Rick Keene Music Scene – Dawn Tyler Watson Celebrates Smoke Meat Pete’s Birthday !

Once a year, Pete Varvaro ( aka Smoke Meat Pete) leaves for a month. Once a year – people don’t get the Blues.

Ben Racine

Smoke Meat Pete ( both the restaurant and the man ) not only provide the best Smoke Meat in Montreal, Pete is the only guy in the city providing live music seven nights a week. In a landscape filled with more and more live venues closing, a real tip of the hat must go to Smoke Meat Pete.

Dawn Tyler Watson

Pete’s birthday marks the reopening of the restaurant every year following a much deserved vacation. It is an occasion to not only eat cake and celebrate the man ( soon to be legend), it is also an opportunity to showcase some of the best Blues players in the city. On March 9th 2019 – patrons were blessed.

Fuel Junkie took the stage at 1pm. The band, in a relatively short career thus far, have already graced the stage at The Montreal International Jazz Festival and The Tremblant Blues Festival. They also were very close to winning the Quebec to Memphis Blues Challenge which would have sent them to Memphis to compete among the elite of the world. Smoke Meat Pete attracts the best of the best.

Led by Mark LeClerc, Fuel Junkie are a wall of sound. Horns complimenting a hard rhythm and piercing guitar solos. Vocals, harmonies and songwriting. Not a weak link within the band (which is often not the case with new bands). Fuel Junkie are (literally) schooled musicians with experience beyond the members’ relative young ages. The walls shake and keep on shaking long after Fuel Junkie have left the building. As an added bonus, young guitar phenom Justin Saladino joined Fuel Junkie which for many was a marriage made in Blues heaven. Justin beat out Fuel Junkie at the Quebec to Memphis challenge so an indication of how local musicians help one another – a signal of a healthy musical future soars high in the Quebec sky.

Justin Saladino

Everyone has a guilty pleasure and Smoke Meat Pete is no different.

Every Saturday night at 6pm (and on his Birthday), Pete picks up the guitar along with a few select musicians and has the time of his life. They say passion surpasses all boundaries and Pete’s passion for The Blues has transformed Pete from a ‘beginner guitarist’ to more than adequate in a very short time.

Pete’s partner in crime on Saturdays (and his birthday) is the imposing Hawk on vocals and harmonica. Nobody sings the Blues with as much power and force in Montreal as Hawk. The type of performer that leaves none indifferent. Whether it is belting out the Willie Dixon classic Little Red Rooster or Gloria by Van Morrison, Hawk etches his voice into your soul and months later – it continues to haunt. Like any talented vocalist, love him or hate him; his mark has been left.

Hawk

Joining Hawk and Pete on stage for the birthday bonanza were Jo Hell ( guitar), Stephen Rudinsky (drums) and Ciro Scott (bass). Hell along with Hawk – the originators of live music at Smoke Meat Pete many moons ago.

Hawk’s and Hell’s showmanship may have been the lightning rods yet it is Rudinsky’s firm metronome drumming and Ciro’s bass which keeps things from falling apart. Every player in any good band needs the battery section to fall back on. It is easy for a front-man or a soloist to lose their way. Rudinsky (a veteran and much sought after session player) never wavers. His timing impeccable. The frame of the band remains strong even if the body may have some rust. Rudinsky maintains the frame with enough oil and polish to keep it on the road but adding the necessary swerves.

Stephen Rudinsky

Following nine hours of music, smoke meat and plenty of laughter – Montreal’s Queen of The Blues took the stage.

Dawn Tyler Watson

Dawn’s star has never been so bright in her long and winding career. Not only did Watson win the Quebec to Memphis Challenge, Dawn won the IBC International Blues Contest in Memphis. Add several Maple Blues nominations and awards – Dawn has established herself as the premiere female vocalist in Quebec among the newer generation of singers.

One of the reasons Dawn has jumped ahead of her peers is the talents of her backing band. The Ben Racine Band. Ben’s songwriting and arranging talents have pushed Dawn into truly ‘finding’ herself. Ben on guitar (also winning at Memphis for guitar player of the year), combines the artful balance of modern day chops with old school sensibilities. It is all about the spaces with Ben and his band. Spaces which allow Dawn to not only breathe – to discover the creative voice inside and to paint the room in fabulous colors.

