Category Archives: Personality profile

MacKenzie Blues Band launching Harbour Nights, CD due next month

The MacKenzie Blues Band, set to release a CD next month, will launch the Harbour Nights concert series with a ticketed Amazing Voices event June 10 at The Legion in Owen Sound, backing up a diverse collection of singers. Trevor MacKenzie, left, Joel Dawson, in car, Tara MacKennzie and Mike Weir. Photo provided

BILL HENRY
Sun Times staff
It’s taken Tara MacKenzie a long time to come around to the blues.
Now that she’s found her spot beside husband Trevor — a searing electric guitarist — their new MacKenzie Blues Band and the CD due this summer have become an obsession for the powerful and versatile Owen Sound singer.
“I’m possessed almost. It’s crazy,” MacKenzie said this week. “I can’t stop thinking about it all the time because I love this music so much and what the band has made.”
Back Road Revelation is to be launched at Kincardine’s Lighthouse Blues Festival, where the MacKenzie Blues Band, formed just last August, kicks off the main stage festivities on Friday, July 13.
All but one tune on the new disc, the Buddy Guy tribute Heavy Love, are band originals, with Tara’s lyrics around her own song sketches or written to riffs Trevor and band members Joel Dawson, bass, and Mike Weir, drums, created.
They’ve logged more than 400 studio hours recording the project and the final mixes are just about ready to go to Abbey Road studios in England for mastering.
The effort they’ve put in and the potential they see is worth investing in the very best for the most important part of the recording, both musicians said.
“We’ve been busting our butts. I’ve never worked this hard on a project in my life or put more of my soul into it,” Tara MacKenzie said. “I left the blood on the tracks for this album. I did. So did everybody in the band.”
Married for a dozen years, both MacKenzies have behind them a long list of bands, projects and session credentials. Until forming this group in August, they rarely made their music on stage together, although both are part of The Honey Hammers, a popular local rock cover band.
Trevor’s home has always been on the heavy side, in blues and blues rock, while Tara was known more for folk and trad.
She’s been a solo folksinger, played the Celtic harp, has written songs and recorded and performed in that trad mode with several groups while also singing in a wide range of styles and genres.
It wasn’t until Saugeen Shores bluesman Larry White asked her to gig with Big Bad Wolf that MacKenzie was able to focus on that genre and sort out her feelings and her approach to the blues, MacKenzie said.
From there, finally singing blues in a band with Trevor was a logical next step. Especially since both musicians were so busy in different groups. They weren’t seeing enough of one another.
“We streamlined it,” Tara MacKenzie said during a chat this week at Fromager Music, where Trevor has worked for many years. That’s in addition to his performance career — sometimes with four or five bands at a time — and the recording studio the couple run together at their home in Owen Sound, where Tara also has a vocal teaching studio.
“It took me a long time to come to the blues,” she said. “I had to figure out what I did like and what I didn’t and I came to understand that I like something a bit raunchier than old classic style blues and I was able to really easily start writing in that vein.”
The songs on the new CD are true songs about her own experiences or things she’s observed in others.
“A lot of these songs are speaking to situations that I see that I don’t dare get involved in on a direct level,” she said. “But inside, I just can’t now say something. So I just hope that the result of those lyrics can intervene in the lives of the people that I’ve written about.”
“They’re not scathing, they’re really encouraging,” she added.
The feel of the original songs ranges from blue/soul ballad to “heavy (Jimi) Hendrix-style blues riffs,” Trevor MacKenzie said.
The band doesn’t sit comfortably in Chicago, delta or any other one blues niche, he said.
“We don’t really want to be confined that way. We just want to play music.”
At the heart of it all is Tara’s voice, ranging over almost four octaves, and MacKenzie’s often incendiary guitar playing against the solid rhythm section.
Highly regarded Owen Sound blues harp specialist Rod Ramsay, keyboard player Rob McLean, vocalist Sylvie Weir and Coco Love Alcorn, trumpet, contributed to the project.
The band’s creative collaboration often begins with a song sketch from Tara, a lyric and a riff.
“Tara would come up with some lyrical ideas and maybe some chord patterns and we would all collaborate and just make it happen,” Trevor said. “When it really happens is in the studio where you can really start working it.”
It’s been a busy first 10 months for The MacKenzie Blues Band. Even without a CD, they booked 42 gigs including several festivals. Notably still to come are Summerfolk, The Lighthouse Blues Festival in Kincardine next month where they’ll launch the CD and the Orangeville Blues Festival, where the band plays tonight.
There’s also a CD launch July 28 at The Dam Pub patio in Thornbury.
Next Sunday, June 10, The MacKenzie Blue Band will kicking off this year’s annual city-run Harbour Nights concert series, backing up several area singers during an Amazing Voices ticketed event at the Legion. Proceeds support the Sunday night free concert series.
bill.henry@sunmedia.ca

