Singer’s life experience leads her to discover the blues

Singer Lynne Chwyl considers herself a late-starter in the blues but she’s making up for lost time.

Growing up on a farm near Ardrossan, she wasn’t exposed to a lot of music as a kid though she did get accordion and opera singing lessons. She liked country better, sang at school functions and started auditioning, but got married, had twins and put any thoughts of a musical career on hold.

Two more kids, a divorce and 25 years later Chwyl found herself “looking for my identity.” She found the courage to venture past her self-imposed status as “a closet singer” and started entering vocal competitions and singing at rodeos. Then she joined some friends to volunteer for the very first Beaumont Blues Festival.

“That music drew me like sirens drew sailors to the rocks,” she recalls. “I asked someone ‘what is that?’ and they said, ‘don’t you know you’re at a blues festival?’ It’s been blues ever since.”

That was 10 years ago. Since the blues first grabbed her soul, Edmonton-born Chwyl started going to jams and gradually ventured into the professional realm. She sang with several local bands and another in Calgary before forming her own. She’s performed at the Beaumont Blues Festival and the Calgary International Blues Festival, sharing stages with some of Alberta’s and Canada’s best.

Last month her band made runners-up in the band category finals at the Edmonton Blues Society’s Memphis Bound competition. They head up an EBS fundraiser Saturday at the German Canadian Cultural Association.

Along the way Chwyl has been busy researching the history behind the musical vibes that moved her so much, getting advice on finding the right songs and collaborating to write new original material of her own, making connections with musicians like guitarist Percy Marshall, drummer Dean Pierno, singer Jared Sowan and keyboard player Dennis Meneely, who is a regular songwriting partner. Now she’s busy working on her debut album, but in the meantime you might hear her singing backup vocals on Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne’s latest album.

Exploring blues history has brought her in touch with some great material.

“Lately I’m on a real mission to connect with the classics, like the old, old 1920s and 1930s songs and singers like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. I owe it to the genre to know this history.”

Ask Chwyl what it was that converted her to the blues and she responds immediately.

“It’s about life, life stories. It’s not always direct. Sometimes it’s innuendo, but there would be a certain line in a song that would leave me feeling ‘I totally relate,’ or the mournful melodies would sometimes get me, or a guitar lick or a tempo. There’s just something about that genre that I connect to for some reason. I’ve had a difficult life, but I relate to the sad stuff and the happy stuff.”

Blues singer Lynne Chwyl performs Saturday for the Edmonton Blues Society.

She says her life experience remains a key inspiration when it comes to writing new songs, and Chwyl enjoys singing songs with classic blues angles and themes of female empowerment.

“When I step on stage it’s my alter ego, or the person I want to be in real life. In real life I’m a little more timid. I guess it’s a place where you get to go and become someone.”

Whether she’s singing her tunes or covers, Chwyl’s warm vocal sound delivers the sort of seasoned sincerity to performances that you expect to hear in artists who have lived with the music all their lives. There’s no question she’s found her musical home.

“I’m hungry to make music. This year was a new starting point for me and I want to go as far as it will take me.”

The Lynne Chwyl Band perform 8 p.m. Saturday at the German Canadian Cultural Association (8310 Roper Road) for the Edmonton Blues Society. Tickets are $15 at the door for members, or $20 for non-members, online at edmontonbluessociety.net.

Chwyl’s band for the show will include guitarist Ralph Pretz, Meneely’s keyboards, bassist Jeff Bartlett and drummer Greg Pretty.

Memphis Bound Blues Challenge

If you missed it, the final round of the EBS Memphis Bound Blues Challenge was a hard contest to pick. I know this firsthand as one of the five adjudicators. The six acts that played were a real testimony to the high level of blues in this town.

In the end, the top solo or duo act was a collaboration between singer and harmonica man Rott’n Dan and guitarist Lightnin’ Willy.

The top band prize went to singer Samantha King & The YEG Trio (Jim Guiboche, Marc Beaudin, and Sandro Dominelli). King may be best known here for her frequent appearances singing the national anthem at Oilers games. That group will be heading up a couple of gigs before their trip to Memphis in January. See them Nov. 23 at Shakers Roadhouse, and Dec. 16 at the Yardbird Suite.

Finally, the Best Self-Produced CD in the contest was from 5 Shades of Blue, their album Sweeping Out The Blues.

Congratulations to these fine acts who will be representing Northern Alberta at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January, 2019.

 

PREVIEW

Edmonton Blues Society presents The Lynne Chwyl Band

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: German Canadian Cultural Association (8310 Roper Road)

Tickets: $15 at the door for members, or $20 for non-members, online at edmontonbluessociety.net.

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