Sitting with Randy MacNeil over a coffee I got a sense of his innate passion for music, blues and roots music. The dictionary description for innate is a plethora of adjectives from inborn, inherent, natural, intrinsic, to instinctive, intuitive, and unlearned, all of these aptly describe Randy’s work. For thirty years he has attended festivals and music events across Canada from coast to coast to coast and has been able to get up close and personal with a who’s who of Canadian blues royalty and had the great foresight to capture those artists in their natural environment not knowing that this book would be an amazing historical record of past and present. His early training using film photography has been honed over many years to a level of art form that defies belief, and his eye for ‘ the shot ‘ is extraordinary.
What started out as a project to showcase his work turned into a photo documentary of the blues in Canada, and what was supposed to be a project that would take one year to complete took almost five. It involved collating not only photographs but information from the many artists who either themselves or through their management teams had invited Randy to photograph them on stage over the years, it became a storybook too, with so many of Canada’s most respected performers telling in their own words what the blues meant to them and how they got involved.
Randy has remained under the radar, this being his first published work, although he is well known by the artists throughout the music scene as a ‘ real photographer ‘ and all round good guy, he has many stories of the road that can be regaled ( they are all true ) and somehow in his photographs one can sense there is a story within each image. With the encouragement of Francine Aubrey who is herself a performer and who had great belief in his work, Randy started to slowly build the project and saw it as a vehicle to raise awareness of the Canadian blues and the artists who performed it, Francine foresaw it as a means to give the Canadian blues scene the wider recognition it deserved, the project morphed into a large animal which has taken 245 pages to cage, there are some names missing from the book but understandably where does one stop, or maybe there is another book in the making, he certainly has enough images to fill two or three more volumes.
The books cover photograph says it all, an image from behind an artist on stage playing keyboards wearing a T-Shirt that simply states ‘ Performer ‘. There are many who have contributed, from Colin Linden, Colin James, Matt Andersen, Suzie Vinnick, Rick Fines, Tony D, Steve Mariner, Steve Hill, Steve Strongman, Harrison Kennedy, Angel Forrest, David Gogo, Dawn Tyler Watson, Paul DesLauriers, Sue Foley, Charlie A’Court, and insights from Holger Petersen , Richard Flohil, Dan Ackroyd, Ken Whiteley and many many more all accompanied by photographs of live performances.
The book is a well crafted coffee table photo documentary, a must for the music aficionado's of the Canadian blues music scene, and not only appealing to them, for if you want an introduction to the names on the circuit past and present who have and continue to make a living from the passion that calls them to perform to as equally passionate audiences across the nation then this book should be in your collection.
To capture the passion takes great skill and immense amounts of time and travel to be in the right places at just the right time, it’s something Randy has done instinctively, Intuitively and inherently for over thirty years, we thank him for this gift he has shared with us.