Folk couple off to The Westwood

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His finger-style technique and her strong vocals have made a husband and wife musical duo a household name in folk circles in the Foothills.

Longview musicians Jim and Lynda McLennan are at it again this winter with a line-up of intimate concerts, including a performance at The Westwood in Black Diamond Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.

Jim says listeners can expect a combination of songs ranging from their first solo album Six-String Gumbo and some new material. The solo album made CKUA’s CD of the Week list and was a finalist for the Western Canadian Music Awards’ Instrumental Recording of the Year.

“There will be some new tunes we haven’t performed before and some that we have done before,” he said. “We do have a fair amount of new things that we’ve got and we’re working on new stuff all the time. It will be a blend of everything.”

The couple is preparing material for another album, although Jim said it will not be released in the near future. The couple’s last album, Dancing on Air, was released in 2014.

“We are quite methodical about getting some new tunes and working them up,” said Jim. “It takes us a while to get enough new songs.”

The couple has been playing music most of their lives. Lynda has a bachelor of music degree and taught high school music, working with and directing choirs and bands.

Jim is a composer, arranger and guitar instructor.

Both husband and wife are big fans of performing at intimate venues and The Westwood is one of their favourites.

“It’s a nice place to play,” Jim said. “It’s not only a good place to listen to music, it’s a really good place to play music because you get such good contact with the audience. In a small place like that it’s easier to interact.”

Jim sees performing on stage as a two-way communication.

“When you can hear, see and kind of feel the reaction from the audience it makes you play better,” he said. “The energy goes both ways. It’s really important to a strong performance to know that you’re pleasing the audience or if you are pleasing the audience to know it.”

On Feb. 9, audiences will hear some old standard jazz pieces the couple likes to arrange for one acoustic guitar with one or two voices.

“We’ve got a song or two that we’ve written and songs written by friends with a folky, bluesy, jazzy vein,” he said.

Jim’s unique finger-style guitar technique draws keen guitar players to their shows.

Rather than using the technique of plucking individual notes with a pick, Jim plucks the strings directly with his fingertips.

“I think they like to see the style I play,” he said. “One of the comments people make often times is it sounds like more than one person.

“While it’s not new or revolutionary or anything like that, there are not a lot of people who play solo instrumental guitar music that isn’t classical music.”

The first time Jim heard the finger-style guitar technique, he was determined to learn it.

“I just loved the way it sounded – the more than one thing happening at once,” he said. “In a lot of cases it’s two pretty simple things happening simultaneously, but it sounds complete. It’s more interesting to me than strumming chords.”

To challenge himself musically, Jim takes tunes that aren’t made for guitars and makes them his own.

“You’ve got the combination of recognizable pieces of music in a different sort of presentation,” he said.

Putting his talent together with Lynda’s strong vocals creates a perfect combination.

Lynda said she’s been performing with Jim regularly for five years. Before that she was more like a special guest.

“I like how we work together and the fact that people aren’t listening to vocals all night because Jim can play, he’s an instrumental guitarist, so you get three songs as a vocal and a couple of instrumentals,” she said.

“It’s a different kind of variety that a lot of people don’t do so it’s unique to our world.”

Lynda said they are spreading their wings.

Much of their music is unique interpretations of well-known songs, but now the couple is writing on their own.

“He played some chords and I started singing some words,” she said. “We’ve never written a vocal instrumental together so that was kind of fun. For folks who have heard us before we will have some new things to listen to.”

Tickets to see Jim and Lynda McLennan perform cost $15 in advance and $20 at the door. They can be purchased by calling 403-933-3002.

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