Songwriter Shawn Brush – The Krooked Cowboy – Celebrates At The Casbah

[October 12, 2013] Shawn Brush is 44. It has been ten years since his concert at the Staircase Theatre, and about 20 years since he launched his career as a singer-songwriter.

The Krooked Cowboy performed for an enthusiastic audience of fans, friends, and family at The

Shawn Brush and band.
Photo: Sam DeRosa

Casbah last night. Accompanying him was Dave Gould on drums, Harry White on upright bass, Mike Foley on guitar, Dave Maclean on mandolin and special treat Terry Edmunds, a recent “import” from down East but now based in Brantford, on guitar.

The sound was perfect, not overpowering. Considering the fact that three electric guitars (Brush, Foley and Edmunds) were present onstage, that’s a feat of musical sensitivity on their part, and it made for a rich, ever-evolving mix of textures. The sidemen all proved their mettle early on as Brush made some pretty quick turns in the arrangements, and, despite one ending that seemed to come too early, the band hung together like glue.

Lori Yates then took the stage with Duane Rutter. The appearance of these two was a pleasant surprise. A Juno nominee and Hamilton Music Award double winner, Lori is well-established as a performer and has become somewhat of a mentor in the Hamilton songwriters’ community. How nice that she would appear to help Brush celebrate. Rutter’s accompaniment to Yates filled things out oh so perfectly. His recent CD, Waiting Room, was “25 years in the making.” and is now available on Busted Flat Records. Yates’ most recent offering is The Book of Minerva, offered independently. The CD was released a few years back, and more recently, Yates has been teaching the craft of songwriting through her Creative Genius Songwriting Workshops.

Duane Rutter, Lori Yates
Photo: Sam DeRosa

While Yates performed, Brush moved smartly around the room greeting all the guests. We all joined together to sing Happy Birthday to Shawn. There was a great feeling of camaraderie.

Next to appear was Sarah Beatty. Her Black Gramophone CD is available on Bandcamp. What can I say? She was good a year and a half ago when I saw her at the Artbar. Back then I was struck by the quality of her voice and the wistful, adventuresome lyrics she put down. I was also impressed by her sensitivity to connecting and being honest with her audience. Well, one CD and about 40 gigs later, and heaping helpings of self-analysis (too often this ingredient is lacking in a musician’s professional repertoire) and some well-founded feedback, Beatty has become very, very good. Beatty has a penchant for writing songs that pull from everywhere, and connect with everyone. Tonight (oh joy oh bliss!) she was joined by a guitarist and bassist, confirming my theory that her voice is (also) suited to a more dynamically diverse setting. Now I’m wishing for a full band and some backup vocals!

Brush’s remarks after Beatty’s set, where she had the audience wrapped around her pinky, “You’re going to be famous!”

Terry Edmunds, Sarah Beatty, Harry White
Photo: Sam DeRosa

Brush performed songs from his latest CD The Krooked Cowboy Rides Again and mixed it up with some covers and a variety of his other songs. He has a lot of material to draw upon. To get a true picture of Shawn Brush, you owe it to yourself to read his autobiography, The Krooked Cowboy (Farrington, Trafford Publishing, 2009). There’s a good, strong dose of reality TV between those pages.

Shawn Brush is a man whose musical path has been discovered and mapped according to his imagination and desire. At times his body and his health requires him to adjust his plans, or simply slow down and rest, but he has no desire to let fatalistic, institutional thinking restrict his activity. Lucky for us who get to enjoy his music as a result!

And the music is the real gem. Brush’s voice is easy to listen to, soothing and flowing. His performance of the covers was very good, but it was the gentle and thoughtful metaphors in his own lyrics that added the extra stroke of creativity. His finger picking was clean and his rhythmic sense was secure, allowing him to turn an unexpected phrase to keep things fresh. With Brush holding down the front of the stage, the others stayed back until they had an opportunity to solo. I especially enjoyed Edmunds’ jazzy, warm tone and creative phrasing which added an interesting angle to the music.

The evening was thoroughly enjoyable. Congratulations and happy birthday Shawn. I’m looking forward to hearing your next collection of songs.

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