Rocking up a young bluesman 

Only 16 years old, Jimmy Bowskill has already played with ZZ Top, Jeff Healey and B.B. King

By Nicole Fitzgerald

Who: Jimmy Bowskill

When: Saturday, May 19

Where: Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC)

Tickets: $15

Finally old enough to drive, but no money for a car.

“It costs a lot,” said Jimmy Bowskill. “I was thinking of getting a motorbike. That might be cool.”

The dreamings of any regular 16-year-old Ontario boy.

Only he’s already lived the other dream: the dream of becoming a rock ’n’ roll star. He’s got a few more years before he becomes a legend and blues rolls its way into his new rockier sound, but with a 2005 Juno nomination for Blues Album of the Year and stage credits including the company of B.B. King, Jeff Healey, ZZ Top and Dickey Betts of the Allman Bros., no one can deny Bowskill is a rock star in the making.

For him, the dream would play out like the Black Sabbath concert he saw a few months back at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

“I’d eventually like to do arena rock tours, someday,” he said on the road earlier this week.

The closest he’s come is sharing stages with arena musicians.

“I am a huge ZZ Top fan,” he said. “To meet Billy Gibbons was really big. He is such a cool guy. I went up to him and told him what a big fan I was. He was like ‘Oh yeah, whatever.’ He asked me what guitar I was using and we talked guitar gear for an hour. It was awesome.”

Bowskill’s talent was discovered right from the get go. Jeff Healey walked past the then 11-year-old singer/songwriter playing his guitar in the street in front of Healey’s club in Toronto. Bowskill was invited to join Healey on stage and Bowskill hasn’t looked back.

Three albums, one Juno nod and two Canadian Indie Award Favourite Blues Artist wins later, Bowskill has proved he is not just a wünderkind, but a phenomenal musician.

He just released his new self-titled album earlier this week, launching an edgier sound than the traditional blues albums he usually puts out.

“It is a little on the heavier side,” he said. “I’ve always loved blues music. It’s the soul of it. When you play the blues, you really put your heart and soul into it.”

Bowskill has always listened to the 1970s rock vibe that makes its way onto his new album. Dropping the harmonica and instead opting for a trio, also leant to the more rock and roll sound.

Bowskill lives by the lyrics behind one of the new tracks: Diamond Ring.

“It’s about following your dreams and not letting anyone pull you down,” he said.

He explained his parents, now managers, are what keep him afloat, leaving the dirty business of surviving the industry machine to them while he focuses on the creative side of the business. And these days, business is all about blues rock.

“Blues rock is really coming back,” he said. “I think people are looking for real music. A lot of the stuff out there, pop and rap, is really produced. It’s not real musicians playing on that stuff. It’s all electronic.”

Get a real preview of Bowskill’s music at jimmybowskill.com. Advance $15 tickets are now available at the GLC.

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