The Darling DeMaes.

Once upon a time …

There was a girl living in Oregon. Eugene,Oregon to be precise.

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It was a town filled with hippies. A real – peace and love kind of town. This young lady adored music. She played piano growing up for her Dad. A man who loved the Beatles and at the same time, was very proud of her daughter’s singing and keyboard playing. According to Tasha Cyr, so much so – her Father would inadvertently embarrass her by playing her songs to visiting guests …

At the age of seventeen, she moved back to Montreal with a new skill. A guitar playing skill. An acoustic guitar playing skill. This young lady brought her love of the Dave Mathews Band and John Mayer to university where she also became involved in theatre. Places such as Brutopia Pub and Grumpys – her new found Montreal venues where she was able to showcase her musical skills.

Meanwhile …

There was a young man, originally from Vancouver who was living in Asia teaching English. The young man spent a lot of his down time, writing songs with his acoustic guitar. His influences as a young man; Nirvana, BoyzIIMen,New Kids on the Block,Pearl Jam and the Beatles.

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Following his departure from South Korea, the man in question decided to broaden his horizons and instead of returning to his western roots – the aspiring writer and musician chose Quebec because of it’s flourishing artistic scene.

Frequenting places where music was played, places such as Brutopia and Grumpys, Erik Virtanen met other artists and formed a band.The Darling DeMaes.

The lady singer in the band at that time, one day received a gift. A pregnancy. A condition which eased the pain of the band letting her go. A mutual parting of ways during the recording of the group’s first cd ; A Users Guide to Raising the Dead ( Songs of Spring ).

The young lady who was embarrassed by her father so many years ago – met the young man who had written forty plus songs while living abroad. Tasha Cyr fell in love with Erik Virtanen because of his songwriting. Tasha also joined the current roster Trevor Lashmore, Marc Andre Mongrain, Stephan Jovanovich and Erik in the Darling DeMaes as a singer/ piano/ keyboard/ guitar player..

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Tasha and Erik are engaged to be married. Tasha, Erik and the rest of the group are finishing up the recording of their second cd.

It is titled; ‘Celebration’.

Not – once upon a time …

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Stay tuned for a review of the bands first album …

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Martha Wainwright – Come Home to Mama

Martha Wainwright’s latest offering, Come Home To Mama will be released October 16, 2012 through MapleMusic Recordings.

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Produced with Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto, the album is a collection of 10 reflective songs that see Martha taking stock of her life.

With Come Home To Mama’s release just around the corner, Martha will be on the road to visit select cities in Canada. Martha will also be the musical guest on Late Night Jimmy Fallon, slated for December 14th!

Martha gives us her bravest album of all in Come Home to Mama. Deeply emotional and absolutely riveting, it contains Martha’s outpouring of responses to two of life’s utmost extremes: the loss of her mother, Kate, to cancer in January 2010, and the birth of her son, Arcangelo, just two-and-a-half months earlier in London, England.

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“His coming into life was at a very emotional time,” shares Martha; “I went into labour while onstage. He was born very premature, but because of his prematurity, he was able to meet my mother. His due date was actually the day that she died.”

The album includes one powerful cover of her mother’s work, Proserpina. The last song that Kate penned, she had performed it in a handful of settings, including The McGarrigle-Wainwright Christmas show, A Not So Silent Night held in December of 2009 at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

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Written with the tradition of McGarrigle family Christmas concerts expressly in mind, Martha’s version is sparse, haunting, and startlingly beautiful.

Martha’s Come Home To Mama is an engaging album. Enjoy the album, see Martha on tour!

5 November 2012 Montréal • Théâtre Corona

6 November 2012 Québec • Théâtre Petit Champlain

7 November 2012 Burnstown • Neat Coffee Shop

8 November  2012 Toronto • The Great Hall

A Conversation with Brie Nielson

“I guess I write simple songs …”

It is no wonder. Brie Nielson, originally from Vancouver and a current Montrealer – comes from a simple place.

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“I grew up singing in church, loved musicals, acted and sang in them then started listening to old jazz singers in my teens.” Says Brie as she prepares for her Thursday night album launch at La Salla Rossa.” I didn’t grow up listening to “old” music, so I found it on my own – which was a big inspiration.”

