For those of you not familiar with Toronto’s local pop rock, Justin Hines might be known to you as the singer of at least one song: There’s no place like this – Ontario, the official tourism song and slogan of our province.
Before its recording in 2009, award-winning Toronto singer-songwriter Justin Hines had already published two albums, Sides (2007), shortly followed by Chasing Silver (2008), and established himself as an artist to move audiences with his charming personality and the ability to inspire.
Last week I had the rare opportunity to experience Justin live in a concert taping for the PBS TV network. Around 350 invited guests gathered at The Royal on College Street to see his performance, which is going to be screened this summer in the United States.
Even before the show began, it was obvious why Justin continuously manages to have such an impact on his listeners. Justin was born with Larsen’s Syndrome, a congenital joint condition which confines him to a wheelchair. Being wheelchair bound doesn’t keep him from creating music so positive and hopeful, one feels blessed and thankful for the simple gift of existence.
Rolling up the ramps to the stage, Justin started to rock the show right away with a full acoustic band, consisting of guitar, cello, keyboard, drums, and a set of violins. When he began singing and even pulled out his harmonica with great ease, I really thought the show could not be topped. Guest appearances of some of Canada’s finest musicians called me wrong! Sierra Noble lent one of Justin’s songs her tender voice and fiddle play, followed by real-life couple and virtuoso fiddlers Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy. In the final act, vocal support of the internationally successful Canadian Tenors brought the audience to roar.
The real moment of greatness was rather quiet though. Together with Ron Sexsmith, Justin pulled off a cover of Bob Dylan’s I Want You, in which both artists successfully managed to keep the song’s original simplicity, yet fully transcended that very personal feeling of longing.
That evening, standing ovations proved Justin’s unique ability to reach out–inspired me to see talent instead of challenge, and kept the audience longing for more.
Justin Hines is currently recording his third album Days to Recall set to be released August 2, 2011 and can be seen live in concert again on June 8th in Brockville, Ontario, in support of National Access Awareness Week.