A sweet new sound 

Big Sugar reemerges for a one-off performance, while frontman Gordie Johnson also performs with new ‘cowboy metal’ group, Grady


Who: Big Sugar & Grady

When/Where: Friday, April 23, 2:30 p.m. (main stage with Current Swell), and 9 p.m. (GLC)

Cost: Daytime show, free! Evening set, advance tickets $15

To Gordie Johnson, frontman for longtime Canadian blues-rock band Big Sugar, music is anything but a commercial commodity. He isn't interested in appealing to new demographics or the marketing schtick that is part and parcel of the industry today; he just wants to make good music.

"That's what's wrong with a lot of music that's out there right now, is that its so overruled by demographics and subgenres," Johnson sighed. "Like, people, can we really stop thinking so much? You like it or you don't.

"I was too old to appeal to people in their 20s when Big Sugar was current and yet we made an entire massive career out of doing it."

These days, Johnson has been very busy creating new material as the vocalist and guitar player for the three-piece group, Grady, churning out the elusive genre that somehow, along the way, was dubbed "cowboy metal."

"We don't invent these things, people just say that about us!" Johnson said. "...The lyrics are probably more outlaw country, and there's a kind of Southern rock vibe to it as well, but it's really loud and really heavy and tuned really low, and the songs are really fast, so there's some resemblance to other forms of heavy metal, so it's not classic rock-based stuff, its not bluesy - it's none of those things."

A quick listen to Grady's third and most recent full-length album, As Good As Dead , proves that the two bands are entirely different animals. Where Big Sugar is more of a classic blues rock band, Grady has a far more country, heavy rock and roots feel. This all makes sense when you consider that Big Sugar's rock/reggae/blues vibe arose out of the rich, multicultural environment of Toronto's music scene, while Grady is inspired by Johnson's new stomping ground: Texas.

Featuring Johnson on guitar, Big Ben on bass, and Nina "The Queena" Singh on drums, and all three leading the vocal charge, the group has been out on tour for a few weeks now. On Monday, they were making their way from Grand Prairie to Calgary.

Johnson has also been playing solo acoustic gigs in Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia during the East Coast Music Awards, and pursuing production projects with East Coast artists like Joel Plaskett, The Novaks, Tim Chaisson and Chris Kirby.

"I kinda get around, hey?" Johnson chuckled.

All in all, this seems to be a very creative period in the established musician's career. And rather than finding the schedule exhausting, Johnson says it's exhilarating to be working on such a wide range of projects at once.

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