Russell deCarle Coming Thursday To Simcoe Street Theatre

Next Thursday, April 20th, Russell deCarle will be playing the Simcoe Street Theatre in Collingwood, with special guest Greg Smith.

The Simcoe Street Theatre is a intimate 100 seat blackbox theatre in downtown Collingwood.  In a Facebook post last June Nadia Mear wrote, “Simcoe Street Theatre is an absolute GIFT to the community of Collingwood and for audiences in Georgian Bay in general. Unique, independent and really special theatrical performances seem to be their mandate. Kudos to Anke and Rick who opened and run it. Well done!!”  It seems an ideal setting for a performance where the focus is on the songs.

Greg Smith, a young singer-songwriter from Meaford, has been enjoying a growing reputation locally since returning from his year in Budapest where he has made a name for himself.  He has a unique approach to song writing.  He creates song cycles where the characters and the narrative extends through several songs.  His musical settings are dynamic with liberal use of alternate tunings and filigreed finger work, and his vocals add a real cinematic aspect to his performance which suits the songs.  A dark theatre will be the perfect venue to hear his work.

And then when Russell deCarle comes on we’ll hear the distillation of forty-five years as a growing musician just coming into his prime.  He’ll be with his favourite guitar player Steve Briggs and they’ll be doing a lot of songs from the new (soon to be released) album that he is excited about.  Alone In This Crowd has a “southern soul sound” he says, which sounds like a natural for his voice.  Even though he’s played for most of his life in a country band, his vocal style leans more toward soul singers like Ray Charles and Arthur Alexander.  There’s still a lot of country in his voice, and it puts his vocal style in its own space.  Southern Soul is right where it belongs.

“I don’t do a lot of country,” Russell says, “My music is informed by what I listen to.  I love great pop music.”

“I’m feeling good about my writing,” he says, and you can hear the enthusiasm in his voice when he talks of this latest recording project with Steve Briggs.

Russell received songwriter awards and wrote number one hits when he was with Prairie Oyster, the Hall of Fame band that ran from the early seventies to 2006 with Russell on bass and vocals.

Prairie Oyster wasn’t any kind of Nashville country band, despite winning awards year after year.  They came out of that special Toronto country scene in the Seventies, playing the kind of cool country that was popularized by bands like The Flying Burrito Brothers.  There was Lori Yates and Handsome Ned, and later Blue Rodeo, all taking country music in directions that had its own authenticity.  Prairie Oyster was at the forefront of that style.  As Russell deCarle and Willie P. Bennet became close friends, the influence of that legendary songwriter became a integral part of the band as well, giving it even more of a Canadian flavour. Russell and Willie P. Bennet’s co-write of ‘One Way Track’, was named SOCAN’s 2008 Song of The Year.

Russell had been urged often to go solo during his four decades with Prairie Oyster but it suited him to be in the band.  When he finally made some solo forays, he ended up in 2004 on a tour opening for Merle Haggard.

“That really inspired me and set the tone for my solo work,” he said, “Merle Haggard is a song writer and performer that transcends all genres.  That’s when I got turned on to people like Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys and Lefty Frizzell.”

It was also when he met Steve Briggs.  With his band the Be Bop Cowboys, Steve Briggs has kept the western swing style of music alive and well.  First popularized in the 1930’s, Western Swing mashed up hillbilly music with the hot jazz coming out of Harlem and being popularized across the continent by Benny Goodman.  Blending hillbilly lyrics with Harlem slang, clarinets and accordians with pedal steel and fiddles, this music has a charm that would be lost if it weren’t for bands like the BeBop Cowboys.  Western Swing Music Society News said, “The heart of the band is Steve Briggs (guitar) and Burke Carroll (pedal steel guitar), and twin guitar work so audacious it takes your breath away. That they make it sound so effortless is surely a tribute to how much work has gone into the rehearsals, and into Briggs’ arrangements.”

Steve Briggs had a real impact on Russell, who calls him “an incredible guitarist”.  They formed a trio with Denis Keldie on accordion, playing these great old songs.  They made an album, “Live At Loud Mouse Studios”, entirely consisting of covers, lighting up rare gems from the early jazz era.  Russell’s acclaimed Under The Big Big Sky, released in 2010, was his last album of originals until now with the upcoming “Alone In This Crowd”.

“I don’t do a lot of country,” Russell says, “My music is informed by what I listen to.  I love great pop music.”

And he loves Willie P. Bennett, Merle Haggard, Bob Wills and Steve Briggs.  Imagine all those influences flowing through the voice of Russell deCarle and you can understand why Steven Vipond says, “I’ve been doing house concerts for 7 years and I have to say that Russell is the only artist to actually make me cry in my living room.”

The show, created for The Bruce Street Social Club  is on Thursday, April 20th at the Simcoe Street Theatre in Collingwood, starting at 7 pm.  Tickets are available at Bruce Wine Bar.

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Click on this album cover to check out Russell’s latest album:



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