Thursday, August 30, 2007


B.C. Read covered by Craig the Music Geek!

MUSIC AUG 30 2007

Grade A B.C.

by Craig Silliphant

The Artist: B.C. Read
The B.C. Read Big Band Players: David Anderson (Trumpet), Sara Griffith (Trombone), Sheldon Corbett (sax and accordion], Rod Salloum (keyboards), Kelly Read (back up vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, and banjo), Carla Caragin (back up vocals), Glen Ens (drums), Doug Scarrow (guitar), and George Tennent (stand up and electric bass).
The music:

It's a safe bet that when the parents of Saskatoon musician B.C. Read bought their teenage son a guitar for Christmas one year, their highest hopes were that it wouldn't end up forlorn, dusty and hidden in the back of a closet by February. Well, no worries there as little B.C. has grown up to be regarded by many as the 'best kept secret' on the Canadian blues scene. And now, with a new album racing up the Blues charts in Canada and internationally, it's safe to say the secret's out.

Interestingly, Read didn't really even play the blues as a youngster. He started out by taking guitar lessons, and though he liked the instrument, he couldn't seem to find the passion for it that he knew he should be experiencing. That is, until one fateful day when a friend turned him on to a style of playing and learning the guitar that didn't seem so much like going to school. The rest is Canadian blues history.

"[My friend] was into CCR, The Stones, Steppenwolf and Led Zeppelin," explains Read. "I liked what he was doing, so I started to learn songs from him. I guess the blues has always been there [for me] when I first started playing music as a profession, I was very much into a more folksy style with a country music feel, but in the 1980's I made up my mind to really concentrate on playing the blues. I started to rock a little, then move into more of an R&B thing, and now I kind of throw all those styles into the pot and hope that what comes out tastes okay."

In 1998, Read let listeners sample his unique blues stew with the release of his first full length album, My Tunes a recording that reached Number Six on the chart for top blues albums of 1998 in Canada. Read recorded My Tunes on tape, but when it came time to record his latest release, Bowl of Sugar, he used computers and Pro-tools software to capture his signature sound. Though these new processes give him more versatility and room to experiment, Read like any musician worth his or her salt maintains that the method of recording is far less important than the quality of the songwriting.

"With the advances in recording software," says Read, "it's like comparing the Model T to the new Porsche. They both do the same thing, just a little different. Musically, [My Tunes and Bowl of Sugar] are very much alike. I still write the same way, about the same things. Not much has changed in my musical approach, [and] I used almost the same group of musicians on both recordings. I think that helped give [both albums] a sense of continuity and consistency."

Speaking of musicians, Read has always surrounded himself with some of the best guns for hire that the prairie music scene has to offer and kept them around for the long haul. Indeed, for the last 20 years, he's has worked with several mainstay musical partners, including bass player George Tennent, and saxophone and keyboard player Sheldon Corbett. To keep the gigs flowing, Read remains flexible, doing solo shows and shows with a smaller contingency of players, but he's also been able to realize the huge sounds showcased on Bowl of Sugar with the creation of the 10 piece B.C. Read Big Band, which features a 3-piece horn section, banjo, accordion and pretty much everything else but the kitchen sink.

"Most of the current members played on Bowl of Sugar," says Read, "so that gives us a real nice, tight sound. It's a lot of fun playing with a big band. [At the live show] people can expect to see some very good musicians, playing a variety of blues-based, original roots music, having a ton of fun doing it. If I'm doing my single or duo show, they can expect some blues history and some acoustic blues covers of a more obscure nature."

With the way Bowl of Sugar has taken off, there's little doubt that the gig offers will keep rolling in for Read and his band the album is currently ranked at Number 35 Worldwide for New Blues Album, and Number Two on the Canadian Blues Album charts. Moreover, Read says that he's on a roll lately with his songwriting, so he intends to take advantage of his creativity by recording another album within the next year At the same time, he'll be busy gigging with the B.C. Read Big Band including an appearance at the Western Canadian Music Awards in Moose Jaw in October.

Things are definitely clicking for the veteran bluesman but all in all, the most refreshing thing about Read is that it's clear he's not in the biz for the money or the recognition (although those things are nice!). In the same way that the teenage B.C. Read wanted more from his guitar lessons than just tediously practicing scales, the adult Read is similarly playing for something more substantial than a paycheque. Instead, he's playing for the experience that one gets by sharing their love of music with other people.

"The most rewarding moments are the ones when you're playing to a full house and they're listening," says Read. "That is why we do it, for the live audience. When they're on, we're on. All the crappiest gigs are forgotten with one real good crowd that shows they appreciate the music."