Russell deCarle – CD Release

Held together by equal measures of heartbreak and hope, and featuring performances from some of Canada’s most accomplished instrumentalists, Under the Big Big Sky plays like the soundtrack to a vintage film. A fluent mix of blues, jazz and R&B tinged western swing that pays homage to some of Russell deCarle’s all-time favourite artists while remaining simultaneously fresh and familiar.

As lead vocalist and bassist of iconic Canadian country roots band Prairie Oyster, deCarle is no stranger to awards and accolades. Over their career the 2008 CCMA Hall of Honour inductees have racked up an impressive list of JUNO and Canadian Country Music Awards, gold and platinum selling records and number one singles. As a songwriter deCarle has also been honoured with two SOCAN Song of the Year Awards. Once in 1994, for Prairie Oyster’s first number one single ‘Such A Lonely One’, and then again in 2008 for ‘One Way Track’, his co-write with Canadian folk legend, Willie P. Bennett.

For some artists the urge to make a solo record asserts itself almost as soon as they start to gain attention as part of a successful band – sometimes even before they, or their audience, truly know who they are. Not so for deCarle. “For decades people have been asking for a solo record,” he says, “but I never thought I was ready and the band always satisfied the musical part of my life.”

What finally got him fired up enough to strike out on his own in the studio was spending some quality time alone with his acoustic guitar. Although he’d initially intended to weight Under the Big Big Sky more heavily in favour of covers than original material, the more he played and wrote, the more he found himself falling naturally into a style that marked a definite, if unintentional, departure from his past work.

When it became clear that the balance of the record would feature his own material, deCarle approached longtime friend, pianist/arranger/producer John Sheard (The Guess Who, Dan Hill) and asked him to take a listen. “We’d wanted to do a project together for years. He’s absolutely one of my favourite musicians in the world and musically we share a lot of things.”

After Sheard signed on to produce the record, deCarle enlisted the talents of another old friend, engineer L. Stu Young (Prince, Ronnie Hawkins, Guns n’ Roses, David Wilcox), who assisted on Prairie Oyster’s 1991 breakthrough record Everybody Knows and mixed their most recent release, 2006’s One Kiss.

With Young manning the board and Sheard producing and playing piano and vibes, the next step, deCarle says, was putting together a wish list of players to join them in the studio. Among them, guitarist Steve Briggs, string bassist George Koller and drummers, Mark Kelso and Al Cross, as well as an all-star cast of guests including: bassist Russ Boswell, fiddler Drew Jurecka, percussionist John Adames and B3 virtuoso Denis Keldie; guitarists Kevin Breit, Amos Garrett, David Wilcox and Prairie Oyster bandmate, Keith Glass; vocalists Amoy and Ciceal Levy, Amanda Walther and Sheila Carabine of Dala and Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy; and a horn section featuring deCarle’s old friend and musical compadre Chris Whiteley on cornet, Gord Myers on trombone and Colleen Allen on tenor and baritone sax.
“I’m honoured that everybody I wanted on the record ended up on it. They really dug deep and did an incredible job.” But assembling this ‘fantasy camp’ of players wasn’t about cramming as many talents on each track as possible, deCarle stresses. It was about complimenting the songs with performances by people he believed would make a personal connection with his songs; the same kind of connection he hopes his audience will make. “For people to be emotionally invested in this, to be touched in some way, that would be the best thing that could happen. That’s why I made the record.”

As much as Under the Big Big Sky may represent a new beginning for deCarle, it’s not a conscious effort to shake off the label of ‘country singer’, but a natural extension of his talents as both a songwriter and interpreter. “I’ve always thought of myself as a singer, not just a country singer. I’m a music lover first and foremost – a product of all the stuff I’ve ever listened to – and my tastes are very broad. To me this is a torchy, bluesy record more than anything else. It’s certainly a product of where I came from musically.”

Just exactly where that is, however, isn’t easy to pin down, and nor should it be. The songs and the subjects deCarle writes about defy being crammed into some fabricated musical zip code for the sake of convenience. “Growing up when I did, radio wasn’t homogenized. I’m pretty sure that the Beatles ‘Ticket To Ride’ and ‘Tiger By the Tail’ by Buck Owens were on the pop charts at the same time, and I’m sure there was a Frank Sinatra song on that same chart.”

