Musician Roger Howse has been a staple on stages in Halifax for years, burning up blues riffs and providing the soundtrack for many whiskey-soaked evenings. But like any good blues musician, Howse's life has had some trouble.
Coping with depression, anxiety and physical illness, including a hand injury that inhibited his masterful slide playing, Howse had to step back from his regular gigs on stage at Bearly's. As he stepped back, his friends stepped up. "He's sort of a wreck—and never shy to complain about it," jokes Howse's friend and longtime bassman Morrow Scot-Brown. He speaks warmly of his friend—calling him "the old goat"—and his place in the tightly-knit local blues and roots community. While Howse wasn't up for speaking with me, he insisted that his status as a mental health consumer be mentioned frankly and honestly.
Having to give up gigs while he heals wasn't a decision made lightly—his regular shows are his sole source of income, so his friends and musical collaborators wanted to figure out a way to alleviate some of the financial repercussions. Two benefit concerts (one in St. John's and one at Bearly's) featuring the provinces's best blues musicians and a GoFundMe campaign have been organized in an effort to get Howse back doing what he loves, playing the blues.
"I think he's blown away be the response," says Scot-Brown. "He's pretty touched that there's this sense of concern within the community. There's a strong blues and roots community here and it's wonderful to see the gang pull together."
The gang includes Scot-Brown, George Barkhouse, Shirley Jackson, the staff at Bearly's and many more.
Even if you don't know Howse, Sunday's show promises to be a raging good time. "The problem is going to be keeping it running on time," says Scot-Brown. "We've assembled quite the cast of characters."
A benefit for Roger Howse w/Julia
Brittain, Brenda Stone, Peter Wilson,
Darren Arsenault, Shirley Jackson,
Garrett Mason, Joe Murphy and many more
Sunday, November 16, 1-9pm
Bearly's House of Blues, 1269 Barrington Street