By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – It’s not hard to tease a tantalizing tale out of David Gogo. The renowned Canadian blues guitarist has seen enough of the world from both sides of the curtain to bend your ear for more than an evening’s worth of fat-chewin’ entertainment.
It only makes sense that the charismatic bandleader spreads his talents as widely as possible. It’s a chore he makes tidy work of by dividing his time between performing with his three geocentric bands and taking his storytelling to the stage as the consummate singer/songwriter soloist.
“I just had the tunes cranked. That’s what I do,” Gogo begins. “There’s basically two things that I do. When I play with my band, and I actually have three different bands – a band in B.C., a band in Ottawa, and a band in Holland – that’s the basis of what I’m best known for, but I also do solo acoustic shows. When lot of artists do their unplugged shows it’s basically the same songs, but without the band. When I do my acoustic show it’s completely different.”
Whether he’s performing his latest compositions or paying tribute to the history of the art form, Gogo’s reverence for the past remains a constant in his exploration of guitar virtuosity, as demonstrated on his most recent LP, the gritty Vicksburg Call (2015). This balance of playful innovation and respect for what has come before is also reflected in the way he presents them to his audience.
“When I do the acoustic show the two instruments I play are a 1930 National steel guitar, like a resonator instrument, then I have an old Gibson that was built somewhere in the late teens or early 20’s of the last century. So, that’s much more of traditional blues and roots sound; I do a lot of storytelling during that show,” Gogo elaborates.
“So, if I’m going to tell a story about hanging out with Buddy Guy or B.B. King, it’s easier to do [so] in front of a crowd that’s not distracted. But then when I play with my band we rock out a lot more, and it’s all electric instruments. I think out of the 14 albums I’ve made two of them are acoustic and a dozen were electric. I really like to rock out and crank up the old Les Paul guitar through the Marshall and get that going!”
Looking back at his own road to professional musicianship, Gogo recognizes how fortunate he was to encounter the many personalities who encouraged him early on in his artistic career. It’s a legacy he hopes to perpetuate and celebrate as he prepares to bring his electrified blues-rock back to some of his favourite western Canadian haunts.
“I try to remember how kind a lot of the musicians were to me when I was a young person. People like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins were very encouraging to me and just were fantastic. I think about it now, and I must have been a real pain in the ass, but they kind of accepted me and let me hang out with them. So, I try to return that favour. For 14 years I was involved in a Blues Camp that made music on Hornby Island; there was a lot of mentoring and not just that, but seeing people who’ve gone from being students to becoming professional musicians, [Edmonton’s so-called ‘Queen of the Swamp Blues’] Kat Danser being one of them. It feels good to be able to give back whatever you can.”
David Gogo performs October 5 (with his band) at Ironwood (Calgary) and October 6 and 7 at Shakers Road House (Edmonton).blue steel, David Gogo, Ironwood, Shakers Road House