The true greats of blues music generated enormous excitement and awe in their audiences. They did so with flamboyant showmanship; with aloof, tough delivery; with elegance and charisma; with passionate virtuosity; with all sorts of styles, but always with original talent and awesome presence.
Whiteboy Slim, (Maurice Richard Libby), carries the blues tradition. His raw, authoritative delivery is obviously born of his respect for the music. He bows to the sounds that have traditionally portrayed American troubles, layering them with World music and today’s influences to create genuinely eclectic, genuinely modern music, but undeniably Blues music.
Slim says it best himself: “I stay true to the spirit of the music, walking the tightrope between the spiritual and the profane. I play old tunes by Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf - all the greats - and unusual stuff like some Fats Waller. I do a lot of original tunes as well: twelve bar blues with lyrics that speak to contemporary experience. I’m sure not going to try to write like a sharecropper from Mississippi.”
In a meandering trip from his father’s collection of Louis Armstrong records, to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, to Toronto bands Dirty Movies and Automatic Slim, to nine CDs under his own name, Whiteboy Slim has unabashedly grafted elements of Ska, Reggae, Jazz, Rockabilly, and even Avante Garde jamming to his Blues roots.
Energetic and improvisational, Slim’s live shows, with his permanent bassist Dustin Bowyer (who often simultaneously plays drums), and special guests from the ever-expanding “ad Hoc Blues Posse” are never the same, always dancing on the edge. The stage is littered with guitars basses, drums, harmonicas, and whatever other instruments fit in the van on that particular day.
Whiteboy Slim has just released his latest CD “Quid Pro Quo: Songs of Sex, Love, And #resistance!”. It is the culmination of five years of collaboration with the one-man rhythm section, Justin Bowyer, on bass and drums. During that five years they have created three “live off the floor” albums and one (double) studio album.
Whiteboy Slim is just starting some new and exciting projects. Stay tuned.
Interview with Maurice Richard Libby AKA Whiteboy Slim
Several years ago I had the privilege to make the acquaintance with one of the legends of modern-day Canadian Blues music; Maurice Richard Libby. Maurice plays under the stage name of “Whiteboy Slim”. I recently spoke with him about his latest album, Diversity, and about what lead to his life in music.
From the time he was a little boy listening to the greats of the jazz era, Maurice Richard Libby, wanted to be an entertainer. This lead to his attendance at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. He toured in his earlier years, after college, as part of a band named, Automatic Slim. They toured mostly on the eastern areas of Toronto where they were incredibly popular in the mid 1970’s. It was after this band went their separate ways that Maurice launched a solo career. He packed up, moved West, back to Moose Jaw, and has never looked back. Modern day blues aficionados know the name, Whiteboy Slim, from his countless performances in local bars and clubs throughout Canada. He is a favourite among college town DJ’s. Many of his CD’s have earned acclaim including his album “AKA Whiteboy Slim” which won such honours as Best Blues Album, Best Blues Male Artist and Best song for “Hey Hold on Stop” from the Toronto Exclusive Magazine Music Awards. His latest artistic contribution Diversity continues the tradition of his distinctive style. A style that is reminiscent of Louis Armstrong. It was at a Louis Armstrong concert, Maurice saw when he was a little boy, that lead to his lifelong pursuit of music. It was a pursuit that became a passion. His passion is apparent in the eight CD’s that comprise his body of work. When you listen to a Whiteboy Slim song nothing is without purpose, every note, every tone. They all meld together to form a melodic symphony of sound and texture that is pleasing to both the soul and the mind.
When asked how he got his start in music and when did he know this was the career he replied, “My mother tells me I used to do song and dance numbers in the living room when I was 3 or 4 years old. It was when I was 6 or 7, when my father took me to see Louis Armstrong in concert, I knew.” He goes on, “I knew the minute he came on the stage.” You hear that recognition and respect for the past in his music. His lyrics are witness to the whisperings of blues geniuses such as Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters. He states this about his song, “In the Morning Light”, “It sounds kind of New Orlean-ish with a hint of Americana.” And it’s true, when you listen to it, you can almost smell the creole cooking if you close your eyes. It has a distinctive southern quality.
As a musician he lives his dream every day. With the release of the latest album “Diversity” he plans a tour. This time he hopes to branch out beyond the Great North. “I am trying to plan a tour on the Eastern Seaboard, down to Florida and New Orleans then on to the Pacific Coast.” Outside of his musical pursuits, Maurice is a tireless advocate for social issues including race relations, inequality, animal rights and economic exploitation. He currently resides in MooseJaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. ~ Arleen McCann