In what has already been a banner year, Ross Neilsen has been busy. Semi-finalist in The International Blues Challenge, recorded a solo album, performances in Mexico and a solo tour are just a few things Neilsen has been up to. Now he and his band are hitting the road for more than nine weeks over the spring months, taking them from coastal New Brunswick to British Columbia and all points in between.
Nielsen performs May 24 and 25 at the Blue Gator in Kelowna.
While it is business as usual for Neilsen, fans of the rocking/blues power trio will notice something different this tour – Neilsen has dropped the moniker Sufferin’ Bastards and has a brand new bass player. Neilsen says it was not an easy decision to let long time collaborator and friend, Shawn Worden, go in December.
“It was a rough decision to make. On one hand this was my musical partner in crime and best friend of 13 years and on the other hand, things were just spiraling to a bad place. Definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Shawn was a fan favourite and a great musician. He will be missed. We’re looking at this as a door opening though, not closing,” Neilsen said.
The new bassist has joined the line up for The Ross Neilsen Band’s tour which began April 26. They’ve been busy bringing Pacey up to speed and have chronicled his joining the band in their on-line spoof mini series The Great Bass Player Search found on Neilsen’s Youtube Page.
“We’re getting our new bassist, ‘Young’ Will Pacey, up to speed with this tour, then we’re going to be writing for a new record,” Neilsen said. “Will’s a great guy and a great player. We know folks expect a lot from our live show so we’re working hard to make sure we deliver when we hit the Canadian highway. We take our music very seriously but we try not to take ourselves too serious. We did this mini series so we could introduce Will in a very comical way.”
Neilsen recently journeyed to Memphis, TN, to compete in The International Blues Challenge where he finished as a semi-finalist. Long-time influence and hero, Ray Bonneville moved on from Neilsen’s room to win the Challenge. Directly after the competition, Neilsen traveled to the home of the delta blues, Clarksdale MS, to record a solo album with Memphis engineer, Kevin Houston. The album is slated to be released this September and features Neilsen on resonator guitar, stomp box and vocals. Never one to rest, in February, before his annual solo tour of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes Neilsen boarded a plane to perform in Mexico.
“Memphis was amazing, as always,” Neilsen said. “I ate lots of barbecue, met lots of great players and got to see Ray Bonneville perform three days in a row. Very educational! Recording with Kevin Houston in Clarksdale was easy and fun. Hard to believe we were working just down the highway from the fabled crossroads of Highways 49 and 61 where Robert Johnson is rumoured to have sold his soul to the devil. As if that wasn’t enough, after that I got to play blues on a beach in Mexico watching the Pacific roll in under palm trees. It was a very surreal start to my year!”
With nearly half a million kilometers traveled and thousands of concerts under his belt, Neilsen is a true testament to the old adage—hard work pays off. Self-managed and booking most of the dates himself, Neilsen’s work drive is only surpassed by his love of the stage. Neilsen works hard so he can share a night with you in a dark club or on a festival stage. Ripping through original songs of real-life pain, love, loss and twisting up classic blues catalogue favourites to steal your eyes, ears, heart and hips. You will leave with a smile on your lips and song in your heart. This is real music made from the real lives of real people, hand delivered just for you.