Things pick up again this week in Lethbridge — like there’s ever a slow week in Lethbridge.
This week, Lethbridge community radio station CKXU 88.3 begins their annual FunDrive, running March 21-28. FunDrive is an annual fundraiser station member volunteers do every year to help promote CKXU and raise money for the essentials needed to keep the station operational. This year’s theme is “Boost the Signal.”
While they have a lot of events planned next week, they go country for the big kickoff event at the Slice, March 21. Treeline and Shaela Miller will be performing plus several local bands including Planet Telex, St. Country Creep, Colonial Angus and and Cosmic Charley, will be trying their hand at country music as well.
There is a huge mainstream country show taking place at the Enmax Centre coming up as Travis Tritt plays March 26. Admission is $15. The show is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.
If you didn’t get enough St. Patrick’s day celebrating done over the weekend, there are a couple more shows this week. Rock out with your kilt out with the Mudmen, a dual bagpipe juggernaut out of Toronto who return to rock Lethbridge with pipes at Average Joe’s, March 22. The other big St. Patrick’s Day celebration is for a good cause. Kilt up for Cancer with the Junkman’s Choir takes place at the Slice, March 26.
There are a couple excellent blues/jazz shows this week as well. My favourite Alberta bluesman, Marshall Lawrence, returns to Lethbridge, March 22 with a full band to play the Slice. There is a $10 cover.
Celeigh Cardinal, who has done several Lethbridge shows with Andrew Scott, returns to the Owl Acoustic Lounge with her own band, March 22.
There are numerous excellent local shows throughout the week as well.
Alyssa McQuaid returns home to play the Mocha Cabana, March 21-22.
There are a couple excellent rock shows including Toronto-based band the Seas playing with Lethbridge’s the Mormon Girls at the Slice, March 20.
An excellent rock show takes place just outside of town at Sidelines in Coaldale where Glorious Sons, whose song “White Noise” is getting a lot of airplay plus special guests Teenage Kicks, will be performing. The show begins at 9 p.m. There is a $15 cover.
Even further down the road, in Fort Macleod, another one of my favourites, musical comedy trio the Arrogant Worms, return to southern Alberta to play the Empress Theatre, March 20. The Arrogant Worms have been making audiences laugh since 1990 with songs like “The Last Saskatchewan Pirate,” “Canada Is Really Big,” “I Am Cow,” and newer songs like their ode to Rob Ford, “Local Politician.” They get a lot of airplay on CBC and had several minor hits including “Jesus’ Brother Bob,” “Don’t Go Into Politics” and “Carrot Juice Is Murder.”
Tickets cost $34.50 each. the show begins at 7:30 p.m. They release their next album “Space” this month.
Marshall Lawrence shows his love for the blues
Edmonton bluesman Marshall “The Doctor of the Blues” Lawrence loves the blues. So much so that he is making a series of documentaries about it, after enjoying the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January.
“I love the rawness and the honesty. You’ll find honesty runs through it and you just can’t beat it,” Lawrence said.
He comes to Lethbridge with drummer Allan Beveridge and bassist Maurie Jarvis to play the Slice, March 22. He’ll be showing all sides of himself from the acoustic blues he has played on his last CD to the more rocking blues music from his debut CD “Where’s the Party,” and a lot more.
“I’ll be showing all of my styles from my Chicago-style delta blues to Robin Trower blues rock,” he described.
He will begin the show with an acoustic set with his trio and then plug in for the last two sets.
“I’m stoked about this show. Lethbridge has always been good to me,” he said.
He played The Word on the Street festival a few years ago and also played solid shows at the Slice and the Owl Acoustic Lounge.
Lawrence has already had an exciting year. “I Got To Ramble” from Lawrence’s most recent CD “House Call” was nominated for blues recording of the year by the Edmonton Blues Society. Plus “House Call” has garnered rave reviews such as “Marshall belongs to the group of artists such as Taj Mahal, Roy Bookbinder and Corey Harris who just like Marshall knows how to put new life into the old traditional Delta Blues style with an injection of raw energy and boundless enthusiasm . . .” from Rootstime Magazine to being described as a 21st-century Woody Guthrie from Living Blues magazine.
“And that’s the Rolling Stone of blues media,” he enthused.
The CD has been named Best Canadian Blues Album by the Blues Underground network and has received numerous other accolades.
He enjoyed being a judge for the semi-final solo and duo categories at the International Blues Challenge in addition to playing a showcase for his publicist Blind Raccoon.
“It was mind-blowing,” he noted adding he saw performers from all over the world.
