A versatile and inventive band with veteran and award-winning members that twists, prods and reshapes musical genre boundaries celebrates its first year of its Monday night residency at Relish on December 9.
Bentroots, which features multiple-Juno and Maple Blues award keyboardist Michael Fonfara (best known for his role with Downchild Blues Band) as well as acclaimed accordion player Ed Roth and three other very talented performers, calls itself “not your average Blues band” –a huge understatement given the musical territory they traverse.
Promo for their weekly 8-11 shows at the cozy, hip music-loving room at 2152 Danforth Ave. describes them as a “Swamp Blues” outfit and they sometimes refer to themselves as “Swamp/Funk”. But in addition to Cajun and R&B stylings, the group infuses its unique versions of covers and impressive roster of original tunes with strong early Rock themes and a kind of loose thread of Gyspy Jazz as well.
Guitarist, singer and songwriter Nicholas Balkou is the spirited sparkplug who unites the diverse elements by making them stretch. He’s more than ably assisted by a rhythm section (Robert Newman on bass, Duncan McBain on the kit) that intuitively gets his unorthodox and always dynamically exciting approach and that makes it possible for Fonfara and Roth to do their musical trampoline accompaniments.
Balkou has written hundreds of songs, and some of them are contained on three excellently produced albums, including the latest disc, Welcome To Club Bluenote’, which was released last May at a show they put on with a roster of A-list guest artists at Toronto’s Revival club.
One of the things that makes their Relish shows exciting is how they mix up their repertoire to intersperse their originals with covers of Blues, Pop Rock and R&B/Funk tunes that don’t sound quite like you remember them but sound like the way you’ll want to remember them from then on.
No cover for the anniversary show or for any of their Monday night appearances, but you’ll certainly want to acknowledge the milestone and help encourage them to keep on going by dropping some bucks in the tip jar and/or picking up one or more of their albums while you’re there.