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Heating things up at the Commercial

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THIS WEEK

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The distinctive sound of steel guitars. Bluegrass. Western swing. New country. The Commercial Tavern in Maryhill is home to them all, as will be in evidence over the next few weeks.

The Western Swing Authority, which plays at the Commercial Tavern on alternate Tuesdays, includes guitarist Pee Wee Charles (inset), who’ll take the stage Sunday as part of The Men of Steel show. [Submitted]
The Western Swing Authority, which plays at the Commercial Tavern on alternate Tuesdays, includes guitarist Pee Wee Charles (inset), who’ll take the stage Sunday as part of The Men of Steel show. [Submitted]
Friday night, the venue welcomes Guelph’s Corduroy Road, which mixes contemporary original tunes and traditional songs, with an emphasis on entertainment. The group – Reg Arthurs, Andrea LeBlanc, Stephanie LeBlanc Grimm, Janna Pardy, Brian Ward, Craig Galbraith and Peter Turpin – brings an energy to their shows.

For Sunday afternoon, it’s The Men of Steel – five steel guitar players getting together to celebrate the distinctive sound of the instrument.

“They’re five of the top steel guys in Canada,” said Commercial Tavern owner Paul Weber, who’ll be playing bass for the show.

“They’re all steel players that have been on the road – some of them are still out on the road – and they all have stories to tell,” he added. “It will be a great day filled with the music of the steel guitar.”

Doug Dietrich, Pee Wee Charles, Doug Johnson, Dale Rivard and Mike Weber take center stage. Fiddler Dan Howlett, drummer Grant Heywood, Weber on bass and vocals, and Sister Sue will join the fun.

Weber’s expecting a range of songs, including stuff from Buck Owens, Conway Twitty and George Strait, whose work features the steel guitar.

It’s a tough instrument to master, and each of the players has spent years honing his craft.

“It’s an instrument that take a lot of dedication to get good at.”

Given their prowess, each of the five has worked with a wide variety of artists over the years. They’ll be telling stories of their time on the road, the many artists they’ve worked with and the recording sessions they’ve played on, he explained.

Most are no strangers to local country enthusiasts, and have taken to the stage in Maryhill on more than a few occasions. Pee Wee Charles, for instance, is part of the Western Swing Authority. The award-winning band, just this week down in Austin, Texas, plays at the Commercial Tavern every other Tuesday – their next show is February 24.

“That’s a real energetic show, with some really great players,” said Weber.

Nominated for “group of the year” and “roots artist of the year” at the 2014 Canadian Country Music Awards (Shane Guse was named fiddle player of the year), the band just released its third album, Now Playing.

On the alternate weeks, there’s bluegrass music on Wednesday nights. Dan Howlett is part of the Commercial Bluegrass Band, joined by Richard Dugal, Al Widmeyer, Ken Groomes and Glenn George.

“It’s a nice mix of traditional bluegrass, some of their own stuff and some country stuff that they’ve adapted to their sound.”

The band next appears March 4. That’ll be a busy month at the venue, including tribute shows to Hank Williams and Merle Haggard.

“Like a lot of our stuff, those shows will be a light and easy day – some great musicians out having some fun with the music.”

The Men of Steel perform at 3 p.m. on Sunday (doors open at 2:30). Tickets are $20, available the day of the show at the venue, 1303 Maryhill Rd., or by calling 519-648-3644. For more information, visit www.commercialtavern.ca. The weekday shows featuring the Western Swing Authority and Commercial Bluegrass Band see doors open at 8 p.m. on their respective nights. Cover is $5.

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