If the man, also known as Jim Kilpatrick, says he paddled part of the way in a canoe to play a festival in River Valley (between North Bay and Sudbury in northeastern Ontario), one would believe him. He's that kind of guy: equally committed, comical, resourceful, sincere.
"It was this outdoor stage, like a log cabin cut in half," Kilpatrick, AKA Shotgun Jimmie, recalls of the venue for the River and Sky Camping and Music Festival. He's on the phone minutes after getting home to Sackville, NB.
A retired heavy machinery owner/operator built River Valley Park two decades ago to host campers and a long-running bluegrass festival alongside the Temagami River. Shotgun Jimmie headlined River and Sky---he's been getting more such slots, he admits sheepishly. (He also plays Cornstock in Stouffville, ON, Close to the Coast in Charlottetown and hometown SappyFest this summer.) In River Valley, Kilpatrick was joined on stage by Attack in Black, the quartet from Welland, Ontario, that recorded Still Jimmie with him. The album came out in March, following his 2007 debut The Onlys.
A member of Shotgun & Jaybird for several years, Kilpatrick's collaborated on stage with Port Greville duo Construction and Destruction, also on the bill at Gus' Pub this Thursday night. Kilpatrick chooses tourmates to play with and not for him based "almost purely on friendship," he says.
The friendship with the four guys from Attack in Black started when they got their hands on The Onlys. Whereas it was recorded with a long lineup of friends fulfilling musical roles, which varied the moods and sounds, the sophomore release presents a consistent band feel, a particularly raw and loud presence that follows the heavier, but still graceful, footfalls of "Onomatopoeia" from the first record.
"Province to Province," a song written during Shotgun and Jaybird days, illustrates the importance of Kilpatrick's braying guitar sound to the songs. He plays a Fender Jazzmaster.
"It's a Jazzmaster in body shape," clarifies Kilpatrick. "I've changed the guts so many times."
His brother, John (of Kilpatrick Guitars), overhauled it. They've also experimented with pickups and contact mics to add different dimensions and have altered acoustic guitars, insulating with tinfoil tape inside the body to cut down on buzz.
Besides the guitar work, Shotgun Jimmie's words are immediately identifiable. He mines meaning from the things we do routinely, so-called mundane tasks, bringing their import to the surface (for example, going out for breakfast "supplies" on "Valentines Day".)
For his Halifax show, Shotgun Jimmie will ride solo. Just him, his modified guitars, his prized Garnet amp purchased recently in Winnipeg, a growing body of work and a drum pedal to boot (with his feet). "It's sounding deadly," Kilpatrick says.