“She can be bold and honky, but she can also sing sweetly,” writes Vinnick in her online bio. “It depends on what we’re playing.”
The Saskatoon-born blues singer songwriter, now based out of Ontario, has ten Maple Blues Awards crowding her bookshelf and three Juno nominations to boot. She’s coming home to Saskatoon on June 22 to put on a show at the Village Guitar & Amp co. for the Jazz Festival.
Vinnick is eager to bring her solo show back to her home town.
“This one will be a little more intimate,” said Vinnick, calling from her current digs, a retrofitted church in southern Ontaio. “And it’ll be great to come back and play the festival again.”
Guitar or bass in hand, Vinnick’s been playing the blues since she was a teenager. This isn’t her first local jazz festival rodeo, either. When she was 18, she had a chance to play on a festival stage after winning a blues competition at Buds on Broadway.
“The first time I think I was 18. I won, and I got to play at the festival which was a big deal. So it’s always nice to come back and revisit your roots, you know?”
Even though her roots are firmly planted in the blues, Vinnick’s style slides between soulful acoustic jazz and twangy folk rock. Take a walk through her discography to get a feel for this kind of range. Her latest album Live At Bluesville, released last year, and 2011’s Me ‘n Mabel are both rootsy, guitar-laden tributes to the blues, where her award-winning voice gets to shine through brightly, complemented by just the right amount of harmonica for a bit of extra colour.
Some tracks on these albums — if you close your eyes and listen — call up visions of Vinnick strumming away in a smoky club in Mississippi. Others, maybe a little blues bar in Chicago.
A full band joined Vinnick in the studio for Happy Here in 2008 and the album has a much bigger sound. The rhythm section spurs along a heavier, driven vibe on some songs, and the rest have a folkier, almost country feel to them. But like Vinnick’s other tunes, the guitar work and powerful, saucy vocals tie everything together, falling back into that always-welcome bluesy sound.
Vinnick’s performance during the Jazz Festival will be a solo set, although she’ll presumably have Mabel by her side, so maybe it’s not quite fair to call it “solo.”
“It’ll visit my latest album,” said Vinnick. “Oh gosh, probably most of it will be like my Me ‘n Mabel album and then visit my latest album Live at Bluesville — I usually do a few key tracks off that and some tracks off Happy Here and 33 Stars, too.”
Vinnick played through Saskatoon in February and she says her upcoming show is going to feature some of the same sounds, with a healthy dose of variety, too — and maybe even a new song, if we’re lucky. “Hopefully I’m going to get [a new tune] together before my show. It’d be great if I could get at least one song or something.” But that depends on how much time she has to sit down at the kitchen table and switch into songwriting mode.
Instead of picking up a guitar and plucking out a melody or some chords, this songwriter’s creative weapon of choice is a pad of paper. The lyrics have to come first, and only when they do can a full song start to take shape. When a line or a verse first comes together in her head, Vinnick can already feel what direction she wants to take the song. Then she’ll set up shop at her 100-year-old piano and the chords and melody can be overlaid on top the lyrics.
“I usually know in my gut what I want the song to be about and I’ll come up with a line and get it finished. But when I do actually concentrate on lyrics I do get more of a finished song.” This process has been serving her well since her first album was released in 1994.
You can catch her live, and get a feel for the final product of her songwriting process, at the Village Guitar & Amp Co. on June 22 at 8:00 pm. Vinnick will also be putting these musical talents to work at a few outreach gigs around town in addition to her set during the Jazz Festival.