Corby's Orbit

Corby's Orbit
Listening in All the High Places illustration by John Kricfalusi

Friday, June 28, 2019

Orbiting Elsewhere Today

I'll be out in the vastness for a few days, and unable to make it in for the show today. Toronto reggae queen Carol Brown will be my guest next Friday, and we will explore her new release and her luminous legacy. I will be at the Canadian Museum of History leading up to Canada Day with David Hynes' iconic Conundrum. Come have a go if you are in the neighbourhood. Just follow the beat.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Ellen McIlwaine : Mystical Blues

“I’m just so excited about what I got in the mail today! It’s pretty, and it’s blue, and it’s shaped like a maple leaf,” Ellen McIlwaine exclaimed.
She has just come from her mailbox in Calgary, her home for the past 20 years, and unwrapped her Blues With a Feeling award. Sent to her by the Toronto Blues Society, the prize honours a lifetime of artistry in the blues.
“I’ve never gotten an award before,” she sighed. “I’m feeling very proud. I look at it every day, and it lifts my spirits. I sure am appreciative of all the people that voted for me. [It] makes all the difference.”
Perennially nominated, her unforeseen win set off a rush of cheers at the Maple Blues Awards gala at Koerner Hall in early February.
Her friend, Stony Plain Records’ Holger Peterson, was there to accept it for her and to read her meaningful words of gratitude:
“We owe a huge debt to all the African people who were brought to North America against their will, out of whose anguished hearts the blues was born
and which today speaks directly to the hearts of you and me. I want to thank everyone who supports the blues.”