Dawn Tyler has a vocal range which can caress or levitate. The Ben Racine Band’s horn section can do the same. The group’s rhythm section can do the same. Together – Watson et al become a wall of sound as smooth as Billy Holiday’s bottom. As silky as a satin cloth or chunky as a chocolate chip cookie. Tunes from the album Jawbreaker taking the punters on a journey filled with tears, joy and spiritual awakenings. All elements of all humanity’ s life experience on display via Dawn Tyler Watson and The Ben Racine Band.

Once a year, Pete Vavaro ( aka Smoke Meat Pete) comes back after a month. Once a year – people get treated to an (almost) entire day of the Best Blues in Montreal.

You Can’t Beat Pete’s Ideas !

Visit Smoke Meat Pete Here !

Photos courtesy Frank Muggianu

Rick Keene Music Scene – Juno Nominee Sue Foley is ‘The Ice Queen’

Canadian women going to Texas to play the Blues was not an everyday event …

The year was 1989 and Foley was planted deeply within the Austin Blues scene. It was a time for learning and because the (then) twenty – one year old Sue took her craft seriously, a quick assent took place.

Foley cut her ‘chops’ in the subsequent years and it all came into Canadian fruition in 2001 as Foley won a Juno Award for Best Blues Album. Love Comin’ Down cemented Foley’s place in Canadian music history.

Please listen below to my chat with Sue about her ‘time off’ from solo albums and her Juno nomination for Best Blues album in 2019 with her latest release – The Ice Queen

Visit Sue Here !

Rick Keene Music Scene – See Spot Run; Changing to Remain the Same. PART TWO

 

See Spot Run took the ball and left …

 

Where did they go? Straight to Toronto where (at that time) every Canadian English artist needed to be to make it in the industry.

The year was 1999 they released the song Weightless. That tune lessened their gravity. They floated into music heaven. 

 

Fast forward almost eighteen years and the more things change – the more See Spot Run change but remain themselves. Great for their fan base who are loyal to the core.

Please listen below to part two of my chat with Chris Brodbeck, one half of the principle songwriting team and one of the founding members of this great Canadian institution.

Chris? What’s up?

 

 

Visit See Spot Run Here !

Catch ’em live November 23rd at

Le Pionnier in Pte Claire

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click Here !

 

 

Rick Keene Music Scene – See Spot Run; Changing to Remain the Same

 

See Spot Run took the ball and left …

Where did they go? Straight to Toronto where (at that time) every Canadian English artist needed to be to make it in the industry.

The year was 1999 they released the song Weightless. That tune lessened their gravity. They floated into music heaven. 

 

Fast forward almost eighteen years and the more things change – the more See Spot Run change but remain themselves. Great for their fan base who are loyal to the core.

Please listen below to part one of my chat with Chris Brodbeck, one half of the principle songwriting team and one of the founding members of this great Canadian institution.

Chris? What’s up?

 

Visit See Spot Run Here !

Catch ’em live November 23rd at

Le Pionnier in Pte Claire

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click Here !

 

 

Rick Keene Music Scene – Just Who Are The Best Blues Artists in Quebec ? 

The Blues are as old as music itself. 

 

Depending on which side of the porch the wind is blowing – the Blues or Country music is the foundation of everything taped or played live on the airwaves these days.

Ray Charles and Chuck Berry – two builders who were successful in both genres. To single them out from the likes of Big Mama Thornton and Sister Rosetta Tharpe would be criminal. To extract Charles and Chuck from Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson and Sonny Boy Williamson – an insult to Elmore James and George Jones. Muddy Waters would be rolling in his grave and disrupting Hank Williams’ dreams.

Tharpe

Like sports or any milieu – to gravitate towards and eventually decide ‘the best’ at any position or genre is as ridiculous as choosing the best flavor of ice cream at the local shoppe. All flavors are part of a big picture which delights the senses and kicks Paxil straight into the garbage.

Serotonin requires more than one taste to function highly and without bias.