Like the soundtrack deCarle grew up with, Under the Big Big Sky covers a lot of ground stylistically. From the sweet soulful blues of ‘Can’t Find the Song in My Heart’, to melancholy ballads like opener, ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’ by Robert M. David, to unabashedly upbeat tunes like ‘Girl With the Golden Hair’ that are as reminiscent of old time rock and roll as they are of the music of classic crooners like Dean Martin. And although the record defies easy classification, it’s perfectly clear about the fact that deCarle can find inspiration for his songs just about anywhere; from the big, big Saskatchewan sky he references on the album’s title track, to the ‘Fingernail Moon’ hanging above his own backyard in rural Ontario, to the sad songs and ballads he’s loved since first hearing them on the airwaves as a teenager.

“I could sing sad songs and ballads all night. It’s true, man. I kind of live at 72 beats per minute. Emotionally I think I’ve always been affected by the bluesy side of life; that’s always been what stirs it up for me.” Still, even on heartbreakers like his cover of the Cindy Walker classic, ‘Goin’ Away Party’, or his own ‘Blues for Christmas’ and ‘Don’t Ask The Question’, deCarle possesses an uncanny ability to weave a little bit of hope into every line he sings.

The result is a remarkably eclectic, but entirely cohesive record. Recorded over the course of 2008-2009 and freshly released in October 2010, Under the Big Big Sky is more than just a confident, compelling exploration of deCarle’s singular voice as a songwriter. It’s an unflinching reflection of where he lives musically and literally, a celebration of the music and musicians who began to influence him long before he began his career forty years ago and a gathering of his closest and dearest musical friends.

Mary Fahl

Sunday, October 20, 2019 | 8:30PM

Mary Fahl
Advance: $30.00 / Doors: $35.00

Sounding like no other singer of her generation” (Allmusic.com), Mary Fahl is an expressive, emotional singer/songwriter who first achieved fame as lead singer and co-founder of the mid-1990s NYC- based chamber-pop group October Project. The hallmark of their sound was Mary Fahl’s awe-inspiring power vocals over gorgeous melodies played with passion and sophistication. As a solo artist, Mary has released several compelling albums, including the fantastic re-working of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” for V2 Records and her wonderful, original studio album “The Other Side of Time” on Sony Odyssey. She has also written and performed songs for several major motion pictures, including the lead song (“Going Home”) for the Civil War epic Gods and Generals. Her most recent album “Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House”, winner of the Indie Acoustic “Album of the Year” award, is a collection of twenty-four tracks recorded live at one of America’s oldest vaudeville theaters that captures the soaring, soul-permeating vocals and musical breadth that makes the Mary Fahl concert experience what the Portland Press called “soul-permeating”. The show was filmed for PBS and is currently airing on PBS affiliates around the country. Fahl’s elegant, cinematic songs draw on classical and world music sources, American art song, as well as thinking man’s folk-pop which she performs with an earthy, viscerally powerful contralto that Boston Globe critic Steve Morse calls “a voice for the gods that can transport listeners to other realms”. Her music appeals to a wide range of musical enthusiasts, including a large, loyal fan base of Mary Fahl evangelists.

Fahl, who hails from Rockland County, NY, lives in an idyllic setting in eastern Pennsylvania with her husband. Their 17th century house overlooking the Delaware River – complete with waterfall and surrounded by acres of gardens and woods, inspires Mary’s ongoing songwriting.

Website: http://maryfahl.com
Facebook: https://bit.ly/2T4JyCj

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Dar Williams

Friday, October 11, 2019

Dar Williams
Advance $35 / Door $40 *

Dar Williams has been called “one of America’s very best singer-songwriters” by The New
Yorker. She’s released ten studio albums and authored four books including her latest, “What I
Found In A Thousand Towns,” to be released in September.

