Friday, January 25, 2013

Showcasing Durham Region, Ontario's Finest

Some of the finest local music in Durham Region was on full display at the recent Inn From the Cold benefit concert held at the Garnet B. Rickard arena in Bowmanville, Ontario.  Organized in part by The Stone Sparrows' bass player James Gorry, and wonderfully promoted by Bowmanville record store Vinyl Alibi, this was a tremendous opportunity to see first hand the dearth of talent that exists in this region.  And the best part, the gathering was all to benefit Inn From the Cold, a charity designed to provide shelter and other resources to those in need.

Kicking off the evening was a talented group of teenagers, whom I understand just completed their first foray to perform in Nashville, Tennessee.  Jake Henley and Jacob Lauzon are two sixteen year old singer-instrumentalists that capably set the table for a great night of music and celebration, as the evening took on an atmosphere of a family reunion.  These two young men, backed with two additional outstanding young musicians on fiddle and upright bass, showed that the future of bluegrass and roots music is in great hands.  There are big things in store for this developing group of teenagers as they embark on what can be expected to be a long and fruitful music career.

Following the next act, rockin' bluegrass group Amorak, Bootleg Glory took the stage to deliver a standout set of pure rock.  While I have not attended a Bootleg Glory show in the past, it is clear these gentlemen are building a name for themselves as an engaging and talented group of musicians and songwriters, judging by the number of people in attendance stagefront during their set.  While the night clearly had a more roots based music bent to it, Bootleg Glory were by no means out of place on the bill.  Their set provided a nice switch from the earlier, more bluegrass sounding groups to the main acts of the night.

I would suspect that if Bowmanville, or Durham Region for that matter, is going to be recognized for any contribution to music on the big stage, that recognition will come from the Stone Sparrows.  Evidenced by the loud reception and joyous interaction between the crowd and band, this group is poised for much bigger things in the near future, starting in 2013.  The band worked through their set with some great difficulty, as the sound system in the performance hall was not really the best (with lead singer Megan Patrick repeatedly requesting for her vocal to be turned up, and rightly so.  It was extremely difficult to hear her sing).  The Stone Sparrows will be making an appearance on February 23, 2013, returning to the legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, so look for a more thorough review of their show following that date.

Getting back to the sound issue, this would be my only complaint of the evening, as the sound was an issue that plagued all performers on this evening.   It was very tough, at times beyond tough, to hear the lead singer in any of the bands.  This was the first time, at least to my recollection, that an endeavour of this type had taken place at the venue, and I truly hope it won't be the last.  Overall, the event was really well run and another event of this nature should take place.

Although I did not stay for their set (the paying job does take some precedence every now and again, and the show was running late), I would like to make mention of My Kind of Karma, a group that is based out of Vancouver, British Columbia and its members are comprised of former Bowmanville residents.  Those in attendance informed me that the members of the band had never known or met each other when they were kids and students growing in Bowmanville, but they all met each other out in Vancouver for the first time.  Not forgetting their roots or where they came from, My Kind of Karma returned to Bowmanville to lend their talents on a cold winter's night in their hometown for a very worthy cause.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Giving Thanks at New Year's

This is one of my favorite times of the year.  New Year's has always represented what I feel is a great opportunity.  The opportunity to reflect on the past year, where your life is and where you would like it to go.  It's a time to review and sometimes re-calibrate your goals.  If nothing else, the New Year holds as much promise and potential than at any other time of the year.

I've been working at this blog site for almost three years now.  It seems hard to believe that time has flown by so quickly.  As I do every year, I like to look back on where I'm at with the blog, and where I want to take things for the upcoming year.  Right now, I would admittedly say that I'm a little mixed about where things are at.  There have been some positives, many positives to be honest, but some negatives have crept on to the scene. 

Overall readership is up for the site, which is something that pleasantly surprises me.  I haven't advertised this blog at all, really, with the exception of making many wonderful contacts at the Americana Music Association and meeting with other Americana music fans at various shows.  I've said it before in this space and I will say again, it is my honour and pleasure that so many of you take valuable time out of your day to sit and read this blog.  I understand how busy life can be, and I'm humbled that you're willing to share your time with me.  The big negative that has crept in to the picture (and here is my mea culpa), is my seeming inability to be consistent with my writing here.  For example, this is the first piece I have written since November 7.  It's frustrating to the max for this guy, as writing this blog is one of my greatest pleasures.  My goal for the upcoming year is to be consistent.  In reality, I owe it to all of us who gain enjoyment out of this space, and that definitely includes myself.

Other positives that were gained from writing this site from 2012 were meeting all the truly wonderful people that I had the great fortune to meet this past year.  At the recent Americana Music Assocation Conference and Festival in Nashville this past year, I was amazed at how welcoming this community is for bloggers like me.  For one week out of the year, I get to be involved in the music community in a way that I am not regularly able to be at this point in my life.  Perhaps that will change down the road, but for the time being, it's a thrill and I appreciate it so much.  In the big picture scheme of things, I have been able to meet people that I would not otherwise have been able to meet, and I can now call them my friends.  To quote another famous blog, "That's AWESOME!"

What am I looking forward to this upcoming year?  I'm looking forward to changing the site around, and the possibilities that change can bring.  I'm looking forward to more shows to write about.  I'm looking forward to meeting old friends and making new friends at the Americana Music Conference in Nashville, and the upcoming International Folk Alliance Conference in my hometown of Toronto coming up in February.  I'm also looking forward to hearing the next breakthrough artist in Americana ... in 2011 it was Mumford and Sons, 2012 gave us Alabama Shakes.  Who will break through in large fashion in 2013?  Stay tuned.

I hope you and your families had wonderful Christmas and holiday season, whichever holiday you celebrate.  The year 2013 is just beginning, and may it be a beautiful, prosperous and healthy year for all.  Take care and God Bless.