Local Calgary godfathers of the alt.country / rockabilly scene are in starting blocks and it’s just a matter of time for the checkered flag to fall on what marks their first inspirational offering since the band’s humble starting days. With a familiar earthy road hearty reverberation through any southern Alberta speaker cone, the Downer’s compliment each other perfectly in their realm. Their forthcoming album “Here She Lies” is an impressive post mortem biographical departure of a picturesque blacktop two lane fast track to a never-ending love and the ensuing account of the ditches littered with bloodied and rusting hotrods, broken hearts, windshield’s stained with tears and the parched quartet quenched with whiskey. With hair piled high, suit jackets pressed with sweat, the creases courtesy of the combination of searing summer heat and many miles on the road – a vacant cold stare out a prairie window their only companion; these four men personify the elements first found in the original days of the iconic Sun Studios. Ever present the gentlemen among fans, seldom are the four ever dressed down – by design they are a class act and only carry themselves as such.
At the wheel of this four seater hotrod sits Earl Garnet, the leader – his familiar growl, weathered features and lightning fast surging fingers alternately tease the pick ups as he dances his second hand to and fro, seducing each chord from each fret bar. Garnet is no stranger to the stage – his presence in the Calgary music circles is legendary, his 2004 Gretsch Silver Falcon slung across his hip while the leather strap cuts the polarity of day from night across his breast. He encourages the hauntingly traditional rockabilly and similar chords from deep within the hollow feminine body, encouraging the form of the cast instrument to cry out in the night like victim of pursuant crimes of lust and passion. His trademark stacked combed back and well oiled hair a disheveled compliment somewhere between the weathered bronze of the Marlboro Man and James Dean, he embodies the true personae of grit and tenuous sweat against the mainstream. Whether leading the foursome in his suitably pitched vocal arrangements or offering his cadence as a harmony – Garnet has found his comfort zone and niche among his contemporaries and road worthy allies.
In a polar complimentary opposite and foil to Garnet is his navigator and beckoning visionary for the road ahead.
Calling the notes and shots from behind the distinct blackened frames and tempered glass is the tall, lanky Buzz Elroy his Emerald Green vintage cut suit shimmering beneath the glazed honey finish of his guitar. Elroy is the condensation of the “traditional” merging with the “revolutionary” – his technique, his stance, his poise, his character and collectively his image are a dream like compilation of what once walked in the front door of Sun Studio so many years ago. He is a raw and delicate mix of awkward musical dexterity and proficiency tempered with an unmistakeable flair for individualism and the traditional elements of such greats as Johnny Horton, Webb Pierce and dare I say it Buddy Holly.With Elroy’s statuesque posture onstage, he rumbles through each selection with ease – the simply reason; this man is a true and earnest professional. A distant stare into the blackened abyss of a one night stand venue on the road or the celebrated masses of the hometown Calgary crowd; Elroy greets them the same, with a slight grin and a wary eye. Elroy is the everyman country troubadour of yesteryear, his occupied real estate upon the Downer’s stage is as covetted as his playing and technique. With a keen sense for nostalgia and classic musicianship Elroy approaches all venues with the same unsettling laminar urgency which leaves the audience continually breathless and begging for more of his hiccup harmony vocals and locomotive – esque strumming.
The embodiment of a any dragstrip worthy hotrod stems from the engine block and the keen accuracy of the piston heads to pump in a synergistic dance of “give and take” "ebb and flow” – the personification of energy with the undertone of humility as it’s companion. This description can only describe the stunningly brilliant bass skills of one Joe Love, akin to a the appearance of your “Average Joe” waiting for the bus with steely glare beneath his Ray Ban shades; Joe Love hunkers low down the neck of his bull fiddle and rips his flesh against the steel of the strings. In a systemic choreography of style, rhythm, the familar thwack and clap of the double slap bass and the accentuated crimson tones of his blood stained fingers and strings – Love powers through each lyric and each accompanying bar like a quiet unassuming man politely possessed and hellbent on revenge. Against the searing heat of the evenings stage lights, the sweat pours forth from Love’s brow; filtering as it cascades through his 5 o’clock shadow. Among the bass playing elite in the Calgary music scene Joe Love is certainly worth a second, third and fourth look. The man is far from the familiar kitchy antics of bass surfing and the novelty of high tosses and circus like spins on one hand. He is however; what Johnny Cash sang of when “Luther Played the Boogie” – he is that bass player, he is the man with the steady hand, the steady eye and traditional poise and character.
To round out this fantastic foursome is the machined mechanical precision of T – Bone himself, in an vintage tribute to his percussion forefathers and such legendary players as Slim Jim Phantom, the Deadcats and Southern Culture on the Skids. T – bone is a man of often few words, his skills like any drummer are the signature element of conversation; elevating him to a secondary plane, T – bone is as his name implies, the skeletal yardstick by which this foursome come to be measured. His exceptional mark and timing is what keep the literal engine running hot and pushing it’s figurative limits between Garnet, Elroy and Love. With simple yet effective playing he meets each guitar and bass chord with their steadying percussive accompaniment – each searing vocal is pitched and accentuated with a cued cymbal crash. T – bone pounds along with Joe Love surging the bass lead, never seeming to push even close to any threshold of abandonment or lack of control.
With the new album in the final stages of production and nearing it’s release date, the Downer’s are prepared and engaged for a pinacle life altering blacktop race of their collective career. “Here She Lies” is a compilation of what fundamental elements have crafted them to this place among the Calgary music alumnus, with introductions complete and the stage set, we await the drop of the flag on release day. As summer approaches the Hi Strung Downers will be in full effect in local venues across the West in support of the long awaited release.