If you go into the woods today, you’re in for a blues surprise.
Since 1929, the family of guitarist David Gogo has run a Christmas tree farm in Nanaimo. Sometimes, during the busy season, Gogo greets customers at the front gate himself. He’ll hand over a saw and tell them to select their tree.
“People will say, ‘;You kind of look like David Gogo.’ I’ll say, ‘;Yeah, I know. I’m his fat brother,’ ” he joked this week.
When Gogo and his electric trio play Hermann’s Jazz Club on Friday, they’ll play selections from his new Christmas with the Blues album. The tongue-in-cheek cover shows Gogo cradling an enormous brandy snifter in front of a roaring fire. A snow-capped tree is visible through the window.
There is, he says, an element of studio trickery at work.
The photo was taken mid-summer at Gogo’s home, on the farm. The fire was photoshopped in later, as lighting a real one was deemed inadvisable.
“There was extreme drought going on here on the Christmas tree farm. If a spark got onto the roof, it could have burned the whole bloody place down,” he said.
Gogo, 43, has a national reputation as a blues-rock guitar slinger. At the age of 15, he met Stevie Ray Vaughan backstage at Victoria’s Royal Theatre. Vaughan encouraged Gogo to pursue a musical career. This year, his album Soul Bender earned a Juno Award nomination for best blues album.
Christmas With the Blues is, of course, an album featuring Christmas-themed blues and soul. The Nanaimo singer-guitarist says it’s also his first 100 per cent blues album, as opposed to mixing blues and rock.
“A lot of people say, if you just took ‘;Christmas’ out of the lyrics, it’s just a good blues record,” Gogo said.
It is a good blues record. Listen to Gogo’s stinging, sparse guitar licks on Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’. Check out Merry Christmas Baby, an R&B standard famously recorded by Charles Brown, which benefits from the economical playing of Victoria’s David Vest.
Gogo has included two of his own original Christmas tunes. The vibrato-heavy Christmas on the Bayou has echoes of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Slim Harpo and Tony Joe White. Let’s Get a Real Tree is a Chuck Berry-style novelty song that skewers environmental types obsessed with having a “green” Christmas.
The lyrics include: “Don’t be a hippie — we’re gonna get a real tree.” Which perhaps makes sense if you live on a Christmas tree farm.
Gogo, who’ll play Christmas tunes and standard electric-blues fare Friday, says he wanted to make a recording with a solid blues groove. He wanted to avoid corniness. (“I’m not going to be fa-la-la-ing or anything like that.”)
At the same time, Gogo aimed to concoct something that would please the whole family.
“It could be your contemporaries or your grandma, your old Auntie Vivian or whatever. It’s not going to offend anyone. But it’s not bland, either.”
He added: “Dynamically, I just wanted it to be a groove. There’s not going to be one song where I’m freaking out too much on the guitar and people are rushing to their volume control to turn it down.”
Gogo had promised his father he’d help out at the Christmas tree farm on the three busiest weekends of the year.
It hasn’t been easy combining music and tree-farm tending, though. Last Friday, Gogo played a charity gig in Vancouver, got to bed at 3 a.m., flew home the next morning, tended the tree farm, played the Duncan Garage Showroom on Saturday night and got home at 1:30 a.m. And then he sold more trees the following morning.
“I got up early today to take my son to school. He said he’s sick. I said, ‘;Good, go back to sleep. Because I am, too,’ ” Gogo said, chuckling.
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