Out This Week
On his 11th album, the Canadian folk fixture from Dawson Creek offers up another collection of soulful numbers that range from an almost La Bamba-esque early rock ‘n’ roll sounds (Don’t Let Go), to beautiful country folk balladry (The Beating of Your Very Own Heart) and sweet blues (Feeling Mighty Lonesome). As always, his quavering tenor is powerful and full of emotion, the playing is deep in the pocket and listening to the album leaves you wondering why he isn’t a household name.
Roy Forbes Launches New Album
Attempting to demonstrate the difference between playing with a full band versus playing solo, the singer-songwriter describes being on stage all by his lonesome as a kind of tightrope act, a high wire performance that truly makes him come alive – despite the dangers of being up there without the support of other musicians.
"When you’re by yourself, you can go anywhere – and I do,” says Forbes.
Across 10 shimmering original tunes on his new album, Edge of Blue, set to be released next week, Forbes has opted for a full-band affair, but as usual it’ll just be him and his Gurian guitar up there for the concert next Friday in celebration of the album’s official release.
Although he continues to tout the joys of walking the live performance high wire, there was a period during the last five years where Forbes’s artistic vision was tested by a lack of sight.
Afflicted with poor vision in general for most of his life, the veteran B.C. songwriter was rearranging boxes at home in 2015 when a heavy one slipped and hit him in the eye. Following multiple surgery, his eyesight couldn’t be saved, leaving him essentially legally blind.
Adjusting to his new reality during the past five years came with a host of challenges, but it was in his current situation where Forbes starting putting together a new batch of songs.
“You just do it. Somebody said, ‘What’s your philosophy of life right now?’ and I said, ‘Start from now,’” says Forbes.
Across an almost 50-year musical career, Forbes has never been one to rush release an album. The songs come when they come, he says, adding that a musician needs to know, really know, when they’ve got something before putting it out. And sometimes you just know.
“With Edge of Blue, I starting writing for that in the summer of 2016. I’d had my accident and was just adjusting to my new life as an unsighted guy. I started writing around that time and I just kept chipping away. Some of the songs came quickly,” says Forbes.
Perhaps best known for his high, soulful vocal style and acoustic blues mastery, Forbes was born and got his start in music in his hometown of Dawson Creek, B.C. He describes his early forays in music as typical for many teenagers: “Get a guitar at 14, the easy play-a-guitar-in-five minutes book, learning the chords …”
And once he learned the chords for “I Fought the Law,” he was “off and writing songs.”
He moved to Vancouver in 1971 and performed under the childhood nickname “Bim” for a time. British Invasion acts like John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and the early Rolling Stones introduced him to the blues, at which point he set off on his own and discovered Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson for himself.
At 18 years old, Forbes landed a gig opening for Rita Coolidge at Queen Elizabeth Theatre, and his trajectory was set. “Suddenly here I am in front of this big audience and I killed it. It was my night,” he says. vAs Forbes gears up to celebrate the release of Edge of Blue, he reflects on his love of music in general. For years he’s hosted Roy’s Record Room on CKUA. Culling from his large collection of vinyl LPs, 78s and shellac, he’s spun tunes on the show every week, but had to have his daughter help him significantly in the last many years following his loss of sight.
“As of last summer, I’ve taken it over again. I’m editing digital audio again, which is a big deal,” he says.
Clearly, he still enjoys walking that high wire. As he sings in the opening track of his new album: “You’ve got to find the joy in your heart and don’t let go.”
20 questions with Roy Forbes
A new album is a rare occurrence for the musician and through Edge of Blue‘s ten songs, Roy explores his roots and routes amassed over a nearly fifty-year career.
1. Your first job?
2. The job you always wanted as a child?
3. Your pet peeve?
4. Your hero?
5. Your biggest indulgence?
6. One thing no one knows about you?
7. Three things you would want with you on a deserted island?
8. The one word your best friend would use to describe you?
9. If they made a movie about your life, who would it star?
10. Hero or villain?
11. Your life’s motto/mantra?
12. The song getting the most play on your Spotify playlist right now?
13. The last book you read?
14. If you were a cartoon character, what cartoon character would you be, and why?
15. What will it say on your grave marker?
16. Who would you most like to have dinner with?
17. Your idea of happiness.
18. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your twenty-year-old self?
