Last Wednesday, Hugh’s Room played host to a double header of two veteran singer-songwriters. First up was Ben Sures, a blues-roots singer-songwriter from Edmonton, Alberta. With five records under his belt, Sures has garnered quite the acclaim across the country over the past decade for his vivid songwriting, refreshing and sophisticated blues-roots arrangements, and a personable stage presence that always shines through wherever he performs.
Accompanying Sures was Son of Trouble Orchestra, consisting of Kathryn Rose, Ayron Mortley and Brian Lahaie. Together they released their debut, self-titled album last year, which explored a more bluesy side of Ben Sures.
When I arrived a quarter of the way through Sures’ set last Wednesday, the group was performing more of Sures’ earlier folksy material than his recent blues music. Highlights included his 2011 hit ‘Gone to Bolivia’ from his fifth self-titled album, and ‘American Chanty Town’ also from that LP. Both rollicking and catchy songs incorporated elements of doo-wop with the doos and oohs weaving through the verses. There was also the more ponderous tribute song ‘High School Steps’, which explored being in high school as a musician and looking up to Ray Davies of the Kinks. This track especially showcased Sures’ masterful storytelling.
There was also some humour, along with crowd participation in ‘Any Precious Girl’, which Sures dedicated to anyone wanting to get naked and run outside. The lyrics itself were very touching; he sang about his younger sister who got taken away by paramedics for being crazy because she was dancing in the streets naked.
“Everyday is avoiding a padded cell for any precious girl born without a shell,” Sures sings in the chorus.
Following up Sures was Don Kerr. Kerr has been a staple in the Canadian music scene for more than 25 years as a producer and multi-instrumentalist, contributing to various esteemed groups including Rheostatics. He is now writing his own songs under the name of Communism, which the crowd at Hugh’s Room got a sample of. On top of vocals, Kerr is their drummer, and was accompanied by Paul Linklater on guitar and bassist Kevin Lacroix.
The set was a mixture of high energy covers and original songs, including ‘Daft Capital’ an energetic garage rock song and ‘One of Everyone’, which Kerr described as one of their few ballads, albeit, an up-tempo and uplifting one. There were a couple of covers, such as the very funky ‘Shake Your Body’ by The Jackson 5. Though not an original song, being able to play a Jackson 5 track shows off the range of the trio in terms of what they can play as a band.
As expected from a group of veteran musicians, their set was polished and masterful in every aspect of their performance and music from the songwriting to the guitar to Kerr’s amazing ability to play drums while singing.
To close off the night, Kerr invited Ben Sures and the Orchestra up to the stage. Together they played ‘Burning Down the House’ by The Talking Heads. To see all these veteran Canadian musicians sharing the stage together performing an awesome cover by The Talking Heads was a truly memorable moment for the crowd at Hugh’s Room and the perfect way to close off the evening.
Communism will release their debut LP, a triple album, in early 2015, which will include an eclectic mix of dance music, acoustic, and rock. If you are a fan of blues, then make sure to also check out Ben Sures and the Son of Trouble Orchestra’s 2013 debut album.
Visit Ben Sures music at www.bensures.com.
Visit Don Kerr at donkerr.ca.
And listen to some Communism demos below!
‘We’re Coming Out’
‘One of Everyone’
‘Bye Bye Bees’