Guy Davis – Story Teller

Guy Davis & Fabrizio Poggi : “Sonny and Brownie’s Last Train”   Stage 64, Kimberley, Sunday October 14, 2018, 3 pm.

They did it again. The organizing committee has this rule not to invite repeat performers. Much to our joy, a few weeks back, they set the rule aside for Gabriel Palatchi for him to perform in this fall’s Jazz and Blues Concert Series. Now they have done the same for Guy Davis. One could make the case that Guy’s previous performance in Kimberley was a solo act and this time around it is not the same thing. He has the Italian Blues Harp player Fabrizio Poggi along for the ride (considering the concert title the pun is intended). The duo is fresh from this year’s Grammy nomination in the Traditional Blues Category for their recording Sonny and Brownie’s Last Train – A look back at Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. The project was recorded in the summer of 2016 in Milan and the album features the original, title track song written by Guy Davis, songs by both Sonny and Brownie, as well as songs known to have been recorded and performed by the famed duo but written by their contemporaries, such as Libba Cotton and Leadbelly. The famous blues duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee set the standard for the blues harmonica, guitar and vocal combination and were professionally very active when Guy Davis and I were very young men. Guy is an actor, writer, and all round African American renaissance blues man. He plays in a tradition that has been largely rejected by contemporary black musicians as irrelevant  and the genre has largely been appropriated by white musicians. A point to note is that at the Grammy Awards Guy’s recording was beaten out by The Rolling Stones Blue and Lonesome – a white band paying tribute to black musicians of a bye gone era. I think there is some irony in that.

Afro-Americans of Guy’s generation mostly favor the urban styles of Soul, Funk, hip-hop and rap. By rights, as a urban black man that should have been his musical route forward. Instead he chose to look back to former times and mine the rich musical mother load of a century of blues traditions. As a harmonica player, guitarist, vocalist and story teller he succeeds  at a level unmatched by his contemporaries. Apart from his technical mastery of the musical idiom I think the success of his performances lies in his story telling. All truly great songs tell a story and the blues are no exception.

His sidekick for the project is an Italian and how an Italian could submerge himself so completely in a foreign American tradition is beyond me. I am sure that in his personal blues journey there lies a tale worth hearing.

The duo kicked off the evening with two classic pre-World War II country blues – Tommy Jackson’s Maggie Campbell’s Blues and Blind Boy Fuller’s Step it Up and Go. In the 1960s every blues anthology of note included these performers. They were right up there with Robert Johnson and Big Bill Broonzy. The rest of the concert included Brownie McGee’s Walk on,  ‘Cause I’m Evil, Sonny’s Horray, Horray These Women is Killing Me, Robert Johnson’s Walkin’ Blues, Elizabeth Cotton’s Freight Train, Leadbelly’s Midnight Special, Bob Dylan’s Lay, Lady, Lay (complete with some of Bob’s vocal mannerisms), Sleepy John Estes You’ve Got to Give Account (with some really nice guitar picking) and Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Please See that My Grave is Kept Clean. As well as all the traditional old time blues Guy performed some of his originals. Including Lime Town, Kokomo Kid, I’m Going to Shake it like Sonny Did, I Wish I Hadn’t Stayed Away So Long, Blackberry Kisses, Sonny and Brownie’s Last Ride  and, probably one of the best narrative songs I have heard in a long time, Sugar Belly. It was the story of mixed race girl cursed with great beauty. It was a song so powerful that one of my neighbors was reduced to tears. Here are some more images from the evening.

               This is Guy’s third trip to the area. He performed at the Studio / Stage Door in Cranbrook many years ago and more recently, April April 11, 2015 at Centre 64 as part of a concert series. Guy lives in New York so to come to Kootenays at least once is a big deal. To come three times is almost heroic. I have been to all three concerts and if he should walk though the door again over the next couple of weeks for another concert I would be beating down the door to attend.

