Don Walsh and the rest of Downchild have been prowling the province for a few days as Downchild’s Flip Flop and Fly tour was making stops at Festival Place in Sherwood Park and the Bowness Community Hall in Calgary.
During a down day in the itinerary, the harp and guitar playing Mr. Downchild and vocalist Chuck Jackson lent a hand to a CKUA event in downtown Calgary, performing a few tunes for a group of citizens who were being updated on CKUA’s impending physical moves in both Calgary and Edmonton.
If you hadn’t heard the news over the last few months, CKUA will be moving into the recently reconstructed Alberta Hotel on Jasper Avenue, which is situated on the lot just west of 97 street and Canada Place. That anticipated transition will take place sometime in mid-2012.
It is now public knowledge that in Calgary, CKUA will be moving into the National Music Centre that is being built on the site of the longtime “home of the blues” in Calgary, that being the King Eddy Hotel.
Both moves will provide CKUA with beautiful new surroundings, and a physical working environment much more conducive to providing the CKUA listening audience with even better radio programming. Along with new production facilities, the Alberta Hotel building will have a space dedicated to live performances, and other CKUA sponsored events and presentations that the listening audience and CKUA family can experience in person.
Head to www.nmc.ca and you’ll be brought up to date on the timelines for the completion of the National Music Centre, which is being directed out of the Cantos Music Foundation. The amazing Cantos keyboard collection will be rolled into the new centre, right along with the new Calgary CKUA studios.
Back to Downchild: the group is awaiting the release of the concert DVD that was shot at Massey Hall in Toronto a year ago. James Cotton, Colin Linden, Wayne Jackson of Memphis Horns fame and Dan Aykroyd were a few of the guests on hand as both Walsh and Jackson were chomping at the bit to see the release of the project.
“Well, that night at Massey Hall could have gone better,” said Walsh while brandishing his trademark grin.
“We just don’t know how,” chimed in Jackson, with a chuckle.
“Everybody was on. We had done a complete rehearsal for the concert that afternoon and had played Montreal and Ottawa on the nights prior to the show. So we felt a bit bagged that afternoon, but everyone rose to the occasion,” added Jackson, who without question, wears more hats than anyone on the Canadian blues scene. If Jackson isn’t playing with Downchild, he is producing festivals, booking excursions to Mississippi for golf and music enthusiasts or playing in other projects. Check out his website for confirmation of his activities.
“One thing that was really a pleasure for me on that tour was getting to hang out with James (Cotton) again,” said Walsh of the man who had mentored and encouraged Downchild back in the days when the group was just starting out.
“James and I took the tour bus from Ottawa to Toronto together for the Massey Hall date. It’s funny, you can know people for such a long time but rarely get to spend quality time with them. We finally did that for the first time in years. James is such a great man.”
Before long Walsh and Jackson were rolling through Cotton’s discography, recalling some of the outstanding tracks from the early part of Cotton’s solo catalogue.
Conversations like these serve as wonderful reminders that the best musicians are also the greatest fans of so many styles, artists, and idioms.
Jackson was raving about the fabulous job Todd Rundgren did producing Cotton on an early seventies session, while Walsh commented on a superb horn chart that the late Michael Bloomfield put together for the harp master in the same era, if not for the same session.
The chat went six ways from centre and Jackson reminded me that Rundgren’s Something Anything recording from the mid-seventies is an out-and-out classic that never sounds dated.
These gentlemen may be blues hounds, but as you can tell, blues Nazis they are not.
After playing half a dozen songs in a stripped down setting, at the Calgary/CKUA get-together, the two also reflected on how important CKUA has been to the success of Downchild through the years – well, decades. Make that four decades and counting.
“I think Holger’s Natch’l Blues show had just started before we made our first visit to Alberta. Those were the days of six-nighters and one of our first bookings was in the Kingsway tavern in Edmonton. It’s no coincidence that we have our best following in the west in Alberta and that CKUA continues to keep our audience in touch with what we are doing. There’s nothing out there like CKUA,” said Walsh to the audience in an up-close and personal interview conducted by Terry David Mulligan.
So here’s to another 40 years of Downchild, one of a handful of Canadian roots music bands that blazed the trail from coast to coast back in the late sixties.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that The Dream Band, which is fronted by Tim Williams, Steve Pineo and Portland bluesman Robbie Laws, had treated a number of Alberta communities to revue-styled shows, and that all involved were happy with the musical equation and the response from audiences in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Bragg Creek and Lethbridge.
Pacific Productions, the company that promoted those dates, is taking the boys down to Los Cabos in Mexico for a series of shows and a Blues Jammers Boot Camp around the time when we’ll all readily admit to being sick of winter.
The Boot Camp portion of the proceedings runs from Feb. 21 thru 24. Aspiring and emerging blues players can take a look at the faculty and the breakdown of instructional components and rehearsals by heading to pacificproductionscorp.com
Pacific Productions has also created a holiday music component for those of us who do not want to attend boot camp, preferring to soak up the sun and the sounds of “da blues.”
It seems some Alberta-based roots musicians have finally got the right idea about winter touring.
Saturday December 3 is the date set for the second Artz Thief Relief Concert which will support Expressionz Café. The café had its front doors bulldozed or smashed in on October 13 by some members of Edmonton’s criminal community.
The thieves, who must have cased the café, stole computers, tools, a sound board, accessories and even select pieces of art work that were on exhibition.
Expressionz has been a nice addition to Edmonton’s cultural scene as the multi-purpose venue is used by musicians, yoga groups, and visual artists. It also serves as the current home for the Uptown Folk Club. The kitchen consistently serves up great soups and culinary treats during the lunch hour.
The fundraiser will be hosted by former CKUA staffer Rhea March while Karla Anderson, Terry Morrison and Kevin Cook will all perform over the course of the evening. The Sasquatch Community Arts Society has organized a silent auction and a few special guests are expected to hit the stage as well.
Tickets are only $10 and Expressionz Café is located at 9938-70 avenue. The stage lights go up at 7:30.