Rita Chiarelli’s Symphony in Blue at Boris Brott Music Festival
Hamilton blues legend Rita Chiarelli has a long international career but since making Hamilton her home base again a year ago, the singer/guitarist has increased her local activity dramatically. We just featured her on the cover of View a few months ago when she headlined the Richard ‘King Biscuit Boy’ Newell Blues With A Feeling tribute and Chiarelli is already back with a new collaboration with another Hamilton musical legend. This weekend, the blues and rock legend teams up with Boris Brott and the National Academy Orchestra for a Symphony in Blue.
“I did a couple of shows in Hamilton since I’ve been back and I guess the word spread around and I got into Boris Brott’s ears and maybe some people said he should look at me to be a part of his festival,” notes Chiarelli. “Sure enough, his office called me up with an offer and I already had my own charts from when I did “Uptown Goes Downtown Tonight” and they loved that so we’re set to go and it’s pretty exciting for me.
“Uptown Goes Downtown Tonight”, the highly acclaimed CD featuring Chiarelli’s collaboration with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra was Chiarelli’s first foray into symphonic re-interpretations but it remains a less than regular occurrence. This weekend will also be the first time two Hamilton music legends officially perform together.
“I think it’s going to be a fifty to fifty-five piece orchestra, most of our songs will be my music and it’s just such a thrill to hear your music played by an orchestra especially when you’re a blues artist,” says Chiarelli. “It’s ballsy with a lot of guts but just so different to hear the blues done this way. For me, I don’t want to do the same stuff I’ve been doing all of the time. Exploring new ways to express yourself just helps you grow as an artist and that’s my main objective. The more diverse I become the more interesting my art is and that’s what interests me.
“Of course, I knew of Boris obviously before this and knew he was brilliant,” adds Chiarelli. “He’s a really open guy that’s still very excited about music and life so it’s really great to be working with someone like that. I’m thrilled to be collaborating with Boris. Certainly in Canada, it’s one of the best scenarios and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m going to include two songs from my Italian folk album, “Cuore”. Needless to say, the Italian numbers with the orchestra are just spectacular. I do a version of “The Thrill Is Gone” and with the symphony behind me - it just kills. I express myself and feel the songs the same way but with different inspiration from the orchestra. It really remains roots music but it just brings a different colour with this instrumentation. It shows you the power of music and the power of collaboration. With doing these shows, I’ve noticed that people familiar with the symphony are curious and they come out. Blues fans who’ve never seen an orchestra come out, too. So you have this combination of people mixing together and everyone seems to like it.”
Rita Chiarelli’s Symphony in Blue happens this Friday August 8 at the Bay City Music Hall. Tickets are $28 or $15 for students. Click on ritachiarelli.com or brottmusic.com
Cha Cha Jim James’ Mr. Personalities
It’s a little daunting speaking with James Spencer once you learn a little about his history. James Harvey Spencer was born in Toronto, grew up in the heavily Jamaican populated Regent Park area where he became addicted to crack cocaine at the age of 11. Spencer would end up being in and out of prison for the next nine years but soaked up the culture of his upbringing and infuses his life into Jim James debut CD, Mr Personalities being released this weekend.
“I had a rough life — I was addicted to crack for a long time, until 2005,” confides Spencer. “I was labelled a schizophrenic. I was a crack addict and a thief because I had to support my habit, right. And that’s how I ended up in jail.”
With 79 convictions, Spencer spent most of his youth and the better part of his adult life in jail until he and his parents moved to Hamilton in the late ’90s when things finally began to change.
“I had to quick crack and I completed an 18 month program and I’ve been clean for the last eight years,” notes Spencer. “My mild schizophrenia was amplified by the drugs so I’m working on that and I’m better now with my medication. Hamilton has helped to keep me clean because Toronto is just so much more.”
In Hamilton, Spencer found hope and would ramp up his hip hop career, although it was while incarcerated that Spencer first found a love with words and music.
“I started rapping when I started the drugs,” remembers Spencer. “I got sentenced for 12 months when I was 12 years old and this staff member brought me in these rhyming dictionaries. That’s when I wrote my first song and then I was on a roll. Without the music, I’d be lost.”
He’s collaborated with some artists on mixtapes previously but a quarter century since he started and Spencer releases his official solo debut. Two years in the making, Mr. Personalities defines Spencer. It incorporates some of his anti-social behaviour that he channels into song, and the many different personalities that make up his styles.
