C.r. Avery biography
C.R. Avery is a one man hip hop beatbox blues harmonica americana iconoclast: musical guest (Be Good Tanyas, Po Girl); group member (Tons Of Fun University), songwriter (Jolie Holland); playwright, and poet (the international slam poetry circuit).
Tom Waits is a fan and brought C.R. up to perform on stage with him in Germany. If Lawrence Ferlinghetti could play harmonica like Little Walter, you'd have an idea of what a groundbreaking piece of work this is and the genre busting audio statement that defines Magic Hour Sailor Songs.
C.R. Avery is a musicians' musician. He is admired by and has performed with Tom Waits, Ani DiFranco, Utah Phillips, Sage Francis and others.
This is his new solo album and we're proud to bring him to a wider audience. Whether playing in front of thousands on the folk festivel circut or in a small cafe in Berlin or Edinburgh, C.R. Avery is a unique and electrifying performer. He simultaneously beatboxes, sings, plays harmonica and a Herbie Hancock 80s style red rocket keytar. Having drawn from a well of influences, C.R. is to hip-hop what Jimmy Reed was to Chicago blues; a one man traveling troubadour - but he is one for these modern times.
C.R.'s lyrical skills and vocal delivery have brought him to the forefront of the international spoken word scene. He is a past winner of the CBC national Poetry Face-Off. Scratchy, smoky, beaten by years of cigarettes and off-mike shouting in cabarets all over the world, C.R. Avery's voice is instantly identifiable.
C.R's lyrics come from his slam poetry pieces, honed by the merciless, sudden death, one-victor-and-all- others-cast-aside competitive nature of the slam world. As such, having been performed in front of an audience that demands both intellectual clarity and visceral honesty, competing against the very best work of the very best poets, his pieces are crafted to a necessary perfection.
Magic Hour Sailor Songs is an elegiac poetic tour de force, bending and criss-crossing genres; there's a string quartet, an all female jazz choir and the best out there jazz & classical musicans - creating something rarely seen these days; a genuinely powerful artistic work.
This CD is available on iTunes.
-Bio from Bongobeat.com
Bye-oh from CRavery.com:
(Or are you just happy to see me.)
black and white man on a train removes his glasses, rubs forehead/ young boy sitting on rabbit carpet tilts his head, cocked to the side, watching like a curious dog/ no waiting room, break dancers on voice of fat albert's own show/ religiously watched radical records on vcr/ sister grows strained of kid brother's fascination with two four and a half minute sitcom recorded snippets/ gives fat boys tape crushin'on jesus' birthday/ kid brother rewrites lyrics like rimbaud in mother's barn and performs it for his sister and her teenage friends/ black and white man on train escapes fast paced schedule world weight on shoulders by taking a slow drag from angel breath cigarette/ in color the child watching squints his eyes, within the weathering post suggests... it's something he won't soon forget//
Stopped dead in my socks one hallway evening like a slap in the face wake-up call. The old me came to visit the young me to give a good talking to. The John Conkeroo vision; no more day dreaming, it was time to knuckle down and master an instrument. It was going to take some time. I would have to kiss frustration, feel the thighs of dead ends. But that would be the foreplay involved to make love to a ten-holed piece of chrome made in Japan.
I started honing my harmonica playing by mimicking James Cotton's phrases, Jimmy Reed's high tone, and Sonny Terry's locomotive and country hoots. Little Walter was the poet, had the song craft and band leader instinct to go with the harp. But Sonny Boy Williamson's "Dont Let Your Left Hand Know What Your Right Hand's Doin'" was what I wanted to grasp. He and John Mayolle solo, unaccompanied, armed only with the harp, growls, finger snap, whispered cadence and foot stomp, had me listening over and over. One hand on the ten-holed tit, the other hand's fingers on the stereo clit, trying to get the deep moan tone.
CBC had a late night blues program Saturday evening which pulled me away from the soft porn on the fuzzy French channel and a co-op college radio station in the nation's capital on church nights to pull me out of boredom. I recorded the songs I liked so I'd have them all week to practice. They also had a lot of Canadian blues players and gave listings of upcoming concerts. Boom, I was on the pulse, and had a midnight gold mining mission. With a quick as lighting lie, and with a young Ernesto beard I snuck out of the apartment to play at a bar on Rideau Street that had an open mic called Blues Tues. There was another bar in Ottawa called the Rainbow Bistro that had open jams on Sunday afternoons. This is where I started freestyling 12 bar phrases, but grew tired of waiting around all night to play one song. Plus, all the middle-aged jerk offs doing Mustang Sally up the ass, like hell I wanted to be a small epitaph at a wham bam, thank you maam blues jam.
