SEE Magazine: Issue #528: January 8, 2004
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Kitchen party, part V.
Best of roots & blues players set to get cookin’ again

Sat, Jan 17
Festival Place (100 Festival Way, Sherwood Park)

This weekend sees the fifth version of "Come On Into My Kitchen" roll into Festival Place in Sherwood Park. Back in 1999, when series producer Peter North came up with the concept, he had no idea it would have this kind of legs.

"Originally, the idea was to get [blues and folk musician] David Rea up here in some sort of concert context," North related over coffee last weekend. He elaborates: "I was working with Mark Sterling at the time, and one of the things that musicians I knew were talking about was how much fun it was to play workshops at festivals. We decided to try to create that on stage in a concert setting."

However, workshops are a tricky thing to orchestrate. Many times they can end up being far less than the sum of their parts. On the other hand, with the right musicians, something very special and memorable can evolve.

"The whole process revolves around finding guys with the right combination of chemistry and talent. They must be able to accompany someone as well as they can front a group. Mark [Sterling] has been the ‘ringmaster’ from the start. He brings a load of talent and the ability to get the best from everyone on stage," North remarks.

The players that have brought their talents to bear on this project have each offered a unique element. North catalogues them: "David Rea brought his Mississippi background with him, [and] Harry Manx his Indian influences. With Will McCalder, it was that great New Orleans piano sound, and Brent Parkin, perhaps Canada’s top blues guitarist, was the first player we had who was ‘plugged in.’ Big Dave McLean and Mike Lent added their own distinctive musical voices to the mix as well."

Saturday at Festival Place, Mark Sterling, who is quickly becoming recognized as one of Alberta’s top acoustic bluesmen, will again reprise his role as "Ringmaster." Doug Andrew, of Circus in Flames, will bring his Jimmie Rodgers/Hank Williams-flavoured country blues to the proceedings. His distinctive voice and enthusiasm brought down the house when he appeared here as part of the "Ian Tyson Tribute" and the "Hanging with Hank" shows. Guitarist Brent Parkin will return, Dave "Crawdad" Canterra will feature on harp; for the first time, percussion, in the form of Scotty Anderson playing a small trap kit, will be part of the show.

The constant evolution means the project hasn’t suffered the misfortune of becoming boring or predictable. In fact, "Come On In My Kitchen" has seen full houses of blues fans in Athabasca, Lloydminster, Calgary, and Fernie enjoy the show. Later this spring, a CD featuring highlights culled over the years will be released. "The artists involved in the show have always sold a lot of their own CDs wherever we put (on) the show, but now we’re going to have a disc of the show itself"; North explains, "It’s also going to be a calling card. We’ve worked the Edmonton and Calgary Folk Festivals and had interest in the show from the Ottawa Blues Festival. What really thrills me, though, is how this show gives players who would not usually appear on concert stages the opportunity to showcase their talents to a listening, appreciative audience."

As of last weekend, ticket sales have set a pace ahead of that seen for any of the previous shows, so you’d best pick up your tickets through Festival Place before they’re gone. If you can’t make it to Festival Place, an electric version of the revue, with Brent Parkin, "Crawdad" Canterra, Fred LaRose, and Scotty Anderson will be at the Sidetrack Café for a late set on Friday (Jan 16th).

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