The Delta Blues at the Drom

The Delta Blues at the Drom

If you haven’t been to the Drom Taberna yet and you are a lover of discovering new music you are missing out on a gold mine. Every day you can go there and see between 2-4 artists there on a given night. This is the hub for artists to gather a new following. A good friend told me about an artist named Camilo Restrepo and being the melodious explorer that I am I went to see what got him excited.

He walked on stage quietly with just a guitar, sat back on his stool and with a cool laid back attitude and cool blue polka dot socks he began to pluck away. It wasn’t until he opened his mouth that I really got it. It was like I shifted into a different realm. I was sitting in a swampy land in the tall grass and was witnessing an old spirit of the blues as his porch rocking voice carried me to the Deep South. It was the soul of the delta blues. This was the birthplace, where that sound was born.

He opened with Crawling King snake, which was first recorded in 1941 by Big Joe Williams. He then moved on to Jack of Diamonds which is a gambling song popularized by Blind Lemon Jefferson. This is the stuff that blues legends were born from. These are dark song that carried a sense of bad intent or a warning. They came from a mystic suffering. In fact throughout Camilo’s set, he kept singing about death. He sang, Death Letter Blues, Prayer of Death, and Death don’t have no mercy.  This was pretty heavy stuff for a Thursday after work. This may be why your bar tab was a little high that night.

If you are a fan of the blues, Camilo would pull out a lot of the classic players and lay them at your feet. I heard this evening, songs by Muddy Waters, Blind Willie, Robert Johnson and one of my favourites, RL Burnside. He threw in some Bessie Smith, John Lee Hooker and I noticed he favoured Mississippi John Hurt.

Once you have settled into his amazing voice that seemed to emerge from the swamps and earth, you will eventually realize when he gets into a groove; his finger picking abilities will have you in its clutches as well. Not only can it look complex, but the shear dimensions he can create will mesmerize you. I spoke to a few people in the audience between sets and they simply told me they come back again and again just to see him. I do believe he is a staple at the Drom because he mentioned that this is his favourite place to play.

His second set was filled with plenty of other great artists and interesting songs. The mood seemed a little lighter as well. He played songs like, Jelly,Jelly,Jelly and Candy man. It was a far cry from his death songs from the first set. If you did have a few shots by the first set, then maybe Fallin’ down blues is a song you need not listen to. I really did love his version of Nobody’s fault but mine, made popular by Led Zeppelin. He finished of the evening with the legend of Robert Johnson and sang Preachin’ Blues.

I am not sure how long Camilo has been on the scene, but this is one of those artists you will kick yourself for missing. If you are a musical adventurer like myself, add this guy to your must see list. Once you see him, it will not be the only time you see him. He is a truly hidden gem amongst the crazy noise that Toronto can make in this world of music.

Here are some images of Camilo Restrepo:

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