'Soulful' describes singers like Etta James, Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt. It's also how Tracy K has been described. She is a rare award-winning female harmonica ace, whose "harp playing is so good...melodic and expressive, like her voice" - Darrel Sandmoen, 2012 Armed with her six string, a stack of harmonicas, and the best musicians she can find to work with she's been called a ball of fire and charismatic. Canadian Blues critic John Taylor put it this way: "Blessed with a voice that combines sandpapery roughness with extraordinary power, she is an exceptionally expressive singer able to deliver lines convincingly as well with a soft whisper as a rafter-raising shout".
Tracy K's music is first and foremost blues, with elements of country, rock, folk and jazz. One review states her musical arrangements recall Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton, Santana and the road house balladeering of traditional blues. Tracy K has been recorded live for television and radio broadcasts, and her original music has been used in films and has been covered by other artists. Her rare jazz shows receive amazing response with delight, as witnessed when she performed a Billie Holiday tribute with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. They claim it was the best Cabaret show they ever had!
In her intense electric band or in her traditional acoustic duo, Tracy K has been invited to perform on festival main stages, at concert venues and as a showcase artist at music conferences. Intimate venues and house concerts have become a well-loved popular addition to her concert bookings where she breaks down to an acoustic presentation. Tracy K's touring schedule remained light over the past decade to accommodate raising her three children singlehandedly. Young adults now, Tracy K is looking forward to touring on the international scene with loads of life experience that speaks of joy, tragedy, yearning, insight and gratefulness.
?Tracy K grew up listening to the radio of the nineteen sixties. Her older siblings forty-five rpm records were her turntable mainstays. Teenage tastes turned to the British Invasion and psychedelia. Deeper interest led Tracy K to the genius of Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, and all kinds of jazz. Bonnie Raitt, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Koko Taylor became the solid influences that would help shape Tracy K's sound, along with Americana, contemporary blues, and early jazz. The great (and lesser known) early blues recordings became staples.
Tracy K's talents boast seven awards, three albums, many guest recordings and lots of wonderful highlights. A few that are close to her heart are being the first female in the Toronto Blues Society's Harmonica Workshop; performing at their prestigious Women's Blues Revue; her concert with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra; writing a song for a Hollywood movie; writing a song for CBC's "Canada Reads, Ontario Rocks"; performing for "CBC's Canada Live"; opening for legends James Cotton and songster Ramblin' Jack Elliot, a private concert of her Blues Duo in the Caribbean and sharing a playbill with the beloved Koko Taylor.??
International Blues Challenge Regional Winner - Thunder Bay
Ontario Independent Music Award BEST BLUES?International Songwriting Competition Award Recipient BLUES and PERFORMANCE?Toronto Blues Society Talent Search First Runner Up?Winnipeg Blues.com HARMONICA PLAYER and FEMALE VOCALIST of the Year?Nominee for Winnipeg Blues.com ELECTRIC ACT of the Year
?DISCOGRAPHY?Album "Manitoba Women in Blues LIVE" ©2012?Album Blues Duo recording "Canned Heat" ©2011?Single "Science of Being Distant" with Jamie Smith for CBC Radio One's "Bandwidth"?Album “Old, New, Borrowed & Blues” ©2007?3 Singles for “Prairie Fire Project”, Canadian Diabetes Foundation, 2003?Single “Rock This House” ©2002, licensed to Zernick Von-Sertner Films, L.A.?Album “Welcome to my Fantasy” ©2000
Tracy K - vocals encompassing sensitive dynamics from a soft jazz lilt to a field holler. Harmonica stylings similar to Sonny Terry, Little Walter, and James Cotton. Acoustic and amplified harmonica, rhythm acoustic guitar.
"Tracy is that rarest of creatures, a woman harmonica player, acquitting herself admirably on the tin sandwich as well as acoustic guitar. It’s her vocal prowess, though, that stands out – blessed with a voice that combines sandpapery roughness with extraordinary power, she proves herself an exceptionally expressive singer, able to deliver lines convincingly as well with a soft whisper as a rafter-raising shout." - John Taylor, Canadian Blues
Jamie “Snakeman” Steinhoff (Thunder Bay, Ont.) - the Right Hand Man of her Blues Duo. Vocals in the basement with grit and depth, like the old blues masters. His guitar fingerstyle and slide playing recalls the eras of Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller, to John Hurt and Muddy Waters, to contemporaries like Fred Eaglesmith. Clever songwriter.
Tony Desmarteau (Toronto, Ont.) - mastery likened to Lenny Breau, Chet Atkins, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. His style spans jazz, blues and contemporary sounds. Tony can make every song a wizardry of tone, without pedals. An accomplished live player with wit and savvy, Tony also works as a session guitarist and exclusive private guitar teacher. See tonydesmarteau.com for full info.
Vaughan Poyser (Winnipeg, Man.) - one of Winnipeg's busiest bassists. Several nominations and Bassist of the Year award from the Manitoba Country Music Awards, and 2006 Winnipegblues.com Bassist of the Year. Great stage personality.
Ty Rogers (Winnipeg, Man.) - equally talented and accomplished as a jazz, blues, country drummer or Zendrum artist. He is a percussion educator with a music degree and an Ayotte endorsement. Ty picked up the 2006 Winnipegblues.com Drummer of the Year. Fine artist as well, Ty's painted "laughing" drum kit was featured in Modern Drummer, and he has an AMAZING collection of musical and witty paintings - see tyrogers.ca - that's DOT CA, not dot com.
Tracy K may also use regional/local players on her tours.
Tracy K music is available for djs on 'Airplay Direct' - http://www.airplaydirect/music/tracyk
2012 - Album - Manitoba Women in Blues Live! Volume Two
2011 - Album - Canned Heat / Blues Duo featuring Tracy K & Jamie “Snakeman” Steinhoff
2011 - Album - 2011 Thunder Bay Blues Showcase Live
2008 - Single - Science of Being Distant with Jamie Smith for CBC Radio One's Bandwidth
2007 - Album - Old, New, Borrowed & Blues / Tracy K and the Right Hand Band
2003 - 3 Singles for Prairie Fire Project, Canadian Diabetes Foundation
2002 - Single - Rock This House, licensed to Zernick Von-Sertner Films, L.A.
