There is a lot happening this week for the middle of February.
A big country show happens at the Enmax Centre right out of the gate with Old Dominion’s Happy endings tour on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. featuring Old Dominion, Cold Creek County and Washboard Union who made a great impression at the Shine On music Festival last year at the u of L. Tickets are $54.65, $74.65 and $84.65.
After that, Cape Breton Celtic trio Knotwerk play East Coast music at The Slice. And for something completely different, there is a jazz jam with HBO 3 and Josh Davies at the Owl Acoustic Lounge on Wednesday, Feb. 7 as well.
The Owl is hopping this week as the next night, Thursday, Feb. 8, local country/pop band Coyote Junction are playing the 100 People Who Care fundraiser for Senator Buchanan Elementary School helping students understand the importance of outdoor education, wellness in the classroom, culture and community and experimental learning.
As expected, the weekend is pretty hot. Local country trio Hurtin’ play Casino Lethbridge Friday and Saturday. Over at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, U of L radio station CKXU shows they love you with a lot of live music including Calgary indie folk band thew Boreal Sons, fellow Calgary prog rock post rock band Time Boy and electronica band Stegosarahs. You will also get a first look at the swag for this year’s space-themed fun drive, which takes place the week of March 24.
Local progressive rock band the Decadent Phase play with Joel Stretch of the Utilities, who have a new CD out, play The Slice Feb. 9.
The Slice hosts another big multi-band show Feb. 10, this time for FLIPfest’s Palentines Day massacre with dream rock band Crystal Eyes, leaked and Grande Prairies’s the Postnamers and local synth rock band W.I.T.S. Admission is $10.
Cal Toth’s Dueling Pianos returns to Average Joes, Friday, Feb. 9.
A couple of very different Edmonton bands play Feb. 10 as well.
The Lethbridge Folk Club brings bluegrass band the Bix Mix Boys back to play the Lethbridge College Cave Feb. 10. Cathy Hawley will open the show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 for members, $30 for invited guests including a season membership and $15 for students.
On the other side of folk, baroque folk duo F & M, return to the Owl Acoustic Lounge to preview their upcoming album “Lessons From Losers.” Admission is by donation.
Club Didi also features a drag night Feb. 10, beginning at 10 p.m.
Last but not least, the monthly ukulele jam is at Casa, 2-3 p.m., Feb. 11.
The Lethbridge Folk Club hosts the long awaited return of Edmonton-based bluegrass band The Bix Mix Boys, to the Lethbridge College Cave, Feb. 13.
“It has been a long time. I think they’ve changed venues,” observed Bix Mix boys banjo player Darcy Whiteside,who is joined by guitarist Logan Sarchfield, mandolinist Terry Nadasdi and upright bassist Jim Storey, who were last in Lethbridge for a Lethbridge Folk Club show at the Wolf’s Den back in 2012.
Since then they’ve released one album and have been playing a lot.
“We’ve been doing the Alberta and B.C. circuit,” Whiteside said.
“But a highlight of last year was Cirque du Soleil hired us to play their after-party. They were leaving and wanted to do a western theme,” he said.
“They were great to us. They gave us tickets and we got to meet the performers and the crew. And our mandolinist is a linguistics professor at the University of Alberta and he speaks French, so he was a hero to them,” he said.
In addition to playing bluegrass live, you can also hear Whiteside playing bluegrass on the radio.
“Jim and I have a bluegrass show on CJSR, the University of Alberta radio station and recently I’ve been doing a show on CKUA on Sunday afternoons. I replaced Peter North in November. I’m really enjoying being with CKUA,” he said, adding there is a tight-knit bluegrass scene in Calgary and Edmonton, who the band members often play with.
“There‘s Back Porch Swing and the Misery Mountain Boys who have played there before. And there’s Nomad Jones. There’s bluegrass in Calgary, too. And we’ve played with most of them. It’s a fun little scene to be part of,” he continued.
