Russell deCarle – CD Release

Held together by equal measures of heartbreak and hope, and featuring performances from some of Canada’s most accomplished instrumentalists, Under the Big Big Sky plays like the soundtrack to a vintage film. A fluent mix of blues, jazz and R&B tinged western swing that pays homage to some of Russell deCarle’s all-time favourite artists while remaining simultaneously fresh and familiar.

As lead vocalist and bassist of iconic Canadian country roots band Prairie Oyster, deCarle is no stranger to awards and accolades. Over their career the 2008 CCMA Hall of Honour inductees have racked up an impressive list of JUNO and Canadian Country Music Awards, gold and platinum selling records and number one singles. As a songwriter deCarle has also been honoured with two SOCAN Song of the Year Awards. Once in 1994, for Prairie Oyster’s first number one single ‘Such A Lonely One’, and then again in 2008 for ‘One Way Track’, his co-write with Canadian folk legend, Willie P. Bennett.

For some artists the urge to make a solo record asserts itself almost as soon as they start to gain attention as part of a successful band – sometimes even before they, or their audience, truly know who they are. Not so for deCarle. “For decades people have been asking for a solo record,” he says, “but I never thought I was ready and the band always satisfied the musical part of my life.”

What finally got him fired up enough to strike out on his own in the studio was spending some quality time alone with his acoustic guitar. Although he’d initially intended to weight Under the Big Big Sky more heavily in favour of covers than original material, the more he played and wrote, the more he found himself falling naturally into a style that marked a definite, if unintentional, departure from his past work.

When it became clear that the balance of the record would feature his own material, deCarle approached longtime friend, pianist/arranger/producer John Sheard (The Guess Who, Dan Hill) and asked him to take a listen. “We’d wanted to do a project together for years. He’s absolutely one of my favourite musicians in the world and musically we share a lot of things.”

After Sheard signed on to produce the record, deCarle enlisted the talents of another old friend, engineer L. Stu Young (Prince, Ronnie Hawkins, Guns n’ Roses, David Wilcox), who assisted on Prairie Oyster’s 1991 breakthrough record Everybody Knows and mixed their most recent release, 2006’s One Kiss.

With Young manning the board and Sheard producing and playing piano and vibes, the next step, deCarle says, was putting together a wish list of players to join them in the studio. Among them, guitarist Steve Briggs, string bassist George Koller and drummers, Mark Kelso and Al Cross, as well as an all-star cast of guests including: bassist Russ Boswell, fiddler Drew Jurecka, percussionist John Adames and B3 virtuoso Denis Keldie; guitarists Kevin Breit, Amos Garrett, David Wilcox and Prairie Oyster bandmate, Keith Glass; vocalists Amoy and Ciceal Levy, Amanda Walther and Sheila Carabine of Dala and Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy; and a horn section featuring deCarle’s old friend and musical compadre Chris Whiteley on cornet, Gord Myers on trombone and Colleen Allen on tenor and baritone sax.
“I’m honoured that everybody I wanted on the record ended up on it. They really dug deep and did an incredible job.” But assembling this ‘fantasy camp’ of players wasn’t about cramming as many talents on each track as possible, deCarle stresses. It was about complimenting the songs with performances by people he believed would make a personal connection with his songs; the same kind of connection he hopes his audience will make. “For people to be emotionally invested in this, to be touched in some way, that would be the best thing that could happen. That’s why I made the record.”

As much as Under the Big Big Sky may represent a new beginning for deCarle, it’s not a conscious effort to shake off the label of ‘country singer’, but a natural extension of his talents as both a songwriter and interpreter. “I’ve always thought of myself as a singer, not just a country singer. I’m a music lover first and foremost – a product of all the stuff I’ve ever listened to – and my tastes are very broad. To me this is a torchy, bluesy record more than anything else. It’s certainly a product of where I came from musically.”