Known as much for her staunch progressive ideals as her raw acoustic energy, Williams has
been captivating audiences with her sheer elegance and honesty in her folk-pop songwriting
since the ’90s. Williams’ growth as an individual over her two-decade-long career has gone
hand-in-hand with her evolution as an artist, touring along the way with such distinguished peers
as Joan Baez, Patty Griffin, Ani DiFranco, Loudon Wainwright III and Shawn Colvin among
others.

Dar’s most recent album, Emerald, “deals as bluntly as ever with the shadowy, subtle corners of
humanity” according to Rolling Stone, and was recorded with friends such as Richard
Thompson, Jill Sobule, Jim Lauderdale, the Milk Carton Kids, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Suzzy
Roche, the Hooters and others in various studios across the U.S. It is a sparkling collection of
new original material, inspired collaborations and some surprising covers such as B.A.D.’s
“Johnny Appleseed” making this album one of her best yet.

“Dar Williams, one of America’s very best singer-songwriters… Her songs are beautiful. Some
are like finely crafted short stories. They are, variously, devastatingly moving, tenderly funny,
subtle without being in any way inaccessible, and utterly fresh—not a cliché or a clunker in her
entire songbook.” – The New Yorker

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Martin Simpson

Friday, October 4, 2019 | 8:30PM

Martin Simpson
Advance $25.00 / Door $30.00 *

There is no doubt that after 45 years as a professional musician Martin is, right now, better than ever. Widely acknowledged as one of the finest acoustic and slide guitar players in the world, his interpretations of traditional songs are masterpieces of storytelling. His solo shows are intense, eclectic, spellbinding and deeply moving.

There is no-one who has more successfully combined the diverse elements of British, Afro-American and old-timey music than Simpson. His 15 years living in the US were well spent. In addition his own songwriting has produced some real gems, from the truck-stop epic, “Love Never Dies” to the profoundly moving “Never Any Good” and “One Day”.

His career includes collaborations on stage and record with Richard Hawley, Richard Thompson, June Tabor, Kelly Joe Phelps, Jackson Browne, Danny Thompson, Danú, Martin Carthy, Cara Dillon, David Lindley, Roy Bailey, Martin Taylor, David Hidalgo, Steve Miller, Dick Gaughan, Dom Flemons and many more.

Martin has been nominated an astounding 27 times in the fifteen years of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards – more than any other performer – with 9 consecutive years as nominee for Musician of The Year, which he has won twice. The year 2008 saw an incredible 5 nominations for “Prodigal Son’ and 2 wins, whilst in 2010 he had an unprecedented 6 nominations for his CD, “True Stories” and a win for Best Traditional Track, “Sir Patrick Spens”. 2012’s nominations for Martin include, Best Album for ‘Purpose & Grace”, Best Traditional Track for “The Lakes Of Ponchartrain” and Best Musician. In 2014 his album, ‘Vagrant Stanzas’ was nominated for Album Of The Year, but it was a member of The Full English that he collectively took home awards that year, for Best Group and Album Of The Year. 2015 saw him working in a new trio with the wonderful Andy Cutting and Nancy Kerr and they also released an album together, ‘Murmurs’, to wide, critical acclaim. He is currently working on new material for his next solo album.

Whether playing American old-time music, blues, a Dylan song or his own material, Martin Simpson is unpredictable, individual and a guitarist of immense subtlety.

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The Jitters

Saturday, September 28, 2019 | 8:30PM

The Jitters
Advance $25.00 / Door: $30.00 *

Always fun, funny, irreverent and rockin’, The Jitters return to Hugh’s Room Live after an 18-month absence. Snarky, sarcastic, the pop-rockers may not look like they did in their heyday but they deliver a great evening of laughs and catchy songs.

The Jitters (singer Blair Packham, guitarist Danny Levy and bassist Matthew Greenberg) originally formed in 1981. They recorded with super-producer Bob Ezrin, made an independent video in 1984 for the song “Take Me As I Am” and eventually got a record deal with Capitol-EMI Music of Canada. Along the way, they picked up David Quinton Steinberg on drums (who has been the driving force behind the band’s latter-day reunions). In 1986, The Jitters opened for Huey Lewis and the News at the Canadian National Exhibition, tied for third place in Q107’s Homegrown Contest with the song “Last of the Red Hot Fools.” They opened for The Kinks, The Byrds, Kim Mitchell, Rik Emmett, and in 1988, they played support for Heart on their UK tour, ending the tour with three sold-out nights at Wembley Arena. Nominated for a Juno Award that spring, the Jitters flogged their debut album across Canada, and then began writing for their second album with producer Jules Shear.

