Bob Dylan, Sasktel Centre, July 14 2017

image1-2I’m still trying to process this show. Bob Dylan. American icon. Artist. Musician. Lyricist. Modern renaissance man. Bon vivant. No doubt. I understand Bob is not everyone’s cup of tea. I’m not here to persuade you otherwise. I think last Friday was my 7 or 8th time seeing Bob. I’ve enjoyed him every time. This time was exceptional and I’m glad I convinced myself to go. I wasn’t going to. Then I saw some footage from his recent tour. It was killer. Then I realized they’ve been doing the same set all tour. To me, that meant the band should and would be tight. And they were. As the lights went down and the band walked on stage the vibe was immense. And then…there he was. Bob fucking Dylan. That old familiar feeling washed over me…”I’m in the same room as Bob Dylan”. A privilege. For the next little while the band tore through a variety of Bob’s catalogue. From early numbers like Don’t think Twice, to tunes from the “Time” series of albums, to his re-working of the old classics like Stormy Weather to the swinging blues of the album Tempest. It was all displayed and played expertly. Bob’s voice (again, I’m not here to convince you to like it, but I do) was sounding great. He sang the song book tunes with confidence and swagger. Nailing them. Standing confidently with his hand on his hip as his band became an orchestra. Simply as badass as one can be at 76 and clearly aware of it. All night he seemed to clearly be having a good time. Rocking his baby grand, chatting with band mates. He even addressed the audience with a little fist bump to the heart before they left the stage. Something I’ve never seen him do even once before.

The entire night has been replaying in my head over and over since the show ended. Like a good film I’ve been revisiting each scene. Trying to figure out what it all means. I had a number of moments during the show where things seemed to make sense to me. A vision of the timeline of American music. Blues. Jazz. Swing. Torch. Singer songwriters. And of course, RocknRoll. Bob was/is there amidst all of it. It occurred to me that night, there in that room, that Bob is as important a musical figure as anyone. It must have been a similar feeling to be in the room watching Muddy Waters or Howlin Wolf. Sinatra or Miles Davis. Just the knowing that American Music was being made. Real and true. And all night, whether Bob was at his piano or standing impishly with his hand in his hip, it was as if he was saying to me “I know where I fit in music history. You can put me beside Muddy. Frank. Springsteen. ANYONE, and it will all make sense. I am American music.” Thank god I went one more time because Who knows how much longer we’ll get to keep Bob on this sphere.

I always sort of feel bad for the folks I talk to leading up to and after the show. The folks who went to hear knocking’ on Heaven’s Door or Mr Tambourine man, performed as recorded. Of course Bob doesn’t do that. Not, ever, just rarely. You don’t necessarily get what you want at a Dylan show. You always get what you need though. Whether you realize it or not. One thing I have learned for sure in my few decades on this earthly realm, is that when you enter a situation projecting your own expectations, knowingly or unknowingly, you are nearly always met with disappointment and frustration. This is a common human trait. We seem to expect others to behave or deliver what WE want. What WE desire. As if they would even know what that is. That is not how life works. We are individuals. Unique. Singular. It requires great amounts of communication to understand what another human wants or expects. Until that conversation happens we typically just project our own desires onto a situation or someone.  image2

In a conversation about the show with my must friend, Sean Burns, we came to the conclusion that to enjoy his Bobness live now, you can’t just be a “Like A Rolling Stone Fan”, you can’t just be a “Mr. Tambourine fan”, you can’t just be a “Oh Mercy” Fan. You have to be a BOB DYLAN fan. That means loving him and more importantly, accepting him, through all facets of his journey and the all encompassing weirdness that is Bob Dylan.

Ten Years …

Ten years ago yesterday I played my last set at mariposa folk fest. It was a late night bar set. I think Matt Andersen and I hosted the after party of sorts. It is a fuzzy memory. The next morning my sister and I drove hard to NB.

My dad had been dying of Cancer for some time. Somewhere in the late spring it escalated. Got aggressive. It was clear what was going on. My family gathered and prepared for the inevitable. It was an intense time for my family and I remember so much of it fondly and so much of it is a blur. I recall spending much time beside my father while he slept in his morphine cocoon. Although he was weakening there were still lucid moments for quite a while before it got really bad. I remember writing “Afflicted” sitting there, while he slumbered.

I had scheduled my largest tour yet, of my then very young touring career. It would go deep into Ontario culminating in the prestigious Mariposa gigs. I decided it best to cancel the tour. My father and mother insisted I honour my bookings at Mariposa as it was an important gig. Off we went.

I recall selling out of CDs there. It was an amazing weekend. I felt like a real artist. A real musician. It would be the only time I would ever play that festival. I left feeling triumphant. But I also knew that we were heading home into what would easily be the most trying time in my life.

We landed at home shortly after midnight, I think. Memories are a funny thing. Especially ones rooted in trauma. Anyway, I think less than two hours later, at approximately 130 a.m. AST by my memory, my father shed his mortal coil. I held his right hand. My sister to my left. Mother across the other side of the bed and my brother, I think, at the foot. Like many folks who are in their final moments, we had to tell him to let go. That it was ok to move on. He was a strong man and had waited for his kids to get home. How fortunate were we.

