Here for some winter warmth away from their native sub zero Manitoba, Gordie Tentrees and Jaxon Haldane kicked off what local promoters, Sounds In The Suburbs are calling their Canadian season, with an effervescent show which was high on energy and full of fun. The pair play a rootsy blend of folk, blues and country with Tentrees pumping up the energy via foot stomped tambourine and percussion while Haldane provides some excellent accompaniment on guitars – traditional and cigar box slide driven – banjo and, on one occasion, a singing saw. Tentrees’ rapid fire raps, introducing songs, interrupting songs and generally just giving us a very humorous lowdown on what we were hearing was invigorating and, as we have already said, a barrel of laughs at times.
Many of the songs played were familiar from their recently released live album Grit but with Tentrees’ constant commentary (absent from the album) the songs grew in stature and force (and humour). The opening ‘Sideman’s Blues’ was an indication of what was to come as it was delivered at a breakneck pace like Woody Guthrie on speed with Haldane spitting out a frenzied banjo solo. They fairly zipped through their set but there were some moments when the pace slowed although the energy remained as when they sang ‘Armand’ with Haldane pulling out some gnarly slide guitar and on the wonderful ‘Holy Moly’, stuffed full of slightly surrealistic words and borne aloft by Haldane’s wizardry on his musical saw.
Waxing lyrical as he spoke about marriage, adoption and even the prolonged terminal illness of a friend Tentrees commanded attention, a big personality indeed. His song about hipsters, ‘Craft Beards And Man Buns’, provoked some knowing titters from the crowd but the biggest cheers of the night were for a song written by a chum of Tentrees’, Steve Poltz. Their version of ‘Hey God I’ll Trade You Donald Trump For Leonard Cohen’ was much more frantic than the original and was enlivened by the clever snippets of ‘America The Beautiful’ and even the Star Wars theme woven into their frantic delivery. It’s not to decry the duo’s own songs but this punchy diatribe just hit the zeitgeist.
Jaxon Haldane had his moment to shine with a short opening set which was engaging. Singing about crystal meths users, and paying tribute to his Canadian mentor, Willie P Bennett, he’s a skilful entertainer in his own right. He had a grand banjo joke and also launched into one of the weirdest song intros we’ve heard in a while as he told us of his Icelandic grandparents and the grisly story of an amputated leg which is now a family heirloom. He also provided the pair’s encore song, another nod to Bennett, as they cast the hilarity aside for a very fine delivery of ‘Willie’s Diamond Joe’ with lonesome harp and sinewy slide guitar. All in all an excellent and very entertaining evening.