Voodoo Shoots for Versatility
Blues combo makes an impact as far away as Australia
It's just after midnight on a Friday in downtown New Westminster, but there are few signs of weekend revelry along the main drag of Columbia Street. Still, a Surrey-based acoustic combo named the Blue Voodoo is doing its best to get at least a few of the Royal City residents in a party mood. The quartet is holed up in the Met Bar & Grill, knocking off a version of Grand Funk's "Some Kind of Wonderful", but with guitarist Rick Dalgarno's tasty dobro licks mitigating the song's cheese factor. The bouncy number gets a few butts on the dance floor, although its follow-up, a rootsy, slide-infused version of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues", sends the patrons back to their draft beer.
Having been turned on to the group by its 13-track, all-original debut CD, Ride, I wasn't expecting to hear covers. According to the press kit that accompanied the disc, the band's current set list is roughly three-quarters originals. So are these guys big fat liars, or what? "When we play a place like this," notes Dalgarno during a break, "there's some people that just want to dance, so we'll appease them. But essentially we'll come in and we'll do our first album--and our second album, which is not quite finished."
The core of the Blue Voodoo took shape when Dalgarno was using the Surrey home studio of fellow BV guitarist Ted Tosoff. "We'd get together after doin' sessions and just start playin' old blues songs," Tosoff recalls. "After doing this several times, I said to Rick, 'How'd you like to go out and play a few places, have a few beers, and just have some fun?'" The duo got booked at watering holes like the Mountain Shadow Pub in Burnaby and Locos Tapas Bar in Aldergrove, which is where they hooked up with percussionist Chris Weekes. Then they brought in bassist Daniel Ross to record Ride, which has so far won radio play in such far-off locales as Ireland, Australia, and France.
Closer to home, the quartet has been creating a stir at events like the Pender Harbour Jazz Festival, which it first played two years ago. "We were like the odd-man-out there," Tosoff explains. You had a bunch of jazzoids and people that were very classically trained, and then you had us. They had us sitting on a balcony playing a djembe and acoustic guitars goin' 'Yeah, baby!', not realizing how loud we are, and it echoing across the whole bay." Dalgarno interjects with a chuckle: "It was like Aerosmith at a nunnery."
While playing at a Pender Harbour resort last October, the Blue Voodoo scored its most memorable gig so far. "Joni Mitchell lives up there," Tosoff explains, "and she ended up coming down to this gig. Then in one of those surreal moments she said, 'Do you think you guys might find it in your time to come and play my birthday party?' And we're like, 'Duuhh... Yeah, sure, of course!'"
At Mitchell's 60th-birthday bash, the Blue Voodoo wound up performing the Searchers' "Love Potion Number Nine" with her, and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Nanaimo jazz superstar Diana Krall and music-industry bigwigs Denise Donlon and Sam Feldman. They managed to slide Donlon, president of Sony Music Canada, a copy of Ride but didn't hound agency boss Feldman to book them a cross-Canada tour. "We were there to do a birthday," Dalgarno notes, "so it wasn't like we were there to hit on people. But it was nice to talk to all of them, and they were all very genuine with us, so it was good."
For its as-yet-untitled sophomore CD, the Blue Voodoo--which plays White Rock's Washington Avenue Grill next Friday and Saturday (April 23 and 24)--is keeping the 12-bar blues shakedowns to a minimum. "We're workin' on some pretty wacky tunes for this next one," Tosoff explains. "There's some sort of big-band stuff we're gonna do. And some places we play have a dinner crowd, where it's expected that you gotta be quiet, so we go from pretty much Latin jazz to just every form you can think of. That's the thing about this band: everybody's versatile."