Blues-tainted hip-hop artist is bringing Magic
Vancouver tour-aholic C.R. Avery has friends in high places, so you better listen up
When Vancouver blues hip-hop poet extraordinaire C.R. Avery got down to talking with The Uniter, it may have seemed like a less than ideal time. Avery, on his way to record for CBC’s Canada Live, was sitting in his recently stalled car awaiting the next ferry to take him to mainland B.C.
His set in Victoria the previous night featured the poet/beat-boxer/multi-instrumentalist throwdown with the Legal Tender String Quartet, something he plans on repeating next Monday, Feb. 15 at the West End Cultural Centre. This will be his umpteenth visit to Winnipeg, including the Folk Fest and Times Change(d)’s Cohen Fest, but the first public show in Winnipeg with the String Quartet.
“I was recording the new album and one tune wasn’t working with the band and it didn’t work solo. I remembered how Bukowski hated popular music but always had the Beethoven going while writing and thought I could try that as a backdrop,” Avery said over the phone last week.
On his current tour, Avery chose to play theatres instead of bars.
“I want people to listen.”
He has been lauded by the best of his craft. Sage Francis, Tom Waits and Charlie Musselwhite have all weighed in, having seen C.R. Avery perform his blues tainted hip hop at one of his innumerable gigs around the world. Receiving such praise from his own role models, Avery enjoys when his openers surprise him in the same way, outperforming his expectations.
“Last night we had Adrian Glen open for us on the suggestion of one of our band members. [...] It really got me. It makes me nervous when the support fucking sucks ass because then the crowd has to be brought back from thinking ‘Why am I here? Why did I spend this money to hear this shitty band?’ When someone brings their ‘A’ game it makes me want to do even better.”
His music journey started with watching “Theo Huxtable beat box” on The Cosby Show and listening to cassettes from his sister.
“Crush’n by the Fat Boys came and it was all over for me.”
With the rise of early ‘90s hard gangsta style moving him closer to the blues, it all came full circle once he started to do his poetry live.
“Hip hop was my Chuck Berry.”
That influence reverberates all through his live performances, especially on his latest release Magic Hour Sailor Songs.
Avery mixes storytelling jazz rambles with his trademark vocal-vinyl scribble and thunderous beatbox style that keeps his audience guessing while losing themselves in the dirty blues groove.
He is stoked to play here on Louis Riel Day, true to his rebellious and activist roots.
“I hope to summon some ghosts that day.”
Published in Volume 64, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 11, 2010)