Going Out

Bluesfest’s All-Star Blues Revue offers fresh takes on genre classics

It’s that time of year when Ottawa starts to feel blue again. Among the musicians helping to create that collective feeling at this year’s RBC Ottawa Bluesfest (July 7-17), MonkeyJunk will be hosting four All-Star Blues Revues at the Barney Danson Theatre (inside the Canadian War Museum).

The Revues will be largely spontaneous and improvised — a group of musicians having a conversation in their native musical tongue. In fact, MonkeyJunk’s lead singer, Steve Marriner, refers to the blues as a shared “language.” All you need is a key or a groove to start things, and every player knows how to respond.

Special guests include Sue Foley, Paul Reddick, Jack de Keyzer, Kirby Sewell, Jeff Lang, and Canadian country-blues legend Colin Linden. Marriner expects sets to include artists’ original songs, as well as fresh takes on genre classics.

“We love getting the opportunity to play with other artists,” he adds. The bandmates have been festival stalwarts for years, performing their own award-winning material — and even backing other musicians. That’s why Mark Monahan, the festival’s executive director, asked MonkeyJunk to hold down the fort on the namesake of the multi-genre music festival.

With an all-star lineup of Canadian and international acts, Marriner’s short list of must-see headliners at Bluesfest includes John Fogerty, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals.

And the bluesman also believes the inclusive festival hits the right notes: “I have seen some of the best shows I have ever seen at Bluesfest, and none of them have been blues shows.”

Birds of different musical feathers flock together. Genres are fluid — as are fans’ tastes. The “multidisciplinary” MonkeyJunk fits right in, Marriner explains, noting that the band’s sound includes elements of swamp rock, soul, funk, roots, and hard rock.

But there’s one dream artist Marriner won’t ever be able to share a stage with — the late, great Muddy Waters, a man who always had his mojo working. “For me, he embodies what the blues is all about. He put 1,000 percent into everything he did.”

That’s a high-water performance mark for MonkeyJunk and company to reach. The magic is found in the trying.    

MonkeyJunk will host Blues Revues July 14–17; The Split will host Revues on July 8 and 9. Other local Bluesfest artists include Amanda Rheaume, Brock Zeman, Silver Creek, Lindsay Ferguson, and Jill Zmud.