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Blues Christmas show is putting a Jewell back in the Royal City crown

In this Arts and Culture feature we celebrate a blues Christmas with the Rod Jewell Band and some special guests Dec 13 at the Red Chevron Club.

Blues artist Rod Jewell has good reason to celebrate this week: It’s his birthday, he is home for Christmas and on Friday he will get together with a bunch of his friends and fellow musicians at the Red Chevron Club to ring in the season with some rockin’ blues.

“I’m back for some family time and some friend time,” said Jewell. “Friday the 13th is a good night to play some blues”

Jewell was a staple in the local music scene for decades starting in the 1980s and has been living, working and playing in Edmonton for the last six and a half years.

“I keep in touch with the guys around here, especially Naz Rizzer aka Mike Carlo,” said Jewell. “When I come back to town and Mike’s not busy with one of his bands, he sets some time aside for me to make some music.”

Carlo, lead guitar, and local musicians Karl Fralich, bass, Byron Marshall, keyboards, and Ian Gelb, drums, have been rehearsing for the show with Jewell at the Jam School studios on Johnson Street. 

“It’s always a pleasure when Rod comes through town,” said Carlo. “The flavour that he brings and the passion. It’s just fun watching him up there and backing him up is always an honour.” 

Carlo has played and recorded with several bands over the years, most recently Sapphire City, and has shared the stage with dozens of local musicians. 

“I’ve had this rock n’ roll sickness for 50 years,” he said. “I can’t cure it so I keep playing.”

Fralich, Marshall and Gelb are also veteran players who have known Jewell for decades. They were performing together as the band, Back 40, until February of this year when their singer Mark McConnell died suddenly from a brain aneurism. Reconnecting with Jewell for the show has been a blessing of sorts.

“Ian and Byron’s love of music died,” said Fralich. “I couldn’t get Ian to come out at all and when I asked Byron to put down some tracks in the studio with me, he said he didn’t want to play anymore.” 

Fralich convinced Gelb to sit in for an impromptu jam session with Jewell and it shook things loose.

“It was a powerful thing,” said Fralich. “We called Byron and said you have to come play with these guys. He eventually came out and the rest is history.”  

They are looking forward to sharing the bill, Friday, with opening act Sad Mickie.

“They are a great band out of Kitchener,” said Jewell. “The drummer is Chas Chilton, Steve Emslie is the lead guitarist, Fyl Bennett is on bass and Deana Schofield is the lead singer. They are bringing some really cool music from Sass Jordan to Carol Pope. They are going to do the rock and roll show and we’re going to do the rockin’ blues side of things.”

 Jewell and his bandmates are all in their 50s now but playing the blues has kept them young at heart.

“As blues players we can get old and still be cool,” said Fralich, with a grin. 

Jamming with his old friends has been a nostalgic experience for Jewell and has stirred up memories of the Guelph music scene back in the 80s and playing with his band Aleod . 

“Those were the days when Aleod was opening for some big names like Long John Baldry in the Desert Inn Ballroom,” he said. “No one is bigger than the music. It has always been the universal language of the world. It’s for the soul of the song, absolutely.”