Ottawa act, the Souljazz Orchestra, release their first all-vocal album. Photo by Alexandre Mattar

The new Souljazz Orchestra album—out September 4—continues a theme started long ago with their debut, Freedom No Go Die, released in 2006. Nearly a decade on, the globetrotting Ottawa act continues its power-to-the-people rhythms with Resistance (Strut Records/Do Right! Music). Find it on CD, vinyl, and digitally on September 4.

Resistance finds the Souljazz Orchestra in fine form and thoroughly flexing a new muscle. The band, which began as an instrumental outfit, steps out with its first all-vocal album. It sees keyboardist Pierre Chretien, drummer Phillipe Lafreniere, sax player Ray Murray, and percussionist Marielle Rivard each taking a turn at the microphone delivering trenchant social commentary, political wake-up calls, and mobilizing mantras.

Lafreniere calls for a better life for workers and the poor in “Greet the Dawn,” a hip-strutting call-and-response dazzler that sets the tone for the rest of the album.

“Shock & Awe” has a rat-tat-tat firing-round vocal delivery. Contrasting that militaristic sense are lyrics celebrating revolt and the power of people to come together in the face of adversity. (Check out the SJO’s video for that tune here and grab a free download of this album’s Occupy-inspired tune “Bull’s Eye” via PopMatters).

That vibe carries into “Life Is What You Make It,” while “As the World Turns” shows Marielle Rivard’s vocal chops. Those came to light on the group’s previous album, Inner Fire, when she covered Andy Bey’s “Celestial Blues.”

Keep “Courage” and “Ware Wa” on your dancefloor playlist and wind down with the sweetly contemplative “It’s Gonna Rain.”

This is the band’s sixth release in 13 years. The Souljazz Orchestra’s early albums showed their fluency in Afro and Latin genres along with their deep appreciation for jazz, roots, and the work of Fela Kuti.
Last year, the band released its back catalogue on 180-gram vinyl (we picked our fave tunes from over the years in this post from 2014).

The globetrotting group will continue their travels this fall. An international tour is soon to be announced. The band makes regular stops in France, Germany, and the U.K. Check out this archived Souljazz tour diary for a few laughs).

SOUND SEEKERS: Momentum Builds for Music City North


11053362_757288087721136_5596478891406457668_nThe inaugural Ottawa International Music Conference (OIMC) kicks off this week with three nights of music and two days of panels and networking events. The goal is to connect audiences, venues, and artists in Ottawa around a mutual love of electronic music.

Most events take place at the Maker Space North warehouse at City Centre and at satellite venues around the city including Babylon, Overkill, Ritual, Le Petit Chicago, and at the Mercury Lounge in the Byward Market.

There are dozens of acts to see including Kenny Dope, Nomadic Massive, Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, and Ottawa’s own Souljazz Orchestra.


DJ/producer, Kenny Dope

Check out the poster for the full list and find the lineup on Facebook and the OIMC site. The conference starts Friday, May 29 and continues through to Sunday. Full passes are $85. Individual ticket options can be found here. (P.S. We’re giving away a full conference pass. See our Twitter feed for details).

OIMC executive producer Claudia Balladelli has worked as a talent booker at the Mercury Lounge for years.

As part of her work there, she’s attended ADE (Amsterdam Dance Event), Canadian Music Week, and WMC in Miami regularly over the past decade. She wanted to bring some of those ideas back to the capital.

“Ottawa is getting better, but still needs more underground festivals. Some festivals are too commercial and others are too indie,” she says. “This year seemed like a good time to make it happen. [Mercury owner] John Criswick bought and renovated Maker Space North. It is truly the perfect space to make it happen. OIMC is a chance for musicians and entrepreneurs to start solidifying their networks and to transform Ottawa into a better place for arts and music.”


DJ Trevor Walker, at the Mercury Lounge. Photo Alex Vlad

The OIMC follows similar events in Ottawa in recent months. Megaphono and Ontario Scene generated conversations about what needs to be done to make Ottawa a music scene town in the way of Austin or Nashville. A Kelp Music scene report, released in March, discusses economic spinoff benefits, and makes practical infrastructure suggestions. The report is a great step toward building a music city.


OIMC executive producer Claudia Balladelli

Still, a lot of this discussion seems familiar. I’m sure we had this conversation when nearby Montreal was hype central. Or when The Washington Post praised O-town’s “unselfconscious cool.” The recurring inferiority complex seems to be the hallmark of our urban identity, a case we’ve made before. It would be nice to get off this pivot and move toward making Ottawa Music City a reality.

