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Bob Walsh

Posted by donaldwhite on September 7, 2008

 

Bob Walsh has defined Quebec’s blues history over the past three decades. For more than 30 years, this singer-guitarist has traveled all over Québec singing the blues with his unforgettable voice, and he still plays his favourite music with the same passion.

Bob Walsh
Bob Walsh

 

His musical journey started back in the 60’s, with his first band, the “Blue Boys Band”, and took on various forms throughout the years. For a quarter of a century, we’ve seen him strumming his guitar and singing from one venue to another, from town to town, in the company of one or more of his loyal musicians. Among the numerous musical projects to which Bob Walsh’s name has been associated, we can mention the group “Contrebande”, which appeared around 1977, followed by “The Devito Walsh Band” formed by Bob and André Devito in the late 70’s.

As the 1980’s came around, Bob Walsh was frequently seen with harmonica-players such as Billy Craig or Guy Bélanger, to name a few. We also saw him perform at the Mardis Jam at Café Campus in Ste-Foy, where he left his mark on a live album in the fall of 1982. His name also appears in the credits as producer-singer of the musical themes of two of Yves Simoneau’s movies; Dernier Voyage (1981), and Les Yeux Rouges (1982). In 1986, this filmmaker included a scene of Bob Walsh singing in the movie Pouvoir Intime. In the meantime, he moved to Montréal, a period marked by his first appearances at Les Nuits Bleues de Québec and the Montréal International Jazz Festival.

In 1996, his colleague musician Jocelyn Picard gave him the opportunity to record his first self-titled album on the Blueson label.The Bob Walsh album includes 12 songs of which 11 are his own composition or collaborations, including Cookie YouCoffee Pot,Jail, and Mon calendrier. A big part of Bob Walsh’s repertoire is proof of his unshakable loyalty to his musical inspirations. His renditions of For What it’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield, 1967), I’m Tired (Savoy Brown, 1969), Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers, 1971) along with I’m Ready by B.B. King, are signature songs for his many fans. His 2nd album, Bob Walsh en Spectacle in 1998 on the Bros label, includes some of his most memorable cover songs.

In the winter of 1999 came the idea of including a harmonica quartet to perform with Bob for his next gig. The idea evolved to include the collaboration of Stéphane Allard’s string quartet as well. As the first rehearsals passed, Bob was surprised at the clarity of pianist Jean-Fernand Girard’s arrangements, who worked on a dozen selected pieces. The first series of shows were presented to the public in March 1999 at the Monument National in Montréal. The response was very positive. Shows performed at La Maison de la Culture Frontenac in Montréal and at l’Anglicane in Lévis were recorded and the album Bob Walsh et le Quatuor à Cordes Allard was launched on March 29, 2000 by Bros. With high praise from critics and by word of mouth, the public interest grew and the shows were presented again due to popular demand in such prestigious venues as Le Grand Théâtre de Québec and Théâtre Corona in Montréal.

Surrounded by the same team, in the spring of 2001, he embarked upon updating his show with the songs that marked his childhood. 14 pop and jazz classics from the 50’s were revisited with the help of the “Bad Brass” horn section and, of course, with the Allard’s string quartet. Unforgettable Songs, released on the Cœur de Lion label, has sold 28,000 copies to date and was his calling card to a larger public. This album proposes Bob Walsh’s rendition of such popular songs as Fly Me to the MoonFeverOver the Rainbow and Summertime (a duet with Térez Montcalm). The following autumn, a brand-new experience began when Bob and his “inoubliables” were brought together with the 70 musicians from l’Orchestre symphonique de Québec. The same show had a regular run with 9 musicians at the Hull Casino, The Québec City Summer Festival and all across the province.

Following this success, Cœur de Lion offered Bob Walsh a chance to immortalize the blues repertoire that has been making his reputation for the past 30 years. His new album Bob Walsh Blues was recorded with his Blues Band in September 2002, in Radio-Canada’s studio 12 (Montréal), and launched at the Théâtre Corona on October 30th. The album includes Buzzard Luck (Powder Blues), Born in Chicago (Paul Butterfield), One Way Out (Allman Brothers) and many more.

Only a year later, we were offered Bob Walsh Christmas, a unique rendition of some of the most beautiful Christmas songs, concocted with the help of Jean-Fernand Girard. For the 13 pieces, chosen from a shortlist of 40, Bob Walsh was accompanied by such talented guests as the J Project Choir (14 strong voices!), les Violons du Roy de Québec (a string ensemble headed by Jean-Marie Zeitouni), and the voices of Jimmy Bowskill and Monique Fauteux.

Bob Walsh received the Lys Blues for “Album of the Year” for the album Blues in September 2004, and was also awarded his first Félix for “Artiste québécois s’étant le plus illustré dans une autre langue que le français” (Best Québecois Artist in a Language Other Than French). With a career spanning over 30 years, multiple concerts across Québec, France, Switzerland and the US, three nominations at l’ADISQ in the last four years, Bob Walsh was officially “Québec’s Blues Performer par Excellence”.

2004 saw him record Bob Walsh Live – A Canadian Blues Rendez-Vous, a unique concert at the “Festival International de Jazz de Montreal” with special guests from all over Canada including Jack De Keyzer, Glamour Puss, David Gogo and Dawn Tyler Watson. That recording saw him tour extensively in 2005 and 2006 including dates in Vancouver and in the Maritimes.


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