The best of 2012: part two
Cowichan's 2012 compendium of musical styles was crowned by Cowichan newcomers such as folk-icon Steve Earle.
And return visits — including fiddle phenom Ashley MacIsaac, and Uncle Wiggly's Hot Shoes Blues Band — were also welcome in one of Canada's artistic meccas.
But it was this year's surprises that made things interesting.
Take the classical, cutting-educational Tafelmusik, the string virtuosity of The Lost Fingers, or historical delights of Tales Of Cougar Annie.
Paired with Chemainus Theatre's family fare during All Shook Up, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, they all deserve News Leader Pictorial Junos.
That's not to forget annual festivals such as SunFest, the Islands Folk Festival, Special Woodstock, and summerfest's 39 Days Of July, plus the great Cowichan Music Festival.
We just can't wait for next year's roster.
Folk: Steve Earle
March 24, Cowichan Theatre
Palpable imagery flowed from Steve Earle's mike during his solo gift that rightly filled the Cowichan Theatre.
The Grammy Award winner played one 90-minute set for 730-some fans who hung on every word and chord during his masterful show.
The New York-based songwriter, renowned for his mega-hit Copperhead Road — which he performed during his valley debut — cranked out 18 tunes, then two encore songs. That's just $2.25 per song from a $43 ticket.
Yes, Cowichanians ate a fine meal of pure Earle, who left lingering images of jail bars, Prairie skies, lonely highways and desperate people.
Folk-blues show rating: 10 morals out of 10.
East Coast: Ashley MacIsaac
Nov.1, Cowichan Theatre
Forget his tabloid scandals and sleazy labels.
Celtic fiddle bad-boy Ashley MacIsaac's morphing into affable, down-to-earth player was ably displayed during his terrific Cowichan Theatre return.
Some folks may have thought a techie had sauntered on stage for a sound check after a bunch of adept songs by opening trio The Small Town Villains.
But it was McIsaac, cradling that inexpensive instrument. He made it sound priceless during two sets of down-home and upbeat numbers — aided by his adept sidemen — for 400 fiddleheads. Rename him Ashley McCeilidh.
Celtic-fiddling concert rating: 9.5 jigs out of 10.
Roots: Cougar Annie Tales
Oct. 17, Duncan Garage Showroom
Cougar Annie's cabin and rainforest gardens should be a national monument.
Actress Katrina Kadoski showed why during the endearing performance of her fringe play Cougar Annie Tales before a packed Duncan Garage Showroom.
Viewers were entranced as the Sooke actress brought Ada (Cougar) Annie Jordan to vivid life during the slightly melancholy musical-drama.
Annie bagged 70-some mountain lions for bounty. Likewise, Tales was loaded with Kadoski's telling tunes that proved a blast from the past for some viewers.
Musical bio-drama rating: 9 pelts out of 10.
Musical: All Shook Up
Feb. 24, Chemainus Theatre
Chemainus Theatre really got rockin' with the opening of what was possibly its best-ever musical-romance, All Shook Up.
Director Simon Johnston and his tuneful team picked a winner with this Brylcream-oiled romp, fueled by a flock of Elvis Presley hits.
But forget all those cheesy impersonators in white jump suits. All Shook Up played like an ultra-tight Broadway gem, laced with Elvis' lyrics that lent lively and touching moments to this sensational sit-com.
Romantic musical-comedy rating: 9 teddy bears out of 10.
Rock 'n' Roll: Uncle Wiggly's Hot Shoes Blues Band
Aug. 24, Crofton Pub
It wasn't quite the same as the good old days when Monte & The Beaumonts' Sunday night jam packed Maple Bay's Brigantine pub.
But it sure felt close during Crofton Pub's gig starring Uncle Wiggly's Hot Shoes Blues Band.
And the rollicking sextet, led by Hank (Uncle Wiggly) Leonhardt, gave fans what they came for: danceable, rockin' blues of various shades.
One of the Uncle Wiggly band's charms was the musical balance on stage — no one hogged the spotlight during two sets that constantly filled the dance floor.
Rockin'-blues dance rating: 9 shoes out of 10.
Jazz: The Lost Fingers
Nov. 17, Cowichan Theatre
The timeless talent of French guitar icon Django Reinhardt — who lost several digits in a hotel fire — was lovingly handed to Cowichanians during The Lost Fingers' rollicking Cowichan Theatre show.
Guitarists Christian Roberge and Byron Mikaloff, plus string bassist Alex Morissette, used harmonies and humour to immortalize Reinhardt's unique sound by Djangoizing pop to metal hits spanning Careless Whisper, and Sunglasses At Night, to Black Velvet and Tom Sawyer.
Truly a classy, world-level show.
Django-jazz concert rating: 10 frets out of 10.
Family: Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
June 23, Chemainus Theatre
The intended musical smorgasbord comprising Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was amply served during Chemainus Theatre premiere.
Director Shane Snow and his multi-talented cast, plus stage band, did a superb job spicing the Broadway hit for a small stage.
Tenor Adam Charles owned his part as the downtrodden dreamer — betrayed by his jealous brothers then sold as a slave who becomes a loving prince — amid a terrific ensemble cast boasting skills of as many hues as Joseph's trademark coat.
Mostly, Joseph musically reminded us that without dreams, we don't have much.
Musical-adventure rating: 9.5 pharaohs out of 10.
Classical: Tafelmusik Baroque orchestra,
Nov. 25, Cowichan Theatre
Classical music will never be the same locally after Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra played the Cowichan Theatre.
Violinist Jeanne Lamon led her sensational 16-piece company through Alison Mackay's The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres, lending visual and educational dimensions to classical fare that's traditionally just great ear candy.
But the TBO, narrating actor Shaun Smyth, and astronomical consultant John Percy, told us all about telescope inventor Galileo. They also informed us about the life and wisdom of Britain's gravity pioneer, Sir Isaac Newton.
A galaxy of 72 stunning photos from the Hubble telescope, NASA and elsewhere were projected on a giant circular screen..
Classical-visual concert rating: 10 stars out of 10.