“I turn 56 years old on January 28th,” boasts Vancouver’s blues-harmonica legend Harpdog Brown, “and in the world of the blues, that makes me a teenager!” Eternal teenager or no, the one and only Harpdog Brown returns to Cranbrook (with his loyal guitar-slinging sidekick Jordie Edmonds) this coming Thursday January 25th (showtime 7:00pm) at the Heritage Inn Lounge.
Born in Edmonton, Harpdog Brown cut his teeth musically as a teenage guitarist in various garage-rock bands; he relocated to Vancouver in 1982 and has been performing professionally as a dedicated harmonica-wielding bluesman ever since. He acquired his stage name at a 1989 gig at the Kitsilano Beach dive-joint Momma Gold’s, when two drunken audience members began shouting “Harpdog! Harpdog!” over and over again; he legally changed his name to ‘Harpdog Brown’ after divorcing his wife, in a symbolic move to ‘make himself free.’ Brown focuses on the classic Chicago Blues style first popularized through the late 1940s and early 1950s, and delivers the sound and the emotion with sincerity and passion to the modern ear and the modern eye.
Harpdog Brown’s national presence flared bright with the release of his 2016 album Travelin’ with the Blues (also the name of his revolving-door series of backup musicians), which won him three Maple Blues Awards nominations for Best Harmonica Player, Best Male Vocalist, and Album of the Year – adding to his previous triumphs: the Western Canadian Music Awards, the Fraser Valley Music Awards, the Muddy Awards (the only Canadian to win one), and even a Juno nomination. Virtually always touring, Harpdog has racked up nearly one million miles on the road (no exaggeration), crisscrossing North America dozens of times to untold thousands of enthusiastically-satisfied blues aficionados.
“Always on the run! Ain’t no flies on me!” says Harpdog. “I’ve always been booking my own gigs until my manager came into my life, and he invested a big heap of money into the recording we did down in California (the aforementioned Travelin’ with the Blues).”
Harpdog’s upcoming Cranbrook appearance will be a two-man affair, featuring guitar flashman Jordie Edmonds, but we are assured that this is all we need for a memorable evening of music.
“Jordie is my right-hand man!” Brown exclaims. “We got a pretty wicked and slick show, the two of us. Jordie plays blues guitar with the flair of the old-school guys. His fingers are always goin’, and he’s always got a bassline running. He’s got impeccable timing and rhythm. Just like what Hubert Sumlin was to Howlin’ Wolf? That’s who Jordie is to me. You better believe it! He’s been with me for almost five years now, and did the last two albums with me. He and I have racked up over 200,000 kilometers on the road just over the past three and a half years. No lie! And that’s just driving. That’s not including the flying tours. I flew us out to Montreal last summer, we flew into Ottawa, we flew back and forth to Toronto a few times to do the Southside Shuffle and some big festival in Sarnia. I only calculate our road miles…not the AirMiles!”
Harpdog’s show will feature a mixture of classic blues favorites as well as his own stalwart original tunes.
“Those coming out to the Heritage Inn Lounge can expect a healthy distraction from their own lives,” he says. “I realize that is what I do. That is our service to humanity. And I’ve come to the understanding that it’s also a healthy distraction from my own life. I wouldn’t be happier doing anything else. It clues in more so with my local gigs, when I’m at home. It’s different for me on the road. I love the road. I was born for the road. Part of the attraction of this racket was to travel. So when I’m on the road, I never have to force myself out of the hotel room to trudge over to the tent I pitched where the people are coming to. When I’m in the comforts of my own home, it’s a little tougher for me to get cleaned up, drag on my suit, and drive downtown for small change in local pubs who don’t sell tickets, or charge a cover, or even hang up one poster. But whatever. On my way home from the gig, I never feel like I’ve forced myself to go to work.
“I speak the blues like it’s the truth, and it is,” concludes Harpdog Brown. “I do feel like I’m a servant of the people. And I do heal people if they pay attention to the good messages in the songs I choose.”
Harpdog Brown (with guest guitarist Jordie Edmonds) perform at the Heritage Inn Lounge Thursday January 26; doors 6 pm, show 7 pm. Admission $15 advance (order online at www.harpdogbrown.com) or $20 at the door.