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Review: Jess Moskaluke brings a double portion of holiday cheer to The Capitol Music Club

by Scott Roos

photos by Aaron Brown of Aaron Brown Photography

This past Friday, December 1st, Saskatoon’s Capitol Music Club was literally filled to the rafters with a double portion of holiday cheer as special guest and local favourite Katelyn Lehner, promising Alberta up-and-comers The Prairie States, and headliner, Canadian country superstar extraordinaire, and Langenberg’s own Jess Moskaluke took the stage. This was a tour stop on Moskaluke’s “Winter Wonderland Tour” likely meant to showcase tracks from her 2018 Small Town Christmas album which recently got a deluxe edition rerelease (Nov. 24th).

Up first was 2022 NSMZ “Artist of the Year” Lehner who, alongside guitarists Adam Beitel and Simon Jasieniuk played a truncated 20 minute-ish set of more subdued material. The trio, perched on festive looking red stools, grooved along to renditions of Lehner singles “Cross the Line”, “City Cowboy”, and “It Was Yesterday”. Sandwiched in between the low key twang was a rendition of Joni Mitchell’s classic wintery ballad “River” which Lehner put her heart and soul into. It’s clear with gigs like this that Lehner is very adaptable and able to put together a quality performance at a moment's notice in any type of format whether it be solo, small group or full band. For the duration of her set, her stage presence was as magnetic as it always is.

The Prairie States were up next. As vocalist Mat Cardinal took the stage, he stated this is his group’s first official bus tour. So it’s been very exciting so far for them. Cardinal’s voice, incidentally, was sublime. Flanked by guitarists Jeff Dick and Mike Nash, Cardinal and co. launched into a series of acoustic driven, medium tempo country rock styled stompers including recent single “Trouble Is”, “Waiting On You”, and “Christmas Time With You”. Like Lehner, The Prairie States also played a short set - probably around 25 mins but the guys made the most of it, certainly making a lot of new fans in the process.

Finally, it was time for headliner Moskaluke to entertain the sellout crowd. Coming out to her high energy version of “Little Drummer Boy”, things were off to a rollicking start. She stated from the stage that she’s been playing bigger venues (soft seaters???) but a venue like the Capitol Music Club was “more her style”. That being said, Moskaluke put on a proper country music show, with her trademark big voice, and radio friendly pop country twang in her backing band, and a spring in her step; making full use of the smaller Capitol stage. Other highlights included non-holiday tracks like “Knock Off” and “Country Girls”. At one point in the evening, The Prairie States band members came back on to join Moskaluke in MTV unplugged style interlude with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” which was pretty solid. The Prairie States came back a little later on to sing again with Moskaluke. This time the song of choice was more fitting to the overall tour theme as the quartet sang “With Bells On”. On both occasions, their voices, in quarter format, blended seamlessly together.

Collectively, this show had a lot of variety and everyone in attendance seemed to dig the vibe that Moskaluke and openers Prairie States and Katelyn Lehner were laying down. In terms of Moskaluke, there are still dates remaining on the “Winter Wonderland Tour” including a scheduled stop in Prince Albert with The Prairie States along for the ride. This will go down on Thursday, December 14th at the EA Rawlinson Centre for the Arts.

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