Steve's Blog
A great night for Blues fans then a sublime weekend of gypsy jazz next week at The Rogue!
Friday April 17, 2015

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Michael Jerome Browne
Sunday April 19th 8pm
St. James Hall (3214 West 10th Avenue)
This great article was first published in the Edmonton Journal last week. We hope they don't mind us quoting it here in full to preview Sunday's concert with Canadian bluesman Michael Jerome Browne.
The songs are 60, 70 or even 80 years old, but not the performances.

Time melts away when Michael Jerome Browne picks up a vintage guitar, slide, banjo or harp to tap the tradition of early southern acoustic blues on his new disc Sliding Delta. Browne’s sixth album for Borealis features tunes from Mississippi John Hurt, Fred McDowell, Memphis Minnie, Charley Patton and other early blues pioneers who first drew him to explore the music as a kid.

Born in Indiana, but raised in Montreal from his teens, the man exhibits a technical expertise and soulful warmth that are rare on either side of the border. After apprenticing with the Stephen Barry Band and flexing his own chops on a range of rural roots styles, Browne made his solo recording debut with 2001’s Drive On.

This Maple Blues, multiple Canadian Folk Music Award winner and three-time Juno nominee still plays support for artists such as Eric Bibb and Susie Arioli, but his varied shades of rural blues, gospel, old-time, country, soul and occasional original songs remain a highlight.

He’s packing a mandolin, an African-style gourd banjo and two guitars for Sunday’s show.

Q: Is it fair to say your parents planted the seeds of your love of roots music?

A: They started taking me to see live music when I was nine, but before that their musical tastes around the house were all over the map, from Jacques Brel to Muddy Waters.

Q: You have covered a lot of territory, but early blues must be your forte. What attracted you?

A: I was too young to fully understand the lyrics, but something really grabbed me. The first people I saw were Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and Lightnin’ Hopkins. (I saw) electric acts too, like Muddy Waters and B.B. King, but somehow I gravitated to the acoustic stuff. Mississippi John Hurt was my hero when everybody else my age was trying to play like Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix.

Q: From your notes on Sliding Delta it feels like you do a lot of research. Do you feel bound to bring across a certain level of authenticity, or is there a licence to adapt and change things?

A: It’s somewhere in the middle. I do try to present it authentically and even when I come up with a different way of playing something it’s still in an authentic way. Like the Memphis Minnie tune Frisco Town. The biographies say she played banjo first. There are no recordings of her playing banjo but you can hear that in her guitar playing, so I thought, ‘How would it sound if I played her tune on banjo?’ I try things like that, to be true to her spirit but still doing my thing. I’ve done a lot of armchair research so I guess I’m an unofficial scholar.

Q: You note that Fred McDowell’s tunes can often use the same series of riffs. Some of these songs may seem pretty simple, but I suspect tapping that authenticity can get pretty complex.

A: I think it’s more about subtlety than complexity in a way. Some of these tunes are not that complex, but there are little subtle things going on that give it a certain groove. You could play those notes but it wouldn’t necessarily sound groovy and that’s the most important thing, because it was dance music, you know. It has to groove and have soul and that’s hard to define.

Q: The first time I heard Johnny Shines’ Living In The Whitehouse I did a double-take when I heard you sing the name Obama, but your update fit. Do some themes still have a timely message to you or do most of them feel archaic in their wording?

A: Yeah, originally, it was “trying to help old Ike (Eisenhower) along”, but I think a lot of blues is so universal in what it’s about. I avoid singing the misogynistic songs, of which there are a lot, but this song didn’t matter because it’s really about living in a dream world.

The older blues songs often didn’t even have a storyline or stick to the same theme. They’re just a series of verses. You can even take a couple out and put others in instead. That was quite common with Charlie Patton or Blind Lemon Jefferson.

Q: It seems as if acoustic blues has a revival about every generation or so. What’s the appeal?

A: It doesn’t get old. Some other genres are so much a product of their time, but this stuff is timeless and so seminal to so much of the music around us. It’s not easy, but I try to do it justice.
We think Michael does a pretty fine job of keeping the original spirit of the blues alive, while adding a modern touch when needed, and bringing his considerable instrumental skills to the fore on a wide range of instruments and styles. Come on down to the Rogue on Sunday for a genuine drop of the pure blues.
April In Paris
9th annual festival of gypsy jazz
 Friday April 24th, 8pm
 Saturday April 25th, 8pm
 Sunday April 26th, 7pm

April is a great month to be in Paris. Not everyone can manage to get there this month, so Paris is coming to Vancouver in April by way of the Rogue's 9th annual April In Paris festival of gypsy jazz, Friday April 24th to Sunday April 26th at St. James Hall (3214 West 10th Avenue.) 

 Deanna Knight & The Hot Club Of Mars perform on the opening night, which is the big Cabaret / Burlesque Night with magicians and swing dancers and a chorus line - and a vivacious burlesque dancer - weaving in and out of the music provided by Deanna and the boys. 

Parisian guitar goddess and singer Christine Tassan returns with the outstanding combo Les Imposteures, so named because gypsy jazz is a notoriously male-dominated genre, but these incredible women from Montreal are more than a match for any gypsy jazz combo on the planet! Sharing the bill on Saturday is BC guitar wizard Marc Atkinson with his trio augmented by Cam Wilson on fiddle.

Vancouver's Company B Jazz Band were such a big hit last year that we have invited them back for the Sunday show, which starts a little earlier than the usual start time (7pm instead of 8pm.) Les Imposteures will perform a completely different set on Sunday night, and the evening winds up with the amazingly creative and enjoyable string quartet Van Django!

Full details of the festival can be found 
Updates on Saving St. James Hall and Saving The Hollywood Theatre coming soon!!

I have an important meeting tomorrow (Friday) and will post the latest news as soon as possible after that! Please be patient; negotiations are in progress and we don't want to rock the boat.
Radio Waves
The Edge On Folk airs every Saturday from 8am to noon on CiTR fm 101.9 and On this week's show I'll have more songs from the epic new double CD The Rose of Roscrae by Tom Russell, some vintage Joni Mitchell, a brand new CD by Irish trad. band Danu, new tunes from Lee Harvey Osmond, Alex Cuba, Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy, Pokey LaFarge, Norah Rendell, Le Vent Du Nord, Re Niliu, Dom Flemons, Buena Vista Social Club, as well as previews of Rogue shows including Michael Jerome Browne, Christine Tassan et les Imposteures, Company B Jazz Band, Van Django, Marc Atkinson, Hot Club Of Mars, Cassie & Maggie, Sweet Alibi, Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill, The Revelers, Laurie Lewis & Kathy Kallick, Chris Ronald, and so much more. Hope you can join me!

Radio Rogue is still going strong with a constantly changing stream of songs by all our performers. I'll add a few new releases over the weekend too. You can tune in by pointing your browser to
any time day or night.