There’s blues in Bluesland, but you have to find it

Bill Bourne discovered that one of the perks of being a dad is sometimes getting the last laugh. Whenever the Central Alberta roots musician plays with his guitarist son Pat Bourne — which is pretty regularly, now that the two put out the Bluesland album as part of The Free Radio Band — he’s amazed by their synchronicity.

Bill Bourne

Bill Bourne

Bill Bourne discovered that one of the perks of being a dad is sometimes getting the last laugh.

Whenever the Central Alberta roots musician plays with his guitarist son Pat Bourne — which is pretty regularly, now that the two put out the Bluesland album as part of The Free Radio Band — he’s amazed by their synchronicity.

“Sometimes when we play together, it’s as if we’re playing one guitar . . . I’m thinking: in life, there’s not much more that you can wish for . . . ” said Bourne.

But things weren’t always so musically harmonious between the two.

During Pat’s teenage years, “it was basically, ‘Dad, your music has nothing to do with me,’ ” recalled the older Bourne, with a chuckle.

While the younger Bourne still rocks out as a member of the Edmonton band The Get Down, the 28-year-old has obviously developed more appreciation for his father’s rootsy blues and world music of late.

This music, which has over the years involved Bill Bourne collaborating with various musicians, including Lester Quitzau and Madagascar Slim, has netted the 57-year-old musician three Juno Awards and fans across North America in his 30-year career.

Bill Bourne and The Free Radio Band plan to perform the latest collusion, a fusion of Bluesland rock, folk, country and blues on Saturday, Oct. 1, at The Vat in Red Deer.

The CD was put out independently in 2010, then picked up by True North Records and given international distribution earlier this year. It includes some original songs written by Bourne-the-elder, as well as a country-blues rendition of Bob Dylan’s Maggie’s Farm and jazzy renderings of such classic blues tunes such as Daily Bread and Stockade Blues.

The latter tune always makes Bourne smile.

“I said, ‘Hey Pat, your grandma used to play this one!’ ” said the Innisfail-area-born musician, whose parents had their own band in the late 1950s.

Bourne recalled his mom and dad recording a 1959 concert from the basement of the former Club Cafe on Ross Street.

But if blues music runs in his genes, however, a certain U.S. music critic didn’t see it that way. “One reviewer, I think it was from the American Blues Music Society, said ‘Where’s the blues in Bluesland?’ ” said Bourne, who can sort of understand the confusion.

He admitted the album is not mainstream blues, but is underpinned by the “huge” blues influence felt in much North American-produced music.

Bourne can hear a deliberate powwow beat in the grounded tempo of Mississippi blues, and once heard about how First Nations people contributed to the development of the African-American-sparked musical genre. The two groups “collaborated a lot, early on,” he said, perhaps because of their shared history of oppression.

Although Europeans can also play the blues, Bourne sometimes feels “It’s like they’re playing all the right notes, but there isn’t the same feeling to it. . . .” In North American blues music, “the rhythm is solid underneath, where in European music, the rhythm is driven by the melody.”

Bourne believes one of the benefits of growing up in North America is being exposed to this grounded rhythm. “I really believe it’s inherent, in the land out here, in the grass. . . .”

But Bluesland isn’t just about the blues. It also features traces of African highlife music, since the band’s smooth jazz guitarist is Pa Joe, originally from Ghana. Other influences are introduced by the band’s other members, Edmonton’s Moses Gregg on bass and Matt Blackie on drums.

And there’s another contribution made by another Bourne on Bluesland.

Bourne is proud to say that his daughter, who is into visual arts more than music, created some of the album’s cover art.

For more information about the concert, call 403-346-5636.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

— copyright Red Deer Advocate