“The blues is worldwide,” he observed.
He was impressed with how humble most people were, no matter who they had played with.
“Some of them were strutting around like peacocks, but most of them are like regular guys,” he said.
“Any guitar player who goes down there is going to get humbled. There were people from all over Canada, the United States, Australia, Poland, the Czech Republic,” he said.
While he was there, it inspired him to film a 10-episode documentary with his filmmaker wife Toby called “What I Love About the Blues.”
“I did about 50 interviews, but we won’t release it until the whole series is done,” he said, adding he didn’t want to give any spoilers about what everyone loved about it, but he was surprised by some of the common comments.
“Everyone down there is super passionate about the blues and that was really cool,” he said.
He is excited about branching out stylistically.
“We’ve played the electric show in a couple places and it people seem to love it. I want to prove I’m not just a one-trick pony, so we do it all and we do it well from A-Z. So we’ll start off with an acoustic set and then the next two will be electric so get ready to party because the doctor is bringing the blues prescription to the Slice. From a little bit of the Delta to psychedelic blues rock,” he said.
There is a $10 cover for the show, which will begin at 9 p.m.
The Mudmen celebrate bagpipes and rock and roll
Toronto-area-based, bagpipe-powered Celtic rock band The Mudmen have spent their whole career trying to prove the bagpipes are cool.
“I had bagpipe lessons offered to me when I was 13 and I got tired of people making fun of them. All I had to do was point out Bonn Scott of AC DC played them on AC DC’s one hit ‘Long Way to the Top,’ and Paul McCartney had a hit with ‘Mull of Kintyre,’” said Sandy Campbell, who along with his brother Rob formed the core of the Mudmen.
They played together as a duo with a variety of acts, then decided to form a band and quickly got got signed to EMI.
The band have played with Ian Thomas, John McDermott and Murray McLachlan and rubbed shoulders with hockey stars and prime minsters, played Canada Day in Ottawa and even shook hands with the Queen.
They have also had their music used by wrestling stars the Highlanders as well as had their music used on the television show “The Black Donnellys” and on “Hockey Night In Canada,” where they received Ron MacLean and Don Cherry’s stamp of approval.
On the other end of the spectrum they have opened for punk legends like D.O.A. They recently completed a tour with country pop star Johnny Reid.
They return to Lethbridge, March 22 to rock Average Joe’s.
While they started out as a loud rock band, lately they have been playing more corporate and family friendly gigs.
“We started as a wild rock band and that is a lot of fun. But now we can do both the family friendly gigs and bar shows,” he said.
When they lost their record deal in 2004, Campbell said he considered throwing in the towel, but instead formed a new band with multi-instrumentalist Anthony Albanese, bassist Mario Bozza, drummer Steve Volk and lead singer Steven Gore, who joined them three years ago.
They have released four albums in the past including the most recent, “Where I Come From,” which was released in February 2013.
“We’re more of a professional band now. We love it anytime we get together,” he said.
“We grew up listening to the Irish Rovers and the first show we played was with the Rovers,” he continued.
The Lethbridge Firefighters Pipes and Drums are also performing.
“Hopefully we’ll have the place packed,” he said.
“We’re going to have lots of fun. We have lots of new material and we’ll have a few drinks,” he promised.
“So hopefully we’ll bring the house down.”
The show begins at 9 p.m. There is a $15 cover.
The Glorious Sons cross the country playing rock and roll
Kingston rock band The Glorious Sons have had a “glorious year,” touring Canada twice with Head of the Herd and seeing their songs “Mama” and “White Noise” getting airplay across the country.
They return to southern Alberta March 21 to play Sidelines in Coaldale on their first headlining tour.
“That was a different tour because were a grimy working class band and they’re kind of the opposite end of the spectrum,” said lead vocalist Brett Emmons.
“We went to Vancouver and back again with them. It was pretty good, so we’ll keep in touch with them,” continued Emmons, who joined the Glorious Sons a few months after his brother and lead guitarist Jay Emmons, bassist Chris Huot and drummer Adam Paquette formed the core of the band.
They released their debut EP “The Shapeless Art” in September, which has been a hit with fans and radio as “Mama” and “White Noise” get a lot of airplay.
He enjoys being in a band with his brother.
“It’s pretty good. We’re best friends so we can create more together. We can have discussions and fight a little bit and then forget about it,” he continued.
He said the band is working on the follow-up — a full length CD that should be released some time between July and September.
