Blues is in Colin Linden’s blood. His introduction to blues culture, and the turning point in his life, was when a friend of his brother’s turned him on to Howlin’ Wolf (a.k.a. Chester Burnett).

Shortly thereafter, in November 1971, an 11-year-old Linden met the blues legend before his Saturday matinée gig at Toronto’s Colonial Tavern. The pair chatted for hours and became fast friends. On Rich in Love, the guitarist/producer’s first solo record in six years, the Renaissance man collaborates with his musical mates and some industry heavyweights, and finds inspiration from dearly departed friends. The result: a dozen deep cuts that ooze with buckets of soul, and lure you in to listen. In each well-crafted note, you can hear whispers of Howlin’ Wolf — and the many other blues icons — who’ve shaped Linden’s musical journey.

“It never loses its thrill,” says Linden, in reference to putting out a solo recording. “It doesn’t feel that different from when I was 20. Interestingly enough, I didn’t even know it would feel that way until it came out.”

“I’m just happy to have some songs that feel honest and real.”

Rich in Love is a collaborative effort. “It’s really a story about Johnny [Dymond], Gary [Craig], and me,” Linden says. “The three of us playing together and the decades of friendship and music that we share.”

Bassist Dymond and drummer Craig have shared the limelight with Linden for so long that there is a simpatico and mutual musical understanding whenever the trio convenes. Rich in Love was mostly recorded in Linden’s Nashville home studio. Legendary blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite and keyboardist Reese Wynans (Stevie Ray Vaughan), also lent their talents. And, even though he passed away in 2007, Linden says, “The spirit of [keyboardist] Richard Bell looms large on the record.”

When I catch up with the guitarist/producer, he’s in Music City, driving to the set of the hit TV drama Nashville – currently in production for Season Four, airing this fall on ABC. Linden is the show’s music supervisor, plays 75 per cent of the guitar you hear on the show, and teaches all the actors their singing and playing parts.

The last few years have been a prolific period for the 55-year-old. Linden has toured as a guitarist with Bob Dylan, performed at The White House, played on Rhiannon Giddens’ Tomorrow Is My Turn, and released another Blackie & The Rodeo Kings record (South). As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also produced records for many other musicians, including the latest (Telling Time) from up-and-coming SOCAN member Lucas Chaisson. Somehow, in between, the musician carved out time to write songs for and record Rich in Love.

Most of the songs came together over a couple of years. “It started off with Johnny, Gary and I setting up in a little room in my house,” Linden recalls. “Blackie & the Rodeo Kings had just finished playing at The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco and the pair came back with me to Nashville afterwards. We said, ‘Let’s just take a few days and see what’s there.’”

“I had to go off to a shoot for the TV show [Nashville],” he continues. “When I came home three hours later, the couch had been moved out of the studio and in its place was a set of drums. Janis [Linden’s wife] and Johnny had put up a set of curtains and Gary had set up a bunch of cushions from the couch to make the room sound a certain way… it was all there; that’s how we started. We recorded the first two or three songs as a sort of reconnaissance recording. We figured the worst that could happen is these would be demos, but they ended up being the first couple of songs we cut for the record.”

A number of songs on Rich in Love were inspired by the words of friends now gone but not forgotten. For example, “No More Cheap Wine” has a whole lot of the late musician and novelist Paul Quarrington in it, says Linden: “When Paul was diagnosed with Stage Four lung cancer, the first thing he said was, ‘OK, no more cheap wine!’ I thought that was a great way of dealing with it and looking at the limitations your life may have. It was a great inspiration.”

Despite all his success, Linden remains ever humble. “I get bashful when I talk about songwriting,” he says, “because when you’re playing guitar and ‘Desolation Row’ is coming out of the monitor in front of you, by the guy who wrote it [Bob Dylan], it makes you reconsider how high your bar is as a songwriter. I’m just happy to have some songs that feel honest and real.”

Publisher: warner Chappell Music Canada Ltd.
Selected Discography: Rich in Love (2015); Still Live (2012); From the Water (2009); Big Mouth (2003); Southern Jumbo (2005); South at Eight North at Nine (1993); The Immortals (1986)
SOCAN member since 1992

Track Record

  • “Delia Come For Me,” from the new record, was partially inspired by the 2011 execution in Georgia of Troy Davis for murder; a case that reminded Linden of the old country-blues murder ballad, “Delia.”
  • Linden played on Gregg Allman’s Grammy-nominated Low Country Blues;
  • He’s an eight-time JUNO award winner.

