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Vernon restaurant serves up support for Saskatchewan musician

Jack Semple plays 1516 Pub and Grill June 9

A Saskatchewan musician is seeing a swell of support two provinces west in Vernon.

Jack Semple, a bluesy-rock guitarist raised on B.B. King, is being brought to the Okanagan for a Thursday, June 9 show at 1516 Pub and Grill.

“You need to go watch this guy; he is in class of his own when it comes to music,” said Russell Haubrich, a long-time Vernon and Silver Star resident who is originally from Saskatchewan and is known for his own guitar talents. “You have to see it to believe it.”

Haubrich is just one local fan, joined by the Dah’s, who own several local restaurants and are eager to support the musician and rock the lake.

“Me and my Uncle Russ saw Jack play six or seven years ago in Armstrong. My husband, who loves live music, insisted we go because he saw him play in Regina 30 years ago. We are like, ‘wait, what?’ But we went, and it was amazing,” said Katie Dahl, owner of 1516 Pub and Grill. “Now look at this, he is playing live at our newest location, 1516 Pub!”

Semple admits he was not a fan of playing the electric guitar early in his career. In his teens, he had studied classical and flamenco styles. He only reluctantly picked up an electric later on and it was strictly for practical reasons.

“When I first heard B.B. King, even as a young kid, I thought ‘Wow, this guy is speaking a language,’” he says. “I wanted to learn that language. I got into electric guitar and then I got into playing in a lot of country bands. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, all the gigs in my area were country gigs. You could play six nights a week, endlessly. Those days are gone, but back when I was in my 20s, I would get on the road and play six nights a week for months and months and months. That’s a great way to learn your chops.”

Semple serves up a healthy mix of music that springs from the blues and its various cousin genres. That includes 2018’s Can’t Stop This Love, which featured everything from the soulful R&B of the title track to the funky leanings of Dance of the Undivided, acoustic folk of Walkin’, and charging blues-rock of Workin’ Overtime.

“I love instrumental guitar music, particularly solo,” he says. “I don’t use a pick. I have a classical-flamenco right-hand technique. I play the bass line and the melody at the same time and lots of open-tuning stuff. A lot of that music is really inspired by where I live. I grew up on the Prairies right next to the Qu’Appelle Valley, which is a very beautiful, fertile area in Saskatchewan. It’s where I spent my boyhood. I go out there with my guitar and recollect the good old days and strum away and write music that way.”

Semple has been a travelling musician ever since those early years playing six nights a week at local honky-tonks. Inspired by the 1980s blues revival, and particularly the work of Texas master Stevie Ray Vaughan, Semple began dedicating more time to blues in his mid to late 20s. He eventually moved to Toronto where he played in the progressive R&B band The Lincolns for a few years. But it wasn’t long before he moved back to his hometown and began spreading his talents to soundtrack work in TV and film. The 1990s were a fertile period for the artist. The solo work won acclaim and also earned him a Juno Award and two Western Canadian Music Awards. He earned two Gemini Award nominations for his soundtrack work.

READ MORE: What’s happening around the North Okanagan

READ MORE: B.C.’s own Dean Brody rounds up Vernon, Castlegar, Trail shows


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Regina blues master Jack Semple plays Vernon June 9. (Terry Farrell/Comox Valley Record)

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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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