Hillbilly Highway – A few folks I’ve met this past year…



by Sheldon Birnie

Here we are in 2013, with lots to look forward to. Looking back on my own year, I’ve found a couple discs here on my desk that I’ve been meaning to comment on for months, but haven’t gotten around to. Now’s the time, I guess.

I spent a little time myself out on the Hillbilly Highway in 2012, though not nearly as much as most of the folks profiled here every week. Still, it’s nice to get out and watch the road fall away before you. One of the best things is meeting other players along the way.

In Edmonton this past April, I shared a bill with the Tchir brothers. Two incredibly tall fellows, they were solid instrumentalists, and made some tasty harmonies. Trevor, the elder brother, was the main songwriter of the two, though the younger brother accompanies a number of Edmonton folkies. Trevor Tchir has put out four albums in the last ten years, the most recent being Sky Locked Land. Strong songwriting, great singer, and tight arrangements make for a great disc, one that I’ve put on more than once, and well worth checking out.

Over in Saskatoon, I met a fellow by the name of Rocky Lakner, one of the founders of the Ness Creek Music Festival. His band of buddies was the main draw at the gig we were playing, and they displayed the kind of chops you’d expect from a group of folks who’ve been picking on stages, at cabins, and in kitchens for well over 20 years each. The crowd was primarily made up of the +40 crowd, but it was a rocking good time. Rocky gave me a copy of his most recent record, 2004’s Winter Bones. The disc is a nice one, but fails to fully capture the energy that Rocky & the boys displayed on stage. Still, not a bad set of songs for a dark winter evening at home.

Back in Winnipeg, I played an intimate little gig at the Mondragon with a fellow by the name of Jake Ian, also from Edmonton. He was out on the Highway for an extended western run. Ian’s style is more straight up country folk than Tchir or Lakner, and he plays with The Haymakers back in the city of champions. Jake Ian & The Haymaker’s latest disc is called Sad & Lonely Broken Man, and it’s worth a spin or two for the full sound it brings Ian’s tunes.

I’m excited to see what the next year bring us here on the Hillbilly Highway. I’m sure there’ll be lots to talk about, and plenty of new stuff to listen to. Keep posted, and keep yourself between the ditches, friends. See you down the line.

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