Loose Blues News
Boston singer-songwriter Les Sampou will take the stage at the Heineken Soul ‘n’ Blues Festival at Harbourfront on Sun. July 20th (1pm & 3pm). Sampou’s new album on Rounder Records’ Flying Fish label explores her own life experiences and observations through 12 songs composed by her. (see story below)
Late-breaking news! The 2nd Buffalo Blues Festival July 26-27 w/ Duke Robillard, Popa Chubby, Lonnie Mack and much more. Call 716-855-8800.
Friendly Blues: Canada’s largest free contemporary art and music festival, Hamilton’s Festival of Friends (Aug. 8-10 at Gage Park), has very respectable blues representation once again this year, with performances both on the main stage, and on several smaller stages in the form of workshops. Blues performers this year include Jani Lauzon and Jeff Healey Band on Friday, Jackie Washington and Maureen Brown Band on Saturday, and Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, Mose Scarlett and Downchild Blues Band on Sunday. And although former Hamiltonian (currently residing in London) Paul Langille may not be billed as a blues artist, you’re apt to get a face-full of blues content during his performances. For the last several years, Langille’s distinctive gravelly voice has been heard in commercial jingles and performing the odd concert with Orchestra London. Watch for a September CD from Langille as he makes his full-time return to the music industry. Festival of Friends shows run from 12:00 noon until 11 pm, rain or shine. For more information, call 905-525-6644.
Monster Plans: Despite his profile being at an all-time high, Monster Mike Welch will be taking a brief hiatus from the international music scene. Welsh plans to record his next release this summer to be released spring 1998, before attending the University of California – Berkeley starting this fall. Maria Muldaur has offered to introduce him to the local clubs and musicians. He plans on playing at jams, getting acquainted with the local scene, and playing club dates in the area., and will then continue to tour next summer. Welsh recently returned from Europe where he was featured in Rock and Folk Magazine (France’s answer to Rolling Stone), and appeared on the French version of the David Letterman show. He’s to head back to Norway soon where he will perform with heroes B.B. King and Ray Charles. Also, take note that NPR Weekend Edition is airing an interview that they did with him this Sunday, June 1st. Check with your local NPR station for times.
– Lily Sazz
Singer? Sure. Songwriter? You bet. Guitarist? Absolutely. But the most compelling thing that makes New Englander Les Sampou stand out is her knack at telling a story through song. Sampou can spin a tale with the sincerity that most often can only be delivered by the person who penned the words, as she did. Her lyrics are descriptive without pretension; her approach sincere and intense.
Sampou grew up in the suburbs of Boston, where she recalls hearing her parents’ folk records as a youngster. The music of artists like Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Pete Seeger wafted up the stairs to her bedroom, where she says that “their stories painted images in her head”. She became a serious rock concert junkie and attended at least one concert a week. One night in her early 20s, Sampou saw Ellen McIlwaine in concert at a coffee house in Cambridge, Mass., and was so moved by the power of the woman playing guitar and performing solo with no backing musicians, that it eventually led her to get her own guitar and take up the instrument more seriously by studying with Boston bluesman Paul Rishell (currently working with harmonica player Little Annie Raines). “Paul told me ahead of time that he wouldn’t be teaching me theory. Instead we sat in his kitchen as he taught me old blues tunes and showed me chords I didn’t know. He was my first and only teacher.” Eventually, she began playing clubs. Over the last decade, her full time day job became part time, and last year that went, too, as Sampou’s career became her life’s focus.
It’s pretty clear that Sampou spends a great deal of time on her guitar chops, but her lyrics vie for attention also. “Look at all the number one hits out there, and they don’t say a thing. That’s why I like blues and folk so much, because there’s so much more emphasis on the lyrics.”, says Sampou.
Sampou’s sophomore release, Fall from Grace on Rounder’s Flying Fish label moves from folk to country to rock, but the blues thread throughout is unmistakeably present. The album is produced by fellow Massachusetts resident Mason Daring (former lawyer, record label/studio man and film score composer for The Secret of Roan Irish, Eight Men Out, She Lives To Ride) and features ex-Muddy Waters harmonica player Jerry Portnoy as a guest on the tune “Bull’s-eye”. The CD explores topics ranging from the adolescent struggles with the high school rumour mill as it deals with homophobia in “Flesh and Blood”, to the poignant “String of Pearls”, which looks at mother-daughter relationships in a heart-wrenching way. Sampou’s debut CD Sweet Perfume (1993) turned some heads and led to multiple rewards, like being one of only four new artists invited to perform at New York folk singer Christine Lavin‘s songwriting retreat on Martha’s Vineyard, and winning the prestigious New Folk Songwriting Contest in Kerrville, Texas.
Her Soul ‘n’ Blues appearance will be Sampou’s second time appearing in Toronto, after having showcased at the Folk Alliance conference last winter. Future plans include extensive touring including Europe in the fall.
You can catch Les Sampou live at Harbourfront’s Heineken Soul ‘n’ Blues Festival on July 20th.
– Lily Sazz