Speaking to the human condition
With tunes such as Eat, Drink and Make Babies and Love Will Kick Your Ass, Ben Sures’ new album is comprised of some blues, a touch of folk — and a whole lot of quirk.
Holger Petersen, host of CBC Radio’s Saturday Night Blues show, saw more folk than blues in Sures’ Son of Trouble release, while CKUA Folk Routes host Tom Coxworth called it a blues record, said Sures.
Either description is fine with the Edmonton-based singer/songwriter who’s holding a CD release party on Saturday nigh at The Hideout, south of Red Deer.
“I’m not a blues guy or a folk singer, I’m just me. . . . What this actually is is a Ben Sures record,” said Sures, who believes he’s “always too folksie for the non-folksies and not folksie enough for the folksies.
The 45-year-old Winnipeg native is mostly known for his idiosyncratic song stylings. And his new album serves up plenty of unexpected lyrics amid the catchy melody lines.
Sures believes his plain-spoken style speaks to the human condition in a relate-able way. For instance his tune Love Will Kick Your Ass goes: “There’s no reason to stop following your heart. Life would not be life if it didn’t smart . . . .”
“The last verse says that love is worth it,” said Sures, who took the optimistic step of proposing to his girlfriend of 10-plus years recently. But when asked if a wedding date has been set, the singer responded with a resounding “No! Just being engaged is OK for now. Let’s take it one thing at a time!”
Sures is a slow mover, who admittedly “didn’t get my driver’s licence until I was 30 because I wasn’t in a situation where I needed it.”
While proceeding cautiously through life, Sures often wades into contentious territory with his music. Eat, Drink and Make Babies is described as an irreverent ode to trailer park life. The 99 is a “punk blues” song that marries Wayne Gretzky to the Occupy movement, while I Could Be Your Man turns the notion of superficially judging people for their physical attributes on its head.
The latter tune is all about the “unremarkable things that make people unique. Everybody has them,” said Sures — whether it’s knowing how to toss a killer salad, or possessing the now near-lost skill of beautiful handwriting.
“I wanted to put a twist on the classic blues (theme) about a hot-looking lady or a hot-looking guy, which is pretty superficial, and talk about all the little things that make us special.”
He compares being seduced by a person’s exterior, instead of his or her “core,” like appreciating an unseasoned guitarist who has managed to rip off a good guitar solo but lacks the skill to take it further. “A lot of people don’t want to look beyond the general. They are afraid to look deeper.”
Sures’ own guitar chops were seasoned by playing with a variety of bands. The musician, who discovered Robert Johnson at age 15, started honing his talents as a street musician, and proceeded to perform over the last 20 years with Paul Reddick, Harp Dog Brown, Rita Chiarelli and Ben Darvill of the Crash Test Dummies.
He is also part of the Death Ballad Love Tellers, along with David P. Smith and Bubba Uno, and performs with another acoustic power trio, The Dead Stringers. “We only play music by dead people,” said Sures.
Such an eclectic career could have only sprung from Winnipeg’s hothouse music scene, which has over the years nurtured Neil Young, The Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Crash Test Dummies, The Watchmen, Harlequin, Streetheart, Imaginary Cities, Weakerthans and Wailin’ Jennys, as well as Heather Bishop, Chantal Kreviazuk, James Keelaghan, Bif Naked and Fred Penner, among others.
“I wouldn’t trade my formative musical experience in Winnipeg for anything in the world,” said Sures.
There is no cover charge for his 9 p.m. show at The Hideout in Gasoline Alley, just south of Red Deer. For more information, call 403-348-5309.