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Chuck Baker and Pete Arbour (September 22, 2007)

Just got back from the Chuck Baker and Pete Arbour show at the Knox Acoustic Café night. A co-worker and his wife enthusiastically run this monthly series, in the basement of a local church. It’s designed to be a throw-back to the coffeehouse gigs in the Village, and it totally works. There’s not a bad seat in the house, there’s coffee and snacks on the honour system, and there was quite a great turn-out on this night. In fact, from what I understand, the response to these shows has been entirely encouraging from Day One. And dammit, I say Fantastic! This town needs stuff like this. A wholehearted thank you, to all those involved. 

I honestly hadn’t heard about either player until I learned about the gig, our first of the series. This is probably because I don’t get out nearly enough. But I’m here now to loudly trumpet their names so that you too, Dear KMA Reader, can seek them out and enjoy. Both are exceedingly excellent guitar players – creative, intricate and fun. Some of the runs they pulled off tonight made my head spin. The songs are well-crafted stories, snapshots of life and friends, good times and bad. The between-song banter, delivered with the ease of seasoned performers comfortable in their long history together, was amusing and endearing. What’s not to like?

In fact, as I listened to Baker tell stories, I began to realize we’d been a lot of the same places, roughly at the same times. I, too, was a student in Windsor and remember the casino taking over the art gallery (which got relegated to the upper floor of the mall) while the new casino was being built. I, too, saw Matt Osborne play when I lived in Waterloo. If he’d started talking about Paul MacLeod next, it would’ve freaked me out. And they did a great cover of Tom Waits’ Picture In A Frame, a song we love (and which I occasionally play for my lovely wife, in my own sad, limited-hack way). Apparently it’s a song Baker uses as a lullaby for his daughter, so there’s another kid who can’t sleep without hearing Tom Waits [Ref: For The Kids album review (and the subsequent comments), from a while back]. Dude’s a fine arts teacher, on top of everything else. I wonder if he ever sleeps.

The duo book-ended the show with covers of Rheostatics songs (including a beautiful Take Me In Your Hand), which certainly made them alright in my books. The original tunes are thoughtful and smart, and they really just seemed to be having a great time in the relaxed atmosphere, in front of the appreciative crowd. It really came across in the music. And what do they sound like? Think a little along the lines of Dave Matthews (with a slightly deeper, less nasal voice), and Tim Reynolds serving up stunning fill and lead lines with ease. Yeah. Exactly.

At the intermission we bought the CD (a little piece of quiet), which is Baker’s first independent release. I’m listening to it now, as I type this up, and it is indeed a worthy treasure. They played most of the songs from this CD tonight, although there were no bass, drums or female vocals at this show, as there are on the CD. Either way, with songs this well-played, it’s all good.

And finally, without getting on a soapbox for too long, I have this to say: At one point in the show, it was mentioned that gigs like this are important because we have to support independent music, we have to give these artists who aren’t (yet) signed to a big deal somewhere the opportunity to be heard. I completely agree. So buy the CD, the t-shirt, whatever, and get all of your friends out to the gigs every chance you get. It all counts.

Folks, we really enjoyed ourselves tonight, and will definitely be out next month to see The Undesirables. The Knox Acoustic Café is destined to last for years, if tonight was any indication of the norm.

Go find Chuck Baker’s record. Go see either of these guys play. Tell ‘em the KMA sent you.

Track Listing:
01 Intellectual Affair
02 Music For Depicting Fight Scenes, Riots, Etc.
03 On The Radio
04 Timmins
05 May In The Evenings
06 Before You Go
07 Ontario Town
08 Block
09 For A Year
10 E.O.A. (Saddest Place On Earth)
11 Trigger For The Apocalypse
12 Athenian Banquet Hall Church
13 Apologize
14 Cold

Further Info: Chuck Baker’s web site is here:    The Knox Acoustic Café web site is here:   I tried to find a web site for Pete Arbour, but all I got when I Googled his name was a notice of the pair’s recent performance at Mariposa, and his contact information at work in Chalk River. Somebody hook this guy up so he can get all famous and stuff!

 Upcoming Show: Geoff Berner and Carolyn Mark in St. Catharines, tomorrow night! And we’re on the Guest List, thanks to the awesome folks at Mint (and Carolyn herself, apparently)! Wahooooooo!

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