David Gogo Enlists For Upcoming GUITAR WARS
War has been declared in Thorold, and organizers of the Canal Bank Shuffle Blues Fest are lining up the big guns!
February 1st at Holy Rosary Halls, the Canal Bank Shuffle team hosts GUITAR WARS, another event in the ongoing promotion of the fall blues fest. This special event features four of Canada’s best blues guitarists and one local phenom who’ll soon be joining those ranks: multiple award winning players Paul DesLauriers, David Gogo, J.W. Jones and Steve Grisbrook, along with Niagara Music Award winner Riley Michaels, the 17-year-old Beamsville native named Niagara’s Best Blues Artist in 2018.
Guitar Wars marks the latest local appearance for Gogo, who was a featured performer at last fall’s Canal Bank Shuffle. As a six-time Juno Award nominee and three-time Maple Blues Award recipient of the “Guitarist of The Year,” Gogo is no stranger to battling it out on stage as a Canadian blues player. However, with the fall release of his 15th album 17 Vultures, Gogo is one blues artist who knows his primary motivator for continuing to put out new music.
“Chicks,” laughed Gogo, who burst onto the Canadian music scene with his hard-rocking self-titled album in 1994. “Seriously, I just like to keep thinking forward. You don’t want to stagnate, you just keep going you know? I think of people like Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown who, at 70 years old or whatever, he’s still thinking of the next project and he keeps going. That’s the way you keep it fresh for yourself and for the fans as well.”
With 17 Vultures, Gogo has certainly kept it fresh by incorporating a variety of blues-infused styles into the disc’s nine tracks. The album features five Gogo-penned originals along with a selection of cover songs from a diverse cross section of musicians including The Beatles, Doug and The Slugs and Bob Dylan. The songs showcase Gogo’s diversity as a guitarist as well, ranging from traditional blues to the hardcore contemporary rock licks featured on the lead track, “Thanks For The Distraction.” While blues artists are often limited by what the purists will tolerate as “blues,” Gogo found the inspiration to branch out on this release by listening to an album universally revered for its diversity of musical styles.
“I was sitting out on a deck in Candor Harbour, BC, listening to The Beatles White Album on my phone, having a Scotch and tea one morning,” recalls Gogo. “(The song) “Mother Nature’s Son” comes on, and then two song later it’s “Helter Skelter,” and that’s great. I think sometimes we put more thought into things than necessary. And you have to give credit to your audience. They’re open minded enough I’m sure to just dig the music. I realize now that you can listen to a Zeppelin album or a Stones album and there’s a mix of really rocking stuff and acoustic stuff, so why not. It’s all about variety.”
Gogo started working on 17 Vultures in 2017 after wrapping up the tour for his previous release, 2015’s Vicksburg Call. While developing the music was relatively easy, Gogo says he spent a lot of time focused on writing original tunes rather than simply rehashing traditional blues staples. That proved to be a more difficult challenge than expected according to the B.C. native.
“It’s hard to write a good blues song, there’s a lot of shitty ones,” said Gogo, a 19-time Maple Blues Award nominee. “I’ve never been a purist. It can be difficult because you’ve only got so much to work with without getting too far outside of the genre. I appreciate the challenge of songwriting a lot more now than I did 10 years ago.”
The covers on 17 Vultures also speak to a diversity of styles, ranging from a dark and somber version of The Beatles’ “Don’t Bother Me” to a spirited version of Doug & The Slugs classic “Tomcat Prowl.” However, with his cover of “From A Buick 6,” Gogo manages to pay homage to two of his musical heroes.
“I’ve always really liked that particular song,” said Gogo of the Dylan-penned song. “I like the lyrics and the feel. But I was thinking more of Johnny Winter, because I toured with him a lot during my career. And when Johnny did “Highway 61,” the Dylan tune, I kind of wanted to have this song as a tribute to both him and Bob.”
As for the time he was lucky enough to have spent with another hero – blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan – Gogo says he has nothing but fond memories of the guitarist who died in a 1990 plane crash.
“I was really lucky to hang out with him maybe five times,” said Gogo. “It was probably the first time we hung out, I showed up dressed like him when I was 15 years old. He used to dress up like Hendrix. It was probably the first time that he was on the other side of the coin, realizing there were young people looking up to him. But he was great. He gave me some good advice and I was in a situation with him that made me make some pretty big life decisions. He was just a really cool guy, really down to earth. And he was as much a music fan as I am. The last time I met him he was showing me all his guitars during sound check. Eric Clapton had just given him a Stat and he said, ‘look at this man, Eric Clapton gave me this guitar.’ He was like a little kid he was so excited.”
Tickets for GUITAR WARS are on sale now. Visit http://www.canalbankshuffle.com/ for full details.