There is some traction. It’s been nice to see some champions at City Hall making an on-paper commitment to get this moving. Kelp Music’s idea to get an immediate point person to lead this change seems like a great next step.

The OIMC also provides momentum. Its organizers hope to continually develop Ottawa as a key player in the world of music. Balladelli says it’s important to show entrepreneurs and artists that they are essential in making the city a music hub by developing  and drawing people to local festivals, events, and venues.

Panels at this weekend’s conference will offer artists practical tips on running your own business, securing grants, programming, and surviving clubland.

Each panel deals with on-the-ground realities and skills needed to build Music City North, particularly its electronic music culture. (A discussion on the culture of music will also take place during OIMC. I’m on that panel with some swell dudes.)

Policy talk is mixed in with parties all weekend and the festival closes with a sunset warehouse party at Maker Space North on Saturday. See you there.

P.S.: We at Ottawa Magazine would love your thoughts on what would make a great Music City North. Comment, tweet, and add your two cents.

SOUND SEEKERS: Ontario (Scene), Yours to Discover — Kalle Mattson’s Snapshots


Ahead of the NAC’s Ontario Scene extravaganza, we tap into hometown homie Kalle Mattson’s Instagram account to get a snapshot of the province through a musician’s eye. Mattson will play with The Sadies and The Wooden Sky on May 8 at the Bronson Centre, just one of many concerts and events taking over the city in the coming weeks. Find full details online.

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SOUND SEEKERS: Hey Buster, Busting Out

Dad Band Moves from Domestic Sphere into Civics 101


Hey Buster, the band of Ottawa dads that makes catchy music for kids, has moved away from family life on their latest album I Like My Bike. Its focus is civics for little ones, with songs like “Community Begins With C” emphasizing the art of neighbourliness. The tune, sung by Hey Buster’s Slo’ Tom Stewart, underlines that while community begins with ‘c’ – it really starts with YOU and ME!c26eb7_174d7d2d211548f48c1b192d705c41d6.jpg_srb_p_1259_730_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srb

Hey Buster formed in the late 2000s and released the album Bing, Bang, Bong in 2010. It documented the travails of family life with plenty of rhyming stanzas about poo, pee, pink eye, and getting lice.

Their 2013 release, Yeti Likes Spaghetti, moved away from bodily functions to household management with tunes such as “Go to Bed”, “Mom Eat Your Broccoli”, and “Without a Hat.”

c26eb7_34f52cc8ac0667294c195567a56bb8bc.jpg_srb_p_1259_730_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srbTheir new album will be released Sunday, March 29 at an afternoon show at the Mayfair Theatre. I Like My Bike speaks to kids who are less concerned about poo and pee, and who are starting to open their eyes more and more to their surroundings.

The title track opens with a catchy little riff and pays tribute to a banana-seated, long-handled jobbie with a shiny kickstand. It’s a sweet ode to a hassle-free, two-wheeler commute. That ecological undertone carries throughout the album. The songs don’t come off as Jane Jacobs’-style blight-fighting agitations; rather this album is a jaunty introduction to the complexities of city life. Think of it as rumpus room urbanism for grade schoolers.

To carry that spirit forward, Hey Buster will offer lesson plans around recycling, public transportation, urban gardens, and sustainability to go with each song. (Check their website for updates throughout the year). The plans are aimed at kids in Grades 3 to 8, and have been organized by Hey Buster drummer Stephen Skoutajan, who is also a teacher with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.c26eb7_702b877b39944b8dbba1409815eadf72.jpg_srb_p_1259_730_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srb

The band plays regularly at school events where kids join in when Hey Buster rips into their popular live hit, “Here Comes the Bus,” which sees the guys dancing around in cardboard cutouts of OC Transpo buses labelled with popular Centretown West routes.

The band launched as a weekend project of friends Geoff Paisley, Matt Young, and Sherwood Lumsden, and has since expanded its membership to include Slo’ Tom Stewart, Skoutajan, and guest musicians Al Bragg, Dave Kerr, Dave Draves, and Michael Ball. They play often at festivals, block parties, and at taverns during the afternoon. Hey Buster has a growing fan base of kids that like to dance while their parents get a beer in between their regular poo, pee, and lice-picking duties.

