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Big Dave McLean plays the blues for Lethbridge Folk Club

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 I know live music has just returned, but is it too early to  call the best blues show of the year?

The Lethbridge Folk Club returned to the scene by bringing back Winnipeg‘s Big Dave McLean, the patron saint of prairie blues musicians, to Pavan Park on Sunday, July 11.

Big Dave McLean playing Pavan Park for the Lethbridge Folk Club, July 11. Photo by Richard Amery

 I took a couple passes before I found the gig, so I missed Keith Catfish Woodrow’s opening set, but arrived just in time for a quick visit with big Dave McLean.


 Multiple award winner McLean is a walking encyclopedia of the blues who has influenced everyone from the Perpetrators to Colin James, so it was great to sit in a thankfully covered picnic area and listen to him tell  stories and bellow out classic blues from Muddy Waters, Howlin wolf and Sleepy John Estes and more obscure blues musicians.

 He was seated on a carpet surrounded by a battered acoustic guitar and an ancient National steel resonator guitar.


 He chatted engagingly with the intimate audience of about 50 blues lovers as the skies darkened and  thunder rumbled  overhead. Some one called out “now you’ve got a rhythm section,” to which he replied “it’s got to keep in time though” as the rain started to sprinkle and everyone took cover under the shelter. The temperature was wreaking havoc on his finicky guitars’ tunings, but he sorted that out.

 He belted out the blues, played some  dark rhythms and occasionally slapped extra percussion on his guitars.


 He noted he had just recorded a CD with Calgary’s Tim Williams and drummer Kevin Belzner, but noted he left the CDs in Okotoks.


 A highlight was  “Pet Rabbit Blues,” written by one of Robert Johnson’s contemporaries, and noted it‘s not about pet rabbits.


 His first set included tracks by  Sleepy John Estes and Jimmy Rogers. Later he played some Robert Johnson and  Muddy Waters as he talked about opening for Muddy Waters and getting to know him.

 He added one of his own songs “Two Times Crying” and  blues classic “Hurt me Too,” before taking a quick break.


His second set featured a mournful version of the Mississippi Sheiks’ “ Sitting on Top of the World.”

 He played some new songs he had been learning including Barbecue Bob’s  “Atlanta Moan,” on the resonator guitar which featured a lot of slide and some beautiful harmonics.

Big Dave McLean and Keith Catfish Woodrow  playing Pavan Park for the Lethbridge Folk Club, July 11. Photo by Richard Amery


 The second set was exceptional. He played an original talking blues called Jimmy Bobby, more traditional Delta blues and more Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters.


 The highlight was a request from me for one of his songs “Muddy Waters For President,” which Muddy Waters was going to cut but provided a great excuse to bring Keith Catfish Woodrow on stage to play lead guitar so McLean could break out the harmonicas.


 They played Muddy Waters For President,” and Woodrow stayed on stage so McLean could play harp on  “Ride With Me” and Taj Mahal’s “ Learn to Love Yourself.”

 He brought the show to a close by bring the audience on board to song along with blues classic “You’ve Got to Love Somebody.”


The Folk Club”s next show is  a free Aug, 14 music festival at Legacy park with Junkman’s Quire, The Steve Keenan Band,Celtic Routes, Maggie Mae, Scott Cook and the Travelling Mabels.

—By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat editor

Last Updated ( Friday, 16 July 2021 16:16 )  
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