My first paid gig was playing harmonica for the Sierra Club. A Via train took unemployed fishermen to plead with B.C. foresters. "From the ocean without fish to the forest without trees." The locomotive picked up people from the east and all points west. I snuck on in Ottawa because a friend had told me that there was a big concert in Toronto in solidarity of the whole save the rainforest train excursion. I was pretending to sleep to elude the conductor collecting tickets. My friend Eric kept saying, whenever she'd come around, "He was up all night packing, let him sleep. He'll give his ticket when he wakes up." Eric was a smooth operator and an actor, among other things. He grew up in and out of foster homes and was one confident, fearless young man. A sly, tough, unsung hero to have in your corner.
The Sierra Club had hired a B.C. folk singer named Holly Arntzen to play on the train ride and at the rallies along the way to keep morale high. I listened with eyes closed to her singin' and playin' on an instrument I found later to be a dulcimer. I couldnt resist joining in, but to do so I had to cut out the 20 winks act, which I did, and joined the mysterious voice and antique guitar halfway in the hootenanny realm.
When we finished playing the ramshackle tune there was an enthusiastic response. Now the cat was out of the bag, but these were good people, old hippies from the sixties who had held on to the other worldly dream. Instead of kicking me off the locomotive in the next town when they found out I had snuck on without paying, they offered to buy my ticket to B.C. and back, meals and lodging included. All I had to do was play harmonica with the folk singer on the train, and as we stopped in each Province picking up more protesters, tree huggers, and raging grandmas all the way to Vancouver up to Tofino and at the jail where people of all walks of life who had stood between bull dozers and old growth awaiting court dates or doing time. I agreed right then and there. Spit lit the harp on fire with teeth matches as Farley Mowat howled like an old devilish grey wolf as the train boomed down the dance hall railroad tracks from Ottawa to T.O. I waved at Smith Falls as we clanged by. I was 17 and getting busy.
After getting a taste of lemon meringue freedom, the smoke ring late night song book road, I didn't want to look back. I decided not to take the train home, was instead going to hitchhike back east, but the organizers talked me out of it and my parents were waiting for me in Toronto when I arrived at the train station. There, out the window, went all my Huck Finn dreams, marching into English class as if it were my own funeral. The rest of high school I wasn't really there. I knew what I wanted to do, so I just kinda cheated and bluffed my way through for all those who wanted me to finish.
One of Muddy Water's harmonica players was coming to town for 2 nights at a bar way out in the suburbs. I remember trudging in my little plastic shoes through the snow. Along the way bumping into some couples double dating, the self-ordained cool kids, sneaking swigs of booze and eating pizza, but our conversation was quick. They had no power over me now, I was on my own trip.
I remember Mojos hands pumping every time the drummer did the pump on the turnaround 5. I also remember all these lesbians dancing together in front of the bandstand, and how it just knocked me out.
At intermission Mojo and his band went to their dressing room, which was just off of the kitchen. I just said fuck it, as the owner of the bar watched with a half smile, and I went on back. There was a crowd of cronies and hangers on, so I kinda blended in. A man was in Mojo's ear asking him to play "little red rooster" because it was his buddy in the wheelchair's favorite song. I started yakking with the band leader who was Mr. Bufford's bassist. They all came from Oshawa. I told him I was a harmonica player and moving to Chicago soon as I finished high school. He told me if I could get him some decent weed I could come over to their motel room the next day and shoot the harmonica shit with Mojo. Awesome sauce with a double heart crucifix cross.
That night I called up Eric, who sometimes had weed, and was more in that world than me. He said he could get some, but the next day he came up short. I was fucked, but I went to the motel anyway. When I got to the door I knocked, Mojo opened, let me in, and went back to sitting on the edge of his bed, watching WWF wrestling. He said, "People say it's fake, but I don't think so." I told him I went to my dealer's house to get weed, but when I arrived there were cops out front, so I took off. I asked if I could play for him, he said sure. I started to play with my eyes closed. I opened them for a second and he was smirking. I sucked. Then I pulled out the chromatic (the big one with the button). When I played that his left eyebrow went up, I was onto something. Then his bass player came in, asked if I brought the weed. Mojo said, "Damn, the cops were in front of his dealers house." The bass player looked at me like he wasn't buying that bullshit, WWF wresting was fake. When I left I said I'd try again. He said my name would be at the door of the club, and bring him some decent bud. I came up short again, so I never went to the second show. I sent my comrades who I was in a band with, but they got ID'd and never got past the front door. Detroit Red sex before he became the authoritative speaker known as Malcolm X.
