BEN SURES at the Clawhammer Gallery in Fernie, B.C. Sunday September 15, 8pm
“YOU CREATE YOUR OWN STAGE AND YOUR AUDIENCE IS WAITING” – Chinese fortune cookie from the Ginger Beef Restaurant in Fernie
It’s all about trust. Gord Johnston has had it for years. It is a trust that patrons have in his musical taste. For years Gord Johnston was the musical director of the Swing Street Concert series and now, along with Terry Miller, organizes the Beannick Subscription Series in Cranbrook. In both series it doesn’t matter if the artist is a complete unknown. It all boils down to if Gordie thinks its good then all we have to do is show up and enjoy. Well Michael Hepher of the Clawhammer Gallery in Fernie can share that same mantle of trust. This is only the second Clawhammer Gallery performance that I have attended and like the Chris Coole concert (July 2012) it was well worth the drive from Cranbrook. Ben Sures? Who is Ben Sures? I had no idea who he was but after Sunday’s concert he is certainly on my musical radar. He is one of a number of performers from the cultural heartland of Canada (the prairies) that continue to outshine big city performers from Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, etc. The biographical details on his website (BEN SURES) are pretty sketchy but he looks like he stepped right out of a Mordecai Richler novel. A yarmulke (Jewish skull cap) in his wardrobe would not look out of place. Like many musicians of his generation his original influences are from the world of rock and roll. He has a personal affection for the music of Ray Davis and The Kinks. But, despite his use of the Fender Telecaster his music goes beyond those early influences. He obviously has paid attention to the original master of the electric blues, T-Bone Walker, and Ben’s original piece, the slow blues Pamela, was drenched in T-Bone melodic motifs. Although the rock/blues influence is there in his music there are other things that bounce to the fore every now and then. In the Spanish tune La Luna Entu Miranda he paid homage to the Cuban band Los Zafiros and their star guitarist Manuel Galban (of Bona Vista Social Club fame). West African guitar influences (Boubacar Traore) were also present throughout the evening. Also the classic blues were not forgotten and were front and center in the stunning slow slide guitar rendition of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s One Kind Favour. Apart from the touches of exotica in his music he has a quality that set him apart from some of his contemporaries. He has the ability to write with great clarity, universality and splashes of humor. He avoids the obscurity and angst favored by many modern songwriters. A stroll through his set list will give you some idea about the man and his music: Dig the Thing, I Could Be Your Man, Love will Kick You in the Ass, Eat Drink and Make Babies, Where Are They Now, Big Blue Box (of Dr Who fame), Saggy Baggy Faces (about mid-life), Rambling Bones, Winnipeg, Columbus (from experiences when working on a cruise ship), Everybody Matters, You’re Not My Last Girlfriend Anymore, I Used to Have a Ray Gun, Man on the Verge of Tears, Going to Bolivia, Dear Sarah, and one that struck a personal chord with me, Mose Allison’s Everybody’s Crying Mercy. Now, Mose Allison is, for most of us, an obscure blast from the past. Mose was a white piano blues player and vocalist that took a huge amount of criticism from the hipsters in the 50’s, 60’s and 70s. For those who considered themselves to be very essence of hip Mose was very un-hip. Despite the put downs he had to endured he continued to write and perform for 65 years and has only recently retired. Thanks Ben for reminding us of this musical icon. For the Clawhammer gig Ben was accompanied by Grant Stovel on drums and Chris Brzezicki on electric and upright basses. This was a great concert.
Thanks Mike for bringing Ben to town and we are looking forward to the next Clawhammer concert featuring Zachary Lucky on Saturday September 28th, 2013 http://zacharylucky.com/