Special to The Morning Star
One show – two superb blues musicians. Put them in an intimate setting and it makes for a very special evening of music.
The Vernon Folk-Roots Music presents Doug Cox and Mary Flower for an evening of acoustic blues on Thursday, April 11 at the Vernon Prestige Lodge and Conference Centre.
Both artists are highly regarded in the acoustic blues world. They have both been instructors at various guitar camps and workshops. Flower, who is now based out of Portland, Oregon, has won numerous Cascade Blues Association awards over the years. Cox is a world class dobro player and is the artistic director and producer of the Vancouver Island Music Fest.
Although Cox started out playing his grandfather’s guitar, he quickly became captivated by the dobro in his early 20s. “I had heard the dobro before,” says Cox. “But then I heard a self-titled album called T-Bone Burnett which featured Jerry Douglas on dobro. It just knocked me out – I’d never heard anything like it. At the time, I was promoting concerts in Victoria which included a show with Peter Rowan, Mark O’Connor and Jerry Douglas. The next day, I went to a music store and bought a decent, square-neck dobro. I became totally infatuated with that instrument,” he says.
“It’s a hard instrument to play so I initially worked really hard at it. But I loved it so much that I ended up practicing up to five hours a day to get the technique down.,” Cox explains.
“It literally opened up the world for me. There are just so many guitar players out there that’s it’s really hard to get past the local music scene. But as a dobro player, I was very quickly being hired to tour all over the world and play all sorts of events with all sorts of great people. I was the first Canadian to ever play at Dobrofest in Slovakia which was huge. I got to do a show with John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin- just the two of us as a duo. I became thought of as a world traveling musician rather than a local musician. It absolutely changed my world, musically.”
The world also changed for Flower when she went to college. “I grew in a little town where no one else played guitar,” Flower recalls. “I heard commercial stuff like Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan. But when I went to college at Indiana University, I was exposed to lot of different kinds of music and I began to correlate the roots of music. I discovered old blues legends like Reverend Gary Davis who did songs which were recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary. It became quite an inspiration for me when I began to explore and figure out some of the roots.”
When Cox and Flower get together on stage they both feel like they’re playing in a livingroom. It feels totally comfortable and familiar. Their friendship goes back several years.
“I first met Mary when we were working at the Acoustic Alaska Guitar Camp,” Cox says. “We were both there as instructors. I remember we sat in the cafeteria together and just played played. It was like we had played together forever. Every now and then you find musicians who breath and play the same way you do- those are are really magical moments.”
“As a person, Mary is lovely. She’s probably the most humble blues musician I’ve ever met. I think she’s truly one of the finest blues players and guitar players I’ve ever worked with,” Cox adds.
Obviously, the feeling with mutual. “Doug is one of the nicest guys I know,” says Flower. “He’s a very fine musician and he’s very comfortable to work with on stage. Also what i like is that we’re really at ease together playing off the cuff. We’ve both been doing this for so long that that when we get together, the magic happens very naturally.”
In addition to hearing superb acoustic blues, expect to see some wonderful, one of kind, handcrafted musical instruments on stage.
“I’ll be bringing four instruments along with me,” says Cox. “I plan to pack a mandolin along with a couple a couple of dobros and a guitar. It’s a new guitar which was built for me by Michael Dunn who is kind of the Picasso of guitar builders,” Cox explains. “Someone gave me some wood from a cabin that Muddy Waters grew up in and Michael Dunn built it into this guitar. There’s another piece of wood in that guitar which is 45,000 years old. This is a guitar which will never go on an airplane and I’ll never take it across the border. But because I’m driving, I’ll probably bring it along. Mary will also have a couple beautiful instruments so there’ll be lots to hear and see.”
Both artists are looking forward to kicking off their tour of British Columbia in Vernon. “Expect a wonderful evening of acoustic blues,” says Flower. “You’ll hear some ragtime and blues guitar, some really pretty stuff we’ve written, along with some instrumentals. We have some funny songs and some serious tunes. We’ll probably each do a couple of songs solo but most of the evening will consist of us playing together.”
“But most of all, I’m very enthused about going back up to Canada,” Flower states. “I’ve never been to the interior of British Columbia- I’m very much looking forward to it. Canada is such a beautiful country and the people are so nice – it’ll do my heart good to go up there again and play some great old acoustic blues with my good friend, Doug Cox. What could be better? I absolutely can’t wait.”
The Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society presents Doug Cox and Mary Flower Thursday April 11 at the Vernon Prestige Lodge and Conference Centre. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Showtime is 7:30. Tickets are $30, $25 for members. Food and alcohol will be available at the show. Tickets through ticketseller.ca (250-549-7469), Expressions Of Time bookstore (2901- 30 Avenue) or at the door, if available (cash only.) Receive a 10 per cent discount on purchases at the Lodge Kitchen & Bar and at Don Cherry’s Sports Grille with proof of purchase on day of show. For more information, go to: vernonfolkroots.com.