Keith Hallett
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Keith Hallett

Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada | SELF | AFM

Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada | SELF | AFM
Band Blues Rock


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"Keith Hallet Heads to Blues Challenge"

Keith Hallett heads to Memphis Blues Challenge
Published Thursday January 15th, 2009
New Brunswick singer to represent Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival.
Matt Carter

Keith Hallett is quickly becoming a household name. Since first turning heads as the Fredericton High School student with an uncanny feel for playing the blues, Hallett has chosen to make music his career and by all accounts, he's made the right choice.
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Fredericton’s Keith Hallett is excited about his upcoming opportunity.

The past year has seen Hallett and his guitar appear onstage in clubs, pubs, and festivals across the country sharing the spotlight with some of the biggest names in the business. From Canso, Nova Scotia to Vancouver, British Columbia, Hallett has been busy sharing his hybrid brand of blues with anyone who'll listen.

In a few short weeks, he'll be packing his bags once again and heading south of the border to represent the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival at the 2009 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.

"This came as a surprise to me," said Hallett. "I got a call from Harvest telling me that they're sending me to Memphis for a week. I'm pretty excited." The International Blues Challenge is an annual event that brings many of the world's most promising blues acts together to compete for cash, prizes, and industry recognition. Last year's event saw 100 bands and 60 solo/duo acts involved and with 2009 celebrating the event's 25th anniversary, organizers are expecting even greater numbers this year.

The Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival has a long history of helping its own. Many New Brunswick musicians including Ross Neilsen and JP LeBlanc credit the folks at Harvest for lending support to their career development. Hallett is no exception.

"Harvest is proud to support local musicians in any way we can," said longtime Harvest mainstay Brent Staeben. "We chose Keith this year because we felt it would offer an up and coming New Brunswick artist a chance to experience an international event that's all about excellence." Staeben is happy to share this opportunity with Hallett who'll be immersed amongst many of the world's top up and comers, not to mention being under the watchful eye of talent buyers from some of the world's leading festivals.

"He'll have to bring his 'A' game to impress the seasoned vets down south and he'll be surrounded by 160 other acts who'll be bringing their best too," he said. "It'll be a once in a lifetime chance to learn and a chance to evolve, so a wonderful way for Harvest to invest in Keith's musical career and in the local musical community." Hallett will be making the trip down south with his band mates, bassist Pat Hawkes and drummer Chuck Bucket. For Hallett, this trip isn't so much about the competition, but more of a chance to meet others making their way in the music business.

"I'm going down there excited about the connections I could make," said Hallett. "It's going to be a great experience. I'm grateful to have this opportunity." Hallett has been host to a stream of success in recent months receiving an East Coast Music Award nomination for Blues Album of the Year as well as a Maple Blues award nomination in the New Artist/Group of the Year category. He'll be heading to Toronto for the Blues Summit and squeezing in a few shows in Quebec before heading to Memphis in the first week of February.

The Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival will be holding a fundraising event for the trip at Dolan's Pub on January 24 that will feature Keith and his band in action. Tickets for the event will be available at the door. - herenb

"From Busker to Headliner"

From busker to headliner
Published Saturday August 1st, 2009
Music Twenty-year-old Fredericton blues guitarist Keith Hallett's quick ascent up the festival ranks shows no signs of slowing

Benjamin Shingler

FREDERICTON - Only a few years ago, Keith Hallett and a couple of high school buddies were busking at Fredericton's Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival, playing to passersby as they headed toward the festival's main stages.
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Keith Hallett will play two shows at this year’s Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival in Fredericton, capping a busy summer of show in Montreal, Ottawa and Mont Tremblant.

"Even then, he was really starting to shine," recalls Brent Staeben, Harvest's longtime music director. "It was quite clear, as good as the other guys were, that Keith was a special talent."

This year, the 20-year-old Fredericton native will be a big draw at two Harvest shows, following a busy summer at some top blues festivals around the country - in Montreal, Ottawa and Mont Tremblant, Que.

It's been a quick ascent for the young guitarist, who also plays tonight at the Shediac Blues Festival.

So what can concert-goers expect from a Hallett show these days?

"It's really hard to explain," he said by phone from Halifax. "I do what I do. I guess just a lot of slide guitar."

Inspired by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Muddy Watters, Hallett first picked up a guitar at age 13 - and quickly turned to the blues.

His throaty voice and heavy guitar, when accompanied by band-mates bassist Pat Hawkes and drummer Chuck Bucket, makes for music reminiscent of the pioneering bluesmen of the '30s and '40s.

It's a rough, soulful sound that contrasts his easy-going demeanour off the stage.

"I guess some people, it really hits them," Hallett said.

His debut album, Bear with Me, which features five originals and five covers, has received wide praise since its release last fall.

One critic called the debut "head and shoulders above at least half the blues discs that have come out this year by older veterans."

The album also received a 2008 nomination for blues album of the year at the East Coast Music Awards.

Hallett can add the nomination to a growing list of accomplishments, having won the 2007 CBC Galaxie Rising Star Award, and recently competing in the 2009 International Blues Challenge in Memphis.

"He's a self-made guy, but we really felt proud of Keith," Staeben said of his performance in Tennessee.

"To see him in Memphis, to see him really kind of shine, was fantastic. Some nights he was the best band in the bar - of 10 acts."

When his touring schedule slows down later this year, Hallett has plans to return to the studio. On the next album, Hallett says he wants to use older gear, and further strip down the production.

