Morgan Cross / News staff
Though Bill Johnson’s international tours ended a decade ago, the celebrated Canadian blues guitarist and singer continues to perform for his community.
On August 3, Johnson holds a cozy house concert at the Brentwood Bay Village Empourium. Seating only 30 people, the Empourium is an opportunity to witness Johnson without his band, trading his usual electric guitar for acoustic and speaking on the origins of his music in a quiet and intimate setting. The artist has been ranked among the likes of Canadians Colin James and Michael Kaeshammer, while incorporating unique country and folk elements in his music.
“Last year’s [house concert] was very good. I was surprised how many people came and what an enthusiastic bunch they were,” said Johnson. “There’s a lot of serious music fans in Brentwood.”
Leslie Gentile of the Brentwood Bay Community Association said, “When he played acoustically, it added another dimension to his musicianship. To hear him acoustically is a very special evening.”
Johnson appreciates performing in his community and the crowds who come out to support local musicians, in particular singer-songwriters. Though he maintains his edginess and gruff, smoky voice in singing, performing in the Empourium allows him to play what he calls “less aggressive” versions of his normally electric songs.
“I write all of my stuff on acoustic guitar,” he said.
At the concert August 3, he will perform tracks from his latest album Cold Outside, previous album Still Blue, as well as a few songs not yet recorded. He describes his latest album as more angsty than previous ones.
“Life’s gotten a little tough for musicians lately, and this CD kind of reflects that,” he said, adding that his songs are all stories containing drama and tragedy, and sometimes without happy endings.
Leslie Gentile commented about the latest album, “It is one of the most intriguing blues discs in Canada this year. He is improving and improving as a songwriter.”
As the venue is small, space will sell fast and tickets should be bought in advance to ensure a seat at the 8 p.m. show. Tickets can be purchased at Brentwood Bay Village Empourium for $19.50.
“This is an incredible opportunity to come out and hear truly magnificent talent in a very intimate setting,” Gentile said. “It’s like sitting in your living room and having one of the greats perform for you.”