With a total of 5 Top 20 hits in Canada to their credit, the Jitters are enjoying playing together again, and looking forward to the release of the Universal Music best-of compilation which will include two new songs.

Youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sgWpUuaDRM

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Soulsville: The Music of Stax Records

Friday, September 13, 2019 | 8:30PM

Soulsville: The Music of Stax Records
Advance $40.00 / Door $45.00 *

Stax Records is synonymous with Southern soul music. Originally known as Satellite, the Memphis company was founded in 1957 by Jim Stewart and his sister, Estelle Axton, and took its new name in 1961 from the first two letters of their last names. Among the many artists who scored hits on Stax and its Volt subsidiary during the Sixties were Rufus and Carla Thomas, Booker T. & the MGs (an interracial instrumental quartet that also served as the company’s rhythm section), Sam and Dave, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, and Otis Redding.

Under the direction of Juno Award winning producer and musical director, Lance Anderson, the September appearance at Hugh’s Room Live will also bring together three legends of the ‘Toronto Sound’, The Blue-eyed Prince of Soul, George Olliver, (Mandala) the irrepressible John Finley (Checkmates, and the supergroup Rhinoceros) and Jay Douglas (The Cougars). These wonderful soul veterans, all grew up on this music. They are the real deal! Add extraordinary singers Cheryl Lescom and Kitchener phenomenon, Matt Weidinger, and you have a show not to be missed.

The show will feature Memphis-born Shamakah Ali (The Bar-Kays, Al Green) on drums laying down that fat southern backbeat; Collin Barrett on bass; Toronto veteran Terry Blersh (Danny Brooks, The Royals) on guitar; Simon Wallis (Lighthouse) on the saxophone; Dave Dunlop (The Boss Brass) playing trumpet; and musical director, Lance Anderson (Joint Chiefs of Soul, Shakura S’Aida) on piano and Hammond B3 organ. This is truly an all-star line-up.

Stax Records was a breeding ground for the Soul music explosion of the mid sixties to late seventies. With The MG’s as the house band and Booker T. and Steve Cropper (amongst others) as songwriters and producers, they created a string of hits that continue to influence R&B music today. The hits kept coming, and ‘Soulsville’ will feature them all, like: Hold On I’m Coming, Soul Man, Sitting on the Dock of the Bay, Knock on Wood, In The Midnight Hour, and instrumentals like Green Onions and Time is Tight by Booker T. and Soul Finger by the Bar Kays. This infectious music will soothe your soul and have you dancin’ in the aisles. And when you hear Cheryl Lescom sing ‘I’ve Been Lovin’ You too Long’, you will think you have died and gone to heaven.

Anderson says, “These singers and players are some of the best that Canada has to offer. The music is a combination of Gospel and Blues that was born on the Mississippi at Memphis but was ground out in the clubs across Canada. This is not the slick soul of Detroit’s Motown, but the gritty Yonge St. soul that captured Canada’s bar scene and turned Toronto and Kitchener into soul towns.”

This will be the fourth in a series of concerts that Anderson has brought to the Hugh’s Room Live. Previous concerts include:

The Last Waltz: A Musical Celebration of The Band
Mad Dogs and Englishmen: The Music of Joe Cocker and Leon Russell
Genius and Soul: The Music of Ray Charles

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Melanie

Thursday, July 4, 2018
Melanie

$60 Advance / $65 Door

“It’s me — I’m back.”

Melanie, who became the voice of an era in one magical instant onstage at Woodstock, has been putting the pieces in order. Pieces of a career, scattered by the winds of experience and assembled again by the force of love into the most personal and brilliant moments of her musical journey. Melanie is poised to enlighten new generations about what it means to sing with both passion and eloquence, to write at once with intelligence and emotion, and to inspire through song… and nobody does this better than Melanie.

