Do yourself a favour: go to Kat Danser’s official webpage and click on the “Axes” tab. While she may have an axe to grind (more on that later), these are the stringed versions, Gibsons, custom-mades, antiques, and if you care about guitars at all, I implore you not to hate her!
“(That one) is the ’59 Melody Maker.. . . (It’s) an original issue, so that’s the first year for the Melody Maker (which we discuss as one of Jimmy Page’s Gibson guitar choices).. . . And a 1947 Gibson LG2. ‘Little Guy’ is the term for it, and they’re a very rare find, those ones.”
Having abandoned my love of the blues for a couple of decades, and doing the requisite journalist’s online research regarding who the heck Kat Danser is, we come across a live performance of her onstage: ‘Passin’ A Time’.
In Kat’s case, with the warm vocals on that piece, and the scintillating guitar work on others, it’s an inspiring moment. THIS girl understands the heart and blood of the blues. Which begs the question: what is an Edmonton-based Musicology academic doing performing awesome delta blues guitar?
“I was raised on a farm in Saskatchewan, and moved to Alberta when I was 20, (and, amongst other things), there’ s a very interesting geographical similarity between the delta of Mississippi and Saskatchewan: it’s very flat; very crop-driven; there’s a lot of commonality (in the) ways of being. Rural communities, remote communities, that kind of thing.”
And, to complete the blues picture, “the CN Rail, which ran about 100 yards from our farm . . . runs from Winnipeg down to New Orleans.” And having a father who worked for the railroad, whom she frequently helped, wouldn’t hurt either. Kat describes the blues as a place to write music addressing her awareness of gender, poverty, race, homelssness and other issues that EVERY place has, not just Mississippi or Saskatchewan or Edmonton.
“It allowed me to reference the healing power of acoustic blues (which) just spoke to me,. . . I like the essence of (all kinds of music): I like things the way they were when they were born.”
In that regard, Ms. Danser describes her multiple trips to Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana, to connect with the places where this music comes from, to meet and live around the people that inspired and created it, and be mentored by musicians living in that source.
“Musicians aren’t placed on a pedestal the same way there as they are here. There’s a lot more hanging’ out on the street, having conversations. Here, I go and perform, I sit higher than the audience, I have a big microphone and I say whatever I want, I get off the stage, sign CDs and I go. (Where she visited) you hang out, drink some moonshine, smoke cigars, shoot the shit, (and) the audience isn’t separate from the performers the same way.
“I put myself in places where I thought magical things might happen. And it’s only when you’re there, when you start following the threads and you leave being a tourist . . . and you get lost in time that magical things start to happen.”
And Kat is bringing some of those magical things to Calgary’s Midwinter Bluesfest, organized by the Calgary Blues Music Association, starting on Wednesday at the noontime proArts performance in The Cathedral Church of the Redeemer, across from Olympic Plaza. It’s free, from noon to 1:00, and Ms. Danser’s bringing her lovely acoustic guitars, her homemade slide, her full-timbred voice and an unflinching perspective on the blues. Which she’ll continue to share throughout the week: check out the other events this week and feel the heartbeat of North America pulsing under your feet.