Western Swing Authority strikes a chord at Hugh’s Room Live.
Multi-award-winning 11-time CCMA and 2-time CMAO recipients, The Western Swing Authority, warmed up our frigid February Friday night satisfying 200 eager fans at Toronto’s fabulous dinner and a show hot spot, Hugh’s Room Live, totally spoiling us with a down-home smorgasbord of their “new vintage” western swing originals while they embroidered in some well-known cover standards. Fleshes of vocal and instrumental harmonies were simply genius, clearly setting the tone for the high energy 2 set evening.
WSA founder, 5-time CCMA Fiddle Player of the Year and 2-time CCMA Mandolin Player Shane Guse led his 7 piece act as they kicked the night off with their explosive rendition of Louis Jordan’s Barnyard Boogie recorded on WSA’s 2012 sophomore album All Dolled Up. Shane is a highly sought musician who has performed with award-winning Marshall Dane, Deric Ruttan, Jason Blaine, Jason McCoy, Dean Brody and George Canyon both on stage, and on radio, television, in the studio and beyond, who’s name is forever celebrated for his great contribution to Canadian country music by being inducted into the CCMA’s Musicians Hall of Honour. World-renowned and accomplished vocal splendor Stacey Lee Guse said, “it’s all about the Preacher’s daughter” as her stupendous & rhythmic vocal prowess rollicked them right into their rousing Sweet Harriet from their Now Playing album. Not only is she the wife to Shane, Stacey displays both beautiful western swing, country flavors and she is also a highly accomplished session jazz vocalist. She has worked with world-famous producers David Foster and Jason Barry. Stacey has also toured with Jason McCoy of The Road Hammers, backed Jason Blaine, John Landry, Michelle Wright, Tonya Kennedy, and Jamie Warren just to name a few. She is also a former member of Juno nominated country sensation LACE, toured around the world as part of the George Strait Country Music Festival and Calgary Stampede and has shared stages with legends Merle Haggard, and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. She completes the rich and flavorful Western Swing Authority sound with her vocal ranges of stellar proportions. Like a freight train, they picked up speed with their rendition of Choo Choo Ch’Boogie (1946 hit written by Vaughn Horton and Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five fame). While getting up close & personal, Shane told how he met Stacey while he was still in University at Sir Wilfred Laurier and Stacey applied for a singing job with his act. Then, Shane wrote her a killer song that he knew Stacey’s voice was perfect for, except the song was about following OUT of love, as the audience sighed with a big ah. Shane quickly stated, “it is still a perfect song and she sings the pants off it!” The audience roared with laughter as Stacey interjected, “and I’m not even wearing pants!” as Stacey perfectly executed that very song, I’ve Got A Feeling (WSA’s 2012 All Dolled Up CD).
Stage light shone brightly upon CCMA Musician Hall of Honour and 10-time CCMA nominee turned 5-time CCMA Steel Guitar Player of the Year, Ed Charles Ringwald as he expressed his steel guitar talents on a rich version of the seminal western swing instrumental Steel Guitar Rag (by Leon McAuliffe, famed in 1936 by iconic Bob Wills). Ed’s career first started in 1972 as a member of The Great Speckled Bird band on the ever-popular Ian Tyson Show better known as Nashville Now on CTV. This position spanned 4 years where he performed with the likes of Merle Haggard, Chet Atkins, George Jones, Anne Murray and Jim Witter to name but a few. In 1975, he was recruited to back up Gordon Lightfoot, lasting 16 years playing venues most artists can only dream of like Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, LA Amphitheatre, and Maple Leaf Gardens etc as this list is lengthy! Gordon Lightfoot honoured Ed with a life long nickname ‘Pee Wee’ because of his slender appearance which has stuck to this very moment, incorporating the nickname with his real middle name Charles. Western Swing Authority is the truest and most universal of all art forms. The literal meaning of the word ‘music’ according to any dictionary is the art of combining vocal and instrumental sounds in a harmonious and expressive way. This describes WSA and its audiences ultimately remember not just the songs but the magical moments, and there are plenty of those during this performance. They dove in deep and perfected their delectable tune Mississippi leading into heavily laced fiddle version of Asleep At The Wheel’s Dance With Who Brung Ya following along with Stacey’s stunning rendition of Peggy Lee’s Slow Boat To China. I have always heard the Louis Jordan 1956 swing jazz tune Aint Nobody Here But Us Chickens but this was a 1st time hearing this unique rendition with 2 fiddles versus 2 saxophones, in my opinion, I heard a heavily drenched Stray Cats flavour. It was a delicious version, toes were tappin’ and you could see everyone starting to stir wiggling in their seats….if only they had a dance floor where I was sitting front and centre, dancers would surely have swarmed the stage. Stacey lent her voice on another delightful delivery of an extremely popular cover, that has been recorded by 7,000 voices in its lifetime. Yeppers, you guessed it correctly, 1964 Eddy Arnold and Cindy Walker charmer You Don’t Know Me. It started out with a mesmerizing bass line by the highly sought and gifted bassist Mark MacIntyre who subbed in for their regular bassist Matt Lima, who is a detailed freelance bassist most known for his work with jazz artist Kellylee Evans. Mingling in the evanescent 30-year drum veteran Jim Boudreau, who has toured and recorded with Sam Moore, Chuck Berry, Jason McCoy, Aaron Lines and most notably 17 years with Mel Brown, wow what a round sound! Heating things up 1 chord at a time was non-other than Paul ‘Chappy’ Chapman who is most famous for performing and recording with George Fox, Jason McCoy, Lace, Beverley Mahood, Lisa Brokop, Aaron Pritchett, John Landry, Michelle Wright and his list is also in-depth. Ending the 1st set was the addictive cover version of Chief William Redbird’s 1951 Cherokee Boogie (Eh Oh Aleena), a close comparison to the 1st version that I ever heard and adored of this piece years ago by Hank Williams Sr. WSA puts the right spice and flavour into any hit making it a sound all their own.
