Your 2021 Sultans of String Christmas Caravan Playlist and Tour

3x JUNO nominees and Billboard-charting SULTANS OF STRING serve up Global Grooves & Holiday Cheer with their 2021 CHRISTMAS CARAVAN YOUTUBE PLAYLIST and TOUR!

YOUTUBE PLAYLIST https://tinyurl.com/sultanschristmasplaylist

SPOTIFY PLAYLIST https://tinyurl.com/mwyhr32w 

LISTEN/BUY ALBUM https://sultansofstring.lnk.to/THc3VID

Canadian band Sultans of String keeps imaginative imperatives in overdrive for the entirety of Christmas Caravan, a generous pitch for global unity through the music of Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah. These five musicians have jubilantly recharged the classics with arrangements that demand attention. ★★★★  – Downbeat, USA

As winter crests and the mercury falls, everyone from your taxi driver to the music supervisor at the mall starts running timeless hits like “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night.”

But Canada’s global groove wizards Sultans of String wanted to go deeper into this beautiful tradition, and have launched their 2021 Christmas Caravan Playlist, featuring songs from their album which hit Billboard’s World Music Charts and the New York Times Hits List. Recorded and co-produced with JUNO Award-winning engineer John ‘Beetle’ Bailey, Christmas Caravan isn’t your typical holiday collection. You may recognize a few titles but you’ve never experienced seasonal music quite like this before.  They celebrate the holiday spirit with an adventurous musical trip around the world, featuring exuberant originals, world-music-inspired classics, and seasonal favourites to warm your heart on a cold winter’s night.

They kick it off with a fresh version of “Feliz Navidad” along with Alex Cuba, who was just nominated for another Grammy in the Best Latin Pop category with his new album Mendo. In addition to his four Grammy nominations (all for Best Latin Pop Album in 2011, 2016, 2018, and 2022), Cuba has been nominated for five Latin Grammy Awards, four of which he won.

Alex Cuba

From fiery fiddle tunes to a Caribbean sleigh ride, the surprising and delightful holiday Christmas Caravan fiesta heats up when Sultans of String bring their signature sound to well-known gems such as “The Christmas Song,” “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” a Turkish twist on “Greensleeves,” “Silent Night,” a Django-jazz inspired “Django Christmas,” not to mention a Rumba-Flamenca fuelled “Jingle Bells.”

Special guests also include jazz chanteuse Nikki Yanofsky, Mary Fahl from the October Project, hang drum player David Charrier from France, Turkish string group Gundem Yayli Grubu, Canada’s singer to the stars, Rebecca Campbell, African-American a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, Panamanian star Ruben Blades and Luba Mason, Pakistani-Canadian sitar player Anwar Khurshid, and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra!

Of special note is “Sing for Kwanzaa,” a cut featuring Richard Bona and Sudanese-Canadian Waleed Abdulhamid. Fans call Bona “The African Sting,” critics call him a pro, but it’s his unique and electrifying style of connecting with his audience that titles him what he really is—a true musician. This is the perfect song to celebrate Kwanzaa held December 26 – January 1 each year.

“An amazing worldbeat Christmas where even the tried and true is taken to such new and amazing lengths. Very hot stuff clearly made to chase the cold winter away.” – Midwest Record, USA

And Sultans of String is also bringing the show on the road!

Joining Sultans of String for the Christmas Caravan December tour is Rebecca Campbell and on select shows Donné Roberts (JUNO winning African Guitar Summit) w/Singer-Songwriter Yukiko Tsutsui from Japan, soulful-pop JUNO winning singer Kellylee Evans, award-winning flamenco dancer/singer Tamar Ilana, multiple CFMA winner Lynne Hanson, Andalusian classical and Arabic jazz instrumentalist Fethi Nadjem, the velvet voice of Kristine St-Pierre who won CFMA for Francophone Songwriter of the Year, and UK-Canadian multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Saskia Tomkins.

The Christmas Caravan tour also raises awareness of the plight of international refugees and the work of the UN Refugee Agency https://amplify.e-activist.com/14441/p2p/90279/sultansofstring .  As fundraising partners with UNHCR, the band has raised over $10,000 from their community awareness efforts and UNHCR’s ‘tip boxes’.

“Helping refugees is a cause we care about deeply because more than 67 million refugees worldwide are in desperate need of our support. They have every right to live a safe and dignified life as much as we do”, says Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient McKhool. “By supporting this show and partnership with the UNHCR, you are providing life-saving assistance to refugees all over the world.”

