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Suzie Vinnick & Rick Fines (April 5, 2008)

Last night we were witness to yet another in what has been a mind-boggling succession of completely amazing shows at the Knox Acoustic Cafe. Seriously folks, if you’re missing these monthly gigs, it’s definitely time for you to join the cool kids and come on out to each and every show. You really won’t regret a second of it.

Tonight’s show featured the brilliant duo of Suzie Vinnick and Rick Fines, a combination of musicians that would leave even the most jaded music aficionado speechless (as well as a convert for life). Their mix of joyful folk, delta-drenched blues and, as it turns out, well-executed ragtime music is peerless and completely enjoyable. These performers are so awesome on their own, but put them together and it really is magic time. Sweet!

I was once again privileged to be able to volunteer with the set-up and wiring work for this show. It’s a great learning experience, and whole bunches of fun too. It was also my honour to loan my guitar strap, which was a gift from my lovely wife and has a shark that she lovingly hand-painted on it, to Rick for the duration of the show. I was just glad I could help out.

Being there early also meant that I got to be present for the sound-check, which was completely wonderful. The only real difficulty in any of this was that I was supposed to be paying attention to the sound levels from the back of the room but, instead, I kept getting swept away in the music and forgetting the job at hand. Easily done, right enough, when these two are involved!

Our table was right in the front row, once again shared with the lovely folks from Kemble Mountain Roastery. As official coffee suppliers for these shows, they have just started selling a Knox Acoustic Cafe blend, a welcome addition to their great line of fine coffees, and a cool tie-in for this burgeoning series.

Finally, after a month of my waiting impatiently for this night to arrive, Rick and Suzie took the stage and delighted us all with song after song of consummate musicianship, air-tight songs, and a playful, positive attitude that really took the performance to levels others can only dream of achieving. They are completely at ease on stage, with each other and within the music. Being privileged to sit so close and see the way they listen to and compliment each other was an invaluable lesson in how it should always be done. Other musicians, start taking notes: these two Have It.

The first half started off with Suzie, whose voice is so clear and vastly powerful, playing a couple of remarkable songs solo, then Rick joined in and added his equally massive talent to the mix. The second half saw Rick opening solo, with Suzie coming in after a couple of songs. This was a wonderful way to acknowledge that both of these players are outstanding solo artists in their own right, but also that they were here to join forces in really knocking our socks off. And oh baby, they sure did that!

Dear KMA Readers, I’m sure you’re aware that sometimes it readily becomes apparent that you are in the presence of masters of their craft, that everything you are witnessing is a definitive statement in the sublime. Tonight was one of those occasions. Several times over the course of the night, as the marvelous songs just kept coming, I looked around the room at the faces of my fellow audience members, and they were all rapt with attention, enchanted, and grinning broadly.

And the music? Oh my!! The vocals were entirely impressive throughout. As I noted, Suzie’s voice is so strong and beautiful, and Rick alternates between a clear, open tone and a raspy, Tom Waits-ish growl. They did one song that they meant to sound like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and they totally nailed it. Rick even did a couple of mouth-trombone solos. Oh yes.

Add to this display, too, their stellar guitar work. Both players continually whipped off runs and licks that left me reeling. Suzie occasionally jumped to a five string, fan-fretted bass for some lovely bottom-end colour (and even a couple of solos!), and Rick is, without a doubt, a master with a slide. They are both so strongly talented that their playing easily rested on that bedrock of skill and then branched out into exciting new explorations.

There were countless moments during the show that just felt real, such as Suzie singing the notes quietly to herself while playing a solo (a la Glenn Gould), and then there was Rick’s story-telling between songs, about recording his latest record ‘off the grid’ on solar power, and how if you slow down a Mississippi John Hurt song and add the words of Carol Shields you get… a John Prine song. Haha. Who knew? They both obviously embrace nature, too, with tons of talk of cabins, beaches and Walden. Right on.

It looked to me as if last night was pretty much another full house in the basement at Knox, which is wonderful to see. Word is definitely spreading in the music community (and with great reason), and more local businesses are becoming sponsors of the shows too. Dear Readers, there is great music happening in your town, so come on out to these shows. The music is always phenomenal, as last night’s performance easily attested, and soon it’ll surely reach a point where every show sells out, so get your tickets early!

Thank you, Rick and Suzie, for a night of such wonderful, genuine music. It was a real honour to meet you both. You are welcome back here any time. And a huge thank you goes once again to Susan and Irwin, whose tireless hard work and dedication to this dream project continues to realize a brilliant series that we are all so fortunate to have presented to us. You guys rock!

Next month it’s Dala, with Hayden Stewart (winner of last month’s Youth Showcase) as the opening act, on May 10. Be there!


PS It was announced that Tyler Firestone, another excellent performer from the recent Knox Youth Showcase, was the winner of the recent Georgian Bay Folk Society’s Young & Hungry Showcase. As winner, he will get a slot on the Summerfolk stage, as does Hayden Stewart for winning the Knox show (see review of the Knox showcase, on this site). Both performers are sure to delight the Summerfolk crowds! Tyler has also chosen to open for the mighty Terry Tufts at his upcoming Knox performance on October 18.

It was also announced that there’s been another show added to the amazing Knox schedule this year! Rob and Steve Ritchie of Tanglefoot will be performing a special night of music on July 25, so you definitely cannot miss that one, either!

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