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T.O. Music Pix Newsletter #91: Sep. 23/09
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In this issue:
1. The Healing Power of Music: a subway reminder
2. Americana music: Awards & events
3. Milestones: Jimi Hendrix, Marie Knight, Youssou n'Dour, Billy Joe Shaver
4. Event notes: Slim releases; Tuku returns and Small World is everywhere


1. The Healing Power of Music
Photo: Adam Solomon, Bloor/Yonge subway, 2005

I thought I'd open this newsletter with a short note reminding us of the power and spirit of music. Adam Solomon of Tikisa and the African Guitar Summit sent along the following email he received this week. Adam also regularly plays in the subway -- Bloor/Yonge being one of his regular spots.

Hello you don't know me but my name is E___. You gave me your card this morning after I told you that I thought your music was beautiful.

I just wanted to say that I was having a terrible day before hearing your music. I've been pretty depressed over the last little while and today was no exception. I was on my way to an interview this morning and was feeling very sad. I had to fight back the tears during the entire subway ride so my mascara wouldn't run and make me look unpresentable.

When I got off the subway at Yonge and Bloor I heard this incredible music and when I came upstairs, I heard you playing. Your music was achingly beautiful. It filled my heart and soul with beauty. I have not felt that sort of beauty in a long time. Thank you very much for being there this morning.

I'm not a religious person but I do believe in signs and in fate. After hearing your music, even though it was only for a few minutes, I felt renewed. That feeling has lasted with me all day. So I thank you for being there this morning and playing. It made me remember that life and this world is filled with endless beauty.

I hope to see your next show in October.

To hear some of that music, keep your ears and eyes open in the subway, and/or see Adam with his group, Tikisa on Oct. 25 at the Lula in a benefit performance for Baraka Orphan kids in Mombasa, Kenya. (Or you can also hear Adam's recent recording, "Mola Ajuae" here.)


2. Americana week on to-music
photo: Buddy Miller, Horseshoe Tavern, 2005

a) Americana Awards

Last Thursday, the 8th annual Americana Awards were held in the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The Wall Street Journal (yes, that one) carried an article today entitled, "Honest, Unfettered Americana". It starts with the question of just what "Americana" is:

Few proponents of Americana music know how to describe it.

"I have no idea," said Rosanne Cash when I asked.

"I still don't know to this day," replied Buddy Miller, who was nominated for four AMA awards, won three and ran the house band at last week's awards ceremony at the Ryman Auditorium. [Correction: he was nominated for five, and won four].

"If you look up the definition of the word 'Americana,' there isn't any," said Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson from the Ryman stage.

Cloying, cartoonish corporate country is treated as the enemy in the halls of Americana. Now and then, you would swear the Americana movement is scheming to wrest back the soul of country and restore its former partnership with folk, blues, old-time rock 'n' roll and swing.

The article also includes links to some of the nominated songs.

The BBC Radio program "Bob Harris Country" has two shows dedicated to the American Awards. Sep. 17, a preview, with guest (and award show host Jim Lauderdale). That broadcast is available until sometime mid-morning (locally) Thu. Sep. 24, when it will be replaced by a show featuring highlights of the Awards.


b) Buddy Miller

As noted above, Buddy Miller (who has been mentioned several times in this newsletter and website), won four awards: artist of the year; album of the year for Written in Chalk with wife Julie Miller; duo/group of the year with his wife; and song of the year for "Chalk" performed with Patty Griffin.

Last year, Miller was in town as band leader for the Allison Krauss/Robert Plant tour; this year he was at Massey Hall as part of the "Four Girls and their Buddy" singer-songwriter circle. He'll be back (nearby)... see next section.

He's not widely known, but is no stranger to recognition. No Depression magazine in its last print issue named him "Alt-country Artist of the Decade".


c) Locally, it's a great month for American music:

  • Oct. 3, the wonderful and unique Iris DeMent, who tours infrequently these days, plays Hugh's Room (now sold out... I'd predicted that in an earlier newsletter). Here's a 2004 profile from No Depression
  • Oct. 10-11: the much better known Lucinda Williams does two "30th anniversary" shows at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The first night focuses on her (I think) rootsier music of 1979-99.
  • Oct. 20: Buddy Miller opens for, and backs up Emmylou Harris in Kitchener. Worth the trip, I say...
  • And of course, the unique and eclectic banjo maestro, Béla Fleck helps launch the new Koerner Hall performance facility on Sep.29, the showcase event of the Small World Music Festival. He plays with tabla master Zakir Hussain and bassist. It will likely sell out soon.

And, in a related discussion, the No Depression forum recently had a discussion on "Essential Country Records".




Jimi Hendrix
Last Friday was the 39th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's death; here's a video clip of Hendrix playing acoustic guitar, and some comments from a world music forum about the clip:

"As far as I know, the only recording in general circulation of Jimi playing acoustic - and acoustic 12 string at that. It was recorded in London on December 19th 1967, at the studio of photographer Bruce Fleming. The story goes that at the end of the photo shoot Fleming handed Jimi a left handed 12 string Zemaitis guitar and asked him to play something."


Marie Knight:
In a recent newsletter, I had a number of notes about the late gospel great, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. For several years in the 1940's and 50's, Tharpe's partnership with the younger singer, Marie Knight, became one of America's most popular gospel acts.

On Aug. 30, Knight passed away at the age of 84.

She'd made a comeback in 2002 for a tribute album to Rosetta Tharpe, and in 2007, recorded her first full album in over 25 years, a tribute to Rev. Gary Davis

Some video clips:
 - A brief bio of Knight done a few years ago
 - 2008, Knight performs at a benefit concert to raise money for a memorial to Rosetta Tharpe:
 - Audio only: One of Tharpe & Knight's most successful recordings, "Up Above My Head"

"Up above my head.... there's music in the air"

Youssou n'Dour
The great Senegalese singer (many remember his free concert here last September as part of the Film Festival) turns 50 on Oct. 1.

BBC Radio 4 has a 30 minute profile of and interview with him. It was broadcast last Saturday, Sep. 19, and is available online for a week following. Listen here.

Billy Joe Shaver
In keeping with the Americana theme, belated 70th birthday greetings to the Texan singer-songwriter who has also made frequent appearances here and on the website. Last month, writer Nathan Rabin wrote an excellent appreciation of Shaver, his music and life. (The two are inseparable). It includes numerous song links.


4. Event Notes
A few notes on upcoming shows. As usual, details on these and many other shows are posted at

Sep. 24-27: Havana Cultura Festival: various locations. Music, art, dance.

Sep. 24-Oct. 4: The always-great Small World Festival has far too much to discuss here; check the SW website for info on some great and eclectic concerts and club shows. Note that this Sunday, the annual Word on the Street reading festival features numerous world music performances, organized by Small World.

Sep. 27: The CD Release of multi-Juno winner Madagascar Slim's first CD in 11 years (Good Life, Good Living) is definitely a notable event. At Hugh's Room. (A trio version of acapella group Soul Influence opens)

Oct. 4: Bana Y'Africa returns. Postponed as a result of the city strike, it will be a free event, 10am-4pm at Metro Square. Featuring Madagascar Slim with Malagasy dance group Kintana Gasy, Valu David, Njacko Backo, Akwaba Cultural Dance Group, KG Tsatsi, and JP Buse, former singer with the legendary Congolese group Zaiko Langa Langa.

Coming up:
Oct. 17 SalsAfrica at the Lula, featuring JP Buse
Oct. 31: Playing for Change whose videos have become a huge Internet hit
and, Nov. 15: Oliver Mtukudzi, the Zimbabwean superstar returns to town



John Leeson