Hillbilly Highway – Carly Dow rolling solo

by Sheldon Birnie

Winnipeg folk fanatics undoubtedly know Carly Dow from her prior performances around Winnipeg with a variety of acts over the years, most notably Bog River. But after a couple solid years with the boys in Bog River, releasing a full-length and touring out west and back, the band recently called it a day. Now Carly Dow is stepping out onto the stage on her own again, with a big gig at the Folk Exchange on October 20th.

“I started playing in the middle of high school,” Dow told us over beers at Cousins recently. “I’ve kind of been back n forth with bands, though I’ve always played solo shows throughout the time I’ve been performing. I find I prefer to play with bands, because it’s a lot of fun to share the stage with people … Now [that the band is over] I’m back doing the solo thing, which is exciting. In a way it’s kind of liberating, to test the waters with that now.”

Carly, an avid writer since childhood, can trace her inspiration for songwriting back to Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”

“When I was starting off it was a lot of Neil Young, Bob Dylan, the classic ‘guys,'” she says with a chuckle, a beginning that many of today’s songwriters share. Since then, though, her tastes have shifted somewhat. “I love Dylan and I think his new stuff is great, but I hardly listen to him anymore. I guess now my music influences are all over the place, but Gillian Welsh is a huge one now. And other female artists, like Amelia Curran.”

After working with Bog River for over two years, Dow says her songwriting style hasn’t changed that much. In Bog River, she explained, each of the three songwriters — Carly, Dave Barchyn, and Ben Hadaller — would bring in their own songs, more or less complete, and the band would then work out their parts from there. Saturday’s performance will be the first time Dow has performed a batch of new tunes, though she has been quietly playing solo shows since the summer.

“I played a show at a luthier’s shop,” she tells Stylus, “that was pretty cool.” Along with some dates in Clear Lake and at Harvest Moon, Dow is now ready to really get rolling on her own.

“I’ve got a lot of new songs,” Dow explains, “and they’re very distinct from the stuff I was writing for Bog River. I’m trying to learn Banjo, so I’ve got a few banjo songs.”

With some aspirations to record an EP in the winter — “if I can get it together,” she says with a chuckle — and a desire to share her tunes with a growing audience, chances are you’ll be hearing a lot more from Carly Dow in the months to come. Get in on the ground floor and check her out this weekend.

Tickets for Saturday’s show are $10 in advance, and $12 at the Folk Exchange. Doors are at 7.15, show starts at 8.00. Her first set will be solo, and the second with a back-up band, including Bog River’s Ben Hadaller.

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