1. Tonight: "Grievous Angel" and
the story of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris
2. Toronto Jazz Festival: some roots music highlights
3. Other upcoming events
4. Miscellaneous notes:
a) Luminato: Bassekou! and others
b) Fela! report from Broadway
c) Son House: "John the Revelator"
1. Tonight: "Grievous
Angel: The Legend of Gram Parsons" at Hugh's Room Photo: cover of his second album, Return of
the Grievous Angel
Parsons' career, life and death are truly the stuff of legend.
One of the pioneers of alt-country/American music, "discoverer"
of Emmylou Harris, dead at 26 of an overdose of morphine and
tequila, his body was stolen from the airport by his road
manager, Phil Kaufman, and
burned in the desert. Not surprising he's been the subject of 5
biographies, 4 tribute albums and a documentary.
Tonight, Hugh's Room hosts a musical play
about Parsons, with Anders Drerup and Kelly Prescott taking the
role of Emmylou Harris.
Parsons' two solo albums were notable not just
for his singing and the music, but for introducing Emmylou
Harris to the world, as she sang harmony on both. Theirs was a
deep musical and personal relationship, although they not a
romantic one -- his death prevented that. In a very revealing
interview, Harris talks about Parsons, his influence, and
her shock and fear over his self-destructive side.
A couple of weeks before [his
death], I'd finally accepted the fact that I was in love
with him. But, you know, why even tell him? I was going to
see him in a few weeks. I had all the time in the world. And
then he died, so I never even got to tell him.
I was savouring the moment. I didn't
want to say it over the phone. I wanted to say it to him in
person. But I never had the chance."
It's no wonder that Harris' posthumous song to
Parsons, "Boulder to Birmingham" from her first solo CD is still
one of the most moving songs she's ever done. Watch
I don't want to hear a sad story
Full of heartbreak and desire
The last time I felt like this
It was in the wilderness and the canyon was on fire
And I stood on the mountain
In the night and I watched it burn
I watched it burn, I watched it burn.
I would rock my soul in the bosom of
I would hold my life in his saving grace.
I would walk all the way from Boulder to Birmingham
If I thought I could see, I could see your face.
Well you really got me this time
And the hardest part is knowing I'll survive...
2. Toronto Jazz Festival (June 25-Jul. 4) Photo: Mavis Staples, Toronto Jazz Festival, 2008
biggest music festival kicked off last night
10 days, 350 concerts, 1500 musicians, and over 40+ venues!.
There are a number of roots-related events listed on my
page. Among the mainstage highlights are:
Jun. 27: Taj Mahal, with
James Hunter opening. It's been quite a few years since I
saw Taj, but those who caught his Luminato show last June
were very impressed.
Jun. 30: The fabulous Mavis
Staples, with New Orleans pianist/singer/songwriter Allen
Toussaint. I have a few videos of each of them posted on my
events page, but one of my favourites is her doing "Hard
Times Come Again No More" for a Stephen Foster tribute
album. (That's Buddy Miller on guitar)
Jul. 1: Angelique Kidjo:
Time magazine calls her "Africa's premier diva", and
certainly is likely it's biggest international female
Some of the other shows include:
Jun. 26: Waleed Kush (Trane);
Piano double-bill with Miguel Zenon Quartet and
Hilario Duran Big Band at the Enwave; Joaquin Nunez Trio at
Jun. 27: Jaffa Road (free,
5pm); Eliana Cuevas at the Lula; Proyecto Altiplano (Andean)
at the Latinada
Jun. 28: Son Aché (free, 5pm)
Jun. 29: Bettye LaVette at
the Phoenix. Tremendous soul singer, her newest CD re-intprets
(LaVette style) songs from the 1960's "British Invasion".