On behalf of the organizing committee the MC Peter Kearns would like to thank fellow committee members, the many volunteers and the sponsors Burrito Grill and  A B&B at 228 for making the concert series possible. Thanks to Guy Davis and Fabrizio Poggi coming all this way to give us a truly wonderful evening of music and stories.

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Post Script: The Guy Davis concert ended an East Kootenay “Blue Period”. Over a two weeks there have been four concerts that thematically focused on The Blues. First out the gate was Clinton Swanson / Kelly Fawcett / Doug Stephenson Blues Trio at Stage 64 in Kimberley on September 29, 2018. This was followed by Canada’s Queen of the Blues Rita Chirelli and her band at the Key City, Cranbrook on Friday October 12, 2018 and Tracy K / Jamie Steinhoff Duo in the Saloon Lounge of the Heritage Inn in Cranbrook on Saturday October 13, 2018 and, finally, Guy Davis and Fabrizio Poggi at Stage 64 in Kimberley on Sunday afternoon, October 14, 2018. All told that is a pretty meaty dish of blues fare in a very short period of time.

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Tracy K & Jamie Steinhoff Blues Duo

The saloon bar in the Heritage Inn Convention isn’t a new venue. It has been around for  a while and has mostly been used as a venue for stand up comedians. The manager took note of the success of Auntie Barb’s Bakery and Bistro as a music venue and figured “well he could do that”. It was a good move. For music the room is ideal. Perhaps a slightly raised stage could improve the sight lines but apart from that the lighting is reasonable and the sound acceptable. And, more to the point, the room is quiet and the audience respectful. Louis (“Louie”) Cupello has lined up some fine acts to get the ball rolling.

Local singer/song writer Maddi Keiver was back in town following her recent trip to Dublin, Ireland. She opened the evening with some cover tunes before moving onto her original songs Three crows at the Funeral Home, Crystal Clear, Landslide and Hopeless. In between these she squeezed in a version of The House of the Rising Sun.

         Once again the Winnipeg / Thunder Bay musical axis strikes another blow. Every once in a while the musicians from that neck of the woods venture out into the wider world and refresh our memories of how central that axis is to the Canadian musical landscape. This time around it was the blues duo of Tracy K (vocals, guitar and blues harp) and her musical side kick Jamie Steinhoff (vocals, guitar and resonator slide guitar). Musically the duo has been around the block for a number of years;  traveling back and forth across Canada and down “blues highway 61” into the American south to savor the heartbeat of the blues.   Tracy was raised on sixties radio and her brother’s hippie records and began her professional career at twenty five while living in Toronto. She moved back to Beausejour in the 1990s, started a family and, eventually, began her solo career. She is inspired by local blues greats Big Dave Maclean and Brent Parkin, and contemporaries Rita Chiarelli, Sue Foley and Suzie Vinnick. She is currently Nominee for Blues Artist of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards in October 2018. On the other hand (so to speak) Jamie Steinhoff started his musical life as a Blue Grass banjo player. He still has a great love for the style but over the years he has slipped into a role as a blues performer.    As a duo Tracy and Jamie have traveled a lot in 2018 for folk festivals and a Home Routes Tour.

Perhaps Tracy is best known for her blues harmonica playing and her affinity for the old time female blues singers of by gone eras. In the first set she paid homage to Sippie Wallace with a version of Everybody Loves My Baby and Memphis Minnie’s Chauffeur Blues (originally recorded in 1941). Here and there throughout the evening Tracy  performed some of her original material, a jazz tune here and there and even Anne Murray / Gene MacLellan‘s Snowbird. Her sidekick, Jamie Steinhoff, when not traveling with Tracy, has a real job as a cook. His musical repertoire includes some Blind Blake, Dave Van Ronk and Brownie McGee tunes with great finger picking on both the resonator slide guitar (in open D or open G) and a wonderful Guild F-40 acoustic guitar (I love the shape of that instrument). He also dipped into the country bag with an original song called Too Low Down to Sing the Blues (so I have to sing a country song). His back up slide playing on Nobody Knowns Atlanta Like I Do was outstanding. Here are images from the concert ….                 