He played banjo from a young age.
“My parents had instruments they were trying to get rid of. They had a guitar and a banjo. And I had a big sister. She got the guitar and I got stuck with the banjo, but then I met Jake Peters,” he said, noting he started taking lessons from the award winning guitarist and banjo player as he had moved to Whiteside’s home town of Didsbury.
“Jake is a family friend. He’s a phenomenal picker and he’s really incredibly passionate about music,” he said.
“We’re excited to play Lethbridge again. It’s a lot of fun. We’re excited to play some of the new stuff we’ve been working on,” he said.
“We’ve got an old Fred Allen song ‘Hello City Lights,’ and ‘Santa Cruz,’” he continued.
“We practise every week. We’re all hard-core bluegrass nerds, so we’re always bringing in new songs to learn to practices,” he said.
The Bix Mix Boys play the Lethbridge College Cave, Feb.10 at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $25 for members, $30 for invited guests including a membership for the year and $15 for students. Cathy Hawley opens the show.
Edmonton Baroque folk duo F & M aren’t afraid to do their own thing.
Their last album, “At Sunset We Sing,” was inspired by husband and wife Rebecca and Ryan Anderson’s experiences in Portugal.
Their next album, to be released in late fall, “Lessons Form Losers” is about the joys of doing your own thing and not fitting in.
They return to the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Feb. 10 to support “At Sunset We Sing” as well as give the audience a preview of the new album.
“We’re still trying to figure out what it‘s about,” said Ryan Anderson, from the couple’s home in Edmonton.
“These days people race to ignorance. It’s all about winning. And in that race it’s not a bad thing to be a loser,” he continued.
“It’s a very humbling album,” he said.
“We spent a lot of time with the lyrics and really enjoying the creative process,” added Rebecca.
“It’s OK not to be successful. We’re not going to get rich doing this, but we enjoy it and I get to be in a band with my wife and she‘s pretty cool,” added Ryan. “We‘re never going to be part of a pop contest or a reality show, though it has been suggested to us a lot of times. But we said no thanks.”
They recorded the new record with long time guitarist Brian Miot Reichert.
“We did everything in house but he moved to Kamloops and took his recording studio with him,” Ryan observed.
“But the record is done and designed. We’re just waiting on the vinyl. But we will be playing some of the new songs in Lethbridge,” he continued.
“The album has a really big sound. The music was inspired a lot by the band we were playing with in 2015 and 16 but we‘re touring as a duo. It still has a big sound,” Rebecca said.
“I’m exploring a lot of synth sound and experimenting with distorted lines,” she continued.
She was playing accordion the last time F & M was in Lethbridge, but there isn’t any accordion on the new album.
“There was one accordion song on the album, but we cut it. But I’ll have the accordion in Lethbridge because we’re still playing songs from the last album and they’re the strongest parts of the set,” she said, noting they also cut a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Take this Waltz,” and another one they recorded with a Montreal musician.
“We released the Leonard Cohen song when he died, but we had to cut it because it was too long. Vinyl has that limitation. The one with the Montreal musician just didn’t fit with the album. But it’s the Internet, so we can release it any time. We’re hoping to release it with her when we‘re in Montreal,” she said.
The album is short. There’s nine songs on it.”
“It’s very cohesive and beautiful,” said Ryan.
“We love coming to Lethbridge. We love the Owl Acoustic Lounge. It’s a very special room. it’s also very loud. Steve always treats us very well, better than anywhere else we’ve played. They really go the extra mile for us. It’s a very special place,” he said
“And there‘s no cover, so people come and go. Some like the music in the background and like to chat. other’s come to listen and sit up front. Of course, we welcome more people coming up to the front and listening,” Rebecca continued.
F & M play the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Feb. 10 at around 9 p.m. Admission is by donation.
