David Gogo at the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival, Saturday, Aug. 10.
DAVID Gogo had only seen six summers when his grandmother presented him with a birthday gift: a cassette tape featuring Shaun Cassidy singing his radio-friendly single "Da Doo Ron Ron."
"I took it into my room and I smashed it," Gogo recalls. "I hated that kind of stuff even as a small child."
He wasn't old enough to be trusted with sharp scissors, but the future guitarist and singer had already mined his father's record collection, peeling through layers of Hank Williams to find B.B. King's brand of blues.
"It's something I've always felt connected to," he says.
Shaun Cassidy, it turns out, was something he was never connected to, much to the consternation of his mother.
The story of the blues is the story of the black American. Gogo explored that story and the genius, joy, cynicism and sorrow of his musical predecessors with a trip through Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama as a precursor to the recording of his 13th album, Come On Down.
"That was something I wanted to do for a long time," he says. "I had been in Mississippi a long time ago, but never really had the time to investigate."
"You can read all you want about that area and you can listen to all the music you want, but there's something about just getting down there and meeting the people and breathing the air and eating the food," Gogo says. "It was inspiring."
Going deep into the south, Gogo found flavours of the world Robert Johnson sang about in some of the most influential blues recordings of all time.
Along with barbecue and catfish, Gogo had his share of hot tamales, a dish Johnson sang about in the tune "They're Red Hot" in 1937.
"That's a real snack down in Mississippi," Gogo explains. "At two in the morning you're walking into the juke joint and some guy's got his pickup truck out front with a whole bunch of hot tamales for sale."
Gogo also took up residence at The Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
During Reconstruction in the United States, many slaves became sharecroppers, staying in cabins and working the land for a percentage of the profits.
For many, sharecropping was an extension of slavery, leaving some African Americans with a permanent deficit to a white landowner.
"You could kind of look at it, if you wanted to be a jaded person, and say, 'Only a middle-class white person would pay money to stay in a sharecropper's cabin in Mississippi,'" Gogo says.
However, staying in close proximity to fellow blues lovers was "super cool," according to Gogo.
Gogo's pilgrimage ended up seeping into Come On Down when fellow musician and songwriter Melisa Devost thumbed through Gogo's 600 vacation photos.
The duo penned "Come On Down" and "Worth It" after talking about Gogo's trip.
The album's title track is equal parts sleepy and sinister with hints of undisturbed ghosts underfoot. A skilled worker with an economy of movement, Gogo doesn't exert himself more than necessary. He finds a groove and sticks with it.
The album cover was snapped by North Shore News photographer Mike Wakefield, who caught Gogo on stage when he was opening for Johnny Winter at North Vancouver's Centennial Theatre.
"I spent the whole day doing a photo shoot," Gogo recalls. "There was nothing we could use."
After Googling himself, Gogo stumbled on the Blue Note style photo and sent it to the recording studio.
For Gogo, the enduring appeal of the blues is its honesty.
"It's real. It's not following trends, it's not bullshit. .. it's the way people feel," he says. "Some of the real blues purists just might think that I'm some rock guy that's slumming, but you know, I've met a lot of fellas and played with a lot of fellas. I'm very respectful of the tradition and the genre but I'm definitely not afraid of mixing it up a little bit, either."
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