Like most of us, Lynn Russwurm is hoping the summer weather is here to stay. The weekends, especially, should offer up warm temperatures and sunny skies. Starting tomorrow, he’ll be casting an eye skywards on Sundays right through until September as his popular Showcase concert series kicks off at Gore Park in Elmira.Russwurm’s own creation, the summer concert series has grown in popularity with both audiences and performers: he has no problem filling the schedule, which expands again this year.
A tireless musician, songwriter, producer and record collector, Russwurm works constantly to promote traditional country and bluegrass music. After decades in the industry, he’s got a long list of contacts with artists as he works on the lineup for the series each year.
“I’m always trying to get some new ones, and then there are those favourites returning,” he said of the performers.
“They all really enjoy playing here.”
This year, the series gets rolling Sunday with Steve Piticco & South Mountain.
Formed in 1989, the band received the 1991 Canadian Country Music Association Vista Rising Star Award. Their 1995 single Radioland reached the Top 20 of the RPM Country Tracks chart. Since forming, the band has released 16 albums.
The band holds the title of “International Band Of The Year” in Europe, beating out The Dixie Chicks, The Mavericks and Alabama. Their latest European tour – an annual tradition – had them playing in front of tens of thousands of people in Lithuania, Spain, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium and Denmark, headlining many of the festivals.
Piticco has been the band’s one constant, plucking out the signature sound of Texas-swing-meets-electric-bluegrass. Born in Toronto, he began playing guitar at age 11, acquiring the Fender Telecaster at age 15 that he uses to this day. In the late 1970s, he arrived on the Ottawa-area scene, playing with The Prescott Brothers band and also working with many of the region’s top groups. Piticco has been recognized many times by the CCMA as Guitar Player of the Year and Instrumentalist of the Year. In addition, he played guitar in Tommy Hunter’s concert tour band and appeared as a guest on countless recording sessions, as well as recording several of his own albums.
With his new version of South Mountain, Piticco travels extensively throughout Canada and Europe. The Dutch Country Music Association has honoured him with five Gram Awards for International Instrumentalist (winning over such players as Chet Atkins, Mark O’Connor, Vince Gill and Mark Knopfler) and the group with International Group of the Year twice.
“It’s going to be a great show to start the series,” said Russwurm.
Along with planning out this year’s concerts, the Floradale resident has been busy with another project, releasing a songbook that acts as a companion to his 2012 CD release, “Singing My Songs.”
“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, as I thought it was a good idea,” said Russwurm. “Years ago, every artist that recorded had a songbook. Now, they don’t do that anymore.”
The book features the music and lyrics to 20 of his own songs – chosen for the album from his collection of more than 600 – as well as photos and a bio of his six decades as a musician.
“When you have a CD with all kinds of artists, it’s sometimes hard to get all the [clearances] to do a songbook. But these are all my own songs, so it was easy to do,” he laughs.
The songbook will be available with other merchandise Russwurm always has available at shows. For him, it’s always about getting the music out there for people to enjoy. It’s the same philosophy with the summer concerts. The showcase series runs Sunday evenings, 7-9 p.m., in Gore Park.
May 31: Steve Piticco & South Mountain
June 7: Commercial Bluegrass Band
June 14: Moonshiner’s Daughter
June 21: The Two Plus Who (Bob Tremblay & Lynn Russwurm)
June 28: Southbound
July 5: Rural Appetite
July 12: Grass Tax
July 19: Earl Fries & The Chaparrals
July 26: Ridin’ High
Aug. 2: Peace River Band
Aug 9: Burie Family
Aug. 16: Gerald Davidson & The Country Versatiles
Aug 23: Doug Dietrich & Sunrise
Aug 30: Dickie Dugal & U-Turn