CALLING ALL THE YOUTH – Canadian blues

Big Sugar bringing ‘stripped down sound’ to Red Deer

The drum is like a heartbeat — integral to maintaining life, steadily propelling stories and songs through various channels

The drum is like a heartbeat — integral to maintaining life, steadily propelling stories and songs through various channels into a spiritual revolution.

It’s this omnipresent instrument that is the major driving force behind Canadian blues, rock reggae pioneers Big Sugar’s newest album, Yardstyle, and subsequent tour.

Big Sugar will be bringing their stripped down show, The Acoustical Sounds of Big Sugar, to the Red Deer College Arts Centre on Feb. 25th. The show is presented by the Central Music Festival Society and starts at 8 p.m.

Born out of countless fluid jam sessions, Yardstyle features 13 percussion-heavy acoustic reggae tracks that are reminiscent of the soothing sound of waves rolling onto the beach.

But don’t be alarmed, Yardstyle is built off the large and impactive song catalogue of Big Sugar, a true reflection of being on the road for years, but with a stripped back approach, exposing all the intricacies and nuances that make the band’s sound legendary.

“It’s such an easy format to communicate musically for us and it comes so natural that we want to share that with our fans,” said Big Sugar frontman Gordie Johnson.

“There are a bunch of new songs on the record,” he added. “I collaborated with different song writers and I have done so for many years, so these are just songs from the song book that we never really had a format to play them in before.”

Johnson noted that for many of the new tracks, like Calling All the Youth and Police Bway the Vampire, there are electric versions that will be on an upcoming record next year.

Yardstyle features the Trews reggae originator Willi Williams, who has collaborated with the band many times over the years and influenced generations of reggae fans.

“He’s collaborated with us before,” explained Johnson. “He was one of a number of musical guests we had in for the record.”

Johnson notes that the stripped back and acoustic format of the record and tour is exactly how the band works out new songs and gets together collectively.

“Whenever we are rehearsing or writing, this is how we get together and go through music,” he said. “We sort of just add electricity at the last possible minute.

“Two years ago we were on tour and going to radio stations and TV stations, playing acoustically in the afternoon, so we just thought that’s so much fun to do, what would happen if we did a whole tour like that? So here we are.”

Johnson notes that with the acoustic format, he can tell stories behind the songs, communicate deeply with the audience and clearly hear the audience as they sing along to the reimaged familiar hits like Turn the Lights On.

“These are all my dear friends, but in a room full of strangers, when you can let them (the audience) into that, a sort of a private conversation, it’s really inspiring — to get a room full of people all feeling the same way at the same time. That’s what we try to achieve every night.”

Also unique to the acoustic tour is Big Sugar’s partnership with World Vision, aiming to sponsor children in the village of Jarso, Ethiopia as the band makes their way across Canada.

“We really wanted to make the entire tour about something more important than just the music,” said Johnson. “We are asking our fans to rather than just coming and buying shirts, CDs and things like that, that they come to the merch table and look at a picture of our kids in the village and sponsor a kid so they can go to school.”

With many obstacles to face towards getting a good education in Jarso, the objective is to make education a priority in the village and equip the schools with the proper learning tools.

“At every city we are getting a handful of kids sponsored, and if we keep on going like this, by the end of our tour, we will have an entire village of kids going to school,” noted Johnson. “It seems like it’s something that’s achievable at the rate we’re going.”

For tickets visit or contact the Black Knight Inn ticket centre at 403-755-6626.

For more information on Big Sugar visit


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