Downchild Celebrates 40th Anniversary With New Release
The inspiration for Dan Aykroyd's and the late John Belushi's fabulous creation, The Blues Brothers – they recorded Downchild's "Shotgun Blues" and Walsh's "(I Got Everything I Need) Almost", the latter shortlisted as one of Canada's Essential Songs in a survey conducted by the Toronto Star in 2007 – Downchild is an institution in their homeland, and revered by blues fans around the world.
Downchild remains a true blues force, 40 years after founder and guitarist Donnie Walsh first put the band together with his late brother, "Hock." For Donnie, the epiphany to become a bluesman hit him hard in the early 1960s, when someone dropped a Jimmy Reed album onto the turntable at his girlfriend's 16th birthday party in suburban North Toronto.
It's a moment Walsh says he will never forget. "That was it," he remembers. "I was hooked. I never wanted to play anything else."
I Need a Hat features 11 new original songs - edgier, darker, more caustically humorous than ever before – which Walsh produced over five days in Toronto's famed Metalworks Studios.
"It's not really producing," says Walsh about the new disc. "We've been together long enough to know just how everything fits, every groove, every note, every piece of punctuation. It's not as if we have to go looking for hooks – they just happen. That's one of the great things about a band that's been together for as long as we have. It just gets better and better. And it was really exciting this time to have so many great guests adding their own parts."
Singer Chuck Jackson, tenor sax player Pat Carey, drummer Mike Fitzpatrick, bassist Gary Kendall, and pianist/organist Michael Fonfara – Walsh's compadres in Downchild for the past decade and a half, and, he says, the "best musicians I've ever played with" – were soaking up the blues in their teenage years as well.
Their shared dedication has served them well. And with the release of their 16th album,
I Need a Hat, on the independent Linus Entertainment label, Donnie Walsh and his buddies are celebrating their collective longevity big time.
During the past 40 years and against all odds, Walsh and his band mates have won countless music industry awards, including a Juno (Canada's Grammy) for "Best Roots and Traditional Album" in 1991. They also received a Juno Award nomination in 2005 for "Blues Album of The Year" for their album, Come On In. In 2007, Downchild was named "Entertainer of The Year" at the annual Maple Blues Awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Blues Music Awards in the U.S.).