Music News Digest, Aug. 11, 2017

The 10 finalists chosen for the third annual Allan Slaight Juno Master Class have been named. These emerging acts will advance through to a final round of judging for Canada’s premier artist development program, with three winners being announced in September.

The finalists are A.Y.E., Caveboy, Elise LeGrow, Featurette, Ivory Hours, Nice Horse, Nuela Charles, Quake Matthews, The Katherines, and the Treble.

— Much-loved Canadian '70s rockers Max Webster are being given the de-luxe reissue treatment. The ole Label Group has announced Sept. 29 as the release date for the 8-disc vinyl and CD box sets. The Party will feature newly re-mastered albums, exclusive unreleased studio and live songs, the long-out-of print self-titled EP from MW mainman Kim Mitchell, and a booklet with rare photos and memorabilia. 

Supervising the project has been Andy Curran, Senior Consultant - A&R, ole Label Group, and a major fan. "Kim has been a huge influence on me and so many Canadian musicians...it's about time!," the former rocker (Coney Hatch) states in a press release.

—  Given that it is Canada's 150th birthday this year, it is fitting that the CFL would seek a Canadian superstar to perform at this year's Grey Cup's halftime show. That has been achieved big-time with the news that Shania Twain will headline that show, to take place in Ottawa on Nov. 26. In a press release, the star calls it "an absolute honour to return to the Grey Cup stage. I’m thrilled to be coming home and being a part of the country’s biggest annual party.” She previously sang at the big game in Edmonton in 2002.

— The increased interest in the preservation of Toronto's rich musical history will be demonstrated on Saturday (Aug. 12). At noon, there will be a presentation of a plaque to the legendary music venue, The Concord Tavern. Situated at Bloor and Concord (a Long and McQuade music store is now on the site), this is where Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks got their start, playing the club’s twist dance parties in the early '60s. The charitable agency Heritage Toronto is behind the tribute.

— Much-loved Ottawa live music club Zaphod Beeblebrox closed down earlier this year, but a new venue at the same address of 27 York Street will open in the fall. Named (rather unimaginatively) the 27 Club, it will launch with October shows that include the Pharcyde on Oct. 16 ( a stop on their Bizarre Ride II, the 25th anniversary tour), D.O.A. on October 20, Hey Ocean! on Nov. 18, and Cold Specks, Dec. 2.

—  Soulful songstress Ann Vriend is currently playing Ontario dates with The Rooster Davis Group. They are at Hugh's Room Live in Toronto tonight (Aug. 11), then have two shows at the Kitchener Bluesfest on Saturday. Earlier this year, Vriend won the Cobalt Prize at the Maple Blues Awards, and has had successful recent tours of Australia and Europe. Her current EP, Anybody's Different, (on Aporia) is winning positive notices. Here's a new video

— The Spirit of John, now in its third year, is a benefit concert to support the Alzheimer Society of Toronto's Music Project, which provides personalized playlists and iPods for people living with dementia. The evening celebrates Spirit of the West singer John Mann, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's in 2014.

The concert is at Toronto's Mod Club on Sept. 13. Dave Bidini hosts, and the A-list performers lineup includes Spirit of the West, Danny Michel, Andy Maize & Josh Finlayson (Skydiggers), Tom Wilson, Martin Tielli (Rheostatics), Kevin Kane (Grapes of Wrath), and Danny Greaves (Watchmen).

A documentary on Mann and SOTW, Spirit Unforgettable, placed fifth out of 200+ movies at the 2016 Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival.

— The Canadian Conference of Musicians takes place in Hamilton at the Sheraton Hotel, August 11-13. This is the annual conference of the Canadian Federation of Musicians attended by delegates from locals across Canada, the national executive board, and dignitaries from the international executive board of the American Federation of Musicians.

This year the event also showcases such local musical talent as Jack De Keyzer, Jesse O'Brien, the BNMO Quintet, the HPO String Quartet and the Darcy Hepner Sextet. 

—  Saskatchewan-based alt-country singer/songwriter Megan Nash is the first signing for the re-launched Acronym Records label, headed by Tony Tarleton and Mike Denney. Her new album, Seeker, is coming out on Sept. 22, but the hard-working Nash is hitting the road in earnest first. She is playing 13 Canadian shows this month, including Toronto's Burdock tonight (Aug. 11). That is followed by 16 shows in Europe in September, including a showcase at the Reeperbahn fest in Hamburg on Sept. 23.

RIP

Barbara Cook, a soprano star in Broadway musicals and an acclaimed interpreter of the Great American Songbook, died Aug. 8 in Manhattan, age 89. She won a Tony Award for “The Music Man” and starred in such hit shows as “Carousel” (1957), “The King and I” (1960) and “Show Boat” (1966). After a career slump, a 1975 Carnegie Hall concert brought her back to prominence. In 2011, Cook received Kennedy Center Honors from President Barack Obama.

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