Friday, September 8, 2017

O, Canada

O Canada!
   It is September, and long term Dukes’ newsletter readers know that means John will be writing about the latest Colgan-Davis trip to Ontario, and more specifically, to the Limestone City Blues Festival in Kingston. This trip has been a part of the Colgan-Davis travel itinerary for some 19 years now, stretching back to camping outside of Glens Falls, NY and my wife spotting an advertisement for the second Limestone City Blues Fest in a local paper. The ad mentioned the great harp player Charlie Musselwhite, so we were intrigued. We looked on the map and saw how close Kingston was, and off we went to spend a day and night in Kingston. Wow!  We were hooked! We loved the town-a lot of old buildings mixed with modern things, it’s right off a beautiful harbor on Lake Ontario,  it had great coffee shops and great restaurants, and it had a lot of independent bookstores and funky shops.  The Festival itself had Concerts in the Park from noon until 5PM, a big evening concert where we saw Charlie Musselwhite, and most of the local clubs had blues acts that you could see for free with a festival bracelet, which went for the exorbitant fee of $10 for the weekend. We decided after that one visit that every vacation would end with Kingston and Limestone. And with the exception of one time when the car broke down, and one summer when we went to New Mexico and Arizona, we have done precisely that for 19 years. The third week in August means Kingston and Limestone, and it has always been great fun with unique experiences, great music, and great food. 
This year the price for the bracelet jumped all the way to $15, still an amazing bargain. This year's festival also featured an all Canadian lineup, and I realized that a lot of the incredible musicians that I hear at Limestone I do not hear in the states. Canada has had a vibrant blues scene for a long time, but most of the artists at Limestone do not play the States much, or at least not the East Coast. They also rarely make it onto blues radio shows in the States, so many Americans are not familiar with them. Over the years I have seen some incredible acts, and I think many of them should be better known. So I thought that in honor of the many great hours of listening Limestone has given me, I would provide links to the work of four of my favorite Canadian blues artists-to their videos and their websites. These are folks whose music I listen to regularly and who bring me great joy. Yes, there are others, and if you are interested in them, just drop me a line and I will send you more links. But I thought that as an intro to the Canadian scene I would share my four favorites. I have to thank the Limestone City Blues Festival for introducing me to these acts.  I am so grateful Limestone gave me a chance to expand my ears.

Paul Reddick: I got to meet Paul Reddick the second year we were in Kingston. His band, the Sidemen, were playing in the Concert in the Park shows, and we struck up a conversation. I loved listening to the band sat in with him, and we have have been in touch ever since. He is a great singer, harp player and songwriter; he wrote PR’s Jubilee which the Dukes did on our third CD. He has recorded several moving and powerful CD’s since leaving The Sidemen, and he imagines the blues in new and exciting ways, looking it as both a literary as well as a musical form. He is both an original and a traditionalist, and he is one of my favorite musicians.

Dawn Tyler Watson: I first heard Dawn some 16 years ago as an opening act on a Friday night concert at Limestone, and she blew my mind. She had a powerful voice with incredible phrasing, and songs that mixed blues, gospel and jazz. Her band was outstanding-they could play anything they wanted. We heard them again this year, and the years have only added depth, gravitas and joy to her onstage presence. She has a great time playing, and it is impossible to not move your body listening to her. I love her!

Fathead: I love bands with horns, great instrumentalists and soulful singers. Fathead is such a band. A Toronto based band formed in the 1990’s they have been nominated for and won numerous Canadian blues awards, including male vocalist of the year for the late John Mays.  I love their subtle arrangements, both of traditional songs and on their own written material. Since John’s death from cancer two years ago they have broken up, but I still listen to their Building Full of Blues CD and smile a lot. Great band-I miss them!                                 
The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer: One of the most amazing and unusual groups that I have ever heard, The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer are two Vancouver, British Colombians  who bring a great knowledge of blues history and stylings as well as a sly humor to creating great music.The band’s set up is traditional- guitar and harmonica. But the application and use of foot pedals, amp settings, electronic effects, and foot percussion produces a combination of sounds that are both primal blues and very original. They are fun, weird, somewhat provocative, and absolutely wonderful. Unusual but great!

   Those are my four favorite Canadian artists at this time, and I look forward to adding more to the list. I hope this list can lead you to discover some new tunes and musicians that bring you joy. Happy Listening!

Harvey Contributions Update:
   A few people wrote me last week to let me know that some of the links included in my last newsletter did not work. I checked and found that if I scrolled over the links, copied them and then put them into a browser or search engine they worked. Sorry about the problem. Please give what you can to any of the following groups: they will help for a long time.

Thank you so much for whatever you have been and are able to do to help people struggling, both with Harvey and in other ways as well.  No matter the situation, we all need other people's help to get along well in this world. Thanks!