“My music is reggae infused hip hop, Kardinal Offishall has done it but me, I sing pure reggae chorus and a hip hop verse,” explains Spencer. “You think it’s like two or three different people but it’s just me. Jamaican Jimmy is one of my personalities, then there’s Cha Cha, Jimmy James and Poverty. All four are on my album.
“The name Mr. Personality came because I’m anti-social in a lot of situations,” he adds. “A lot of people know me because of my music but I just can’t do a lot of talking in social situations. I wish I was more personable but I just use my music to communicate.”
Recorded at three studios including Metalworks and released on Grandville Entertainment, Mr. Personalities is a story of overcoming poverty, addiction, mental illness and actually coming out of prison rehabilitated and becoming a member of Hamilton’s artistic community. Choosing to coincide his official release party with Prisoners’ Justice Day, a day to underscore the human rights of inmates, Spencer will also be the musical part of a demonstration with the John Howard Elizabeth Frye and St. Leonard’s societies in Gore Park at 1pm before he moves a block up the street to Absinthe for his CD release party Sunday night.
“I got involved with Prisoner’s Justice Day and I will be telling my testimony and singing three songs,” says Spencer. “My music has a lot of meaning because I don’t say it; I say it with my music. On the inside, inmates won’t be eating on that day to show solidarity for the inmates who have died fighting for the rights for inmates to have television or phone privileges, showers every day, you name it. August 10 we remember that in solidarity.
“Then, we do the CD release party,” adds Spencer. “I’m really happy and proud with this album. I’ve collected all these great Hamilton artists I’ve worked with in the past to play the party but I’m different. My music will shock people because when I go into the reggae, I take them by storm because they don’t expect that. They don’t expect that kind of voice from a little white guy. I’ve entertained incarcerated inmates and that’s a harsher audience so I know I can entertain almost anyone.”
Cha Cha Jim James performs this Sunday August 10 at Club Absinthe with D-Toxx, Rashdon, Mr. Burns, Sizzy Saint, D-Boy, Tiz Jones, SMG, Stokes and DJ Lady Rodigan. Doors open at 9pm. Tickets are $10 in advance (at all Jumpoff locations) or $15 at the door. 25 cents from each album sold goes to the Canadian Mental Health Society.
Click on www.facebook.com/pages /Grandville-Entertainment/ 431240200281653
Vocalist Trisha Keesmaat, guitarists Ryan Haviland and Jodie Mels, drummer Mike Campbell and newest member, bassist Neil Elliot are geographically spread across southern Ontario — members are from Brantford, Cayuga, Port Dover and Waterford — but when they come together as Black Daisy, it’s simply for the love of the music they make together. Black Daisy goes from their Brantford rehearsal space to play Hamilton’s Liquid Kitty to celebrate the release of their debut full-length CD.
“We’ve been together about three years ago,” recounts Keesmaat. “I was friends with a girl who was really close with the original bass player and one night I was jamming at her house sand he said he had a band. I said I’d love to come to band practice some time see and he said, ‘come on out’ and it just unfolded from there.
“Ryan and I had started a band with our original bassist back around 1999 called Su8ck,” says Campbell. “We went to LA and won an LA Music Award but this band is very different with Trisha singing. We were harder rock and now we play much more eclectic stuff; anything from blues, rock, pop, rockabilly. She’s very involved with writing the music, too, giving the music a little more female perspective. We have a lot of fun.
“It’s really eclectic because the band is so dynamic and everyone comes from so different genres of music and we each add a different flavor to the music,” interjects Keesmaat. “It’s been neat to bring that all together for a really interesting sound.
Recorded with Dry Country’s Randy Solski at RS Sounds in Brantford, Black Daisy’s debut is radio friendly rock with an edge. On their debut, comparisons can be made to Katrina and the Waves, Letters To Cleo or contemporaries like Pretty Reckless but Black Daisy are forging their own identity as they take their debut recordings and start introducing it to a larger audience.
“There is definitely a darker element to some of our songs and so that contrast made Black Daisy a perfect name for the band,” reasons Keesmaat. “There is a little bit of everything on the album — some songs are really dark and some are upbeat and happy. Our target market varies and live you can cater to whomever you are playing for. I’ve found that some of the music that we write, I wouldn’t think certain people would like it because it might be too dark for them but I find that people tend to connect with it even if it’s not a sound they typically listen to. I had someone that just listens to country tell me that they only listen to country music but they found themselves listening to our album over and over again because it seemed to resonate with them.