Just exactly where that is, however, isn’t easy to pin down, and nor should it be. The songs and the subjects deCarle writes about defy being crammed into some fabricated musical zip code for the sake of convenience. “Growing up when I did, radio wasn’t homogenized. I’m pretty sure that the Beatles ‘Ticket To Ride’ and ‘Tiger By the Tail’ by Buck Owens were on the pop charts at the same time, and I’m sure there was a Frank Sinatra song on that same chart.”

Like the soundtrack deCarle grew up with, Under the Big Big Sky covers a lot of ground stylistically. From the sweet soulful blues of ‘Can’t Find the Song in My Heart’, to melancholy ballads like opener, ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’ by Robert M. David, to unabashedly upbeat tunes like ‘Girl With the Golden Hair’ that are as reminiscent of old time rock and roll as they are of the music of classic crooners like Dean Martin. And although the record defies easy classification, it’s perfectly clear about the fact that deCarle can find inspiration for his songs just about anywhere; from the big, big Saskatchewan sky he references on the album’s title track, to the ‘Fingernail Moon’ hanging above his own backyard in rural Ontario, to the sad songs and ballads he’s loved since first hearing them on the airwaves as a teenager.

“I could sing sad songs and ballads all night. It’s true, man. I kind of live at 72 beats per minute. Emotionally I think I’ve always been affected by the bluesy side of life; that’s always been what stirs it up for me.” Still, even on heartbreakers like his cover of the Cindy Walker classic, ‘Goin’ Away Party’, or his own ‘Blues for Christmas’ and ‘Don’t Ask The Question’, deCarle possesses an uncanny ability to weave a little bit of hope into every line he sings.

The result is a remarkably eclectic, but entirely cohesive record. Recorded over the course of 2008-2009 and freshly released in October 2010, Under the Big Big Sky is more than just a confident, compelling exploration of deCarle’s singular voice as a songwriter. It’s an unflinching reflection of where he lives musically and literally, a celebration of the music and musicians who began to influence him long before he began his career forty years ago and a gathering of his closest and dearest musical friends.

Tom Rush

Tom Rush is a gifted musician and performer, whose shows offer a musical celebration… a journey into the tradition and spectrum of what music has been, can be, and will become.His distinctive guitar style, wry humor and warm, expressive voice have made him both alegend and a lure to audiences around the world. His shows are filled with the rib-aching laughter of terrific story-telling, the sweet melancholy of ballads and the passion of gritty blues.

Rush’s impact on the American music scene has been profound. He helped shape the folkrevival in the ’60s and the renaissance of the ’80s and ’90s, his music having left its stamp on generations of artists. James Taylor told Rolling Stone, “Tom was not only one of my early heroes, but also one of my main influences.” Country music star Garth Brooks has credited Rush with being one of his top five musical influences. Rush has long championed emerging artists. His early recordings introduced the world to the work of Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and James Taylor, and in more recent years his Club 47 concerts have brought artists such as Nanci Griffith and Shawn Colvin to wider audiences when they were just beginning to build their own reputations.

Tom Rush began his musical career in the early ’60s playing the Boston-area clubs while a Harvard student. The Club 47 was the flagship of the coffee house fleet, and he was soon holding down a weekly spot there, learning from the legendary artists who came to play, honing his skills and growing into his talent. He had released two albums by the time he graduated.

Rush displayed then, as he does today, an uncanny knack for finding wonderful songs, and writing his own – many of which have become classics re-interpreted by new generations. (It is testimony to the universality of his appeal that his songs have been folk hits, country hits, heavy metal and rap hits.) Signed by Elektra in 1965, Rush made three albums for them, culminating in The Circle Game, which, according to Rolling Stone, ushered in the singer/songwriter era.

In the early ’70s, folk turned to folk-rock, and Rush, ever adaptable, saw more room to stretch out. Recording now for Columbia, he toured tirelessly with a five man band, playing concerts across the country. Endless promotional tours, interviews, television appearances, and recording sessions added up to five very successful but exhausting years, after which Tom decided to take a break and “recharge” his creative side at his New Hampshire farm. Rush returned with a splash in 1981, selling out Boston’s prestigious Symphony Hall in advance. Time off had not only rekindled Rush’s love of music, it had re-ignited music audiences’ love of Rush.

