Vocals something to sing about 

Acoustic musician Rob Thompson morphs from Celtic to rock, solo to band

Who: Rob Thompson

When: Thursday, June 1 & Friday, June 2

Where: Crystal Lounge

Admission: Free

Sitting back listening to musician Rob Thompson’s warm voice at one of the local haunts around town is like soaking in a bath – you could just sit in that comforting, easiness for a lifetime.

Every musician has his own strength: Guitar Doug needs no last name introduction. Murphy’s Lagh boasts a tickle trunk of instruments. But, Rob is all about rich vocals. Sure he knows how to work a room after hopping Whistler’s live music circuit over the past five years, but it is his plush sound, so steady and consistent that it easily falls into the background of a conversation, that makes his music such a joy to hang out in.

"I approached the guitar in a way to accompany my voice," Thompson says before one of his regular evening sets at the Dubh Linn Gate.

"My granddad was a jazz piano player and my mom a choir singer. I guess I got it from her."

Most know Thompson as the Dubh Linn Gate posterboy, the ringleader of the infamous Celtic crusaders, The Bowen Boys.

The Bowen Island reveler switches up his toe-tapping, grab-a-partner-to-jig solo shows with rotating guest musicians, including Juno-Award-winning banjoist Cam Salay and ex-Paperboys fiddlers Moritz Behm and Shannon Saunders.

While Celtic/Irish tunes have become a mainstay of this musician’s music score with Paddy pub performances in Whistler, Vancouver and Victoria, the Ontario native first broke in his guitar strings with folk and rock, a pastime he still exercises outside of the shamrock gigs.

In addition to shows at the Dubh Linn Gate June 6 and 7, Thompson switches from green to blues Thursday, June 1 and Friday, June 2 at the Crystal Lounge.

Blues in the rock ’n’ roll sense, along with everything but the kitchen sink, work their way into the Crystal cover sets geared to the lounge’s 20-to-30-something crowd. Thompson originally fell in love with the singer/songwriters of the 1970s, but his repertoire runs record-store proportions, from Neil Young to Jack Johnson.

What musician does he idolize?

"I wish I could play like Bruce Cockburn and I’d be married to Joni Mitchell," he jokes. "They are two of the greatest songwriter/players. And they are both Canadian to boot."

Thompson is an original musician in his own right as well, but these days songwriting is pulled curbside as he travels the Sea to Sky Highway five to seven days a week for gigs. He wouldn’t have it any other way though.

"I am happy working," he said. "I am always looking for more of it. I love what I do… I never make a set list. I always try to add new tunes, but it is difficult when I am playing as much as I am."

Neither a nine to fiver, nor a cross-country gypsy musician, Thompson is grateful for the rare close-to-home lifestyle his self-made profession affords him. He manages to live out pockets of escape on his 27-foot Catalina sailboat moored on Bowen Island, where he also performs as part of a five-piece band. The Rob Thompson Band features Thompson, Peter Sinclair and Brian Newcombe, as well as Vancouver sax legend Wayne Kozak and Juno-Award-winning drummer Buff Allen.

"Playing in so many different places with different people always keeps things interesting," Thompson says.

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