The Music of Rob Lutes Captures The Spirit of The Gallery Series

Next Saturday, April 1st, the last in the Gallery Concert Series at Meaford Hall will feature singer-songwriter Rob Lutes.  Although everyone is excitedly anticipating the re-opening of the Opera house, with the newly renovated balcony and a spate of exciting shows, the Gallery Series offered a unique and special setting for live music that doesn’t otherwise exist in downtown Meaford.  The series had been primarily curated by Liz Scott, who has been bringing exceptional talents to Meaford for a couple of decades with her Irish Mountain House Concerts, but there hasn’t been the equivalent in the downtown core.  This series melded her creative vision and appreciation of unsung talent with the beautiful facility and always flawless sound offered at Meaford Hall.  In the intimacy of the gallery, it has provided a setting that is particularly suited to the performers who have come to visit.  It evoked the coffee houses that were ubiquitous in the sixties and served as launching pads for future superstars from Bob Dylan to Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell.

It seems particularly fitting that the series is capped off with a visit from Rob Lutes, whose guitar stylings, vocals and insightful songs also evoke that era.

When he settled in Montreal in his early twenties, his first love was song writing.  He had great admiration for songwriters and, as a musician he had played in a high school band called Hippopotamus Waterfall, modeled after their heroes, Buffalo Springfield.  But, with a freshly minted degree in journalism, he found work right away in that field, working for a company that published general interest books, and that job kept him busy with “strange but fascinating non-fiction” for the next ten years before he finally made music his full time vocation.  His writing skills brought a couple of unique opportunities, including speech writing for former Prime Minister Paul Martin, and ghost writing an introduction to a book on golf by George Bush senior.  He found it challenging to “pretend to be him” but was pleased when his submission was accepted without a single edit.

His interest in song writing and performing during this period didn’t abate.  The first time that he really felt like a song writer who might have something to say was when he performed at The Yellow Door, an outreach venue of McGill University that has been an integral part Montreal’s artistic and spiritual community for over 100 years.  There, in The Rabbit Hole, the coffee house in the basement, he found his artistic voice.  The spiritual nature of that venue, with its emphasis on meditation and introspection has informed his artistic voice.

His work as a journalist had less impact on his creative song writing except that the discipline required to deliver tight copy has carried over to his song writing, continually tweaking them until he got them right.  Some of the songs, for example, that he is preparing for his upcoming 7th CD he has been working on for five years.  The effort shows in the results, earning him accolades and awards internationally.  Mike Hill, artistic director of the Mariposa Folk Festival, expressed a common assessment of his talents when he said, “For me, Rob Lutes was one of the highlights of the 2012 Mariposa Folk Festival. His unique style, superb musicianship and his rapport with the audience came through loud and clear. A thorough professional, Rob deserves wide recognition as one of Canada’s best musical assets. ”

Rob Lutes’ musical style is partly coloured by his other project, a band called Sussex which features the jazz and blues of the 20s and 30s.  His finger-picking style was a hard won skill.

“The guy who gave me my technique,” he says, “was Mose Scarlett,” who, with Jackie Washington and Ken Whitely, are widely considered to be the founding fathers of the Toronto folk scene.  Scarlett’s self-taught, original technique of finger-picking, dubbed ‘stride guitar’ by Canadian music journalists, has a syncopation and melodic flow that was picked up by a lot of guitarists in the sixties.  Rob found that his teaching technique consisted of just playing a song, recording it on a cassette and sending his student home with the recording to figure it out for himself.  “I came back six months later and was able to play it for him.  He was impressed,” Rob says, “I guess not many people did that.  I must have cared a lot to figure it out.  I find that when things are difficult, it makes me want to do it all the more.”

Combine this dedication to his craft, the sensitivity he developed at The Yellow Door, and the intimate perfection of a venue perfectly suited to his talents, and this climax to the Gallery Series looks likely to be something very special.

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2 Responses to The Music of Rob Lutes Captures The Spirit of The Gallery Series

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