I've always held the attitude that I have no real enemies or strangers in my life ... just friends I haven't met yet. As mentioned in the Jimmy Bowskill review, I recently changed positions in my day job and I now work in Peterborough, Ontario. Now that I'm spending large amounts of time in Peterborough, I am now realizing what fertile musical ground exists in this part of Canada.
At my workplace I've made a new friend in John. John is a great guy, very knowledgeable about a lot of things and is always up for a good conversation about two of his greatest loves in life, that being hockey and music. They happen to be two of my greatest loves in life as well, so we hit it off well in this regard. We have had many conversations about the state of music, the quality of singers, the value of being a singer-songwriter, and most importantly, who we're really in to musically.
John is great friends with a local performer in the Peterborough area named Uncle Jim. Uncle Jim is a veteran of the Peterborough music scene and has a steady gig at one of the finer local establishments in town called Elements. This past Saturday, John mentioned that if I wasn't doing anything and would like to see a great show, come on up to Elements and check out Uncle Jim. The bonus in all of this, was that Uncle Jim's daughter was also going to be on the show and she is a singer and musician "that will just blow you away." This was the second such time John had mentioned Jim's daughter and that she was incredible, so something told me it Peterborough was the place to be the next night.
And so it was on Saturday that my lovely lady and I made our way up to Peterborough to Elements to see this family in action. Little did we know that we were going to see one of the most uniquely talented up-and-coming performers I have ever seen.
When John introduced me to Uncle Jim, it was just before the show was set to begin. We greeted each other with a warm handshake and Jim was clear on this evening that he was setting the stage for his daughter to go up and take the mike. While he may have made his intention clear to me, I want to be clear that Uncle Jim is no slouch on stage. He is an excellent singer, songwriter and first-rate blues musician, as he so capably demonstrated playing the blues on guitar and harmonica at the same time. I'm always thrilled and impressed when I see something like that. I once played guitar and tried to sing at the same time ... it was a trainwreck. I have no idea how people play two instruments fluently at once, but thank God they can do it. It's a credit to the art when people can perform such a task.
Following Uncle Jim's first thirty minute set, the gushing father turned the stage over to his daughter Billi. Opening with a Ray Lamontagne number, this young lady had the hair on the back of my neck standing up by the time she hit the fifth word of that song. Billi Cope is arguably the finest, most talented up-and-coming star that has not been discovered. I had the great pleasure of meeting Billi briefly before and after her first set. My assessment of Billi is that she is a singer, songwriter, musician and artist of the highest order. Her guitar playing is among the best I've seen, clearly the beneficiary of growing up in a musical family. Perhaps it was those surroundings that gave Billi the skill to develop a strong set list which flowed from solid covers of the aforementioned Lamontagne to Tracey Chapman and a stellar version of John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery", to original material such as the mournful true story of "Josh's Song." Simply put, Billi Cope is the real deal. This girl is going to be a star. I may not be the only one who senses that fact.
As I was watching Billi perform, I caught a glimpse of Uncle Jim out of the corner of my eye. I could see this proud father wiping away a tear as he witnessed his daughter holding the crowd in the palm of her hand and guiding them through her songbook. I believe the day is coming soon where we won't be able to see Billi perform at Elements anymore. Rather, she will be performing on the stage next door at the Showplace Theatre in front a much deserved larger gathering.