For the past 18 months east-Toronto born and Oshawa-based Grunge-Pop songwriter Boris Buhot has been putting on an interesting series of monthly “In The Round” artist showcases that rotate between clubs in the two jurisdictions.
Taking place alternately at Hirut Café in east TO and Oshawa’s Simcoe Blues and Jazz club, the three or four participants, usually also including the host, do successive songs and in some instances also join together on tunes, sometimes with surprisingly satisfying results. I’ve attended several of the Hirut editions (including one I participated in on New Years Day in 2015!) and in each instance the shows have been delightful entertainment, featuring an interesting mix of accomplished songwriters.
Tonight the series wraps the TO portion of its second season (I believe there will be one more in Oshawa next month) with another dilly of a show at Hirut, at 2050 Danforth Ave. just west of Woodbine subway station. If tonight’s installment were to have a theme name I’d call it “The Passionate Ones,” since in addition to Buhot’s own tunes about social duress (“Cross Fire”), alienation (“It’s A Shame”) and quest for identity (“All I Am”) two other songwriters who are not shy about speaking out about their take on society are also featured.
Harpin’ Norm Lucien, although he’s also the author of some tender love ballads (including “Strong Enough For Love,” which Folk artist Nicole “Songbird” Coward made the title track and only cover on her second album) over the past year or so has a become a sort of one-man social movement. He’s been penning songs such as “Food and Water First” about our badly skewed community priorities, “Save Midhurst Now/Money Talks” about a political crisis in a small Ontario town besieged by developers and many other new tunes touching on issues of the day. He now finally also has a new ep of five tunes recorded that he sells for $5, and says he’ll have some with him tonight.
Less prolific but no less fervently feeling composer Paul Cross employs a variety of musical styles to lambaste modern cultural decay, decrying the death of radio on “You Broke My Radio”, violence-laden modern media in “They Want Us To Fight” and also having written a touching paean to the late Jack Layton (“Man Of The People”) while also having penned some sweet love ditties such as “I Would Fly”.
Tonight’s roster also contains an extra bonus, however. As I’ve mentioned previously, café owner Hirut has a lovely voice and her husband Tibebe is a deft guitarist and harmonica player (among other instruments) and apparently they’ve agreed to do a few tunes as well.
The most recent edition of the series I attended at Hirut, featuring Buhot, Country songwriter Herb Dale and superb Jazz/Pop guitarist and composer Tony Quarrington, attracted a full house, so it seems like this concept is certainly hitting its stride and makes it seem a shame that the season is wrapping up already —except that it’s probably due mostly to the fact that Buhot is working on a new album of his own originals.
But certainly the groundwork has been laid for a successful resumption in the autumn and those who enjoy this type of show can help encourage that by getting out to support tonight’s finale, which starts at 8:30. Cover is “Pay If You Can” but suggested to be $10-15, all of which gets divided out among the participants.