Tag Archives: Horseshoe Tavern

Conor Gains Has Impressed The Best From An Early Age

Conor Gains and The Ramblin’ Moon will be bringing another great night of music to The Marsh Street Centre in Clarksburg next weekend, March 25th.

If you close your eyes and listen to Conor Gains play and sing you can hear the history of the blues, from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago.  He’s an old soul, born to sing the blues.

Conor, was born in 1993, two years after his namesake, Conor Clapton, at the age of four-and-a-half, tragically died in a fall from a window forty stories up.  The boy’s father, Eric Clapton, memorialized his son in several songs, including “Circus” and “Tears In Heaven”.  But perhaps a better memorial to the son of the famed blues guitarist is this young talent from Cambridge, Ontario, who has been making an impression on the blues world since he was a pre-teen.

Conor Gains could be called the Mozart of the blues, because, like Amadeus, he was a child prodigy who seems to have been born with a natural talent for the music he loves and continues to impress, not only as a guitarist but as a vocalist and songwriter as well.  He has the appetite of a devoted student, an attribute that was always there.  When he was eight, he picked up his father’s guitar and began to play.  He explored his father’s music collection, absorbing the skills of guitar greats that included not only Clapton but Rory Gallagher, Alvin Lee, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix.  Although he is firmly rooted in the blues, his playing and writing explores the best of other genres as well.  In an interview with Erin McCallum for the Toronto Blues Society Newsletter, he said, “Blues is a soulful, creative, extreme right-brained forum to express or evoke emotion – a way of expressing, despite what you are going through, something beautiful.” But through his two album releases to date, “Junction Sessions” and “Run Away With The Night” he stretches the genre to bring in elements of country, rockabilly and reggae.

Conor’s father, like Mozart’s recognized his son’s talent at an early age and in the fall of 2007 he and his journalist father went on a “father and son ‘rock and roll road trip’” which included music venues in Cleveland, Nashville and Memphis.  By this time Conor had already been impressing local Cambridge musicians, participating in blues jams since the age of twelve.  Within a year of the road trip he was playing shows in Ontario and across the continent, including at the Montreal Jazz Festival and Memphis Blues Festival.  He performed with the BB King All stars, in Nashville and Memphis, and was invited by the late Les Paul to join him on stage at New York’s Iridium Jazz Club.

Along the line he has expanded his original trio to an ensemble called The Ramblin’ Moon, that includes horns and a keyboard, allowing him to expand his songwriting and performance to match his growing sophistication as an artist.  He has also left a string of exclamatory praise in his wake.  Craig Laskey, talent buyer at Toronto’s legendary Horseshoe Tavern, said  “Conor was great, Everyone who saw the show is raving about him.”  He’s since become a regular favourite at the venue.  Following Rambli’ Moon’s high energy show to the Montreal Jazz Festival’s main stage in July 2015, Mark Lepage of the Montreal Gazette raved that “Gains brought… the life force of the music.” Grammy Award winner Dan Hill, after co-writing a song with Conor, commented, ” I swear he’s brilliant.”

The Marsh Street Centre attracts an audience that becomes fully engaged with the performance on stage and reflects back to the band the energy they put out.  This will make next weekend’s performance even more special.  It’s bound to be a sold out show, so you’d better check in as soon as you can to purchase tickets at www.marshstreetcentre.com so you don’t miss your chance of to see this shooting star while he’s still in our stratosphere.

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Click on the album cover to check out Conor Gains’ music:

The Skydiggers’ Energy Warms A Wintry Night

Review by Bill Monahan of The Skydiggers at Meaford Hall Dec. 10, 2016

It was a wintry night when The Skydiggers stopped at Meaford Hall on Saturday.  That may have prevented a few from making the trip, so the audience was a little smaller than the full houses that the Opera House is getting used to lately.  But they brought a whole lot of energy to the room.  Vocal and mobile, they cheered every song, often spontaneously leaping to their feet and running into the aisles to dance.  From the opening bars of the first song Andy Maize had the audience in the palm of his hand.

They had said they were bringing their famous Horseshoe Tavern Christmas show on the road but since that longstanding tradition involved crowding the stage with friends from a quarter century career, it’s a little difficult to bring on the road.  But they did bring friends, and everybody caught the spirit.  The Skydiggers gave us a great show from end to end.

There was a solid band, with keyboards, drums and bass, accompanying singers Andy Maize and Jessy Bell Smith, and guitarist Josh Findlayson.  Their groove was locked in enough for Andy to execute some of his famous dance moves, ranging from leaping leprechaun to Chubby Checker, with some frenetic jazz hands thrown in for spice.  Michael Johnston, on keyboards, stretched out several times with some exciting solos.  Guitar leads were scarce, just hinted at when Josh briefly strapped on an electric guitar.  Mostly he played an acoustic, picking and strumming.

The most compelling aspect of The Skydiggers live show is the blend of voices.  Often everybody but the drummer was singing and it created a beautiful choral sound.  Andy Maize on lead vocals uses the full range of his voice to put across a variety of songs and when Jessy Bell Smith adds vocal harmonies things suddenly become ethereal.

She is the kind of vocalist that has you thinking as you listen “I wonder where she’s playing next.”  She’s been a member of The Skydiggers since 2013 when her version of one of their songs inspired them to release “She Comes In To The Room”, a collection of songs with female singers.  She has also released an album of her own recordings.  On stage she seems shy but relaxed.  When she takes the lead you are transported.  It’s one of those voices.

She did a version of “We Go Rambling On”, a song written by Peter Cash, one of the founding members of The Skydiggers.  She lost herself in the performance and so did the audience, which spontaneously leapt to their feet to give her an extended ovation afterward.  I think that’s what they call a show-stopper.

But the show was full of great renditions of wonderful songs.  “Remember Me” is a longing look at the years of Christmas parties at The Horseshoe.  Andy says it has become such a solid tradition, “I think they could have it without us”.  The audience disagreed and it sounded like several people promised to follow them to The Horseshoe for the big show next weekend.

Their version of The Tragically Hip’s “Are You Going Through Something?” was moving, and their take on Gene Clark’s “Eight Miles High” added some musical treats that weren’t there on the original Byrds version.

It was a show that was over too soon.  It was the kind of band you wanted to be able to listen to all night, and you got the feeling that they would be happy to play for you.  Maybe they’ll do that when they play two days next week at The Horseshoe.

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