SOUND SEEKERS: Tara Holloway Nails It with Little Ghosts


Tara Holloway, the powerhouse vocalist with the perfectly raspy voice, has put together an album that showcases her many dimensions. On Little Ghosts she sounds pained, mischievous, whimsical, awesomely raging, sage, and saucy. The new album — recorded at Ottawa’s Bova Sound and to be released in late February on Vancouver label Light Organ Records — has a bit of blues, a bit of folk noir, and a ton of charm with plenty of top-drawer offerings.

Holloway, 34, has toured and couch surfed for years (she once claimed “the iPhone is my home”), frequenting B.C., Tennessee, and California. She has spent most of her adult life on the stage and as a result is a natural with the chatty stage banter. It’s fascinating to watch her go from being potty-mouthed and gregarious to plaintive and pained, as she starts into another tune with those killer pipes. At times she brings to mind another redhead who put the capital on the map. Holloway’s album has all the hallmarks to blow up big. Could it be another Failer?

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SOUND SEEKERS: The New Year’s Edition

Lefty McRighty

Lefty McRighty


To ring in 2015, Sound Seekers polled a few music scene notables for their wishes, resolutions and cat selfies. Herewith, the big plans of half a dozen O-town bar owners, guitar slingers, podcasters et al.

My Name Is: Lefty McRighty

I: sing and promote country music. I play a decent lead guitar and I DJ at CKCU.

I resolve to: actually pick up my guitar and play more than once a week.

I wish: not to be blacklisted at certain venues anymore.

My Name Is: Yogi

I: co-own the mighty House of Targ with Mark McHale and Kevin Birger. I also record and produce records at Yogi’s Meatlocker studio and play guitar in Metal Patrol and Blackbread.

Yogi with son Felix

Yogi with son Felix

I resolve to: bring Rush to Targ, acquire a Spy Hunter and Joust arcade machine, secure a private island with a secret bay for our submarine, and introduce the world to our delicious handmade pierogies by serving them in international waters!

I wish: for an explosion in the Ottawa music scene that will be felt worldwide. Oh wait, that’s already happening!! Okay, how about bell bottoms for everyone? Ha! This city is bananas and the support keeps growing — never give up.

My Name Is: (stage name) Master Cameron Eric Leon

I: perform as a drag king around Ontario, which basically means I get to shatter people’s ideas of gender and sexuality in the most fun way possible.

I resolve to: better represent drag kinds at the local, national, and international level and to support the LGBTQ+ community on whatever scale I can.

I wish: for a bigger closet so I can use my living room again.

Master Cameron Eric Leon. Photo by Angela McConnell

Master Cameron Eric Leon. Photo by Angela McConnell

Kevin McGowan

Kevin McGowan

My Name Is: Kevin McGowan

I: co-created with Ben Yung and Steve Fouchard, which grew out of my old Ottawa Citizen blog. It was a simple little idea for a local music site, but has grown to be pretty massive. I’m currently the admin guy, but hope to do more writing in 2015.

I resolve to: get out to see some of the bands I’ve been listening to and writing about. I’m as old as the hills and have little kids, so late nights are a real pain in the ass. I also resolve to check out Targ and eat a big plate of pierogies and see if I still have my mad Pac-Man skills.

I wish: that the new owners of Zaphod’s will keep their early gig schedule. It’s pretty much the only way I can see a show, be home by midnight, and still be physically able to make breakfast at 6 a.m.

My Name Is: Lynne Hanson

I: write songs that sound like I’m from way further south of Ottawa. I just released my fourth album River of Sand this past fall. I’ve got tours out west and in Europe this winter and spring, in between surgery and rehabbing the knee I destroyed playing touch football this past summer.

Lynne Hanson

Lynne Hanson

I resolve to: stick to the set list — or at least let my band know which song I’m playing if I do decide to stray off course; remove ALL guitar picks from my pockets before putting jeans in laundry; limit binge Netflix viewing to only three episodes at a time; learn how to dance.

I wish: someone had told me bionic knees had not been invented yet. Had I known, I would have been considerably more careful with the ones I have while running around chasing quarterbacks.

My Name Is: Jason Andersson

I: am the singer-songwriter and guitar player in Cooper MacLaren. I also play mandolin in Ray Harris & the Bastard Sons of Bitches. I busk a lot and I’m also going to play electric guitar in a brand new project that we don’t have a name for yet.

Jason Andersson

Jason Andersson

I resolve to: keep not making resolutions.

I wish: for continued collaboration and good vibes from those I know (and don’t know) in our community.

SOUND SEEKERS: 2014 Ottawa Mix List (A Present Just for You)



It’s Sound Seekers’ annual tradition! Call it our Blogged 50 — but it’s more like a Blogged 7. This is our EP-length list of hot tunes released from Ottawa artists this year.

