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Cheryl Lescom bringing the blues to Maryhill

Belting out tunes for more than 40 years, Cheryl Lescom is still having fun. And she takes care to make sure it stays that way, doing what she loves on her own terms.

For the bluesy chanteuse, that includes playing the shows she wants to play, such as Sunday afternoon’s appearance with the Tucson Choir Boys at Maryhill’s Commercial Tavern.

Label-mates on Busted Flat Records, Lescom and the Boys have recorded a pair of albums together. Sunday’s show will draw on their collaborative efforts, especially the most recent recording, 1953, she said.

“We’ll be doing all of our favourite songs.”

An acoustic act, they’ll be a good fit for a Sunday afternoon at the historic venue, one of the enduring bastions of live music.

Having seen many changes in the music industry over the course of her career, Lescom is very much aware that there aren’t the number of venues that there used to be. That’s more than a little ironic at a time when the well-documented decline in the recording industry, a victim of digital downloads, forces musicians to rely more on live performances.

A number of factors, from operating costs and regulations to changing demographics have made it difficult for bars and other music spots to keep at it. The scene is much different from when she was young and then starting out in the business. In just the Kitchener area and southwestern Ontario, there were plenty of venues and opportunities for performers.

“Live music, that was our everything,” she said, noting that is no longer the case for today’s young people.

It’s a tough slog for young musicians today, however, she notes.

“You have to be willing to be as versatile as possible to make it today,” she said. “With live music, you’ve got to be able to be an entertainer.”

It’s a different world from when Lescom started out in 1976, inspired by a conversation with Ann Wilson of Heart in which she was encouraged to make a go of her musical dreams. She did just that, fronting several of her own bands before becoming a backup singer for Ronnie Hawkins and touring with Long John Baldry. It’s a career that seen her tour and perform with the likes of Jeff Healey, Matt Minglewood, Dutch Mason, Downchild, Jack de Keyzer, Del Shannon, David Wilcox, Mel Brown, Paul James, and The Detroit Women.
Starting out with straight-up blues, Lescom gradually developed more of a rockin’ blues sound. For more than a decade, she’s adopted a soulful, bluesy style.

“It’s a lot more organic now – it’s not forced,” she said.

The blues was a natural entry point into music for Lescom.

“When I first started to listen to music in the ‘60s, Motown had the bluesy edge to it. Even all the rock ‘n’ roll bands drew on the blues.”

She doesn’t consider herself a blues purist, however. “But the music that I write does lean that way.”

Despite all the ups and downs of the business, Lescom says she’s still happy to be part of the industry, taking the bad along with the more plentiful good.

“It’s a good trade-off – I’ll take it. I enjoy what I’m doing,” she said, adding she’s got no real regrets. “I don’t feel that way. I enjoy my job more than I ever have.”

And it’s all about the music when she takes to the stage, as she’ll do Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are available at the venue, 1303 Maryhill Rd., or by calling 519-648-3644. For more information, visit www.commercialtavern.ca.

Her appearance will follow a Saturday night performance at the Busted Flat Records anniversary show at the Rhapsody Barrel Bar in Kitchener.

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