This vision is embodied in their double CD offering, Refuge/Sanctuary, which they’re also performing at the Simcoe Theatre show!

WHEN ‘N’ WHERE:

Fri. Dec. 3, 2021 – Collingwood Christmas Concerts @ Simcoe Street Theatre
65 Simcoe St, #Studio 7, Collingwood, ON
8:30 pm EST (Doors: 8:00pm)
Tix/Info: $25
https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/collingwood-christmas-market-concert-series-christmas-caravan-tickets-208199679847

Sat. Dec. 4, 2021 – Refuge/Sanctuary @ Simcoe Street Theatre 
65 Simcoe St, #Studio 7, Collingwood, ON
8:30 pm EST (Doors: 8:00pm)
Tix/Info: $25
https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/collingwood-christmas-market-concert-series-the-refuge-sanctuary-concert-tickets-208233591277

Fri. Dec. 17, 2021 – Annapolis Symphony @ Maryland Hall
801 Chase St., Annapolis, MD
8:00 pm EST
Tix/Info: $59-$119
https://annapolissymphony.org/events/holiday-pops-sultans-of-string

Sun. Dec. 19, 2021 – Zoom Room Global Livestream
7:00 pm EST
Tix/Info: $10 requested minimum donation
https://sultanschristmas2021.eventbrite.ca

Mon Dec. 20, 2021 – Harmony Concerts @ Algonquin Theatre 
1385 Woodroffe Avenue, Building E, Ottawa
7:00 pm EST (Lobby 6:00 pm / Doors 6:30 pm)
Tix/Info: $35.79 – $56.79  l  613-727-4723 x6442  l  boxoffice@algonquincollege.com
https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/sultans-of-string-christmas-caravan-tickets-202065131247

SPECIAL GUESTS:

Rebecca Campbell
Rebecca Campbell is an acclaimed and prolific singer who also serves up percussion, Stella guitar, melodica, and harmonica. Bred in the Maritimes and Ottawa, educated in Montreal, and now based in Toronto, Rebecca has performed with Jane Siberry, Lynn Miles, Porkbelly Futures, Parachute Club, Royal Ottawa, Ian Tamblyn, among countless others. Her gorgeous voice has graced both the big and small screen and on over 120 recordings.

Kellylee Evans
Known for her stunning crystalline voice that is both powerful and emotive, Kellylee Evans is a stylistic connoisseur who has tackled everything from jazz to R&B and pop, in such previous tasty classics as “fight or flight?” and “Nina”, her Juno-winning tribute to the legendary Nina Simone. She recently released “Come On”, and comes on the heels of two nearly career-ending accidents: a freak lightning strike in her Ottawa kitchen and further effects of a concussion suffered during a fall at her home.

Lynne Hanson
Too tough for folk and too blues-influenced for country, Lynne Hanson’s brand of “porch music with a little red dirt” can turn on a dime from a sunshine blue sky ballad to a full-on thunderstorm of gritty Americana swamp from one song to the next.  Lynne is a two-time Canadian Folk Music Award winner, a recipient of the Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award, winner of the Blues and Roots Radio International Song Contest, two-time Folk Music Ontario Song From The Heart Blues Award winner,  a two-time Indie Acoustic Project Alt-Country album of the year winner, and a two-time Kerrville New Folk finalist.

Tamar Ilana
Powerhouse vocalist and dancer Tamar Ilana fronts Ventanas, a six-piece Toronto-based world music ensemble featuring the city’s finest world musicians. With songs in Ladino, Spanish, Bulgarian, Hebrew, French, Romani, and Arabic, Tamar Ilana intertwines composite rhythms with flamenco dance, leading audiences down the less-traveled paths of the Mediterranean and mixing in contemporary interpretations of ancient ballads, original compositions, and new choreographies. “I’m a huge admirer,” says Leslie Feist.”

Fethi Nadjem 
Fethi Nadjem was born in 1983 in Algeria where he grew up in a family of musicians and learned Andalusian classical music, becoming accomplished on both violin and mandolin. At the age of 21, he became one of the founders of the acclaimed world music fusion band named Djmawi Africa, performing Andalusian classical music for 13 years across the globe. When he arrived in Toronto to begin a new life in Canada, he continued to pursue his musical career, performing with several bands and musicians. Fethi is a member of the World-Fusion style music band, Moskitto Bar, and additionally performs with the Arabic-Jazz band, Moneka Arabic Jazz.

