Last week saw a parade of events that in one way or another celebrated the Alberta music scene and I had the opportunity to make my way to a few of these functions.
Up first on the itinerary was the Edmonton Blues Society, unveiling the first installments of what will be an annual Memphis Bound Blues Challenge. The society produced two nights of competitive performances at the Yardbird Suite.
Wednesday night was an acoustic affair and the follow-up evening on November 4th saw three electric acts compete in another qualifying round that leads to the finals, which are to be held in the same venue on Sunday November 13.
Accepting the role of emcee on the acoustic night I found myself in the company of three judges, Rhea March, Dale Ladouceur and Melanie Cheek, all of whom have been evaluating and critiquing talent for a number of years, for various organizations and as part of their personal creative journeys.
When the night was over the two performers who found themselves moving on to the finals were a couple of veteran artists, Brian “Breezy” Gregg and the piano-playing Dan Sinasac.
From all reports, the Thursday night program at the Yardbird rocked from start to finish as Jimmy and the Sleepers and Boogie Patrol took the top two rungs on that ladder and will move on to the finals.
Boogie Patrol has a wealth of originals to draw on, many of which are found on the quintet’s new disc 'I Try and I Try, But I Don’t Know What To Do', and that, believe it or not, is the abbreviated version of the album title.
Having wandered into the CKUA building on a few autumn evenings, I was also aware that Jim Guiboche and his Sleepers had been rehearsing diligently, and focusing on a number of new originals during the weeks leading up to the competition.
Hats off to the EBS board members and volunteers for putting in an enormous amount of leg work, and getting this project off the ground. If it is possible, and I don’t know the bylaws of the EBS, I think it would be terrific if the competition was opened up to blues and blues-based acts from all over the province.
I’m also a little surprised that I didn’t see a few local artists like Bombchan’s Mike Park in the competition with his band or as a solo artist, or Graham Guest, who is one of Canada’s finest blues pianists. Then again Graham is an incredibly busy musician and his personal itinerary may have prevented him from entering this year. As an observer, it would have broadened the scope of the competition if young Michael Rault had thrown his hat in the ring, but for all we know the talented singer-songwriter and guitarist may have other commitments in early February, when the Memphis Blues Challenge is held. But the most important thing in all this is that the EBS, with an initial nudge from CKUA’s Cam Hayden, got this project rolling. There’s no question that it will be a great annual addition to the local blues calendar.
The Memphis Bound Blues Challenge Finals take place on Sunday November 13 at 1:30 at the Yardbird Suite and tix are $10 and available at the door.
Tim Williams was hosting the Saturday afternoon jam and a large and appreciative audience was fortunate to hear a 45-minute set with Portland guitar great Robbie Laws sitting in with Williams.
Williams was grinning from ear to ear when he left the stage for a break, and for any number of reasons.
“Robbie, Steve Pineo myself are having a great weekend,” reported Williams who was definitely working overtime and enjoying every minute of it.
“The Dream Band project has sold out all the tickets to our two Ironwood Stage and Grill shows plus we had a pretty good night at the Vat in Red Deer where we dusted all the tunes off on the Thursday night,” continued Williams who was also toasting the Blues Can.
“These jams are drawing nice crowds, plus the Blues Can has the best southern food in town coming out of the kitchen. The crawfish po’ boys are to die for.”
Head to www.thebluescan.com and take a look at the entertainment schedule and the menu. The band I keep hearing a loud buzz about is the Dean – Godovitz Band. Yes that would be Canadian rock warhorses, Paul Dean of Loverboy and Greg Godovitz of Goddo fame, and the two are having a ball ripping it up on a regular basis in this inviting, patron friendly venue.
Meanwhile there has been no shortage of favorable reports coming out of Mikey’s Juke Joint, which is also fanning the blues flame in Cowtown. Most recently Steve Marriner of Monkeyjunk was raving about the turnout for a late October appearance for his Ottawa-based band.
Backtracking a bit, I also had the pleasure of interviewing CKUA’s Holger Petersen at the new location of Greenwood’s Books on Whyte Avenue and 103 street on Thursday November 3, for what was the Edmonton launch of Holger’s book, Talking Music.
Great turnout, and Edmonton roots music fans snapping up dozens of copies of the book that is comprised of 19 interviews with legendary and pioneering musicians from both sides of the Atlantic including Bill Wyman, Mick Fleetwood, Ry Cooder and the late Jeff Healey.
Holger will do it all over again in Calgary on Thursday November 17 at the Cantos Music Foundation. For that event CKUA’s Tom Coxworth will be interviewing Holger about compiling such a book and discussing specific interviews that are found in 'Talking Music', which has been published by Insomniac Press.
Cantos Music Foundation is at 134 – 11 Avenue S.E. and the event begins at 7:30. Of course the event is free and as an added bonus, Tim Hus will also be performing a few tunes.
Last Saturday night in the Art Gallery of Alberta theatre, Alberta Music produced a tight, focused program that clocked in at an hour. Paul Brandt, who was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, provided some moving moments during his acceptance speech. Alberta Music also glanced back at some significant contributions that individuals in our community have made over the last half century, including Hal Yerxa who founded CFCW back in the fifties. Yerxa was posthumously presented with a Heritage Award.
I had the privilege of presenting the Emerging Artist Award and the list of nominees was a strong representation of the deep talent pool of young artists in this province. Colleen Brown and Michael Rault are favorites of the CKUA audience, while Wetaskiwin’s Karl Schmonik is making a name for himself in the jazz community and Calgary’s Lindsay Ell is establishing herself as both a strong tunesmith and performer.
The winner of the Emerging Artist Award was another Calgarian, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, who provided the sold-out house with a string of hilarious one-liners after accepting the award. Moments later he turned in an engaging set of original tunes in the main foyer of the AGA.
Top to bottom, a great evening that was a reminder that we have a strong music community in this province, and one that felt united, which hasn’t always been the case.
Look for Alberta Music to produce the 2012 Alberta Music Awards in Calgary in a year’s time.
Francois Chauvon: Premiere Suite
by W McClain, baroque oboe / A Melville, recorder