Updated: May 11
By Scott Roos
It was a frigid Friday night in Prince Albert but that didn't stop a modest crowd of music lovers from taking in a safe and socially distanced JJ Voss show at the EA Rawlinson Centre For the Arts. Voss's "A Damn Good Band", made up of bass player Brian Kelly and percussionist Jayson Brinkworth, were along for the ride and collectively the trio with Voss on guitars, mandolin and harmonica were a well oiled machine.
The group cycled through many of Voss's well known tracks from all of his studio releases with pauses in between for stories and anecdotes. Voss even at times got up on his metaphorical soap box to preach a message of tolerance and respect. There were also a few very well place covers mixed in for good measure. Voss was funny, poignant, engaging and very charming as the night wore on. He's a fine songwriter and a gifted entertainer and the crowd lapped it up with enthusiasm and vigor.
"Playing for a live, attentive crowd was like a drink of water for the soul," related Voss in a post show interview.
It's been tough for artists lately. Especially Voss who has seen cancellations recently in Indian Head and Moose Jaw. But sometimes, in the face of adversity, you discover things about yourself and your character that you never knew about until that very moment in time.
Voss will no doubt come out of this COVID19 era with a stronger sense of determination than he had before and, judging from the quality of performance he put on at the Rawlinson Friday night, he is a consummate professional and for that we should all be grateful.
On the flip side, fans got the opportunity to see an emerging talent in Meath Park's Nicolas Aiken share the stage with Voss. In one of the highlights of the night, 17 year old Aiken sang two songs backed up by Voss and his band. Aiken's golden tenor was on full display. It's evident that he is still working out the kinks when it comes to overall stage presence but these are things that improve with time and experience. You can't teach someone how to have a voice and natural talent like Aiken has, though. His phrasing and vocal inflections were so spot on it was a sight to behold. This kid is going places.
"It was an amazing experience for a young musician like me, and JJ Voss is an amazing guy," said Aiken after the show.
Aiken, who won the Prince Albert Search for the Stars "most improved singer" award has actually not been singing in public for that long. A musician who loves many genres of music, Aiken had mainly cut his teeth playing drums in a local rock band. He decided on a whim to start singing when the competition was staged earlier in the year and has not looked back since.
"I won most improved singer, and got a name for myself," explained Aiken, "Directly after that Danyll (Challis , production manager at the Rawlinson) came up to me and asked if I’d like to sing for JJ (in March when Voss was supposed to perform the first time). I was dumbfounded. I never knew that I’d get the opportunity to do that ever. And then COVID happened and I had to cancel."
In more ways than one, then, we should all be glad that Voss and the EARC were able to reschedule the show as it gave us not only the opportunity to see Voss but also Aiken. Kudos to the Rawlinson for continuing to make shows work in a safe way and also live streaming the shows for people who still yearn for entertainment but aren't comfortable going to the venue in person. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
* all pics by Scott Roos of NORTH SASK MUSIC ZINE