2000 - Album - Welcome to my Fantasy / Tracy K with various artists
"Broken & Blue" from Old, New, Borrowed & Blues
I'd Do Anything
"Stop! Wait A Minute" from Old, New, Borrowed & Blues
"Cruisin'" from Old, New, Borrowed & Blues
"Rollin' with the Changes" from Old, New, Borrowed & Blues
Press Release - Blues Duo preserves authenticity in new recording
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PRESS RELEASE - Blues Duo preserves authenticity in new recording From the top of blues highway 6...PRESS RELEASE - Blues Duo preserves authenticity in new recording
From the top of blues highway 61 in remote northwest Ontario comes an album whose roots stretch as far south as the highway itself. Canned Heat by Thunder Bay's "Blues Duo" was named after the album's first track, written by blues forefather Tommy Johnson. It introduces an unknown bluesman guilty of preserving authenticity, paired with an award winning performer. The raspy and well-controlled torch vocals and harmonica of Tracy K are sure to please her dedicated fans and draw in many more new ones alongside secret weapon of the north (no, not the black fly) Jamie 'Snakeman' Steinhoff. Steeped in blues tradition, not a lot of people know about Jamie, but ones who do will be quick to boast his talents. From the foot-stompin' title track, to laid back front porch blues to rollin' and rompin' rags, Canned Heat weaves five traditional acoustic folk blues gems with five contemporary acoustic originals about love, longing, stealing apples, and joy. The tracks are laden with Steinhoff 's masterful fingerstyle and slide guitar work of Piedmont and Delta styles, with the addition of banjo and his gritty bass vocals. Tracy K's skills shine with melody-rich harmonica in the acoustic tradition of the early blues harp masters and confident, seasoned vocals.
Recorded at Thunder Bay's cutting edge 'Dining Room Studios' by award winning engineer David Angell, much care was taken to preserve the raw edge of the music, sparsely arranged and gently produced by Tracy K. Guest musicians include David Angell on bass, Stuart Green on snare drum, and Tracy K's daughter Emily Kohne on the last track singing harmony. CD release tour dates in Ontario include Branch #5 Legion in Thunder Bay, April 15; Fromagerie Elgin in Sudbury, May 13 (tickets: 705.626.2368) ; 'The Cafe' in South River, May 14; and 'Hugh's Room' in Toronto May 16 (tickets: 416.531.6604). ?Visit tracyk.ca or facebook for more.
"Tracy K and Jamie Steinhoff performed for THEOP's cabaret in January, 2010. Their easy rapport with the audience, the amazing harmonica playing and the terrific, gutsy renditions of blues classics as well as their own compositions captivated the audience and made for a great evening out."?- Katherine Myers, THEOP, Deep River, Ontario, 2010
"Thunder Bay audiences are most familiar with Tracy's husky vocals and wailing harmonica in the cabaret-style show that she does with her Right Hand Man Jamie "Snakeman" Steinhoff picking and sliding on dobro and acoustic guitar. Their masterful performances of early blues ring out with an authentic vintage-era feel." ?- Ken Wright, Thunder Bay Blues Society 2008
"Now, I don't want to say Tracy K's harmonica is haunted, but I don't really have any other explanation as to how it is a million voices seem to be trapped in that tiny instrument. Tracy K surrounds herself with equally great musicians who help her swing from acoustic music to the grind of electric blues. It was my pleasure to record Tracy for national broadcast on Canada Live, as I hope the rest of the country discovers her talent live on stage."? - Alan Neal, host, BANDWIDTH, CANADA LIVE (CBC RADIO ONE & TWO) 2008
TRACY K & JAMIE STEINHOFF
BLUES DUO - BIO
When Tracy asked Jamie what they should name their upcoming cd, he said "Brian". A humble, funny-guy by nature and chef by trade, when he's not cookin' in the kitchen he's cookin' on guitar! It didn't take long before his secret was found out, and Ms. K pulled him outta the kitchen and stuck him on the stage. Now they cook together, in the kitchen and onstage. Known internationally for wailing on harmonica and beltin' out the blues with her Right Hand Band, Tracy K's desire to form a specific kind of acoustic duo was fulfilled after moving to Thunder Bay, Ontario in 2004 where she met Jamie "Snakeman" Steinhoff. Woodshedding for over twenty years, his dedication to folk & blues from the 1920s to 40s is revealed in his swampy Delta slide and Piedmont fingerstyle guitar work and gritty soulful vocals. The duo's steamy blues and lively rags, contemporary originals and vintage gems in the blues-folk tradition make up their sound. The acoustic tracks from Tracy K's cds find a home in this show, amidst song choices unheard in her electric set, and a couple of Jamie's clever originals. On stage, Jamie has a great knowledge of early blues history which he will gladly share with inquiring minds, and Tracy remains the consummate Ukrainian hostess with that small-town prairie hospitality. Jamie recorded on both of Tracy K's award winning songs which are part of their repertoire, and the duo has released their debut recording "Canned Heat". ??Gracing stages for about two decades in many guises, Tracy K settled into a solo career as a recording artist and touring musician in 2000. Since then, Tracy K was selected to perform at the Toronto Blues Society's 'Blues Summit', their 'Harmonica Workshop', and their 'Women's Blues Revue'. Her Right Hand Band was nominated as Best Electric Act by Winnipegblues.com in 2006 and have appeared in two Hollywood movies. She has been chosen as a featured vocalist with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra and several women's blues concerts across mid-Canada. Together Tracy and Jamie keep busy with public and private gigs. On tour they play festivals, theatres and house concerts, appropriate clubs and concert venues. Tracy and Jamie have been recorded by CBC Radio One’s “Bandwidth” and Radio Two’s “Canada Live”, gave a private performance in the Carribean, and co-wrote the epigrammatic tribute song, “This Axe is Your Axe” for CBC’s Jowi Taylor’s Six String Nation Guitar tour. The duo has shared workshop stages and concert billings with the likes of John Sebastian, Bill Bourne, Tim Williams, Fred Eaglesmith and Matt Anderson. With support from Canada Council for the Arts they were well received at their Ontario Contact and Manitoba Arts Network showcases. One buyer claims that "they produce a memorable show you’ll carry long in your heart"!