Others learned this that night at Woodstock, where as a New York kid barely known outside of the coffeehouse circuit in Greenwich Village, she sang her song “Beautiful People” and inspired the first panorama of candles and cigarette lighters ever raised at a concert event. That, in turn, moved the young singer to write Lay Down (Candles in the Rain), which sold more than one million copies in 1970 and prompted Billboard, Cashbox, Melody Maker, Record World, and Bravo to anoint her as female vocalist of the year. Her single “Brand New Key,” an infectious romp about freedom and roller skates, topped the charts in 1971.

And so her story began.

With guitar in hand and a talent that combined amazing vocal equipment, disarming humor, and a vibrant engagement with life, she was booked as the first solo pop/rock artist ever to appear from the Royal Albert Hall to Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera House, and later opened the New Metropolitan Opera House in New York, the Sydney Opera House, and in the General Assembly of the United Nations, where she was invited to perform on many occasions as delegates greeted her performances with standing ovations.

The top television hosts of all time — Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, and Dick Cavett — battled to book her. (After her stunning performance on his show, Sullivan goggled that he had not seen such a “dedicated and responsive audience since Elvis Presley.”)

Accolades rolled in, from critics (“Melanie’s cult has long been famous, but it’s a cult that’s responding to something genuine and powerful — which is maybe another way of saying that this writer counts himself as part of the cult too,” wrote John Rockwell in The New York Times) as well as peers (“Melanie,” insisted jazz piano virtuoso Roger Kellaway, “is extraordinary to the point that she could be sitting in front of us in this room and sing something like ‘Momma Momma’ right to us, and it would just go right through your entire being.”)

In the years that followed Melanie continued to record, continued to tour.

UNICEF made her its spokesperson; Jimi Hendrix’s father introduced her to the multitude assembled for the twentieth anniversary of Woodstock. Her records continued to sell — more than eighty million to date. She’s had her songs covered by singers as diverse as Cher, Dolly Parton, and Macy Gray. She’s raised a family, won an Emmy, opened a restaurant, written a musical about Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane…

She has, in short, lived a rare life. But all of it was just a prelude to what’s about to come.

“For the first time, I’m not afraid to voice exactly what I feel. I used to feel that I didn’t want to say too much, but now I can say anything. I feel like a person who’s never been heard. Maybe people think they’ve heard me, but they never really have. I’m a new artist who is having so much fun with my voice — a person shouldn’t be allowed to have so much fun. I’m the woman I wanted to be when I was sixteen and going for Edith Piaf. It’s me — I’m back.”

We are simply elated to announce this performance and invite everyone to Hugh’s Room Live on Thursday, July 4, 2019 for a rare, intimate performance by the folk icon who struck a generation, Melanie Safka.

 

Doors: 6:00 PM
Performance: 8:30 PM

*Advertised pricing excludes taxes and fees.

Andrea Koziol and Bill Brennan CD Release

Sunday, June 23, 2019 | 8:30PM

Andrea Koziol and Bill Brennan CD Release
Advance $25.00 / Door $30.00 *

Vocalist Andrea Koziol and pianist Bill Brennan met a very long time ago at a most illustrious birthday party for a one year old Newfoundlander. Early into their very first conversation they realized that they were a jazz match made in heaven. It wasn’t long before they were booking gigs together in Toronto’s finest jazz concert venues, roots and jazz festivals across the country, and making regular live appearances on the CBC. They gathered a loyal fan base, made a critically acclaimed independent CD, collaborated with some of the city’s finest players, toured in borrowed cars, slept in bathtubs, wrote and arranged music together till all hours of the morning, and generally lived like kings. Eventually, their own musical careers carried them in different bright and beautiful directions, but despite their physical distance they continued to collaborate on projects whenever possible.

In 2018 they joined forces once again on a jazz recording project celebrating everything that brought them together in the first place. It’s a collection of music that spans almost 100 years of fantastic songwriting, performed by musicians who are not afraid to explore and improvise and jump from any cliff they can find. It’s a spirited conversation full of flat 13s between the best of friends…and they hope you enjoy eavesdropping.

