For guitarist-vocalist Todd Wolfe, playing White Rock’s Blues By The Sea festival this Saturday at the Semiahmoo Park bandshell will be a first.
Though he’s known co-organizer Jason Buie since 2009, the nearest he’s come to playing the Peninsula is Vancouver – in gigs as part of recent Western Canada tours with his trio, and before that, shows as lead guitarist with Sheryl Crow.
“He’s been out this way a few times, but we haven’t been able to put a show together due to timing and circumstance,” said Buie, who is co-producing the upcoming event with Phil Davey of Q Sound, in co-operation with the Semiahmoo First Nation.
“This time he let us know he was coming through and timing worked out perfect to have him at the second Blues By The Sea show.”
The period of working with Crow (he was with her band for five years) is still a significant credit in Wolfe’s more than 30-year resumé.
After years of playing the club scene in New York, he was invited to join Crow after her second album clicked – they’d known each other since she was a backup singer for Michael Jackson, and he’d co-written and recorded a first demo for her when she went solo.
“It was hard work,” he said of the years with Crow. “Sheryl’s a task-master, but what’s good about her is she puts in the work herself. It was a great experience.”
In the decade-plus since he worked with Crow, the Queens, New York-born guitarist has carved out a solid reputation for pared-down rocking music with a undeniable blues influence that evokes, for many listeners, the classic electric blues-rock period of the ’60s and ’70s.
“Blues guys call us rock and rock guys call us blues,” Wolfe said. “We kind of fall through the cracks. Even now, as we’re playing, I’ll think this could be in the same genre as Humble Pie or Clapton in the ’70s.
“It’s a trio, so we don’t have the extra percussion or keyboards in the sound – we’ll see what pans out in the next couple of years.
“I’m a work in progress – I just wish I could afford to take some time off to give my voice a rest!”
Also recognized as a songwriting talent – he co-wrote with Crow and has had his songs covered by such diverse performers as Deborah Coleman, Larry McCray and Faith Hill – Wolfe is looking forward to finishing up a couple of songs currently in the works and getting back into the studio again (his most recent CDs are a live album released in 2011, Stripped Down at the Bang Palace (2009) and Borrowed Time (2008).
He’s also enthused about the potential of his current band, which in addition to his scorching, sometimes psychedelic guitar lines, also features bassist Justine Gardner and drummer Roger Voss – both of whom are now adding backup vocals to the sound.
Wolfe’s Sept. 1 set at 6:30 p.m. joins a stellar day-long line-up of internationally and locally-known blues talents, including Buie and Vancouver band Brickhouse, featuring White Rock drummer Ed Johnson.
Also featured will be Sean ‘Blue Puppy’ Riquelm, David ‘Boxcar’ Gates, Velvet Bulldozer, featuring Jim Black, Ellie Johnson and Arsen Shomakhov.
Admission for the festival, which features a salmon barbecue and an assortment of arts and crafts booths, is $15 per person or $40 for a family (kids under 12 get in free).
Tickets are available at Tapestry Music, Surfside Music and the Surrey Arts Centre (and online at surrey.ca/arts).
For more information, call 604-617-8453.