Hello… my name is South River Slim! For most of March & April 2020 I suffered from what I like to call “Post Traumatic Lack Of Performing ‘Live’ Music Disorder.
It seems the shit hit the fan like mom always said it would. I was unemployed, my band was unemployed, the fine establishments that I used to provide with my line of goods were shut down, some to never reopen again, and that was just the tip of the “pandemic’.
Usually all I need is Julie, and my music, but this was taking away one of them – my music and all that’s involved with it. How can I survive this? I went into a deep funk -deeper than the funk James Brown and the Famous Flames used to play. I could not touch my guitar. I touched my harmonicas often, but never once pressed them to my lips to play. Ever since I was a child of 10 I don’t think that had ever happened for more than a week. One thing I have always done since I was a kid, and thankfully never stopped, was writing.
I write in stacks of spiral notebooks, napkins, toilet paper (which was in short supply early on) and pretty much anything that was available. Pages filled with observations, limericks, best time of day to avoid lineups at the food market, the hours of operation at the LCBO, poems, songs and other assorted ramblings. That is what really kept me sane, or as sane as I could be.
Being isolated was not such a big deal for me, I’m always kinda’ isolated for most of every day – until I hit the stage or the ‘Killing Floor’ as I like to call it. I bided my time until I would go and try to sing some strangers blues and stress away with a song. Hell, I would sing my blues away too, it’s a two way street.
By June/July, I realized “I survived cancer”, so I can surely survive a pandemic! I got radiation in my blood and I am stronger than a cockroach! So when I started to come out of my funk, I happened to come across a song I had in the vaults that I recorded a year and half or more ago with my band mates John Law, Kevin Peterson and Adam Thomson.
I have always loved ‘I Wish It Would Rain’ by the Temptations, my favourite band out of Detroit and Motown. Hearing that, and their instruments and voices, my mojo came back and whacked me upside the head… bang!
That recording had aged like fine wine for a year or two for me and I was smitten again. I contacted them and arranged a time to see each other again. I was in Niagara 90% of the time in a one room studio apartment, isolated, and they were all coping with their own pandemic ups and downs. But most importantly, we had shake off the COVID-19 dust and play some music together again.
That started the engine up and we played and talked like we never skipped a beat. Six months away from it all quickly disappeared.
Last October/Nov 2019 I received an incoming message and song on my antenna. The muse gave me something I had to write down and compose. It seems like a premonition of things to come in 2020 in hindsight. It became “All The Pretty Children”.
Where is that coming from? That evening at the gig I told the guys about a song that just came to me and went over it a bit with them at soundcheck. “Hey guys I got this new song – it’s pretty and funny. Words like “plague and pestilence will fall down from the sky”. Little did I know what was going to come.
Flash to August 2020, recording “All The Pretty Children” in a semi abandoned warehouse. The pre-pandemic song about something like a pandemic came to life.
They say “Life imitates art”.
A couple weeks after the sessions I kept thinking about what would be the solo for the song, and Pow! Grady Caplin was just what it needed. I have been having Grady (who was 17 years old when he recorded that solo) come out now and then to join the band for years now, but it’s been awhile.
I rang him up, sent the song, and he put an amazing solo on it, at his home, while sending it to Derek Impens studio, all while I listened to mixes and a couple takes he did, in Niagara.
Now that’s what I call social distancing!
Throughout the lockdown I watched my full calendar of gigs, at casinos, summer festivals, taverns, roadhouses, and other fantastic venues pass by day by day by day. It was heartbreaking thinking of what could have been, but the two outdoor shows I did play with the band were great and very memorable.
I have been in contact with lots of friends who are musicians and getting them involved in all these projects I have coming. Hearing how this pandemic has affected them has been very moving. I am glad that they are getting some much needed joy from something as easy as me getting them to contribute to my songs. It’s been very heartwarming to me.
So stay tuned, I have lots of new music coming out. The first release is titled “I Licked It, So It’s Mine” that includes the first single “ All The Pretty Children” and many more. These songs will incorporate all the styles and sounds that I love, and some surprises too!
I always follow what the song wants – it’s the boss. If it wants Tex-Mex with an accordion, Bossa nova with Horns, Blues with a French Harp, or an Appalachian Murder Ballad with a Diddley Bow, I will gladly give it whatever it asks for and I will accept the songs as a gift from the gods.
As Winston Porter once said, “Yesterday is History – Tomorrow is Mystery – Today is a Gift”.
But sorry today, I have to run to the store before another second wave lockdown and buy some new pants. All of mine are worn out on the knees with holes from testifying on all those wooden, steel, and cement stages, preaching my blues non-stop for years… maybe one day.
Keep the Faith