I have a pretty eclectic taste in music. I listen to bands even hipsters haven’t heard of; I know this for a fact because pretty much nobody recognized any of the bands I was irritating people with by raving about them over the past couple months leading up to my voyage on the Norwegian Pearl for the Outlaw Country Cruise 3, Jan. 21-26.
Some of my favourite bands barely ever play Canada and are never played on modern radio but they were playing the Outlaw Country Cruise 3 sponsored by the Outlaw country station on Sirius/XM. While the station plays your usual diet of Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, they also play a lot of up and coming “outlaw country” musicians, Southern rock, punk rock and cow punk, roots rock , alt country and other music that just doesn’t fit in, so the bands on the bill reflected that diversity.
Some people recognized Steve Earle and the Cuban-influenced country band the Mavericks, who were the “headliners” on this bucket list cruise which was basically a gigantic music festival taking place on six stages on three different levels of a monster cruise ship sailing from New Orleans to Costa Maya, Mexico.
A couple people vaguely remembered the Bottle Rockets, Jason and the Scorchers and Blackberry Smoke because they heard them on my shows on CKXU 88.3 FM.
But what made me feel pretty old is the younger people who didn’t recognize “hardcore troubadour” Steve Earle, who played a special 30th anniversary concert of his album “Copperhead Road.”
And even though Steve was the headliner and playing numerous times (and for the most part completely different shows) during the week like most of the artists, I only caught bits and pieces of his shows including the Copperhead Road show, because they were competing with other bands I really want to see. And I know Steve would put on a great show because I’ve seen him play here. He was one of many Texas musicians playing on the ship.
I got to sit in on a couple of Outlaw country broadcasts including Steve Earle swapping stories about dearly departed Guy Clark and Nashville in the early ’70s. I also got to see an excellent workshop featuring Earle, Rodney Crowell, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Lucinda Williams swapping songs and telling stories, which was excellent, and kept my attention off the floating city being blown back and forth by 50-knot (approximately 100 km/hour) gale force winds. While I may be used to them in Lethbridge, it’s a little disconcerting in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.
Usually I’m in the front row, right next to almost every show that comes to Lethbridge, making pictures and taking notes in the endless quest to let people know that there is a whole world of great music just waiting for you discover beyond the banality of modern Top 40 radio, so it was weird to just be part of the masses just sitting back and watching the show. Other than for the Bottle Rockets, I stayed at the back of the room, and barely took any pictures, not wanting to pack a telephoto lens (which was “not allowed” though some people brought them). It was a weird unsettling feeling, but the trip of a lifetime.
Every morning, they crew would deliver a schedule of cheerful welcome brochures and portable schedules of all the fun planned for the day which you could carry around on a lanyard along with your cabin key which you’d have to use to get drinks and of course get into your room, to choose the shows you wanted to see and the pieces of shows you could catch if they were competing with each other. Fortunately the stages weren’t that far apart, so it was easy to catch a little bit of everything.
I signed up for the pre-party on the cruise which featured two amazing shows. While my main attraction was New Orleans cowpunk icons Dash Rip Rock best known for their song “Let’s Go Smoke some Pot,” and the cowpunk (a country music blended with punk energy) legends Supersuckers, who bill themselves as the greatest rock and roll band in the world, I also discovered a talented newcomer Jesse Dayton, though he has been a Texas favourite for years and who was also helping the Supersuckers “working on becoming the greatest country band in the world” with his bassist. It was competing with The Ponderosa Stomp featuring an array of classic country pickers plus Augie Meyers who used to play with the Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornadoes who forged Mexican music with country music in the ’70s, play New Orleans harp legend Lazy Lester blowing amazing blues music.
I love discovering new music and sharing it with people. It is, after all, my life’s work.
I could easily see why Texans rave about Jesse Dayton, who easily blended rockabilly with traditional country music and a touch of punk nihilism. He played much of his new CD “The Revealer,” including “Daddy was a Badass,” “Three Pecker Goat” and my favourite, “I’m At Home Getting Hammered While She’s Out Getting Nailed.”
