Knowing the bluesman 

Improv stylings fresh from Vancouver Island

Who: Thor and the Thundercats

Where: The Shack

When: Saturday, Jan. 26

The sky may be crying, but the bluesman, it seems, keeps smiling.

"Our music puts you in a certain mood, and blues talks. With room for improv, you can also get a lot of emotion out of blues guitar that has less structure than some forms of jazz," says Thor Kristinsson, lead vocalist with Thor and the Thundercats.

The band currently play at two jam session weekly at the Black Swan Pub on Shawnigan Lake, Vancouver Island, and revels in the improv.

"I never play the same solo, in the same way, twice. To me that’s boring. My drummer and I have been playing together for a long time, so I just have to look at him and he knows (where I want to go with the music)," says Kristinsson. "If you’re around for long enough and gain (enough experience together as a band), you create a good blues sound," he adds.

Thor and the Thundercats is Kristinsson on lead guitar and vocals, brother Hoss Kristinsson on bass guitar, and Ray Flatman from Victoria on drums, since the departure of Paul Milne in 1998.

Their first album, Once in a Blue Moon (1997), was straight blues, while the second album, Diggin’ It , features horns from Wayne Diggins. Their first album was recorded at Island Pacific Studios, while the next album was recorded live on a Roland track and finished in Kristinsson’s home studio.

The new album in progress promises more Texas Blues traditions. The placement of horns, unusual in a blues band, continues to be a feature of their work.

"It’s amazing what sound a horn can add and what it can do. Horn players can really do anything and go anywhere in their music," says Kristinsson. "I used to play with a trumpet player in my old band the Suspects for five years, and I still play with ‘Stuffy’ once in awhile."

Kristinsson imigrated to Vancouver from Iceland when he was two years old, and has been playing music since the ’70s. With brother Hoss, he formed the band in 1995, while supporting their music through commercial fishing in the summer seasons.

Original songs include I Am the Blues, Main Street, and Ain’t it Strange.

"I prefer when people dance and have a good time at shows, so I do what it takes to get them there," adds Kristinsson.

From jazz, Thor draws inspiration in blues. "People like Ronny Earle play instrumental jazz that has a bluesy feel. I often get song ideas when I go to someone else’s venue, but it won’t be anything to do with what they’re playing necessarily," he adds.

Classics like Mustang Sally and Midnight Hour are also part of the Thundercats’ show.

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