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Download Biography PDF's:

· Can You Hear The Music (2013)
· I Need A Hat (2009)
· Live At The Palais Royale (2007)

"A Hat Trick and Then Some

The Downchild Blues Band was formed by brothers Donnie and Hock Walsh. In 2007 they celebrated their 40th anniversary with the critically acclaimed Live At The Palais Royale. The band, also known as Downchild [Editor’s note: They changed the name to avoid limiting their potential audience to only blues lovers.], continues to win accolades. This new studio album is nominated for a Maple Award as Recording of The Year.

The Maple Awards are Canada’s version of our Blues Music Awards. If that weren’t enough, the band is also nominated as Entertainer of the Year and Electric Act of The Year. “Mr. Downchild,” Donnie Walsh, is guitarist, harp player, vocalist, producer, and front man. Chuck Jackson also plays harp. The rhythm section is ably anchored by drummer Mike Fitzpatrick, but this year the band can be especially proud that each of their three remaining players also is individually nominated for Maple Awards. They are Michael Fonfara, keyboards; Pat Carey, saxes; and bassist Gary Kendell.

The title track, “I Need A Hat,” and all songs except two were written by Walsh. For me the highlight of this album is the horn arrangements, especially on the opening track, “This Must Be Love,” on “Down in The Delta,” and on “Some More of That.” Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns guests on “Somebody Lied” and he takes a nice trumpet solo. He is joined on that track by veteran Canadian guitarist Colin James.

Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd guests on harp on “You Don’t Love Me.”
Downchild was a primary influence behind The Blues Brothers, which featured Aykroyd, who hails from the Toronto area. On that first Blues Brothers album, Briefcase Full of Blues, it was Aykroyd who sang lead on Walsh’s “I Got Everything I Need, Almost.”

The band may have been together for forty years, but they sound fresh on this new studio recording. If you’re going to see them I suggest you might wear a hat, too.

- Richard Ludmerer is a contributing editor to BluesWax. Richard may be contacted at BluesWax@visnat.com.


"For over 40 years, Donnie "Mr. Downchild" Walsh has been one of the Canadian blues scene's leading lights, inspiring generations of hard-core followers. 'I Need A Hat' showcases some of Downchild's strongest, mostvisceral tunes in years, served up by the sort of razor-sharp ensemble playing that has won Walsh and his bandmates armfuls of awards. Making this set still more noteworthy are such guest stars as Dan Aykroyd ( a longitme Downchild fan), blues-rocker Colin James and Memphis Horns trumpeter Wayne Jackson. Walsh leads his combo through rollicking numbers like 'This Must Be Love', 'Down In The Delta' and 'Some More Of That', serving up unadulterated roadhouse riffs with seasoned style. Tunes like 'What Was I Thinking' and the title song capture Walsh's sly humor, while 'Time To Say Goodbye' distills pleasure from pain in true blues fashion. The band gives itself free reign to simmer and burn on the instrument 'El Stew', 'I Need A Hat' finds Downchild as vital as ever as they enter their fifth decade in fine form."

– iTunes US


Author: Lou Novacheck
Published: Apr 27, 2010 at 5:35 am

The current lineup of Downchild has been together for more than 15 years, and it shows in their music and in the way that, even though this is a recording and not a video, one can ‘see’ the interaction between the members of the group. ‘Tight’ is the only adjective that fits, besides ‘comfortable.’ They’re in one another’s comfort zones, where each knows the others’ next moves, or chord changes, or improvs, just by each others’ body English, which readily translates to the sound.

Singer Chuck Jackson, who wrote two of the cuts on this disc, is a real bluesman, even if he and the other Downchild members are purebred Canuck. Toronto, their home city, is known worldwide for its blues heritage, particularly in jump blues and Chicago blues. The Delta doesn’t have much to worry about having its title as the home of the blues usurped, but at the same time Mississippians know there’s a worthy heir waiting in the wings should they ever slip.

Harpist and guitarist Donnie Walsh, who wrote all the rest of the songs on I Need A Hat, took his lessons from listening to Jimmy Reed, then James Cotton records, and he learned his own licks the old-fashioned way, auto didactically. Ditto for the guitar, with Muddy and Albert King as his recorded mentors. Then he took all that he learned and added his own touches, making them his signature. His stage name, Mister Downchild, and the group’s name he took from a song by Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller).

