Jill Zmud at RBC Bluesfest

July 24th, 2016 by  |  Published in Concerts

Jill Zmud - RBC Bluesfest 2016-07-09 - photo Scott Martin Visuals

The relaxed anticipation of the capacity audience broke into enthusiastic applause as Jill Zmud, her guitarist, and her backup vocalists took the stage of the RBC Bluesfest Barney Danson Theatre on July 9th. As she is immersed in family life, a show by Jill, although not rare, is still an event not to be missed.

Commencing the show with the bluesy Wishing Well off of her latest album, Small Matters of Life and Death, backed by Rolf Klausener (The Acorn) on elec guitar and two graceful-voiced singers, Jerusha Lewis and Christine Mathenge, Jill immediately drew the audience into her world of sincere cherished narrative.

The second song, Daddy, featured The Texas Horns – Mark ‘Kaz’ Kazanoff (tenor sax, harmonica), John Mills (baritone sax), and Adalberto ‘Al’ Gomez (trumpet) – she had met in green room. They chatted and decided to play on this tune. The surprise was when Kaz added his harmonica to the mix.

Jerusha Lewis Christine Mathenge - photo Scott Martin Visuals

Shark, from her first album As We Quietly Drive By, involves taking the fall for a bank robbery, and New Jersey Turnpike, a CountryFolk style number written by her musician uncle, Ed Clynton (of the Canadian band Witness Inc. in the 60’s and 70’s), whose old reel-to-reel tape she discovered in her childhood Saskatoon home inspired Jill’s second album, and brought to life the deep connections with family and history that permeates her compositions.

Jill picked up the electric guitar for Westwind, then returned to the acoustic for a song yet to be recorded, Lake Ontario Love Song, which is tenatively set to be on her next album. No date is fixed as of yet, though hopefully 2017 will see a third album from this consummate singer/songwriter whose creativity belongs among the best of Canadian artists such as Joni Mitchell and Valdy.

Dedicating the next piece, Daddy Just Keeps Playing in the Band, to the Ottawa poet, songwriter, musician and journalist William Hawkins who had passed away five days before her performance, this tune was also written by her uncle Ed in a more upbeat Country style. It mirrors and illustrates the life of a working musician’s family. This led into Earthly Things, which concerns her grandfather who returned from war with PSTD. This beautiful soulful folk song is about Jill’s efforts to “try to figure him out”.

Jill Zmud Jerusha Lewis Christine Mathenge - photo Scott Martin Visuals

Set My Soul, a touching passionate song written by Jerusha which Jill sang a capella with Rolf softly finger-drumming on an acoustic guitar. With Jerusha and Christine echoing her, there seemed an air of quiet bluesy-gospel that filled the theatre. In contrast, Jill then got the audience to sing “Happy Birthday” to her brother who was attending the show.

Gold, a quiet electric folk song, and Wish, an tender yet impassioned love song, (…both from Jill’s first album) bracketed a stirring cover of Buffy Ste Marie’s She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina. Closing the show with these three songs made for a moving conclusion to a brief, yet memorable, time at the RBC Bluesfest with an Ottawa artist who writes and sings songs that touch the heart, and the soul, of anyone fortunate enough to hear her perform or to cherish one of her albums.

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All photos: Scott Martin Visuals

Jill (2014 CFMA Nominee – Contemporary Album of the Year) discusses the family-influences behind “Small Matters of Life and Death” with Suze Casey…

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