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Brandon Isaak sings the blues and audiences come away smiling

Bluesman strikes gold with his version of the blues
Brandon Isaak’s latest single What’s This World Coming To? tells a story of a wold where war, religion, politics and the human condition are all at the forefront. (Courtesy Brandon Isaak)

By Tim Collins

The blues have always told a story but it takes a special sort of talent to deliver the blues in a simple, yet powerful, way that seeps into your soul and tugs at the heartstrings.

Brandon Isaak has that kind of talent.

Raised in Whitehorse, Yukon, Isaak now makes his home on Vancouver Island and has just released his latest single What’s This World Coming To? from his newest album One Step Closer.

The song is a call to stop and think and is delivered in Isaak’s gravelly style. The final lines of the song pretty much sum up the social significance of the lyrics.

“There’s two kinds of people, doing right or doing wrong

Building bridges, or building walls

Oh, hard, hard times, and even Gods got the blues

Somebody please tell me; what’s this old world comin’ to?”

“The way the world has been going as of late has been hard to watch,” said Isaak. “Wars, political insanity, division, religion and human rights have all been so hard to watch these days. It’s depressing, and I try hard to always find the positives in this crazy world we live in.”

That, of course, is what lies at the heart of the blues, particularly the traditional blues style that Isaak still embraces.

But what really sets Isaak apart is his world-class mastery of the music and his ability to connect with his live audiences, drawing them into the lyrics and the emotions in his songs. He’s been performing for more than 35 years and has never failed to take the crowd on an emotional journey during every show.

In his new album, Isaak plays with classic iterations of the blues while finding a way to mix in some modern twists of his own. He manages to flirt with a vintage New Orleans sound by including an impressive array of traditional instruments, including old-time fiddle and banjo and even washboard and lap steel.

Isaak has taken that magic on the road in a truly impressive way. He’s toured Europe on no less than 13 multi-country tours and no matter where he goes his performances are full of warmth as he tells the stories of our lives.

“One has to create art because, in the end, art is the statement of who we are… of the human condition,” said Isaak.

Isaak has been nominated repeatedly for the Maple Blues Awards and has won that award for Acoustic Act of the Year. Other honours have included Male Vocalist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, and Recording/Producer of the Year.

He’s currently way down south, performing at the Tequila Blues/Rock Festival in Tracones, Mexico.

But never fear, the Brandon Isaak Trio will play Hermann’s Jazz Club Feb. 23.

READ MORE: A Blues Revival