Guy Bélanger has covered the spectrum of musical directions over his 40 year career. He has honed his craft with the likes of Bob Walsh, Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, and James Cotton. But he has contributed musically in plenty of non-blues projects too.
He was involved with the Cirque du Soleil for three productions and was featured in several cinematic releases (Gaz Bar Blues, The Timekeeper, Les Boys). Coming full circle, Bélanger has just released Blues Turn, a heavily blues-influenced recording, revealing urban, gospel, country, and rock accents.
Bélanger started in Montreal, then travelled to Toronto and Chicago to put together his fourth album. Though it was recorded in three cities, there is a thread that runs through and pulls the twelve tracks together. There are three original compositions; one with Strongman in Toronto, and the other two with his Montreal crew. The strength of the nine covers that round out the offering is that Bélanger didn’t fall into the trap of choosing overly well-known songs. Let’s face it, who needs to hear another version of Sweet Home Chicago? Instead he chose lesser known gems that meant something to him. How do we know what he thinks of each song or why he chose it? Because he has included an eight page booklet in the CD with notes. A very nice touch!
He had the opportunity to work with top musicians in each of the three cities where he recorded and he wasted no time when he was out of town. He recorded three tracks in each location while spending only two days in each place. In Toronto, Bélanger teamed up with Juno Award winner Steve Strongman with whom he performed often this past summer, and most recently for a handful of dates on Montreal’s South Shore. Queen City Storm that he penned with Strongman is solid, with a catchy hook and some fun call and response interplay between the two instruments. The arrangement that he and Strongman reserved for the traditional classic Corrina, Corrina will have your toes-a-tappin’ without fail.
Back in Montreal, he added another six tracks with his usual partners in crime: André Lachance on guitar, bassist Marc-André Drouin, complemented by Michel Roy on drums. Christian Martin, borrowed from Bob Walsh’s band, provided an assist on guitar for Highway Song. Lachance co-wrote a song and sings on three tracks. Letter to a Friend is, ironically, an instrumental that Bélanger wrote with his bandmates. It’s one of my favourites so far.