A little bit of roots, a little soul, a little R&B and whole lotta blues
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 06:00 am
Bluebird North Halloween Blues
Featuring Colin Linden, Little Miss Higgins, John Rutherford, Graham Guest and Grant Stovel
Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $40 Call 780-4591542 or online at www.ticketmaster.ca
If nothing else, Colin Linden is a great kidder.
When the Gazette inquired if his gig at the Arden on Wednesday would have Halloween overtones, he laughingly replied, “I’m going to go as myself. I hope I don’t scare people too much.”
He may not wear a costume, but there’s a pretty good chance the Nashville-based Canadian folk hero will appear with his trademark black hat and jacket.
Linden is part of the Bluebird North Halloween Blues, a one-off event that includes Calgary’s John Rutherford, Saskatchewan’s Little Miss Higgins and Edmonton’s Graham Guest and Grant Stovel.
In the tulip-shaped Arden hall, the supernaturally talented fivesome will unleash their individual bewitching grooves dovetailing a roots/blues/folk/rock vibe.
Four months ago to mark a special anniversary, Linden released Still Live, his first live album in 30 years. Linden, a great roots artist along with the likes of Joe Henry and T-Bone Burnett, was prompted to record the 12-track by his European record company.
Bringing in long-time friends John Dymond (bass/vocals) and Gary Craig (drums) from his roots band Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, they were joined by the legendary Spooner Oldham on organ. The album was recorded at one of Nashville’s most venerable establishments, the Douglas Corner Café.
“It’s a 55-second drive from my home. The dressing room is my house,” chuckles Linden.
What really appealed to Linden was that at the back of the café, a remote audio truck was stocked with old gear. The mobile truck and gear had been used to record the King Biscuit Flower Hour, a popular syndicated radio show that featured all the big name rockers from 1973 to 1993.
“Not only was the truck parked at the back of the café, but the guy who owns it is a sound engineer.”
With the exception of Willie Smith’s Who’s Been Talking, all the songs were originals.
“In this circumstance, we wanted to capture the rapport close friends have when they’ve been playing together a long time. We wanted to grab the improvisation and make it spark.”
For the last few months, Linden has worked on the new hit TV series Nashville and made his camera debut last week.
“It’s beautifully shot and it’s nice to see Nashville celebrated as more than a straight-ahead country town. It’s not what you would think of as stereotypical.”
CKUA host and local drummer Grant Stovel has nothing but praise for all his peers on the bill. He and pianist Graham Guest actually met at Old Scona High in their teenage years.
“We had this old upright piano in the gym. One day I hear him playing a boogie woogie and I was completely transfixed,” says Stovel, host of CKUA’s Notes From Home. Since those exploratory years, they’ve been buddies sharing their brand of blues in The Swiftys.
Guest in fact scored another notch in his belt on Oct. 21, winning the Memphis Bound Blues Challenge sponsored by the Edmonton Blues Society. The nimble-fingered keyboardist won a berth as a solo performer to represent Alberta at the 29th International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn. in January.
As for Little Miss Higgins, a.k.a. Jolene Higgins, this petite powerhouse is known to knock the socks off listeners’ feet with her big, emotive belts. Born in Saskatchewan, raised in Kansas with stints in Yellowknife and Edmonton, she recruited Stovel to provide drum support before hitting the big time.
Her latest album release, Across the Plains, won the 2011 Western Canadian Music Awards Blues Album of the Year. Reports from her Saskatchewan home state she’s working with The Winnipeg Five towards a new album release in 2013.
And finally John Rutherford, a regular featured singer/songwriter with Front Porch Roots Revue, has left a singular mark on the local country-blues scene. Last seen on the Arden stage last March in Hadestown: A Folk Opera, the Calgary artist is a true original touted as one of the best roots and blues singers in western Canada.
The evening will unwind much like a songwriter’s circle, and as Stovel puts it, any hero worship will be left at the door.
“It’s going to be an exciting event with Graham, Jolene, John and myself performing alongside Colin. Although we’re all artists with different backgrounds, we’ll be presented as peers and on the same footing.”