As a citizen of the world who dwells authoritatively in transcultural hemispheres of song, does she feel comfortable being hailed as a member of Canada’s blues community?
“Oh yes, definitely,” she said. “My roots have always been in the blues. It was what I gravitated towards growing up in Japan and listening to the radio: Ray Charles, Professor Longhair, and Fats Domino primarily.”
“From there, I just started absorbing it all,” she added. “Once you get started, the blues is like molasses; it gets into everything. I was playing piano then. I played drums after that in the eighth grade. … I played snare in a marching band … I didn’t discover the guitar until I got back to the States. I was studying art at a religious school in Tennessee. It wasn’t very good for me (chuckles). I moved back to Atlanta and took art classes at a local college. I bought a Brazilian guitar with nylon strings and everything started: playing coffee houses, steak houses and finally bars.”
“My friend Jeff Espina, also playing in the clubs, showed me how to strum flamenco style and make chords and taught me to sing “Guantanamera” with a Cuban accent. But at the root of everything I played was the blues. Buddy Moss, B.B., Alan Lomax’s collections. And do you remember Koerner, Ray & Glover? ”
Her familiarity with such a broad range of influences and her vividly virtuoso performances have evoked reverence from worldwide audiences for over 50 years. Does accepting a popular award after a lifelong career of courageous iconoclasm feel incongruous?
“I guess I’ve just been so far under the radar (over the radar – Corby), out of the box, you know, all my life, sometimes people don’t get what it is that I do. You know who taught me that lesson, about being an individual? Jimi Hendrix. He made me aware that what we each have to express is unique. There is no box. He and Richie Havens and Odetta and Dave Van Ronk and the people I knew in Greenwich Village were all about creating something vigorous and new. And I was listening to all of them. Richie wouldn’t teach me his tunings. He said I had to make up my own. And when I saw Randy California with his slide, I knew I had to start to play some of that. I didn’t have a slide, but I had a Coricidin D bottle. I loved slide guitar and tunings, and after seeing a Johnny Winter concert, I was off to the races! I played my acoustic through all sorts of illegal foot-pedals and finally began roaring away on an electric in 1970.”
After some time in Woodstock, where her band Fear Itself recorded an eponymous record, she returned to a solo format and recorded two significantly brilliant albums – Honky Tonk Angel and We The People – for Polydor that brought her to global attention.
“In the States, I couldn’t get arrested doing my music. So I played all those blues clubs across Canada, and they didn’t mind that the band leader was a woman playing lead guitar.”
She spent five years in Toronto, where she was exposed to the influence of reggae music, befriended Jeff Healey, and became a permanent Canadian citizen.
“When I moved to Toronto, I was five years clean and sober,” she said. “I started playing a lot in Canada, and I thought, ‘Why don’t I just move here?’ And I got in through the specialty segment that they had for artists, and I said, ‘I play here. I hire Canadian musicians. Why don’t you let me pay my taxes here?’ I lived there as a permanent resident, but there was no place to park in Toronto, so I came out to Calgary,” she laughed. “Actually, I tell people that, but I was driving back and forth across Canada, and there was a place in Calgary called Sparky’s, and I became a godmother to the owner’s son. So I said, ‘That’s it; I gotta stay.’”
Her current residency in Calgary will likely be permanent. Living in the center of Canada’s country music scene, does she feel close to being inspired to do a country album?
“Light years away. A long time ago, I did a tune called ‘Tennessee Ridge Runner,’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Play’ – they’re country – but I’m not really there. I loved old country. I enjoy Tim Hicks, Travis Tritt and Wynona Judd. I feel related to her, being born in Nashville. There are certainly offshoots that are good, but nowadays it just sounds like middle of the road.”
Ellen suffers from debilitating bouts of arthritis and a distaste for airplanes, and she laments that she finds fewer opportunities to perform because “Musical outlets are fewer since the festivals and paying venues are dwindling.”
But she is happy to spend her days driving a school bus and teaching guitar. She plays at the Blue Chair in Edmonton sometimes with Farley Scott but still prefers to play in the electric power trio format, adding Robbin Harris on drums.
“I like doin’ it with bass and drums … although there are still some things I can’t do on the electric, like my mid-eastern strumming. You probably settle down a little when you get older, but when I play, it’s all still there. There is a deep well of the music spirit that lives in me and it comes out when I play. And I think music is a force, and it exists whether we play it or not. I believe it’s very happy to find someone it can come out of. And when I play, and when I sing, I really think there’s something like cellular memory; I think a lot of people play with me through me, and a lot of people sing with me and through me. So it’s really a mystical experience for me on the inside. It comes out of different people in different ways. It comes out of the cumulative effect of years and years and centuries of human beings’ souls expressing themselves musically. Whattaya think?” she laughs.
I mention the deep feelings for African music that she expressed in her acceptance speech.
“That makes all the difference in the blues. I would never ever be able to play what I play if it weren’t for them,” she said. “All those people who were brought here against their wills and had such anguish. Sometimes I think that out of terrible things great beauty is born. There’s a guy who used to be the mayor of Compton who said, “Great pressure makes diamonds,” and I really had to bite my tongue not to write the list of old blues players I knew … so many of them were older, but I was lucky enough to be on the same bill with them … when I played the Mariposa Festival, Son House and his wife were on the ferry with me.”
With so much to contribute to the world, does Ellen ever feel a little stifled?
”I’m spending the summer trying to work further along on my autobiography, trying to get it past 1970. Sometimes I just slide open the window and sing on the bus. Music has always been my best friend for my whole life,” she chuckles.
A panoramic perspective of Ellen’s truly amazing range of accomplishments since settling out west is available on her website at, along with links to her passion for global music, women guitar players and access to her available discography. But there are, as yet, no scheduled performance dates for 2019, (she DID recently play a solo gig at Heritage Park as part of the Calgary Midwinter Bluesfest.)
Originally published at Roots Music Canada

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Playlist For Corby's Orbit Show Of 21 June with Mark Ripp and Cynthia Tauro

Commissioner of Selection: Paul Corby 

( Brought to you by Contageous Advantages,  Inadmissable Affluence, and Sticky Abundance)

5-7 p.m. Fridays online and at .  

Guests: Mark Ripp & Cynthia Tauro

Click On Pictures To Enlarge 

Canadians in Asterisk’d RED. 