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Gilham finds new roots, Chill Billys launching CD at Spencer Homestead

Tommy Gilham sits at the Spencer Homestead near Wiarton, where his wife Pam's fifth generation root at the Oxenden Area farm inspired "What's Your Story?" the title track from Gilham's new CD with the Chill Billys. BILL HENRY The Sun Times

BILL HENRY
Sun Times staff
The rocks piled in rows at the Spencer Homestead look much like the stone piles on other Oxenden area farms.
Unless, like Tommy Gilham, you’re from Alabama.
To him those stone rows, fence rails, towering trees and solid, ancient timber barn – where The Chill Billys will release their new CD June 24 and 25 – are an inspiring aspect of his new family history and new musical life in Canada.
The CD’s title track “What’s Your Story?” asks who piled the rocks, who dug the well and who cleared the trees at this farm, where “the roots are running deep and the family tree is still alive.”
Co-written with J.K. Gulley, the idea came as the two country musicians were writing together on the porch at the farm, where Gilham’s wife Pam is a fifth generation Spenser.
“His first question to me was what’s an Alabama boy doing here in Canada. My answer was look around. This is heaven for an Alabama boy,” Gilham said.
The Chill Billy Festival at the Spenser Homestead June 24/25 will launched the band's new CD while raising funds for the Canadian Cancer Society.

The Chill Billy Festival at the Spenser Homestead June 24/25 will launched the band's new CD while raising funds for the Canadian Cancer Society.

It’s one one of ten originals Gilham recorded after spending close to two years developing The Chill Billys sound with local music veterans Dave Farrar, drums, Rob McLean, keyboards and Larry Jensen, bass.
Built around Gilham’s powerful blend of renegade country and rebel rock vocals, it’s a solid, no nonsense collection marrying Southern sensibilities with those of his Canadian band mates. Northern hill billys = Chill Billys.
“I find I’m drawing them more into the southern rock meets country, away from the Canadian side of the folk and celtic style,” Gilham said.
“I’ve pulled them a little more into my world than into the Canadian side. We’re just creating a solid sound and the Canadian influence on what I do is, maybe I’m speaking a little better, or pronouncing my words a little better now when I’m singing I don’t know.
“What’s Your Story” is about the Spenser homestead, but could be about any farm and any family, Gilham said. His new environment and new family history acquired when he moved here about five years ago has him now wondering more about his own roots in Alabama.
Despite a large, church going family – he has some 50 first cousins – he knows little Gilham history before his coal miner grandfather raised 13 children at a Walker County, Alabama coal camp and his father later settled in Birmingham.
“I could kick my butt for not staying in history class and going skipping and playing guitar instead. Now I’m so intrigued with history,” Gilham said. “Coming here and seeing my wife’s family knowing their history for five and six generations It’s become kind of sentimental to me.”
His own youth was troubled.
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Coco Love Alcorn has a new muse

Simon Farla and Coco Love Alcorn at home in Markdale this week, and at play with their new baby Ellie. Alcorn said her daughter is the muse behind the veteran performer's new CD Play, due for release in two weeks. The jazzy folk singer will debut some of the songs during a solo concert Monday night at The Downtown Boosktore in Owen Sound. BILL HENRY/The Sun Time

BILL HENRY
Sun Times staff
De facto production credit for Coco Love Alcorn’s pending new CD should probably go to the singer’s baby daughter.
If it wasn’t for Ellie’s arrival in September, just two weeks before Alcorn and her husband Simon Farla moved to Markdale, she said it’s unlikely she would have recorded this collection of mostly new songs.
“The album is going to be a called Play. Ellie is the muse,” Alcorn said.
Motherhood has influenced both her writing, including new children’s songs for a future project, and her approach to recording. Play is the first project Alcorn has recorded all on her own, in an upstairs music room and studio space at the couple’s new home on Markdale’s main street.
“It’s been really fun recording this record and actually having Ellie here during the process was a constant reminder to not labour over the small little things too much,” Alcorn said this week.

Coco Love Alcorn sings for daughter Ellie at home in Markdale. BILL HENRY/The Sun Times.

