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Canada's Country Music Pioneeers

Posted by on in Magazine

bobnolanBob Nolan 1908-1980

As a founding member of the Sons of the Pioneers, Bob Nolan played a key role in the popularization of western music, writing and singing numerous standards while appearing in over 80 western movies. His songs imaginatively portrayed the cowboy spirit and proud isolation of life in the West.

tumblingtumbleweedsA native of Winnipeg, Nolan moved with his father to Arizona, where he joined the high school glee club and developed a love of harmony singing. After graduating as a top athlete, he drifted around the country and found work as a lifeguard in California. But the turning point came when he saw a classified ad calling for a “yodeler, tenor preferred.” Nolan got the job and began working with fellow singer Roy Rogers in a group that became the Sons of the Pioneers.


Meghan Trainor - Title

Posted by on in Reviews

Last year, Trainor topped the charts with her body-positive smash “All About That Bass,” a reference to her derriere. “Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size 2,” she half-raps on the doo-wop inspired, Grammy-nominated hit, “I’m bringing booty back.” When asked if she was afraid of being a one-hit wonder, the 21-year-old Nantucket, Mass. native answered confidently, “No—I’m a songwriter. That’s not even my best one.” True enough, she scored again with her followup single “Lips Are Movin.’” Now Trainor has an album’s worth of sassy, self-empowerment songs, from “Dear Future Husband” and “Mr. Almost” to “No Good for You.” There’s plenty of ukulele, handclaps, finger-snaps, retro harmonies and acoustic bass that make a playfully infectious sound. And when Trainor teams up with John Legend on the soulful duet “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” it’s clear she’s the real deal—and destined to be one of 2015’s major stars.

Hits: 110

The indie folk-rockers came to prominence when their last album, The King is Dead, topped the Billboard charts. Known for literate, historically based songs, the band comes by its bookishness honestly: frontman Colin Meloy is the author of young fantasy novels, all illustrated by his wife, Carson Ellis. Now on tour with a stop in Toronto Mar. 30, the Decemberists keep up their storytelling ways on their seventh album. Along with the hit “Make You Better,” it features the horn-fueled “Calvary Captain” and the string-laden “Philomena.” The album takes its title from the stark “12-17-12,” a response to the Newtown school shootings. “I was hit by a sense of helplessness,” explains Colin, “but also [Obama’s] message of ‘Hold your family close.’” A father himself, the Decemberists’ singer has crafted another fine collection of moving, thoughtful songs.

Hits: 82

Diana Krall - Wallflower

Posted by on in Reviews

The world’s top female jazz artist, Krall has achieved many milestones, from winning five Grammy Awards to producing the great Barbra Streisand. After recording 11 studio albums, the last of which, Glad Rag Doll, explored vaudeville tunes from the 1920s and ’30s, the Canadian-born star now turns her attention to her favorite pop songs from the ’60s to the present. Produced by David Foster, the album showcases the pianist’s voice, amid both spare and lush arrangements, in all of its beautiful, ragged glory. She duets with Michael Bublé on Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” and Ryan Adams on Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home.” But Krall is at her best on her own, singing stark renditions of the Bob Dylan title track and Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.” She also delivers a haunting, previously unrecorded Paul McCartney composition, “If I Take You Home Tonight,” marking yet another career highlight.

Hits: 70

It opened with Australia’s AC/DC devilishly stomping their way through “Rock or Bust” and “Highway to Hell” and ended with America’s Beyoncé, John Legend and Common taking us to church with hopeful hymns about emancipation and salvation. In other words, the 57th annual Grammys, hosted once again by the affable LL Cool J, ran the gamut from rock to gospel and heaven to hell.


            Another distinguishing feature of the show, which boasted a whopping 23 performances and only 10 onscreen awards, was the producers’ penchant for pairing legends with rising stars. While obviously an attempt to bridge the demographic divide, it made for some damn good duets. The young-meets-old collaborations included Ed Sheeran with Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra, Hozier with Annie Lennox, Brandi Clark with Dwight Yoakam, Tony Bennett with Lady Gaga and Sir Paul McCartney teaming up with Rihanna and Kanye West to perform their acoustic single “FourFiveSeconds.”


Mark Ronson - Uptown Special

Posted by on in Picks

markronsonBest known as Amy Winehouse’s producer, the New York-born DJ goes back to his club roots here, teaming up with Bruno Mars on the smash hit “Uptown Funk” and Keyone Starr on “I Can’t Lose.” Other highlights include lyrics by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon and the ferocious funk of “Feel Right,” featuring rapper Mystikal.

Hits: 69

Bob Dylan - Shadows in the Night

Posted by on in Picks

dylanHe’s unrivalled as a songwriter, but often derided as a singer—which makes this album so curious: the legend lending his craggy pipes to songs associated with Frank Sinatra, one of the greatest vocalists ever. Yet the results are surprisingly affecting, especially on his moving renditions of “What’ll I Do” and “Full Moon and Empty Arms.”

Hits: 64