving Layton has a new CD  and although it’s not officially released until June 8th, it already has people talking.

One person that it has talking is a Canadian icon in the music and literary world, none other than Leonard Cohen.  In fact it was Cohen who taught a young Max how to play the guitar. “Leonard would bring his guitar to parties at my parents’ house in Cote St. Luc when I was nine or ten. That’s when I fell in love with the sound of it – and first met him. I remember him showing me how to play E minor ,the simplest two-finger chord, and me taking his guitar upstairs to my bedroom and cradling it in my arms and strumming it quietly while downstairs the partiers got louder. Leonard was a student at McGill and taught me guitar throughout the fall and winter of my 13th year. That would be 1959. My parents had separated by then and I was still living with my mother, Betty Sutherland, aka Boschka, who was an artist. Her painting is on the CD cover. Somehow she managed to buy me a guitar and she traded one of her paintings for the lessons, which consisted of Leonard teaching me chords and various finger-picking techniques. It took about an hour once a week to get downtown by bus, then a long climb carrying my guitar to the top of Mountain St. where Leonard had a bachelor apartment. I remember choking back tears when he told me he had taught me all he could.”

Dolly Parton Blue Smoke

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Submitted by Don Graham

Dolly Parton’s 42nd album release is fittingly titled ‘Blue Smoke’, fitting because it takes us back to where Dolly was born and bred and began pickin’ and writing her songs. She may live in Nashville now and maintain homes in Los Angeles and New York, but she grew up poor in a holler near Locust Ridge, about seven miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Sevierville, Tennessee, where a bronze Dolly statue graces the courthouse lawn.

The heart of that area is what the Cherokee Indians called Shakaney, or "Land of Blue Smoke," for the mist that shrouds its peaks and floats over its valleys. "I bought the old homestead in 1987 as a retreat, for family reunions, a place away from prying eyes. “

Parton  reached the pinnacle of her mainstream success in the 1980’s when she not only starred in the 1980 hit comedy 9 to 5, which marked her film debut, but she wrote and sang the title track and contributed  to its soundtrack. The title song proved to another #1 hit for Dolly and earned her an Academy Award Nomination. Parton starred in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1982, which helped introduce a new generation to her song "I Will Always Love You." which would become a mega hit for Whitney Houston. The following year she scored another major smash with her duet with Kenny Rogers, "Islands in the Stream."

Tommy James & The Shondells: When Small Radio Ruled!

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Submitted by Bill King

When the car radio was king it ruled with an ironclad song. A concise two minutes and thirty seconds of aural pleasure. A message summed up in a catchy phrase and pinned to an infectious melody only the cleverest invent.

At one time there were specialists holed up in office buildings – a piano and ideas, as if a new campaign was being waged on behalf of chewing gum or fashion or ache cream.

Popular music arrived in the ‘50s just as World War II was backing away. A new generation was liberated from the soothing rhythms and mellow tones of dance bands that aided in mending injury, loss and great sorrow. The music tended to a nation heading back to work and gradually healing. The new sounds came from all directions. Most still influenced by American folk culture.

Pop music is about mass appeal - a smart hook – a pleasurable moment, steady backing rhythm and escapism from the demanding day ahead.

One of the most successful icons of the era, Tommy James still finds joy in those songs. The re-singing, celebrating and retelling to an audience whose perceived best moments were in their teens when all seemed possible, loving was less complicated. Passion burned at a temperature well above the Sun’s core and friends gathered to spill half-truths about outsiders.

Diane Warren A Warren Piece

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Submitted by Don Graham

Diane Warren is probably not a household name in most homes, although she admittedly is in mine as I am of the belief that the songwriters are the most import factor in recorded music. You could have the best singer in the world, the finest musicians, engineers and producers on the planet and the technological abilities to record amazing things BUT if you don’t have a song you got nuthin’. And although Diane Warren is not a household name, I doubt there are many households that haven’t heard  at least one of the enormous catalogue of recorded tunes this lady  has created.

Unless you lived in a cave for the last 15 or so years you have heard the classic “How Do I Live” that was a smash hit for Trisha Yearwood and Leanne Rimes with Yearwood’s version being featured in the Nicolas Cage movie Con Air. The song did not appear on the soundtrack album due to contractual complications.

BTW-Celebrating the Indies at CMW. Julian Taylor, Buddy Black, Chloe Charles, Shakura S’Aida, The Archers, King Khan and BBQ Show, Steve Rivers, Carli and Julie Kennedy, Born Ruffians and Billy J. White

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute


It’s that blessed time of year again…no, it’s not! The CMW Holy Week is usually held in March but this year was changed to the more weather-friendly month of May. So far, that’s not by much, so all the more reason to spend your entire week avoiding the relentless winds by checking out as many of the umptillion bands on show in the city’s 60 venues as you can stomach. To help clarify/confuse your choices, here’s a random scattergun blast of acts you should know about.