Read a recent interview on the
No Depression website
3. Other events
A few highlights over the next couple of weeks. Details of these and
many more are on the events
Jun. 26-27: Toronto City Roots Festival. The
huge lineup includes Njacko Njacko & Kalimba Kalimba, Saturday
Jun. 27: Fred Eaglesmith CD Release at Hugh's
Jun. 29: Levon Helm & John Hiatt at Massey
Jul. 1: Canada Day celebrations at
Harbourfront include Masaisai and other performers
Jul. 2: Donné Roberts at the Melody Bar,
Gladstone Hotel. (free 7pm show). Donné's recent work with Marc
Nadjiwan and other First Nations musicians is now well known.
Reports from the African Guitar Summit suggest Donné is now
sporting a Mohawk, so you might want to check out his new look!
Jul. 2-4: "The Hot Spot" weekend at
Harbourfront features, among others, L'Orchestre Septentrional,
a Haitian band first formed in 1948, along with Columbian salsa
Jul. 8: Grupo Fantasma at the Horseshoe.
Latin rockers from Austin Texas
Jul. 10: Sleepy LaBeef at the Dominion on
Queen. A unique, living "musical ukebox". A huge rockabilly
singer, a huge voice and a huge repertoire (He claims to know
over 6000 songs). One of a kind.
here do "Strange Things Happening", a song by the great
gospel singer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, followed by a brief
interview with Conan O'Brien
Jul. 10-11: Afrofest weekend. The African
music weekend of the year as always. More to come on this
festival. Also keep an eye on
Music Africa's website for details.
Don't forget the big African music week later
in July, including Jane Bunnett's "African-Cuban Blues Summit"
at Hugh's Room on the 20th, featuting Madagascar Slim and
others; Fool's Gold at the El Mocambo on the 21st; Alpha Yaya
Diallo at Hugh's (23rd); Oliver Mtukudzi at the Opera House
(24th); Katenen Dioubaté CD Release with Sekouba Bambino at 25
Cecil St. (same day), and Bana Y'Afrique Festival on the 24th
and 25th, featuring M'bilia Bel and many others. Good luck
planning that week!
Through July, the Lula has an interesting
lineup of music featuring numerous bands from South America.
3. OTHER NOTES:
a) Luminato Festival Photo: Bassekou Kouyaté, Luminato Festival, June
the years I've maintained this website and newsletter, I'm not
sure if I've hyped a performer as often as I did Bassekou
Kouyaté and his group Ngoni Ba, leading up to their June 12th
Luminato concert with Béla Fleck. I was worried at times that I
may have overdone it: either too frequently, or -- unlikely as I
thought it -- they may not have lived up to my buildup of them.
I hope most of you did catch them finally,
because they were, in a word Spectacular. That may
have been the best performance I've seen in a long time.
Let's hope they come back soon, this time with a full concert of
their own. Some photos of his set are posted
That first Luminato concert featured an
excellent lineup, especially as many of the artists had never or
rarely played Toronto. Lo'jo, Rachid Taha and Tony Allen put on
excellent performances, and I was impressed with Karim Saada
from Montreal as well in his first Toronto appearance. I'll
watch for his return. Unfortunately, I missed Maryam Tollar's
I had to miss most of the next weekend's
concerts, including Salif Keita's Saturday night show. I've
heard from many who did see him, and have heard amazingly varied
reactions, ranging from the positive ("best performance I've
ever seen from him"), to somewhat negative. Everyone did rave
about the band though, led by the great Guinean guitarist
b) Fela on Broadway
I was able to see the Broadway musical,
Fela! about a week and a half ago, and indeed, it does
deserve the accolades (see for example, Banning Eyre's
Afropop blog). Great sets, spectacular dance numbers, and
excellent music (from Antibalas). It's still a musical, so
understandably -- with the concentration on performances --
any story substance was a bit thin.
I do recommend it highly if you're in New
c) Son House
A YouTube clip (audio only) of
"John the Revelator" recorded by the great delta bluesman
sometime after his "re-discovery" in the 1960's. No
special reason for including it here, but with music like that,
no reason is needed.