Carson Downey is carrying on a generations-old tradition in Canada’s Maritime Provinces of looking to family and your Maker for strength and music for survival and personal expression. “You never know what’s ahead,” he says, “and you just thank God for giving you a chance to live today.”
Downey grew up in the 1960s with five brothers and four sisters in North Preston, a poor, predominantly black community near Halifax. Things were tough. Racism was common. They lived crowded together into a small house heated by a wood stove and an oil furnace and lit by kerosene lanterns.
Downey started out on the ukulele as a youngster. Moving up to guitar he began playing in school groups, then in an R&B outfit. Downey got his first taste of the blues as a side man with Joe Murphy, one of the finest of the Maritime roots and blues artists. “It just felt real good with the vibe and what you could do,” he recalls.
Four years later, Downey put together his own trio with his brother Murray on drums and his brother-in-law on bass. For the next fifteen years, they paid their dues practicing for hours and toughing it out in bars around Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Their tight, driving blend of hard-edged electric blues and sweat-drenched rock made them a regional triumph.
In the process, Downey developed a signature style. “I really like all those heavy guitarists like Jeff Beck and Hendrix,” he says. “But I try to get away from those guys as I want to get a sound for Carson Downey.”
In 1998, with Marlowe Smith now on bass guitar, the band was discovered while performing at the East Coast Music Awards by Andrew McCain, president of Toronto-based Loggerhead Records who was struck by their energy. Three weeks later he signed this “diamond in the rough” to a record deal. All the Way, twelve well penned and executed original songs, was released to rave reviews and significant radio play in 1999. Burnin” Up Live followed on its heels.
In 2000, Downey was named the Fender East Coast Guitarist of the Year. In 2001, the band won East Coast Music Awards for Best Blues Group and Best New Artist as well as Maple Blues Award nominations for Best New Artist and Drummer of the Year. The Dutch Mason Award for “exceptional contributions to the preservation of Maritime blues music,” was especially satisfying.
The band has appeared on "Open-Mike with Mike Bullard" and "Canada AM" and been featured in the pages of The Toronto Star and Ottawa Sun.
But, it’s what these three firebrands do live, burning up stages with high voltage guitar solos and powerhouse rhythms, that keeps fans coming back for more. Don’t miss the Carson Downey Band described by, Scene Roots & Blues Magazine as “An electrifying soul shake down … this is the real deal.”