1. Eric The Great
2. Blaine, aka “Horse Head Accordion Guy”
3. Cathy Herbert / Chris “Chris Without the Hat” Parsons (tie)
If you’ve ever picked up some beers in Osborne Village or wandered downtown on a Jets night, you’ve probably heard Eric The Great belting out his “revolving loop” of Johnny Cash classics.
The Winnipeg troubadour says that though his set list is theoretically infinite, his listeners are creatures of habit.
“People are coming out expecting to hear ‘Ring Of Fire.’ That’s fine by me as long as the guitar’s in tune,” he says.
His vocal strength and friendly smile make him hard to miss, but Eric The Great is hardly in it for the attention.
“I’m just here to make people happy, not to impress them with how brilliant I am,” he says. “The music is a communication of love and beauty.”
And passers-by seem to feel the love – some of them tossing spare change or a recently acquired beer into Eric The Great’s case, though the musician says he doesn’t drink much himself.
After 11 years of performing the singer says he doesn’t play as much as he used to.
“I knew the day was coming when the streets would be deserted,” he says.
Some evenings he sings for 15 minutes without a single pedestrian passing by, and he laments that Winnipeg’s foot-traffic culture seems to be dwindling.
“Around the planet there’s music in the streets. It’s just an essence of life,” he says. “You have these people that want to make a vibrant downtown, but there’s no vibrancy if you’ve got to corral into a place and spend eight bucks for a beer.”
Despite this, Eric The Great’s enthusiasm for his audience has remained constant.
“I’ve had an incredible, incredible response from people in Winnipeg,” he says. “I could never replace that in my life. I really, really love the people in this city.”