TORONTO — November 12, 2019 — To celebrate Neil Young’s birthday, multi-award-winning and New York Times and Billboard Magazine charting Canadian world music collective Sultans of String could have gone with the classic well-wisher tune.
Instead, the Internationally critically acclaimed five-piece have released their live rendition of Young’s 1972 classic, “Heart of Gold” — available now!
Sultans of String are currently marking their 12th year with an extensive national tour and, additionally, the release of their forthcoming album — their seventh and most historic to date, Refuge (Spring 2020).
While not on the album, the Neil Young cover lands on Neil Young’s birthday — today — as a fitting tribute to both the iconic artist, and the song’s full-circle meaning for Sultans of String co-founder Chris McKhool, in particular.
“‘Heart of Gold’ has a lot of meaning to me personally,” McKhool shares of the track. “For context, I grew up in a ‘classical music-loving’ house; my mother was a piano teacher and all the kids from the neighbourhood would come to our living room for lessons. My first instrument was a classical violin which was amazing for ear training. I was even in a string orchestra called the National Capital String Academy, and I loved it.
“But by the time I was a teenager, violin was kind of a ‘square’ instrument,” he continues. “When I got to high school, I had learned enough about music already that I could teach myself how to play guitar. I bought my first steel string guitar from Steve’s Music in my hometown of Ottawa — a plywood model by Yamaha!
“Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’ was the very first song I learned on it.”
At the time McKhool worked as a short-order cook at a place on Holland Avenue — TJ’s Speakeasy Café. “It had a great open stage night,” he recalls. “I saw some amazing Ottawa folk performers there.
“One night during my shift at TJ’s, I came out from the back and played ‘Heart of Gold.’ I didn’t have enough money for a guitar strap so I was just kind of clutching the guitar under my arm as I strummed away. I was so nervous in my first public singing/playing appearance that my arms were trembling a little bit, and halfway through the song I literally dropped the guitar. The crowd went wild with applause!
“So, I decided that was a good place to leave it. They all knew and loved me at TJ’s — it was a very supportive place. But I slinked away back to the kitchen and practiced a lot more before I tried that again.
“Now I play violin in this band, but I still own that old Yamaha guitar and love singing this song! I hope Neil gets a chance to hear this — a birthday present from me and Sultans of String!”
Sultans of String are McKhool (has collaborated with Richard Bona, Béla Fleck), Kevin Laliberté (Jesse Cook), Drew Birston (Chantal Kreviazuk), Eddie Paton, and Rosendo Chendy Leon (Alex Cuba). Together, their musical synergy strikes inimitable, explaining their three JUNO Award nominations, four Canadian Folk Music Awards, plus many more, as well as International touring at notable venues (including JUNOFest, Glasgow’s Celtic Connections, NYC’s Birdland, and selling out Koerner Hall several times over), and appearances on BBC, CBC, Irish National Radio, NPR, SiriusXM, and then some.
Set for Spring 2020, Refuge is Sultans of String’s seventh and most historic album, and features talent that arrived to Canada and the U.S. as immigrants and refugees — many of whom are GRAMMY and JUNO Award winners as well.
“Heart of Gold” is available now. https://orcd.co/heartofgoldlive
// ABOUT SULTANS OF STRING
Since releasing their debut album Luna in 2007, Sultans of String have continually strived to make each chart-topping album more original and meaningful than the last. That includes working with an orchestra (2013’s Symphony), teaming with Pakistani sitarist Anwar Khurshid (2015’s Subcontinental Drift) and even crafting a world-music holiday album (2017’s Christmas Caravan), which landed them on the Billboard charts and the New York Times. Their ambition and work ethic have garnered them multiple awards and accolades, including three JUNO Award nominations, first place in the International Songwriting Competition (out of 15,000 entries), three Canadian Folk Music Awards, and countless other honours.