Her album, the first in what should be a long and promising career – is entitled ‘Picture Show’. A title which earns a simple explanation from the sometime member of the Montreal- based band; The Unsettlers.

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“I wanted a throw back feel, and it really is a collection of snap shots- so Picture Show summed it up. Plus I’d already written the title track.”

The disc is, according to Nielson – a collection of her own personal stories along with the tales from those around her. People like her Mom and Dad. Brie still owns her Dad’s old 1940’s Gibson guitar and recalls how her parents used to have so much fun playing together.

“My mom has such a lovely voice ….” Says Nielson with pride.

The proverbial apple did not fall to far from the ‘singing tree’. Nielson’s voice carries A Picture Show onto another level, a level which was not reached in two weeks, according to this star in the making. The disc was recorded in about a year and Nielson explains the thought process behind her songwriting style.

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“I wrote all the songs on the cd except ‘Dress Me Up’ ( which was written by my good friend Steve Brockley).Songwriting is very random for me- I’m a busy person so I’m not very good at sitting down and writing songs on demand.”

Nielson continues.

“I usually wait until something pops into my head. A thought which turns into a tune while out walking. Then,  I will finally sit down and work on it. I wish I was more prolific but maybe someday I’ll slow down and actually make more time to write!”

Time is something which has altered Brie’s writing over the years. Wisdom will do that type of thing …

“Naturally with time and experience, you have more to write about and more maturity with which to write about.  I’ve been surrounded by awesome musicians for the last 5 yrs, so I have learned a lot from playing with and listening to them.”

Neilson’s long – term goal is to be able to live off of her art and have it received by appreciative people. ‘Art’  includes not only her music but painting as well. Meantime, her and bandmate David Simard – are hitting the road in November to support the album. A tour which will include Neilson’s hometown of Vancouver.

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“I would really like to one day record a kids album …” Concludes Brie as she thinks about being a kid once upon a time in Vancouver …

A simple time …

Come and listen to Brie as she launches her first full length cd on Thursday the 4th October at La Salla Rossa. Doors open at 8pm.

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Brie Neilson – A Happy Song at the ‘Picture Show’

‘Sweet hot chocolate and one hand in my pocket …’

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These are some of the lyrics included in Brie Nielson’s ‘ Happy Song’, a tune which is a small part of a bigger ‘ Picture  Show’. An album which will be officially launched on October 4 at Sala Rossa – 4848 blvd St. Laurent in Montreal.

Alannis Morisette had one hand in her pocket while the other was giving high fives. Brie Neilson, of Vancouver, B.C – carries sweet hot chocolate in the hand which is not embedded in her pocket.
A poignant difference which should give Brie ‘ the upper hand ‘. After all – not everyone likes high fives. Practically everyone loves ‘sweet hot chocolate’!

Music swirling around like a warm breeze on a damp early morning . This is what Brie donates to the listener. A potpourri of incense burning brightly and softly in the background of a cozy den. A rustic blend of acoustic guitars, a horn section worthy of more than a footnote and the knee jerking tight – knit beats of a rhythm section gone mad …

Comfortabilty is what Neilson and her band of ‘Othermen’ add to a world which walks ankle deep in troubles. Real and imagined. Brie Nielson’s songs are real and so is her conviction – filled voice.

This is her second ep since moving to Montreal and aside from being part of a spectacular band named ‘ The Unsettlers’, Brie is determined to make believers of her music.

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The title track – ‘ Picture Show’ is a tune that gets your toes a tappin’. It starts off with guitar and Brie’s soothing voice. When Tim van de Ven ( drums) and Ram Krishnan’s ( bass) rhythm section joins the fray … a road trip to partyville starts its journey. Declan O’Donovan’s slick piano work just makes everything that much more ‘giddy.’ By the time the horns kick in – the listener should be dancing in the backseat …

‘Now I Know’ is a song that showcases Brie’s vocals and O’Donovan’s deft touch on the piano. Acoustic strummin’ gathers thoughts as the tune is a perfect vehicule to perhaps gaze out the window on the trip. Reflective, profound and real. A gem. A diamond.

Ever listen to the Monty Python song; ‘Always look on the bright side of life’? Neilson’s tune – ‘Happy Song’ is reminiscent although on a slower pace.The energy behind the message is just waiting to bust free like a caged lion.Short and sweet, the song is as advertised; happy!