Cover of Pink Panther theme led the 2nd set blending in Hee Haw vamp into HIT ME …into Big Balls In Cow Town. Alongside the outstanding fiddle magic of Shane Guse, they melded in a 2nd outstanding fiddler with the likes of Dan Howlett who has toured and recorded with 2-time Juno and a CCMA award-winning Cassandra Vasik, Marshall Dane, The Good Brothers, Tommy Hunter to name but a few. WSA’s Rocket to The Moon followed as they picked up speed into a splendid version of Red Foley’s 1949 Sugarfoot Rag. Another spectacular moment as Stacey vocally brought forward the WSA original In The Middle of The Song off their BIG DEAL 2018 album, which was followed by another Bob Wills cover Bring It On Down To My House then engorging a lotta fun on WSA’s 2015 Miss Molly. The audience was Swinging From The Rafters totally charged up now for their version of Fred Rose/Bob Wills Roly Poly and WSA wasn’t Leaving and Saying Goodbye just yet. A 2 song encore featured a crowd-pleasing version of Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man, finishing with an old thyme breakdown fiddler’s reel, Paddy On The Turn Pike! What an introspective delight, raising the bar in this genre, the band’s most compelling expression yet. Their songs are richly textured as colourful as a Mardi Gras costume. Effortlessly giving us a solid base with generous amounts of exciting character committed to the preservation of the handcrafted western swing traditions. Their proprietary blend of ingredients totally offered huge stamina, a super boost if you will, providing the optimal potencies of superior blend-ability. Serendipity is an occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way and that pretty much sums how I met Shane and Stacey. First, I met Shane back in 2005 while playing live inside my old school Bracebridge Muskoka Lakes Secondary School’s auditorium known as Rene M Caisse Theatre, in a band with my childhood friend Deric Ruttan. Then I met Stacey in Peterborough in 2013 through the Wire Megazine Awards. Thanks, Western Swing Authority for continuing to rejuvenate our souls and getting us in the swing for Spring. Pick up their current 4th studio album BIG DEAL which is richly deep and includes guest appearances by 9x Grammy winner Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, Grammy-nominated Jazz sensation Jane Monheit, Canadian Country Stars George Canyon and Jason McCoy, along with many more amazing artists who have added their support and talents. Feeling down? Saddle up, let Western Swing Authority engage your senses. http://www.thewesternswingauthority.com
Hugh’s Room Live on March 12th was to move due to a future rent hike then on March 16th, Hugh’s Room Live made the difficult decision to postpone all shows till April 30th due to COVID-19. “It is our intention to honour as many of our show bookings and tickets as possible, but it is going to take us a bit of time to secure an alternate venue. We are actively working to develop a relocation plan for the next few months while we seek a long-term solution. We are hopeful that all shows on the calendar will have a home. Please be assured that we are doing our best, and will be back to you as soon as we possibly can with a suggested venue for shows to which you already hold tickets, so do watch for emails in the coming weeks. We ask patrons to kindly not reach out to our box office for updates in the interim. In the meantime, please know that we have every intention of continuing to thrive as a live music venue in Toronto. Our financials are strong and getting stronger. This is a short term bump in the road to long term sustainability. We will continue to explore a longer-term solution to continue to provide the best listening experience for you. Any thoughts that you may have in this regard are also invited. For all of your support over the years, from the musicians and staff to the patrons, donors, members, promoters, photographers and journalists who have graced our room and stage, we want to express enormous gratitude for the memories and want to ensure everyone that our story has only just begun. If you have tickets for a postponed show, please watch for more information about rescheduling. We will notify every ticket holder when a new date and venue are found for each of the shows on our calendar. If you are unable to attend a rescheduled show, we ask everyone to please consider their ticket purchase a donation to Hugh’s Room Live instead of requesting a refund. As a non-profit registered charity, we will gladly send you a tax receipt for the equivalent amount of your purchase. Like so many art, culture and hospitality organizations, our artists and staff are struggling greatly during this time. We encourage everyone in our audience to continue supporting live music wherever possible until we reach the other side of this pandemic that has so devastated the arts and culture of our society. Please know that your continued support will add much-needed sustainability to our venue,” states Hugh’s Room Live Website…..click over to https://hughsroomlive.com