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Maryhill just the place for that honky tonk sound

Sean Burns brings his take on traditional country music to the Commercial Tavern for Sunday afternoon show


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Sean Burns comes by his love of country music the traditional way.

“My old man was a picker. He’s a great friend of Mike Weber’s, Paul’s brother – they played together for years.”

That being the case, his show Sunday afternoon in Maryhill will be something of a reunion at the Weber family’s Commercial Tavern.

Burns grew up in a home where traditional country music was a staple. He quickly came to enjoy the likes of Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Ray Price (“the Earth’s greatest singer”), eventually becoming a professional musician in his own right by 2001 at the age of 17.

Early gigs with cover bands, working in bars and on cruise ships found him playing all kinds of music, from top-40 pop to blues, the storytelling of traditional country always stuck with him. That manifested itself in his own songwriting such that when he struck out on his own a decade ago, the music was infused with an old-school sound, one that’s evolved into his own distinct sound through five albums.

His latest recording, 2018’s Music for Taverns, Bars and Honky Tonks, will feature heavily in Sunday afternoon’s show, as well some new stuff destined for an album planned for next year.

Constantly touring, whether doing a solo or with his band, Lost Country, Burns enjoys being up on stage, something that’s been the case from day-one and continues to this day, he notes on the line from Oshawa, the place where he grew up and that remains home to family, though he now calls Winnipeg home.

“I like to be a performer. I like people to come out, not have to think about it and just have a good time,” he says. “Sometimes, people just like dancing and forgetting about the heavy things that are going on.”

Not, of course, that traditional country songs aren’t big on heavy things, particularly the personal kind. Take heartache, for instance. Burns certainly does, as he finds there are plenty of heartbreaking stories to be told. Even as his own life has become happier and more secure, he can draw on the experiences of others who aren’t so lucky.

“Some people don’t want to talk about those things. Some people don’t like the stories of heartache. I love those songs.”

For the October 6 show, he’ll be joined by long-time collaborator Ryan “Skinny” Dyck. The two are on an Ontario swing this month before heading back out west for November.

Whether it’s a stop in Lavigne, Peterborough or Toronto, Burns typically looks out at an audience older than himself, people who grew up on traditional country music. While he did the same, he notes that many of his generation and younger weren’t exposed to that brand of country music – perhaps new country, if anything at all. With a resurgence of sorts for some aspects of traditional or roots music, there’s hope that a younger audience will pick up on the sound.

“It’s music that everyone can relate to … whether it’s the story or they just want to dance.”

He was drawn to the roots stuff – country and blues, in particular – early on, and now uses those influences to define his own style. That very much includes songs of trains and trucks, drinkers and drunks, hearts and aches. And he’s always keen to share his passion for the sound, hosting a weekly traditional country music radio show on University of Winnipeg station CKUW that allows him to explore the genre along with the audience.

Come Sunday, he’ll be doing the sharing live on the stage at the Commercial Tavern starting at 3 p.m. Tickets are available at the venue, 1303 Maryhill Rd., or by calling 519-648-3644. Visit Commercial Tavern’s website for more information.

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