Great orgasms do require foreplay.

https://open.spotify.com/track/3GgpUEdSy8uO58XG35rRho

Jackson

In Quebec (which is essentially a very small pond in the world known as The Blues), there swims several small species of small and big fish. Some bright, others as dark and mysterious as the mud in which they lie. Depending on luck, financing and hard work (or lack thereof), some rise to the top rightfully (wrongly) or sink to the depths wrongly (rightfully).

Like most communities (the Blues are a school), politics can also be embedded into the success or downfall of an artist. Like any community – cliques are formed and a tight security rope forms to keep ‘outsiders’ out and insiders rich with gigs.

Organizations where revenue rules work in this mysterious way. Society (sadly) does not toss many branches or accolades to the people who have talent and integrity. Egos tend to get in the way …

As mentioned above – to single out artists as the best is preposterous. To single out artists as ‘some of the best’ – perfectly sane and just.

So –  who are ‘ some of the best BluesArtists in Quebec ? Let’s see – shall we? 

Female Singer

Does the name Whisky Legs mean anything ? With one EP and a full album to their credit ( Basement Confessions – 2015), the group is led by Maude Brochu. 

Schooled in R&B, Soul, Rock and The Blues – Brochu is the quintessential female Blues singer. Combining vocal sex appeal within a vast range of abilities, Brochu is what most great female singers were before fame strikes them into believing their own press. A little Amy Winehouse, a little Joplin but mostly Maude – this Quebec city songstress is the best kept secret touring non stop into the hearts of Canadians.

https://www.whiskylegs.com/

Brochu

Male Singer

The Blues is particular. Not quite Rock and not quite Roll – the genre requires force, softness and space. Breathing the rythyms is the most important element to sing the sacred serum.

Martin Goyette is the man who has learned quick and fast. Two albums into a career which could see him eventually replace Gerry Boulet ( Offenbach ), Goyette is a student of the Blues. His powerful vocals can raise hair or stroke them into submission. His next album should be his best – three is a charm.

http://www.martingoyette.com/en/

Goyette

Guitarist

There are so many Blues’ guitarists in Quebec, this category is difficult to narrow down into the top twenty let alone one.

Blues guitar has lost it’s soul in the last twenty years. Sadly – ‘shredding’ has mirrored society with its ‘bling’ mentality. Flash and speed has widely been accepted as great and the beacon to judge the players performance and talent. Too many notes has replaced the signature of all Blues; space.

Except for Jordan Officer.

Officer

Jordan is a true student of The Blues and does not wish to alter the style. The former guitarist with Susie Arioli is digging deeper and deeper to obtain ‘perfection’ as he returns to his love of the Blues. Officer could care less about any Blues’ guitarist post 1980. His Blues’  mentors built the genre and he has every intention of duplicating their notes and style into his own music. No flash – no bling. Officer reeks of Blues integrity …

http://www.jordanofficer.com/

Bass

Originally from Ontario – the transplanted French based Breen LeBoeuf nails this category hands down.

The former member of Offenbach has forgotten more than any bass player in Quebec has learned. To witness Breen’s ease at laying down lines at any pace or style is magic. On top of everything – he also can lay claim to one of the best voices in Quebec as well. Catch him when you can!

LeBoeuf

http://www.productionscr.com/article/leboeuf-deschamps.html

Drummer 

Hit the snare, hit the high-hat, hit the bass drum , keep time – repeat.

Seemingly – playing drums in the Blues’ genre is easy. Not complicated like fills and rolls in Jazz , Prog Rock or Heavy Metal. ‘Blues drummers can do it in their sleep’ – that’s the folly on the street.

Like every instrument in the Blues – spacing of the rhythm  is ‘instrumental’ to perfection The notes or beats ‘ not played’ are the keys to the fastest highway.

Although known as a ‘Rock’ drummer, Jerry Mercer of April Wine fame may also be the King of The Blues drummers.

Mercer

As a teenager – Mercer studied Mitch Mitchell from atop the catwalk at the Maurice Richard Arena. He started playing drums after hearing Ray Charles ‘ ‘What I’d Say ‘ on the radio because it had swing.

After stints with The Triangle and Mashmakhan – Mercer played with Roy Buchanan ( Clapton called him the best Blues guitarist of all time). Singled out to play the Blues with the cream of the crop? Yes sir.