Donné Roberts
Donné Roberts is a passionate performer who performs mainly in Malagasy, his mother tongue from his birthplace of Madagascar. Yet this never proves to be a barrier to the audience, providing living proof that music truly does transcend language. Donné came to wider recognition for his solo release and his contribution as one of the members of the African Guitar Summit, which won a JUNO, and as a member of Okavango The African Orchestra that also won a JUNO Award.

Kristine St-Pierre
Folk-pop singer-songwriter Kristine St-Pierre captivates audiences with her velvet voice and wide range of emotions that challenge us. In 2018, Kristine received a CFMA for Francophone Songwriter of the Year, and the 1st track hit the Top 10 in SiriusXM’s FrancoCountry channel. In addition to tours across Canada, Kristine has performed in Kenya, Nigeria, Congo, and most recently in Ukraine, establishing closer links between musical creation and the values of respect, inclusiveness, and equality.

Saskia Tomkins
Saskia Tomkins is a British musician and actress, living since 2007 in Ontario. A stellar multi-instrumentalist, she serves up the violin, viola, cello, and nyckelharpa, seamlessly crossing genres, including traditional, modern, jazz, and classical music. In great demand, she has performed with the likes of The Chieftains, Jimmy Bowskill, The Chieftains, Kim Doolittle, Ken Whiteley, and a plethora of other amazing musicians, actors, and dancers! Currently, she performs with hubby  Steáfán Hannigan as Steáfán & Saskia, the instrumental jazz/roots duo 2ish with Brandon Scott Besharah; the Celtic crossover group Cáirdeas, and the jazz trio Marsala and the Imports.

Yukiko Tsutsui 
Yukiko Tsutsui is a singer/songwriter from Akita, Japan. Her compositions are beautifully arranged and are influenced by Japanese contemporary music, traditional folk music, and world music. Since immigrating to Toronto in 2016, she has been performing with various musicians at multiple venues and was selected to perform the Japanese National Anthem at Richo Woodbine Mile broadcasted internally on TSN. Yukiko also produced/hosted her Canadian syndicated and award-winning radio show, Japanese Musiquest, on the Kootenay Coop Radio, exposing listeners to Japanese music and culture.

Exclusive Review of Finny McConnell’s (The Mahones) Debut Solo Album, The Dark Streets of Love

Exclusive Album Review of The Dark Streets of Love by Finny McConnell

     
Title: The Dark Streets of Love
Artist:  Finny McConnell
Label: True North Records
Releasing: September 2021
Reviewer: Christine Bode
Stars:  4.5


After 30 glorious years of leading worldwide, renowned Celtic punk rockers, The Mahoneswho have shared stages and toured with the likes of Dropkick Murphys, Shane MacGowan (The Pogues), Stiff Little Fingers, Billy Bragg, The Buzzcocks, Sinead O’Connor, and The Damned to name a few—Finny McConnell decided that it was time to make an album for himself as he winds down and adjusts to his “Van Morrison years”, although I’m sure he has enough piss and vinegar left in him that he will not go quietly or gently into the night.

Produced by McConnell and engineered by Gene Hughes (who also mixed it) of Telejet Music Studio and assistant engineer Del Cowsill, The Dark Streets of Love was recorded “live off the floor” from March 15 to 17, 2021, in Toronto, Canada. It features McConnell’s favourite songs from his repertoire as well four of his most loved covers, along with exquisite cover art by Hannah Blu.

The Dark Streets of Love opens with a superb cover of “Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen (that was released as the first single, yesterday). There’s a beautiful, reflective vulnerability in Finny’s voice on this track and lyrically, it’s a terrific choice for a cover song. Kevin Hearn’s accordion is a notable addition to the mix, lending it Celtic flair, but it’s the loss, longing, and weariness in Finny’s interpretation that makes it a winner. I cannot imagine anyone bestowing a better tribute to this song, and that is coming from a lifelong Boss fan.
 
Gina Romantini’s lovely violin adds gravitas to “Someone Save Me”, a poignant love song full of hope and gratitude, co-written by McConnell and Katie Lonergan. The singer bares his soul while finding redemption through his loving saviour, and this song makes the listener want to grab their lover on the dance floor and envelop them in their arms, as they sway to and fro to the music—an anthem for so many of us who haven’t given up hope although we’ve found ourselves heartbroken and alone in middle age.

