I don’t usually review performances and venues, but after this weekend’s wonderful line up, I’m making an exception.
If you’re a blues fan, the place to be on a Saturday afternoon is at The Golden Pheasant, aka the Duck, in St. Catharines.
A charming bar venue with tasty pub food, the Duck sports a house band like no other. Led by award winning bassist Gary Kendall of Downchild fame, you’ll enjoy an afternoon of the best blues has to offer. Along with Kendall’s solid bass playing, you’ll see a wizard at guitar in Dave Curry, great keyboard playing from “Canada” Dave Torosian, and a driving beat from drummer Jim Casson, who plays it all including the radiator behind him
And if that isn’t enough to satisfy your blues craving, the Duck brings in great guest artists for a free-for-all jam session. Since January, the likes of Jack De Keyzer, Chuck Jackson and Pat Carey, Chris Antonik, Mark “Bird” Stafford, and Jerome Godboo have smoked the blues.
Saturday (March 2) featured a knock-out performance from relative new-comer Joel Johnson. He absolutely took the place apart with his guitar playing, and when he pulled out his vintage Chandler guitar and slid into slide mode, there was no question we were seeing the future of the blues. He absolutely nailed Hendrix’s Little Wing in a way like no other. He’s got great rapport with the audience and puts so much high-energy into his playing you can’t help but wonder how he plays three sets.
And you might ask, how much is the cover charge for such a great venue? Nada. Nothing. Unbelievable! And the music keeps coming in the next few months with more guests like David Vest, Dylan Wickens & Tortoise Blue, Raoul Bhaneja, Jimmy Bowskill and David Rotundo.
So if Joel Johnson and the Duck weren’t enough for one Saturday, it was time to hit the road to Hamilton to catch Jack De Keyzer and his band at the Corktown.
Now I have to admit I’m a little biased about Jack. I consider him to be the King of Canadian blues guitar. I’ve even been accused of being a Jack groupie. So be it. He deserves the respect. Jack’s performances at the Corktown are legendary. He won a Juno in 2010 for The Corktown Sesssions and if they’d recorded last night’s performance, he’d have another Juno in his pocket. Jack doesn’t just play. He attacks every song as if it’s his last and when one song ends, the next one begins with no time to consider what just happened. The highlight of the evening was an unbelievable rendition of All Along the Watchtower. It’s the tune that everyone dreams of playing like Hendrix. But not Jack. He put his own spin on the song and it never sounded so sweet.
And oh by the way, the Corktown has undergone a pronounced modernization. It’s a classy atmosphere that is so different from the beer-soaked hall that used to host Stompin Tom. The site boasts a great stage, lit candles on tables and a patient and friendly wait staff serving appetizing food. Drop in for the next concert at the Corktown. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Saturdays don’t get any better than this.
Thanks Joel and the Duck.
Thanks Jack and the Corktown.
You’ve proven the blues are alive and thriving.