Focus on the Vat for the blues

Tonight and tomorrow, blues with a rock-guitar focus is on at The Vat; Scott Holt, formerly with Buddy Guy, and his band travel from the United States.

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Tonight and tomorrow, blues with a rock-guitar focus is on at The Vat; Scott Holt, formerly with Buddy Guy, and his band travel from the United States.

Are you planning to attend the third annual Central Music Festival August 14 and 15? One to call our own, this fest doesn’t feature the big-time names of the Edmonton and Calgary festivals. Instead, the focus is on area and Western Canadian acts.

Popular performers appearing include Alberta’s Amos Garrett, Steve Coffey & the Lokels, Crystal Plamondon, and Dick Damron, Gordie Tentrees from the Yukon, as well as Honeyboy Edwards, Ndidi Onikwulu, and many others. Additional details at centralmusicfest.com, with tickets at the Black Knight Inn outlet and Valhalla Pure Outfitters.

Continuing with the inaugural and completely fictitious Fervor Coulee Roots Music Fest, this week I feature two excellent Canadian releases:

Lee Harvey Osmond

A Quiet Evil

Latent Recordings

Turn Tom Wilson (Junkhouse, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings) loose, and odd things are bound to occur.

His latest collective, featuring Michael and Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies), Josh Finlayson and Andy Maize (The Skydiggers), and Brent Titcomb (Brent Titcomb), mines deep, virgin musical ground; livelier and less nuanced perhaps than Iron & Wine’s Around the Well, it is every bit as engaging as Sam Beam’s rarities smorg.

Wilson has deemed the music ‘acid-folk’, but outside that meaningless moniker, the music is fairly indefinable. It isn’t what I would immediately label as roots music, but is has all the elements- original music, ties to country, rock, and folk, and textured vocals that shy away from pop gloss.

The album seems dark, yet is soothing and enlightening. A Quiet Evil is half a world away from Dog Years, Wilson’s previous project, but is a raucous neighbor to his project with Bob Lanois.

It is an outstanding collection of variant music, by which I mean there are all types of sounds within the ten tracks, but they tie together into a cohesive statement. The presence of Aaron Goldstein’s pedal steel brings in shades of country, but the overall sound has as much in common with X and Los Straitjackets as it does Fred Eaglesmith.

Wilson sings in his own voice — the guy couldn’t do anything else — and the results are as satisfying as ever. This time out he adds a bit of Larry Jon Wilson-like, half-spoken singing in several places, and that breaks things up nicely.

Margo Timmins brings calm refinement to the proceedings, and her featured numbers, including (You Drove Me Crazy) Now I’m Going to Stay That Way, are among the album’s many highlights. Parkland, a stream of consciousness ramble that describes the actions of a kid, and may be tied to the Kennedys…heck, I’m not sure what he’s doing; still, it would do Tom Russell proud.

A glorious album, I’m sure Lee Harvey Osmond will draw well at the Calgary Folk Music Festival later this month.

Jim Byrnes

My Walking Stick

Walking Hen

Over the past several years, Vancouver’s Black Hen Music label has established itself as the premier western roots imprint.

From adventurous string music to blues and gospel, the Steve Dawson-headed outlet has produced an unbroken string of exquisite, challenging releases.

Jim Byrnes, elder statesman of the West Coast blues community, delivers an album of incredible quality.

I first heard Byrnes almost thirty years ago, and didn’t quite know what to make of him then. Fortunately, my ears have caught up and I can now appreciate his assured, efficient vocal approach.

The album includes a few Byrnes originals including the satisfying opener Ol’ Rattler; like many of the tunes, this one has a 60s Muscle Shoals-vibe with what could be Hammond B3 floating about the melody.

The Band’s Ophelia has its tempo taken down a notch, and the effect simmers. Oh Susanna’s Three Shots — similar in theme to Stagger Lee — is the album’s centerpiece and is imminently memorable.

Black Hen-mates The Sojourners lend the album a soulful presence, with deep rhythm & blues harmony and background vocals. Their contributions make songs memorable and intensely appealing.

Producer Dawson is very hands-on and features his guitar talents on all cuts. Additionally, the album package is artful, with time-tinged photos housed in a digipak. All together, a class set and one should feel comfortable investing in such a project.

Likely found in the Blues section of shops, the album retains a roots aesthetic that defies narrow genre-labeling.

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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