This edition of Folk’d Up Friday should have been called Blues’d Up Friday. Ok, not as catchy without the benefit of alliteration, but this bill was more blues infused than the others. All of the acts complimented each other really well and flowed nicely from one to the next. It was a misty, rainy night, and the blues just felt right. (Couldn’t resist a rhyme on that one.)
There were more tables and chairs set up in front of the stage than the previous shows. It made for a cool, laid-back cabaret vibe, and I happened to snag a seat right at the front. That gave a fresh perspective for me since I had been perched further back for the last few shows.
First up, my friend Max Wray! If you’ve been following I Heart Hamilton since its inception, you know Max has made many blog appearances at this point, and it’s high time he made another. The Hamilton singer-songwriter has been working away at Boxcar Sound on his new album and I’ve been getting antsy to hear the new tunes that will be his followup to 2010’s EP Max Wray Live. I had only seen Max perform with a full band a couple of times and was excited to see him backed again by a drummer, guitarist and bassist. The new album is being recorded with a band, making for a much fuller sound, and this performance was a great preview.
Max launched into his set with one of my favourites of his, “Your Love Gets To Me,” and right away I was impressed with the full, rich sound of the band. What I especially loved was getting to see Max play the electric guitar, which he picked up later and played for the majority of his set. I’ve seen Max play so many times over the past couple of years and it hit me that I had never seen him rock the electric. It really suited Max and gave his material more of a blues edge and showcased his background as a jazz/blues musician.
Not every singer-songwriter could make such a smooth transition from the solo acoustic thing to playing with a full band but Max’s vocals suit that format really well. I kept going “Whoa!” in my head at each song, thinking how great his songs were sounding with a band. Having lots of experience playing in bands over the years, Max is comfortable within the group dynamic, and it shows. He held it down with a relaxed yet confident stage presence. With minimal chit chat between songs, the music spoke for itself.
A surprising twist on an older tune was when the band cranked out a reggae rendition of one of Max’s more well-known songs, “Love Is…” It had a great groove to it. No wonder Max has been busy, between creating new songs and reworking older ones. Playing with a band brought a whole new life to his older songs and was a fantastic way to introduce his new ones. Another highlight of his set for me was a new song, “Jolene,” which you can see a clip of in my video.
In between sets, I ended up playing the role of merch girl and chatted with Max and one of The Beauties’ friends at the back table. Then it was time for Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose, from Toronto. Brett was front and centre on the keyboard, hopping in his seat and getting lost in the music. Seeing the piano in a band is always appreciated; I love hearing its sounds added to the mix. Brett later switched things up and took to the electric guitar.
I compared his vocals to Gavin DeGraw’s, which I love, with his rich tone. It’s right up my alley with my taste in vocals. The instrumentation was really interesting too – there was always lots going on and changes in tempo. Check out a clip in my video blog.
Brett noted during their set that the venue is a “beautiful spot” that they don’t get to play very often. That’s also what I’ve enjoyed about this series, is getting to see these acts in this type of venue. It gives a different feel altogether, rather than a bar venue.
Headliners The Beauties, also from Toronto, closed the night with quite the set. They were so impressive, with several of their songs trailing off into what seemed like jam sessions before picking the song back up and bringing it home. The four piece (one member was out for the night – his wife having a baby, aww!) looked like they got lost in their jam and we got to witness the magic. They connected so well with each other and it was was riveting to watch. The floor was vibrating with their rhythms. They went wild!
The band even spent a little time in the city; this was their third time playing in Hamilton and they noted during their set that they enjoyed a meal at Black Forest before the show. They’re ahead of me – that’s a restaurant I have yet to tackle. They claimed it’s the best schnitzel place, so I’ll take their recommendation.
The Beauties finished off their set with a singalong, getting us to chime in with the lyric, “Ain’t nobody gonna love you like the devil do,” in their folk-blues sound. It had a great groove and the audience joined in. After the show, the band was super friendly and mingled with whoever wanted to talk. The drummer was also quick to sincerely thank the audience for being there. It was really nice to see that.
Another Folk’d Up Friday for the books! I’m looking forward to the final show on November 23rd. Stay tuned to Twitter – I’ll be giving away a pair of tickets this Friday, Nov. 16 at 7 PM.