For quite some time Ron Rault felt as though he was mailing it in.
That’s quite the admission from the Front Porch Blues Revue bassist and singer, long considered one of the city’s most talented players. It’s not uncommon for musicians to feel the drift into indifference, however, even after (in Rault’s case) five decades worth of stellar playing with a host of local bands and American blues legends like John Lee Hooker. What’s impressive is when the drift is recognized and then corrected before any real rot sets in.
“Once you get to a certain point your accomplishments don’t come in leaps and bounds anymore, it’s all about inches,” explains Rault, who is preparing with his band for their performance at the Edmonton Blues Festival this Friday. “Those inches make all the difference in music, though.”
The Revue (which also features Crawdad Canterra, Gary Comeau, Gord Matthews and Thom Moon) has been slowly accumulating those inches through constant rehearsal and touring. This summer the group’s been in and around the interior of BC, up through Vancouver and over the inlet to play at the Vancouver Island Music Festival, and a few months back they let out their rawer side and treated Blues on Whyte to a week’s worth of blues stompers. Rault has been feeling the spark come over him again, and he’s taken a certain amount of pride in the fact that when he shows up for the gig the audience can expect nothing less than a 100 percent performance.
“What I did was I went back and started listening to the guys that got me here, the old blues guys like Muddy Waters, Little Walter. They had this indefinable quality to them, and when I was starting that was the level I was aiming for. At some point I just got jaded, or tired, but when I listen to those guys I hear an incredibly tight band that can still be freewheeling. That’s what I want, and that’s what I feel like I’m getting to with the guys I play with.”
Also important in Rault’s return to finding his way back was his band’s role in the providing the core group to Up on Cripple Creek, the tribute to the Band that has gone from success to success over the last few years. These were songs that Rault was already well versed in, being a young musician in the early ’70s, but the need to brush up on the classic group’s arrangements helped change his way of thinking.
“Those songs were just so amazingly well put together,” says Rault with some reverence. “You can’t help but get something from them. Same with the Beatles. When I was growing up those were my heroes: Rick Danko of the Band, Paul McCartney, and James Jamerson from Motown. When I went back to listening to that stuff I realized that I need to step up.”
We can add Robert Cray to that list as well. Rault has been on to the Georgia born guitarist, one of the headliners for this year’s Blues Festival, for a very long time. In the ’70s, when Rault and his then band were playing strip clubs in Vancouver, slugging out Muddy Waters tunes while the rest of the city was inexorably turning to disco, they would take note of Cray’s developing genius.
“It was actually already formed, even at that point,” notes Rault, uncle to fellow musicians Michael and Emily, as well as brother and occasional band mate Lionel. “We used to go see him whenever he came up the West Coast, and he was just tearing strings off, he was just so developed. I think that may be the part of his career that I enjoyed the most. We’d look at him and think, ‘Yeah, that’s the mark we have to hit, that’s the level.’ The thing with good players is that it’s one thing to know how to play, and another to deliver. That’s where the inches count.” V
Fri, Aug 15 (5:30 pm)
Part of the Edmonton Blues Festival
Fri, Aug 15 – Sun, Aug 17
Heritage Amphitheatre, Hawrelak Park
Schedule at bluesinternationalltd.com