Possibly the most influential Canadian pop-blues act, but undeniably the most commercially successful, is Vancouver’s Powder Blues. Formed in 1978 when guitarist Tom Lavin left Prism (after having spent time in Denise McCann‘s band, the group was a virtual who’s who of the Canadian blues & rock fusion. The original group’s core was rounded out by his brother Jack on bass, ex of Teen Angel and Willie McCaulder on keyboards, who’d previously played with Willie and The Walkers. Drummer Duris Maxwell’s credits included working with Skylark and Doucette. The horns section comprised of David Woodward, who Lavin took with him when leaving Prism, Gordie Bertram from Foreman Byrnes, Wayne Kozak from the Downchild Blues Band and Mark Hasselbach, who’d previously worked with the jazz group Airbrush.
The band’s start came after their independant debut UNCUT in 1979. Recorded at Vancouver’s Tetrahedron Studio, it was totally self-financed on a shoe-string budget – and the epitome of the ‘bare to the bone’ blues masterpiece. Filled with the raw emotion that’s usually lost when big production is involved, Lavin’s use of his influences as a boy growing up in the Chicago blues-filled environment caught the interest of CFOX Radio. The first single, “Doin’ It Right”, which was later covered by April Wine in ’84, instantly gained them respect among their peers and rave reviews from the critics.The exposure given eventually led to the signing of a deal with Capitol Records that same year.
The band’s first major release came before the end of the year. Three singles were released, “Boppin’ With The Blues”, “Hear That Guitar Ring” and “What’ve I Been Drinking?”, further cementing the band as one of Canada’s most promising, and innovative new acts.THIRSTY EARS was out less than a year later. Backed by the success of two singles, “Loving Hugging and Kissing” and then the title-track helped earn the band a gold record, selling over 50,000 copies nationwide. Other noteable tracks included the soulful “Undercover Blues” and the upbeat “PinkChampagne”.
The band returned from another successful world tour in ’82 with PARTY LINE. This was followed by RED HOT/TRUE BLUE a year later. The reputation Lavin and company had established for themselves was now global, evident by the recording trucks during their subsequent European tour. The end result was LIVE AT MONTREAUX, put out in ’84, a collection of some of the band’s greatest tracks, stripped down of all unessential overdubs and fancy production quirks. This in part explains why LIVE AT MONTREAUX is considered by most blues afficiandos as one of the best live records ever recorded. Also on the record was a studio version of “On The Road Again”, released as a single the following spring.
Despite still playing to packed houses the world over, the next record wasn’t until 1990, when FIRST DECADE – GREATEST HITS was released. 1993 saw LET’S GET LOOSE hit the shelves. Composed with a jazz/swing mood in mind, the album contained the lead-off title track, “Rock ‘n Roll Man,” and the upbeat “Party All Night, Sleep All Day.” A re-release and re-mlxed LIVE AT MONTREAUX IN 1997 was next, followed by WITH LOWELL FULSON the same year.
SWINGIN’ THE BLUES was next out, released in 2003, composed entirely of big band swing tunes. The band had built a reputation for over 20 years for mixing it up and changing gears with a variety of styles, but this was the first time they stayed with one feel. Among the tracks are covers of BB King’s “Caledonia,” “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” and “Flip Flop & Fly,” as well as originals such as “Lovin’ Kissin’ and Huggin’,” “Boppin’ With The Blues,” and “The Rockchopper.”
BLAZZ was released in ’06, a mix of jazz and blues that gained much critical acclaim, with tracks like “Cookin’ With The Blues,” “Things Are Getting Better,” and the Glen Miller classic, “Take The ‘A’ Train.”