MORRISBURG – The drawling, easy-going voice I remembered from our first interview (The Leader, October 26, 2011) was still there. So was the mellow laugh and the gentle sense of humour.
Doug Macleod, one of the greatest Blues men in North America, is back in town and will be in concert, 8 p.m., at the Port Theatre, Cornwall, on Thursday, March 16, 2017.
Macleod is in Canada on a tour that has taken him to the Montreal Acoustic Blues Summit on March 4, where he performed with Paul Deslauriers and Guy Belanger, and to concerts in Ottawa, Lachine and now Cornwall.
I caught up with the legendary Blues man earlier this week.
A native of sunny California, he did notice that he was landing in -18 weather in Canada and “I’ve been thinking about that,” he laughed. “Still, life’s been good for sure.”
In a career that has extended over 30 years now, Macleod has won numerous awards. Recently, he was named the Memphis Blues Foundation 2016 acoustic artist of the year, and won the 2014 artist and album of the year. His latest release, Live In Europe, has been nominated for the 2017 historical album of the year, and he has again been nominated for artist of the year.
Macleod’s played gigs with the likes of Big Joe Turner and Pee Wee Crayton, and seen his music featured on television shows. He hosted Blues radio stations, and is a noted authority on finger style acoustic guitar.
At the heart of it all, he’s a man who simply loves his music.
He once quoted artist Willie Dixon who said “Blues is the true facts of life.”
I asked him if this was still true.
“Absolutely,” Macleod said. “However, not to take away from Willie, but I’ve had a revelation about what Blues music means to me personally.
It dawned on me one night when I was on stage playing with George “Harmonica” Smith, in a bucket of blood blues joint. We were in the middle of a song, when I suddenly felt goose bumps.
In that moment, I truly realized there was more goin’ on in this music than just playing three chords.”
It was an Eureka moment.
“I believe the Blues means overcoming adversity, not subjecting to it. Blues grew out of slave music, out of tough times and conditions, out of genuine hard experiences: but the old Blues men taught me, you had to overcome adversity in life. Blues lets the emotions out and helps you cope.”
In what some would call uncertain times in North America, perhaps world-wide, the Blues may be needed more than ever.
“Lot of crazy things goin’ on in the world right now,” Macleod laughed. “But I believe that real music, right from the heart, grounds you. Good music makes you feel the ground is right under you, and maybe it’s not so crazy out there after all.
Everybody’s got problems, but real, honest Blues is truth: it helps you cope. Music is cathartic.”
A strong sense of humour underlies a lot of Doug Macleod’s music.
“Whatever the world’s issues, if you can laugh at a problem, you can separate yourself from that problem and see a solution. At least,” he added, “you might see a solution for yourself.”
Macleod has a new album, Break the Chain, coming out in the early summer. This is a special album for the artist, because his son Jesse, himself a singer/songwriter, joins him on the title cut.
“Jesse isn’t a Blues man,” his father said. “But he’s true to the Blues: after all he’s heard them all his life. Still,” he added with a laugh, “when we perform together, I see a little bit of his old man in there.”
A singer and song writer who believes that a “Blues song is built on truth,” Macleod continues to find honesty in the music he performs.
“Less is more in the poetry of the Blues,” he explained. “Sometimes you have to say in two lines what’s important. Like I learned from the old Blues men, when you’re a Blues man, your goal is to speak honestly.”
Doug Macleod is looking forward to his concert at the Port Theatre in Cornwall Thursday, March 16.
“I feel comfortable whether in a house concert or on a stage in front of 800 people. I want (the audience) to hear the stories, to cry a little, to laugh, to feel. It’s my music and my pride. When you walk out the door, you don’t feel you have any change coming.”
Tickets for Doug Macleod at the Port Theatre, Cornwall, are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Phone 613-933-4547, 613-330-2963 or search on line at www.theporttheatre.com.