As a venue The Heritage Saloon is great addition to the local music scene and I am looking forward to hearing Ken Hamm perform here on Saturday November 3, 2018.

Tracy and Jamie would like express their thanks to the house staff and the audience for their support of live music. They would especially like to thank Tom Bungay for the sound system and John Bisset for the setting up the stage

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Clinton Swanson Blues Trio at Stage 64

The Nelson based Sax player Clinton Swanson has “brand name” recognition here in the East Kootenays. Over the years Clinton with his pork-pie hat and quiver of saxophones has been a frequent visitor to the area. Most recently he was with the Melody Diachun’s  “Back to the Groove Tour” and also with  Jon and Holly in a Cranbrook Summer Sounds Rotary Park concert. Because of  that “Brand Name ” recognition it was understandable that the group was billed as the Clinton Swanson Blues Trio. In actual fact it was more appropriately the Kelly Fawcett Blues Trio with Clinton Swanson on tenor and baritone saxes and Doug Stephenson on bass. Once the concert got going it was easy to hear why Clinton said “we are part of Kelly’s trio and we are here to support him”. Kelly is a new  face to most of us but he has been a long time friend and musical associate of Clinton and they have toured together frequently over the years. The other member of the trio, Doug Stephenson is also a well known Nelson musician who has also toured extensively in the Kootenays. He is living proof that to make a living as a professional musician these days one can’t have “too many arrows in one’s quiver”. I first encountered him playing bass guitar behind Gabriel Palatchi, then as a nylon string Bossa Nova guitarist with Melody Diachun, then as full on electric guitarist with Melody Diachun’s “Back to the Groove Tour”. On this particular night with Kelly Fawcett he is a stand up bass player (no pun intended). In every performance circumstance he looks like he is having way too much fun. He excels on all his instruments and that probably explains why he is in such demand. I am not sure how he is able to keep up his superb skill levels on all instruments. He must practice constantly, all day, every day. I must ask him about that.

In this day and age we are used to Blues groups being guitar based. You know the usual configuration – drums, electric bass, rhythm guitar and a screaming lead electric guitar backing up one or more vocalists. Kelly Fawcett is the vocalist and guitarist in the group, Doug is the bass player but there is no drummer. To be honest, the absence of a drummer is a plus. Without a drummer there was lots of space in the music to hear the vocals, the finger picking guitar leads and backups, and Clinton’s and Doug’s superb solos.

The night kicked of with a couple of standard tunes. Dr John’s New Orleans inspired Such a Night from the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz and Robert Johnson’s Walking Blues. In the latter Kelly played some excellent open G slide guitar. From then on the night was a mixture of Country Blues, Jump Tunes (Let the Good Times Roll, Crazy About My Baby), old time tunes (Nobody knowns Atlanta Like I Do), a novelty number here and there, a Tom Waits number (Hey Little Bird Fly Away Home) and, to brighten up the sonic landscape, a few original tunes (Numbers Blues / The Gamblers Blues and Cheddar). For me there were a couple of standout tunes namely Kelly’s interpretation of Taj Mahal’s  classic Fishing Blues and Clinton Swanson’s baritone Sax exploration of Harlem Nocturne. All in all another classic concert in the Fall Jazz and Blues Series. Here are some images from the evening ……..

          

As always, thanks must go to the volunteers, the organizing committee, The Burrito Grill for feeding the musicians and “A B&B at 228” for the musicians lodgings.

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The Trials and Tribulations of a Musician

A LITTLE VOODOO – Contemporary Blues, Centre 64, Saturday October 17, 2015, 8pm. This is the third concert in the fall Jazz and Blues Festival series.