Saxophonist Pat Carey wails and whispers, as the situation calls for it, while bassist Gary Kendall keeps chugging through boogie woogie, jump blues, crying blues, and all else. Michael Fonfara displays a real virtuosity for anything with keys in this, Downchild’s 16th album. [Michael Fonfara was a founding member of 60s supergroup Rhinoceros, which put out a total of three albums, one each in 1968, 1969, and 1970. One of my favorite groups during that time.]

Although they’re not as well known in the Lower 48 as in the frozen tundra, Downchild have run out of places to hang their voluminous Canadian awards. Downchild has been the equivalent of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in terms of musicians, a virtual revolving door of many well-known, accomplished musicians throughout the years, and their reputation grows as steadily as they win awards. They’ve also been featured on National Public Radio worldwide a number of times, as well as appearing at blues festivals all over the US, Canada and in Europe.

Guests on I Need A Hat include Dan Aykroyd [Blues Brothers] on harmonica on “You Don’t Love Me,” while Colin Linden does the guitar solo. Colin James guests as guitarist on “Somebody Lied,” while Wayne Jackson of Stax’s Memphis Horns sits in on trumpet on cuts 3 and 9.
The Blues Brothers, made famous by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, modeled their group after Downchild, while also recording two selections on their records by Walsh & Downchild, “Shotgun Blues,” and “I Got Everything I Need (Almost).”

Highly recommended.



– Blog Critics

"There would be no Blues Brothers if it weren’t for Downchild"

– Dan Aykroyd

"Downchild's "I Need A Hat" is the whole iceberg--not just the tip. Donnie Walsh shows us the whole untapped source of real blues he has at his fingertips."

- John Shelton Ivany's Top 21


“Live at the Palais Royale” by Downchild is a very serious contender for album of the year.”

- Gordon Baxter – Blues in Britain  10/10 Stars

“This is not only a good cd but also a testament to the careers of its participants. Catch them when they do tour or plan to see them while on your next vacation. You'll be glad you did.”

- Richard Ludmerer Director, The New York Blues & Jazz Society

 

"An old dancehall joint kicks again with the tone and spirit of a live album that captures a professional band doing nothing less than performing exactly right.  By the time Downchild gets to 'When I Say Jump', a palm-held audience asks only "How high?”

- Brad Wheeler - The Globe and Mail

"The danceable jump blues from Canada's blues band, Downchild, is so impressive it's sure to have you out looking for their CDs."

- Tim Holek -  Blues on Stage

"There aren't enough positive adjectives in the dictionary for me to describe my feelings about experiencing these guys live..."

-  John Hollinger, Winnipeg Jazz Festival

Downchild has a virtual lock on Canadian blues hierarchy."

- Dan Whitlock - Blues Revue

“There's not a wasted moment in this entire 11-song set. Solos are blissfully precise, colourful and explosive in turn.   This is the classic take it to your grave testament of one of the greatest blues bands in the world. Period”

- Gregg Quill, The Toronto Star, March 2007   4/4 Stars

“Proof positive that Downchild remains one of the best roadhouse bands around.  The all original set reminds us that Donnie Walsh is one of the genre's best writers.   (Live at the Palais Royale) tear(s) up the joint with an energy level that never lets go."

- Mike Regenstreif, The Montreal Gazette, March 29, 2007   4/4 Stars

"Take a tight band that has been together for years, add material they know well, and the motivation of a heady blues audience, and you get a show that really cooks.   Is this the best band you never heard of?   Maybe.   But given its history and influence, perhaps it's the best band you SHOULD HAVE heard of."

- Vintage Guitar Magazine 

Downchild are unstoppable. They are not only talented, enjoyable to listen to, and really old, this is the band that inspired the Blues Brothers. Aykroyd and Belushi both were big fans in their heyday and one thing led to another and... Well, you know the story. Live, this band feels a lot more soul than blues, but you won't see me complaining. Downchild is a perfect blend of everything good: a vocalist who knows how to sing, a guitar player who can play solo like nobodies business, and a horn section that knows that it is possible to over do it. They are as tight here as they are with a genius producer. They bring their hits, their rarities, and a few surprises."

- John Shelton Ivany’s Top 21 – Issue #307