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Neilson - No Secret Here

‘Secrets’ opens up with slick guitar work and kicks into a groove – a non threatening groove. Neislon’s voice like a newly arrived angel on a planet filled with impish toads. Close your eyes – safety is what sets Brie apart from the normal blend of feminine choruses circling the globe.

Alex Gutjar plays trumpet on the album and arranges fellow horn players Franco Proietti (baritone sax) and Kyla Campbell (trombone) and Brie herself
(trumpet). Alex is a genius on the track ‘Green’. He grabs the steering wheel and lifts a spirit tired by life’s troubles into a world where cabarets, cotton candy and Ferris wheels provide the background. O’Donovan’s snappy piano once more spitting in the same direction of this breezy composition.

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When a tune is fifty percent better than most of the songs heard on tired radio stations and at the same time is the bridge between a more modern sound and the refreshing sounds of yesteryear – well, Brie and her othermen are doing something right.

‘Big Guy’ does just that.

A commotIon takes place. A perfect blend of the disc’s ‘folky’ rythyms and the sounds of today. Halfway through ‘The Picture Show’, the projectionist alters the reel. Oak trees replace the maples on this auditory scenic journey. A voyage which is pleasantly urged along thanks to the backing vocals of David Simard. A voice heard throughout the record.

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‘Dress me up’ is Brie’s jazzy demand for a date. Cocky and assertive with a blues feel footed in the rhythms of life – logically and ethically. Sounds heard before yet new and intriguing. Take her advice, offer a hand – you may get a kiss on the cheek.

Following a journey of folk, blues, jazz, cabaret-ish sing alongs and leg moving rolls, the following two songs appear to involve a getting to know process. ‘Oh my Darling’ and ‘I Can Do It Alone’ provide a stripped down Neilson. Lyrically and musically. Both are ballads worthy of a child’s bedtime. Brie allows someone in with honesty while her band takes backseat. Two songs which showcase two sides of a woman. A pair of soft spoken syllables …

In the sixties, Nancy Sinatra sang a little ditty called ‘These Boots are Made for Walking’. Brie’s song ‘Be Alone’ is a modern day version …

An underlying groove reminds of Sinatra’s statement but provides more elements. A sure -to- be favourite live tune which compels a standing ovation upon completion. Just one of those songs which could represent an entire generation. A statement of a person with a big heart who just needs a little time on their own.

The final track is Beatle- esque. Shades of ‘Oh Darling’ front a love song straight from the fifties. Roller skates, poodle skirts and milk shakes outside a drive-in theatre. A feel good hommage to a simpler time.

Hats off to Brie and her Othermen. This is the type of record which should he sold and dispersed onto an unsuspecting public.

The type of record which is … happy!

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Please support this brilliant artist and re- learn the way music is supposed to be played …

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Brie Neilson: Vocals, guitar and trumpet Ram Krishnan: Vocals, bass, tambourine Tim van de Ven: Drums Declan O’Donovan: Vocals, piano, organ David Simard: Vocals, guitar Alex Gutjahr: Trumpet, horn arrangements Franco Proietti: Baritone sax Kyla Campbell: Trombone


Brieneilson.com

All the Young Dudes; Part Five

According to Wayne Cullen –  being a member of the Dudes was a very heady  experience to be involved with …

“I was the youngest in the group (Brian Greenway a year or two older, I think). One thing after another added to the giddiness we eluded. The amount of press we received, The Phonograph Record article that Gary Sperrazza wrote that producer Mark Spector read and generated his interest. The  showcase in Toronto where a slew of potential management teams showed up. Signing with Fred Heller, Nat Weiss, recording the album, touring with the Bee Gees, etc.”

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Once the album was finished, Cullen days it was he who was the first to declare the disc sounded like ‘ crap ‘.

“This was a few days after Spector had played the final mix for us at volume 11 in Le Studio’s control booth. Raffi would sound like The Beatles in those circumstances.” Says Wayne.

The band members all received cassette copies and after a couple of listens, according to Cullen, it sounded so thin and  lacking in energy.

“Our demos sounded far better. I did not believe the lack of dynamism could be explained by the performance of the band. I thought everything was sounding good until the mix (executed without any band involvement by Spector and his personal engineer, even excluding the house engineer.)”