The aspired-for sound is far from much of today's pop music - which Hallett laments as over-produced and "void of soul."

"I don't want it to be polished," he said. "I want it to be raw and dirty."

Staeben says Hallett is part of an impressive group of young local blues artists that includes Matt Andersen and Ross Neilsen.

"The nice thing is that people like Keith have grown up with the festival," Staeben said.

"What Harvest does for somebody like that is it says: 'Here's the best in the business. Come in, be inspired by them.'"

This year's edition of Harvest runs Sept. 15 -20. It features more than 100 performances - including more than a dozen street buskers each night. The next Keith Hallett could be among them. - Telegraph Journal

"Review Bear With Me"

Telegraph Journal
Bob Mersereau review of Bear With Me
Young blues players often get saddled with too much attention at the start of their careers, simply because they're young. It's most commonly observed with young guitar slingers. Think of the hype surrounding Jonny Lang a few years back, or Colin James closer to home. These guys blow out of the gate with lots of praise, but it leaves them little room to develop in their careers over the next few years. Once the age novelty wears off, where do you go? It's almost as if you've used up all your good buzz and publicity at the start.

We've had a couple of 'em in this province too. JP Leblanc of Bathurst impressed everybody right out of the gate when he started playing shows in his mid-teens, already blazing on the guitar. But J.P's been wise. He hasn't overexposed himself, and has followed a smart learning curve both in his music and education...concentrating on his university studies, while still doing shows and albums, but not going for risky big breaks in other markets. He's inching into new markets in the States and Europe, developing his french-language audience with a francophone album, just keeping a cool head.

Fredericton's young Keith Hallett seems to be on a similar path. He hit the local scene while he was still in high school. The last year was sort of a coming out party for him, with lots of shows around, getting his playing and band in order. Now, he's gone from a novelty, to a solid draw, attracting crowds on his name and fame alone. It's almost like he's drop the kid-phenom tag already, and has certainly been accepted by local players and fans alike. It's understood he's good, and will put on a pro show. There's no question in anyone's minds that he has a career in the blues ahead of him.

Which brings us to his first album, which was just released this past weekend. It's called Bear With Me. It's a smart selection, showcasing what he does best. There are five good originals, and five smart covers, plus lots of guitar playing, straight and slide. The covers are classics. Sure, we've all heard Robert Johnson and BB King before, but Hallett proves he can handle them, and make them his own, plus not sound young. Hallett growls thru the vocals, makes the songs tough, not smooth or slick, like they were meant to be heard. Son House's Preachin' Blues is one of the more sinister early blues around, a tale of a guy who's going to get religion, and become a preacher, just so he can make money and not do any work, a heaven of his own. Obviously, you have to sing a song like this like you mean it, and you certainly can't doubt it when you hear Keith's version. Hey's he's actually a nice guy, so don't get any ideas. But he doesn't come across like one on this disc. Ditto for his slide playing here, stinging and intense.

Of course, it's the originals that show the true promise. Hallett's already learned to move out of bar blues, putting a swing on his opening cut, She's the One, mixing up the tempos on the other tunes. I like his band configuration too, adding keyboard player John Claydon, who gives the tracks lots of colour with his organ and wurlitzer piano. Most notable though, are the lyrics. Already Hallett's showing he's not going to settle for the same old words and themes. He's still getting there as a writer, but it's great to see where he's headed.

All in all, you won't go wrong with this CD, I can recommend it to any blues fan, and it's head and shoulders above at least half the blues discs that have come out this year by the older veterans of the North American scene. And you don't have to think of him as a kid, not one bit. Keith Hallett's Bear With Me is available for sale this weekend at Backstreet Records in Fredericton and Saint John, and online at
- Telegraph Journal Saint John New Brunswick


Bear With Me 2008



20 year old blues guitar player, Keith Hallett of Fredericton, New Brunswick, has been turning heads for some time now. He has something to say through his music and the audience feels it instantly. Keith has been playing guitar since the age of 13, got into the blues around the age of 15 and has enjoyed studying and playing it ever since.

His influences are many, from the old masters like Mississippi Fred Mcdowell, Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Albert King, Albert Collins and Freddie King to contemporary players Jack Pearson and Duane Allman, to name a few.

In a very short period of time, Keith has been asked to play many high profile festivals and special events including the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival, Mont Tremblant Blues Festival, Montreal International Jazz Festival, Dutch Mason Blues Festival, Maximum Blues Festival, the Ottawa Blues Festival, the Calgary mid winter Blues Festival among others. He has opened for such groups as Grady, Paul Rishell & Annie Raines, Derek Trucks, Kermit Ruffins, Elvin Bishop, Sonny Landreth, Watermellon Slim and the Workers, and has shared the stage with the likes of Matt Anderson, Garrett Mason, Ross Neilson, Morgan Davis, Monkeyjunk, John Cambelljohn, Thom Swift and The Lee Boys.

In September 2007, Keith won a Galaxie Rising Star Award, presented to him during the annual Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival. In 2009 Keith's talent was again recognised with a Maple Blues Nomination and and ECMA nod for Blues Album of the Year. He was also selected to compete at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis competing against more than 200 artists from around the world.

He has toured nationally and been featured on CBC’s Canada Live. Hallett's future is a bright one. Loaded with a ton of talent and a growing fan base wherever he plays Hallett is set to become a brightly shining light on the contemporary music scene.