Hank and the Blue Hearts will bring special guest guitarist Terry Robb when they play an afternoon of blues at Knox United Church (345 Pym St.) in Parksville Feb. 19.
Robb is a Canadian guitar virtuoso, now based in Portland, whose signature finger-picking style has earned him international acclaim. He’ll join ‘Big Hank’ Leonhardt on vocals, Mark ‘Westcoast’ Comerford on guitar and percussion and Bruce O’Neill on bass.
Leonhardt and Comerford, both members of RCA Recording Artists, recently reformed Uncle Wiggly’s Hot Shoes Blues Band and since then have played across Western Canada, including some recent 40th anniversary shows. They have opened for Muddy Waters, Joe Cocker and more recently for Burton Cummings, according to a news release.
Hank and the Blue Hearts will play a 40 minute set, then Robb will join for 20 minutes, followed by his own 40 minute set and then the band will finish up together for the final 20 minutes, Leonhardt said.
“His guitar playing is world-class, it’s just unbelievable how good he is,” he said, adding most of the music will be originals, with a few blues standards mixed in. “We’re going to share the stage between us and it should be a real fun afternoon.”
Robb was voted Portland’s best acoustic blues player 19 years in a row, before he politely asked to not be nominated further, according to Leonhardt.
“So they changed the award to the Terry Robb Award in recognition of him,” Leonhardt said.
Leonhardt, who is also known for playing with the Kingpins, twice represented B.C., with Comerford, at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn. In 2016, the duo made it all the way to the semi-finals, but the trips were not about winning, he added.
“You go down there and there’s 250 acts from all over the world, probably about 100 in the solo/duo section,” Leonhardt said. “You get a chance to meet and hang with people from pretty much every country in the world that do blues.”
Leonhardt also made the trek to Memphis with Uncle Wiggly’s Hot Shoes Blues Band in 2015.
The Blue Hearts have released two albums, Pumpin’ Out The Blues and Two Way Street — a combination of live recordings and studio cuts.
The band has performed across B.C. and Alberta, making stops in venues such as the Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival, Island Folk Festival and 39 Days of July, Blue Frog Studios in White Rock and Hermann’s Jazz Club in Victoria.
One big misnomer about the blues, Leonhardt said, is that it’s always about heartache and sadness.
“If you listen to Big Joe Turner, Louis Jordan and those guys, it’s all up-tempo jump blues and really happy and it swings,” he said.
When a band members comes up with a new song idea, the group will listen to it and decide if it should be on the slower side, or up tempo, Leonhardt added.
“Sometimes the lyrics will dictate that it needs to be a little grungier and a little dirtier,” he said. “Because maybe it’s a bit sadder.”
Blues audiences are great listeners, he added. “They love to hear the music.”
That’s part of why he prefers a room like Knox United Church to bar shows.
“You can really feel the audience getting into the song and listening,” he said. “And a lot of them will applaud during the solos. So they have a real appreciation for what’s going on with the song.”
The show starts at 2 p.m. Doors open at 1:30 p.m.
Tickets are $25 and available online through Eventbrite and Parksville retailers Fireside Books and Close To You Ladies Fashions.
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