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Chris Antonik

Chris Antonik
$20 Advance / $25 Door

Thursday, June 20, 2019 | 8:30PM

Toronto-based Chris Antonik was nominated for Best New Artist in 2011 at Canada’s Maple Blues Awards after the release of his debut album, and has since become one of Canada’s fastest-rising blues artists. Blending innovative, thoughtful songwriting with stunning blues guitar work, some music critics have drawn comparisons to Eric Clapton.

In its 2010 year-end review, Chris was named the “future of the blues” by Canada’s Blues Underground Network. In 2013, Chris’ sophomore album Better for You was hailed by critics as “a masterpiece” and “the best Canadian blues-rock album of 2013” and “the sound of someone taking the blues to a new place.

The album spent three weeks at #1 on DAWG FM (Canada’s only all blues FM station), attained significant airplay across Canada, the US and Europe, including on Sirius XM Bluesville, and was nominated for Best Blues Album by the German Record Critics’ Association. Oregon’s Cascade Blues Association called it “one of the finest releases from the Great White North in many a year.

Guests on Better For You included two-time Grammy award-winner Mike Mattison (The Derek Trucks Band, The Tedeschi-Trucks Band), Blues Music award-nominee Shakura S’Aida, and Steve Marriner (Monkey Junk).

Chris has performed at major blues festivals across Canada, and has toured the US extensively, including performances at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago (for the 2015 Buddy Guy’s Legends Blues Festival), and Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco. In 2016, Chris returned to Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago, and also undertook his first UK tour. Chris released his third studio record “Monarch” in April 2017, which was nominated fro Recording of the Year (and Chris as producer) at the 2018 Maple Blues Awards. Chris was also nominated for Songwriter of the Year.

​In 2018, Chris undertook his second successful UK tour, which included a sold-out appearance at the O2 Academy in Sheffield. Chris also performed on stage with Buddy Guy at his club in Chicago. Coming up for 2019, Chris returns to his hometown with a special performance at Hugh’s Room Live for a night of blues that shouldn’t be missed. Tickets are on sale now.

* Please note that advertised pricing excludes taxes and ticketing fees.

Los Variants

Friday, June 7, 2019 | 8:30PM

Los Variants
Advance $20.00 / Door $25.00 *

Los Variants is the brainchild of Vince Maccarone. This seven-piece super multicultural collective combines elements of Jazz, AfroFunk, Cuban and Middle Eastern melodies to create a seamless mosaic of international groove. Los Variants’ personnel is made up of some of Canada’s top musicians such as Michael Occhipinti on guitar, Algerian superstar Fethi Nadjem on violin, Justin Gray on bass and bass veena, Vince Maccarone on drums and Chendy Leon on percussion and vocals. Each show also features special guest artists ranging from Lady Sol, Yeti Ajasin, Demetri Petsalakis and Andrew McAnsh. The members of Vince Maccarone’s Los Variants have won and been nominated for numerous awards, including a couple Junos and Doras over their collective and individual careers. Now, these award-winning performers will be bringing all of their rich musical history to Hugh’s Room Live on June 20, 2019. Be prepared to move and groove at a Los Variants show, folks. Tickets are on sale right now.

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Garrett Mason

Tuesday, June 4, 2019 | 8:30PM

Garrett Mason
Advance: $20.00 / Doors: $25.00

Garrett Mason was raised in Truro, Nova Scotia by his mother Pam, and father, veteran Canadian Bluesman Dutch Mason. His path to become a blues musician started at a very early age; being surrounded by blues music, Garrett’s favorite tapes at 3 years old were Canned Heat and Buddy Rich.

His dad, Dutch Mason, stopped playing guitar before Garrett was born. Although he was not able to teach his son to play, he has certainly been able to teach Garrett the structure of the Blues and to influence him about the resulting sound. Surrounded by his father’s peers, Garrett has had the benefit of hearing and learning from a wide variety of musical talent.

The late Rick Jeffery was a great inspiration to Garrett; they would talk and play for hours together. Rick once said “Garrett is the only guitar player I know that can play Albert Collins’ style down to a T.” The combination of his father’s advice, Jeffery’s guidance and his own natural talents provide that special brew for Garrett to become the musical influence he is destined to be…


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