Tag Archives: The Vaudevillian

The Thursday Outlook – Oct. 19 to 23, 2017

The Band That Kills Hate, Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, is coming back to spread their vibe and their amazing music in our area, with a show on Sunday evening at Meaford Hall.  Along with killing hate and putting on a show that rocks the house, this is a band that represents the best in Canadian song writing.  Originally founded as a tribute to the late Willie P. Bennett, the band was conceived as a fun side project for the three artists (Tom Wilson, Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing) who all have their own careers, and two decades later they still bring that fun of an all-star jam to every show.  Throughout their career they have consistently made a point of shining the spotlight on Canadian songwriters and others from the wide world of music.  Touring with them recently is Tom Wilson’s son, Thompson Wilson, who dispels any hint of nepotism with engaging original songs performed solo on acoustic guitar.  Blackie and The Rodeo Kings is a band that every Canadian music fan should see and there’s no better venue for that than Meaford Hall.

Owen Sound based songwriter, Larry Jensen, whose original songs have spawned a tribute album by the leading lights of the local music scene, will be performing a special concert tonight at The Bleeding Carrot, starting at 7 pm.  This is an ideal small venue to be able to really enjoy the songs and stories he weaves.

Jacelyn Holmes, whose press touts her as a blend of Marilyn Monroe and Stevie Nicks, is at The Huron Club in Collingwood for the weekend.  Following her showcase performance at the 2017 Juno Awards she’s released a smoky blues single, “Fool”, and is working on an upcoming album.

Ragwax Brings Gypsy Jazz and More To Meaford Next Friday

When Meaford gathers next Friday, July 21, for the next in the summer concert series, the opening act for HigherFunktion will be a unique young performer who goes by the name of Ragwax.  He’s been in Meaford once before, playing at The Red Door, and while he’ll be doing just a few songs before the headliner takes the stage in the Market Square, people can catch him after the outdoor concert across the street  at The Leeky Canoe, where he will be entertaining for the remainder of the evening.

Ragwax brings a fresh voice to an old style of music that never ages, the early hot jazz that was popularized by Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli  in the 1930’s at The Hot Club in Paris.  This “gypsy jazz” (Reinhardt was Romani) combined the jumping flavour of New Orleans filtered through Reinhardt’s gypsy style guitar work (think Gypsy Kings) with the big band swing music popularized by bands like Benny Goodman and interpreted by Stéphane Grappelli  on violin.  The resulting hybrid is exciting enough to get anyone jumping.  We have our own heroes of gypsy jazz in this area in The Huronia Hotstrings, who played a concert earlier this week in Collingwood.

Millennial Dan Edmonds Reinterprets Our Collective Roots

Former frontman of Harlan Pepper, Dan Edmonds will be at Bruce Wine Bar this Friday, March 24th.  He is touring to support his solo album, “Ladies On The Corner”.  He has said that the album is his attempt to move away somewhat from the Americana label attached to Harlan Pepper, due to their “twangy” sound, toward something that is closer “a different side of all the old country and folk music I still love. My hope is that people will come to this album with fresh ears and appreciate it for what it is.”  As an example, he ends the album stretching far back to folk roots with a cover of Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene” a song that was a hit for the first pop folk group The Weavers way back in 1950.  His affection for The Grateful Dead and the inclusion of a pedal steel player in his touring band set the scene for what you might call psychedelic folk.  The album has also evoked comparisons to Bob Dylan and “Lou Reed meets Arlo Guthrie”.  Exclaim! In its review of “Ladies On The Corner” commented, “despite its retro quality, Edmonds’ debut solo album is imaginative and fresh, a trip well worth taking.”

Since leaving Harlan Pepper a year and a half ago, Edmonds has produced, among other bands, The Vaudevillian, an authentic jug-band trio that visited Bruce Wine Bar not long ago.  He has a taste for retro sounds, demonstrated by the fact that he recorded this album on an 8-track reel-to-reel with 1” magnetic tape.

His songs, recorded in his home studio in Hamilton, reflect, “ the downtown area, Barton Street in particular,” as he explained to The Hamilton Spectator,  “I’m just trying to write from a different perspective, not from my life but from the people I see. I’m trying to put myself into their shoes. It’s dark, but it’s not my life I’m expressing.”  There are songs about unrequited love, addiction, restlessness and discontent, leavened with his sense of humour.

Dan Edmonds is among a new generation of songwriters who are re-discovering, just as songwriters did in the sixties, the importance of the roots of North American music.

“When I was a teenager I loved punk rock,” he told Biljana of Cut From Steel, “I don’t know what happened. It’s a far trip from punk the old country. I think I realized rock is amazing, then I realized oh, that came from blues and country. So, I listen to rock and realize those guys were listening to this.. and those guys to this… and follow that all the way back. Also check out Alan Lomax’s recordings – he recorded jail songs slave songs and that’s like the root of American music in a lot of ways. You can trace it back super far. There’s so much there. These old blues guys made records in the early 1900’s and were forgotten about until they were old men. In the 60’s these kids realized they were still alive. Funny how music works that in a span of 40 years they weren’t making popular music and then they were re-discovered by a new generation and became famous again.”