He goes on …

“We agreed to being shut out from the mixing process reluctantly, to a degree, because we trusted Spector. Everything he had done to this point had matched our vision. There was no reason to believe this would suddenly stop.”

In retrospect, Cullen does recall expressing his displeasure with the song selection. He expressed his opinion to Spector and probably Bob and others that he was not keen on some of the song selection.  Deeper and Deeper, Got Me Where You Want Me and Saturday Night were songs which Cullen thought were weak.

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“I thought we should have included Teenage Love, Juvenile Delinquent and Meet Me After School or Sugar. These songs represented our live act much more than the three I mention above that were ultimately included.”

The band had never performed Saturday Night or Deeper and Deeper up to that point. In addition, Teenage Love and Juvenile Delinquent were the group’s signature showcase songs. The Dudes’ equivalent of Yes’ Roundabout or The Eagles’ Hotel California.

” In addition Teenage Love and Juvenile Delinquent had never been released by The Wackers. They had been recorded  for Wack n Roll which was never released. (In any case, The Dudes live versions actually surpassed The Wackers’ recorded versions, in my opinion.)”

Cullen continues his explanation of a disappointing product.

“Meet Me After School and Sugar were David Henman compositions that I loved. Our demo of Meet Me After School could have probably been included on the album without re-recording. It was phenomenal. My vision was a rock n roll album that reflected more who we were live.”

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Wayne says that Spector thought the newer Segarini black music-influenced songs would set them apart and create a breakthrough in the industry. Segarini, the band’s creative genius, was also keen on including his most recent compositions rather than the older ones.

“He was definitely in a different space, writing-wise. I felt we could branch out into the more varied repertoire after establishing ourselves as a potent rock band to begin with. We already had three different singers/songwriters, and the diversity is what was attractive. Some homogeneity would help – I thought.”

In a nutshell, Cullen says that at their primal selves, the Dudes ‘live’ were a rock n roll band. As the youngest and least experienced – being only one of two drummers, Cullen’s opinions didn’t gain the upper hand.

“We tried to persuade Spector to re-mix the album, then the higher-ups at Columbia. All in vain. They had spent a lot of money already and didn’t want to extend any further. I remember speaking to Spector by phone and telling him what I thought about the sound of the record. He said he had played it over and over and believed it compared favourably with state of the art recordings of the day (Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles’ Hotel California were two he mentionned).”

Cullen says nothing could be done. The abysmal album cover art was also finalized without any band input.

The album was released in Sept 1975 and sold 10,000 units. Cullen recalls 
most of the sales were American and the single -‘ Saturday Night’  received airplay in various pockets.

Columbia was down about $175,000.

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Please stay tuned for Cullen’s tale after the Dudes and what affect the entire ordeal had on the rest of his life.

All the Young Dudes; Part Four

Wayne Cullen – one of the drummers in the 70’s band; ‘The Dudes’ – continues the saga of the demise of a band.

A fate which should never have happened …

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Cullen - Now

Cullen’s band – Bacchus, reached it’s demise around the same time Wayne’s favourite group, The Wackers, played their final gig. Cullen approached Bacchus’ booking agent (who also booked the Wackers) and asked for Bob Segarini’s phone number. Wayne wished to find out if Segarini planned to start a new project.

Wayne explains how he received the number and became part of a band. Part of a legend …

“Armed with the number and steeled nerves, I dialed the number. I introduced myself to Bob and popped the question. Indeed a new Wackers aggregate had been gestating and they were currently auditioning drummers. Kharma? I’d have to say so.”

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Bob Segarini

He continues.

“When I arrived at the rehearsal space, there was another drummer being auditioned. He was really good but did not seem to fit musically. He was more jazz and soul oriented. Then it was my turn to sit in. With my knees wobbling and teeth chattering, we launched into a Wackers’ tune or two. For me, at the time, this was almost the equivalent of auditioning for The Beatles. In fact it was Bob, Kootch on lead guitar instead of bass, Leon Holt on piano and Norman Vosko on bass.”

One after another, the band asked Cullen if he knew such and such a song and Wayne responded affirmatively. He knew their repertoire almost cold.