Everyone would like to play music but for a potential musician the first step is deciding to actually go ahead and do it. First step is to get hold of an instrument, take some lessons and start practicing. Then there is the whole process of developing a professional skill set to make it all worth while. It is supposed to be fun, and it often is, but as the old saying goes “10% inspiration, 90% sweat”. So it isn’t as easy as some people imagine. Then there is the search for musically compatible partners to maybe form a working band. By this time you and your musical partners have been playing for years and the aim is then to develop a really tight group sound. And, of course, if you are a rock/blues musician you have “to have the moves” for an on stage performance. At last you have arrived. The sound is tight, the moves groove, but lo, everything is not quite as it should be. It all starts to become a little to rote and stale. Even in the most popular and successful bands then comes a time when every performance starts sounding the same. The music has all been done before and even the banter in between tunes sounds just a little bit too rehearsed.There are no surprises and, often that is exactly what the audience wants, but musically it may not be that satisfying. But then along comes A Little Voodoo (Ron Burke – lead guitar; Tom Knowles – bass guitar; and Rob Vulic – drums) a Blues / Rock outfit whose avowed aim is to go beyond tight and loosen it all up a bit. Risk is the name of the game and the result is “real live music”. The last set list Ron put together was back in the 90’s so the performances are coming out of the air and everybody has to be on his toes. This Calgary band was a real treat for a Kimberley audience that may not have been used to loud, in your face blues/rock music that owed a lot to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Hendrix and the like. Never-the-less they took it in their stride and obviously enjoyed the opening tune with the refrain “I’m tired of living hand to mouth”. What followed was a night of exciting music that included a stellar version of Donovan’s (remember him, a soft sell folkie from way back in the 60s) of Sunshine Superman. There was nothing soft sell about this version!! Not to be outdone by all that came before in the evening the band finished the night with a lesson in constructive feed back. At the end of which Ron finally left his Epiphone guitar standing in the rack while it continued to echo its way through its feed back riffs. To help those riffs reverberate in your mind’s eye here are some images from the evening.

367. Ron Burke  112. Tom Knowles   300. Ron Burke  200. Rob Vulic 216. Rob Vulic308. Ron Burke    320. Ron Burke   312. Ron Burke  100. Tom Knowles   106. Tom Knowles   104. Tom Knowles212. Rob Vulic242. Rob Vulic   355. Ron Burke   227. Rob Vulic353. Ron Burke

348. Ron Burke  360. Ron Burke    362. Ron Burke002. Voodoo Header

I hate to sound repetitive but the Stage 64 / Centre 64 organization have scored top marks again. Another sold out show, another stellar performance and mucho thanks to the organizers, sponsors and volunteers.

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Blue Moon Marquee at Studio 64

The Third Concert in the Studio 64 Spring Series – Blue Moon Marquee : Saturday May 23, 2015, 8pm.

100. Blue Moon Marquee

In any story about the blues, the classic blues singer  Ma Rainy explained with a refreshing lack of decorative affectation: “You got the St. Louie Blues, the Chicago blues, the gin house blues, the my-man-done-left-me blues. They all the same song with the same three chords. And you done heard ’em a dozen hundred times from a dozen hundred people. So what makes folks wanna hear it from you?” She was right of course. You can play the same old story but you have to give it a little unique twist to get peoples attention. I think Blue Moon Marquee manages to do just that.The blues is not a complex musical form. Lyrically it is just a three stanza form – a single line repeated then a final variant line. Musically it uses three basic chords. 200. A.W.CardinalSo really there is not much to it and yet here we are 50+ years down the road from the classic era and musicians continue milk inspiration from the blues. Blue Moon Marquee are a couple of young musicians from High River, Alberta that have added their own particular twist to the tradition. A.W. Cardinal is the guitar player and singer with a voice akin to broken glass underfoot in a bar room brawl. Jasmine Colette is “the little white girl 306. Jasmine Colettewith the big fiddle” (or so the aboriginal kids called her in the Yukon on a tour up there last winter). Jasmine or “Jassy” claims to have only recently taken up upright bass and like all bass players she has her own little unique dance going with that big cumbersome instrument. Have you noticed all bass players have a dance thing going on when they perform? Jasmine adds some percussion to the mix with a Hi-hat, pedal brush snare and a bass drum. The result is a surprisingly full sound for just a duo. There is just enough percussion to add accents and make the music interesting. Their theme for the night was “booze and Blues” somewhat inspired by a raucous gig in Nelson the night before. The music was a mixture of originals and some classic tunes such as Charlie Patton’s Shake it and Break It and the ever popular St James Infirmary.  Unlike the deep south  Alberta does not have cotton fields but is does have  pipe lines. As an Alberta boy A.W.  did his share of labor in the the oil patch so it was fitting for him to  perform “Moon” Mulligan’s Pipeliners Blues.  Here are some images from the evening:

212. A.W. Cardinal    218a. A.W. Cardinal  216. A.W. Cardinal302. Jasmine Colette224. A.W. Cardinal254. A.W. Cardinal300a. Jasmine Colette   316. Jasmine Colette   332. Jasmine Colette214. A.W. Cardinal    200a. A.W. Cardinal    218. A.W. Cardinal   266. A.W. Cardinal   322. Jasmine Colette  340. Jasmine Colette  342. Jasmine Colette330. Jasmine Colette

Once again the the organizing committee have hit the jackpot with another amazing concert. They would like to thank the following sponsors and volunteers: The Burrito Grill, Mountain Spirit Resort, “The Bulletin”, Christine, Irma, Ray (for sound and lights) and Rod Wilson (photography). The MC was Keith Nicholas.

Note: That Studio 64 is the downs stairs room in Centre 64.

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Here is a little taste of what we experienced at the concert – a Youtube video of Sugar Dime   and Driftin’.

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National Steel Blues Emergency Tour

 

Doc Maclean and Morgan Davis: The National Steel Blues Emergency Tour at Centre 64, Monday October 29th, 2012, 8pm.

The days of the classic blues performers and race recordings of the 1930’s  are long, long gone. Even the days of folk/blues renaissance of the 1960s are fading into the mists of time. That was the last opportunity for a younger generation to touch bases with and be inspired by the likes of Mississippi John Hurt and the Rev. Garry Davis. Blues promoters of that era managed to find a few long retired classic blues musicians and coax them back into the public limelight for largely white college kids. The blues lessons from these old performers was taken to heart and basically it ignited and rejuvenated a blues scene that spilled over into the British rock scene and changed the face of popular music. What came about was not exactly blues in the old country tradition of the rural south. It had moved up town, discovered electricity and was brash and loud. Never-the-less it created an atmosphere where blues of every shade and persuasion continued to survive. Doc Maclean and Morgan Davis are among a number of performers who didn’t move up town but rather stayed true to the country traditions. Of  course nothing ever stays exactly the same. Doc and Morgan both use electricity and amplification but in a manner that is a far cry from the “enormodome” theatrics of huge arena shows. They are probably two of a hand full of musicians who can actually reach back to the authentic musical experiences of the bye gone classic blues. The classic tradition was about blues but it also incorporated gospel, ragtime, novelty tunes and an abundance of stories.   Folk musicians in every tradition are essentially story tellers. Saturday night’s performance was a skillful weaving of songs, humor and stories into a spell binding traditional tapestry that links us to a long gone era. The tools of their trade were some pretty old guitars (an old old Stella and a National Steel), blues harp, washboard, a three stringed cigar box guitar with an incredible sound (tuned A E A) and a couple of old off the shelf electric guitars. Doc’s slide of choice was a 11/16 inch Mastercraft Socket Wrench, Morgan was more inclined to use a 5/8 inch. So there was lots of finger picking, slide, subtle percussion, blues harp and a plethora of songs from all across the rural south. Songs included, Robert Johnson’ “When You Got a Good Friend”, Sleepy John Eastes’ “Going Down to Brownsville”, the classic “Stagger Lee”, the novelty song “Cats” (“dogs have people, cats have staff”), Sonny Terry and Brownie Magee’s “Come on if you’re Coming”, the gospel song “I will meet you on the Other Shore”, Jelly Roll Blues” and “Reefer Smoking Man”. Interspersed with the songs was some marvelous stage patter. Even the sales promotion of their CDs received a round of applause. Here are some images from the evening:

                                                                 

The Kimberley Centre 64 engagement is about two thirds the way through a 60 show tour that started out in Quebec City on September 5, 2012. The tour  crisscrosses back and forth across the country to finish in Winnipeg on November 16, 2012. That is a grueling schedule of almost back to back shows and despite the pressure the musicians appeared to be relaxed and in full command of the stage. It was an excellent show and it had what I always appreciate in a performance, music that had room to breathe. There was lots of space in the music.There was no helter/skelter on this stage. If the opportunity presents itself go see these two master blues players.

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Heather Gemmell & The Jazz Council

JUST ANOTHER FRIDAY NIGHT OF LIFE WITHOUT A DRUMMER.

HEATHER GEMMELL at the Pickled Bean Cafe (Cranbrook International Airport), Friday August 3, 2012 5pm. The weather is heating up and so is the local music scene. No sooner had I pronounced the local scene dead than things have started to happen. Heather has managed to string together a series of solo engagements and that meant no drummer. I, for one, didn’t mind. It was an opportunity to hear some of Heather’s especially fine guitar work. And judging by the audience response, airport and cafe patrons were more than happy to kick back and enjoy a more mellow version of  Heather`s rootsy/blues offerings. I have this wish list. I would like to see and hear more of Heather in a more jazzy laid back environment. I have this image of her performing with an upright bass player and a really hot soprano sax player as a perfect foil to her voice and bluesy guitar. With lots of space in the music I think it would be a really cool combination. This engagement was part of the Airport and the Pickled Bean Cafe`s Summer Artist Showcase series. Keep in mind that on most Friday evening, 5-7pm, local performers have an opportunity to play for anybody passing through the airport.Over the next few weeks Daze of Grace, Leather Britches and Tom Bungay will be performing.        

(Click on the images for a larger view)

THE JAZZ COUNCIL at Ric’s Lounge in Cranbrook, Friday August 3, 2012, 7 pm. Well, I never did get the story straight about their drummer Sven Heyde. He either got lost, was ditched by the band or he was away in a huff because the bass player Joel Kroeker and Tim Plait are leaving the band. Without the drummer Laurel Ralston (trumpet and fluegelhorn), Bernie Primbs (baritone sax) Tim and Joel soldiered on. It was not a hardship. In fact, on a couple of piano / bass duets the drummer would have only been clutter (sorry Sven). Even without the drummer it was another very civilized night of music, food and refreshments. The band kicked off the evening with a tune long associated with Armad Jamal and Miles Davis – “If I Were a Bell“ – complete with the corny, but essential, piano intro. The band and worked their way through such jazz standards as “Summertime“, “Moonglow“, “I`ve Got You Under My Skin“ and “It had to Be You“. My favourite of the evening was Luis Bonfa`s “Manha De Carnaval`(Morning of the Carnival`) from the wonderful 1959 classic film “Black Orpheus“. This is a tune definitely touched by the gods and Joel`s exploration of the melody was especially fine.

                    Keep in Mind THE JAZZ COUNCIL will be performing at the Arts on the Edge Gala at Centre 64 in Kimberley next Friday and will be giving a farewell performance next Saturday at the Studio – Stage Door for Tim Plait who is heading off to Germany and Joel Kroeker who is taking up a teaching position in Sparwood.The Jazz Council will be back in the fall with a new line up and some exciting musical adventures.

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