He instinctively knew that his listeners were interested in both the old and the new, and set out to create a musical forum like the Club 47 of the early sixties to allow artists and newcomers to share the same stage. In 1982, he tried it out at Symphony Hall. The show was such a hit it became an annual event, growing to fill two, then three nights, and the Club 47 series was born. Crafting concerts that combined well known artists such as Bonnie Raitt or Emmylou Harris with (then) unknowns like Alison Krauss or Mark O’ Connor, Rush took the show on the road. From the ’80s to the present day, Club 47 events have filled the nation’s finest halls to rave reviews, and have been broadcast as national specials on PBS and NPR.

In 1999, Columbia/Legacy released a Tom Rush retrospective album that covers his recorded musical history from 1962 to the present, including tracks recorded for Columbia, Elektra, Prestige and his independent years. Entitled “The Very Best of Tom Rush: No Regrets”, the 17-track compilation includes as a bonus a brand new Tom Rush composition, “River Song,” which features vocal contributions from Grammy winners Shawn Colvin and Marc Cohn.

A live CD, “Trolling for Owls” released in 2003 and published by Tom’s NIGHTLIGHT RECORDINGS, captures Tom’s complete performance and includes, for the first time, some of the spoken stories that have endeared him to audiences.

“How I Play (some of) My Favorite Songs”, a DVD released in 2005 by Homespun Tapes. It shows how he plays ten of the memorable songs and guitar arrangements that have long made him one of America’s most beloved performers.

In 2009, Tom recorded his first studio CD in 35 years. Recorded in Nashville, “What I Know” was produced by Tom’s long-time friend Jim Rooney and includes original Tom Rush material, as well as harmonies by Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Bramlett and Nanci Griffith. Today, Tom Rush lives in New Hampshire when he’s not touring. His voice has grown even richer and more melodic with training, and his music, like a fine wine, has matured and ripened in the blending of traditional and modern influences. He’s doing what he loves, and what audiences love him for: writing and playing …passionately, tenderly…knitting together the musical traditions and talents of our times.

Dominic Mancuso & Luis Simão

Dominic Mancuso

Dominic Mancuso is a Juno and Canadian Folk Music Awarded singer-songwriter, producer, born in Canada with a Sicilian soul. A passionate collaborator with a wonderous spirit, that transcends cultures and borders defining a world culture where people are the territory. The Dominic Mancuso Group: Where Passion, music and theatre collide with modern maestros!

After 25 years committed to a vision influenced by his culturally diverse world, Dominic sees himself sitting at the table with the 21st century and the global village. His resume takes in several CDs, as well as several written scores for TV, films and theatre performances, numerous artistic collaborations and a great number of live shows in Canada and abroad.

Louis Simão

Toronto-based musician, Louis Simão has been composing, performing and recording as a multi-instrumentalist in a variety of genres for twenty years. 2016 marked the release of his much-anticipated solo album, “A Luz” (The Light) – a collection of Simão’s own compositions and arrangements. Joined by the best cross-genre musicians Toronto has to offer, Simão takes the listener on a journey through the sounds of the Portuguese-speaking world as experienced through the life of this first-generation Canadian son of Portuguese immigrants. His cultural background combined with his jazz sensibility and chamber music compositional style come together to create a voice that is at once universal while remaining deeply personal. Co-produced by Luis (Luisito) Orbegoso and recorded by John Bailey at The Drive Shed, Simão’s tunes easily shift from samba to folkloric to funk to lush string and woodwind arrangements. Accompanying Simão on stage for this new solo project will be Luis (Luisito) Orbegoso, David French, Rich Brown, Bill McBirnie & Marito Marques.

