Mon, Jul 15, 2013.
Hands-down the best live music venue in Halifax, and maybe in the country, The Carleton is famed for its stellar attractions and suburb listening environment. With just over 100 seats and a strict no-talking policy, you get an intimate performance every time, and since its so artist-friendly, the players are already in a great mood. Big names play the place just because it's so enjoyable, such as Ron Sexsmith and Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor. It regularly features the very best East Coast talent, and prime touring acts from the rest of the country and beyond.
The Carleton is booked by co-owner Mike Campbell, the former MuchMusic VJ, and co-host of MuchEast, back when the channel was all music. He runs the place alongside his great pal and Much partner, Mike Rhodes. Campbell's been fighting the good fight to bring quality music and happy audiences together since opening the club, and one of his inventions is the Halifax Urban Folk Festival, held late August-early September each year. For a week, Campbell goes to extra lengths to bring in incredible songwriters who might never make it to the East Coast otherwise, such as Lloyd Cole and Elliot Murphy. Then he teams them up with all-star bands from the Halifax area, plus puts them in songwriter circles, where you'll get the likes of Joel Plaskett and Matt Maye sitting in and trading licks and secrets. In short, a music fans' dream.
This year, Campbell may have outdone himself. Although the official lineup hasn't been released yet, in his most recent newsletter Campbell dropped a bombshell by telling people to look out for four names, and what names they are: Willie Nile, Dave Lowery, Robin Hitchcock and Alejandro Escovedo. Each one of these gents is considered one of the major-league songwriters world-wide. Willie Nile is actually no stranger to The Carleton, Halifax, or HUFF. He was at the first HUFF back in 2010, and has returned several times, loving the venue and area. Since first emerging from NYC in 1980, Nile has repeatedly made some of the best street-gritty singer-songwriter albums going, grabbing the friendship of everyone from Pete Townshend to Bruce Springsteen, sharing the stage with The Boss at times. His new album, American Ride, is taking off in the U.S., with strong radio play on rock stations, and looks to be the biggest of his long career, so it's the perfect time to catch Nile.
Lowery is best known for his work with Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, and a couple of years ago began a solo career. From indie-rock darlings to roots-rock heroes, Lowery's bands have been at the forefront of modern songwriting, Cracker best-known for the 90's gold album Kerosene Hat. Robin Hitchcock is considered an English gem, starting way back during his days with The Soft Boys, and through a solo career that has seen him work with the likes of R.E.M.'s Peter Buck. His brand-new disc is called Love From London, and is getting the usual superlative reviews. Finally, Alejandro Escovedo is the king of Austin, and pretty much sums up what Americana and the annual South by Southwest Festival is about. His music has ranged from punk to Mexican to heartache, and his influence and cult status runs far and wide. He's an artist I always dreamed would one day appear on our coast.
That's just the start of what the HUFF will offer, as shows will also feature a grand cross-section of East Coast talent, "the usual suspects" as well, says Campbell. If he means the likes of Plaskett, Mays, Dave Marsh, and others who regularly grace the Carleton Stage, this is all the more reason to claim tickets ASAP.
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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).