Tracy K has been awarded with:
2007 Ontario Independent Music Award for "BEST BLUES" ?2007 International Songwriting Competition Finalist in BLUES?2007 International Songwriting Competition Finalist in PERFORMANCE?2007 Toronto Blues Society Talent Search First Runner Up?2006 WinnipegBlues.com HARMONICA PLAYER of the Year ?2006 WinnipegBlues.com FEMALE VOCALIST of the Year
2006 WinnipegBlues.com Best Electric Act Nomination
CONTACT: 807-344-0643 EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org www.tracyk.ca
CBC Canada Live & Bandwidth
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"Now, I don't want to say Tracy K's harmonica is haunted. But I don't really have any other explanat..."Now, I don't want to say Tracy K's harmonica is haunted. But I don't really have any other explanation as to how it is a million voices seem to be trapped in that tiny instrument... and Tracy seems to know how to exorcise them in front of wowed crowds every time I see her play. Whether it's the lonely voice of someone looking for love, or the angry squeal of someone bent on vengeance, she can find just the right tone and voice to let loose. Tracy's a worthwhile talent all on her own, whether she's showing why she's Thunder Bay's Mistress of The Mouthharp.... but luckily, Tracy K seems to surround herself with equally great blues musicians who can help her swing from acoustic old-time music to the grind of electric blues. It was my pleasure to invite Tracy K to represent Thunder Bay at the national 2007 'Canada Reads, Ontario Rocks!' event, where she composed music based on the novel Icefields... a heart-wrenchingly emotive tune that had some audience members in tears.... and it was again my pleasure to record Tracy for national broadcast on Canada Live... as I hope the rest of the country discovers her talent live on stage. Again, I don't KNOW that there are ghosts trapped in that harmonica. All I know is I'm glad I've been there when she lets them out to play."
- Alan Neal, host, BANDWIDTH (CBC RADIO ONE), CANADA LIVE (CBC RADIO TWO)
Terhoch Associates, Winnipeg
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* Box 17 Group 368 RR#3 Winnipeg, MB R3C2E7 phone 204 757.4791 email email@example.com cell 204 781.4...* Box 17 Group 368 RR#3 Winnipeg, MB R3C2E7
phone 204 757.4791 email firstname.lastname@example.org cell 204 781.4415
TO: Whomever this may concern April 9, 2008
RE: Tracy K and Jamie “Snakeman” Steinhoff
As a concert promoter and event producer, we consider artists from any number of
Are they great at what they do best? Do they deliver, as advertised, on stage? Will they
give of themselves and do everything reasonable to make the show memorable for as
large an audience as anticipated? Do they work well with everyone involved, including
other artists, techs, media, and most importantly, their audience?
When these questions are asked, considering Tracy and Jamie, the answers all come
I am pleased to add my voice to the recognition they have already received.
Yes, I declare I am a fan. That is part of what motivates me, as a promoter, to book Tracy
to audiences of 30,000 people; and most recently Tracy and Jamie, to an intimate
evening of 200. (The Assiniboine Park Conservatory: January 26, 2008)
They delivered. They brought a passionate charm to their blues tradition. They know
well what it takes to move an audience. And once again they did. It was another great
Without reservation, I encourage all to consider any opportunity to have them play.
They deserve to be seen and heard by many, many, more; and as often as we can.
Ref letters: Sudbury Promoter
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Quotes Tracy K has been promoted as an award winning blues harmonica player, and the press are quic...Quotes
Tracy K has been promoted as an award winning blues harmonica player, and the press are quick to point out that Tracy is unique. But her tremendous voice and her ability to sing a long variety of songs, and her ability to "wow" an audience, make we wonder why she is not playing larger stages. She could play any stage with her talent.
Persons looking for the perfect musical duo should ask Tracy K & Jamie Steinhoff to their next event. Not only will they win you over with their musical talent and wide ranging repertoire, but they will leave you begging for more. You can't get get any better kitchen stompin blues. Mojo Mama must be heard live to be appreciated!
Tony's virtuosity on electric guitar was a revelation to me. The ability of this amazing musician to play any style of music, and to continuously improvise and move a standard to new levels of play, are unforgotten. If Tony is playing with Tracy, you will have an evening of live music that cannot be missed.
"I wish I had a dollar for every time I wished I had a dollar" Cal Orok, Globe and Mail Morning Smile, sometime last century.
Cal Orok Sudbury
Ref letters: Wabigoon & Kenora
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Green Achers of Wabigoon P.O. Box 198, 10695 Hwy. 17 Wabigoon, Ontario P0V 2W0 (807) 938-1804 St...Green Achers of Wabigoon
P.O. Box 198, 10695 Hwy. 17
(807) 938-1804 Store
(807) 938-1823 Fax
My name is John Cox and I am the owner of a music venue called Pappy’s Café and Green Achers of Wabigoon located in Wabigoon, Ontario. We are a music venue that hosts a number of Canadian artists and other talented acts on a regular basis. We are always very pleased to have Tracy K and Jamie Steinhoff perform at our venue as it draws crowds from miles around. Some fans will travel as far away as two hours to be part of the scene. They have played at our venue on several occasions and continue to do so as often as they can while travelling to and from other larger cities and venues. Their exceptional talent aside, they both have very personable characteristics. Wit, humour, day to day stories where audiences can relate makes the duo appealing, keeps people interested and coming back. In short, they are an act much worthy of our support. Please allow this letter to stand as a reference for the Blues Duo “Tracy K and Jamie “Snakeman” Steinhoff”. As well, please feel free to contact me directly should you have any questions or simply require more insight.
