As a fifth and sixth grade music teacher and a composer of works in a number of genres including stage music (he’s the brother of theatre director Martine Beaulne), Vincent Beaulne dreamed of forming a blues band for quite some time. “The problem was that bluesmen of my age were in too bad a shape and few and far between, so I decided simply to start a band with friends. I wanted to create original blues songs, and these men were willing to back me up in my project. They were all professional musicians – not blues artists as such, but buddies. That’s probably why we’ve been able to stick together for the past ten years,” the fiftysomething musician recalls enthusiastically.
Led by Beaulne on voice and guitars, Blues Delight now includes Laurent Trudel (voice, guitars, harmonica and violin), Dave Turner (alto and baritone saxophone), Gilles Schetagne (drums) and Marco Desgagné (bass). The quintet’s first foray into recording, the cheerful Rock Island Line album (2007), was followed in 2009 with Open All Night and, earlier this year, Working On It, another quality blues collection produced by band member Laurent Trudel and serving an amazingly vital fare including the blazing “Bad Girl” (a song about a Fender Stratocaster guitar), slower paced selections (“Let’s Go Downtown”), country music sounding pieces (“Outlaw”), slide guitar songs (“Bad Wind”) and demonic instrumental pieces (“Dirty Riff”).
“We’re not reinventing the wheel, obviously. All we can do is improve ourselves musically. On this new album, I believe our sound is much neater. We’re more confident and play better together. One song, “Ride the Sky,” is more representative of what I had in mind. I wanted to create a controlled jam effect with an intense one-chord song with everyone playing without stepping on anybody’s feet. Our previous mileage together as musicians makes it possible for us to do this kind of thing today,” claims Beaulne, who also serves as artistic director for the Montreal International Jazz Festival’s Blues Camp.
While Robert Langlois has remained the ensemble’s main lyricist from the early days, Beaulne eventually got over his fear of writing, contributing a number of lyrics to the band’s repertoire over the last few years. For the band’s leader, working with Langlois has turned into a very pleasant experience. “We’re old friends, brothers in arms,” he explains. “Writing with him has become easy and fun. We found techniques that are working for us. My favourite one is to write music on fully written lyrics. But this can also work the other way around. Sometimes I’ll come up with a musical verse or chorus before the music has been written – I’ll send this to Robert, and he’ll get started on the lyrics. He’ll show me a few words and I’ll be able to complete the song. Of course, the other musicians in the band all add their grain of salt too.”
“Because I have a job, I can afford to make blues music on my own terms.” – Vincent Beaulne
Turning to the comparatively weak state of the music industry in general and of the blues scene in particular, Beaulne remains realistic. “To survive, we have to keep moving and be on the road, but as we all have regular jobs, touring is out of the question. Besides, we’re past that age, and not interested. Because I have a job, I can afford to make blues music on my own terms. As producer of our recordings, I look after all financial matters. Blues music has a long history of being creatively rich, but financially poor. Right now, the scene is not doing well and can only improve. I am in awe of guys like Bob Walsh and Guy Bélanger who are making music on a full-time basis. They are the true bluesmen, the outlaws, the rebels. They command respect.”
As old troupers (Beaulne and Trudel have been playing together for the past 42 years), the five musicians have developed symbiotic relationships that produce exceptional results whenever Blues Delight takes to the stage. As Beaulne explains, “a show is a playground, a meeting place, a medium of exchange, and above all a great deal of fun. In my mind, I see music like life itself, like a great big circle. When all goes well, we all get an opportunity to meet in the centre. That’s how it goes when we give a show. I love to improvise, to get people to sing along, to talk to the audience as equals. The blues experience is something like what you feel among your own family. There is no gulf between the audience and the musicians. The personality of each individual takes over.”
Projects are piling up as the band prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2014 with a series of shows scheduled from February, a compilation album release in May and participations in blues festivals through the summer. Following the less active winter period, Blues Delight is hoping to visit Edmunston and to conquer new territories (such as Ottawa) in the early spring. Although the Quebec market remains paramount in his sights, Beaulne is still planning to take his blues music to Chicago and Europe once he reaches retirement age. “Nothing’s impossible,” he insists. “When you’ve been playing with the same musicians for a long time, you’re playing for the right reasons. We’re old sailors. When the waves misbehave, we know what to do. Getting old playing music is a cool thing that becomes even more fun and more intense as time goes by. Gone are the egos and anxieties. We are a happy bunch of fools. And, in case you were wondering – no, you don’t necessarily get wiser with time!