Winter Blues at the Blue Line

By George Farrell

Published Jan. 17 2019

Some of the most pleasurable experiences in my life have occurred with friends listening to live music in an intimate venue.

These times are especially appreciated in the winter months when weather dictates that some of us go into semi-hibernation.

So it’s with great pleasure that I can tell you about a new music series that will be starting at McKecks Tap and Grill.

The series which is called Winter Blues at the Blue Line will run from January to May on the last Friday of each month. As its title indicates it’s a blues series; and it’s so great to see the blues finally established in the Highlands.

For those not familiar with the blues it’s authentic North American folk music which traces its origins to the times of plantation slavery in the southern United States. But the blues is no more “blue” than country music and is in fact uplifting music that has influenced other genres such as jazz and rock.

The blues got its foothold in the Highlands at the Dominion Hotel six years ago with the start of the Canadian Blues Legends series. Then the Haliburton County Folk Society brought in blues performers to their winter folk camp. So with McKecks on board our two biggest communities are now well served by the genre.

We can thank McKecks owners Aaron and Melissa Walker for this series as well as events co-ordinator Karen Frybort who has been at McKecks a remarkable 26 years. When they purchased McKecks on Canada Day 2018 the Walkers decided to grow the catering end of the business and to think about making McKecks even more of a social hub by offering regular live music.

“A lot of our regular clientele let us know that they wanted more live music at McKecks” said Aaron Walker.

The McKecks mantra is “eat drink and be social” Frybort said “and there’s a need for people to be social that doesn’t include phones. So make it live with dancing music musicians and singers.”

Frybort cited the success of Carl Dixon’s annual Christmas concert and the Emily Burgess gig back in November as indicators of the popularity and need for more live music.

“People were asking me what was happening music-wise in January” Frybort said “so Aaron Melissa and I put our heads together and came up with the blues series idea.”

The trio has a willing promoter in local blues guru Pat Monaghan. Pat has his Buckslide Blues Cruise program on Canoe FM every Tuesday night and he goes to just about every blues show imaginable in southern Ontario. He’s totally plugged in to what’s happening with the blues and he’s the go-to guy as far as suggesting talent.

Speaking of talent Winter Blues at the Blue Line has some interesting bands on tap.

Starting off the series on Jan. 25 will be the B&B Blues Band. This is a band that regularly sells out the Pattie House in Coboconk and it features harmonica man and Highlands resident Gord Barnes.

On Friday Feb. 22 it’s Tamica and the Boyz who play a heady mixture of blues R&B funk soul and rock.

Then on Friday March 29 it’s our own sublime songstress Sheri Hawkins and the Rockin’ 88’s followed on April 26 by Ragged Company which features the Kowalski Sisters Irene Merritt and McKecks Karen Frybort as vocalists.

And then to wrap up the first season Emily Burgess will be back again on Friday May 31 with the Emburys. Burgess has been nominated by the Toronto Blues Society as New Artist of the Year.

All shows are from 7 to 9 p.m. and dancing is encouraged. There is no cover charge. Dinner a la carte is suggested for 6 p.m. though the kitchen and bar will remain open during the shows. This promises to be a popular series so I suggest you call Karen at 705-854-0012 to reserve seating for the Jan. 25 opener. McKecks is located at 207 Highland Street in Haliburton.