Head to the Matchbox for Valentines

Much heralded songwriter and singer Sam Baker drops into The Matchbox on Valentine’s Day, with the ubiquitous Gurf Morlix serving as sideman.

Much heralded songwriter and singer Sam Baker drops into The Matchbox on Valentine’s Day, with the ubiquitous Gurf Morlix serving as sideman. Baker’s sparse, gentle songs can be heard regularly on CKUA and Morlix has produced albums for Lucinda Williams and Slaid Cleaves as well as Romi Mayes, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Robert Earl Keen.

It is going to be a night to remember!

Audience members are encouraged to support Tuques for Texans at this gig; bring a new or clean bit of winter wear — tuques, gloves, scarves — to be donated to local charities doing good work for those in need. Tickets ($25) at the theatre and Ticketmaster.

Ian Tyson comes to town about once a year, and this time he’s sold out the Memorial Centre with local singer Donna Durand opening on Feb. 26.

Bluegrass dynamos the Lonesome River Band — led by banjo master Sammy Shelor — are presented at Festival Hall on Feb. 28 by the Waskasoo Bluegrass Music Society. Tickets ($25) available at 53rd Street Music, Parkland Mall, the Key Hole, Red Deer Book Exchange, Jackson’s in Innisfail, and Novel Ideas in Rocky Mountain House.

For those looking for a twist on the familiar, Alberta bluesman Mark Sterling brings his Songs of John Lennon show to the Matchbox on March 6. Tickets ($25) at the theatre and Ticketmaster.

One of the fast-rising vocal groups on the Canadian scene is scheduled to visit our city on March 8 and 9 at the Memorial Centre as part of Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe. The Good Lovelies have garnered positive press nationwide and were recently named Emerging Artists of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. Tickets ($54) at The Black Knight Inn outlet.

Canadian folkie Stephen Fearing comes to the Elks Lodge on March 19 with tickets ($30) at the Black Knight Inn and Valhalla Pure Outfitters. Unconventional Irish singer Andy White opens.

This week’s disc review:

The Earl Brothers

The Earl Brothers


Like The Steeldrivers, The Earl Brothers present a rare shade of bluegrass. Whereas the Nashville-based Steeldrivers emphasize the hard-lived blues ancestry of bluegrass, San Francisco’s Earl Brothers favour twisted, gothic experiences that peel flesh from bone.

For their fourth album, The Earl Brothers have made striking transitions. The abandonment of the black and grays of their previous releases is apparent; that Robert Earl Davis and his crew have released their own ‘white album’ is significant in more than artwork.

This is a new chapter for the California band.

The dichotomy between the sweetness of bluegrass instrumentation — spectacularly flavoured for the first time with fiddle introduced to the five-piece lineup — and the rough-hewn, hard-scrabble lead vocals and harmonies remains. In adding Tom Lucas’s fiddle, the band has confidently moved toward the bluegrass mainstream using the instrument much the way Bill Monroe did — to emphasize the tempered emotions of a song as the voice simply can’t alone.

Davis’s chosen subject matter hasn’t changed; like a successful novelist, Davis knows that his audience expects certain traits. His protagonists remain rounders, ramblers, and broken-hearted fools fessin’ up to messin’ up with hard women and raw whiskey. The resulting troubles are almost too much to endure — witness tunes like Lightning, Cold and Lonesome and Won’t Be Around Anymore.

Of course, come Sunday morning some reflecting and testifying is required while considering a Walk in the Light singing in the Sweet Bye and Bye.

The Earl Brothers have faithfully released bluegrass recordings containing bright banjo-picking and distinctive vocals from Robert Earl Davis. In Danny Morris, Davis has a guitarist and vocal foil to provide tenor accenting his unconventional singing, while the mandolin of Larry Hughes washes over every song.

The band and this album aren’t for everyone, and I’ve heard people praise and damn the band in equal measure.

Those who favour Dailey & Vincent or IIIrd Tyme Out are advised to look elsewhere — there is nothing polished or contrived about The Earl Brothers. With this album, they have again demonstrated that they are unable to compromise vision or execution.

O Brothers? Undeniably!

Also in rotation this week: Jane Baxter Miller — Harm Among the Willows; The Dixie Bee-Liners — Susanville; Jerry Jeff Walker — Moon Child; Donna Ulisse — Walk this Mountain Down; Ray Wylie Hubbard — a. Enlightenment b. Endarkenment (Hint: There is No C).

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