President/CEO 1586845 Ont., Inc.
Green Achers of Wabigoon
To whom it may concern,
Tracy K and Jamie 'Snakeman' Steinhoff have performed at my venue on numerous occasions. Their
professionalism and stage presence was evident from initial contact to post show. The audience enjoyed
their performance and I have received positive feedback for weeks after all of their appearances. Their
'back porch' blues show is not only laden with superior technique and musicality but is approached with
an educational aspect that, I am sure, lends itself to many applications in the music industry. Both of
Tracy K's CD releases are excellent examples of her talent and musicianship. With the addition of Jamie
Steinhoff, the messages of their songs are enhanced musically and as a result are extremely
communicative to all levels of the audience. I strongly recommend attending their performances or
purchasing their recordings. They represent the best of roots music performers from Canada and I look
forward to following and supporting their careers.
Yours in Canadian Music,
Laclu Industries Ltd.
Press Quotes Don't Lie!
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“Fans have been asking for the return of Tracy K since she levelled the joint during her 2003 appear...“Fans have been asking for the return of Tracy K since she levelled the joint during her 2003 appearance at the festival. Her blues harmonica style and Joplin-esque vocals make her appearance a must.“- Gerry Krochak, The Leader-Post, 2007
“Opening for James Cotton was Tracy K whose performance confirmed why they were the most popular act at the first bluesfest ” - Ken Wright, Thunder Bay Blues Society
“Tracy K was outstanding!....she injected a high level of energy with grit, an integral part of her show ”
- B.Bedesky, CBC Womens Blues Revue for canadianblues.ca
“...an impressive harmonica player, with a voice that commands your attention. Add her songwriting, her versatility, and her on-stage charisma and you've got someone special.”
“Tracy K wowed the crowd with her passion for blues. Definitely an act to catch. She had everyone cheering and calling for more.“ - Rich Benson, Minneapolis Women’s Blues Fest
"Tracy K is what music festivals are all about " - Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal
"Great voice, a very hot edged vocal performance in a variety of her own and cover songs...a sizzling vocal powerhouse, with style and an obvious ability to move an audience. Tracy K with her blues harp rocked the Rainbow” - Jim Roy, Ottawa’s blues, jazz & swing guide
"If you didn't see her on stage you would swear it was James Cotton and Janis Joplin. Tracy's vocals and harp put Blues fans in a trance evidenced by the crowds' intense applause and dancing till the next a.m.” - Bob Peech, Brandon Blues Society
”Stellar performances by Tracy K and demonstrated that the century old vocal tradition of the blues is thriving.”- Thunder Bay Blues Fest
“Tracy K first got my attention last year with her Janis Joplin voice. This year she’s grown in power as a performing artist. The voice, the harp, the guitar, the writing - this girl is in her prime...she was glowing!” - Rebecca West, MN Blues on Stage
"... a magnificent voice, raw power and passion tempered by a tender fragility ... she's mesmerizing ...
approaching the sublime." - John Taylor, Blues On Stage, Minneapolis
“Most noteworthy by far was blues harp wonder Tracy K’s soulful, raw harp deliveries.....a seasoned harp technique that effortlessly wowed and impressed the audience....a gut-wrenching harp solo....sheer harp joy... ” - J.Curtis TBS/CBC Women’s Blues Revue
“ She does it all and does it well...an excellent show!” - John Hoavenaars, CHRW London, Ont.
“Tracy K and Rita Chiarelli are wonderfully powerful musicians. I hope someone books them into the Twin Cities. Their performances were all-out and soulful.“- Rebecca West, MNBlues on Stage
"The Flashbacks were one groovin' band, especially that chick who did all the Janis Joplin tunes.”
- Winnipeg Free Press
" SHE IS AN ENTERTAINMENT" - Randal Mcilroy, from interview in Style Manitoba
" ... as far as vocal stylists go,Tracy K may be one of the best and most exciting of the lot ”
- J. Monk, The Scene
Maple Blues - CD Review
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Tracy K Old, New, Borrowed & Blues Indie/Festival The first runner up in the Talent Search this yea...Tracy K Old, New, Borrowed & Blues Indie/Festival
The first runner up in the Talent Search this year, Thunder Bay’s Tracy K returns home leaving us with this delightful CD to remember her by. Co-produced by Jack de Keyzer, herself and her Right Hand Band, her strong vocals, harp & acoustic guitar grace a program of originals plus two covers. The Right Hand Band compliments her perfectly: Tony Desmarteau is the guitarist, Vaughan Poyser, the bassist and Ty Rogers, the drummer. Jack de Keyzer did not leave his guitar at home. Her songs are very well written, a seamless blend of blues, country and rock - not a surprise, perhaps, given the Thunder Bay/Winnipeg focus. “C U Again” is a funky workout with a catchy chorus. “Cruisin’”, with its Santana-ish lead guitar part, is getting some radio play. “Stop! Wait A Minute” keeps that “C U Again” groove going with some nice harp work and a strong vocal – it’s a sharp-eyed vignette from the dance floor. “Here All Along” is another highlight, with strummed guitars over a driving drum pattern. Tracy K’s CD should be at a store near you. If it isn’t, you can go to www.tracyk.ca and find out more about Tracy. There are audio samples of her songs there too. May she return soon.
- John Valenteyn, Maple Blues Magazine, August, 2007
Blind Lemon Blues
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Blues Singer and Harmonica Player TRACY K and her Right Hand Band's album "Old, New, Borrowed and Bl...Blues Singer and Harmonica Player TRACY K and her Right Hand Band's album "Old, New, Borrowed and Blue" placed 7th on the "Blind Lemon, Top Twenty Canadian Blues Albums of 2007" special on radio station CHMR last night! The campus and community station is located in St. John's NL. Their listeners and also subscribers to the national Mapleblue-L email list voted online over the past few weeks and the show was heard live over the internet on Monday, Jan. 7th.
