KEMPTVILLE — The 2018 Kemptville Live Music Festival is pleased to welcome Canada’s own multiple Juno award winning ensemble, The Legendary Downchild Blues Band, Thursday July 19.
Roaring through bracing, high-octane performances since 1969, the band founded and continuously steered by harmonica and guitar-ace Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh is as vibrant today as when Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi went sniffing around for inspiration for their brilliant Blues Brothers venture back in the 1970s. The pair elevated Downchild’s “Shotgun Blues” and Walsh’s “(I Got Everything I Need) Almost” to smash status on their 1978 Briefcase Full of Blues record.
Actually, the 2017 iteration of Downchild — with each member boasting a minimum of 20 years of service — might be the most electrifying yet. For proof, simply check out the sextet’s towering, lid-lifting, juke-joint–jumping 18th studio album, Something I’ve Done, a bona fide group effort and a sonic highlight in a 50-year career spilling over with them.
Internal combustion certainly describes scorchers like the swaggering, harp-goosed “Mississippi Woman, Mississauga Man,” the thundering piano-pummelled title track, and opener “Albany, Albany” which contrasts a singalong chorus with sharp melody forwarded by Pat Carey’s marvellously skronking sax.
Indeed, if Downchild didn’t exist, the blues world would have to invent them. Who else could so clearly serve as contemporary torchbearers for riveting original music firmly rooted in tradition while acting as a thriving spiritual link to past greats like Sonny Boy Williamson II, James Cotton, and B.B. King?
But don’t take our word for it. Downchild’s epic reputation has been reaffirmed time and again.
Witness their 2014 Blues Album of the Year Juno Award for their last studio effort, Can You Hear The Music — their second Juno win overall. Their boatload of Maple Blues Awards. Their marquee billing on the globe’s most prestigious stages. And, of course, their inimitable 1973 reading of Big Joe Turner’s classic “Flip, Flop and Fly” which placed Walsh and band co-founder, late brother Richard “Hock” Walsh on the charts and in the souls of music fans worldwide.
“I was pretty lucky to get a hit record just a few years after starting the band,” Walsh confirms. “After that, the rest is geography. You just get in the van and go, and that’s what we did. For the longest time, we played 250 to 300 dates a year.” Musical careers don’t rev higher than that. But how does Downchild keep the creative process fresh, preventing itself from becoming an oldies machine? Band-wide songwriting input, that’s how.
“The fact that a bunch of guys in the band have been writing songs means this album has a different flavour to it,” says Walsh, previously the principal songwriter on Downchild records. “We are really looking forward to playing these songs live.” “It’s a challenge to go into the studio and come up with new tunes but it’s a fun challenge,” Downchild singer Chuck Jackson adds. “And it’s really fun for us to play new songs when we go on tour. We will always play the staples
but doing the new tunes keeps us fresh. We’re not a jukebox.”
Something I’ve Done is a truly collaborative effort, with Walsh writing the brisk instrumental “Evelyn,” Jackson penning “Albany, Albany” and the cheeky “Mississippi Woman, Mississauga Man,” bassist Gary Kendall chipping in “Mailbox Money” and “Take A Piece of My Heart,” keyboardist Michael Fonfara bringing “Something I’ve Done” and “Can’t Get Mad at You,” and drummer Mike Fitzpatrick offering “Into the Fire.” Rounding out the album’s stellar 10-track roster is “Worried About The World” by noted B.C.-based bluesman David Vest and “She Thinks I Do” by one time Downchild member, late singer John Witmer, a song that had essentially been mothballed until now.
“These days with Downchild, we have people coming to see us who have been following us for 40 years and they bring out their children who now bring out their children,” Jackson howls. “We hope this music can generate interest in younger people and keep the blues alive.”
The 2018 Kemptville Live Music Festival takes place on the grounds of the historic Kemptville College from July 19-22. For complete lineup and ticket information visit www.kemptvillelivemusicfestival.com.