Stream the tunes here and read about the songs below. Find our 2013 and 2012 mix lists here.

For 2014, we asked each artist to reflect on the year that was and the year to come.

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SOUND SEEKERS: Mercury Lounge — “live long + prosper”


Trevor Walker by Alex Vlad

Photo: Alex Vlad

A number of changes are planned for the tri-level building at 56 Byward Market that houses The Collection (retired), Overkill, and The Mercury Lounge.

In August, a soda machine gasket came undone on the mezzanine of the Mercury Lounge. With the pressure of a hose, water came down on all levels leading to damage of the floors, drywall and electrical. Insurance covered most of it, but it meant the bar had to close for eight weeks.

During the down time, owner John Criswick and staff planned for some major upgrades. Here’s what to expect in the coming months.

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SOUND SEEKERS: Rotter’s Club Nee’wollah Revival


Winston Smith

Winston Smith. “Soma Holiday” appears on the Rotters Club 35th anniversary CD, released on Nee’wollah (Halloween) at Zaphod’s.

Three-and-a-half decades ago, Ottawa punk sounded like this — that’s the Reverbnation link to a 1979 compilation album called Rot ’n’ Role, which features such bands of the era as the Bureaucrats, Vendetta, and Winston Smith.

Originally pressed on vinyl on a limited run of 500 copies, Rot ‘n’ Role has been remastered with six new tunes and is being reissued as a limited edition CD on Friday at Nee’wollah, a celebration of the ‘70s-era Rotters Club. Nee’wollah (that’s Halloween backwards) was an annual theme night at the club, which stood at the corner of Bank and Frank Streets from 1977-1980, and later moved down the street beside Barrymore’s, where it became — under the same ownership — The Eighties Club.

The anniversary party happens on Friday, Oct. 31 at Zaphod’s with a host of players from the era. Ted Axe of The Action brings his band Sister Hyde to stage, and comedian Mike MacDonald — a former Rotters Club playbill regular — will MC the event. Blackshirt Highwaymen — featuring Rotters Club co-founder Carl Schultz — and Arson are also on the bill. Tickets are $35 and include a swag bag.

At the show, expect an audio tour of the punk scene of the era along with a collection of archival footage and photos from the day, some of which appear here, below.

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SOUND SEEKERS: Waxing nostalgic about Souljazz Orchestra


Photo credit: Luna Begin

The band in the basement of Babylon in 2005, a year before their first album was released. Photo credit: Luna Begin

The Souljazz Orchestra hosts a Vinyl Reissue Party on Saturday, Oct. 18 at Babylon with guests The Goods Sound System and DJs Andy Williams and Scott C. Expect a top-shelf dance party with a nostalgic spirit inside the club where the band first launched its live soul-jam get-downs nearly a decade ago — 10 p.m., $15.

The group is celebrating the release of their back catalogue. You can now get all five Souljazz Orchestra albums on heavyweight 180-gram wax. Expect to hear all the textures and warmth that comes across in those records. It amplifies the balmy feel of the tunes, which have drawn sold-out audiences across Europe where the band tours frequently. (Check out this archived Souljazz tour diary for a few laughs).

To mark the occasion, Sound Seekers picked its favourite Souljazz tunes from over the years. Chime in on Twitter (@ottawamag) with your top tunes from each album. Use the hashtag #souljazztoptracks.

Here’s my picks:

Freedom No Go Die (2006)
The catchy “Mista President” got everyone moving, including BBC DJ Gilles Peterson who added the track to his Top 10 list of Worldwide Best songs for that year.

Manifesto (2008)
“People, People” puts a cry for solidarity to a heady beat with call-and-response plea to keep on keeping on.

Rising Sun (2010)
“Serenity” is exactly what it sounds like, a calming eight-minute interlude that shows the band’s expansive range and talent that takes them beyond their afrobeat origins.

Solidarity (2012)
“Conquering Lion” has a regal sound. It’s got snaky, cascading horn lines and a seductive beat that follows a hot heat of sweaty, clubby tracks.

Inner Fire (2014)
“Celestial Blues” is a soulful hip-hoppin’ cover of the 1971 Andy Bey track. The band filled out the originally sparse song with a bumpin’ arrangement of trumpet, trombone, flute, alto sax, bass clarinet, vibraphone, piano, upright bass, and percussion.

To get a taste of the band’s entire catalogue, check out this mini-mix on Soundcloud.



Photo credit: Luna Begin