Gordie Johnson brings his blues-rock band — plus additional “Rasta elders” — to Red Deer this month for an acoustic show.

A different side of Big Sugar

Fans used to the big, booming Big Sugar sound are in for something richer and mellower when frontman Gordie Johnson brings his blues-rock band — plus additional “Rasta elders” — to Red Deer this month.

Fans used to the big, booming Big Sugar sound are in for something richer and mellower when frontman Gordie Johnson brings his blues-rock band — plus additional “Rasta elders” — to Red Deer this month.

“No one needs to bring any ear-plugs,” said Johnson.

At the same time, don’t expect a minimalistic MTV Unplugged experience at the acoustic Big Sugar concert on Wednesday, Feb. 25, at the Red Deer College Arts Centre.

A minimum of eight musicians will be on stage, playing everything from a horn to a goat-skin-covered African nyabingi drum “with some fur still on it. That’s roots music for you, right there!” said a chuckling Johnson.

He describes a percussion-heavy, acoustic reggae sound with some blues grooves. “The people on stage each night are really impressive — like an acoustic orchestra. … There’s a very spiritual feeling,” added the now Texas-based local singer/guitarist. The band will be playing some new songs, as well as re-interpretions of Big Sugar standards.

Acoustic performances aren’t new for Big Sugar — only for the band’s listeners, said Johnson. “This is how we play the songs for ourselves,” informally, on the tour bus or while jamming in the backstage lounge.

“For us, it’s a real treat to play the songs this way for an audience. We’re very comfortable doing it and sharing it with people is very gratifying.”

The 13 languidly-paced tracks on the band’s latest acoustic album Yardstyle encompass classics like Turn The Lights On and the new cuts, Calling All the Youth and Police Bway the Vampire.

The album features the talents of reggae legend Willi Williams and an extended family of “brethren,” some of which might appear live in Red Deer as supporting musicians.

Johnson, who was raised in Medicine Hat and still has family in Red Deer along with horses and cattle at an area ranch, promised a concert “like the sound of Negril (Jamaica) at night.” But the exact musical lineup will be a surprise.

The core of Big Sugar (bassist Garry Lowe, drummer Stephane “Bodean” Beaudin, horn player Kelly “Mr Chill” Hoppe and toastmaster DJ Friendlyness) will play in Red Deer, along with members of Johnson’s extended musical family. “We’ll be bringing

some Rasta elders … and people from other bands will be guesting on different nights,” said the singer.

Who the extras are will depend on availability. “They’ll try to work it into their schedules so they can play with us.”

This kind of loose approach was also taken with Yardstyle, which was recorded while the musicians basically jammed. “It wasn’t done like in a modern recording studio where first they record the drums, then the bass and guitars, and the singing last. We just played and let them record us,” said Johnson.

The way the songs came out on the album was pretty much how they were played: “That was us.”

When it came to picking songs for acoustic reinterpretation, “we just did the ones that are a lot of fun to play,” said Johnson. He believes listeners will to surprised to hear how well hard-rocking songs like Digging A Hole work with an acoustic rendering.

“They probably don’t know that song was originally worked out on a banjo.”

A 70-to-90-year-old banjo will be used during the concert because Johnson believes antique, thoroughly worn-in instruments produce a mellower “more complex and rich sound.”

Of course, there will also be the hand-stretched nyabingi drum.

“It’s the first great acoustic instrument,” Johnson has stated. “That’s the heartbeat sound, you know?”

Tickets to the 8 p.m. concert, presented by the Central Music Festival Society, are $54.60 from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Joe Hittel rappels down 12 storey building in Red Deer – again

Eighty four year old Red Deerian was not afraid to rappel down… Continue reading

Indigenous nation in Washington State seeks meeting with feds on Trans Mountain

VANCOUVER — The Lummi Nation in northwest Washington state is requesting a… Continue reading

Westerner Days: Weekend hours extended

Things heated up indoors on the Friday of Westerner Days Fair &… Continue reading

Central Alberta author recalls the giant step for humankind that happened 50 years ago

Sigmund Brouwer has written about the Apollo 11 moon mission

‘I’m choosing not to be a victim,’ Danforth shooting survivor says

TORONTO — Danielle Kane struggled with depression in her 20s and even… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: 5 casual summer dress styles

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

ESPN reasserts political talk policy after attack on Trump

NEW YORK — ESPN is reminding employees of the network’s policy to… Continue reading

Tentative agreement averts strike by Quebec provincial park employees

MONTREAL — A full-blown strike by employees at Quebec provincial parks that… Continue reading

Air Force will end search for missing Quebec businessman and his son

MONTREAL — The Royal Canadian Air Force said Saturday it will gradually… Continue reading

Panel orders federal judge to reconsider Trump appeal

WASHINGTON — An appeals court on Friday ordered a federal judge to… Continue reading

What consumers can do as regulators weigh compounds’ risks

WASHINGTON — The government is trying to sort out how to handle… Continue reading

Technology, temporary help keeps farmers on job longer

ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — At 79 years old, Art McManus says he’s still… Continue reading

Standoff on Hawaii mountain is about more than a telescope

HONOLULU — Protesters fighting the construction of a giant telescope on a… Continue reading

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

OTTAWA — A federal program designed to help low-income Canadians file their… Continue reading

Most Read