Mostly, the blues have moved north from their origins in the American South.
Now (and for some time), they occasionally move south from north of the border and our Canadian blues players.
One quite recent and quite excellent example is this eighth album from veteran Canadian award-winning guitarist, singer, songwriter, and now producer, Steve Strongman.
Strongman is well-known in Canada, having won, among other awards, a Juno, the Mel Brown Blues Award, the International Blues Challenge’s Best Guitarist award, and four Maple Blues Awards.
In this set of 10 songs that he has either written or co-written, Strongman shares his own sturdy vocal style with four other Canadian singers, who skillfully join to make thoroughly enjoyable bluesy, soulful and Americana music together. His guitar work is just as tasty — and he skillfully adds bass and harp work, too. Added to his backers here are longtime musical pals Jesse O’Brien on keys and Dave King on drums.
The album kicks off with Strongman on “Hard Luck,” a rocking ode to the kind of luck that’s his “best friend,” and maybe better than no luck at all. That’s followed with guest Steve Marriner handling the vocals on “Swansong,” driven hard by King on drums.
Next up is the sultry voice of Dawn Tyler Watson on the soulful “Fine Young Man,” and title is the only description you need to pick up on the obvious message, sparked with a sensuous guitar solo.
The next two tracks feature the well-polished voice of veteran soul-blues singer Harrison Kennedy. “I Don’t Miss You” is a rhythmic plea of lost love; “I Like to Ride” is bluesy shuffle driven with a tough note of auto-erotic sentiment, fueled by backup singers and some high-octane piano. Kennedy’s and Watson’s vocal turns alone are worth vocals are worth the price of admission.
Strongman works in some scorching guitar on “White Lightnin’,” complementing a fierce vocal turn. Crystal Shawanda follows with a heady blues rocker, “Tell Me I’m Wrong,” with just a hint of country in the air.
“Gettin’ Stoned” is worth a mention for its jazzy old-timey feel, both in melody and lyrics. They made a very clever video to highlight this whimsical theme, which you’ll find below. And yes, it’s all perfectly legal in Canada (the second nation after Uruguay to legalize the stuff — and I don’t know if there’s a similar Uruguayan anthem).
Strongman wraps it up with two more cuts, the bluesy “True to Me” and chugs to a strong finish with “Love Comin’ Down.”
Steve Strongman and a few of his musical friends have put together a fine album. If you haven’t heard these outstanding Canadian musicians before, you need to give them a listen. If you have, you’ll already know what a good time you’ll have.
Harrison Kennedy on “I Like to Ride”:
The “Gettin’ Stoned” video:
1 – HARD LUCK
2 – SWANSONG feat. Steve Marriner
3 – FINE YOUNG MAN feat. Dawn Tyler Watson
4 – I DON’T MISS YOU feat. Harrison Kennedy
5 – I LIKE TO RIDE feat. Harrison Kennedy
6 – WHITE LIGHTNIN’
7 – TELL ME I’M WRONG feat. Crystal Shawanda
8 – GETTIN’ STONED
9 – TRUE TO ME
10- LOVE COMIN’ DOWN