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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Winnipeg Rocks & is Hot!


All Canadian music lovers' ears will turn towards Winnipeg this weekend for the upcoming Juno Awards on Sunday, April 3. The event has not been without controversy after the snubbing of hometown musical hero Randy Bachman. Fortunately, Bachman is back onboard and the weekend promises to be one to remember for Winnipeg music fans.

So why is the music scene in Winnipeg hot? How have artists connected to Manitoba sold more than 100 million records world-wide?

According to Randy Bachman, it is the cold weather itself which helped to create a hot Winnipeg music scene. In an interview in Macleans by STEVE LAMBERT, Bachman says:
"Because of the climate . . . you're kind of six months underground in your basement. [The community clubs made it] pretty much like a little Liverpool. There must have been 150 bands from '62-'69 with hundreds of places to play - community centres, church halls. A big dance was the school gymnasium."

Canadian music historian John Einarson, regarding the Winnipeg scene which spawned Neil Young, Randy Bachman, and Burton Cummings of The Guess Who, among others, said:
"Winnipeg is regarded as having a very unique and special contribution to Canadian music."

Neil Young's Boyhood Home in Winnipeg, Canada - photo by Bill Laing

When Neil was in Winnipeg in 1992, for his father Scott's induction into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, biographer Jimmy McDonough writes in Shakey (via Winnipeg Free Press):
"As we drove outside the city one day, across the endless prairie, I heard the lonesome clanking of Young's Harvest in my head. I felt a lot of Winnipeg in Neil."

From a CTV report covering the Junos of an interview with longtime Neil fan Bill Laing on Young's Winnipeg hometown:
" "I'm a huge fan to the point of what my wife considers obsessive," said Laing, who lives in Gimli, Man., and is a contributor to the fan website Thrasher's Wheat,

He's keeping an ear to the ground in the hopes Young, who's career has spanned 40 years, might make a surprise stop at one of the local bars on Saturday night, but isn't holding his breath.

"If you know Neil's background you know he's evasive and elusive," said Laing, who purchased tickets to the Junos to ensure he'd get to see his idol in the flesh."

Winnipeg musician Bill Laing, who wrote and took the photos for the above article on Neil's Winnipeg, has put together his debut self-produced CD. Thrasher has really enjoyed hearing the project evolve from Neil covers to original material.

Laing covers such Neil Young tunes as "Pocahontas", "Old Man", and "Cowgirl in the Sand". The covers of Neil are done in a faithful approach that any Neil fan can appreciate right down to the harmonica rack and Neil's interesting tunings and vocal phrasings.

On Laing's original songs he really shines, particularly on "West 231", which is a nearby Winnipeg road. Lyrics from "West 231":
"Driving West 231
fence posts pass
like the setting sun
time and space the veil between
souls pass through
yet not always seen."

The song evokes the prairie space and spirit and even includes a nice little sound effect of a car whooshing by on Winnipeg, Manitoba Highway West 231.

Nice job, Bill.

Click to hear MP3's of Bill Laing's Neil Young cover songs.

Open comment thread below.


At 3/31/2005 11:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said... Comment 1 posted by Triniman on March 31, 2005 07:50 PM:

I'm a Winnipegger and the city is excited about hosting the Junos this weekend! The main telecast on Sunday will take place in our brand-new hoockey arena, the MTS Centre.

And I'm trilled to see that my favorite Winnipeg group, The Wailin' Jennys, are nominated for best roots album. Yes, "40 Days" is on, and I encourage any of you who enjoy three-part female harmonies to check it out. That they have caught fire locally and nationally is absolutely no surprise to me. One of the Jennys, Nicky Mehta, also happens to be an astounding songwriter and singer in her own right. Her solo album "Weather Vane" must be heard to be believed. Her songwriting is just head and shoulders above most other artists.

My all-time favorite Canadian band is The Guess Who and having seen them perform at the CanWest baseball park a few years ago, I can honestly say that the show was one of the most enjoyable concerts that I've ever seen. The concert was also made into a DVD that I reviewed here last year.

Years ago, when I used to work in the government side of the music industry, one of the records we helped to fund became the number one record in Canada - the debut by the Crash Test Dummies.

I can't honestly say that Winnipeg has more talent per capita than any other place in Canada, but I can say that we have a multitude of outstanding performers and songwriters here. Some have speculated that the government's nurturing of the industry here has blossomed into the vibrant scene we are seeing. We also have a music industry association who educate artists on the business side and also, on how to do it themselves. I don't think government funding of musicians to make demos, CDs, to assist with touring and marketing, takes place in the US. And it doesn't happen in every province in Canada, either (as far as I know.)

By the way, Thrasher, nice blog. I'm going to bookmark it and check more of it out.

At 4/10/2005 03:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anybody know if a download of k.d.lang's tribute to Neil from the Juno Awards is available? I'm looking for the tribute song not the one she did on her album. Thank you.


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