Vol. 21 No. 8 • February 26 - March 4, 2015 In Our 20th Year Serving Greater Hamilton

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Hamilton Music Notes

by Ric Taylor
September 4 - 10, 2014
Ginger St. James’ Diesel and Peas

Few singers created as immediate a buzz as Ginger St. James. Some thirteen years ago, the talented singer made a splash on the local scene as part of the burlesque troupe dubbed the Steeltown Sirens but with all of the bawdiness of the burlesque, St. James immediately stood out as a siren that could seriously sing. No one has ever doubted her abilities but fans have been waiting for some time to get her debut full-length recording. This weekend, Ginger St. James finally releases her debut full-length dubbed Diesel and Peas.

    “I started back in 2001, singing my lyrically innovative songs with the Steeltown Sirens,” recalls St. James. “There wasn’t usually a musical act and always wanting to push the envelope, I felt with pushing that forward I could utilize the satire and sass of burlesque and incorporate that into my songs, drawing from anything sexy, sassy or taboo. I gravitate to the double entendre. I pride myself at being clever in my lyrics.”

    The first official taste of what she wanted to do came with the CDEP from Ginger St. James and the Grinders, “Spank, Sparkle and Growl” and it won the 2010 Hamilton Music Award for Alt-country Recording of the Year. Her 2012 “Tease” release again titillated fans but a legion of diehard fans have long been waiting for a full length disc to knock us off our feet. With Diesel and Peas, the roots, rockabilly hybrid mixed with cabaret flair bridges the gap between burlesque star and country bumpkin as well as diva and dirt farmer.

    “It’s always a struggle when you release things independently,” confides St. James. “It depends on how many toilets I could scrub in a day or how many hours I could tend bar to contribute to the completion of this record but together, we created a record that I can be so proud of. It really incorporates elements I’ve been influenced by over the years like jazz, ragtime, rockabilly, blues, country — it’s all there. Diesel and Peas needed to sound raw and organic. We wanted to keep it as rootsy as possible to attain a sound that all of us found pleasing. Slim made that happen for us and overall I’m super satisfied.”

    Recorded at River 16 Studios in Oakville with Steve Kirstein engineer and produced by guitarist Snow–Heel Slim, Diesel and Peas does not disappoint. Featuring Greg Brisco on keyboards, Pete Sisk on bass and Andrew Tellier on drums, it goes beyond the salacious nature of the image and offers personal insight into St. James’ life. The title itself being what her father offered on the farm when St. James (known still to her parents as Deanna Fletcher) ran into a tree with an all terrain vehicle and banged up her leg. With diesel fuel as antiseptic and peas as anti swelling agent, the old time farmer’s remedy seemed to embody what St. James wanted this album to be (even if she actually did have to go to the hospital and get sixteen stitches for the aforementioned farm accident).

    “This is myself being genuine,” notes St. James. “I don’t sit down and think I’m going to write a sexy song. Everybody experiences heartache and happiness and maybe a drunken bender or two — everyone can relate to this.

    “I hope people don’t think I’m just a pretty face, there’s a lot more going on,” adds the singer. “If you listen to the lyrics, you’re going to get to know me a little bit. Whether or not I look like a pinup girl or not, one of my favourite things is to where cowboy boots, cut–off jeans and a baseball cap. Around the farm, I shovel shit and bale hay. I’m a hard worker. People might prejudge and just see a pretty face but I just have my mom and dad to thank for that. I thank them for that and God for giving me this talent and a platform to write about my life. This [album] is like a full serving of a home cooked meal that’s going to fill you up, whether it’s your soul or your stomach. Diesel and peas are  metaphors for a farmer’s remedy for injury, whether or not you’re feeling blue or happy or lost, I think there’s something in this album that can help you out.”

    Fans are definitely excited about her new release but Ginger St. James might offer a remedy for anyone looking to find something for what ails them and for her long awaited full-length CD release party, Ginger St. James is pulling out all the stops to encourage everyone to join the party.