The hard drinking, sharp-dressed Buddy Black has been writing music for nigh-seventeen years now. His songs are a raw, catchy, meticulously crafted, and meaningful cocktail of country rhythms played with roots- punk intensity, hyper-literate lyrics, and desperate, almost manic, vocal delivery.  Buddy's latest project is collaboration with broody-rock-n-roll-bastards, the Ghost Umbrellas. Sharing a similar go-go-go work ethic, and love of live performance, Buddy Black and the Ghost Umbrellas have quickly become a tight, integrated unit. With influences ranging from Zappa, to the Stones, to Tool, the guys have helped to give the driven, maniacal tunes a smoother tone which emphasizes Buddy's careful song craft while retaining a good measure of his characteristic grit. Mr. Black plays his second CMW gig tonight (Thursday May 8 - The Central 603 Markham St - 11pm) so consider yourself warned.

Canadian Music Week 2014

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Submitted by Don Graham

Is that time of year again in Toronto. July brings the Beaches International Jazz Festival, September sees the Toronto International Film Festival ( TIFF) and in May it’s time for Canadian Music Week.

History has it that CMW was always in March but it was moved to May this year. It makes it a bit easier for the industry folks around the world to plan their schedule between MIDEM and SXSW.

Every year CMW has a musical superstar that has the WOW factor and attending this year is the legendary Quincy Jones. Jones is an American record producer, conductor, arranger, composer, television producer, film producer, instrumentalist magazine founder, record company executive, humanitarian, and jazz trumpeter. His career spans six decades in the entertainment industry and a record 79 Grammy Award nominations, 27 Grammys, including a Grammy Legend Award in 1991.

Mike Trudell Do Ya Wanna

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Submitted by Don Graham
Photo Credits: Paul Kazulak Photography 

Canadian country singer/songwriter Mike Trudell is hitting radio this week, asking the musical question, Do Ya Wanna ?  The new single from the multi talented Trudell, produced by Nashville based fellow Canadian, Gil Grand, has just been released to radio and is being promoted heavily in his home and native land. “I’m really happy with this record and appreciate all the talent involved in making it, from Gil Grand to all the talented musicians who played on it and the encouragement I’m getting . I’m hoping this single will introduce us to a new fan base and connect with my existing fans and supporters.” Do Ya Wanna is the lead single from the new album Trudell has due out in the near future.“I waited a long time to do this record and I’m really pleased with the end result, from the songs to the production right down to the art work.  Can’t wait for you all to hear it and for me to start promoting it.”  This album has been awhile in the planning. After testing the waters earlier on Mike took a step back and  in a great display of wisdom turned away from opportunities thrown his way to organize  a musical career with proper direction and planning. He realized he needed a team around him and a product to sell that he was proud of and could support with live performances.

Jesse Winchester 1944-2014 Ain’t Nothing But a Breeze

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Submitted by Don Graham

Even when you know an illness has someone in its grip and the outcome is inevitable, when the end finally arrives it’s hard to accept.  Jesse Winchester, suffering a relapse of his esophageal  cancer, has passed away.  Jesse had been battling his cancer since 2011 but was well enough to perform in 2012 and we were fortunate enough to catch one his shows at Hugh’s Room in Toronto.  Here is an excerpt of the review of that show.

CMAO Awards 2014 Nominees Announced

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Submitted by Don Graham

The Country Music Association of Ontario,(CMAO) is getting set to present its 2nd Annual Awards Show with the nominees having just been announced. This year’s star-studded Awards Show is once again being held at the Flato Markham Theatre on Monday, May 26 2014 at 7:30 p.m.

Also announced Jason McCoy will be hosting this year’s show; "What a strong list of Ontario artists, I strongly urge all eligible CMAO members to exercise their right to vote and have a say in who wins an award.”  He goes on to say, “It's an honour to be hosting the CMAO Awards in my native Ontario. Our artists have helped redefine music both here at home and around the world.  I look forward to seeing many of you on May 26.”

Scheduled to perform at that event are Jason McCoy, Jason Blaine Autumn Hill, Marshall Dane, The Good Family, Beverly Mahood, Deric Ruttan, Tebey and The Western Swing Authority.

Johnny Cash Out Among The Stars

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Submitted by Don Graham

John Carter Cash, who acts as the spokesperson for his late father Johnny Cash’s estate asks "If you were going through your attic and found a Van Gogh, what would you do? You wouldn't put it in your bathroom; you'd want to share it with the world because you know people will love it. I mean, we could stop putting out new material and the classic material would still sell, but why not release something new if it's beautiful?"

And there you have part of the story behind the release of Johnny Cash’s “new” CD ‘Out Among The Stars.’

Out Among the Stars contains 12 previously unreleased Cash recordings from sessions in 1981 and 1984, including duets with June Carter Cash and Waylon Jennings. After Columbia, Cash’s label at the time, scrapped the recordings and they sat  in a vault until 2012 when John Carter Cash uncovered them. "We were like, my goodness, this is a beautiful record that nobody has ever heard," John Carter Cash said.  "Johnny Cash is in the very prime of his voice for his lifetime. He's pitch-perfect. According to Sony “ It's being treated as a new Johnny Cash album and being given the full frontline marketing treatment. They are expecting big things from this release."

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