Back in September, blues guitarist and singer/songwriter Little Miss Higgins released Bison Ranch Recording Sessions, an album compiled right here in Manitoba with local roots band The F-Holes.
Born in Alberta but raised in Kansas, Jolene Higgins eventually returned to Canada and has released four albums since 2005, the last being Across the Plains in 2010.
This new album marks the first time she’s recorded a full-length with The F-Holes, though the group’s actually known as the Winnipeg Five when it’s working with Higgins.
“It would have been challenging for me to use that name [the F-Holes] I think,” says Higgins. “I thought The Winnipeg Five sounded like a classy little name, plus this is a different project and varies a bit from their own band.”
A few years ago Higgins met the group’s trumpet player Jimmie James McKee when she was playing two nights in a row at the Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club right here in Winnipeg.
“The first night, he came out to the show, introduced himself and I invited him to sit in on the next night even though I never heard him play before,” Higgins says. “It was great, we stayed in touch and I ended up meeting the rest of the guys.”
Eventually Higgins and the Winnipeg Five teamed up for Bison Ranch Recording Sessions, which was created live off the floor at the Renaissance Bison Ranch near La Broquerie, Manitoba in April 2013.
The record was co-produced by Higgins and the Winnipeg Five’s upright bassist Patrick Alexandre Leclerc, whose uncle happens to own that particular ranch.
“Patrick told me all about how he always wanted to record on that ranch and I just went along with it,” Higgins says. “We spent three weeks recording in the loft of a barn that had been turned into a recreational space by his uncle with things like a wood stove, a beer fridge and a ping pong table.”
One of the challenges was building sound baffles and essentially turning the loft into a place where high quality recordings could be created. But that wasn’t the band’s biggest test.
“We chose to record in April, thinking it was going to be spring time, but it ended up being really cold with tons of snow on the ground,” Higgins says. “The equipment and instruments are affected by the temperature change and we could only have so many heaters going because there was only so much power running to the barn."
After spending 10 years in Nokomis, Sask., the creation of this album also inspired Higgins to relocate to Winnipeg.
“Over the years I’ve made a lot of friends in the local music scene and with the guys being here, it just made a lot of sense,” she says. “Who knows just how long it will be for, but it’s a great city and I really like Winnipeg.”