Vancouver blues artist Brandon Isaak performs songs off his award-winning albums

Vancouver blues artist Brandon Isaak performs songs off his award-winning albums

Blues traveller Brandon Isaak makes his way to Vernon

The Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society presents multiple award winning blues artist Brandon Isaak at the Vernon Elks Hall, Saturday, May 30.

Alessandra Woodward

Special to The Morning Star

An opportunity to see a great performance, hear amazing live music, and experience artistic inspiration at its finest is all part of the Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society’s next feature act.

On Saturday, May 30 the VFRMS presents multiple award winning blues artist Brandon Isaak at the Vernon Elks Hall.

Isaak has been nominated (and has won) several Canadian music awards, including his most recent win in January for Acoustic Act of the Year at the Maple Blues Awards.

He has also been nominated for Songwriter of the Year, and Recording/Producer of the Year, while his latest album recently topped charts at No. 1 in Canada and No. 7 in the U.S. It also received a nomination (his second in the category) for Album of the Year at the Western Canadian Blues Awards.

Isaak remains humble about the recognition his music is garnering, however, his fans and critics alike are willing to promote his work with high amounts of praise and a great deal of enthusiasm.

“It feels so good to write a great song, and to know it’s going to be a hit on a record,” said Isaak, describing an experience many artists would be envious of, if not downright oblivious about. “In fact, writing seems to be getting easier these days because I’ve been doing it for so long. I used to labour over it, but now I can write a few good [songs] in a day.”

Isaak is as deeply rooted in the Canadian blues scene as one can get. He is the organizer of the Klondike Roots and Blues Festival, instructor at the Hornby Island Blues Camp, key band member of two Vancouver-based groups, The Twisters and The Silver Screen Scoundrels, and then there is his own expanding career as a solo blues writer and performer.

When you have a father who played with the likes of Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson, it is not surprising that Isaak found himself on his current trajectory towards stardom, even if his dad tried to steer him away from life on the road.

Isaak challenges himself constantly to be on top of his game, whether for the technical writing aspect of the lyrics, or performing on stage in a completely new key or tempo than he may have tried before. This, he claims, is what keeps the musical encounter innovative and exciting, and sets the stage for great songs and live shows to keep their appeal.

He comes up with song ideas everywhere, though lately it’s been through visual art, a category of artistic endeavour that is not outside of Isaak’s provenance, as he has been known to sell a few paintings on the side.

“I am an art fanatic… In fact, Kiko says I am ‘the best-worst art collector in the world’,” he jokes, referring to his adored nine-year-old daughter. “Right now in my living room there is a painting of an old Chinese man smoking a cigarette, and another terrible macrame piece of a woman holding a jug. I love them. And just yesterday I looked  at that man and slowly something started to come to me, a song, a line, and it starts from there.”

Even with a busy day ahead of being a parent and musician (including making time for an interview for this article), a 4 a.m. tea and guitar session, inspired while he was sleeping, is not out of the question.

As fleeting as it is, when it strikes, true inspiration cannot be relied upon to show up again when the timing is more convenient, admits Isaak.

He doesn’t seem too worried that the inspiration will dry up anytime soon, which is great news for his fans.

“And if it does, I can always sell my paintings,” he laughed.

The latest album to feature Isaak’s signature sound will be released within the next two months, and will showcase collaborations with fellow blues legends, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne and Tim Williams. In the past, Isaak has had the chance to play with other greats such as Serena Ryder, The Sojourners, Guy Davis, the late Jeff Healey, and Chicago blues diva Zora Young, to name a few. As a one-man band, Isaak is renowned for claiming centre stage, complete with neck-rack harmonica, foot-drum kit, guitar, and vocals.

His stop in Vernon will precede a Northern B.C. tour, and then he and his fellow Silver Screen Scoundrels cross the ocean for a stint in Europe.

Opening for Isaak in Vernon is local boy Lowell Friesen, who will be accompanied by some of his musical friends.

Friesen is well known in the community for lyrically rich and instrumentally varied performances. His easy mastery of several instruments and lyrical nuances have made him a crowd favourite.

Doors to Saturday’s show open at 6:45 p.m., with Friesen and friends taking the stage at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at, the Bean Scene downtown, or at the door to the Elks Hall.