As a sideman, Louis Simão has performed and/or recorded with Nelly Furtado, Dominic Mancuso (2010 JUNO winner), Michael Occhipinti’s Sicilian Jazz Project (2009 JUNO nominee), Kiran Ahluwalia, Luis Mario Ochoa, Justin Rutledge, Guinga, Henrique Cazes, Patricia Cano, Daniela Nardi’s Espresso Manifesto, Sophie Milman, Bill McBirnie, “MARIA SEVERA” at The Shaw Festival, Tapestry New Opera Works, Eliana Cuevas, Aline Morales and Luanda Jones. Described as “utterly unique” (CBC Radio One), he was the winner of the 2007 USA Songwriting Competition in the World Music category with his song, “Fado Torto”. Simão has opened for Cesaria Evora and Celso Machado, shared a night with Brazilian reggae stars Chico Cesar and Rita Ribeiro, toured Portugal (2006); and in 2008, was the invited artist of the Portuguese Consulate and the Instituto Camões at the Festival de Printemps in Azzemour, Morocco. Most recently, he has been nominated in 3 separate categories for the 2017 International Portuguese Music Awards (IPMA). Simão’s diverse skills also have him in demand as a music educator and clinician as well as a panel juror for the Canada Council for the Arts and FACTOR.

“A Luz” is made possible through the support of the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council and through the Canada Council for the Arts.

The Fugitives

The Fugitives are a modern folk group based out of Vancouver, BC, Canada. They have released three full length albums and two EPs, with a new full length, “The Promise of Strangers”, due out in Canada in the last fall of 2017.  Recent highlights include touring to twelve countries, being nominated for multiple Canadian Folk Music Awards and a Western Canadian Music Award for Best Roots Album, opening for Buffy Sainte-Marie across Western Canada, and playing UK’s Glastonbury Festival.

When not touring as musicians, current frontmen and songwriters Brendan McLeod and Adrian Glynn are active in other artistic pursuits. McLeod is an award winning novelist and former Canadian SLAM poetry champion, while Glynn is a working actor who received rave reviews for his role in Chelsea Hotel, a play based on the songs and poems of Leonard Cohen. Their band is similarly eclectic, boasting prominent former members like Mark Berube and CR Avery, and current violinist/vocalist Ali Romanow, a singer-songwriter in her own right, and multi-instrumentalist Steve Charles.

This diversity has carried over to their records and live performances. Their first full-length received a Canadian Folk Music Award nomination for “Pushing the Boundaries” of contemporary roots music, and their follow-up was praised for being “eclectic and exciting” (See) , “poignant” (Uptown), and “infectious” (CBC). They’ve gone on to sell out shows at venues as diverse as the Vienna Literary Festival, the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, and the Vancouver Jazz Festival, while maintaining a frequent spot on the Canadian folk festival circuit. As McLeod puts it, “We’re like Broken Social Scene. But acoustic, and way less famous.”

Bigger than Luck, the EP precursor to Everything Will Happen, spent ten weeks on the top ten Canadian folk charts. Everything Will Happen was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for best roots album (duo or group). Their upcoming release is entitled The Promise of Strangers.

Praise for The Fugitives

“Despite their all-acoustic lineup, the Fugitives bring enough energy to the stage to light up a small city… The East Van quartet conjures up a sound that’s like the missing link between Leonard Cohen, the Pogues, and the immortal Shorty Shitstain.” ~ Georgia Straight
“The Fugitives are capable of achieving dizzying, Arcade Fire-ish crescendos, replete with parallel melodies, complex harmonies and brimming torrents of emotion.”
Uptown Magazine

Lori Cullen

Juno nominated artist Lori Cullen has been performing at Hugh’s Room Live since it originally opened its doors.

It’s her singing that always draws attention, and partly for the things that it doesn’t have. No vibrato, no trendy affectations, no unnecessary melodic ornamentation. Just a pure and uniquely beautiful voice.

It started happening in the late 90’s at the Free Times Café – an important singer/songwriter incubator for Toronto’s resilient acoustic scene. With a natural flair for performing, she honed her skills by hosting the weekly open mic night and cultivated an early fan base of peers in the local music community.