“Stars (Oscar Wilde)”, also co-written by McConnell and K. Lonergan, is an elegant ballad and stand out track, telling the tale of the Catholic boy from Dublin who suffered under a priest’s harsh gaze—a damaged loner who developed his wit while maintaining his earnestness. “The stars look better from the gutter…”, an ode to one of my favourite authors, Oscar Wilde, is melancholic while never giving in to self-pity.

Glenn Milchem’s drum tattoo opens “A Pair of Brown Eyes”, written by Finny’s friend, Shane MacGowan, whom he channels perfectly with his vocal. The sweet tin whistle from Michael O’Grady adds Irish wistfulness to this mid-tempo track that follows the narrator as he goes a roving for a pair of brown eyes. This could be a sea shanty!

Closing Side One on the album is my favourite track, “New York City”. Co-written by McConnell, D. Whelan, and K. Lonergan, it is a rocking, stylistic salutation to David Bowie, Lou Reed, and the city that made Lou one of the most relevant artists of 70s alternative rock. Toronto Trans Queen Patricia Wilson’s wah-wah guitar adds fire to this life-affirming celebration of rock, glam, punk, and loving the vibe on the Lower East Side. “New York City” should be a hit single if there is any justice in the music industry of 2021.

Side Two begins with plaintive, lonely, pining lyrics by McConnell in “So Far Away”, a song splendidly accompanied by piano and languorous guitar strumming in this restrained banshee wail. Following it is a cover of Lou Reed’s “Pale Blue Eyes”, a ballad accentuated with soft drum brushes and delicate keys by Kevin Hearn, highlighting another powerful vocal performance by McConnell. Sad, full of emotional atmosphere and empathy, “Linger on, pale blue eyes”, tugs at the heartstrings, something that many of the songs on this album do, unashamedly.

Unapologetic for who he is and always was, the character in “We’re Miles Apart” tells his former love that they can still be friends and have a new start even though they’re miles apart. This short, succinct ballad is also heart-wrenching, due to its autobiographical nature.

Another favourite track is “Cocktail Blues”, a Stray Cat-like bluesy shuffle with jazzy piano evoking a smoky nightclub and cocktails for two. Oh God, how I miss them! With Finny’s flirtatious intimate vocal, knowing wink, and shoutout to my favourite alcoholic beverage—tequila—this song arouses sheer delight.

The album concludes aptly with “Fiddlers Green”, written by long-time friends, The Tragically Hip. This stripped-back version with Finny’s tremulous vocal and acoustic guitar offers an emotional homage to Kingston’s own Gord Downie that is the perfect ending to this stellar collection of songs from the dark streets of love.

As always, McConnell offers a bonus track and on this album it’s the beautiful, acoustic version of his song of yearning, “Back Home”, featuring Nicole Akkordion on the accordion, perfectly evoking the naked desire of wanting to be with someone you love when you can’t. This is Shane MacGowan’s favourite song of Finny’s and it’s one of mine too.

Finny thanks his musical mentors in the liner notes and the influence of artists such as Lou Reed, Joe Strummer, Shane MacGowan, Paul Westerberg, Pete Townshend, Tom Waits, and Bruce Springsteen is evident. This is his love letter to everyone important in his world and it should not be missed. For me, The Dark Streets of Love is Finny’s “Fisherman’s Blues”, a collection of his most stripped bare and personal lyrics that represent not only his truth but a truth that we can all recognize, offering us a reflection on loving, losing, grieving, and loving again—essentially what it means to be human.

You cannot take the Irish out of McConnell, nor would we ever want to. He is defined by his Celtic soul and his punk rock heart, which he wears on his sleeve here, and we love him more for it. The Dark Streets of Love is among the best, most honest, thoughtful music of his legendary, illustrious career, so look for its release in early September 2021 and buy it.

Get The Dark Streets of Love on Truth North Records
New Single – Atlantic City out now on Spotify
Finny McConnell – Facebook
Finny McConnell – Instagram
Finny McConnell – Twitter

Canadian Singer-Songwriter David Leask Releases “Voyageur in Song”

Republished with permission from David Leask

Voyageur in Song

Today is the release of my new record, “Voyageur In Song”, songs written on and with the Six String Nation guitar, nick-named Voyageur.  This incredible instrument is made of 64 pieces of Canadian history and culture.  I have written songs about a group of those pieces and their inspiring stories.  There’s a reason they call this record “release” day.  It’s a time to finally let the songs go, to let them make their own way in the world and have all those vibrations, melodies and lyrics slowly land on people’s ears.  Find out more about the project and order a copy or download here.

