Wednesday, April 6, 2011



New Brunswick axeman Ross Neilsen has been playing it slow and steady, still a relative youngster in the blues field, a decade into his career.  He's put out a handful of live and studio releases, and worked hard on the touring, whether solo or with the Bastards.  He keeps expanding his touring schedule, added new markets and venues.  He's recently been doing residencies in some profile Ontario clubs solo, once a week, getting in some face time in various communities.  Ya, it's that old approach, come out, impress a few people, and next time they'll bring more friends, and so it builds.

While the reputation grows, so does the talent.  Ross is the guitarist, the singer, the writer, the bandleader, and that's a lot on one person's plate.  Those are skills you need to work on, and I think he's better every time I check in with him.  Certainly the guitar playing continues to advance, as he works on his electric, acoustic and slide guitar.  I'd say he's to the point where you can go and check him out live just for the playing, and be impressed.  He plays around my home enough that you can catch him very relaxed and having fun, instead of putting on the show, and on those times, it's really cool, some of his best work.  As a front man, he can now command the stage with ease as well, that confidence is there, he knows he can put on a kicking show.

Neilsen is launching a new album this coming Saturday, the latest in his ongoing Official Bootleg Series. It's made up of live concerts at various spots, either Ross solo or with his full trio of Bastards.  Now, bootleg usually suggests a bit of a shoddy product, but that is not the case here.  These are well-recorded, fully conceived sets, and Neilsen puts a lot of care into the shows selected, and the quality of the discs.  This one from the Acoustic Grill, and is a full band, full hour-long set.  The Grill is in Picton, Ontario, a well-known club for folk and blues performers, including lots of favourites such as Garnet Rogers and Fred Eaglesmith.  Ross has a great reputation there, and the Grill is always up for a live recording, so it's an obvious choice.  The disc is clean and bright, they did get an excellent tape that night, and the full band sounds tight and strong, emphasizing the classic blues they can do, and the louder, let-loose style they can get going when it's okay to turn the amps to 11.  He drops some new material into the set, including a song called Daddy Taught Me, about his late father, and we also hear an old favourite about one of his old jobs, back at the Ganong Candy Factory in his home area of St. Stephen, NB, called Jelly Bean.

Here's some Neilsen dates:  

Friday, April 8 at Bourbon Quarter, Saint John NB (solo)
Saturday, April 9 at The Playhouse, Fredericton NB (w/Bastards, album release show)
Thusday, Apr. 14 - Sunday, Apr. 17 at East Coast Music Awards, Charlottetown, PEI

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