What is the health of The Blues Scene in Quebec and Montreal?
A fair question by passing music fans …
Well, in a very small ‘ tip of the iceberg’ sorta way, examples are fast and furious.
Last season, in the Quebec to Memphis Blues Challenge ( an annual event which chooses the best Blues Band and Solo Act to represent Quebec in Memphis), The Paul Deslauriers Band took first prize and headed down South to network and improve Quebec’s presence globally.
Past winners have also included Harmonica master Guy Belanger and guitarist Steve Hill to name but two. Hill, a Trois Rivieres native, also has won multiple Maple Blues Awards and a Juno Award.
Up and comers such as Dawn Tyler Watson’s amazing backing band; The Ben Racine Band and guitarist extraordinaire Justin Saladino – both poised to carry the Blues torch in the future.
Great songwriters and performers in their own right, groovin’ the tunes the way the tunes were meant to be grooved.
The Quebec to Memphis Blues Challenge finals take place this coming Tuesday at 5 pm at Bistro a Jo Jo – In the band category, Dawn Tyler Watson, Angel Forrest and Jordan Officer are the final three standing. Who will represent Quebec in Memphis?
Please listen belowand judge for yourself ! Listen also to some great tunes from the home of The Blues –
For forty – five years, the band plays in a roomful of Blues fans. Opening up for or backing guys like B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton.
In a Canadian connection, the band is most known as being Colin James’ ‘Little Big Band’. A pretty good resume for a band that does not need to be part of anything. On their own – one of the best Blues and Swing Bands in the music market.
Please listen below as Chris talks about all the above and his own experience and thoughts as a guitar player.
Is it me or does Kenny Dupree sound like Tom Jones …?
On the first track of his disc-‘ Going with the Flow’ he does. On the second song he does as well. Maybe it is Tom Jo … um, never mind …
Kenny Dupree, the oldest of a family of two brothers and a sister – is his own man. Originally of Park Extension, Kenny’s love of music started at the age of twelve. His first ‘ gig’ was at the age of eighteen.
“I was always singing in front of the mirror or the turntable.” Laughs Dupree. ” Then my high school buddy called me and I sang in his garage band. His band covered the Stones, Zeppelin … that kinda stuff. It was the music I grew up listening to. Kiss,Van Halen and the Who – the music of my generation.”
The forty – six year old Dorval resident also loved and appreciated the blues. Guys like Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James and Muddy Waters were big influences yet none as big as Paul Rodgers from Bad Company. Songs such as Shooting Star, Feel like Makin’ Love and Can’t Get Enough – the foundations of Kenny, the singer.
“My first real gig was in 1984. I sang on stage at a Canada Day gig. The band’s name was Syrin. We weren’t paid but that started my foray into music and singing in bars.”
Dupree’s first paid gig was at the Beez Bar on Cartier Ave in Pte. Claire in 1987 – a popular spot in the West Island of Montreal along with the famous Maples Inn and Edgewater hotel. It was there, Kenny learned of his talent for singing the blues.
Stevie Ray Vaughn, Muddy Waters and
B.B King’s songs became part of Dupree’s vocabulary. A language which this blues guy parlayed into a twenty four year career of singing covers at festivals, corporate events and clubs . A job which, at this point of his life, is about to change …
“I decided now is the time to show what I got!” Says Dupree about his first ever c.d;’Going with the Flow.’ It was released on Nov. 30- 2011. Says Dupree; ” Next thing I know – it will be too late. Its now or never …!”
Kenny Dupree’s disc was recorded between an excursion out West to visit his brothers. Upon return, he realized the remaining part must be done quick as he had already booked a cd launch in the Ottawa / Hull region.
The disc was completed with some help from a few friends …
Veteran bass and session player in the Montreal music scene; Alec McElcheran, penned five of the twelve songs. Choosing those five was not easy according to Kenny.
“Alec writes and is talented in all genres. He had folk songs, blues songs, rock songs – all types which he had demos of. I had a very specific vision of what I wanted so I weeded through a whole bunch of tunes to find what I wanted.”
Of the McElcheran – inked songs, Dupree – when pressed, chooses his favourite to sing. ‘Don’t wake me too soon’ – a song which showcases Dupree’s harp playing. Something Kenny is starting to take more seriously as he ages.
” I’m a self – taught harmonica player and it was always part of playing the blues. It is progressing more and more …”
‘Don’t wake me too soon’is a moderately slow blues tune which also displays Alec’s slide guitar. A coimplement to Dupree’s natural blues – driven voice. The song is second however to McElcheran’s catchiest song; Spare Change. A song which Dupree concurs is a favourite when playing live.
‘Spare Change’ is a funky blues number which attracts the listener’s attention. The feet tap along to the lyrics. Words which ring in the conscience long after the song has finished.
Guitarist Rami Cassab, also a member of Carolyn Fe’s band provides an edgy sound to ‘Baby put her foot down’ – another McElcheran song. A rockin’ blues number that is reminiscent of the golden age of Chuck Berry. The Faces can be heard in Cassab’s riffs and Dupree is at home driving this fast paced blues car to the edge.
The nicest surprise on the album which was recorded at Circle Sound Studio in Pierrefonds,Qc. – is Hubbie Ledbetter’s Black Betty. Instead of Ramjam’s manic, all-out rendition, Kenny handclaps and blows his harp in old- fashioned style. Grab an old rockin’ chair and sit down on the porch. The wheat is blowing, the crickets are chirpin’ and Mr. Dupree is proving his place among the blues greats.
‘Sleepin’ on the sidewalk’, a song written by Brian May of Queen is a standard blues song which, for the first time, allows the Paul Rodgers influence to shine. Dupree has a great time singing this one and his twenty years experience is apparent.
Cliff Stevens, a guitarist who does an Eric Clapton tribute show – wrote and performs on the song; ‘Don’t do me no more’. A tune which could be from any number of Clapton’s albums. A country feel carries the rhythm and allows Cliff to demonstrate his love of ‘slowhand’.
‘Getaway Car’, another McElcheran song – is a throwaway song. A blues song which appears as a filler. Kenny’s voice, superb as ever yet the song lacks of passion and desire. Listening is like making love to a drunk woman – it’s satisfying yet not much fUN …
Tom Jones is back and how !
‘Monkey on my Back’ is right there with ‘Spare Change’ as the best on the disc. Dupree lets loose on this upbeat Cassab driven rocker written by Jim Labos and Gail Gilligan. Kenny effortlessly belts out the lyrics; ‘who needs a monkey on their back?’ Nobody unless that monkey’s name is Dupree and you want to be entertained all day.
Terence Trent Darby’s ‘ Seven more days’ and Elmore James’ ‘ Dust my Broom’ conclude Kenny’s disc as the tireless blues singer pays hommage to the pair of artists.
Dupree has soul. The voice of an old soul. A voice on record which does not do him justice. If a live listening is happened upon, grab it. Kenny will make the men’s socks drop while inducing the ladies to toss their panties …
Just like Tom Jones.
Kenny hosts a jam at Smoke Meat Pete once a week. Friday the 17th of August is the next one. He is also playing at Bistro a Jo Jo on Tuesday the 21st with Cliff Stevens.
Check out Kenny’s website …