13 songs – 51 minutes
Recognized as the king of Canadian roots music, Terry Gillespie lays down a rock-steady groove in this solid collection of original contemporary blues tunes.
A native of the small town of Vankleek in Southern Ontario, Gillespie has been pleasing audiences for better than 40 years with his well-paced mixture of original lyrical hooks and clever musical stylings. Tall and looking older than his age, he got early musical training in Detroit as a teen, jamming with John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy and Howlin’ Wolf. In the early ’70s, he founded one of Canada’s most beloved, but critically overlooked bands, Heaven’s Radio, which blended reggae, jazz, folk, rock and blues into a successful musical stew. During their heyday, they opened for a wide variety of talent, including Jamaican legend Peter Tosh and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
That band broke up in the early ’80s. Ever since, Gillespie has been delving into his love for jazz, blues and African rhythms and deconstructing/reconstructing them in a way that he hopes the listener gets lost in each nuance he lays down along the way. A former International Blues Challenge entrant, this is the third album he’s released in the past decade. He contributes guitar, vocals, harmonica and trumpet here, assisted by Peter Measroth (keyboards), Lyndell Montgomery (bass and violin), Wayne Stoute (drums and percussion) and The Toasted Westerns backup singers: Jody Benjamin, Ann Downey and Sally Robinson.
Available through Amazon, CDBaby and iTunes, the disc was recorded live in St. Andrews Presbyterian Church at the Maxville (Ont.) Musicfest and kicks off with the ‘60s flavored walking blues, “The Devil Likes To Win,” featuring Gillespie on slide guitar and harp. His vocal delivery is reminiscent of Charlie Musselwhite, and his delivery is laid back as he relates the troubles he’s experienced moving from the country to the biggest town in the world. And his attack on both instruments is crisp and clean. “What Would Bo Diddley Do” recounts a desire to play in a band styled after the aforementioned guitarist. In this one, Gillespie keeps true to the Diddley sound and beat as he relates how he drove other musicians away with his incessant practicing to achieve his goal.
Sonny Boy Williamson’s 1937 classic, “Early In The Mornin’”, follows with Gillespie keeping a traditional feel while stretching out on the reeds. He’s aided by a tasty piano break mid-song. The band gets funky with Terry on trumpet for the original “My Tipitina,” about a woman from “way down South who knocks the whole room dead,” before the singer dips into the O.V. Wright songbook with “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry.” Instead of a Memphis horn sound, however, the tune’s delivered successfully as a slow blues.
“Let’s Get Together” is a roots rocker that addresses harmony among all people, approached from the direction of a country boy with love in his heart who moves to the city and finds folks of another mind, followed by the slow grinder traditional, “My Mama.” Next up, “It Wasn’t Me” kicks off with a barrelhouse piano as Gillespie delivers a lyrical alibi for some unspecified offense that happened when he was out of town. “Her Mind Left First” is a harmonica-fueled blues about a woman who lies the moment she opens her mouth.
The music gets funky again on “16 Days” before a cover of “She Walks Right In.” Not to be confused with the 1963 hit by the Rooftop Singers, this one was written by Professor Longhair and is delivered uptempo with plenty of keyboards and counterpoint rhythms. The mellow “Magnolia Tree,” about a woman who’s been to the city and has found it rough, and a reprise of the opening tune close out the set.
If your tastes run to the rootsier side of the blues, you’ll find this CD to be well-paced and well-conceived from beginning to end.