The summer of the same year I was hitchhiking back from Newfoundland where I had been playing at the Fat Cat Blues Bar in St. John's. A waitress who worked there was a woman I'd met on the Clayoquot Express who had told me to look her up if I was ever in Newfie territory. On the first night, drunk on Black Dog beer, I admitted to the guitar player I was sitting in with, after constant probing, that yes, I was underage, which almost got the waitress who'd gotten me the beer tab fired, and I was left with a bar gig I wasn't allowed to drink at. I wrote a mean blues song about what a dick the guy was, but I was still insecure about singing off key, so I never sang it as I finished out my engagement at the Fat Cat. That would be the last vengeance penned tune I'd write and wouldn't stand, turn, and sing to my executioner in question, on pitch or not.
On my way back to Ontario I introduced myself to the main organizer of the Mont Tremblant Blues Festival, who gave me a job on the spot (which also worked as 40 hours towards my 50 hours community service for being arrested in Clayoquot Sound). Mostly I was a volunteer who didn't do anything but check out music and shoplift cheeseburgers from the cafeteria lineup. By the last night I was backing up a slide player from Toronto, had lined up a gig at the Horseshoe Tavern, and found myself propped up at the bar at a private party for the musicians of the festival. In the morning found a ride all the way to my final destination with a soul singer's rhythm section.
Then came a period more blue than Picasso's, and more abstract than his Cuban cigar. I was accepted into the Mohawk College prep music program in steel town for the chromatic harmonica, knife fight and all. The following year I spent playing solitaire on my mother's piano. I hitchhiked to New York, but after hearing Michelangelo monster voices and going antique clock mad I took the greyhound home. Finally one holy night with a flick of the opus switch the dark cloud passed and it was time to begin again.
My second time around in Hamilton I was checking out and trying to bust into the Hess Village music scene. Backed Andrea Lake at a weekly gig, auditioned for Ray Materick's band, went on Mondays to La Luna's open mic, and jumped up on every stage I could. I got my first chance to tour when Cadillac Bill, a Toronto musician and Andrea's boyfriend, took his band the Creeping Bent to Quebec and back. I would replace his trumpet player for the tour. One small problem: I had a chance to open for Tim Gibbens, a drunken master and local legend in Hamilton, the same weekend. As it worked out the one day off of the Cadillac tour was the same night as the gig in the Hammer. So I got up early after the show in Wakefield Quebec at the Black Sheep Inn and hitchhiked back to Hamilton, did the show, went well, sang my own songs though I was still insecure about my piano playing, and had older sophisticated lady hit on me. Early the next morning I hitchhiked back to Quebec to finish the Cadillac Bill tour. Months later I was washing dishes at Belamy's when Cadillac Bill and company opened for Ween, but I was content with my free food and soapy radio eternity. I was done with being backup, as they bragged about the spread backstage.
I was working on my first opera, which entailed taking single mothers and acting students from McMaster University, lifting scenes from Othello, Romeo & Juliet, Eugene Oneil's Long Day's Journey Into the Night, and a Blanche monologue from Streetcar Named Desire. I put these vignettes between the songs, furthering the explanation of the lyrics of my original compositions. I had a lamp by the piano, actors had a lamp in their battle station. Whoever's turn it was would turn on the light, and when finished, turn it off. The opera was filmed and the audio used later as a cassette demo. One of the songs from this was Crazy Dreams, which is now on Jolie Holland's album, Springtime Can Kill You.
I hopped a freight yard fence to cut across the tracks as a shortcut to a girl's house and ripped my pants. I knew my time in steel town was drawing to a close. The winds of change exhaling like pianos on porches, transports in gas stations, and hard men in soup kitchen lineups. I gave my winter jacket to Ricardo, and loaded my Fender Rhodes piano strapped to an orange dolly under a Greyhound bus and headed back to the west coast.
I was 21 and happily addicted to cigarettes and scribbling into endless notebooks. Like an ultra sensitive latex condom, the saliva lubricated harmonica in my pocket for protection.