The first Lori Cullen CD came out at the start of a new century. Garden Path reflected a young sensibility informed by her heroes Joni Mitchell and Jane Siberry. Two years later she shifted gears to jazz standards for the well received So Much. Her third release Uneven Hill focused on original writing and dramatically broadened the scope of her sonic world. Calling For Rain in 2006 brought together all the previous elements to create a hybrid of jazz and pop which became her lasting artistic identity. Largely a collection of carefully curated covers, it was nominated for a Best Vocal Jazz Juno. One of her original tunes on the album won the Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award from the Ontario Council Of Folk Festivals.

The late Chris Dedrick, revered leader of 60’s chamber pop faves The Free Design, heard Lori on the radio and came to her next gig with an open invite to collaborate. His signature ornate brass and vocal arrangements adorn Buttercup Bugle. It’s release in 2007 was celebrated with a live show featuring a 12 piece band and broadcast nationally on CBC Radio. This album also initiated a licensing deal with a label in Japan. Around this time Polaris Prize winner and Arcade Fire member Owen Pallet asked Lori to contribute her distinctive vocals to the second Final Fantasy album.

2011’s That Certain Chartreuse presented an eclectic selection of covers by artists as diverse as Gordon Lightfoot and King Crimson, all creatively arranged by herself and her band of stellar Toronto musicians. The music prompted jazz vocal giant Kurt Elling to acknowledge in an interview that Cullen was one of his favourite new singers. Shortly after the album was released she put her career on hold and in 2013 Lori and composer/visual artist Kurt Swinghammer became proud parents.

Ron Sexsmith, who has been a huge fan of Lori’s for years, suggested to Kurt Swinghammer that they co-write an album of material specifically for Lori to sing. Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs is the result of a very inspired collaboration, and sure to draw attention, as always, to her voice.

Garnet Rogers

Born in 1955, Garnet Rogers began his musical career in high school playing violin, flute and guitar with his older brother, Stan Rogers. Upon finishing school in 1974, he and his brother formed a trio and went on to change the face of folk music in North America with their performances that left audiences breathless, records which to date have sold in the millions, and songs which have been sung and recorded by thousands around the globe.

Upon Stan’s untimely death in 1983, Garnet set out on his own, forming, along with his parents, one of the very first independent record labels in North America, long before “Indies” became fashionable. Thus far, Garnet has written and recorded 18 highly acclaimed records to date; received a Juno nomination; and recorded either solo or with Grammy nominated American folk icon Greg Brown, as well as legendary Scottish singer Archie Fisher (recently made a Member of the British Empire at Buckingham Palace). Garnet also authored and recently published a memoir called Night Drive, a wild, funny, and vulgar telling of his years on the road with his brother. Night Drive has received uniformly rave reviews in North America and Europe, and continues to sell well.

Resolutely avoiding the mainstream music industry, Garnet has refused all offers from large record labels, with the exception of a “best-of” compilation done with the highly respected Minneapolis record label Red House Records, the largest independent roots music label in North America. His own record label and publishing company, Snow Goose Records, remains family run.

Over the years Garnet has worked or appeared with artists such as the late Bill Morrissey (a Grammy-nominated writer, singer, and best-selling author), Mary Chapin Carpenter (five time Grammy-winning singer), the late Guy Clark, Shawn Colvin, folk legends Judy Collins and Tom Paxton, acclaimed British producer Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois (fellow Canadian and noted producer for U2), Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe, Harry Connick Jr., and many others.

Venues where Garnet has played include the Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington DC, Lincoln Center in New York City, and the Victoria Ballroom in Vancouver (as special musical guest in an evening honoring Nelson Mandela). As well, he has played at nearly every major music festival in North America, and hundreds of smaller concert halls and clubs around the continent, from Florida to the Yukon, Newfoundland to San Diego.

Garnet Rogers has been a guest on NPR shows All Things Considered, A Prairie Home Companion, Good Evening with Noah Adams, Fresh Air with Terry Gross; as well, he’s appeared on West Virginia’s Mountain Stage, CBC’s As It Happens, The Vicki Gabereau show, “Q” with Tom Power, Morningside with Peter Gzowski, and Swinging on a Star with Murray Maclaughlan.