5:00 Quantum Drift

Brandi Carlile ~ Hold Out Your hand ~ By The Way I Forgive You 

* Joaquin Diaz ~ Los Barberos ~ Mi Corazon 

* Amanda Martinez ~ Hey Corazon ~ Libre NEW DISK~ @ Isabel Bader Theatre Saturday for CD Launch  TDJAZZ

Junior Reid ~ One Blood ~ Massive Reggae Hits ~ @ IRIE Music Festival in Mississauga Celebration Square Saturday

5:15 Supreme Authority

Diana Ross & The Supremes ~ My World Is Empty Without You ~ Tranzition Remix ~ Motown Remixed vol. 1 / I Want A Guy ~ Meet The Supremes / My Heart Stood Still ~ The Supremes Sing Rogers and Hart ~ Diana Ross @ Sony Centre Monday 24 June

5:30 Ripp-in It Up

* Mark Ripp ~ Two Of A Kind / Lose My Way / Interview / Robots ( live ) /  Speak Your Mind (live) ~ Under The Circumstances

* Jack Marks ~ Used To Be An Outlaw ~ Wicked Moon ~ @ The Cameron House Wednesday 

6:00 El Torontonienne 

* Cynthia Tauro ~ Like That / Interview / Dancing On My Own / Cara Valente ~ Moments NEW DISK ~ @ Burdock Friday 28 June 6:30 p.m.

6:20 Concerted Efforts

* The Jessica Stuart Few ~ Same Girl ~ The Same Girl EP ~ @ Junction Train Station Saturday for the Junction Solstice Party

* Laura Repo ~ Summertime ~ This Is My Room ~ @ Dakota Monday 24 June 6 p.m.

Doris Day ~ Move Over Darling ~ 100 Years Of Cinema ~ Adi Braun sings Doris Day @ Jazz Bistro Tuesday 25 June

Cecile McLoren Salvant ~ The Trolley Song ~ For One To Love ~ @ Koerner Hall for TDJAZZ

Susheela Raman ~ Meanwhile ~ Music For Crocodiles

* Dominique Fils - Aimé ~ Nameless ~ Nameless ~ @ TDJAZZ Cumberland Mainstage Sat Jun 29 5:30pm FREE 

6:40 Shiver Drift 

* Downchild Blues Band ~ I've Got Everything I Need (Almost) ~ Downchild Live ~ @ Bloor Stage Saturday TDJAZZ

The New Mastersounds ~ So Many Pies ~ Keb Darge Presents 

The London Philharmonic ~ Roundabout ~ Symphonic Music of YES / Toronto Music Listings ~ YES @ Budweiser Stage Monday 24 June

* Beatrice Deer ~ Mali ~ My All To You ~ @ Indigenous Arts Festival tonight at Fort York

* Daniel Lanois ~ The Maker ~ Fête Nationale du Québec / Jean Baptiste Day Monday 24 June

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

REVIEW: Charlotte Cornfield Whose Lyrical Shapes Radiate Sympatico

Originally published at
A vacuum tube glows warmly in the dark, yellow and blue, contained in a fragile membrane of blown glass, of crystal clarity, specifically curved to disperse its heat equitably, protecting the circuit board at the heart of the amplifier from spontaneous combustion. Within it, the electron sparks swirl in unobservably instantaneous lines. Charlotte Cornfield’s newest record, The Shape of Your Name, amplifies autobiographical lyrical trajectories of longing and pride, rainfall and movies, cars and dandelions, specks of toothpaste and pad thai, magnifying almost microscopic elemental memories, which would be specific enough to embarrass as mere data, until they’re arcing with meaning as her voice reloads them with emotional amplitude, dispersing their heated revelations equitably, preventing combustion.
Yeah, that’s what some people are finding relatable,” she affirms when we speak, “the specifics of those universal emotions that people can connect to.”
Each song invents sonically cavernous spaces where Charlotte can roam in adventurous intimacy, with the piano or rhythm guitar as her anchor. Minimal vocal harmony acts as an occasional signal rectifier, and persistent looped drone effects serve as sonar, to explore in detail the inner surfaces of her social circulatory system.