    “I love being an entertainer — it’s the fans and the shows that drive me,” smiles St. James. “I probably feel most comfortable on stage. Music keeps me alive and soothes my soul. For someone to love this job o much, with so much heartache and turbulence – I know I will do this for a long time coming because I love it. I’m going to keep doing this because it keeps me going and I don’t really know what I’d do without it. I have good songs, I love to entertain people and the most important thing is the fans have a good time — that’s what matters to me.

    “My goal with this album was to make something ass slapping and toe tapping and recreate something like a barn dance or a good ol’ hoedown where everybody’s there just to have a good time,” adds St. James. “I’m bringing out some great musical guests, a great comedian and some dancing girls as well for this one because we want to have a real party. I encourage people who come out to drink, dance and have a good ol’ time because that’s what the songs are about.”

Ginger St. James plays the Casbah this Friday September 5 with the Vaudevillian, BeBop Deville, dancing girls Stella Semi-automatic and Fiona Flauntit and emcee Larry Smith. Doors are at 8:00pm and tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Click on gingerstjames.com

The Fifteenth Annual Locke Street Festival

Some 250 vendors and a couple dozen musical acts bring out an average of 10,000 people over 12 hours across a seven–block stretch of Locke Street South. The annual Locke Street Festival celebrates fifteen years this weekend, and with good weather, could have their biggest year yet.

“We get between ten to fifteen thousand people throughout the day depending on the weather,” notes Picks and Sticks owner and Locke Street Festival co–organizer Jamie Reid. “We’ve got more vendors than ever because it’s a good event to sell their wares but Locke Street is a vibrant community. We have a variety of brick and mortar retailers, fifteen restaurants with two more opening up soon. The vibrancy is due to the mixture of shops that we have.

    “We’re a community festival run by the Locke Street B.I.A., a hundred per cent volunteers,” adds Reid. “We got our residential community involved on certain levels for the last few years and that makes us special on its own. The commercial and residential communities come together and do this great festival. The key to our community is that we have a residential community that shops here. People walk out their front door and they’re on Locke Street. We really look after our residential community because they’re our bread and butter. That works for us and we bring that to the forefront. We treat them well and they’re dedicated to us. We feature them at the festival. All of the musicians performing are very close to home.”

    Artists including Riot Nrrd, 9 Lives, TG and the Swampbusters, Harrison Kennedy, Riddim Riders with Brian Griffith and Bryan Sorenson, Randall Hill and friends, Banned From Heaven, Dave Ptolemy Band and the Peter Banning Swing Band, Kings Highway, the Mackinaws, Matty Simpson and Locked Up with Guests from the Hood will perform throughout the day on three stages at the West Town Bar and Grill Stage, Judy Marsales Real Estate Office and at Jamie Reid’s Picks and Sticks music store.

    “On our stage, we feature some of the kids in our musical community as well,” offers Reid. “All of the musicians can basically walk out their door and be on Locke Street including Matty Simpson who is new to the street. I guess he moved here a few months ago. Matty is my nephew. His solo stuff is amazing. I think it’s been six or seven years with Fred J. Eaglesmith and in the early years, it was Willie P. Bennett that was nurturing him. He has really done his time. He’s a great guitar player, he’s really got his chops and he’s been like that since he was a little boy. I’m excited to see him on our stage.

“Then we do Locked Up, which is Chris Houston, Jack Pedler and Anthony Goodine as the house band and we have some special guests,” adds Reid. “This year the special guests include Dave Rave, Hailee Rose, Alyssa Dupuis, Dave Macintosh, Linda Duemo and more.”

    At press time, the weather forecast is more than favorable so the attendance numbers could be above average for this great, family–focused festival that truly harkens back to the ’50s style block party.

    “It’s the community putting on a festival for the community,” says Reid. “It’s familiar faces but it’s nice to see people that we haven’t seen in a while, but you can always run into someone you know at the Locke Street Festival. Come down and see what we have to offer on the street. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into Locke Street year round and this festival is just a small thank you to all the people for coming and it’s also an invitation to have everyone else to come and join us.”

