True blues, remixed 

Prodigal performer puts fresh spin on the blues

click to enlarge Soulful Singer Jimmy Bowskill brings a blend of blues and rock to the GLC next Thursday
  • Soulful Singer Jimmy Bowskill brings a blend of blues and rock to the GLC next Thursday

Who: Jimmy Bowskill

When: Thursday, May 1

Where: Garibaldi Lift Co.

Tickets: $15

Chances are, the mere mention of the blues makes you envision a weathered man wailing away on a sax in a dark lounge. Well, don’t come to Jimmy Bowskill’s show at the GLC expecting to see that — Bowskill isn’t your typical blues player, in any sense.

This 17-year-old performer is as fresh-faced as they come in the blues business, but his soulful lyrics and solid guitar riffs are bound to blow audiences away.

And he’s no newcomer to the scene; Bowskill was discovered at the age of 11, while he was performing in the street.

“Well, I wanted to meet Jeff Healey — it was Jeff Healey’s club, right — and we heard there was a jam night there every Thursday, so dad called ahead and asked if I could go and play my guitar,” Bowskill recalled. “They said, ‘No, your son’s 11. This is a bar, you know?’”

Bowskill persisted, and got his dad to take him down so he could sit and perform in front of the club. A few hours later, Healy came out, introduced himself, and invited Bowskill into the club.

His career began to blossom from that single meeting; it turns out it actually wasn’t a jam night at the club, but a special guest night, with a performance by Chuck Jackson from the Downchild Blues Band.

Jackson saw Bowskill play and immediately invited him to play at the Southside Shuffle festival, an annual jazz and blues festival in Ontario.

“Then gigs just started coming from there,” Bowskill said.

Now, he’s been performing publicly for almost six years, and has shared the stage with legendary bluesmen like Dickey Betts, ZZ Top, Garth Hudson, and Deep Purple.

From the small community of Baileyborough, just outside of Peterborough, Ontario, Bowskill was introduced to music at a young age.

“My dad always had a lot of music around,” Bowskill explained. “He’s a big music lover.”

This passion eventually inspired Bowskill to pick up the guitar and try his hand at creating the music he’d fallen in love with — the blues.

“It just really struck me,” he explained. “Blues is really soulful and it’s really real, you know? There’s nothing fake about it.”

Over the years, he’s managed to put his own unique twist on blues, creating a high-energy infusion of rock, similar to ZZ Top and Led Zeppelin.

He just released his third record under Universal Distribution, which he’s currently touring across Canada.

“Its a lot more rock and roll. There’s a lot more edge to it. The first record is really traditional blues, and the second record is verging on more rock sound.… It’s just been a natural movement, really, I just like rockin’ out,” he said with a laugh.

While living a musician’s life may be a bit different from a typical teenager’s existence, Bowskill definitely doesn’t feel like he’s missed out on his childhood, adding that music has taken him all over the world, from the Ukraine to Japan.

Bowskill actually came to play in Whistler a few years ago, which he says was a great experience, with a lot of young people coming out to enjoy his rock-blues blend.

Now, this busy 17 year old is returning for another show before taking a bit of a break in June, when he’ll work on some material for his next album. Then he’s off to Europe to tour for a few weeks.

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