A true stalwart of the Toronto blues scene, Gary Kendall is best known as the longtime bassist in Downchild, former co-leader of the Kendall Wall Band, and music director of the ace Maple Blues Revue. He is also a highly talented songwriter and producer, skills that were showcased on his only solo album to date, 2004’s Dusty & Pearl.
Kendall recently returned to the material on that compelling release, selecting four highlight tracks that have been Remixed & Remastered by award-winning engineer L. Stu Young (Downchild, David Wilcox, Prairie Oyster).

The result is Dusty & Pearl Revisited, Volume One, a four-track EP that is all killer, no filler. Confirming the peer respect Kendall has earned over his many decades of toil, the guest list on the original album comprised a stellar grouping of Toronto players and singers, some of whom sadly are no longer with us.

Many of these guests are featured to fine effect on the EP. The first track, “Don’t Be Sad,” stars legendary Jamaican-Canadian vocalist Jay Douglas. His voice, as warm as noon in Montego Bay, is supported by female backing singers, while a horn section and the guitar work of Carl Harvey (Toots and the Maytals) help make this a ska-based treat.
“We’ll Be Alright” features nicely relaxed vocal duetting by Kendall and Suzie Vinnick, and the song is bolstered by jaunty accordion (courtesy of the late great Richard Bell), gutsy sax from Larry Bodner resonant electric guitar by Teddy Leonard , and the honkytonk piano of Brian Fraser. This gem would sound great on blues radio.
Next up is “Lucky At Love,” a bluesy bar-room lament headed by the strong lead vocals of Judy Brown (she co-wrote the song with Kendall). The rollicking piano of Fraser and crisp guitar work of Leonard also feature prominently here.

Rounding out the record in uplifting fashion is Spread The Love. Here, Kendall is joined by three of Toronto’s very best blues singers, John Mays, Johnny Wright, and John Dickie. They all take short turns on a laidback yet upbeat tune, with a massed vocals chorus helping to get the positive message across. Also shining on the track are Steve Grisbrook and Teddy Leonard on guitar and Tyler Burgess on harp.
With its plea to “let the light shine all around,” this is a heartwarming feel-good song at a time when we need those badly.

The fact that the EP is entitled Volume One suggests there may be more to follow. We sure hope so. (Kerry Doole)

(More on Dusty and Pearl Revisited from Terry Parsons)
In the middle of a Hot Summer in 2004, Gary Kendall and 21 friends gathered at a studio that was created in a converted garage. The result of those diverse sessions in such an incredible room, was the album “Dusty & Pearl”, so named after Gary’s favorite bass guitars.

Fast Forward 17 years and one pandemic later.

Gary Kendall revisited the original recordings from that classic album through remixing, remastering and even re-recording the music, to breathe new life into it. The result is the EP, Dusty & Pearl Revisited, a sonic time capsule with a timeless feel.

The energetic first cut, “Don’t Be Sad” is a perfect opener when you take into consideration all the trials and tribulations for the last 12 months. The message of the song, “Good Friends will pull you through Difficult Times”, resonates through the newly recorded vocals from Jay Douglas and the new rhythm guitars added by Carl Harvey. When you pair that with the original keyboards of late Rod Phillips, it ties everything together and gives the song a whole new life.

The second cut adds a distinct Louisiana feel to the album. A definite toe tapping delight, “We’ll Be Alright” is another beautifully hopeful message about loyalty and support in dark times, this time delivered through the newly enhanced vocals of Suzie Vinnick and the light and lively original accordion performance of the late great Richard Bell.

“Lucky ay Love” is the third song on the EP and third distinct style of music recording. It’s a countrified co-write with Judy Brown, who has been a fixture in the Toronto blues scene since the 1980’s. The lone ballad on the EP, Judy’s vocals play perfectly off the piano work of Brian Fraser and Teddy Leonard’s soulful guitar.

The final cut is about the joy of a family awaiting the birth of a new baby. “Spread The Love” is described as a country gospel blues, driven by the vocals of Johnny Wright and John Dickie, with the legendary John Mays. The energetic interplay of harmonica and guitar, fueled by the classic rhythm of upright bass and drums, give this song a down home feel.

A perfect closure to the first volume of “Dusty and Pearl Revisited” that leaves the listener breathless in anticipation of what is to come next. I for one, cannot wait for Volume 2.

Some of the main performers from those magical 2004 sessions have since passed on, but their memory lives through this beautifully conceived and expertly executed set of songs. A tribute to friends, past and present, that can lift your spirits no matter what the future throws at you. (Terry Parsons)

Since John Valenteyn passed a terrific pool of writers have been picking up assignments on new releases as volunteers. As coordinator of the pool, I want to assure readers that Gary Kendall had nothing to do with the duplication, it was simply a communication issue. I take full responsibility. – Derek Andrews

May 2021 - Ghalia Volt
May 2021 - Loose Blues News