There are two shows Friday at Bruce Wine Bar, 7 and 9, and as always reservations are recommended.

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Jumping Jive with The Vaudevillian Tonight

Patrons of Bruce Wine Bar have a real treat in store for them tonight with an appearance by a little trio that calls themselves The Vaudevillian.  It’s a band that specializes in jug band music.  The phenomenon of jug bands was something that originated in the 20’s and 30’s when groups of musicians used homemade instruments to play their versions of the great jazz that was coming out of places like Harlem and New Orleans.  They would put together a broomstick and a washtub to make a bass, and augment it with a tuba-like sound made by blowing into an empty jug.  For percussion they would put thimbles on their fingers and stroke a metal washboard, often with a pot lid or two attached to work as a cymbal.  A guitar and violin would fill out the sound and, with the infusion of some native talent, these musicians would create a pretty good facsimile of the original hits.  Sometimes they would add a kazoo, maybe amplified by attaching some device like a muffler to it for amplification.

The music of the jug bands enjoyed a resurgence during the sixties folk boom, primarily performed by The Jim Kweskin Jug Band (with Maria Muldaur as their beautiful and captivating lead singer).  In England, they developed a version of the jug band with what they called skiffle bands.  That was how John Lennon began, with a little group that morphed into The Beatles when Paul and George came on board.  In both of the American and British versions, the bands picked up on the music and did it in their own style.

Now all these years later comes The Vaudevillian, following the same tradition but with some major differences.  The washboard is still the central percussion instrument, played with amazing dexterity and taste by Norah Spades, and lead singer/guitarist Brendan Stephens (a.k.a Jitterbug James) sometimes will pull out a jug, and often plays his  “carzoobamaphone” (a kazoo amplified by attachments from car parts), but there is a real upright bass, played by Guy “Piedmont” Johnson.  What stands out with this band, that sets them apart from both Jim Kweskin and John Lennon, is that they are really excellent musicians.  And they have an authentic sound that truly evokes the music of the original era, even down to Brendan’s N’Awlins drawl when he sings.  And, without veering away from their faithful adherence to the style, their repertoire now includes mostly original songs.

Don’t think for a moment that the authenticity means that this band is some kind of museum piece.  The original jug band music jumped with energy and spark, and so does The Vaudevillian.  Much of this is due to the passion for the music that Brendan has had since he was very young.  He’s been a self described “old-time music nerd” since the age of twelve when he first discovered this music.  From endless listening to the original ragtime and jazz legends he has internalized their music and their sound.  “You get into the character,” he says, “and it’s wonderful”.  He’s been busking since he began and has gone through a couple of different permutations with the band but, with the present lineup in place for about a year and a half, things have become pretty busy and they have enjoyed some adventures.

One adventure, which was simultaneously inspiring and scary, was a three month sojourn in New Orleans, where they busked daily in the French Quarter.  While they soaked up the music that was everywhere and attracted crowds whenever they played, “New Oleans,” says Norah,”is a very dangerous place”.  The threat of “pickpockets or something worse” was a real concern wherever there was a crowd.

Ironically their busking in the French Quarter came to an abrupt halt after the Paris nightclub terrorist attack.  The ripple effect reached all the way to New Orleans, where the police opened up Royal Street to traffic.  Before that it would be closed to car traffic to allow for a pedestrian mall, an ideal setting for a catchy busking band.  Once the cars were let in, the pedestrian traffic diminished to almost nothing, and it was time for The Vaudevillian to move on.

Another new adventure for them was playing the Skagen Festival in Denmark.  It is an annual traditional folk festival, the oldest in Denmark, held on the far northern tip of Jutland in the town of Skagen.  While their music went over well, they weren’t able to do their customary back and forth with the audience because of the language barrier.  “We tend to be interactive with the audience,” says Norah, “and we couldn’t be as inclusive.”  But they feel they learned from the experience and are glad to be invited back again for this summer’s festival.

They are also glad to be invited back to the Bruce Wine Bar.  “It’s really neat,” says Norah, “because it’s a fancy wine bar that we love”, a nice contrast to the flea markets and noisy bars that they often play.  They also like the two shows concept that is how the wine bar functions.  Brendan says, “During the first show we play a little quieter numbers, and then at the later show we can get a little louder.”  They do admit, though, that theirs is a band that would tend to make noise diners ignore their meals to pay attention to the music, which is irresistible.  “There’s an appreciation, a level of attention that we are grateful for.”

Live music fans can also be grateful for a chance to enjoy a band of this calibre in a dinner setting.

The Vaudevillian plays two shows tonight at 7 and 9 p.m.  Reservations are recommended.

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