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Big Hank’s tribute to the blues songs of Christmas

Yuletide tunes featuring The Kingpins at Mary Winspear

Big Hank has his “ho-ho working,” and the highly regarded veteran bluesman and bandleader is certain “it’s going to work on you.”

Big Hank has been touring his Blues Songs of Christmas show for a number of years now, and this unique, variety-filled program of blues-basted Yuletide tunes is one that has left audiences drenched in the Christmas spirit and coming back for more when the next holiday season rolls around.

Touring from Vancouver Island to the snowbound prairies of Alberta, this Christmas show has consistently tied together a variety of classic blues styles, some R&B and a touch of soul. Blues Songs of Christmas is a show where every song puts a different spin on the season and everything that goes with “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Big Hank is armed with a muscular voice, one that can be as warm as the hearth surrounding a well-stoked winter fire, and can alternately rattle the rafters and shake the snow off a 30-foot Christmas tree.

This refreshing take on holiday concerts finds the singer and his talented, veteran band, The Kingpins, rolling through music that includes tunes going back a century to Christmas blues tunes that have been favourites of the boomer generation that grew up listening to B.B. King and Eric Clapton.

Tunes from the books of Big Joe Turner, Charles Brown, Etta James and Louis Jordan also find their way into the festive mix that has received rave reviews. There are also a number of original songs on the set list.

It’s been quite the road for Big Hank, originally from Stettler, Alberta, who cut his teeth on the Edmonton bar and cabaret circuit early on in his career.

He immersed himself in the blues with two of the best blues bands to have come out of western Canada in the ‘70s and ‘80s: the Edmonton-based Hot Cottage and Victoria’s Uncle Wiggly’s Hot Shoes Blues Band. The latter group signed with RCA, sold an impressive number of albums and opened for the greats like Muddy Waters, Joe Cocker, James Cotton, Paul Butterfield and Koko Taylor.

Big Hank’s love of blues has also been the foundation of acts like The Toasters, A Fistful of Blues, and The Kingpins, that were also regional favourites.

“The Big Hank Christmas blues show has been one of the most unique seasonal roots music shows on the road, and it gets more impressive with each passing year. It’s a hot show for the coolest season, and most wonderful time of the year,” says roots music journalist Peter North.

The Kingpins are Big Hank Lionhart (vocals), Steve Cross (guitar), Mick Woodhouse (bass), Andy Graffiti (drums), Steve Ranta (keys) and Paul Wainwright (sax). Learn more at

The Blues Songs of Christmas show comes to the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney on December 17 at 7:30 pm. Tickets ($30) are available at: