The 15th Anniversary of the Canal Bank Shuffle Blues Festival
By Gloria Katch
It was a signature year at the shuffle –Canal Bank Shuffle Blues Festival , that is – with outstanding performances with artists from both north and south of the 49th parallel in a sleepy little suburb known as Thorold in Niagara.
South Niagara has been home to THE blues festival for 15 years every mid-October, following on the tail feathers of Thanksgiving. It is just one more thing to be thankful for and delighted about. Each year, the festival is filled with excitement and vibrancy as brilliant as the colours in autumn.
A DIVERSE YEAR
This year’s Canal Bank Shuffle Blues Festival’s attractions included: Guitarist, Bob Margolin, Chicago blues artist, Toronzo Cannon, Monkeyjunk, Miller and the Other Sinners, Paul DesLauriers Band, Billy the Kid and The Regulators, and many more. The bands at the shuffle, which performs everything from rockabilly to soul, R&B and gospel, performed at several venues, including the Moose and Goose, Club Capri and several church halls within crawling distance throughout the town. Festival goers purchase a wristband and attend as many shows as they choose in the four-day event. It’s worth every penny of the $30 admission. Recording artists are always on hand to sign CD’s and T-shirts after the show.
Hailing from Montreal, Paul DesLauriers made his debut at the Shuffle with rousing success. His trio included Greg Morency on bass and drummer, Sam Harrison performed to standing ovations with excerpts from his latest release, Relentless. Still Under My Skin was an uplifting groove about that one woman who got away. It hits his mark with a robust chorus, poignant guitar breaks and ample melodrama. Not surprising, DesLauriers said it hit no. One on iTunes.
The fluid sound of slide guitar drew listeners into several renditions from his self-entitled album from 2014. His Texas whiskey voice adds touches of southern rock that makes his originals quite accessible. DesLaurier speaks to everyday angsts like aging and worrying about the future. This Canadian band won second place at the Mississippi Blues Festival recently, in addition to The Maple Blues Award.
Switching from guitars to producing heavier sounds, the band dug into songs that swept away its listeners away like a landslide with its flurry of notes in the higher registers, pounding rhythms and an outpouring of emotion. As a lead singer and guitarist, DesLaurier puts every ounce of energy into his performance that is truly captivating, and the trio is a solid force. They rocked the audience through Up In the Air and Going to Make You Move. The latter song’s gravelly vocals and uplifting chords were another shade of melodious blues. DesLaurier changes guitars often adding diversity and creativity to his leads, as Morency and Harrison spike his melodies with fervor and drive, laying the track.
We Just Might was a rousing seductive song that smacks of southern rockers like Molly Hatchet. Playful, wild and moving. A great band.
Back by popular demand, Jack de Keyzer, who has been a mainstay in the Toronto blues scene, made his 15th consecutive appearance at the festival playing everything from rockabilly to R & B.
He always gets blues diehards on the dance floor with his infectious sound and foot-stomping hits. De Keyzer performed with famed recording artist, Ronnie Hawkins from 1973 to 1977, which helped launch his career to international status. He is also a two-time Juno Award winner and seven-time Maple Award for the Blues winner. His performances are always a turn-it-up party!
Master of Ceremonies, Anita West of 97 Rock in Buffalo was pleased to announce Alligator Records’ recording artist, Toronzo Cannon and his blend of Chicago blues offerings to the crowd. A colourful and striking character, Toronzo performed features from his newest CD, The Chicago Way. The blues community of artists tend to support one another, and it’s a common occurrence at the Canal Bank Shuffle to see many other performers drop in to catch another band’s set. Cannon has blues in his DNA, and a wonderful gift of gab that’s entertaining. With titles like: Bad Contract(divorce) and Mid-Life Crisis, there is ample room for discussion. But Cannon also lets his guitar do the talking for his blues –grips, grabs and gropes:a wonderful combination. The baseline’s repetitiveness in the traditional blues style makes it impossible to sit still. She’s Mine was moving with a sweet chorus and persistent sense of urgency. He rolled into heavier territory as well with a song that paid homage to the sound of Robin Trower and Jimi Hendrix. Cannon is a formidable talent, and made many fans at the shuffle.
MARGOLIN, AN INTERNATIONAL GIFT
Bob Margolin also paid tribute to the Chicago Blues. He is a Boston native, who cut his teeth playing in local blues clubs at an early age. He learned quickly and started playing with the late, great Muddy Waters in 1973. Seven years later, he started his band. Margolin has since become a veteran, opening for George Thorogood and Johnny Winters, and has toured with B.B. King, Dr. John, and Little Feat. His story has been turned into songs in his latest CD. My Road, which is taking him to parts of Spain and France in the next two months, and then back to the eastern and southern parts of the U.S. early next year. His path may have been long and windy, but it’s a path of blues tradition and history that brought him to the Canal Bank Shuffle Blues Festival.
Happy 15th anniversary!