Country has always had a blue side

Jumping from honky-tonk country to blues isn’t a giant leap for Russell deCarle. The lanky Prairie Oyster singer will be at The Matchbox in Red Deer on Thursday performing songs from his first solo album, Under the Big, Big Sky,

Jumping from honky-tonk country to blues isn’t a giant leap for Russell deCarle.

The lanky Prairie Oyster singer will be at The Matchbox in Red Deer on Thursday performing songs from his first solo album, Under the Big, Big Sky, which he describes as “torchy and bluesy,” instead of twangy country.

But deCarle makes no distinction between the two musical genres.

“It’s all the same to me, quite frankly,” said deCarle, who added, “it’s people in the industry that tend to pigeon-hole us. Us musicians just think of ourselves as players.”

Anyway don’t tell deCarle that Hank Williams or Jimmie Rodgers didn’t have a blues edge to their country music.

“I think they were always drawn to that side,” said deCarle, who will perform in Red Deer in a trio with guitarist Steve Briggs and accordion/organist Denis Keldie.

While it’s a different dynamic than playing with his multi-Juno-Award-winning band Prairie Oyster, deCarle declared it equally satisfying.

He believes the smaller configuration puts more focus on his voice and his songs — which run the gamut on Under the Big, Big Sky.

The album includes the talents of guest artists Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo, Sheila Carbine of Dala, as well as musicians Amos Garrett, David Wilcox and Chris Whitely, among others.

The title track is deCarle’s homage to the Prairies. The 57-year-old singer admitted he was a late arrival to the Canadian West, only touring here after friends forewarned him about how boring it was to drive through Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

“After I came out west, I thought, what’s wrong with you guys? The sky is always changing! I much prefer it to the mountains.”

The tune deCarle performs on the album with Cuddy is called Don’t Ask the Question.

It’s about a woman who always makes the same mistakes in relationships, who arrives at a friend’s place supposedly seeking answers, when all she really wants is a shoulder to cry on, said deCarle, who feels, “some people don’t want to hear the truth.”

Can’t Find the Song in My Heart was written by deCarle with Garrett’s talents in mind, so he was thrilled when the Alberta-based musician agreed to help him perform it on the album.

“It’s one of those glass-half-empty kind of songs, where you can’t find enough energy to deal with a certain relationship, whether with an individual or a group of people,” said deCarle, whose own relationship with other Prairie Oyster members remains as strong as ever.

In fact, he said his gold- and platinum-selling country band is planning to record a new album next year.

When deCarle isn’t playing with Prairie Oyster or moonlighting as a performer of his solo material, he spends time with his wife on their farm northeast of Toronto.

The singer believes it was a bumper summer for vegetables, thanks to Ontario’s heat-wave.

“I feel bad for you guys out west, especially in the south, with all that rain,” he added.

Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. concert are $27.50 from The Matchbox box office.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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