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Steve and Rob Ritchie (July 25, 2008)

How lucky are we, folks, to have had two great Knox Acoustic Cafe shows in one month? Completely lucky indeed! And tonight’s performance, as it was a bonus event in the schedule, demands the use of the word brilliant. What a show! Organized as a fund-raiser for a local animal shelter, this gig was definitely one for the books.

Steve and Rob Ritchie (better known to you, most likely, as part of the band Tanglefoot) filled the packed room with their excellent songs of love, longing, laughter and life. Between songs they told stories of the past, lightly peppered with a charmingly self-deprecating humour, made nonetheless real by the strong sense of connectedness to history and life in rural Ontario. I was captivated.

It’s obvious that these brothers share an immutable connection through music while still remaining clear in their individual strengths and talents. Steve sings with a directness and a strength that makes each of the songs come alive. Just listen and you’ll know that each line is felt, and brought forth by the voice of experience. His guitar playing was excellent, especially the impressive finger-picking parts. And watching Rob’s fingers fly across the keyboards was really a treat. It is rare to see a keyboard player so obviously in love with the sheer joy of playing and creating, and each new invention was a definite pleasure. Add in his soaring voice and his playful little asides throughout, and this is a compelling and potent duo.

I don’t know how best to put this into words so I’m just going to go for it: this music sounded, to me, like Canada. There’s an inexplicable sound that some artists can capture perfectly that just makes me think of this great land of ours. Lightfoot, Young, Mitchell, and even a (relatively) newer act like the Tragically Hip all have this sound, to me. It’s not solely because they sometimes sing about this country, or mention places and events in their songs, but because somehow this soil and this water is palpably written right into the music. It just sounds like home. Well, I could definitely hear that indefinable element tonight, and I loved every minute of it.

These two are playing with a love of their craft, and their comfort on stage is so obvious that the audience can’t help but be swept along and included in the good humour and the story-telling. This was definitely a night to remember.

Thanks so much to the performers for this great night, and to Irwin and Susan (and the whole Knox team) for once again making awesomeness happen right here in our little town. What you’ve created is essential to us and we are all the richer for it. Thanks so much.

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