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Romi Mayes putting her own stamp on the music of Lucinda Williams’ music for new tour

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Winnipeg blues rock singer songwriter Romi Mayes makes a long awaited return to Lethbridge to play the Slice, Thursday, May 18 to play her favourite Lucinda Williams songs.


Romi Mayes returns to Lethbridge to play Lucinda Williams music, May 18. Photo by Richard Amery

 Mayes, who has been a touring musician for 30 years has been taking a little break from the road. She played South Country Fair in 2015 and the Slice in 2014, but couldn't resist hitting the road again at the behest of John Scoles, owner of popular Winnipeg venue Times Changed who wanted to put on a special show in honour of popular alt country songwriter Lucinda Williams’ 70th birthday.


“The world is ever-changing and the music industry has been in flux right along with it. With the global economy shifting, gasoline prices soaring, and digital technology taking over as a stream and download world, you can imagine that it has been tricky for touring musicians to navigate how to make a living from hitting the road.  In about 2016 I realized I was losing more money that I was earning and looking at my career as a business, it was a failing business model. I still believed the music, the songs, the material were worthy and hardly a failure, but the business of touring seemed like a pipe dream for making a living anymore. I chose to take a long break from the road and only do one off shows here and there that made lucrative sense. I also haven't recorded new material in about eight years which really slows down the possibility of touring a new album. All that compiled together topped with the Covid cherry on top and it just seemed to make sense to stay close to home,” she wrote in an e-mail.


“John Scoles, the owner of our Winnipeg local Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club called me last fall (2022) and asked if I wanted to put a show together for January 26, 2023 to honour Lucinda Williams' 70th birthday. I had done a song or two of hers over the years but hadn't attempted to do 90 minutes of her material before. I needed a challenge and I knew this would be a perfect fit. That pushed my band and I to working hard to create this show. Once we had this show under our belt it was unanimous that we wanted to continue doing this show a little longer and tour it. I added a fifth member to the band for these shows and we have worked hard to get these songs ready. It is not so much a tribute as honouring her material. I can't sing like Lucinda and I really don't want to try to imitate her style. It's 90 minutes of Lucinda Williams songs done in my style. 


“I have seen her live before for sure and have been a big fan.

Back in the day when I heard Lucinda Williams’ album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, it couldn’t have come at a better time. I was singing in country and bluegrass bands and identified much more with Lucinda Williams than the sweet bluegrass sounds of Alison Krauss. Lucinda’s songs were gritty and sexy and loose and breathy and that was not only tangible to me but also inspiring and achievable. 

As fate would have it, it wasn’t long before I found myself recording and touring with Gurf Morlix, the very man who had performed with and produced Lucinda for much of her career.

It has all brought me to today where I have the opportunity to share some of her kick ass repertoire on the road with a great band,” she wrote adding the show will be 90 minutes of Lucinda Williams songs, but none of Mayes‘ original music.

Mayes wasn’t inspired to write  during Covid, but played as much as she could.


“I did a lot of live internet shows and even challenged myself with a covers request show. I was hoping to do a lot of writing. But the inspiration honestly just never came,” she wrote, adding she is starting to write some new music.


“I have some bits and pieces from over the last eight years that I would like to sit down and finish. I was thinking of asking Jaxon Haldane (of D. Rangers fame) to help me finish them. He has a way of pulling out the best out of a potential song. I have a couple on the go this year but for some reason I just can't seem to call them done. It's like I'm off the bicycle and forget how to ride it. I am hoping that if I give myself a deadline of March 2024 to record that maybe I'll get something going and be able to put together an album to record and tour next year.  I really want to. Gurf used to tell me to just call the time I wasn't writing "collecting".  Now it feels sometimes like I'm past that point and I'm hoping I'm not just "collecting dust". Ha! I just have to find a way to get back in the zone,” she wrote.


 She used to play with Jimmy Bowskill, but has a new five piece band she is touring with including two fifths of the D Rangers and some new members.


“I'll be touring with a five piece band. I have a new drummer in my band these days, Travis Maclean, so he'll be on the road with us. He is actually the son and nephew of the infamous Canadian duo Maclean and Maclean. I also have Tom "Twisty Fodey" on bass as I have for so many years. Shining on lead guitar will be Chris Saywell (also of D.Rangers fame). Most people don't know that he isn't just an acoustic bluegrass slayer... he is a blues rock demon on electric. We played music together in my late teens and so it's nice to be back in that place with him.  He's like family. And for a great addition to the band for the Lucinda material, I have added the talent of JD Ormond on guitar and to make those three part harmonies soar.  He is in a band called Ultra Mega that I love and, for a fun fact, is Luke Doucet of Whitehorse's brother. They are all phenomenal musicians and salt of the earth humans. I am a lucky woman,” she wrote, adding she is working for Curbside Concerts Canada.


“Outside of music I have been working hard as Senior Producer for Curbside Concerts Canada. A company Matt Masters started in Calgary in the face of Covid.  We have expanded the company quite a bit over three years and we employ musicians from BC to PEI. If there is an event you need any kind of live music at, we can facilitate it for you. It's been an extremely rewarding position for me and I have been fortunate enough to receive a couple of nominations for agent of the year in Canada for my work with Curbside Concerts. It keeps my busy for sure but I am glad I have time to still keep performing music an integral part of my life,” she wrote.

 Romi Mayes plays Lucinda Williams at the Slice beginning at 9 p.m., Thursday, May 18. Tickets are $22.63 through Eventbrite.

 — By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

Last Updated ( Monday, 15 May 2023 20:19 )  
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