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Nanaimo musician combines rock, blues and soul on new CD

Hamish John A. Macdonald’s latest release is ‘Lazaara’s Edge – Angels, Pirates & Demons’
Nanaimo musician Hamish John A. Macdonald is joined by drummer James McRae and keyboardist Marty Steele (from left) on his new album, ‘Lazaara’s Edge – Angels, Pirates & Demons.’ (Photos courtesy Keith Clark/supplied)

Nanaimo musician Hamish John A. Macdonald has released his first album since moving to the Harbour City in early 2015.

After relocating to Nanaimo from Vancouver, Macdonald started attending Nanaimo Blues Society jams at the Queen’s. There he met other local musicians and it’s with some of those artists that Macdonald recorded his latest album, Lazaara’s Edge – Angels, Pirates & Demons.

“I’d says it’s a combination of rock, blues and soul,” Macdonald said.

Macdonald said some of the songs date back to before he moved to Nanaimo, while a couple are covers and others were written this past year. He said COVID-19 isolation left his feeling creative.

“When they called the lockdown, which was March 15 I believe, I wrote three songs that week,” he said.

Among his collaborators on the record are drummer James McRae, guitarist and producer Rick Salt and pianist Marty Steele, musicians Macdonald says are “literally the top in their fields.”

Macdonald calls McRae an “over-accomplished drummer” who rock drummers on the Island think of as a jazz drummer and jazz drummers think of as a rock drummer.

“He’s just a master and done a number of projects on his own and he plays with some of the best people from Vancouver…” Macdonald said. “Two years ago he played with a 14-piece choral group, so it was just drums and the choral group and there’s not very many drummers who would be able to do something like that.”

Macdonald said Steele is not only a keyboardist, but a key-bass player able to play a bass line with one hand and the keyboard parts with the other.

“Marty can do more on his left hand than most bass players can do on both hands…” Macdonald said. “He arranged the horns, all the horns, and most of the material [on the album].”

Salt engineered the album at his Mountainview studio. Macdonald said once they were finished with the material Salt was given “free reign” with mixing and production. Salt’s partner Marisha Devoin contributed vocals as well.

“The one common thing I would mention is Marty and James and Marisha, they come from a jazz background,” Macdonald said. “They’re very popular in the jazz community in Nanaimo as well as the blues community, whereas I’m more a traditional rock-blues, soul guitarist.”

Lazaara’s Edge is available here.

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