“They seemed impressed and as Bob has often attested – he hates rehearsing. I was a very handy solution and I was asked to join my favourite band in the world!”

Cullen estimates this event took place in November 1973. Their first gig together was a two-week stint at The Mustache over Christmas and New Years’. Cullen believes it was February 1974 when he dropped out of university to play full time.

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Brian Greenway

“My first experience in a recording studio ensued and produced a high beyond anything I had experienced to that point in my life. We released a single – All I Wanna Do Is Love You b/w I’ve Got A Feeling (not the Black Peas horror, obviously). Somewhere along the way and all-in-all we lasted about six months. Bob and I drove to Toronto to try to drum up (pun intended) some label interest in The Wackers.”

It became obvious to Wayne that something exceeding the reputation of the previous Wackers would be required. On the drive back to Montreal, Bob and Cullen hatched the idea of “supergroup”. An incorporation of Kootch on bass, Leon on keys, David & Ritchie Henman (whom the duo had seen perform several times in Silver) and Brian Greenway – recently a member of Mashmakhan. The idea of two drummers intrigued Wayne and the drummer loved David Henman’s songs.

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Ritchie Henman and Kootch

“I was excited. Things got organized and we began recording the infamous demos before anyone fully committed to the project. It didn’t take long for everyone to see something special was happening and once the name was chosen -we were a band. The name could have been Seventh Heaven as far as I was concerned. There was some sadness about the final wind-up of The Wackers as an entity and losing bassist Norman Vosko.”

According to Wayne, The Dudes’ story is very long and complicated …

Stay tuned for part fI’ve…

All the Young Dudes; Part Three

Wayne Cullen, one of two – yes, two drummers in The Dudes, recounts how he came to be in the greatest band that never was …

The greatest live band out of Montreal in the 1970’s and how the record company which was supposed to help the band obtain stardom – did the polar opposite.

The Dudes’ story is a sad one as the band were so close to the pinnacle of the International rock music scene.

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Wayne was born in 1952 in the West Island of Montreal.

He started playing drums shortly after the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan in 1964. He started playing in a cover band with friends all through high school. His band; Bacchus – would change a few members around the end of high school yet the band continued to play the university and club circuit for several years.

“The influences and covers of the group included Traffic, Neil Young, Stones, Beatles, Byrds and Fleetwood Mac (Kiln House era).” Says Wayne from his home in Vancouver.

Wayne was a huge fan of The Wackers, a group he discovered through CHOM radio in Montreal.

He explains.

“Chom began playing a few of their tunes from their first two albums around the time they moved to Montreal. ‘Body Go Round’, ‘I Hardly Know Her Name’, ‘Oh My Love’ and others. This was very much in line with the music I liked at the time but was not hearing. Montreal had gone prog-rock and was also heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin’s music at that time.”

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For Wayne, The Wackers stood out because of melody, harmonies and short songs with jangly guitars.

“I never got to see them with Michael Stull.” Says Wayne. ” Instead, my first experience seeing them came as a foursome at FC Smith Auditorium. I was sitting in the middle of about the 10th row and was blown away. Their showmanship was far beyond anything else in Montreal at that time. Their clothes, stage gear, lights professionalism and utter talent. Bob ( Segarini ) and Randy were mesmerizing to watch.”

Cullen’s enthusiasm also arose from being a big David Bowie fan …

“They ( Bob and Randy) both wore make-up, which at the time was a very Bowie thing to do. They were much more of a rock ‘n’ roll band live than on their two records. My enthusiasm was immediate and complete. Their Beatle covers of songs such as ‘She Loves You’, ‘I’ll Be Back ‘and ‘Slow Down’ were exquisite… !”

Cullen would see the Wackers at every opportunity and was always immersed in a sublime musical experience. His band – Bacchus, started covering a couple of Wackers’ tunes – most notably; ‘Puttin Myself To Sleep’ and ‘Hey Lawdy Lawdy’, Its My Life’ and Wait and See’.

“My girlfriend and I drove to Ottawa to witness their final gig and wept as they ended with the song -‘Time Will Carry On (Even When We’re Gone, sniff, sniff). It was a medley from Hot Wacks. Afterwards, we wandered into the dressing room but had never met them and were not able to muster much in terms of words.”

Please stay tuned for part four…