Tag Archives: Discoveries

Anne Janelle/Discoveries

Anne Janelle and James HillNine years ago Jane Harbury started something very special at Hugh’s Room in the form of Discoveries. A labour of love, Jane – publicity maven to the stars – was intent on accomplishing two goals at once: to provide fresh, new musical talent with an opportunity to expose their skills before an adventurous breed of audience lusting for ground-breaking talent – and an affordable night of always-interesting, if not exceptional, musical entertainment. Hugh’s Room is the ideal venue for the requisite intimacy, quality of sound and music-loving clientele it provides, together with its unprecedented reputation for presenting exceptional live music – a perk in the résumé of any up-and-comer. Even Gordon Lightfoot was in the audience, which speaks highly of this consistently excellent event which takes place three times each year.

On October 22nd, I arrived to see and hear a young performer from outside Halifax who bills herself as a “cellist and songstress”. Both true, however, the effervescent Janelle is like no cellist I’ve ever seen and is also gifted with a luscious pop voice that drips like warm, sweet syrup from her lips. Her newest release, So Long At The Fair, is also like nothing else I’ve ever heard – and quite an accomplishment. Visions of balloons, dancing barefoot on the beach, iced tea with Doris Day, bits of faerie music and polka-dot clothing adorn these 12, fanciful tunes which encompass folk, pop, jazz and blues influences, embracing both old-school and new. She plays her cello like Paul McCartney picks his Hoffner – plucking it more like a bass to husband James Hill’s ukulele accompaniment and, on this occasion, adding piano and remarkable vocal support from an equally talented Shelley O’Brien.

The first song, “Waiting” – from Anne’s Beauty Remains disc, proved the perfect vehicle to introduce her voice while the next four songs were comparatively stripped-down arrangements from the new release. The sleepy “Forgive Me” came alive with its hand-clapped percussion and James’ harmonic contributions while “Come Home, Jennie” – one of the highlights from the new disc – enjoyed lush harmonies from the unprecedented combination of O’Brien and Janelle as James Hill delivered great sounds from a uke/dulcimer hybrid played like a lap slide. The jazzy, traditional “Oh Dear” was a natural yet the stunning, 3-part harmonies employed to tackle the dazzling – and challenging – a capella “Black Is The Colour” proved one of the evening’s stellar high points.

Braden Campbell of The Campbell BrotherToronto’s Cameron Brothers Band is a busy, Ontario-based group who have built their following with regular club appearances in the time-honoured tradition. With one release under their belts, they have forged a roots-based sound not unlike a rough version of The Band. Their two secret weapons are keyboard/multi-instrumentalist Aaron Comeau, whose incredible talents seem innate, while singer Emma Harvey adds a distinctive country counterpart to brothers Scott and Braden Cameron, their collective harmony vocals defining the core of their sound. “Modern Day Lovers” provided Harvey with the chance to strut her strong vocal flavour while “Here and Now” gave Comeau the opportunity to build a strong, rootsy groove driven by his exceptional skills on piano. Again, “Who Am I To Say?” was owned by Harvey while a powerful duet between Harvey and Scott Campbell in “East Nashville Blues” proved bittersweet as the Harvey-Campbell component is ultimately moving to Nashville to try their luck in Music City

Meredith Moon at Hugh's Room Toronto’s Meredith Moon is a true diamond in the rough. Endearingly shy, her voice rang true from the first notes of her own “Let Me In (My Man Of Blue)” and although she carries an aura of patchouli oil and somewhat dated hippie-dom, she’s possesses a lovely, full voice and the commitment to make a difference for her many causes. Strumming guitar or dulcimer, her vocals are clearly the star of the show. Despite a slightly out-of-tune guitar, her “Rocky Mountain Blues” revealed a sturdy soprano and enhanced fingerstyle guitar while the beautifully intimate “Womanhood” – despite losing some of the lyrics – proved a highlight of her set. Inviting a friend in fellow singer/guitarist Danielle Rebelle, Moon clearly relaxed as the duo reworked Doc Watson’s “I’ll Fly Away” with stand-out harmonies and rhythmic power. Apologizing for her lack of finesse on the piano, the audience wasn’t quite prepared for Moon’s phenomenal, drop-dead cover of Joni Mitchell’s “The River” – unleashing a vocal strength, spellbinding in its emotive punch, enhancing the already-untouchable original. Her closer, “So I May Never Soar” gave one last glimpse into her potential, rough edges aside and entirely forgotten.

