Vancouver blues vets Incognito keep the music rough and tough


By Steve Newton

You don’t have to prowl Vancouver’s smoky blues hang-outs to hear local blues-rockers Incognito—all you need is a radio and chances are you’ll come across the rockin’ jingle the quartet recorded for Grower’s Cider. The catchy ad might even be followed by Incognito’s other ode to summertime thirst-slaking, “Hot Blues and Cold Beer”, one of several party-time tunes included on the band’s new self-titled CD.

On the scorching day that Incognito guitarist/manager/head cheer-leader Rob Montgomery visits the Georgia Straight office, the prospect of a frosty brew has this scribbler wishing he were at the Fairview Pub or any of the other watering holes where Montgomery’s fiery fretwork heats up the dance floor. According to the effervescent guitarist, local airplay for tunes like “Hot Blues”, “You’re What I Want”, and especially “Train Comin’ ” has already made a difference to their live performances.

“It is gettin’ so much radio response that when we play it, people go: ‘Wow, I know that song.’ It’s kind of an exciting thing—our creation getting a little bit of hip popularity.”

Incognito recorded its 10-track disc at Sierra Studios and Fluid Sound with engineer Glen Drewry and Nashville-based mixer Perry Barrett. The CD—which includes seven originals as well as old standards by Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Roosevelt Sykes—is available in most local record stores, but prospective buyers who want to check the tunes out live can do so this Friday and Saturday (July 24 and 25) at Jake O’Grady’s, or on Saturday afternoon (July 25) at the Mission Pioneer Days. Beer drinkers and hellraisers alike—especially the musically inclined ones—should keep in mind that Incognito also hosts blues jam sessions Saturday afternoon at the Maximum Blues Pub and Sunday nights at the Fairview.

Budding bluesmen who’d like to play with Montgomery but aren’t quite ready for the stage can always start off with one of the guitar lessons he gives in his spare time. “I’m more of a guitar coach,” he says. “If a guy already loves guitar, I’ll make the guitar love him, you know what I mean?”

Montgomery has been professionally honing his chops in the Vancouver music scene since the age of 15, when he formed the Barrelhouse Blues Band. He hooked up with his songwriting partner, singer/harpist Sherman “Tank” Doucette, nine years ago, completing the current Incognito line-up with former Six Cylinder bassist Bob Popowich and drummer Bob Woods, a 16-year veteran of Matt Minglewood’s band.

“The thing is, we’ve been around a long time,” says the 31-year-old Montgomery. “We’re old vets as far as playin’ goes. And we’re not a packaged product; we’re not like: ‘Well, these guys are cute enough.’ People like it because it’s rough and tough, there’s something a little raw there. We’re a little more like Paul Butterfield—Chicago blues, with a bit of a rock edge. That’s where we’re comin’ from.”

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