Sun, Mar 10, 2013.
There are two ways you can do the ECMW. You can go crazy running from venue to venue, grabbing a set here from one group, catching another act at a different club. Or, you can find a comfortable spot, sit yourself down, and take in everything on one stage alone, and be ready to be surprised by somebody you don't know. With huge lineups and sold-out shows the norm in Halifax, I chose the latter route. My feet already hurt from a few days of standing, so my drive to wander around was sapped. I'm glad I did. Not only do I feel more rested, I got to see some great new performers I wouldn't have known about. Apologies, though, to those I missed over the course of the weekend. Next time.
I've already mentioned my fondness for The Member's Lounge, running three nights in the host hotel, Delta Halifax. It was a more quiet, acoustic stage, with even the bands on the bill playing with just light percussion and wooden instruments. It was all about the songs, and there were lots of grand ones. The show started with an already-established East Coast star, Christina Martin, nominated for two awards this year. Martin, accompanied as usual by her husband, producer and musician Dale Murray, showed that months of performing in Europe and across Canada has honed her set, and her voice continues to thrill listeners. Martin often sings about important topics, such as mental illness, and takes us into the lives of people who are hurt and overlooked.
Dana Beelor is another solid songwriter, and she released her debut disc this past year. Beelor's been performing her whole life, and comes from a bluegrass family band. Now going solo, her own music is more country-roots, and comes filled with great big hooks and memorable choruses. Matthew Hornell was there as well, offering up tunes from his brand-new album, Have It All. I'll review that this coming week. A name that was brand-new to me was Stewart Legere, a local Halifax writer and performer. Legere has recently been working with The Heavy Blinkers as a vocalist, and that band's mainstay, Jason MacIsaac, has been writing and producing with Legere for his debut disc. I can't wait for that one; he sang some killer numbers that were filled with emotion.
Christine Campbell showed why she's an artist to watch as well. The lead singer of the hard-rockin' Stone Mary has just released her solo album, and it reveals a whole different side to her. On her own, she does more roots and blues material. Her opening number was a piano ballad, and her classical training was on display with a deft touch at the keys. Then it was over to acoustic guitar, where she proved herself a great soloist as well. Her voice is very exciting, with a huge range, and she's able to lift to some great high notes, clear and loud, a real powerhouse singer. People were thrilled with her energy, and when she closed with a a Led Zep cover, a few jaws dropped.
I know there were lots of great perfomances all over the city Saturday for ECMW. I'm always frustrated I can't see them all, but I had a perfect seat in a great-sounding room, and no lineups at the bar or bathroom. What more do you want?
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).