Blue Moon Marquee bring its own unique style to the world of blues
With all its screamin’ and howlin,’ the Blue Moon Marquee is a rare breed in the gypsy-blues world. The Vancouver Island-based duo made up of Alexander (A.W.) Cardinal on vocals/guitar and Jasmine Colette (a.k.a. Badlands Jass) on upright bass, vocals, and drums, has soulful remnants of guys and gals like Tom Waits, Blind Willie Jonson, Django Reinhardt and Memphis Minnie.
Blue Moon Marquee primarily shine in a live setting. Whether it’s a dim-lit jazz bar, a bustling restaurant, or an outside festival stage, the duo has a mysterious allure that pulls people in.
The band began from happenstance, after Colette helped Cardinal record his solo record.
“We both grew up in Alberta playing in punk and rock ‘n’ roll bands so that’s how we initially met in our late teens,” Colette says. “While we were recording that, we realized our early love of delta blues, New Orleans swing, and jazz. So we’ve been honing this gypsy blues sound ever since.”
The majority of the songs are sung by Cardinal with his raspy rag-time Tom Waits voice. On the 2016 album Gypsy Blues, he sings about things like maleficent coyotes, liquor, runaway ladies, and cheatin’ spouses. They’re all themes synonymous with the blues, but Blue Moon Marquee finds a way to keep it fresh.
“There are always themes that find you,” Cardinal says. “I don’t put too much emphasis on it and kind of let them come out. A song always takes on its own voice and life.”
Perhaps the most well put together track is “Double Barrel Blues,” a raucous jangle about a jealous husband planting a buckshot in the chest of a man who is dancing and getting a little friendly with his wife. Of course, this is my interpretation of the song. At the end of the day, it’s the blues and it’s more about the emotion felt, rather than the inspiration or subject matter.
Colette sings backup on every song but sings lead on the track “Ain’t No Stranger,” an ethereal blues track guided by her smoky voice and Cardinal’s jumpy minor-keyed guitar riffs.
The rhythm section of the band is also led by Colette and her hybrid-crafted drum kit consisting of a hi-hat, bass drum, a snare, and crash cymbal.
“It’s a strange little dance I do while playing the bass at the same time,” she says. “It kind of happened when Al first came out to the West Coast. We had a rhythm player and we were a trio so we booked this big tour with the three of us and the night before we started, the rhythm guy bailed. So it was just two of us and we needed to figure something out. I got an upright bass and we started slowly adding parts. I didn’t want it to be the boom-chick one-man band sound.”
Blue Moon Marquee are working on their follow-up album that should be released sometime this summer. Colette promises to sing more on the new album and a few songs will have a full band as opposed to the duo style the group has been known for.
Fri., Feb. 9 (8:30 pm)
Blue Moon Marquee
Blue Chair Cafe
$15 at the door