From the female perspective Sarah Gayle Meech reminded me a little of Terri Clark with a touch of classic Patsy Cline style country.
Her fiddle player absolutely floored me as did Shooter Jennings’ fiddle player.
Though I really enjoyed the Cuban infused country of the Mavericks who brought their horn section on board to open the cruise on the Monday, I was there for the cowpunk bands.
Jason and The Scorchers pretty much invented the idea of cowpunk and directly or indirectly influenced a variety of cowpunk/ alt country bands like Son Volt, The Bottle Rockets and pretty much anybody else who-tried to blend the two styles.
They played several incendiary sets of completely different songs, save for their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” which was part of all of them.They were amazing especially considering their first show on the boat was the first time they’d played together in three years according to frontman Jason Ringenberg, leaping around the stage like he had fire ants in his pants.
Guitarist Warner Hodges who also plays with Dan Baird of the Georgia Satellites and Jason Ringenberg stepped on stage to jam with the Bottle Rockets on the big outdoor stage on the pool deck stage on floor 12 of the boat. That was a highlight for me and the Bottle Rockets, who admitted they started playing in part because of Jason and the Scorchers.
The Bottle Rockets are the best straight-ahead rock and roll band playing today and showed it. Frontman Brian Henneman toured with Son Volt in their early days as a helper and started writing songs during down time and formed the band after they got him a record deal. He writes about everyday people around his home town of Festus, Missouri, that could really break your heart, but the band also showed they could tear things up musically with the best of them, as well as just make you smile with songs like the simple, but beautiful “Dog,” which is a highlight off their new CD “South Broadway Athletic Club.”
The other band I really wanted to see was southern rock band Blackberry Smoke, who I just missed seeing on their tour with Govt. Mule two years ago.
They were one of many acts trying out new material from upcoming albums (they release “Find a Light” in April). I was hoping to hear “Holding all the Roses,” the title track off their Cd from a couple years ago, but didn’t hear it, though they played quite few from their latest CD “Like an Arrow.” They sounded like a touring with Govt. Mule has rubbed off on them as much of their shows turned into long experimental jam sessions.
Another of my favourites, Elizabeth Cook, who is a DJ on Outlaw Country and a fine songwriter in her own right, showed off her furry coat as well as new band and new songs, so that was a highlight as I’ve had a crush on her since I first heard her on the radio.
She was also a highlight as she sat down for a live broadcast of her interviewing Lucinda Williams about her long career, album by album.
Another non-musical highlight was a live reading of a new episode of The Cartoon network latenight swim cartoon The Squidbillies, which is a hilariously twisted cartoon about a family of land-bound redneck squids. Unknown Hinson voices the dirtbag patriarch Early a while Elizabeth Cook voices Tammy, so they joined the creators on stage for the ready in front of a backdrop of scenes from the upcoming episode.
They brought on Steve Earle, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Lucinda Williams and Mojo Nixon to voice the cartoon versions of themselves as well.
Shooter Jennings, who was in Lethbridge a couple years ago with his dad Waylon Jennings’ band “Waymore’s Outlaws,” had his own band on the boat, which included an amazing fiddle player named Audrey. He was also in the mood to play new music, taking a further step away from country, though he did play “Outlaw You.”
The new music was more detuned alternative rock and was pretty amazing.
Another new to me (as he has been performing since at least 1999) discovery was Unknown Hinson, who combined tongue in cheek politically incorrect country music with some solid rockabilly chops. He’ll be up in Canada opening for The Reverend Horton Heat in March.
Yet another act I always wanted to see, though he has been playing for years was country singer Junior Brown, who performed twangy country music with a double necked guitar and steel guitar, which was very impressive to watch, especially detuning the low E mid song to get those gut busting low notes he excels at mid song.