Garnet is to be the subject of a documentary in the coming year, intended to touch on the travels and travails that make up the story of his touring life. The documentary is to be directed by Jonathan Silvers, the noted filmmaker whose most recent three-part series, “Dead Reckoning: War, Crime, and Justice from WW2 to the War on Terror,” was featured on PBS in spring 2017.

Garnet Rogers continues to write, to record, and to tour all across Canada and the States. He spends his off-time between his home in Nova Scotia and his farm in Ontario, where his wife, Gail Parker-Rogers, breeds and raises thoroughbred horses, several of which can currently be found are on the US and Canadian Olympic Teams.

Tété

Tété is a french, Paris-based singer-songwriter, whose influences include delta blues, folk, soul and…acoustic groove.

Tété is described as the French version of Jeff Buckley. Tété’s music can be described as an intimate, solo classical guitar musical style. He defines himself to be a “troubadour and manufacturer of pop-folk-bluesy songs with intellectual pretensions.”

The Jitters – Reunion Show

The Jitters were a Canadian rock band formed in Toronto, Ontario in 1981 by Blair Packham, Danny Levy and Matthew Greenberg. Five years of constant performing established them as one of the premier club bands in the Greater Toronto Area.[1]

They caught the attention of producer Bob Ezrin in 1982, but studio sessions with him did not produce any results. An independent video in 1984 for the song “Take Me As I Am” brought them limited national exposure, though the song never appeared on any full-length release.[2]

1986 saw The Jitters in an opening slot for Huey Lewis and the News at the Canadian National Exhibition, and tying for third place in Q107’s Homegrown Contest with the song “Last of the Red Hot Fools”. These two events helped open doors with Capitol Records who proceeded to sign the band.

The Jitters had several songs that were ready for release, and after spending some extra time in the studio with producer Paul Gross, released their eponymous debut in 1987. “Last Of The Red Hot Fools” was the first single and became a radio hit throughout the country, and they were nominated at the 1989 Juno Awards in the category of Most Promising Group of the Year.

In 1988, they played support for Heart on their UK tour.

Three years later, The Jitters released their second and final album Louder Than Words. The result of a collaboration with American songwriter/producer Jules Shear, Louder Than Words was the last effort for the group who split in 1991 due to the pressures of constant club tours.[3]

 

New Year’s Eve with Chris Whiteley & Diana Braithwaite

Come and Ring in the New Year with Chris Whiteley & Diana Braithwaite!
This show will sell out fast!  Book early!

Award winning blues artists Diana Braithwaite and Chris Whiteley along with their very special guest (to be announced), are hosting a gala New Years Eve party at Hugh’s Room Live, complete with Swinging Jazz , Rockin’ Blues and Classic Standards from the great American Songbook.

With Chris wowing the crowd from one instrument to the next and Diana’s internationally renowned blues vocals it promises to be a wonderful New Years Eve. Come enjoy the great food and atmosphere, wear your dancing shoes, and bring 2018 in with style!

 

Suzie Vinnick

Singer-songwriters are dime a dozen – and that accounts for inflation. They come. They go. Many of them have the requisite ‘voice’ and necessary perspective while some possess the talent required to attract your attention. Yet few rise above the ether.

Suzie Vinnick is different. Like so many others, she doesn’t perform because she wants to. She performs because she’s driven to. And, as anyone who’s followed her career knows – she never merely attracts your attention. She captures it – and holds it prisoner.

Possessed of a distinctively alluring voice – once described as being “spun of gold “ – she has the power and grace to project it through finely-crafted (and increasingly self-penned) songs that make you sit up and wish you knew her better. Her lust for constructive collaboration and her instrumental dexterity has rendered her irreplaceable to countless musicians, providing her with musical hearth and home in any configuration in which she chooses to play. Yet, with the release of her latest solo album – Happy Here – Suzie Vinnick serves notice that it’s her time to claim the same spotlight she’s always been so eager to share. “I feel the need to pull the reins in a bit and focus a little more this year, “ she says of her penchant for alternate projects. Time well spent with The Marigolds, Betty & the Bobs, Vinnick-Sheppard-Harte and a long standing artistic affinity with Rick Fines have taught her much, refining her game while providing the spontaneous outlets she needs to get the most from each day. In truth, they permit her to get outside herself while polishing her instrumental skills, her harmonizing, her vocal range and, indeed, her multiple personalities. Yet, Happy Here is an artistic statement that speaks to the realization that the time has come to move forward based on her own merits. She has much to be happy about.