My friend [producer] Nigel Ward from Montreal – he had these visions to add some linear flow with those loops, especially on the piano songs. It all started when I was at the Banff Center, and I connected with three of the guys from Broken Social Scene, and they kind of reignited my love of music because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. In particular, it was really good to work with Charles Spearin who also plays with Do Make Say Think. He’s all about getting outside of your comfort zone and trying out strange sounds.”
Song structure manipulation is another innovative course of action that she has pursued with this record. Hooks evolve into chants. Rhyme schemes are broken telephones that distort as they unfold, and endings are sudden, yet preposterously sensible. Her lyrical tactical strategy is to wrap her romantic vulnerability in a worldly-wise insouciance that charms with its good-natured equilibrium, but which is nonetheless never at rest. She seeks contact with “a non-existent world” (“Storm Clouds”), “a sudden heat piercing the dark” (“Balladeer”), or a breathless breakthrough opportunity to “get under your skin and mess with you” (“Andrew”).
The nine songs are predominantly mid-tempo ballads, with the vigorous adulting blues of “Up The Hill,” shedding the lush imagery with an abrupt energy boost, as an exception. Cornfield’s drumming (she studied jazz drums) energizes a few tracks, and her piano is almost churchy, giving the whole record a resonant anthemic feel that induces a deep empathic bond with the listener. As is evident in every skillful nuance, her decision to “quit her day job” as booker for Toronto’s impeccable pan-musical showcase, Burdock, seems to have come at the right time. Her future seems radiant with possibility.
I think that I’m really happy with how the record is being received. I try not to have big expectations about things because I’ve been doing this for a long time. I love connecting with people through music. I just want to collaborate, write more, and to continue on this lifelong journey.”
Since its release, she has been touring as opener for inspiring Newfoundlander Tim Baker throughout the East Coast and is moving on to do the same on the West Coast very soon.
But first, there was an official launch in Toronto at The Baby G at the end of May that brought a sold-out roomful of her local peers and fans together, including artful musical
troopers Lydia Persaud and Jill Harris from The O’Pears (left), Tim Darcy of Ought, Brendan Canning, Tara Kannangara, Kevin Hearn, Christine Bougie and show opener Charise Aragoza (below),
whose laced electronic loops provided a sonic hammock for her songs and kalimba playing. Some good friends of Charlotte’s, Steven FosterGlam Seasonand Ben Harney, brought cool banter and a calm but highly charged backdrop to the material as a band, amping up the intensity of “Andrew” and “Up The Hill” while maintaining a subtlety that hushed the room down to librarian specifications for “Balladeer” and “June.” The vivid vibes brought the intimacy of the tunes into collusion with the coziness of the room so that there was an instantaneous sympatico full of appreciative audience commentary between songs. There are many active ingredients in this music.
Just sit back and appreciate it,” as she sings on “Up The Hill.”

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Playlist for Corby's Orbit Show Of 14 June

Commissioner of Selection: Paul Corby 

( Brought to you by Awareness Caress, Heritage Musculature & Heightened Enlightenments  )

5-7 p.m. Fridays online and at .  

Guests: Jamie Kronick from Scattered Clouds & Richard Flohil

Canadians in Asterisk’d RED. 

5:00 Panaromas

* General Genius / Tresor Gray ~ Raptor Foot ~ NEW ANTHEM

* Beatrice Deer ~ Atungak ~ My All To You ~ @ Indigenous Arts Festival Fort York Friday 21 June 7:45

* Jean Paul de Roover ~ Love Is ~ Love NEW DISK

The Specials ~ Stereotype ~ The Singles Collection ~ @ Danforth Music Hall Tuesday & Wednesday 18 / 19 June for 40th Anniversary

* Carole Pope ~ Transcend / Hemlock & Jennings Mix ~ Transcend / The Remixes ~@ Hugh's Room Live Wednesday 19 June

Santigold ~ Look At These Hoes ~ Master Of My Make-Believe ~ @ Yonge Dundas Square for NXNE Saturday 9:45

5:30 Cirrus Moonlight

* Scattered Clouds ~ Don't Question Me / Interview with Jaime Kronick / La Politique Concours Pseudo-érotique ~ Take Away Your Summer NEW DISK ~ CD Release @ Baby G Saturday 13 July

5:45 Local Vocals

* Lydia Ringworth ~ Diamond Cutting Diamond ~ Phantom Forest NEW DISK ~ CD Release @ The Garrison 7 July

* Collective Order feat. Laura Swankey ~ Open Wide ~ vol.2 ~ Laura Swankey @ The Rex Thursday 20 June 5 pm

* Cynthia Tauro ~ Like That ~ Moments NEW DISK ~ Burdock on Friday June 28th, 6:30pm and on Corby's Orbit next Friday

Petula Clark ~ I Know A Place ~ @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre Monday17 June

