Bix Mix Boys play distinctly Canadian bluegrass

September is shaping up to be a busy month on the roots music front. The Bix Mix Boys bring their ever-developing version of songwriter-based bluegrass to the Lacombe County Room at the Lacombe Memorial Centre on Sept. 12 with doors opening at 7 p.m.

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September is shaping up to be a busy month on the roots music front.

The Bix Mix Boys bring their ever-developing version of songwriter-based bluegrass to the Lacombe County Room at the Lacombe Memorial Centre on Sept. 12 with doors opening at 7 p.m.

Rather than mimicking bluegrass sounds of the past, this five-piece Edmonton-based outfit’s broad influences create a bluegrass sound that is distinctly Canadian. Tickets, available at the door, are $10.

The same evening, The Matchbox presents the return of the Bop Ensemble — Bill Bourne, Jas Ohlhauser and Wyckham Porteous. Combining unique talents, the trio present a show that challenges familiar singer-songwriter constraints. With guests Scott Cook and Jesse Dee and Jacquie B, a memorable evening is guaranteed. Tickets are $22 at Ticketmaster.

In what should be a highlight of the season, Lynn Miles and Melanie Doane headline Sirens of Song, a songwriter circle that also features two of the country’s finest young talents: Annabelle Chvostek, formerly of The Wailin’ Jennys, and Catherine MacLellan, daughter of Snowbird writer Gene. The four singers approach songwriting and performance from distinct perspectives and should provide an engaging evening of entertainment. Tickets for this Sept. 16 Memorial Centre engagement are available from the Black Knight Inn ticket outlet.

The Waskasoo Bluegrass Music Society kicks off its season with California’s Kathy Kallick Band featuring guest fiddler Laurie Lewis on Sept. 25. Tickets for this Elks Lodge performance should soon be available at the usual outlets.

This week’s disc reviews:

The Homemade Jamz Blues Band

I Got Blues for You

Northern Blues

Comprised of 10-year old drummer Taya Perry and her teenaged brothers Kyle (14, bass) and Ryan (16, guitar and vocals) augmented by father and songwriter Renaud on harmonica, The Homemade Jamz Blues Band surpass novelty with their second collection of original blues.

This is a mature sounding album, with as much in common with blues-based rock acts — think late ’70s Pat Travers Band — as it does the southern blues tradition.

This is attributable to Ryan Perry’s vocal phrasing and extended instrumental breaks. Additionally, the subject matter — hard headed women, ramblin’, misguided love and unfaithfulness — is adult in theme.

Minor quibbles aside — Taya never passes up an opportunity to give her cymbals a swat, even when a more subtle approach may be considered — I Got Blues for You is suitably impressive and the kids prove themselves a competent power trio.

It would be easy to dismiss the siblings as puppets of an overbearing stage parent, lack of such evidence aside.

If presented in an unlabeled jewel case, nothing would indicate that the mean age of the band is 13. Acutely sequenced, the album begins raucous and builds in intensity despite modulations in tempo and tone. The recording has a live feel and there are times when one expects applause over fading notes.

The real treats are the lead vocals and guitar. Ryan Perry has a deep-seated blues growl tempered by phrasing well beyond his years, reminiscent of Phil Lynott and Bill Sheffield. Heaven Lost an Angel is passionately sung and his instrumentation on a double-necked 12-string is supportive of the song’s mood. King Snake and In the Wind provide additional examples of the singer’s mature dexterity.

Kelly Joe Phelps

Western Bell

Black Hen Music

One of the most expressive vocalists within the Americana genre, Kelly Joe Phelps has also long been recognized for his dexterity within various guitar styles.

On his latest album, Phelps sings not a word. Instead, in producing a nocturnal collection of 11 solo guitar instrumentals, the West Coast native allows his six and 12 strings to reclaim their rightful place.

Haunting and adventurous, the tunes never get bogged down in noodling. So balanced and spacious are the songs, it is difficult to accept that much of the album was improvised in the studio.

Much like an unfamiliar but fragrant coffee blend might be appreciated, Western Bell intrigues and challenges, with lingering flavours that ultimately soothe.

While listening, many names float along the notes — Richard Thompson, Leadbelly, Tony Rice, Jack Lawrence — but one is left with only one: Kelly Joe Phelps.

Donald Teplyske is a local freelance writer who contributes a twice-monthly column on roots music; visit fervorcoulee.wordpress.com for additional reviews. If you know a roots music event of which he should be aware, contact him at fervorcoulee@shaw.ca

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