Pianist David Vest and guitarist David Gogo (shown here) perform back-to-back shows at Fratters Speakeasy next week.

Blues musicians flocking to Fratters

Two Maple Blues Award-winning musicians will provide consecutive evenings of blues-tinged entertainment in Red Deer. Guitarist David Gogo and piano player David Vest have performed together before, but are scheduled for separate shows next week at Fratters Speakeasy.

Two Maple Blues Award-winning musicians will provide consecutive evenings of blues-tinged entertainment in Red Deer.

Guitarist David Gogo and piano player David Vest have performed together before, but are scheduled for separate shows next week at Fratters Speakeasy.

Gogo performs a solo acoustic concert at the club on Friday, Feb. 20, while Vest plays with his band at Fratters on Saturday, Feb. 21.

Besides sharing the same first name, both B.C.-based singer/musicians are signed to Cordova Bay Records. Each has also won two prestigious Maple Blues Awards.

Vest, who has lived in Victoria since 2004 but hails from Alabama, viewed his first national recognition as a kind of “Welcome to Canada!” statement.

His second Maple Blues Award, which he won just last month for piano/keyboard player of the year, is seen as a happy acknowledgement that he’s here to stay.

“They seem to like my music here,” said the 71-year-old, who’s married to a Canadian and is a permanent resident in the country.

As more proof of his warm acceptance by Canadians, Vest’s most recent release, Roadhouse Revelation, is getting a lot of airplay on local radio stations.

Vest is particularly pleased about this. “I wrote all but one song myself,” said the keyboardist, who was surprised that songwriting has gotten easier for him in his seventh decade. “I’d have thought there’d be this sense (I’m just writing ) just the same song again, but no.”

The Roadhouse Revelation album is something like a 1960s rock album in that it has some “harder-edged stuff on it than I had before,” said Vest.

Several songs contain train references, including Freight Train Rolling, which was inspired by a heart-stopping incident that happened to Vest and his band near Bow Island, Alta.

A freight train suddenly appeared on a track they had assumed to be abandoned. Their driver managed to brake just in time, recalled Vest. “If he hadn’t, something bad would have happened.”

The singer/pianist is anticipating performing some of his blues originals and some standards in Red Deer on Saturday with a four-piece band. “I hope people will get up and dance,” said Vest.

It’s been several years since Nanaimo, B.C., resident Gogo performed in Red Deer — his last gig here was as opening act for Johnny Winter.

Friday’s acoustic show will feature Gogo playing blues tunes on his 1930s National steel guitar. The songs are inspired by his pilgrimage down to Mississippi.

His Juno Award-nominated 2013 album, Come on Down, contains songs spun out of that visit to the Southern States. And Gogo plans to share some of his fascinating road trip stories with the Fratters crowd. “It was amazing. We managed to cram so much into each day,” recalled Gogo, who drove down with his wife.

One day the couple met Sonny Payne, now well into his 80s, who’s run a blues radio show out of Helena, Ark., for the past 60 years. When Gogo mentioned that he’s a Canadian blues guitarist who’s performed with B.B. King, Payne responded, “Oh, I met Riley for the first time in 1949!”

Gogo was flabbergasted. Anyone who knows King by his given name must have really known him a long time ago, he said.

After first listening to Gogo’s CD and deciding it merited air time, Payne ended up playing some of his music on his radio show. Gogo’s wife was asked to read a sponsor’s announcement live on air.

“You’d hear some music played, then (Payne) would say ‘Now we’re going to hear from our sponsor,’ and my wife would read ‘For all your hardware needs. …’ It was real homey,” he recalled with a chuckle.

Gogo also got to pour some bourbon on a grave reputed to belong to blues great Robert Johnson — while his spouse raised a skeptical eyebrow. “I went to the (car) trunk to get the bottle and she was like, well, I guess you’ve got to do this. …”

The 45-year-old guitarist loved seeing some of the dusty southern towns that Johnson wrote about in his songs. “I even saw some of the places where he played, although they’re empty now. …”

Gogo, who won Maple Blues Awards in 2002 and 2004, said he’s happy to be performing again in Red Deer. He might even test some newly written songs on the crowd.

Gogo’s new, yet untitled, album is expected to be released by the summer.

Tickets to Gogo’s show on Friday are $15. Tickets to Vest’s Saturday show are $20. Both shows are at 8:30 p.m. and tickets are available from the venue.

Blues fans might also want to also check out Backbone, featuring Bill Dowey, on Thursday night at Fratters. Tickets are $20 from the venue.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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