St. Patrick’s Day is always a busy gig day for Pat Chessell, but not this year.
The Surrey-based musician, who plays a lively mix of Irish folk-rock songs, has had his St. Paddy’s Day performances cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, including both on the books for today (Tuesday). Also scrubbed was a sold-out show of his last Saturday night (March 14) at the Irish Club of White Rock, among several others on his calendar, now and into the future.
Among the busiest gigging musicians in Metro Vancouver, Chessell typically performs close to 200 shows a year, both solo and with a band.
“Everyone I know is saying it’s drying up everywhere, especially with the 50-person ban that came in,” Chessell said. “It’s really tough right now. But it’s funny because people have been contacting me trying to set up stuff for the summer, including some St. Paddy’s Day in July type of events, that kind of thing.”
Also on the bright side, Chessell has a new song to boast in the form of “Like A Rock,” timed for release on, yes, St. Patrick’s Day.
He’s joined on the track by Aaron Chapman, a former member of the Real McKenzies and The Town Pants bands. In recent times Chapman has turned his attention to writing books about Vancouver history, including his Vancouver After Dark collection of stories chronicling “the wild history of a city’s nightlife.”
“Like A Rock” was written by Vancouver-based musician Robert Ford, who died in 2019. Ford, a founding member and leader of the trailblazing Celtic-rock band The Stoaters, had performed with both Chessell and Chapman in the past, and the pair recorded “Like A Rock” in tribute to their departed friend.
Turns out, a Stoaters concert was the first Chessell ever attended as a kid. “I was around 10 years old, I think, and my dad took me to see them at the WISE Hall (in Vancouver),” he recalled.
“Like A Rock,” released by the Stoaters in 1993, is a song Chessell has performed live over the years.
His new version also features music played by Steve Dawson, Nolan Murray (of Tiller’s Folly), Mike Michalkow, Nathanael Powell and Brendan Mooney.
The song is included on a forthcoming new album called The Road Not Taken, recorded at The Warehouse Studio in Gastown.
“It’s bit of a newer sound for me, with more of a rock edge,” Chessell noted.
The Warehouse is owned by North Vancouver-raised rocker Bryan Adams, who dropped by during Chessell’s day of recording bed tracks in January.
“It was pretty cool, and kind of funny how he came in,” Chessell reported. “He and Nick Gilder knocked on the door and asked if it was OK for them to come in and listen, like they needed permission or something.… He’s a super down-to-earth guy, and asked about the album and all that.”
Other guest performers on the album include Geoff Kelly of Spirit of the West, Jordan Pritchett and Kevin Evans (Evans and Doherty, Liam Clancy). The Tim Renaud-produced The Road Not Taken, mixed and mastered by Vince Renaud at VR Sound, will be out at the end of April.
“The song (‘Like A Rock’) is a teaser for that,” Chessell noted.
On St. Patrick’s Day at 6 p.m. Pacific time, instead of playing a gig somewhere, Chessell plans a Facebook Live concert to feature “some originals as well as some #ClancyBrothers, @TheIrishRovers and #Dubliners favourites.”