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Keith Glass. Photo provided by the artist.

Talking Albums: Keith Glass

By John McDonald on July 5, 2020

Keith Glass was a founding member of Prairie Oyster, named “Country Group or Duo of the Year” six times by both the Canadian Country Music Association and the Juno Awards. Often cited as the country’s foremost roots/country band, and active for almost four decades, the band was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.

Keith has been active, post-Oyster. As well as family time, he has released solo albums, built a studio, recorded with others, and performs as Lynn Miles’s sideman.

His latest venture, Keith Glass Band, has a rootsy rock and roll sound. “There will always be a country influence in what I do – that’s in my DNA – but no more so than R&B, blues… I grew up on that big North American musical stew – and I’ve played it all my life.”

How has Keith been spending his time during the pandemic? He joined us for this edition of Talking Albums.

Keith Glass:

Like so many others, I admit (but embarrassed to say) I was caught unprepared. Though, in truth, who knew we’d isolate the world, and what could have been done to lessen the impact of the isolation’s effects? I didn’t even get time to hoard flour and yeast. Not like you can run out and stock up on venues and audiences, which are a vanishing commodity at best. This was unprecedented, as everyone says.

Prior to shutdown, I played a few times a month, either with my band or with Lynn Miles, with whom I have toured for the last 18 years.

Fortunately (or not, depending), we (the band) had been working towards a new CD, so had recorded about six or seven new songs in various stages. We’ve been able to add some parts remotely. Most of the guys have some means of recording at home, so we’re kind of able to keep at it. It’s not the best way to do it, I’m the first to admit. In person is so much better. I don’t think it’s what I would deem “a record” yet, and likely won’t be until we can get together again.

Unfortunately, the dog ate my homework! My computer had a meltdown and fragged several projects. Back to the drawing board.

We’re releasing little “desktop” videos, from my studio, of stuff I’ve written, with the band’s tracks added in. This maintains a presence on Facebook and our website, to keep an oar in the water, as it were. Signs of life!

We lost work to be sure. The biggest regret was the cancellation of The Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival in B.C. in August, an obvious anchor date for the season. Most of our gigs are local (eastern Ontario), and my calendar reminds me every few days of the gigs we’re not playing.

Do I miss playing? Unbelievably so. In over 50 years I have never gone this long without playing.

I hear some musicians talking about how important it is for us “artists” to bring light to the darkness in times like these. A responsibility, as it were. But I’m not so sure. I suppose that’s so for some people. Perhaps a little self-aggrandizing. I know it’s hard for everyone, so if it helps, great. I’m asked often how hard it must be to not be playing, but seriously? Being unable to play seems like small taters compared to the situation for so many others.

In over 50 years I have never gone this long without playing.

On the positive side, I seem to have come into a little writing spree, so I’m running with that. Wrote a tune with Steve [Trecarten, sax and keyboard with the band] the other day, and one with an old musical pal in rural central Quebec just this morning, plus several of my own. Grist for the studio mill!

Speaking of grist, I like to bake bread. I also like to eat homemade bread. Perfect!

I also like to walk. Lots of time for that. I ride my motorcycle when the heat is not too oppressive (a riding suit is HOT).

That’s it. Overall, more time with my family is a great thing, and the most important. Not going to stores is also great (apologies to retailers).

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I can’t say I have been intently listening to anything. I have most of my music on CDs, some on vinyl, some in the computer, and lots in my head. Lately, I’ve just been following my headphones to wherever I go on the interweb and YouTube.

But, the other day I put on Ella and Louis, the incredible record Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong made in 1956 with Oscar Peterson’s quartet. It just took me away, as it always does.

Another strong pick, and a desert-island record for sure, is Ray Charles’s Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music from 1962. It was recorded in about two or three days. Yikes. So good!

This will be over when it’s over, so steady on. It will be over.

About Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Ella and Louis

This was the first of three albums that Fitzgerald and Armstrong were to record together for Verve Records, and features the quartet of Oscar Peterson (piano), Buddy Rich (drums), Herb Ellis (guitar) and Ray Brown (bass). Bjork chose this album as one of her favourites in a 1993 Q magazine feature. “I love the way Ella and Louis work together,” she said.

About Ray Charles – Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music

These interpretations of twelve country songs, drawing almost equally from recent hits and older standards, was an immediate critical and commercial success. According to Village Voice’s Robert Christgau, the album “transfigured pop, prefigured soul, and defined modern country & western music.” Six months after the release of this album, Volume Two was in the shops.


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