By Vanessa Broadbent
If you were Ken Hamm’s roadie, you’d have your arms full at all times.
The musician tours with five instruments: a banjo, a dobro, a metal-body national resophonic guitar, an arch-top guitar and a flat-top guitar. Half of them are from the 1930s, he says.
“They’re antique instruments that I faithfully keep in tune and in order so that they can present themselves well and accompany me.”
On Friday, they’ll be accompanying Hamm at Oliver’s Firehall Brewery, one of many stops on the Saskatchewan-based musician’s current 20-day tour.
Hamm learned to play guitar in the 1950s. He started performing in the 1960s and recorded his first record in 1978.
Now he has eight albums to his name and two awards: a Juno which he won in 1991 and a Great Canadian Blues Award in 2010.
Even with the decades of experience, embarking on a tour still comes with a few surprises every time.
“People have actually been buying CDs which I was worried that they might have stopped doing. Things are going good.”
Surprises aside, Hamm says his performances themselves haven’t changed much over time.
“There’s been a lot of change in the recording business but the way I present myself hasn’t changed much.”
However, the songs he plays have changed. With new songs that Hamm has written or new songs he wants to cover, every tour is a little different. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still some old classics thrown in.
One of his favourite old covers is a combination of a Bach piece and an old world tune called the Spanish Fandango.
“I still do songs from the 1800s and all over the last century and this current century as well. I try and mix it up a lot.”
That mix includes about 30 per cent original songs, 10 per cent instrumental and the remainder is covers of old folk songs or tunes by Hamm’s friends.
“I do a lot of co-writes these days too with various poets and whatnot. We come up with music together so I’ll be presenting some of that. And a lot of it is from my new CD which I just put out recently.”
But the songs aren’t the only element to Hamm’s performances. He incorporates story-telling as well.
“I like to give a background to a lot of the songs I sing and try and draw the crowd in a little bit with information about the song that they may not pick up just from listening to the lyrics of it or the guitar accompaniment.”
In all his years performing, playing in Oliver will be a first for Hamm.
“I’ve driven through Oliver many times between gigs in Osoyoos and Penticton, but I’ve never had a chance to stop there so this is fun, this is something new and I like that idea,” he said. “I like playing to a new community, new crowd.”
Ken Hamm is performing at the Firehall Brewery on Friday, April 27 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the venue or by calling 778-439-2337.