The Mastersons, who opened for Steve Earle and were part of his band for his last Lethbridge show were also on board as part of Earle’s band as well as playing new music for their own shows. They sang gorgeous harmonies as usual. The main show I wanted to see was Ray Wylie Hubbard, who is best known for the song “Redneck Mother,” from the early ’70s, spent 40 years addicted to drugs and alcohol before sobering up and learning how to properly fingerpick and write really amazing spiritually themed, stream of consciousness thought provoking country/blues songs. He held a guitar workshop with his son Lucas, which was hilarious. I got to ask him how to lay my favourite song “Stolen Horse,” but he couldn’t remember how to play it. But it was a kick just to be able to ask the question and get him to autograph his autobiography.
Another highlight was a loud, raucous show by the over-enthusiastic, boisterous Mojo Nixon, who was losing his voice almost as soon as the cruise started. He technically has retired from performing, but came out of retirement for a show. He has written a variety of underground politically incorrect hits like “ Debbie Gibson is Pregnant With my two headed love Child,”“Elvis is Everywhere” and a lot of other hilarious songs you can‘t print the titles of in a family newspaper. So it was a hoot to be able to experience that.
Winding down the cruise, modern country star Jack Ingram was second guessing his success a little and was slumming for his one show on the cruise, observing, “be careful what you wish for. When you’re stuck outside a club behind the red rope, the people inside the red rope might not necessarily be the people you want to hang out with,” he quipped before playing an array of stripped down hits like “ I’m Drinking Through it,” interspersed with stories and jokes about his dad and wife, before noting he was glad to be there after begging to be part of the cruise and noting he was going to the Grammys after the cruise.
Smokehouse — open mic
Club Didi — open mic 8-10 p.m.
Enmax — Old Dominion with Washboard Union and Cold Creek County $54.65, $74.65. $84.65
Slice — Knotwerk east coast tunes
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Jazz jams with HBO3 and Josh Davies
Slice — open mic
Owl Acoustic Lounge — 100 People Who Care About Senator Buchanan at 7, Senator Buchanan fundraiser with Coyote Junction
Average Joes — Duelling Pianos with Cal Toth
Honker’s Pub — open mic
Slice — The Decadent Phase with Joel Stretch of the Utilities
Owl Acoustic Lounge — CKXU Loves You with Time Boy, Boreal Sons and Stegosarahs plus MC Molly Dooker
Casino Lethbridge — Hurtin’
Honker’s Pub — afternoon open mic
Slice — Flipfest Palentines’s Day massacre with Crystal Eyes, Leaked, Postnamers, W.I.T.S $10
Owl Acoustic Lounge — F and M
Casino Lethbridge — Hurtin’
The Lethbridge College Cave — The Bix Mix Boys Lethbridge Folk Club
Club Didi — Valentine’s Day is such a Drag
Casa — Lethbridge Ukulele jam
Onion — open mic
Owl Acoustic lounge—open mic
Smokehouse — open mic
Slice — open mic
Honker’s Pub — open mic
Slice — Major Love /Coleen Brown with the Utilities
Owl Acoustic lounge — Wint
Casino Lethbridge — Eric Braun Band
Moose Hall — LEMF Bridge Bash 2.0 Bigger and bassier
Geomatic Attic — Whitney Rose 8 p.m. $32.50, $35.50
Club Didi — Show tunes Sing along 9 p.m. $10 Show Tunes Sing A Long. 9 p.m. No Cover. Broadway song or love songs. You choose! This fun night of singing a long to your favourite tunes is a great way to spend an evening. sing from the crowd, or take the stage and lead the group in song if you choose.
Honker’s Pub — afternoon open mic
Slice — Mostly Wanted with Every Ounce
Owl Acoustic Lounge — Evan Freeman, Vagrant Souls, Birch barks,
Casino Lethbridge — Eric Braun band
Club Didi — Panti Rave Boiler Room edition