David Vest   Live In Calgary Cordova Bay Records

Picking up where Gary Kendall’s review of Vest’s Live at Hermann’s left off, Live In Calgary continues to celebrate the venerable blues pianist’s joy of playing live. Armed with his long-time band (Tom Bowler, guitar; Ryan Tandy, bass; Damian Graham, drums) , with longtime Portland, Oregon blues guitarist, Peter Dammann, sitting in, Vest & Co. lay down their love for piano-based blues on fans at the 2019 Calgary International Blues Festival. 

A rich blend of Vest originals sit nicely alongside Huey P. Smith’s “Genevieve” and Willie Perryman’s “Rockin’ With Red” while fans of Paul deLay will enjoy “Fourteen Dollars In The Bank” – Dammann having recorded this with deLay on his ’98 Nice & Strong release.  Vest’s own “We’re All Sharecroppers Now” continues the New Orleans’ groove seamlessly as his strong band adds powerful support without ever overpowering Vest’s piano-driven leads. 

Willie Perryman’s “Rockin’ with Red” injects the set with a slightly slower honky-tonk feel, augmented by a lovely bass solo from Tandy, while their own “What’s That About?” updates the genre – a runaway train of a homewrecking, rock’n’roller – offering a showcase for what Vest does so well. It doesn’t hurt to have Tom Bowler’s guitar keeping the bar held high.  2012’s East Meets Vest yielded “Shake What You Got” and, while it may not be Vest’s strongest vocal here, the dual guitar attack transforms this track into another spellbinder. 

The boogie-woogie burn of “Black Dress” conjures visions of Jerry Lee, giving the band the chance to crank, full-tilt – together and with strong solos. Roadhouse Revelations’ “Heart Full of Rock and Roll” goes a long way to explaining Vest’s own raison d’être. The timing couldn’t be any better to close with the track Vest first recorded with Paul deLay on ‘09’s Way Down Here – “Worried About The World”. And who isn’t worried? Yet, this one-time sideman is fully developed as a front man, bent on making the world a much better place through his unique recipe of country blues, rock’n’roll, barrelhouse and boogie-woogie with just a hint of gospel. 

Put them all together and there’s little wonder why this former southerner has been embraced by his Canadian fans and rewarded for his ability to raise more than a few roofs. This release – and the one reviewed here last month – underlines that ‘live’ remains the best Vest of all.  (Eric Thom)