Edmonton Sun review
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Tracy K is a mainstay on the exceptional Winnipeg Blues scene and she plays a nice harmonica. Some o...Tracy K is a mainstay on the exceptional Winnipeg Blues scene and she plays a nice harmonica. Some of the material on her second cd is straight out of the Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee school of road balladeering, and some is more contemporary.
The real treat is her voice, more in the tradition of Janis Joplin, well controlled, but gritty as a whisky-soaked hobnail. Her band is tight and not inclined to the reckless pursuit of space-filling, so it all works.
Most of these cuts are her own, with nicely varied arrangements that recall Delbert McClinton, Bonnie Raitt, Santana and traditional blues.
There are some truly swell cuts here; Rollin' with the Changes is really heartfelt; and her take on Howlin' Wolf's Spoonful is cool, interspersing the original repeating phrases with reggae-influenced drumming, some nasty distorted guitar and Tracy K wailing on harp. Plus, her voice is well suited to the material.
- Jeremy Loomes, the Edmonton Sun
Canadian Blues review
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Tracy K – Old, New, Borrowed & Blues – Independent Written by: John Taylor The title of Winnipeg...Tracy K – Old, New, Borrowed & Blues – Independent
Written by: John Taylor
The title of Winnipeg-based Tracy K’s second outing suggests a grab bag of sorts. But while her grasp may be far-reaching, there’s nothing piecemeal about the project – this is a cohesive and carefully considered collection with a distinct musical vision.
Tracy is that rarest of creatures, a woman harmonica player (a species that can seemingly be counted on the thumbs of one hand), acquitting herself admirably on the tin sandwich as well as acoustic guitar. It’s her vocal prowess, though, that stands out – blessed with a voice that combines sandpapery roughness with extraordinary power, she proves herself an exceptionally expressive singer, able to deliver lines convincingly as well with a soft whisper as a rafter-raising shout.
She also composed all but a pair here, and while most of her tunes exhibit fairly obvious influences, she manages to mix things up enough to sound original rather than derivative. There’s a Jimmy Reed feel, for example, at the beginning of the disc’s opener, “Broken & Blue,” but Tracy quickly puts her own stamp on things with impassioned vocals and acoustic harp. “C U Again” is a funky workout with scratchy harmonica and some nice lead guitar that would no doubt fill dance floors. But once we get to Tad Robinson’s “Sweet Serenity,” here given all the breezy bounce it needs, things just get better and better. Tracy is positively Joplinesque on “Rollin’ With The Changes,” her passionate delivery utterly spine-tingling. “Stop! Wait A Minute” sounds a bit like the old Dinah Washington/Brook Benton duet, “Baby, You Got What It Takes,” but again, Tracy may borrow but doesn’t resort to imitation. “Shine” is a roots-rocker with lyrics that display a genuine folk wisdom, and “Lucky Girl” is pure delight, its irresistibly catchy melody supporting sweetly innocent and uncommonly optimistic lyrics. “Here All Along,” too, another rootsy rocker, reveals an appealing depth, showing a thoughtful side to Tracy’s songwriting. A cover of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful,” however, isn’t quite as successful; despite some fine harmonica on the signature riff, it’s a little too rocked-out, the simplicity that forms the bedrock of the blues lost in a too-busy arrangement. It’s not bad by any means, but as is so often the case, the somewhat over-the-top approach would work better in a live setting. By contrast, “Rock This House,” a song that would seem to cry out for a live audience, works very well on disc. The party comes to a close with a feverish climax on “File In The Sky,” a high-energy romp fuelled by gospel fervor and Tracy’s exuberant exhortations.
Performances here may not turn heads (apart from Tracy’s passionate pleading), but everything’s done quite well, with fine production courtesy of Jack de Keyzer (who’s no slouch as guest guitarist, either!). By no means a blues album, there are bluesy roots running throughout, and the varied program retains an intelligent consistency backed by a great deal of craft and care.
Cross Harp Chronicles interview
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Tracy K: Canada's First Lady Of The Blues Harp Did you know that music and joy are represented b...Tracy K: Canada's First Lady Of The Blues Harp
Did you know that music and joy are represented by the same symbol in the Chinese alphabet? This is particularly important to Canadian born blues harpist and vocalist Tracy K. There is nothing more rewarding for her than the excitement and appreciation in a fan's comments, a full dance floor, giving someone reason to dream, or filling that void for them.
"When my music makes someone happy, helps them unwind, relax and have fun, it is a greater achievement and fulfillment than any award I can receive." Tracy offers.
Born and raised on the prairies in a small farm community - Beausejour, Manitoba, just 45 minutes east of Winnipeg, she has been performing since she was a child. Her earliest recollections include piano lessons and learning to play her brother's guitar.
During the early sixties, when British Rock groups stormed North American shores, she recalls her first introduction to the Blues and how she was introduced and drawn to the early recordings of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. The whooping fox chases for which Terry was known, was her first introduction to the harmonica.
Since then, although she played briefly with a rock group at one time in her musical career, she has built upon this her foundation for for the blues. After an eight year maternity leave, where she raised three children. she returned to music and released her first album in 2000, "Welcome to my Fantasy," a collection of original songs in the blues/roots-rock spectrum.
Steady performances and critical acclaim opened new doors for Tracy who licensed the song "Rock This House" that had she penned to a Los Angeles movie, " Scared Silent (2002)" She performed in this film with her band. She recorded three original songs for a fundraising blues compilation CD, and appeared as "singer in the band" in another L.A. film, "More Than Meets The Eye 2003," in which she again plays the singer in the band.
In 2004 Tracy K's career was forced on hiatus due to personal issues. This imposed a delay in recording her second album, but she came back swinging with her 2007 release "Old, New, Borrowed & Blues". Produced by Toronto blues great Jack de Keyzer, this release earned her international airplay and rave reviews, and featured her own solid band of five years. It is a seamless blend of blues- Chicago, Texas and Delta influences--country and rock, all finely crafted into an original contemporary sound.