“All four of us are songwriters. If you listen to the EP, it is all over the place. We don’t really have a sound. We don’t want to be pigeonhole ourselves. It’s rock and roll. So the CD will be more of the same stuff,” he said.
He is excited about playing live.
“It is high-energy rock and roll,” he said.
Toronto band Teenage Kicks and the Glorious Sons play Sidelines in Coaldale, March 21 at 9 p.m. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $15 in advance.
Harry Manx at Southminster United Church
Seeing Vancouver Island-based blues musician Harry Manx is always a mind-blowingly, hypnotically mellow experience.
If music can take your pain away, Manx’s is the perfect prescription.
So, he, along with mandolinist/ guitarist Kevin Breit and organist Clayton Doley, hypnotized a good-sized crowd of approximately 200 people into a supreme state of relaxation at the Southminster Untied Church, March 10.
They began on an upbeat note as they played songs from throughout Manx’s career while adding a couple unique takes on blues classics.
When he went mellow, I found myself nodding off, soothed by his smooth baritone voice especially when he accompanied himself on his Mohan Veena, a 20-string sitar/guitar hybrid, for more of the far eastern-inspired music.
He told stories in between songs and joked about his beloved Mohan Veena, which was stolen, but thanks to the power of social media, was quickly recovered by police in Chicago.
“She went on a little vacation of her own,” Manx quipped, holding the instrument up for the crowd to see. He alternated between a six-string banjo, a shiny national steel guitar, an acoustic guitar and his Mohan Veena, telling stories and jokes about each one.
Breit was simply amazing playing mandolin, but not like any mandolinist I’ve ever heard as he played frenetic freestyle jazz runs on his electric mandolin shaped like a tiny Telecaster guitar as well as a couple of battered guitars.
He added extra background vocals as well.
Doley who came all the way from Australia to play superb organ harmonies with Breit’s playing and added his own haunting background vocals.
Everybody got to shine on their solos. Breit gave his instruments some solid workouts.
Doley got to flex his prodigious musical muscles on his solos as well. It seemed like a jazz concert as the audience applauded after most individual solos as well as at the end of each song.
The second set was a little more psychedelic than the first thanks to flashing psychedelic lights shining on the ceiling.
It also had a little more straight-ahead blues. He noted he had his guitar tuned to open D for all of the slide-powered acoustic blues songs of which “Baby Please Don’t Go” was a highlight.
He picked up his banjo and half joked about how much Jimi Hendrix enjoyed the banjo and played his own version of an obscure Hendrix songs which meandered into a jazz-flavoured jam between the trio.
He wound down his show with blues classics from the likes of Muddy Waters.
They were called back for an encore of a sleepy “Crazy Love” Manx played on the Mohan Veena.
The Slice was honky tonking with a handful of people and Victoria-based country band M.D. Wren and the Sick Kids.
While I caught them on a set break, I’m glad a caught their second set with a handful of people. Their music had a lot of twang a a lot of humour from wry frontman/acoustic guitarist M.D. Wren.
There was plenty of hot Telecaster playing and Hank Williams twang.
One immediate highlight as a song about an “unholy trinity between a man, a woman and the Devil.” Equally amusing was their catchy song about human sacrifice called “It’s Happening All Around You.”
They also played an appealing “love song that could only be written by a man in his late ’30s, called “Settle For You.”
In addition to some hot playing, some excellent stand-up bass playing they also sang excellent vocal harmonies. There was a lot of Elvis Presley influence which s they showed on a hot cover of “Play House with You” and on an original about Elvis.
Locomotive Ghost returned to the Slice, March 8 for approximately 35 people.
They were officially releasing their latest EP “Winter” and played that as well as songs from throughout the seasons EPs as well as older songs.
They sang several catchy vocal harmonies and laid down a layer of sounds with guitar, keyboards, bass and drums. Guitarist Paul Orton, bassist/ukulele player Ben Nixon and keyboardist/guitarist/and front man Mike Buckley each took turns singing lead vocals while everyone else harmonized as drummer Mac McDougall whaled away on the drums.
They added several different influences into their original indie rock including some Caribbean and just a touch of jazz music
“Stardust” was a highlight as was the ear-worm “More Than I Can Ever Tell.”
They sounded like a mix of ’90s jam bands and alternative folk musician Wax Mannequin.
Nixon switched to ukulele for “Blue Eyes,” another highlight.
Papa King, Darryl Düus and Dil Jopp had a good-sized crowd up on their feet for an energetic and enjoyable set of acoustic blues music at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, March 8.