All artists dread to be name-checked or pigeon-holed. Yet if such is necessary to help define Suzie’s wide-ranging stylistic muse, then references to no less than Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones are more than called for. Like Harris, Suzie remains a restless creative spirit who has blazed her own trail by fusing multiple elements of folk, country and rock and roll, constantly evolving her sound by taking risks with originals and covers alike. Like Colvin, she’s an established song craftsman, investing her substantial pop smarts into an ever-burgeoning canon of her own creation – and she’s one who also benefits from open-minded collaborations along the way. Like Mitchell, she’s a maverick – eager to explore territory beyond the mainstream, investing elements of her personality across whatever backdrop she deems most appropriate (folk, jazz, R&B). Finally, Rickie Lee Jones – to whom she shares a special kinship as a musical pioneer, also shares an elastic vocal ability, a soft spot for a heartfelt lyric and a penchant for surprise.

Unlike any of these, however, Suzie remains an undiscovered gem – well overdue the savoring of her just desserts. She’s worked tirelessly throughout her career to create the record that is destined to turn heads, to thrust her onto the world stage. Happy Here hereby moves Suzie from the passenger’s chair to the driver’s seat as she brings all her skills and seasoned confidence to bear on the mission ahead. Produced by Stephen Fearing, Happy Here is a masterwork and – creatively – a clearly defined mark-in- the-sand. Whether she’s cooing like Dusty through the positively sublime “Believe In Yourself “ or purring alongside Paul Reddick on the hook-rich “Looking For A Kiss”, Suzie declares ownership of the turf. From the drop-dead, quintessential Vinnick song – and title track, with its pedal steel and percussive rhythm, Suzie simply soars above each exotic mix. Fearing pulls out all the stops to tastefully embellish that crystalline voice to redefine her rootsy blend through use of harp, strings, horns, accordion, mandolin and guitar as required. Case in point – “My Kind of Loneliness “ – as perfect a song and as blissful an arrangement as has ever come together on a Canadian recording. Vinnick’s songwriting has been acknowledged with several high profile awards over the years but her hand is clearly involved in each of the fourteen tracks found here.

It’s the record she’s been waiting for. More importantly, Happy Here is the record you’ve been waiting for – from an artist who deserves all this and much, much more. Lend her your ears and take home some happiness of your own.

Don Ross

The Story so far…

Don Ross began playing guitar virtually by accident.

There was always a lot of music around the house. Don’s dad is an operatically-trained singer. So, the Ross kids heard plenty of voice exercises around their Montreal home as well as classical music on the record player growing up (not to mention the occasional blast of the bagpipes when Don’s dad felt like waking up the neighbours with another musical skill he acquired growing up in Scotland!).

…in the beginning

Don Ross was a very musical child, teaching himself some basic piano skills in his early years. But at the age of eight, when Don’s sister came home from boarding school with an old Stella acoustic guitar, he knew he had met his new best friend. Immediately recognizing the portability and “cool factor” of the guitar, Don and his older brother began teaching themselves tunes by the Beatles, Cream, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.

By the age of ten, Don Ross was playing less with a pick and more with his fingers. He was fascinated by the possibility of playing several lines at once: melody, middle voices, bass line. To achieve some of the musical ideas he had in mind, he started retuning the guitar to suit them, inventing new tunings that made things easier at first. But he also realized that he could expand the range of the instrument to make the low strings lower and the high strings higher. The possibilities seemed almost endless.