Today she is recognized as one of the few female blues harmonicists in Canada, and one of the finest by any measure anywhere. For this she has garnered awards and prestigious appearances. This would include the 2003 Toronto Blues Society's Annual Harmonica Workshop; (Toronto Blues Society and CBC Saturday Night Blues) 16th Annual Women's Blues Revue; 2006 Winnipeg Blues.com Female Vocalist of the Year; 2006 Winnipeg Blues. COM Harmonica Player of the Year; 2006 Winnipeg Blues.com Electric Act of the Year nominee; Best Blues, 2007 Ontario Independent Music Awards; 2007 Toronto Blues Society Talent Search First Runner Up.
"However, the awards are all hallmarks of a great deal of hard work and time invested into my passion." she is quick to point out.
At what age were you when you decided to pursue music professionally? Do you recall the moment, or did you sense yourself drawn in that direction since you were a kid?
I first had the urge to perform when I was still a preschooler - about four years of age. I was drawn in that direction, for sure. I made up my first songs at eight years of age in a band with my cousins. I was in several theatrical performances and musicals throughout my school years, and landed a lead role for a dinner theater production while my own kids were very young. I have been a performer all of my life, and felt that a teaching position was not unlike performing, really. I am also a visual artist, and saw myself teaching art, music, and drama, and working with special needs kids. I was known as a singer in my hometown, and was called upon for the National Anthem several times. However, I made the conscious decision to pursue a music career at 25 years of age. That is when I finished my third year in the Faculty of Education, studying to become a teacher. I went to Toronto for the summer, got a taste of the music biz there, and never left.
You played for a rock band when you first started performing . Was this a decision based on peer pressure, as many kids are drawn to music enjoyed by their peers. How did this band start?
Actually, the first band was back in High School, and I was asked to join it, purely on my image. The two other male members took a chance asking me if I could sing, and as fate would have it, I answered yes. They used to watch me walk the halls in school at lunch playing air guitar and singing to an imaginary sound track. It wasn't until I moved to Toronto that I started my own band. I had been singing with many other bands as a guest vocalist, both lead and back-up until that time, in Manitoba. However, my own shot at fronting a band in Toronto was short lived. I quickly realized how big and daunting the music industry was, and decided it best to get a gig as a back ground. vocalist in an up and coming act. That way, I could watch from a safe distance just how it all works - enter "The Blame". We were a six piece funky indy rock band. I had background vocal duties with another girl, and I played harmonica, roto-toms, and other percussion toys.
How long and where did you perform with them?
I was with the Blame for about three years. We played the main haunts of Toronto's infamous Queen West music scene, and did a few regional gigs. The Blame did a fair amount of recording, including a video which received rotation on Much Music. We were also a CFNY talent search winner, which was the big indy radio station. This exposure and our studio experience landed me work as a session vocalist for other artists and some commercial work as well.
You left music for awhile. When were you were absent from music? You left to raise three children. How long were you gone?
I had my first baby in 1990 and was still part of "The Blame" at that point. I played with them up till two weeks before giving birth, and was back on stage five weeks after. It wasn't until I became pregnant for the second time that I left. I was six months pregnant in the autumn of 1991 when I moved back to my hometown in Manitoba with my husband and two year old daughter. I re-entered university, studying music and electives while on a waiting list to get back into the Faculty of Education. I was also working part time as a silk-screen artist, my first trade. When I became pregnant for the third time in 1994, I quit everything and decided it best I stay home with my babies for a few years. I sang for a couple of show/wedding bands during that time, and would make special guest appearances with some local acts from time to time, but mostly I was singing nursery songs and lullabies! It wasn't until my youngest entered kindergarten that I went back to the music as a solo artist and embarked on my career as you know it today. That was around 1998.
Then in 2003, in mid-stride of my career, and just prior to recording a second album, all hell broke loose in my personal life. I was soon divorced, and then suffered stress related health issues through to 2005. I played sporadically over this period. In 2006, I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, or Grave's disease, and was given radioactive treatment to kill my overactive thyroid. I was terribly ill at this time, and was finally given the medical green light in spring of 2007. I have some residual indications from the disease, but am out of the woods and ready to get back to living my life again. Stress really is a killer. My advice? Chill, man, chill.
You were classically trained, weren't you? On what instrument did you receive formal training, or was it in voice that you were trained? Was this prior to, or before your absence from music?
I had formal piano lessons growing up, but that ended when I was fourteen years old. While I was living in Toronto, I studied with Micah Barnes of "The Nylons" fame for one year, in 1988. He was a vocal coach, and these weekly sessions proved invaluable. I never lost my voice again after being trained properly, and am able to sing through colds. I even performed with a nasty type of laryngitis one New Years Eve in Winnipeg, 2001 - that was truly amazing. I could hardly talk, but I was able to sing for the duration of the evening.
When did you first pick up the harmonica? With so few women, even outside of the Blues, playing harmonica, how did this start for you?
I first picked up harmonica in 1982, while backpacking Europe. It was from a Canadian soldier based in Lahr, Germany. He was a guitar player, and we were staying at his apartment while working for the Canadian army flipping burgers for the soldiers. When we (my traveling partner and girlfriend from back home) decided to continue on our travels to the south, he gave me the harmonica that I was so often picking up and tooting and said to me "When you come back this way on your way to London, you better know how to play this thing!" I drove my friend NUTS for the first month with "Oh Susannah" and "When the Saints Come Marching In". However, on the trek back up from North Africa and the Mediterranean, we did stop in Lahr, and buddy was pretty impressed with what I had taught myself to that point. He let me keep the harp, and that was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the harmonica for me.
Your earliest influences was the country blues of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. What was your first introduction to their music? What was it about their music that you liked?