Bernard AdamusBernard Adamus recently launched a third album, once again with a unique title: Sorel Soviet So What, a total nod to Megadeth’s So Far, So Good… So What! (1988). Nobody but Adamus could’ve come up with such a title. Alongside Lisa LeBlanc, Jean Leloup, Safia Nolin and their ilk, the lanky Adamus belongs to a coterie of charismatic characters that inhabit a certain corner of Québec’s musical panorama — lovely weirdos we yearn to know more about.
Sitting down with his mineral water(!) to tell the story behind the album title, Adamus is on fire: “One Halloween night, I went to a party dressed as a biker, and I wrote that on my arm; I thought it was really funny. But at the same time, it was a way to liberate myself from the judgement of others, a way of saying, ‘Let’s cut the crap, they’re nothing but songs!’ So, that utterly psychedelic title really is nothing more than the punchline of a really good joke. I thought it sounded good, so I kept it.”

Working with words, especially in the vernacular, is really important for Adamus. When you hear his songs, the words are fluid, they flow naturally. On songs like “Les pros du Rouleau” and “Donne-moi-z’en,” he reaches new heights in textual density. His delivery is machine-gun fast, so much so that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else but him breathing life into those words! “I can spend two days on a single sentence until I’m satisfied it sounds good,” he says. “Even if some people think I’m vulgar or whatever, it’s what the language brings to a song that makes it work, first and foremost. Everything stems from the relationship between the rhythm of the words and the meaning of the lyrics.”

Bernard AdamusIn “Le blues à GG,” Adamus went as far as writing music to the words of an author that shares his vision: Gérald Godin. “I tried to find something that spoke to me,” he says, “something I could naturally inhabit. This collage of a poem by Godin, I really could’ve almost written it myself!”

The Wee American Empire

For a long while, the working title of this album was Dix tounes américaines (Ten American Tunes). “In the end, it’s American music,” says Adamus. “I still play a mix of blues, cabaret tunes and ‘chanson.’ but I was getting fed up of being the token singer-bard. I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to go, but I sure knew where I didn’t want to go. The main thing was the groove. I wanted the music to be more alive. This album was built as a band album, not just musicians accompanying a singer.”

This quest for grooves led Adamus in uncharted territories, as on “Hola les lolos,” the Hawaiian-tinged single launched last summer. How can anyone resist the “L” alliteration in the celebratory chorus mantra? And yet, this homage to the female breast nimbly avoids the pitfalls of vulgarity (Ed Note: very loosely translated):


Le poids de ma noix quand l’vert jaunit (The weight of my noggin when green turns to yellow)
Dans l’creux d’tes mains que l’ciel est gris (While your hands gently cradle me and the sky is grey)
À snoozes-tu ben au p’tit matin (There’s nothin’ like snoozin’ in the early mornin’)
Ma belle grande face entre tes deux seins (My gorgeous face between your breasts)

“When I told the guys what I intended to do, they thought it was risky,” says Adamus. “I don’t believe I’ve offended anyone with that song; it’s the most politically correct on the album!” To wit: the song reached Montreal radio station CKOI’s Top 6 at 6.

Is Bernard Adamus on a quest to widen his audience, to win over new listeners? “The goal is to never compromise,” he says. I do my thing, and come what may. I think it’s very cool “Hola les lolos” made it on CKOI rotation, it’s great gift. In the world of pop, albums with two, maybe three good songs – and the rest is filler – are commonplace. I prefer to build a long-term relationship with my fans rather than having a radio hit. I prefer playing to a sold-out room in Trois-Rivières, especially since I really dig touring and playing live.”

Indeed, even before his album launched, Adamus already had more than 20 shows booked throughout fall. As a matter of fact, all of Sorel Soviet So What was written and composed on the road. He covered a lot of road and met a lot of people. “There’s a lot of movement involved,” he says, “and this album is a good reflection of the last three years which I’ve spent on the road.”

Between local legends and self-descriptive fiction, Adamus depicts a small, swarming, colourful, intriguing world. He looks tenderly, but without complacency, at the weirdos who inhabit his songs, before slipping back out of their strange world. “I shed part of my melancholy,” he says. “I’m still me, with the same perspective, talking about my life, but I also talk about others and less about my state of mind.

Alexe Gaudreault exploded onto the scene in 2013 when she blew away 2 million TV viewers – one of which happened to be songwriter Marc Dupré, who welcomed her on the hit TV show La Voix – following her powerful interpretation of Jacques Brel’s classic, “Quand on n’a que l’amour.”

Flash forward, and Alexe Gaudreault is sitting at the top of the BDS charts with her song “Placebo,” which she co-wrote alongside multi-instrumentalist and producer John Nathaniel, who’s scored many radio hits for Final State and Andie Duquette, and wordsmith Mariane Cossette-Bacon.

The song is firmly planted in current musical trends, and tailor-made for the airwaves, with a production that owes as much to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound as to earworms by contemporaries such as Ryan Tedder and Lana Del Rey.

The fiery redhead will be working hard in the coming weeks to complete her first full-length album in collaboration with Nathaniel. The album is slated for release sometime in 2016.