His hand trembled mightily. Like an electric charge. I’ll never, ever, forget it. And then, it was clear, my dad had died. The following days were a blur. Funeral. Visits. Campfires. Relatives. Friends. All a blur. Then the adjustment. Life without my family’s leader. We all took turns in new roles. Dealing with the business at hand. Sometimes literally. People came calling for all kinds of reasons. All very educational.

Years passed. You adjust. You navigate life. You carry on. It goes by you but never away. It can leave you completely for years at a time. Convincing you that you have gotten over it. Then, out of nowhere, a song or a blade of grass, perhaps a piece of pie or a car wash lets you know who’s boss. The void of a parent lost is never filled. Ever. We cope. We carry on. We live. Happily. Unhappily. To each their own.

Currently I write this at what seems to be the happiest point in my life this far and let me tell you, I have had some amazing adventure. Yet still I must reflect for a moment…I’ve had this portable bar for ten years. In it is this bottle of scotch that was on my dad’s dresser. The first time I ever tasted any booze was sitting on my dad’s knee (quite possibly from the very glass in this photo) while he and mom had friends over. Scotch and ginger. Probably Sussex’s Golden ginger ale if I had to guess. The very few times I ever saw my dad enjoy an adult beverage, that is what I remember as his drink. Tonight I will take a “swig” of Chivas for the first time since my dad has passed. I don’t know why I never did before. My gypsy life of the past ten years even afforded me the luxury of forgetting about this bottle for a while. Then, in my last move, I looked in the case and was tickled to find this bottle sloshing around. I knew exactly what it was for. Ten years. Hard to believe. Just yesterday I was beginning my touring career. Here I am now in my forties. Relaxing on my back deck in the prairies. Watching the birds gather. Watering the garden. Thinking of own family. It is peaceful. I have been given some amazing gifts in this life. Some have come at great cost but here I am just the same. Grateful for it all.

Ten years will come and go in the blink of an eye. So I cheers to you, my friends and enemies. Let us not forget one another. Let us keep the memory of what we mean to each other necessary. Let us take a moment and dig up that little moment in time that we have buried deep in our minds and let it turn the sides of our mouths and wrinkle the corner of our eyes. Cheers to our past. Cheers to our present. And cheers to our future. Live well. Love hard.

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Maritime Shows Announcement

Big news folks, This Summer I will make a quick trip to the Maritimes for a variety of shows.

June 30th I will have my Big F’n Band in full swing supporting I Mother Earth. This is part of the Canada Day weekend festivities and I can’t wait to get back in Freetown for a visit and especially to see legendary rockers WITH Edwin singing. Love that first album of theirs. More detail right HERE

July 1st I will take my trio (Karl Gans, Will Pacey) back to the lovely town of Saint Andrews to celebrate Canada Day at The Red Herring. One of our favourite spots to play in the whole wide world.

July 2nd I venture over to the fair Isle of Prince Edward to perform my solo show at The Trailside Cafe in Mount Stewart. Tickets for that one are right HERE. Don’t hesitate…

I hope to see many of our Maritime friends and fans out for these shows. See you SOOOOOOON!

Headed to PEI for the Canadian Songwriter Conference!

Good news folks,

Last week, just as I was leaving for vacation in Nashville, TN, I received word that I had been selected by jury to represent Saskatchewan at the Canadian Songwriter Conference in Charlottetown, PE. This is part of the May Run Music Festival and will involve a few days of songwriting with my pal, Andrew Waite as well as a day of pitching music and culminating in a songwriters circle at St. Paul’s Church on Friday evening. Many thanks to SaskMusic, MusicPEI and Bell Media for this great opportunity.

PEI has always had a special place in my heart. I’ve always had a great support base there and ALWAYS fun shows. I love the islanders. Typically in the past my annual winter solo tour would end in a house concert just outside of Charlottetown so I’m really happy to head there again this Spring for this conference. I’ve also been feeling the words seeking me out again as well after taking some time off writing so I’m excited to see what we can come up with for material while there. Visit this LINK for tickets to the events.

I hope to see all my islander friends on this short but very sweet visit. Next week I’ll be announcing a couple more shows so stay tuned for that as well. Happy Spring everyone.

 

Ross

A Winter Jaunt with The Sufferin’ Bastards

Well, well, well. It’s time once again to shake ’em on down like only the Bastards can.
This January we will go on a Winter Jaunt through Alberta and Saskatchewan. Dig out those old classic tour T’s… The Bastards are back in town!!!

A Winter Jaunt with The Sufferin’ Bastards:
Jan 6th/7th 9.00 pm The Mainliner, Medicine Hat, AB
Jan 10th 8.00 pm Dino’s Bar & Grill, Saskatoon, SK
Jan 11th 9.00 pm Blues on Whyte, Edmonton, AB
Jan 12th 10.00 pm Blues on Whyte, Edmonton, AB
Jan 13th 10.00 pm Blues on Whyte, Edmonton, AB
Jan 14th 3.00 pm *MATINEE* Blues on Whyte, Edmonton, AB
Jan 14th 10.00 pm Blues on Whyte, Edmonton, AB
Jan 15th 9.00 pm Blues on Whyte, Edmonton, AB
Jan 17th/18th 10.00 pm Bud’s on Broadway, Saskatoon, SK
Jan 19th 9.00 pm The Capitol, Regina, SK
Jan 20th/21st Mikey’s Juke Joint, Calgary, AB