Gino Vannelli ( Montreal’s wayward son) made a rule when he was younger. ‘Never put out music without a purpose …’
That is the reason why it has been over ten years since music fans heard something new from Vannelli. Wilderness Road is the name of the new record and it is a mark of beauty. It is a different sounding Gino yet it still sounds like Gino …
” Well … I can’t sound different …” Laughs Vannelli. ” I am who I am and my style and voice remain the same.”
Wilderness Road is a Bluesy / Americana – themed album and it is exactly the type of recording Gino wanted to do.
” I did not want to do a Jazz or Classical album or anything I had done before. I wanted to explore the rootsy side of things with the focus on storytelling. I had about forty songs written and the ones on the album are the best stories. All the songs were written in the last five years.”
The disc may be ‘ rootsy’ with elements of Blues and Jazz but Gino’s keen ear for perfection and production are what make Wilderness Road a typical Vannelli recording. That unique talent is what made Herb Alpert ( co- founder of A&M Records) sign Gino in the first place. A signature sound which eventually led to twenty million records sold worldwide.
” It is not so much as audio perfection.” Says Gino. ” It is getting an authentic sound. A real sound which comes from the soul. That is what I try to do in the studio.” He laughs. ” My brother Joe has something to do with it also … “
The album is part reflection. Part of an older man looking back but it is also a collection of personal stories and tales which have affected Vannelli in different ways.
” The Woman Upstairs is about an abused lady who lived above my wife and I when we lived in Ahunstic. I couldn’t come up with a name for the song when it was done so I asked my wife. She said why not ‘ The Woman Upstairs …?”
Another tale is about the story of a five year old boy whose body was discovered headless. The killer was thought to be found but he was killed in an accident before he could stand trial.
The album is truly about the human condition.
” I saw this woman taking care of her husband, pushing him in a wheelchair. He had Parkinson’s disease or had a stroke.” Says Vannelli of the song Yet Something Beautiful. “I thought of all the unsung heroes in this world like this woman. The love and patience she had. We don’t hear enough stories like this”
Wilderness Road contains many ‘wistful’ ballads containing a Blues’ backdrop. A canvas which tends to arrive when Gino writes songs on guitar.
” When I am writing on my acoustic, the tendency is towards Blues and Folk. Rootsy / Americana sounding songs. Black Cars for example, was written that way but we turned it into an eighties’ sound to fit the times. The original ‘Black Cars’ could easily be on Wilderness Road – it would fit right in …”
Gino’s new album (his 20th) was not made because of a recent trend of older musicians making Blues’ records. (The Stones, Myles Goodwyn (April Wine) and Randy Bachman ( Bravebelt, The Guess Who, BTO) all have recently returned to their roots).
” I don’t know why they made these albums …” Admits Gino.
” If I had to guess I think it is because they want to ensure storytelling and their own expertise in storytelling does not fade away. I think in this day and age – the art of telling stories in songs has been lost. Some artists want to remind people before it is lost forever.”
Vannelli is in his fifth decade as a recording artist and he is not interested in ‘ fitting in’ with the trends or sounds of today.
” I just do what I feel is right. I don’t pretend or aspire to being anything different. After all these years people know who I am. I know who I am and that’s okay for me.”
Vannelli lives in Portland, Oregon and spends time jogging in the mountains to stay in shape. Once a year he gives Master Classes and it was during one of those classes he met a girl from Quebec who travelled to work with Gino. A voice which ended up on Wilderness Road …
Introduced to the music of Sonny Boy Williamson at the age of nine – seventy-eight years later; there’s no looking back.
Cotton has played with everyone who is anyone in the history of The Blues. B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Little Walter, John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton … The history pages are not big enough to contain a list ..
James Cotton’s main ‘gig’ was playing with Muddy Waters’ band for twelve years, an apprenticeship which earned him the chops and the right to become the most sough after harmonica player in the Blues – if not music.
HARMONICA MASTER JAMES COTTON TO PERFORM IN MONTREAL!
“Among the greats of all time…He blazes on harp with brilliant virtuosity.” –Rolling Stone
Grammy Award-winning harmonica master James “Mr. Superharp” Cotton and his band, touring in support of his latest Grammy-nominated CD, COTTON MOUTH MAN, will give a special performance with Taj Mahal and John Mayall at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal in Montréal on Saturday, June 27, 2015.
James Cotton’s most recent CD, COTTON MOUTH MAN is a joyous celebration of Cotton’s 71 years as a professional musician (beginning at age nine). Cotton has recorded almost 30 solo albums, including two highly-regarded releases for Alligator in the 1980s, the famed Harp Attack! with Junior Wells, Carey Bell and Billy Branch in 1990 and the Grammy-nominated Giant in 2011.
Recently, the Fes2013 Blues Music Award for Traditional Blues Male Artist Of The Year.
He also won three Living Blues Critics’ Poll Awards including Blues Artist Of The Year (Male), Album Of The Year (for COTTON MOUTH MAN) and Most Outstanding Musician (Harmonica).
Cotton’s current road band includes vocalist Darrell Nulisch, drummer Jerry Porter, bassist Noel Neal and guitarist Mark Williams. Concert information is as follows:
Date: Saturday, June 27, 2015
Event: Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
Venue: Place des Arts – Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier
Address: 175 Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest
City: Montréal, Canada
Ticket price: $59.00-$80.50 (taxes and fees included)
Please listen to part one and two of my interview with Mr. Cotton …
*James recently survived a bout with throat cancer – please excuse his hoarseness.