Nicholas Cunha at Hugh's RoomFrom the more formal side of the conservatory comes 17-year old Nicholas Cunha. Knee-deep in music studies at U of T, his young age has nothing to do with his maturity level, turning in a polished show with the deft assistance of Rob Cooper on piano. Already a seasoned crooner of the crushed velveteen jacket set, his brand of easy-listening fare is liberally sprinkled with a strong flare for the broadway musical, delivering on what he refers to as “classical-pop”. A rich, gorgeous voice, he clearly has a gift for performance (with a slight tendency to overreach) and, as he toured through larger-than-life songs by Canadian songwriters – including Vince DeGiorgio’s “I Won’t Be The One” and a one-off track, “The Island”, by Paul Brady – you couldn’t help but appreciate that this guy is definitely going somewhere. Let’s just hope it’s not on a cruise ship as a body-double for Bert Convy. To hear him is to realize he’s something special.

As its name implies, Discoveries more than delivered on its promise. Every audience member received more than they bargained for and were treated to an extraordinary night of great musical performance in a warm, welcoming setting.

Photos by Eric Thom

Leave a Comment

Filed under Performance, Reviews

The Joy of “Discoveries”

I was going through some old ticket stubs the other day to realize how easy – and affordable – it used to be to see a favourite artist. The thought of forking out $225 to catch a faint glimpse of Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton at the ACC in late February underlines how much this entertainment circus has turned us off the experience.

Yet there is joy to be found elsewhere for your entertainment dollar. Many of us delight in finding new favourite artists in the time-honoured way of catching them on the way up. Who doesn’t cherish the chance to make our own little musical discoveries at the smaller clubs throughout the city where you not only have access and a much more personable experience but you can actually see and hear them, one-on one. On a good night you might meet them, buy a disc and have them personalize it or pose for a photo.

Like an overzealous parent, we watch our prodigies grow, hoping they make it to a larger stage. It’s an addictive process – all the more so with the realization that there’s no need to sacrifice anything. Who in their right mind would consciously pay more to get so much less?

For me there’s no better to way experience this sensation than by catching one of Jane Harbury’s long-standing Discoveries nights at Hugh’s Room in Toronto. Could any event have a more appropriate name?

Jane is one of the city’s leading publicists – a musical taste fairy who came up with this idea about 6 years ago. She’d been hounding booker Holmes Hooke for opening slots at Hugh’s Room to promote her promising young artists. Holmes offered Jane her own night to showcase whomever she wanted and – voilaDiscoveries was born.

Jane offers these special evenings of musical discovery 3-4 times a year, serving up 3-4 relative unknowns per show. Her only criteria are that she has to like the act and their music and, for the most part, they come to her, eager for the exposure to a Hugh’s Room audience. Each artist is expected to bring out their own fans while the Discoveries brand has come to guarantee a discerning audience of its own, eager to make the acquaintance of some of the country’s best emerging talent.

One such artist is Jana Keeley. A Mom from southwestern Alberta – the daughter of a cattle rancher – who now lives in Vancouver and has just released her first album, Trouble. The attention-to-detail in every aspect of her songwriting and performance underlines just how much her music means to her. Co-produced with percussionist Joby Baker, it’s a well-conceived collection of originals featuring Jana’s soft and breathy, intimate vocals set against a rough and tumble backdrop of crushed percussion, distorted guitar and the occasional wash of B3. Shawn Colvin meets Tom Waits, if you will. But sweeter to the taste – all the more so against its highly textured, rough-hewn backdrop. And, with Jana’s limited ability to be a hardcore regular on the touring circuit, it takes something like Discoveries to bring her to your attention.

But there’s more!

Andrew Cole is a Toronto native who spent his formative years in Liverpool, playing in various bands before returning home in ’03 with the UK’s North West Artist of the Year under his belt. He combines his Canadian roots with elements of British rock to fuel the release of his first solo effort.

Jenna Glatt hails from Ottawa and possesses a strong vocal presence and graceful stage manner beyond her years. An avid competitor, she’s won Gold at the MusicFest Canada Nationals and been invited to the National Arts Centre’s Broadband Jazz Masterclass Series. Her versatility and passion for singing speak volumes.

J.P. Saxe is a 16-year old Toronto-schooled performer who sings and plays both piano and guitar. Weaned on classical music from a very young age before funneling his passion towards jazz and rock piano, he’s surprisingly accomplished and clearly poised, charged with incredible drive, to do great things.

Discoveries delivers this wide breadth of talent to you  at one of the most ambient-rich clubs in the entire city – all for a nominal fee.

Could there be a better opportunity for you to make a discovery you can call your own? Here’s to Discoveries and its vibrant flow of ever-inspiring talent. Discoveries has already revealed  such acts as Ariana Gillis, Jadea Kelly, Allie Hughes and Cara Matthew and now the opportunity to meet promising acts like Jana, Andrew, Jenna and J.P.

It would be great to see similar shows catch on across the country. It sure beats the local arena or stadium, and, with the fortune you’ll save in parking alone, you can pick up a disc or two and help spread the word.

4 Comments

Filed under Making Music, Reviews