Doug MacLeod is considered by some to be the best artist in his genre - solo acoustic blues - out there playing today. For some reason he likes coming to this part of the world, maybe because
of his connection with Mario Pronovost, his Canadian promoter, who is also an accomplished guitarist and singer. Luckily for us there that night, Doug is comfortable
playing to a small group of enthusiastic blues fans, and the Ottawa contingent was squeezed into Alcorn Studios, the newish music school with auditorium at 953 Gladstone Ave.
Richard Carr, blues artist from Quebec City came on first with an accomplished acoustic set (Richard is equally handy in the electric blues world). This was not a case of
"get off; we came to see Doug." On the contrary, he won over the crowd with his playing, singing and friendly personality.
Doug came on, and cracked up the crowd with his first few words. He has such a talent for storytelling when talking to a group of music lovers. By the time he plays a note
he has them eating out of his hand. Some musicians play sweet tuneful music simply; some play with complex unplayable-by-others technique that
leaves little space for tunefulness. Doug appears to produce effortlessly the sound of several guitars played by speed experts yet sweet and tuneful, even romantic in places.
He will tell you that no two performances are alike; each song that night he announed as about to sound "exactly like this" meaning like nothing else.
He really believes in the integrity of the old masters such as Big Bill Broonzy in that they would sing about life decisions, faith, tough times. Doug will
describe the "unmarked road" we should seek out, "that ain't right" - adultery or "this old river" separating life from death (the river Styx?). Listen to
his words for mentorship in this world. Perhaps because his songs are so serious in their messages, he intersperses them with anecdotes and descriptions that contain
both pathos and humour. There's a whole lotta laughter at a Doug MacLeod concert. But for many, myself included, it is his extraordinary guitar playing that
keeps me listening, and that night there was plenty of it. His frequent use of a slide (not an easy thing to do when keeping up a relentless rhythm) is almost magic to watch, which
enhances our listening experience hearing him on his excellent recordings.
Next time he's in town, don't miss him!
- Tony Copple, CKCU