Their live resumé is similarly stellar. Equally at home in a concert hall, jazz club or festival setting, the Sultans have gigged at the legendary club Birdland in New York, the renowned Celtic Connections Festival in the U.K. and the San Jose Jazz Festival. They have performed with symphonies across Canada and the U.S., and played live on BBC TV, Irish National Radio, World Cafe and SiriusXM in Washington.
November 23 @ Fergus Grand Theatre, Fergus ON
November 28 @ Banff Centre for the Arts, Banff AB
Christmas Caravan w/ Guest Rebecca Campbell November 29 @ Fish Creek Concerts, Calgary AB
Christmas Caravan w/ Guest Rebecca Campbell November 30 @ Festival Place, Sherwood Park AB
Christmas Caravan w/ Guest Rebecca Campbell December 1 @ Beneath the Arch Concerts, Turner Valley AB
Christmas Caravan w/ Guest Rebecca Campbell December 5 @ Wolf Performance Hall, London ON
Christmas Caravan w/ Guest Rebecca Campbell & Lynn Miles December 6 @ Live Wire Music, Kingston ON
Christmas Caravan w/ Guests Rebecca Campbell & Lynn Miles December 8 @ Concert Hall at Victoria Hall, Coburg ON
Christmas Caravan December 12 @ Empire Theatre, Belleville ON
December 13 @ Sanderson Centre, Brantford ON
Christmas Caravan w/ Guests Rebecca Campbell, Donné Roberts & Ken Whiteley December 14 @ Oakville Performing Arts Centre
Christmas Caravan w/ Guests Rebecca Campbell, Lynn Miles, Donné Roberts & Ken Whiteley
December 15 @ Kingston Road Village Concert Series
Christmas Caravan w/ Guests Rebecca Campbell, Lynn Miles, Donné Roberts & Tamar Ilana December 19 @ Shenkman Arts Centre, Ottawa ON
Christmas Caravan w/ Guests Rebecca Campbell, Lynn Miles, Kellylee Evans & Kristine St-Pierre
// CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:
- 2018 Canadian Folk Music Awards nominees– Producer of the Year
- 2018 Music featured in the acclaimed film, “Hotel Mumbai”
- 2017 Billboard World Music Charts — # 6
- 2017 JUNO nominees – World Music Album of the Year
- 2017 New York Times Hits List
- 2017 Billboard World Music Charts — # 15
- 2016 Canada’s High Commission in London UK presents SOS at Trafalgar Square
- 2016 Canadian Folk Music Awards winners– World Music Group of the Year
- 2016 Global Music Awards– World Music / Beats
- 2016 ISC – Honorable Mention
- 2015 JUNO nominees – Instrumental Album of the Year
- 2015 TIMA winners – Best World Album
- 2014 SiriusXM Independent Music Awards Winner- World Group of the Year
- 2014 IMA Independent Music Award Winner – Instrumental
- 2013 ISC International Songwriting Competition Winner- Instrumental
- 2013 Festivals & Events- Performer of The Year
- 2013 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for bandleader Chris McKhool
- 2012 Canadian Folk Music Awards winners– World Music Group of the Year
- 2012 Festivals & Events- Entertainer of The Year
- 2011 International Acoustic Music Awards Finalist – Instrumental
- 2011 Independent Music Award 2x Finalist – Instrumental & World Beat Album
- 2011 ISC International Songwriting Competition 2x Finalist- Instrumental & World Music
- 2010 JUNO Award Nominees – “Instrumental Album of the Year”
- 2010 Canadian Independent Music Awards nominees- Favorite World Group
- 2009 International Songwriting Competition (ISC) First Place – Instrumental
- 2009 Canadian Folk Music Award triple nominee winning Instrumental Group of the Year also nominated for Ensemble of the Year and Pushing the Boundaries)
- 2008 International Songwriting Competition Winner (ISC) – Instrumental
- 2008 Festivals & Events Ontario- Best Variety Act
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