19. The one thing in your life that makes you most proud?
20. To be or not to be?
What's In Your Fridge?
What’s in Your Fridge is where the Straight asks interesting Vancouverites about their life-changing concerts, favourite albums, and, most importantly, what’s sitting beside the Heinz ketchup in their custom-made Big Chill Retropolitan 20.6-cubic-foot refrigerators.
Who are you?
Lydia’s sweetheart. Riley’s dad. Singer, guitar player, writer of songs, spinner of platters on the radio (CKUA), obsessive vinyl and shellac record collector. Truly alive when walking the live performance high wire. Currently releasing a new album, Edge of Blue. Ten brand new songs.
Hank Snow at the Vogue Theatre in Dawson Creek, circa the early '60s. I don’t remember who took me. It was like Hank and I were the only ones in the room. In my young dreamer mind, I felt sure that Hank would spot me, pick off my (imagined) supreme musical ability, tap me on the shoulder and put me in that spotlight. Ha, ha.
In the summer of 1968, the Vogue had morphed into the Elks Hall. My band, the Crystal Ship, was competing in a battle of the bands. We didn’t win. The big moment came at the end when all five bands played "Gloria" at the same time. Must have been one hell of a racket. I’m not sure that Hank Snow would have approved.
Neil Young, solo, at the QE Theatre, early 1971. I was well on the road to becoming a singer-songwriter when I saw this Neil performance. (I had only six months of school to ride out before I’d leave Dawson Creek for Vancouver in the summer of ’71). Neil was touring behind his After the Goldrush LP, which spoke volumes to me. Like Neil was speaking directly to my tortured adolescent soul. The concert opener, John Hammond, was fiery and intense. My introduction to live blues. Then Neil came on. He told funny stories. Played a new tune he’d written the night before. Trotted out song after incredible song. He showed me how it could be done, and I set to work, figuring out how to do it. Amazingly, 10 or so months later, I was performing on that same stage, opening for Rita Coolidge. It was my big introduction to Vancouver audiences. Bim had arrived. Today, both Neil and I are still at it.
Honourable mention goes to Bruce Springsteen at the QE in 1978. Bruce put the rock ‘n’ roll back in my soul.
Top three records?
Yesterday, it might have been Blonde on Blonde, Big Pink, and Kind Of Blue. Today? Sam Cooke Night Beat This album is where I go when I want to be reminded what it is to really sing.
Bill Frisell Guitar in The Space Age I couldn’t stop playing this record when it came out. Bill and his silver-stringed partner Greg Leisz are like two bodies, one mind. A thing of beauty and something to aspire to as a guitar player.
John Prine - John Prine My first manager played it for me on a rainy January night back in 1972 after smoking some strong stuff. I was amazed. The folks that John was singing about were people I’d grown up with in Dawson Creek. I could see the wrinkles on their skin, the stains on their boots, feel the pain in their hearts. “Far From Me”, “Angel From Montgomery”, “Sam Stone”, and “Hello In There”. The list goes on and on. Still as strong today as back in ’72 although the smile is legal in Canada now.
All-time favourite video?
Bob Bossin’s “Sulphur Passage” I’ve never really been into music videos. I found that they interfered with the pictures I had in my head. But, if pushed, I’d have to give mention to Bob Bossin’s “Sulphur Passage”, a video that made a difference. Oh, and, I’m in it, part of an all-star cast.
What’s in your fridge?
Beet pickles. When my niece, Tracy, calls me up, saying she has some good news, I get excited, knowing that soon she’ll show up with a couple big jars of beet pickles. They don’t last long at our house. Slice ‘em up, put ‘em in a salad with goat cheese and mixed greens. Pile a few on the plate with your turkey meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Someone in our house even eats beet pickle sandwiches.
Saskatoon jam. A fair-sized jar of Saskatoon jam, made by my pal, Howard, currently has short-term residence in our fridge. Howard and his brother Bill picked the Saskatoons on a warm July morning last summer, just outside of Chetwynd, BC. By three that afternoon, the berries were jam. If I want a taste of the north, all I need is a wee bite of that fine concoction.
At least two pounds of butter. I live with a fabulous baker so it’s essential to keep at least two pounds of butter in the fridge. One never knows when Lydia will take a notion to bake up a storm. I’m especially fond of her scones. They go quite nicely with some of Howard’s Saskatoon jam.