by Malcolm Petch
March is the month in which Spring starts. This year it’s also the month when Halifax invades Kelowna in the guise of three remarkable artists, one right after the other: Steve Gates on March 10, Paper Beat Scissors on March 17, and Kev Corbett on March 24.
How did the “three-in-a-row from Halifax” thing come about? Our booking guy, Michael, is convinced there’s something in the water, though he didn’t specify whether that’s the water here in Kelowna that’s attracting the Easterners, or the water in Halifax that all of a sudden prompted these artists to accept our invitations all at the same time. Our show manager, Michael, doesn’t put much stock in theories like that, though; he’s just glad we’ve got such stellar talent lining up in front of the wood wall.
If there’s ever a guy who should be a star in the Internet online music world, it’s Steve Gates. I mean, come on: you’ve got an artist whose name is a cross between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and the guy is appearing on our live-streamed music show hosted by a crew using a blend of both Mac and PC machines. Can it get any more Internet or computer tech-mixed than that?
Gates started working on his current album immediately after attending a public talk by Daniel Langois. Langois, who as a producer has definitely charted a pathway outside the expected, urged his listeners to be reckless and to trust themselves in the studio. Gates needed no further prompting, diving into the work of his project with such gusto that even his press release packet says that in his record Gates “abuses song forms old and new…”; and he ended up with an album that is “ragged and beautiful”.
The samples he’s got on MySpace show the music of Steve Gates to be natural and open; talented but understated guitar playing supports warm melodies, and different voices join Gates with reassuring harmonies. One gets the distinct impression that a ‘live’ Gates performance would be very similar to a Gates recording, which means that the music you can find online will give you a really good foretaste of what March 10 at Streaming Café will sound like.
March 17 brings us Paper Beat Scissors, who’s been here before and whom we covered in more detail in a separate piece this month.
Kev Corbett hits town on March 24, paired with local singer songwriter Josh Smith. Don’t freak out that we’ve lost the East-Coast flow by bringing in Josh Smith – he’s actually born way out east, and it’s only been since coming to his senses his wandering days ended that Smith has called Kelowna home. You’ll recognize Josh from the times he’s been at the Café before.
Corbett looks like an interesting guy; one of his promo photos shows him sitting in a relaxed pose, mandolin in hand, grand piano on one side, at least five guitars on the other side, and what appears to be a cello leaning against the wall in the background. Does one person really play all those instruments? Does one person really own all those instruments? Such are the questions that run through one’s mind when one sees an image like that…
No matter the image, one thing that’s clear is that Kev Corbett makes a lasting impression on those who’ve heard him. “The man is an exceptional guitar player… it was really great to see him again,” says Jowi Taylor of Six String Nation (Taylor is a Peabody-winning writer and broadcaster; and if you’ve never heard of the Six String Nation guitar project you owe it to yourself to Google it and check it out!). “Corbett embodies everything that is wonderful about the song as an art form, while most folk singers today are mere shadows of great singer/songwriters,” says KV Style.
Penguin Eggs Magazine says that Corbett “is all Canadian, with hints of Cockburn, Cohen, and Lightfoot in his voice.” In a world where promo writers refer to artists both regionally renowned and nationally obscure, it’s hard to find a list of names where each one is recognizable; but virtually any Canadian would be familiar with the sounds of Bruce or Leonard or Gordon – so to compare Corbett to them is to use examples with a ton of heft. I’d say a comparison like that is worth a listen…
I don’t know who wrote Kev Corbett’s promo press-kit blurb (it might even have been him), but one description really stood out to me: “It’s hard not to pay attention; stories become songs break down into stories, and you realize he’s not singing about his own life. He’s singing ours.”
There’s not much to say that can add to the descriptions others have already made about Corbett’s music. It actually does sound like Cockburn/Cohen/Lightfoot, and the primarily acoustic guitar-based recordings have tasty little snippets from horns and mandolins and such coming in from all sides to add a bit of zest. Tasty.
Springtime should be well underway by March 24. No matter the weather, though, a Saturday evening at Streaming Café taking in the music of Kev Corbett with local singer/songwriter Joshua Smith will be time well spent. As always, the shows in March start at 7pm Pacific, either in person at 597 Leon Ave in Kelowna, or online at www.streamingcafe.net – but you knew that already…