Monday, November 22, 2010


With Luke Doucet, and his Album of the Year award.
Hats off to the organizers of The Hamilton Music Awards, and the music community of that strong city.  Once again, it was a fine celebration of the city's scene, in a place that begs to be discovered and honoured by the rest of the country.  This is the third time in the past four years I've been invited to attend the event, and each year I come away with a huge respect for the work being done there, so often overshadowed by the attention payed to Toronto.  And Toronto, to its shame, continues to largely ignore both the legacy, and the strong talent base there.

Yet, oddly, the musicians who either come from the area or have chosen to move there, are a good part of the backbone of today's music scene.  There's Luke Doucet, for instance, the winner of the Album of the Year.  And of course, the heart and soul of Hamilton, Tom Wilson, who has given so much through his career, from The Florida Razors to Junkhouse to Blackie and the Rodeo Kings to his latest project, Lee Harvey Osmond.  His son Thompson is part of the excellent new group Harlan Pepper.  I finally got to see this band live, what an incredible show, with these kids playing and signing roots music like they were 50-year old vets, but with an excited young audience jumping up front.  Wilson Senior played after, with Lee Harvey Osmond celebrating its second anniversary live gig.  I was lucky enough to see that very first show as well, and the energy they are putting out on stage is so positive and joyful.  And different!  Only Wilson and company could pull off this combo of raw rock and atmospheric wandering, that they call acid jazz. Joining them for the special night was old Junkhouse pal Colin Cripps, who is currently subbing for Greg Keelor at Blue Rodeo gigs, as Greg continues to care for his hearing problems.  Doucet, his partner Melissa McClelland, Harlan Pepper, Lee Harvey Osmond, Cripps, and many others who list the Hamilton area as home, are highly recognized in the country, but rarely mentioned as Hammer musicians.

My gosh, the list is so long:  celebrated blues performers Harrison Kennedy and Steve Strongman, Teenage Head, The Forgotten Rebels, Daniel Lanois, Crowbar and King Biscuit Boy, and this year's recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Skip Prokop, founder of The Paupers and Lighthouse.  I've hung with them all at the Hamilton Music Awards, and that just scratches the surface.  They are all, to a fault, wonderful people, talented musicians, and so proud of their Hamilton roots.

There's so much going on.  This year I had the pleasure of hosting the Rising Star evening, with 12 local acts, ranging from Grade 6 to University age.  Dawn and Marra, two young women writing and performing their own material, were chosen the best of the night, their excellent folk-rock songs and voices showing a promising future.  They'll get a good boost in that way, thanks to a prize package including studio time at the world-famous Grant Avenue Studios, founded by Lanois.

I always get a surprise or two at the awards, and the big one this time was sitting backstage at the awards, and finding out the guy beside me was Gaz from the British group Happy Mondays, who now lives in Burlington!  He has a new project on the way, which he describes as Beach Boys meet hip-hop, with some live shows that he promises will be more events than concerts.  Alert the British media, one of the their favourites is now in The Hammer.  Delightful fellow, by the way.

Oh, and the bars.  As a professional music reviewer, it is my sworn duty to go to clubs and taverns across this land and check out the local scene.  This is a tough job that require me to stay out late and drink local beer, and watch super live music.  I just want to say how fun I find the clubs in Hamilton, especially This Ain't Hollywood, The Corktown, The Casbah, and the West Town.  I am also happy these clubs aren't in my hometown, because I would be in serious trouble.  These are excellent music venues.

It was also great to see lots of old and newer friends, and meet new ones.  Out-of-town friends included Ralph Alfonso of Bongo Beat Records, Barb Sedun of EMI Publishing, Sarah French of Sarah French Publicity, returning Hamiltonians, musicians Dave Rave and Natasha Alexandra from NYC, music publicist Lisa Millar from Ottawa, and then there are all the great people of Hamilton I have met and can proudly call good friends now.  There are so many, consider yourself listed here.  Of course hats off to the people behind the Hamilton Music Awards, who once again invited me and cared for me so well:  Jean-Paul Gauthier, Connie Stefanson, Lynda Henriksen, Stacy and/or Tracy, and Aimee were my family for five days.

Photos are coming, and my brain is slowly clearing.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Bob,
    I also attended the HMA awards night and was greatly pleased by the diversity of music showcased: the aboriginal drum circle, hip hop, jazz and junkhouse. All in all, a fun night.
    I'd like to give your book, the top 100 Canadian singles to one of the performers, Dan Edmonds from Harlan Pepper. Yes, I'm a Harlan Parent and after hearing you speak I know that Dan could really get into your book. Yes, I can get it at my local independent bookstore, but it would be so much better if it were addressed to him. Can you help me out?