When I was in my mid-teens, I hung out with an eclectic group of friends. We were on the fringe. A bunch of old and young hippies if you will, and the only ones of that kind in our tiny prairie town. They were into some real great stuff, like progressive rock and jazz, but Blues was the main element and most revered. Half the time I never knew who the heck we were listening to, but I recall hearing Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee doing "Bring it On Home" and having it hit me hard enough to find out who they were, and hear more of the same. It just sounded like a whole lot of down to earth good fun, and what's not to like about that.
Have your tastes since changed?
I wouldn't say that my tastes have changed, but I sure went full circle and ended up right back where I started from - at the Blues. Even as a child, my favorite songs had a swing element, or harmonica, or a horn section in them, like Blood, Sweat, & Tears, or Chicago. Hurricane Smith's "Babe What Would You Say" was one of those tunes that gave me that indescribable feeling that completely stole my undivided attention. I was way young then, and when I hear that song today, I can still smell my mother's house, and see the back yard from that kitchen seat next to the window where the radio was. I grew up on hit radio of the sixties, so that influence is indelible. I have a brother who is nine years older than I, and his musical tastes were shared by me - the British invasion, American psychedelia, Canadian folk rock. I'm still a devoted Zeppelin and Who fan.
Talking harmonica: why do you think so few women play "harp"?
I think it's because most women are drawn to singing. I was a singer long before I was a harmonica player. Most female singers play either guitar or piano if they choose an instrument. As for why the non-singers don't pick harmonica as their instrument of choice - beats me! Maybe it's not perceived as lady-like or sexy? Ruins the lipstick? I dunno. But if ya wanna get all psychological, I think it's the whole gun thing. It's like a gun (sorta) in size, shape, weight, and you can just whip it outta your pocket any ol' time. Guys had the ability and freedom to blow a harp whilst being cowboys and such. I think women and their hands were just too busy in the kitchen. It's evolution, man. How's that for a story on the spot?
Okay, ask a question, get an answer. Are there any female harmonicists that you really admire? What is it about their music that you like?
Well, I haven't really listened to any female harmonicists in any great length or detail. Stating that, Annie Raines is the first to come to mind, because she is the most well known. Since it is only with the dawn of internet and especially MySpace that I have found any other female players, we are just now creating history and credibility. A couple to note are Cheryl Arena and Octavia in the U.S..
As for gear, what kind of equipment do you use?
As for gear, well, I play both Hohner and Lee Oskar harmonicas. I love the way Lee Oskars feel against my lips. They have a nice smooth surface, easy to glide along. The Hohner Special 20's have the same feature, and the Marine Bands have that classic sound and tone that only Marine Bands have, but I wish they would smooth off the cover plates! I have developed a real bond with the Lee Oskars over the last seven or eight years, and like the way they respond for me. They have the replaceable reed plates, which was very attractive to me both financially and environmentally. Instead of throwing away an entire harmonica, you can just replace the plates. John Sebastien asked me once what I do to compensate for the slightly flat Oskars. I never really thought about it, and therefore must have been adjusting my umberture accordingly. I have been switching back and forth to Hohners again, and have found that I do have to play the two brands with a slightly different approach. It presents another one of the challenges that I so embrace. The Hohner's are a little more sensitive and require a gentler and dedicated breaking-in. They need to be well broken in before honkin' on them to preserve the life of the reeds. Once broken in though, they sure do play nice, and have a very quick response. The Lee Oskars seem a little more forgiving, less fragile, and tend to outlast the Hohners. I have the Lee Oskar tool kit, and have done adjusting when a reed is flat or sharp, as well. Hohners are tuned to A440, but Lee Oskars are significantly lower - around the 430 mark. They are both excellent performing harmonicas. I am happy to use either.
I play both acoustic harp (without a harp mic and amp), and amplified harp. In my blues duo which is primarily Piedmont and Delta rags and country blues, I go acoustic, singing and playing harp through a vocal mic, usually a Shure 58. I use a harp rack occasionally, when I am playing guitar on a song and want to throw some harp into it. I call it "chewing gum and walking". I go amplified when I play with my band, and change my tone throughout a performance as per the song's feel. As for amps, I prefer the Fender Blues Deluxe, and own a Blues Junior. Settings vary from amp to amp, but i find less treble and more mid and bass are the standard for harp amplification. The rest of the settings are personal taste. I used an Hohner Blues Blaster harp mic for years. It broke down, and at that point I treated myself to a Shure Green Bullet. It is the new bullet, the reissue, and doesn't hold a candle to the original vintage bullet, but it still performs as a great harp mic. It fits nice in the hand and all. I would love to get my hands on an old Astatic. I find that so much of your tone is manipulated in your mouth and throat, so the mic and amp are to the player what formal attire is to the person. A good player can make a guitar sing without any pedals or Marshall stacks. Same said for harp players. Nice gear can make nice sound, but an accomplished player comes with good sound built in. That is the beauty of acoustic harp playing. All of the tone and technique is man-made. The mark of a true harmonica great can be witnessed in this format. Doctor Ross is a fine example of this sort of achievement. He didn't even have to use his hands to help with his acoustic tone as he played harp in a rack while he accompanied himself on guitar, and his tone and technique are astounding.
You are presently leading your own group. But you have also played as a sideman, etc. Which do you prefer doing?
I love doing both. Leading my own group allows me to sing and play guitar as well, and perform my own songs plus favorite cover tunes.
As a sideman, I get to experiment and I embrace the challenge of just sitting in, impromptu. Plus, I just LOVE blowin' harp, so being a sideman is just as fulfilling. I now perform in a duo format as well, and my partner sings some tunes, so I get to just blow away. Man, I love it. The material we do is mostly old rags and blues, so it's fun as heck, and challenging. Some of these old tunes don't have harmonica in them, so I get to interpret the melody lines and improvise harmonies. I also like to try different positions in this format, to get the most out of the "feel" for the tune. I love playing lead on harp, too.
At what point in your life did you decide to start playing Blues?
I decided to make it my foremost genre when I embarked on my solo career, after the children. As far as I can remember, though, I've always played the blues, alongside other rock forms. The band I had in Toronto before I was in "The Blame" was a southern-rockin'-blues thing.