The Start of Professional Life

He began playing publicly (and for money) in his hometown of Montreal at the age of 15. Fortunately he looked old enough to drink by then and even played occasionally at some of the downtown pubs that featured live acoustic music! Around the same time he discovered the music of legendary Canadian singer/guitarist Bruce Cockburn. Don Ross was amazed that such an insightful lyricist could also be a tremendous guitarist. The musical future seemed very bright indeed. He was inspired to write his first strong instrumental tunes for solo guitar around this time.

Education

Don eventually studied Music at Toronto’s York University. Strangely enough, he didn’t focus on guitar but rather on composition, electronic music, and sound recording. Upon graduating, he had visions of being a composer of orchestral and electronic music or film scores..certainly not any delusions of playing solo guitar for a living. What changed his mind was seeing the success of musicians like Michael Hedges, Steve Reich and Keith Jarrett, player/composers who followed their musical intuitions wherever they led and who fell more into the category of “artist” rather than “guitarist” or “pianist.”

Take Off

After graduation, Don Ross decided that the best forum for what he did as a composer would be to perform his guitar music himself. In 1988, he won the U.S. National Fingerstyle Guitar Competition. This earned him a fair amount of media attention back home in Canada, and within days he was scouted to record for Toronto-based independent record label Duke Street Records. He recorded his debut for the label, Bearing Straight, which was released in 1989. Two more recordings for the label followed, 1990’s Don Ross and 1993’s Three Hands. Don then signed with Columbia/Sony and recorded three more CDs for that label: This Dragon Won’t Sleep in 1995, Wintertide in 1996 and Loaded. Leather. Moonroof in 1997. In the meantime, Don won the Fingerstyle competition in the USA for a second time in 1996. To this day, he is still the only player to have won the competition twice!

Signing with Narada Records in 1999, Don Ross released his first completely solo-guitar CD, Passion Session. Recorded in a series of overnight sessions in Berlin’s Passionskirche (The Church of the Passion), the CD has gone on to top many of the “all time best acoustic guitar recordings” lists in publications like Acoustic Guitar Magazine. Some of the compositions on Passion Session, such as “Michael, Michael, Michael,” “Klimbim,” and “Tight Trite Night” have become standards in world guitar repertoire. Huron Street (2001) and Robot Monster (2003) followed, showcasing the depth of Don’s compositional history as well as his ongoing interest in electronic music, through collaborations with Berlin composer Christoph Bendel.

A New Digital Era

With the collapse of the conventional recording industry in the early 21st century, Don entered into a new venture with Milwaukee-based CandyRat Records and its founder, Rob Poland. The move to a completely internet-based model of releasing recordings resulted in the first ever CandyRat CD, 2005’s Music for Vacuuming. CandyRat has gone on to release recordings by dozens of international artists, primarily guitarists and songwriters. YouTube exposure has helped all of the CandyRat artists, and made an international star of Don’s good friend Andy McKee. Other recent projects Don has released in collaboration with CandyRat are Live in Your Head (2006), the thing that came from somewhere (2008, with Andy McKee), his all-vocal CD Any Colour (2009), the solo guitar albums Breakfast for Dogs! (2010), Upright and Locked Position (2012), and PS15 as well as two performance DVDs: Don Ross Live and Live in Toronto (with Michael Manring and Andy McKee).

World

Don has toured regularly since 1989, across Canada, the USA, a dozen European countries, Japan, Taiwan, China, Australia, Russia and India. He has played with symphony orchestras in Canada and Germany, and collaborated live and on recording with Andy McKee, Canadian singer/guitarist Brooke Miller, & Toronto bassist Jordan O’Connor. He also composes scores for television, radio and film, and does production and recording engineering for a variety of other musicians. In addition to acoustic guitar, Don also plays electric guitar, slide dobro and lapsteel guitar, voice, piano, keyboards, bass guitar and drums. He has just started learning to play the Megatar, a Chapman-stick style instrument. At this point, Don admits that learning a new instrument from scratch at this point in his career is “humbling. I’m a rank amateur Stick player, and I still completely suck at it!”

Don Ross grew up in Montreal, has lived at various times in Ontario, Nova Scotia, the USA, China and Quebec, and now resides in Toronto.