GOOD VIBRATIONS
Speaking of vibrations, one interesting fact about the new record is that every song was recorded at A = 432 Hz.  What does that mean, I hear you say? Well, every instrument on this recording is tuned 8 cycles per second lower than regular concert pitch which is A = 440 Hz. It’s a tuning that apparently was used for thousands of years by Egyptians, Greeks, Tibetan monks and indeed, Verdi composed his operas in A = 432. I first heard about it from world renowned bassist, Victor Wooten at a camp he held outside of Nashville. I decided to try it out and have been using it frequently while playing live. It always feels good to me, something different, more relaxed than regular pitch. I guess you’ll have to have a listen to the new record and find out for yourself!

Six String Nation guitar

NOTHING BUT A STREAMER
If you’re wondering if the new record is available on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, the answer is yes and you can find links here. I do understand the convenience of these services but I would be remiss if I didn’t say they have gone a long way to gutting music sales for independent artists like myself, making it harder to survive.  If you stream my music, please consider making a donation directly to me at paypal.me/davidleaskmusic or order a CD for yourself or as a gift.  It’s a beautiful package wrapped in an original painting and colourful booklet with background stories and lyrics.

IN THE NEWS
The press machine is in full swing and I’ve done a couple of regional CBC interviews in BC & PEI that will air on Monday.  If you want to keep tabs on where the music is taking me, please consider following me on Facebook @DavidLeaskMusic on Twitter & Instagram @LeaskExpected.

Thanks as always for reading and listening.

Meet you in the music,
David

https://lnk.to/VoyageurInSong

Six String Nation guitar image by Doug Nicholson

Singer-songwriter David Leask Releases New Music Video for “When You Think No One Loves You”

Canadian Singer-songwriter David Leask Releases New Music Video for
“When You Think No One Loves You”

David Leask When You Think No One Loves You

“Six of the best from the award-winning wordsmith…All the songs are superbly crafted and David Leask possesses fine vocal talents.” ~ Maverick Magazine

As someone who often struggles with loneliness, when I first watched the new music video for “When You Think No One Loves You” by David Leask from his album Six in 6/8, I was moved to tears. I can’t imagine how this video could NOT touch people emotionally if they take the time to watch it. David Leask and Daryl Burgess have written a really beautiful song and the music video conveys scenarios that most of us are all too familiar with. It shares a very important message that loneliness IS an epidemic and we need to be mindful of that and treat people with kindness and compassion. Please watch and share if the spirit moves you.

David Leask: There’s an epidemic of loneliness out there and a large number of people on this planet who at some point in their lives feel unloved. This song and video is for them. I hope it moves you in a way to share it widely and spread some hope around the world.

Big thanks to my co-writer Daryl Burgess, producer Justin Abedin, Jonathan Goldsmith on piano & B3 Organ, Quisha Wint on BG vocals, engineer Jeremy Darby for capturing the tracks live off the floor, Chad Carlson for mixing, Peter Moore for mastering, Lee De Lang & the video production folks Big Red Oak for doing such a great job telling the story including, Producer: Will Murphy; Director: Alistair Simpson; Production Manager: Tejasvi Bhalla; DoP: Tyson Burger; Gaffer: Nikita Brusnitsyn; Production Designer: Eunice Hung; Art Director: Alexandra Hutton; Production Assistant: Ernesto Travieso and the actors, Teenager: Janet Tung; Elderly man: Daniel Coo; Single mother: Marta Pozniakowski: Child: August Pozniakowski

Finally, special thanks to FACTOR, the Government of Canada and Canada’s private radio broadcasters for their generous support to help make this video possible.  

“the 6/8 time signature..underpins six beautifully mature songs, naturally & ingeniously”
Rock n’ Reel Magazine – 4 STARS for “Six in 6/8”

“Indescribable is top down, hot day on the highway Nashville Music, with Leask’s vocal a masterclass in emotional major league Rock.  Caught In The Tide and When You Think No One Loves You feature that voice, in Prog mode against squalling guitars or gutsy soulful like a Mark Cohen or Liam O Maonlai from The Hothouse Flowers, but always interesting.”
Northern Sky Magazine – 4 STARS for “Six in 6/8”

Connect with David Leask at www.davidleask.com or on:

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