A.W. Cardinal and Jasmine Colette are coming back to Errington hall Jan. 19 with some new tunes before they head out on a big year that includes recording a new album. — Lindsay Dakin Photo

Blue Moon Marquee back in Errington with big year planned

Gypsy blues band bringing new songs ahead of spring recording

The gypsy blues duo of A.W. Cardinal and Jasmine Colette plan to live up to their name once again, with a country-hopping year ahead.

But first, they’re headed back to Errington Jan. 19 with some original standbys and new songs that will find their way to Blue Moon Marquee’s fourth album, which they plan to record this April, said Colette.

“We have a really big year coming up,” she said, citing tours in Alberta and B.C. as well as two tours of Europe and a return to the festival scene.

“You’ve got to play hard if you want to keep an audience (and) sell records.”

Having moved to the Island in 2015, Colette said, the pair have been away more often than they’ve been home.

The on-the-road lifestyle has been paying off, however, with a growing fan base they see returning to shows and hear singing along to Blue Moon Marquee’s swinging tunes, which boast Cardinal’s rough, smoky vocals and an early jazz feel that gets people’s feet moving.

They’re also seeing their names pop up at awards shows, including a nomination for New Artist of the Year at the Maple Blues Awards — “which is kind of like Canada’s blues Junos,” said Colette — and Indigenous Artist of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards.

But things weren’t always looking up for the now five-year-old band, which encountered a major hurdle at the start of their first tour.

Both having grown up in Alberta, Cardinal and Colette met while playing in punk and rock bands in their teens.

They reconnected years later after Cardinal asked Colette to perform with him on a solo album he was making.

Discovering a need to keep playing together, they both hit upon a deep love of early blues, New Orleans jazz and the gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt.

“So we just twisted those together into our own little way,” Colette said.

The first incarnation of that sound was a trio, which included a rhythm guitarist, Colette explained.

“We booked this big tour, the first big tour, and the rhythm guitar player… the night before we were supposed to leave, he bails,” she said. “We were devastated.”

Nonetheless, it was on with the show for Colette and Cardinal.

“It was a disaster. It was really horrible,” she said of their first few shows.

But Colette had an idea to bring the rhythm back, which involved tapping into a talent she displayed while performing in a “ramshackle troupe” on a skateboard while hula-hooping and playing the trombone years earlier.

She added a bass drum that she would play with a foot while playing her bass and singing.

That worked, and then they added a snare and customized Colette’s setup so she could use a brush on her drums. Since then, despite playing with larger groups of musicians at times, they’ve remained a duo with the unique percussion aspect to their performance.

But the look of the performance is not intended to be part of an act, Colette said.

“I never wanted it to become a gimmick. I never wanted it to become some shtick.”

While the performance aspect is fun, and seeing Colette simultaneously play a drum set with her feet, an upright bass with her hands and sing gets audiences excited, Colette said she wants their performance to be about making the sound.

“I want people to be able to close their eyes, and the music just sounds good. That’s what I want more than anything,” she said.

The Blue Moon Marquee performs at a dance at Errington War Memorial Hall on Friday, Jan. 19, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 at Cranky Dog Music in Parksville, Heaven on Earth in Qualicum Beach or at the Errington General Store.

For more info, go to erringtonhall.ca/events.htm.

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