Guitarist Joel Fafard performs at Headbones Gallery in Vernon Wednesday.

Guitarist Joel Fafard performs at Headbones Gallery in Vernon Wednesday.

Artistic talent runs in the family

The son of a sculptor shows his artistry on guitar and vocals when he plays at Headbones Wednesday.

  • Jul. 3, 2011 4:00 p.m.

The son of a well-known sculptor is making his way to a Vernon art gallery, but in this case, he will be exhibiting his musical talent.

Regina-born guitarist Joël Fafard will perform songs off his new CD, Cluck Old Hen, at Headbones Gallery on Old Kamloops Road Wednesday.

Fafard is the son of artist Joe Fafard, whose sculptures can be viewed right across Canada. His art is heavily influenced by his Saskatchewan surroundings, and includes life-size bronzes of cows, horses and pigs, as well as earlier ceramic and plaster pieces.

A celebrated guitarist in his own right, Joël is known for his slide and fingerstyle-picking, and is a former member of Prairie folksters Scruj MacDuhk.

With a Juno nomination, a Western Canadian Music Award, two WCMA nominations and two Canadian Folk Music Award nominations to his credit, Fafard has proven that he can take a niche genre like instrumental guitar music and make a significant name for himself.

His last three albums were all instrument releases, whereas, Cluck Old Hen is his first album featuring vocals in more than a decade.

After taking a couple of months off playing at the end of last year –– a creative breather which he tries to make room for once a year –– Fafard found himself drawn to his dobro and to his collection of southern gems and decided it was time to commit them to record. In the process, he found his voice as a singer like never before, he said.

None of the tracks on the album are actually new to Fafard’s repertoire; he has been including them in his live set for years.

“Everybody was asking which albums they were on, and I got tired of saying ‘none of them,’” he said.

Cluck Old Hen offers up classic-sounding renditions of instantly-recognizable numbers such as Come on in My Kitchen and Don’t Let your Deal Go Down, all sung in Fafard’s weathered baritone, and played mostly on a National Steel guitar, with accompaniment by violinist Richard Moody.

Among the songs he covers are Muddy Waters’ I Can’t Be Satisfied, Willie Dixon’s Spoonful and the traditional Appalachian pieces John Hardy and Angeline and the Baker. He also includes a couple more recent classics: Richard Thompson’s Vincent Black Lightening and Lyle Lovett’s If I Had a Boat.

Though Fafard sounds like a natural blues vocalist, with a voice that is said to appeal to fans of Kelly Joe Phelps, he has always been an instrumentalist first and foremost.

He picked up the guitar at age 15, took a few lessons from celebrated Regina musician Jack Semple, then went on to study for two years at the well-respected Capilano College music program in North Vancouver.

He launched his professional career in the mid-90s as a member of Scruj MacDuhk, the predecessor of the Juno-winning, Grammy-nominated Duhks. He  later established himself as a solo singer-songwriter, releasing three albums, touring coffee houses and earning praise for the maturity of his songwriting before he took a chance on becoming an instrumental guitarist.

That move paid off.

In a review of Fafard’s 2004 all-instrumental CD, Rocking Horse, The Morning Star’s music reviewer Dean Gordon-Smith wrote: “The hint of backwoods Cajun vibe hovers around the edges of these songs. This magic and earthiness appears to be born out the group’s unique personalities and shimmering swooping waves of sound –– a sympathetic energy truly bigger than the sum of its parts.”

Fafard is performing a solo set for his Headbones show and will take the stage at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20, available at the Bean Scene or by calling 250-542-8987. Parking is limited so carpooling is recommended.