April 22, 2024
René Huard Project – Blues Calling

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René Huard Project – Blues Calling

Self-release

No website

12 songs – 49 minutes

René Huard is a Niagara-based singer, songwriter, guitarist and harmonica player. A long-time veteran of the Canadian roots music scene, Huard’s latest CD, Blues Calling, offers 12 self-written blues and blues-rock tracks that emphasize his writing talents.

The opening, swampy, Thunderbirds-esque “Hard Times” feeds neatly into the heavy blues-rock of “Child’s Play” which itself leads into the rocky title track on which Huard name-checks his primary blues influences and asserts that the blues chose him, rather than vice versa. Huard lays down a neat slide guitar solo on this song. It’s a breathless start to an album that is packed with upbeat numbers.

Blues Calling was recorded live off the floor in Courtice, ON, with minimum overdubs and Jack de Keyzer (who recorded, mixed and mastered the album) deserves credit for capturing an excellent, raw sound that sounds like a band tearing up a small club on a Saturday night.

Huard provides vocals, harmonica, rhythm guitar and slide guitar on “Blues Calling”, “Ten Pound Stone” and “Hurry Up Slow”. His backing band includes de Keyzer on lead and rhythm guitar, percussion and backing vocals; Alec Fraser Jr on bass guitar; Al Cross on drums and percussion, Eric Lambier on keyboards and backing vocals and Richard Thornton on percussion and backing vocals. Together, they lay down a series of danceable, toe-tapping grooves, particularly excelling on the upbeat rock’n’roll of “Retsina”.

Huard is a smart songwriter with a neat turn of phrase in his lyrics (what man doesn’t recognise the feeling in “Favourite Shirt” when Huard sings “my favourite shirt, lip gloss on the sleeve. It looks so much better on her than it does on me”?). He also has a gritty voice that suits the music perfectly and is a fine harp player (check out in particular the solos and licks at the end of each verse in “Blindspot”). His slide guitar works especially well on dirty, gritty “Ten Pound Stone”, which closes the album.

de Keyzer lays down a series of great guitar solos throughout the album, including a nod to Stevie Ray Vaughan in the Texas shuffle of “I Do”, some serious string mangling in “Blindspot”, dreamy single note melodies in “Sharp Curves” and even an acoustic solo in “Broken Halo”, one of the quieter moments on the album, which works extremely well.

On the evidence of Blues Calling, René Huard and his band must be a great experience live. If you’re not based around the Niagara area, however, this CD is a pretty fine substitute.

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