However these days the blues. (although seemingly on a decline in recent years), might be receiving a resurgence of a kind, among those in the know, who know where to go to see true old time blues played the way it’s supposed to be played, gutbucket and all!
Recently, I had the good fortune to see these two well-respected (although young by blues standards -- ie: 91 year old Pinetop Perkins and others of the 80 plus and 90 plus year age bracket, like Honeyboy Edwards, Gatemouth Brown, etc.) perform a concert at Chicago’s Diner, a small but enchanting blues club full of atmosphere and charm in Toronto’s west end blues district. (There’s also a Chicago’s Diner East these days too, that all the top blues talent perform at). The Fauth/Charles duo at times expands into a full band form, called Chain Gang the name itself reminiscent of hard times ‘n’ trouble as the late, great Muddy Waters and others have so often accurately described it. However, these talented individuals including Sam Petite on upright bass and Michael Clifton on drums, take the blues away, ‘til it surely comes back another day as the proverbial blues song goes. This is a natural state of affairs, among those who play it well, and live it well, as these artists certainly do!
Julian’s piano riffs at Chicago’s downtown, were fast and furious at times, leading the way and racing along with Charles’ rousing harp tones and vocals. Occasionally Fauth took over the vocals, and it seemed as if Robert Johnson or Sunnyland Slim had a chance to sing once more in the familiar surroundings they haunted and craved in the America of the 1920s and ‘30s. The atmosphere was right and the music was thoroughly appropriate to a laid back friendly blues club like Chicago’s Diner. Petite’s upright bass was pumpin’ out its steady bottom end, and the energy from Clifton’s drums helped keep this blues mixture smokin’!
The next evening as a duo, Fauth and Charles performed at Easy & the Fifth -- an elegant but comfortable and fun blues establishment located in Toronto’s west-end dance club district. This is an area known for cabs stalled in traffic jams alongside other vehicles heading for the same good times.
Easy & the Fifth is an establishment Fauth and Charles have called home for a couple of years now. The atmosphere here is like that of an elegant speakeasy of the 1920s, complete with stained wood paneling and bar and comfortable, overstuffed couches. The elegant but inviting atmosphere is completed with paintings of schooners, etc. on the walls; that might have at one time hung in a gentleman’s private club 100 years ago. Although these days fortunately, the ladies flock here too; attracted by the allure of Easy’s luxurious and comfortable surroundings.
One of the highlights of Easy & the Fifth, is an antique grand piano, with a rare wrap-around piano bar three feet deep, encircling the sides and back of this monstrous keyboard. Guests sit around this piano bar, drink in hand, so they can be right up front, experiencing the rootsy blues Fauth and Charles entertain them with each and every week. With harp and keyboards in hand along with vocals and a song selection that reflects these artists’ thorough knowledge of the best early blues and boogie woogie around and their own dynamite originals -- ensures that the fans at Easy are always in for a treat of the best bluesy kind.
These talented individuals are an awards show unto themselves insofar as the high caliber of entertainment they put forth on stage. They’re also at ease with the audience at every venue they perform at, as if they’re playing for a group of friends they’ve known for years which in some cases is absolutely true! Sometimes they have special guests drop in like long time friend and harp player David Rotundo a rare treat these days, since Rotundo’s often busy fronting his own impeccable Maple Blues Award-winning blues band, The Blue Canadians. www.davidrotundo.com. Fauth plays keyboards and sings vocals in this band. Fauth and Rotundo have been friends and band mates since the days when they packed the sadly no longer Baldwin St. Café, that was owned by their friend and fellow blues enthusiast Robert Khalem in the colorful Kensington Market area of Toronto’s west end.
Fauth and Charles both have their own CD’s out, and each is as entertaining as the other. Fauth’s is called The World You Live In, and is cram-packed full of Fauth originals both rousing, upbeat and slow and insightful -- and thoroughly spectacular! Charles’ is called Tombstone Bullets, as is his earlier band and is loaded with good time harp playing that’s original and catchy. However these CD’s have become semi-collectors items, since their availability and initial small run in addition to their popularity among fans, has made them very hard to come by. This writer feels lucky to own a copy of each, so that when I’m not lucky enough to be out seeing Julian Fauth and Wayne Charles and sometimes Chain Gang perform, I can listen to a little of their bluesy virtuosity at home on my CD player.
Fauth has his own website where cyber visitors can see show schedules, look at photos of past performances, and also read some of Fauth’s reminiscences of places he’s performed as far away as Russia, and as exotic and adventuresome as the back road villages and towns of Cuba. Fauth has performed at every end of the spectrum on these journeys from sitting in with local musicians in the open air under the stars, to packing the house in the major clubs.
Fauth’s fine literary talents are on a par with his talents as a blues artist and composer. After reading his reminiscences of blues travels, this writer gets the impression that Fauth if not preoccupied with being an artist, could have a full time job as the Ernest Hemingway of blues journalists. His vast knowledge of the blues and his discerning taste in anything blues-related that he’s watching, listening to and performing makes Fauth an outstanding and perceptive blues-minded individual. So, if you hear the names Julian Fauth, Wayne Charles or Chain Gang and happen to find out they’re performing somewhere near you, be sure to go give a listen, and I’m sure you’ll be hooked and be back for more.
Artists: Julian Fauth and Wayne Charles -- and Chain Gang (featuring Fauth & Charles)
Article: Julian Fauth in Cuba by Julian Fauth www.mnblues.com/review/2003/julianfauth-cuba-jf.html in Blues On Stage
CD Review: Julian Fauth The World You Live In - by Gary Tate www.mnblues.com/cdreview/2003/julianfauth-world-gt.html in Blues On Stage
Chicago’s Diner 335 Queen St. West
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Easy & the Fifth 221 Richmond St. West Toronto, Ontario, Canada 416-979-3000