They played a lot of blues classics and numerous originals in the set I caught. Everyone was singing along with “I’m Ready,” and Duus sang lead vocals for the tortured and catchy “Using Me.”
Papa King sat crouched over his acoustic guitar and pounding out rhythm on a special machine. As always, he sounded like Dr. John with his gravelly voice. Dil Jopp added solid rhythm as she stood back and plucked her fretless bass.
Valerie McQuaid, Suzie Vinnick house concert
I don’t get to a lot of house concerts, but had to check out Suzie Vinnick at Valerie McQuaid’s house, March 7.
Vinnick had an intimate audience of approximately 20 people listening intently as she played in the McQuaid den, hidden in the shadows. But she played several blues classics, a cover of one of Bob Dylan’s more gritty blues songs which she followed up with the perky originals “Sunshine and Butterflies” for which she had the audience singing along with her.
Mercury Audio rockabilly
I’ve only seen Calgary rockabilly/roots/country band Mercury Audio a couple of times and always enjoy their take on traditional rockabilly. They returned to the Owl Acoustic Lounge, March 7 to pay another excellent show.
Fronted by Mark Sadlier Brown’s son Dylan, they come from a great pedigree. Tyler Stewart has joined them on drums. He and his wife Bre on drums opened the show with a set of perky punk rock as Sparkle Blood.
They played a set of catchy originals including a solid cover of the Ramones’ “Do You Wanna Dance,” itself a cover of an old ’50s pop song.
But Mercury Audio brought the rock with a lot of twang and some awesome thumping standup bass.
They played some catchy originals and capable covers of Jimmy Reed’s blues hit “I Ain’t Got You” and trucking classic “Six Days on the Road,” plus some obscure Rolling Stones and much more. Sadlier-Brown’s marble-mouthed vocals sounded like a mix of his dad and Watermelon Slim.
Norwegian Blue concert
Norwegian Blue held another successful fundraising concert for their upcoming cassette compilation at the Slice, March 7. While I missed the Dirti Speshuls, Mormon Girls, Junkman’s Choir and the Ruby Plumes, I caught the one local band I really wanted to catch — The Palmers.
Frontman Evan Uschenko, Emma Austin, bassist Kurt Ciesla and Clayton Smith on drums.
They played a very strongly ’60s and ’70s-influenced set of mostly original rock and roll music which had a decent-sized crowd dancing.
They also included blues classics like “Don’t judge A Book By It’s Cover.”
The show was to help raise money to release the Norwegian Blue compilation “Windy City Sampler” which features 14 local bands. It will be released April 15.
Ric’s Grill — Sheldon Arvay and Scott Kanashiro
Owl Acoustic Lounge — L.A. Beat Open jam
Slice — Seas with the Mormon Girls
The Cave — open mic
Cotton Blossom Lounge — James Oldenburg
Wolf’s Den — bluegrass jam
Jimmys Pub — open mics
Honkers — Blues jam with Steve Keenan
Mocha Cabana — Alyssa McQuaid
Ric’s Grill — James Oldenburg and Anna Vanderheide
Slice — CKXU Fun Drive country with Treeline and SHaela Miller Cosmic Charley, Lustre Creame$15
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Joel Bryant and Pete Watson
Sidelines (Coaldale — The Glorious Sons with Teenage Kicks
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Celeigh Cardinal band
Mocha Cabana — Alyssa McQuaid
Slice — Marshall Lawrence
Average Joe’s — The Mudmen.
Smokehouse — open mic
Inferno — Cannibal Patch kids
Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic
Owl Acoustic Lounge — CKXU Fundrive rock and roll trivia night
Slice — open mic
Ric’s Grill — James Oldenburg
Enmax Centre — Travis Tritt and the Boom Chuka Boys
Slice — Kilt Up for Cancer with the Junkman’s Choir
Owl Acoustic Lounge — L.A. Beat open jam
Slice — Kid Mac
Cotton Blossom Lounge — James Oldenburg
The Cave — open mic
Mocha Cabana — Herb Hicks
Ric’s Grill — Bryant Watson Duo
Owl Acoustic Lounge — HBO3
Slice — Paul Kype and Texas Flood
Jimmy’s Pub — open mic
Wolf’s Den — open mic
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Treeline and Shaela Miller
Mocha Cabana — Herb Hicks
Ric’s Grill — Cal Toth
Geomatic Attic — Caladh Nua
Slice — Steve Brockley $10
Yates Theatre — John McDermott
Moose Hall — Blue Ridge Mountain Society Country jam
Slice — Big Dave McLean
Owl Acoustic Lounge — open mic