Lynn Saxberg

“On their third independent album in four years, the Ottawa blues band Wicked Grin stripped down their lineup, stretched out their lyrical ideas and refused to get stuck in the rut of 12-bar blues.
“When you’re working in blues, sometimes you can really get bogged down in ‘baby, baby, woke up this morning’ kinda stuff,” said bandleader Murray Kinsley, the sixtysomething musician whose gritty singing, songwriting and guitar-playing is at the heart of the group. “We feel that you can take it beyond there and actually say stuff. And because we’re not a straight-ahead blues band, it’s not your standard one-four-five music. We take it and make it our own.”
The evolution is evident on Stormy Water, reflected in songs that incorporate rock and roots elements, and lyrics that tackle hefty topics such as mortality and domestic violence. While there are also songs for dancing (Dance Pretty Mama) and riding in a cool car (Fast Fast Car, complete with the sound of a friend’s Ferrari), the meat of the new album can be found in the sting of the anti-abuse track By My Side, a tune that encourages the victim to leave, the swampy bite of Evil Coming Round and the dark urgency of Death if You Find Me.
Kinsley says the pointed thrust of his latest songwriting was partly inspired by his own aging process, but also by the stories one hears in the news.
“I was moved to explore domestic violence just from the fact that it still happens in our society,” he said during an interview in the home he shares with his partner, bassist Leigh-Anne Stanton, who also looks after the band’s management duties and (is thrilled to be in the running as this year’s bassist of the year in the Maple Blues Awards). “And I wanted to explore the idea of dying when I heard the Sleepy John Estes tune, Everybody Oughta Make a Change, because, like he says, sooner or later you’re going to go into the cold ground. I thought, ‘Wow, this fits in with what I’m thinking.’”
Mortality aside, the band has made great strides in the past couple of years.”

Lynn SaxbergOttawa CitizenNov/24/2105