Steve's Blog
Friday May 17, 2013

Keep in Touch

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1. John Miller, Orville Johnson & Grant Dermody with special guest Suzie Vinnick, Friday May 17th, 8pm, at St. James Hall, 3214 West 10th Avenue

The blues in its purest form doesn't require screaming electric guitars, pounding drums and flashing lights. A harmonica, a mandolin, an acoustic guitar, and the kind of singing that has been marinated in three lifetimes of soulful music-making is more than enough. Orville Johnson, John Miller, and Grant Dermody are living those lifetimes and playing a style of blues that reaches back to the roots and branches of this vital American music. All three of these superb musicians have played, studied, and taught others about the country blues for most of their lives and are more excited about it now than ever. The music of the blues masters like Robert Johnson, Tampa Red, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Robert Wilkins springs to life in the hands of these three talented musicians. The people who play this music best are those that love it the most and Grant, John, and Orville illustrate that in every song they play.

Grant Dermody (harmonica, vocals) is best known in these parts for his frequent concerts with Eric Bibb. Check out Eric's amazing CD, Deeper In The Well, for a thorough examination of Grant's ability to play Southern Blues and Cajun music in a supporting role that always adds to the sound, yet keeps the focus on the singer. John Miller has played in Vancouver many times with mandolinist John Reischman - in fact they are appearing together at the North Shore Jazz Festival next month, and are about to release their third CD of Latin-tinged duets. John is a phenomenal guitarist, equally at home in a huge variety of styles and genres. Orville Johnson is one of Seattle's most celebrated musicians, yet we rarely get a chance to see him up here. I think his last local appearance was accompanying Laura Love and Jo Miller opening for the Del McCoury show at The Chan Centre a few years back. He is a master of the dobro, mandolin, and steel guitar and a fine singer. Another consummate all-rounder with a penchant for many musical styles, I first heard him in a sort of jug band called Strangers With Candy at NW Folklife around 25 years ago. I've been a fan ever since. In this special show they will concentrate on their own interpretations of The Blues, as evidenced by their two CDs together - Deceiving Blues and We Heard The Voice Of A Porkchop. This will be an amazing concert of Country Blues. I guarantee it!

Yeah, I've known these guys for a while and am still regularly floored by Orville's string wizardry and fabled vocal firepower and Grant's uncanny mastery of every aspect of harmonica technique and repertoire... and John's one of the best guitar players in the world. Quote me on that. That's not the thing, though. It's the way they use their virtuosity to express that intangible combination of humour and pathos and wisdom and intuition...the old guys used to call it soul. -- Steve James-Austin TX bluesman and raconteur

The word "blues," in describing music, has become about as useful as the terms "jazz" or "feminist" or "roots"- essentially meaningless, as it means so many things to different people. How can you compare Charlie Patton to Derek Trucks? Why would you even try? To me, the blues is a creative expression of authentic experience. And if you want an authentic experience, you should dig deep into the music of John Miller, Orville Johnson, and Grant Dermody. Individually, they're outstanding practitioners of many kinds of acoustic and semi-popular community based music, as good as it gets. Together, their gifts - and the music they make is a gift, make no doubt about that - generate a synergy borne of a very deep well, as good as it gets on earth. -- Peter McCracken- artistic director of the Centrum Arts Foundation

American roots music by three masters who know this music in every bit of their heart and soul - Orville, John and Grant transport the listener into their blues-soaked world of racehorses, closeness to the earth and sky, pork chops, roadhouses and billiard halls. Their work is all at once smooth and rough, finely textured and gritty, simple and complex, but always with plenty of groove and an unerring melodic sense: old time music at its best! -- Suzy Thompson-fiddler extraordinaire and artistic director of the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes

Opening for this fine trio is award-winning Toronto blues singer Suzie Vinnick, someone we have been striving to bring to The Rogue for years!

Me 'n' Mabel is a blues album that includes Suzie's amazing singing, great material and wonderful acoustic playing and arranging. She's truly blessed with a rare voice that's playful, sassy and soulful... -- Holger Petersen, CBC's Saturday Night Blues

Suzie travels many of the musical roads that acoustic blues takes her — the bar room shuffle of "Walkin' by Myself," the ragtime feel of "Oh My," the funky "You'll Be Mine," Percy Mayfield's plaintive classic "Please Send Me Someone to Love" and even her unique take on Hoyt Axton's "Never been to Spain." And then there's her delicious "Save Me for Later," likely the only song ever written (at least in English) that includes the phrase, "risotto con grana Padano" in the lyrics. She provides a taste of the sweeter end of the food chain on "Oreo Cookie Blues," and is known for passing around big bowls of the cookies at her concerts.

Blessed with a huge vocal range, she can go from a sweet whisper to a growl in a heartbeat. Her singing expresses all the emotions covered in the emotional blues lexicon. She can be sexy, humorous, struttin' her stuff, sassy or heartbroken. With her impeccable sense of dynamics, Suzie's voice commands attention. She sings and accompanies herself on Mabel, her little parlour Larrivee guitar. Her percussive playing has the feel that elevates a blues song from the mundane to the sublime, a sense of both melody and rhythm you can't learn at school. And all those years of thumping bass help Suzie establish a strong groove without a rhythm section. Suzie won two Maple Blues Awards in 2012, and continues to accumulate accolades wherever she plays. She says she couldn't have done it without the shapely spruce and maple Mabel, her constant companion for the past eight years. She can be bold and honky, but she can also sing sweetly. It depends on what we're playing, Suzie says. She puts up with a lot, and has the nicks and scratches to show, but she's well-balanced and never complains, which makes Mabel the perfect musical partner.

We've billed this show as Country Blues Night Out, but as you can see from the above descriptions, this concert will be a truly eclectic evening's entertainment guaranteed to satisfy everyone from the most discerning Blues purist to the most open-minded musical adventurer.

2. Folk Festival Ticket Deals

Every year we offer our members discounted tickets to the Vancouver and Mission Folk Music festivals. The Vancouver Folk Music Festival (July 19-21this year,) and Mission Folk Music Festival (July 25-28) offer a staggering array of musical talent from across the country and around the world. Vancouver highlights include New York's Blues combo Hazmat Modine, Steve Earle & The Dukes (their new CD, The Low Highway, is stunning!) and the remarkable Indian tenor singer Raghu Dixit - and so much more. You can buy as many tickets as you like. VFMF tickets are $122 for adults - saving $13 on the early bird price. (We do not offer discounts to seniors or youth, as the festival already has incredible deals for these people.) Orders must be paid for by June 10th.

The Mission Folk Festival will include performances by Liz Carroll, David Francey, Dick Gaughan, Eliza Gilkyson, Locarno and many more. Tickets are a steal at $65 for adults plus GST and $20 plus GST for camping. Seniors, Youth and Children get even better deals. Orders must be paid for by June 30th.

To purchase tickets for either or both festivals, you can mail us a cheque - made out to Rogue Folk Club, and sent to #1 - 1465 Lamey's Mill Road, Vancouver B.C. V6H 3W1 - or call our office on 604-732-1305 and if we're not in we'll call you back to take your credit card details. Tickets will be available for pick up at our concerts on June 20th and June 21st or at the office on Broadway & Dunbar. If you want them mailed to you we can do this by Registered Mail only, for a supplemental fee of $12 per order.

3. AGM Notice and Bylaw changes

The Rogue is a registered non-profit society in B.C. and a democratic organization which elects several Board members at the A.G.M. This year there are a few minor changes to the by-laws which need to be approved by the members as well. The meeting will take place at on Sunday June 2nd at St. James Hall (3214 West 10th Avenue) at 6pm, prior to opening the doors to the Laura Cortese / Fish & Bird concert. All members are encouraged to attend and to vote. (Then stick around for a great show!) We appreciate your support.

Members may download the Amended Constitution and Amended By-Laws from our website.

4. The Edge On Folk, Saturday 8am to noon on CiTR fm 101.9 and

On this week's show I'll be playing some of my favourite tracks of 2013 so far, previewing some of the great Canadian Folk Festivals, and spinning new tunes by the lies of Kate Reid, Laura Cortese, Ruth Moody, Patty Griffin, Hem, Raghu Dixit, Oliver Mtukudzi, Steve Earle, and so much more! I hope you can join me for 4 hours of festive, holiday weekend music, streamed live on and also available on Telus TV Channel 3717 and on your fm dial at 101.9. Podcasts are available on and past playlists are available on our website.

Have a great weekend!

See you at The Rogue