“As long as we’re playing and we’re all playing together, that’s what we’re after right now,” adds the singer on success. “We want to keep playing and writing and get our music out there because we want to share it with everybody. It’s something everyone can really connect with. That’s what I really love about this album. It doesn’t matter what genre of music you’re into, or what age you are, there is something you’re going to love on this album.
“Right now, we’re just spreading the word about the new music and getting out to play wherever we can,” says Campbell. “We’re excited about our Hamilton CD release party. We’re going to play the full album and throw in a few covers if the crowd wants to dance. It’ll definitely be a party.”
Black Daisy plays Liquid Kitty this Thursday August 7. Doors open at 9pm. There is no cover, CDs are $10. Click on blackdaisy.ca
The Thirty-Ninth Annual Festival of Friends
This weekend, the Festival of Friends takes over Ancaster Fairgrounds for a jam-packed weekend of arts and entertainment, food and drink, midways and beer tents and of music, music and music.
“The Festival of Friends above anything else is a music festival and so every year it’s fresh and exciting with the different performers we’ve secured,” notes FoF General Manager, Loren Lieberman who has worked and volunteered with the festival for close to twenty-five years. “This year, Friday is absolutely skewed a little bit younger. Down With Webster and Ill Scarlett definitely appeal to a younger demographic. Throw in Nicole Harbour and Matt Mix and it makes me laugh but that’s kind of the point. If you don’t know Nicole, you might know her from MuchMusic or Just For Laughs and she’s emceeing Friday as well as performing.
“Saturday we do rock – I’m a big fan of Tongue Fu and so we included them as part of our Hamilton contingent and we’re really pleased to have them on our main stage in the afternoon,” adds Lieberman. “Danko Jones into Finger 11 makes a whole lot of sense. The niftiest thing on Saturday has to be Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks who last played the FOF in 2000. Ronnie is in better shape than he’s ever been and this is a bucket list, must-see show. For people that don’t know Ronnie Hawkins’ contribution to rock and roll history and to Hamilton — we hope they learn why this is such a special concert. Come see Danko and Finger 11, bring your dad, and stay for the Hawks. And Ronnie will be sharing the stage with a special guest that makes absolutely no sense to be sharing the stage with Ronnie but it’s so secret, you’ll have to come to the show to find out. On Sunday, if you’re a classic country fan, it is significant to see the likes of Pam Tillis and Tommy Cash in Hamilton and for free.
Dividing the weekend into genre nights to titillate different kinds of music lovers will attract different crowds on a whole but with over 40 acts playing on four different stages, there’s always something musical happening somewhere in the fairgrounds.
“We’re getting a really diverse reaction to our line up,” offers Lieberman. “The kids on twitter are going bananas for Down With Webster. Social media might suggest Friday is our big night. Saturday has a lot of general interest for Ronnie and Finger 11 and Sunday changes it all together. We are drawing at the fairgrounds from Kitchener-Waterloo, Brant, Haldimand-Norfolk and it seems like that there are a few country fans that way. The only thing that hinders our attendance is weather but it looks like it should be pleasant. Other than that, we’ve got three very different musical nights to enjoy.”
With dozens of food vendors, hundreds of crafters, one of Ontario’s largest midways, and more, the Festival of Friends has tons of family friendly fun all weekend.
“The haunted house is back with a new themed show, the Festival of Friends music museum is taken to a whole new level this year — the museum is worth the price of admission alone,” says Lieberman. “The kids pavilion is going to be fantastic. There are helicopter rides and just tons to do for the family. Come hungry and thirsty. And remember, parking is $10 but that’s good for the entire weekend and the HSR leaves King and McNab every 15 minutes to get you to the fairgrounds. It’s that easy.
“There’s so much going on each of the side stages it’s all about variety of music and we hope music fans come out to check out the whole weekend,” adds Lieberman. “Whether you come for the headliners or for the variety of music, your ears are your most important things when you come to the Festival of Friends.” V
The Festival of Friends happens this Friday August 8 through Sunday August 10 at the Ancaster Fairgrounds. Admission is free. Click on festivaloffriends.ca