She’ll be singing some of the CD’s new songs live for the first time in an intimate solo show Monday night at The Downtown Bookstore at 7:30 p.m. It’s part of the Georgian Bay Folk Festival’s Monday night music series.
The CD release in about two weeks coincides with a spring tour, starting March 18 with more than 30 dates coast-to-coast tour. It includes a return stop for an Owen Sound CD release concert at The Roxy Theatre April 21.
The tour will be mostly solo performances, with musical friends joining the shows at some venues, Alcorn said.
“From years of touring across Canada I have talented friends stashed all along the way, which makes it fun.”
Monday’s show at the bookstore will be a solo performance.
“Of course I always hope people will join in with some claps and singing along in the right spots,” she said. “It will be the prerelease ramp up come-on-out-and-be-my-guinea pigs show to hear some new songs for the first time. And I’ll play some old songs.”

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Tubist Marshall Gayman returns to Georgian Bay Symphony as soloist

Marshall Gayman, who played his first concert with the Georgian Bay Symphony as a Grade 7 student. He stayed with the orchestra as its tuba player all through high school, and returns as featured soloist March 5 from Montreal, where he's in his third year of music performance studies at McGill University.

BILL HENRY
Sun Times staff
Marshall Gayman’s first music was at the piano.
His father showed him a few notes. Then he studied violin as a child.
But the tuba diverted the young string musician during a brass quintet performance at the Kincardine Music Festival. That September, in Grade 6 at Mildmay-Carrick public school with music teacher Susan Smith, he chose the big brass band instrument.
“Once I picked up the tuba, I didn’t put it down again,” Gayman said recently from Montreal, where he’s now a third year student working toward a double honours degree in physics and instrumental music performance.
By his Grade 7 year, and his second with the tuba, Smith was impressed enough with Gayman’s playing to recommend her student for a spot with the Georgian Bay Symphony Orchestra in Owen Sound, where she was a French horn player.
Gayman filled in for a departing tuba player, and remained the community symphony orchestra as its tuba player until he graduated high school and left for studies at McGill University.
On March 5, Gayman returns to Owen Sound to perform as the Georgian Bay Symphony’s featured soloist, performing Canadian composer Barbara York’s Tuba Concerto with the orchestra. The concert at The OSCVI Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. also includes the folk songs from Kalinnikov’s Symphony No.1, The Russian Symphony, along with Exuberance, by Ronald Royer, a world premier, and The Walk to the Paradise Garden, Frederick Delius.

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Harry Parker, influential fiddler still remembered after 30 years

Click image to see the audioslideshow: Harry Parker, influential fiddler still remembered

BILL HENRY
Sun Times staff
Harry Parker’s sweet, swing fiddling and his jovial, generous nature had a lasting impact on Owen Sound’s music community.
Almost 30 years after his death, local musicians, some of them who will entertain from Summerfolk stages this weekend, still talk fondly about getting their first instruments at Harry’s Music House, along with some inspiration.
A versatile violinist, Parker also played virtually everything else except brass instruments. Born in 1909, his first paying job was as a pit musician for silent movies in Owen Sound.
He played big band, country and western, jazz, western swing and old-time fiddle music throughout his life, depending on his audience, for shows and dances, and was an inspiration to a generation of Owen Sound area musicians, his family, friends and former music associates said recently.
Parker was the kind of fiddler who would take out the violin anywhere he thought someone might enjoy his music – pool side on a Florida vacation or at an upscale restaurant at Toronto’s Royal York hotel.

Swing and old-time fiddler Harry Parker, who died almost 30 years ago, made a lasting impression on Owen Sound;s music community both through his sweet, smooth music and zest for life, as well as his generous support for developing musicians. Here Parker performs during a Sun Times-CFOS Christmas Fund broadcast. photo courtesy of Harry Parker Jr.

“He was so giving about his music,” his daughter Pat Clarke said. “Some people have to be coaxed. He didn’t. He just had such a passion for his music. It just came very natural.”
Parker’s annual performances added zest and kept the annual Sun Times-CFOS Christmas Fund broadcasts going until after 2 a.m. many years, said Ann Kelly, a former Sun Times reporter who covered the event and wrote often about Parker’s many community contributions.
“His heart was in music and his heart was in the community. He was a very giving, caring and colourful personality, for sure,” Kelly said recently. “Where he could brighten the life of anyone, with music, he was there.”
Parker’s fiddle performances were a popular and essential part of the first five years of Summerfolk, which goes again for a 35th year at Kelso Beach all this weekend.
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