Regarding your ideas on the Blues. I read on your MySpace page some well stated ideas regarding the Blues Can you share those with us?
My ideas on the blues? Well, they're hardly my ideas, but more a truth. The Blues is the truth, as I see it, behind all music that we hear today, musically and theoretically speaking, and that has been the case since the turn of the 20th century. Just ask W. C. Handy. He'll tell ya! It's the meat and potatoes on the plate - all the other stuff out there is garnish and side dishes. I also keep trying to spread the news about the blues being happy music, and dispel the myth that mainstream audiences believe - that blues is "blue" and downer music. When someone comes back at me with "Oh, I don't like blues music", I ask if they like the song "Flip, Flop & Fly", or Bonnie Raitt, or Colin James, or Stevie Ray Vaughan, and so on.....they usually just need that little lesson to realize that they are ill-informed on what the Blues truly is, and that they really do like it. Then I drop the bomb on them and make them listen to Fred McDowell or any of the Blind Willie's! Ha! (Just kidding.... chuckle) Truly, though, if you want to win over today's typical mainstream music fan, you have to start with contemporary blues party tunes, and work your way backwards through time.
It's because of your work in the Blues that you have received recognition. You have both been nominated for and have received awards in the Blues. What awards have you received?
It's tough to be noted as such, when I think of the players who really are the blues, both past and present. I am but a speck on that great canvas. It is humbling. The awards I am named for are a great honor. To answer your question, in 2006 I received the Winnipeg Blues.com Female Vocalist Of The Year and Harmonica Player Of The Year awards, and was nominated as Electric Act Of The Year. This past year, 2007, I was one of six finalists out of more than a hundred entries in the Toronto Blues Society Talent Search, and came in second place. Then, I was nominated for Best Blues in the inaugural Ontario Independent Music Awards, and came away the winner! It's been a banner year for me.
As well as being a performer, are you not also presently a vocal coach? What are the key things a singer must remember?
I don't do vocal coaching, but I do instruct my own children on how to sing properly, and I help them with the songs they sing. All three are musical and theatrical, and perform both vocally and with instruments. The key element to singing is breathing. In fact, isn't that the key element to life?? (Funny gal, ain't I ??) But yes, that diaphragm breathing is key, and there are actual physical exercises put to a routine that I run my kids through. Also, accepting what your range is, and knowing you may only be able to expand it by a couple notes, is key. The textures and timbre are pretty uncontrollable, but can be enhanced. Bottom line for me, is to sing with passion - that trumps everything, especially once the physical training becomes an involuntary action whenever you sing.
How many albums have you released? Your recent one has received positive reviews. For those of us who have not yet heard this, which are your favorite tracks on this release/ Why?
I have released two albums. The first, in 2000, "Welcome to my Fantasy", was all originals, and really helped launch my career not only as a vocalist/harmonicist but as a songwriter as well. My favorite track on there is probably "Slow Dance" - very passionate and sexy. On this latest release of 2007, "Old, New, Borrowed & Blues", I have yet to pick a fave. "Broken and Blue" has a great sound to it, built on an acoustic presentation. The amplified harp work is best displayed ..! Wait A Minute" and "Spoonful". The anthem tune must be "Rollin' with the Changes" which was written right after the release of my first album, about the music biz. "Fire in the Sky" is just a ton of fun, and my band really shines on so many of the other tunes.
What big things can we expect from Tracy K?
It's never easy living up to great expectations, so rather than reveal my dreams, I'll tell you my targets. I am hoping to release a cd with my duo partner. I am really diggin' that project. I also have to make some time in my schedule for writing songs for my next full band release. I am currently self-managed, and finding little time for writing, as the maintenance of the business side is so overwhelming. I would like to be able to tour a lot more extensively in the next few years to come, as my children are now older and more independent. That being said, I welcome offers from professionals in the music biz to aid in these goals. I do hope to make an impact as a female harmonica player leading a lucrative career, and to encourage and empower other women players, either directly or vicariously.
What things would you like to achieve in music?
I think a good portion of the answer to this is in the reply to the last question. One thing that was not mentioned in that paragraph, however, is the desire to keep learning new stuff. I mean that from a playing point of view. I am not interested in becoming a better guitar player, simply because there are such awesome players available, why not just use them? I love all those great players! I am a basic rhythm player at best. I am interested, however, in becoming a better and better harp player continuously. I really have a secret desire to dig into the chromatics and specialty harps like those used in harmonica ensembles. That is also something I would love to do before I die - play in a harmonica ensemble! I also want to achieve the tone of Sonny Boy Williamson or Sonny Terry, but fear I ain't got the genetics! Recognition for songwriting is another thing I would like to achieve, which means I must keep writing to improve, to move ahead, to stay interesting and fresh, or traditional. It is another one of the great challenges I so love about music.
BLUES DUO performs traditional blues that go as far back as the 1920's (Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Sippie Wallace) mixed with contemporary choices and originals of the same fashion. Harmonica melody lines & solos, finger picking and slide adorn soulful vocals by Jamie and TracyK. The acoustic tracks from Tracy K's cds find a home in this show, as do some unplugged versions of her electric tunes. This act presents nicely with (but not restricted to) two sixty minute sets, especially well suited for festivals, cabaret style venues, and theatres.
Tn'T JAZZ & BLUES DUO inherit their unique sound from classic jazz and blues from the 1920's - 60's, such as Billie Holiday and Lenny Breau repertoires with some of the duo's originals. More than enough tunes for any show, or number of sets. House concerts and jazz clubs/festivals are great venues for this act.
THE RIGHT HAND BAND perform Tracy K originals and choice but unique blues covers of Chicago and Texas influence. Their sound is best described as a mix of Koko Taylor, Siegall-Schwall, Bonnie Raitt, Led Zeppelin, Fabulous T-Birds - add individuality, mix well and presto! One-of-a-kind entertainment. Very well received at Blues Festivals and clubs.