Comeau can’t be pigeonholed

WHITE ROCK – It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what genre of music Gary Comeau identifies with, as one-third of singersongwriter folk trio Cannery Row and frontman of the band Gary Comeau and the Voodoo Allstars.

Hailing from Nova Scotia, the Acadian musician plays piano, accordion, fiddle and guitar – just to name a few – but has been revered as a southern-influenced artist playing B.C.’s Lower Mainland circuit for the past 35 years.

While Comeau and his band have been called everything from Zydeco blues to Latinjazz fusion, the multi-instrumentalist and singer says those terms don’t exactly hit the nail on the head.

“Actually, you know, because we play all different styles of music, I call it ‘gumbo music,'” Comeau told the Now over the phone in a husky rasp earned by playing smoky bars for nearly four decades. “It has its roots in Louisiana but it’s got its roots in Mississippi and the Caribbean sounds of Cuba (with) the instruments that I play. I play a bunch of different ones; the Louisiana fiddle, the mandolin has a blues element to it, the piano, the Latin part of what I do…” It may be easiest to liken Comeau’s music to that which you might imagine hearing on the Bayou or at a Mardi Gras gig, and while southern influence runs through much of his music, the man has to give a nod to his heritage in French Nova Scotia.

“Where that connection is for me, because I’m a French Acadian, from the French part of Nova Scotia off the Bay of Fundy, that’s all part of the Louisiana thing of the expulsion of the Acadians way back in the history books, when the English came in and took over that area and sent all the French people away,” he said.

So if you’re listening to Comeau’s music while imagining going on a gator-hunting expedition, you wouldn’t exactly be wrong in doing so, but it’s not the whole picture.

“It’s quite bigger than that – it’s not a Cajun band and it’s not a Zydeco band, so that’s why I just call it gumbo music,” he said. “When you think about the music, it’s kind of American roots music, but it still has, where I grew up in Nova Scotia, it still has that element of an East Coast flavour to it.”

Something else you won’t be able to expect when Comeau and the Voodoo Allstars play their next gig, at Peninsula Productions’ season-opening concert in White Rock: a pre-planned set list.

“We never use a set list, usually,” Comeau said of himself and his band, which includes Tim Hearsey, Chris Nordquist, Rob Becker and Jerry Cook. “It’s like conversation… if we speak the same language then it’s a lot easier for us to have a conversation. The people that I play with, we have this terminology and we have this language and we’re always listening and because the music changes all the time. Sometimes I’ll be in one song and I’ll just go to another one.”

Comeau and his band perform at White Rock’s First United Church on Saturday, Sept. 27. Local twins Alanna and Brianne will open the concert, which starts at 8 p.m. To buy tickets, visit Peninsulaproductions. org – $25 in advance or $30 at the door.

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