Blues in the Dark, Dark Night

April 24, 2011

So I didn’t know where I was. It was very, very late, I was driving down a lonely backwoods highway I had never travelled before, and the dark sky and winding roads left my internal compass spinning. I had missed a turnoff, I was adrift, I was lost. I was alone in the night, except for the lady sleeping in the passenger seat, a lady who would later learn that we had visited several small towns we’d never heard of. Lost in the country … and it was all right by me, because I was listening to some pure, beautiful blues.

The program was Saturday Night Blues, a favourite of mine that airs on CBC radio here in Canada. The guest was a singer-guitarist named Mark Sterling, a lanky white guy from Edmonton who has somehow summoned forth the awesome, sinister steel blues power of Son House, of Robert Johnson, of Skip James, of Charley Patton. As I hurtled (hopefully) southeast toward home, Sterling’s clear, amazing voice and spidery guitar work showed me the way. His last song slowly faded as I passed through a tiny, sleeping village, little more than a tired old tavern and a rusted-out pickup truck on blocks, and as the radio went silent I crested a black hill and saw the lights of a city in the distance.

The blues got me home, as they always do.

Here’s Mark Sterling.

(Note: Sterling was once in a Canadian band called Hemingway Corner with a guy named Scott Dibble, with whom I once shared a cab while doing some radio promo work. Small world.)


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