6:00 Going With The Flo

* Richard Flohil ~ Interview / Stumbling Round The Room (Scotty Campbell & The Wardenaires) / Jeepers Creepers (Louis Armstrong) / Night On Fire (Jenny Thai) / Don't Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock and Roll (Shakura Saida) / Alone In This Crowd (Russell DeCarle) ~ All @ 85 Is The New 65 : A Birthday Party For Richard Flohil at The Horseshoe Friday 28 June

6:45 Worthwheels

Roy Hargrove ~ But Not For Me ~ Jazz Café Standards / Toronto Music Listings

* Irish Mythen ~ Be Still. Dance ~ Little Bones NEW DISK 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Flohil In Orbit With Scattered Clouds

Loquacious and outspoken exponent of folk, jazz, soul , country and blues music, Mr. Richard Flohil, who turns 85 this month, will unlock his anecdotal treasury and get some opinions off his chest at 6:00 this Friday on Radio Regent. Tune in at iHeart Radio to listen up as we chat about his life, his musical loves and his  upcoming birthday bash Fri, June 28, 2019 at The Horseshoe Tavern / $25 in advance / Doors: 8:00 pm, with all proceeds going to the Unison Benevolent Fund

Also in the 


sphere at 5:30, 

thunderous Hull 


Scattered Clouds 

will be sharing 


music from their 

turbulent and 

ominous new 






Sunday, June 9, 2019

Playlist For Corby's Orbit Show Of 7 June

Commissioner of Selection: Paul Corby 

( Brought to you by Tundra Beige, Succinct Marie, & Wawa Wazoos   )

5-7 p.m. Fridays online and at .  

Guest: Tara Kannangara

Canadians in Asterisk’d RED. 

5:00 Corby's Obits: All We Can Do Now Is Dance

* Norm Hacking feat. (The Late) Mose Scarlett ~ Go Down Dancin' ~ Cut Roses

Roots Music Canada's Obituary for Mose Scarlett by Gary 17

Dr. John (November 20, 1941 – June 6, 2019) ~ Build A Better World / There Must Be A Better World Somewhere (B.B. King feat. Dr. John) / Getaway (Locked Down feat. Dan Auerbach)


5:20 Soundabouts

* Braden Gates ~ Mama I've Tried ~ Pictures Of Us ~ @ Hugh's Room Live Tuesday 11 June

* Logan McKillop ~ When Love Comes Undone ~ Anchorless ~ @ Burdock Saturday

* Mo Kenney ~ Feelin' Good ~ The Details ~ @ Longboat Hall tonight with O Susanna

* Judy Brown ~ Monkey Business ~ Say It ~ @ Cadillac tonight

5:40 Treasurements

* Bruce Cockburn ~ Turn Turn Turn ~ Where Have All The Flowers Gone : The Songs Of Pete Seeger

* Ensign Broderick ~ The Telling Part ~ Bloodmyth NEW DISK

Maria Muldaur with Roy Rogers ~ Me And My Chauffeur Blues ~ Richland Woman Blues

Allen Toussaint ~ Mi Amour ~ I Believe To My Soul ~ A Night Of Allen Toussaint @ Drom Taberna tonight

6:00 A Kannangara Gallery

* Tara Kannangara ~ Touched / Interview / I Made This For You / This Is Nothing Yet /  Peter Gabriel's Come Talk To Me ~ It's Not Mine Anymore NEW DISK ~ Record Release @ The Baby G Monday 10 June (NXNE)

6:30 Feathermore

* Kayla Ramu ~ Just You Just Me ~ Living In A Dream NEW DISK~ @ The Rex Wednesday 12 June

* Michael Jerome Browne feat. Eric Bibb ~ Everybody Ought To Treat A Stranger Right ~ That's Where It's At NEW DISK

* Mike Goudreau ~ She Talks Too Much ~ Acoustic Sessions NEW DISK

* Audrey Ochoa Trio ~ De Mi / Afterthought ~ After Thought NEW DISK / Toronto Music Listings

Allen Toussaint ~ We Are One  ~ I Believe To My Soul ~ A Night Of Allen Toussaint @ Drom Taberna tonight

* Lynn Miles ~ Sometimes ~ Black Flowers vol. 4 ~ @ Hugh's Room Live Wednesday 12 June