The Locke Street Festival happens this Saturday September 6 from 10am to 11pm. Click on lockefestival.ca

The Responsibles’ Still Rolling

“We didn’t get any gold records or anything like that but we certainly enjoyed the whole process of recording and putting it together,” offers the Responsibles’ bassist and vocalist Wayne Crews on the release of their 2012 disc, XXX. “We felt no compunction to write some new songs and just record another one.”

   Regardless of the trappings of the music business, fame and fortune are not what fuel the Responsibles. The band — featuring Crews, ‘Gentleman’ Jeff Andersen (guitar, vocals), Paul Coombs (guitars, vocals) and Jeff Richardson (drums) — have been at it for the last decade (with individual members making music in other projects even longer than that) and have no plans of quitting. Why stop doing what makes you happy? With that in mind, the quartet returns with a new CD that let’s everyone know the Responsibles are “Still Rolling”.

    “We’ve put out a couple of albums and been together for over ten years so yeah, we’re still rolling,” quips Crews. “It’s as simple as that. One of the songs on the new disc was actually written before this band started when I was in the Rayburns. I found “Never Say Never” and showed it to the band and we liked it.  Nothing’s really changed and the song is still relevant. Will we achieve success? Well, we never say never. You never know what could happen. You could get a song thrown on a soundtrack or something and you could make a ton of money but even if that doesn’t happen, at least you’re still having fun playing rock and roll and making new music. There isn’t a down side. You have a lot of ideas; you think you’ve got some interesting music. You want to express it and share it so that’s what keeps us going. It’s still fun just getting together with the guys and rehearsing. It’s never dull.”

    While they’ve spent two decades making music, the Responsibles don’t embody the stereotype of vagabond musicians. They’ve become family men and vibrant members of the community. When they make their music, their approach is without lofty goals.  They simply make the music they love in whatever flavour that tickles their fancy. With their new disc, recorded at Dreamland Studio with producer Richard Elliot, the Responsibles offer thirteen new songs and a couple of covers to spice up the mix.

    “Our music covers a lot of bases; punk, rockabilly, ska — we had a reggae song on our last album,” notes Crews. “We’ve got some almost hard rock on this album to go with the general rock and roll; I guess is what you would call it. We were playing Slade’s Gudbuy T’Jane and when we were recording, we found some extra time and decided to do that as well. It was a fun song to do and when it came down to recording, we just threw it in.

“It was my wife’s idea to change Kim Wilde’s song “Kids in America” and call it “Punks in Hamilton”,” adds Crews. “We took the spirit of the song and gave it some local flavour. I kind of had the crew that might hang at This Ain’t Hollywood in mind when I re-wrote the lyrics. Musically, we’ve got our foot in punk rock, ska and garage so punks in Hamilton is appropriate as anything at least for part of our set as we play a bit of everything. I would hope each album gets better as we do it but I’ll let the listening public decide that. The guys in the band think this is some of our best work.”

    With an old school punk ethos, the Responsibles mix a solid dose of rock and roll, punk, new wave — whatever categorization you call it, and deliver some up–tempo rock music that’s about having fun on “Still Rolling”. That goal defines the Responsibles, their music and their mindset, particularly for this weekend’s CD release party.

    “We’re going to play pretty much everything off of the new album and throw in a couple of our classic back catalogue songs,” smiles Crews. “We’ll have a powerful set. Hopefully, the Responsibles fans will come out, be clamouring for the new CD, and be ready to rock out the place.

    “After you write a song and work it out, playing a song, recording it and listening back to it — that’s the best thing,” adds Crews. “We have a lot of fun in the studio but playing on stage is fun, too. You get an immediate reaction from the crowd. You get to see if a song hits a chord and people like it. That’s the only gratification you get. Whatever happens, in the end, we’re having fun doing it so we’re just going to keep doing it.” V

The Responsibles play the Casbah this Saturday September 6 before Dr. Disc’s Risky Business ‘80s dance party. Doors open at 7pm with the Responsibles on at 9pm and cover is $8. Click on theresponsibles.ca
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