Rarely do the Blues arrive in a Mercer live performance. When they do ?

Drummers – grab your pens and take notes.

https://www.jerrycoband.com/

Just Who Are the Finalists for The Quebec to Memphis Blues Challenge and Do They Live at 2120 South Michigan Avenue?

What is the health of The Blues Scene in Quebec and Montreal?

A fair question by passing music fans …

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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.

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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.

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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 below and judge for yourself ! Listen also to some great tunes from the home of The Blues –

2120 South Michigan Avenue.

Talk soon !

 

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Visit The League of Rock Here!

 Visit Evenko Here !

 

Visit The Hi – Fins Here !

 

 

Justin Saladino and Jamiah Rogers; The Future of the Blues !

Let us not forget – The Blues came before Jazz.

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The Jazz purists cringe at the ‘not Jazz’ genres at The Montreal International Jazz Festival. The artists who ply their crafts to be near the top of their specific genre, often shunned by the Jazz stuffy shirts. 

In 2016, at the 37th edition – it was The Blues stage which, night after night, attracted the largest amount of knowledgeable  music lovers. Take that Jazz !

One of those acts was The Justin Saladino Band with guest – Jamiah Rogers. An outfit and ‘duo’ young in years yet very long in talent. Justin from Montreal and Jamiah – straight from the home of The Blues; Chicago, Illinois. 

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Saladino and his troupe started things off with ‘Nobody’s Fault but Mine’. The Nina Simone cover which was filled with the Gospel element profound in Simone’s version. Justin proving in the first four minutes, he is not just another Blues guy from Montreal.

‘Blackhead Bone’ – the Albert Collins’ tune picked up where the first song left off. Elevating the groove and energy into heights normally reserved for guitars and bands of much later years. Saladino providing calm within sparkling solos. An experience beyond his years welcoming the masses in.

‘Purple Girl’ – an original track from Justin’s debut disc, shredding any pretense of a cover band on stage. The hook, the melody and chorus – straight from the late sixties / early seventies era when Blues, Funk and Rock merged in the West Coast. Purple Girl is one of those songs which should be on radio. Crossing into friendly territory as it tosses it’s Bluesy roots into shadows and struts it’s stuff. Another sad case of Montreal radio not taking care of their own.

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‘Feelin’ Alright’ ended the Saladino’s band’s segment. An easy groove which magnetized the pull of the band. A sound which drew more and more spectators to the stage. Justin pouncing on the opportunity to raise his prowess on the five string instrument. Easy stuff for a guitar officiendo.

‘Jamiah Rogers’ – he of Chicago origins, he of Gary Clark Jr. studies upped the ante in the high stakes Blues poker game. The Ace in the sleeve. The ‘Heart’ of the Blues. 

FIJM-d10-132‘Something About You Girl , an original – ripped the joint up. Saladino and his band, already loose, providing the controlled sloppiness to Jamiah’s frantic energy. Rogers – once more, upping the ante and venturing to the front of the stage to sparkle in the Montreal lights. Sounds of Buddy Guy and Hendrix emerging from the amps. Rogers creating and increasing the energy with every note. Setting the stage for …

“It’s All Right to Cry’. 

A slow Blues filled with  passion and sorrow within happiness. Emotion reigned as Rogers’ vocals implanted another talent into the psyches of the crowd. Jamiah – a true student of The Blues and a guitar wonder. His solo reaching epic proportions as he attempted to and succeeded in reaching new heights.

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“Irish Bordello’ and ‘No Worries’ saw Justin do his ‘thang’. Rogers departing and becoming the student offstage as Saladino played his hand. Combined with finesse and an intricate style of playing. Saladino laid a ‘straight’ onto the Blues table. At the end of the match – Saladino and Rogers came to a draw. The friendly competition completed and outlaws created.

“Everyday I Have the Blues’ – the B.B. King classic, a celebration of both men’s talents. Together, two future stars – enjoying and sparring in a genre that started Rock n Roll.

A genre that preceded Jazz and The 37th Edition of The Montreal International Jazz Festival. 

Take that purists !

Visit Justin Here !

Visit Jamiah Here !

 

Buy The Album Here !
Buy The Album Here !