Keeping the Eyes Peeled and the Ears Perked for those Detours
As the producer and announcer of the weekly CKUA program Dead Ends and Detours
, it is my mission to keep track of happenings in the world of jam band music, and an eye out for artists who are part of the extended Grateful Dead family.
There is no shortage of material from new recordings to inject into the program. A new entry into the playlist could be lifted from a fresh fusion project featuring guitarists like Jimmy Herring from Widespread Panic, or Jim Weider of The Band fame. At the other end of the spectrum, a disc of all Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter tunes could land on my desk and the most recent item in that department comes from bluegrass icon Jesse McReynolds
. At 80 years of age McReynolds is acknowledged as one of “the” innovators in bluegrass mandolin, but also respected as a musician who was willing to step out of the rigid confines of traditional bluegrass, and incorporate drums and steel guitars into recording sessions where he and his late brother Jim would at times draw on material that was blues-based or steeped in the honky-tonk tradition.
This new album from McReynolds, Songs of the Grateful Dead
, was snapped up for distribution by Woodstock Records, based out of, you guessed it, Woodstock New York.
Which nicely dovetails into my point that it is much harder to pass on info about bands and artists touring our part of the world who fall under the giant umbrella that is the jam band scene.
We’ve been fortunate to catch a few lightning-in-a-bottle shows from the likes of Levon Helm, Jorma Kaukonen, The Derek Trucks Band, John Scofield, and The New Riders of the Purple Sage, at festivals or concert venues. Locals like Grassroot Deviation chipped in with a memorable evening of improvisation combined with brilliant production at the Space Sciences Centre a couple of years ago. While we have multiple Alberta dates with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones to look forward to in early December, another group that fits the bill is Professor Louie and the Crowmatix
, who make their way to the province for a string of dates that kick off with a two-night stand at the Ironwood Stage and Grill on Thursday, November 4 and Friday, November 5.
Professor Louie is a keyboardist, arranger, songwriter, bandleader, and also the proprietor of Woodstock Records.
It was just over two years ago that Suzanne Searle, who does a lot of work for the Black Diamond cultural society Beneath The Arch, ended up booking Professor Louie and company for a date that required filling, after Blackie and the Rodeo Kings cancelled a tour in response to Colin Linden landing a gig playing in Emmylou Harris’s road band.
Searle raved about Louie, the audience from the Black Diamond, Okotoks, Turner Valley area raved about Louie, so Searle was determined to get the band back to Alberta. Not an easy task, considering the group is a quintet, used to commanding a decent buck and not all that well known in these parts.
Searle’s tenacity has paid off and along with the Ironwood dates, Professor Louie and the Crowmatix will also play Festival Place in Sherwood Park on Saturday Nov. 6, before roaring back to Black Diamond for a concert/show at the Black Diamond Hotel the next day.
Louie is one of those musicians with a long and impressive resume, much of it built around his association with The Band. His contributions to that camp include work on the 1993 comeback album Jericho
and he co-produced the final two Band discs, High On The Hog
, and had held the same role on the late-Rick Danko’s best solo effort Times Like These.
“I was also Danko’s duo partner for quite a while. The Crowmatix were put together to back Rick up, but that wasn’t to be, so we continued on,” says the Professor alluding to the tragic death of Danko in the late nineties. Professor Louie also dips into Band territory on the new Crowmatix album, which is named for the Richard Manuel/Band song Whispering Pines
joyously dances through a lot of musical territory, ranging from The Band to Staple Singers-influenced vocals, to pasting a huge groove on Dylan’s Gotta Serve Somebody. Whispering Pines
has been short-listed by the Grammy organization in a roots category. I would suspect that the Jesse McReynolds album will get a Grammy nomination nod in 2011, as it stands as one of the top three tributes to Garcia and Hunter recorded to date.
“We all know the record business isn’t easy these days, but I am working with acts that are out on the road and selling a lot of product at shows. The New Riders are working like crazy and the band is about to put together a follow-up to Where I Come From
which we released two years ago. With all these shows under their belts, the band with David Nelson, Buddy Cage and Michael Falzarano on the front line are really sounding strong,” says Louie of the group that is inextricably linked to the Dead.
Like his pals in the New Riders, Professor Louie inserts tunes from the Grateful Dead repertoire into the Crowmatix set lists and two songs that the band nails, and have recorded, are Scarlet Begonias and Jack A Roe.
“We really stretch out on Scarlet Begonias, and I think Alberta audiences will like what we do. They sure did on that one date,” added the musician who is pleased to be expanding his touring territory into this part of the world.
Fans of the jam band, sixties psychedelic scene might also be interested in a double disc titled The Cool Aid Benefit Album
which has just been released by Vancouver’s Regenerator Records.
Many acts from the Vancouver scene of that era were never documented properly and the Collectors and early Chilliwack crew, along with singer-songwriter Tom Northcott were the two acts that seemed to find their way to the studio regularly.
There have been a few re-issues and compilations show up over the past few years, including one from the United Empire Loyalists, but this set, that includes a number of previously unreleased tracks, will give listeners a taste of the diversity of what was a vibrant scene.
This release boasts tracks from Mock Duck, fronted by Joe Mock who would go on to form Pied Pumpkin, Papa Bear’s Medicine Show Band which was the opening act on the first Edmonton Led Zeppelin show, Hydro Electric Streetcar, Blacksnake Blues Band and Mother Tucker’s Yellow Duck. The entire package has been remixed and also includes a bonus DVD with many of the aforementioned acts performing on broadcasts of a popular late sixties Vancouver CBC-TV music show titled Let’s Go.
If you are interested in this particular chapter of western Canadian music history check out regeneratorrecords.com
and I hope to do a feature on this album, complete with interviews on an upcoming installment of Dead Ends and Detours