The Star Phoenix – Saskatoon
Keeping the blues fire burning
by Sean Trembath, The Star Phoenix July 22, 2014
Whiteboy Slim plays the blues, but that doesn’t mean he won’t venture into other genres.
“I have trouble colouring inside the lines,” says Moose Jaw-based Maurice Richard Libby, who has been performing as Whiteboy Slim for over a decade.
While primarily a blues man, Libby incorporates ska, reggae and more into his music. He says that in the early days of the blues, people wouldn’t have worried so much about classification.
“The whole idea of genres didn’t exist until record companies and radio stations got into the act,” he says.
In the past 11 years performing in Saskatchewan, Libby has seen venues come and go. He knows firsthand the difficulty of making a living on the road.
“It’s really tough. A lot of venues that I was regularly playing have either changed their music policies or disappeared. For years I played the Plains in Regina about every six weeks. Now it’s a parking lot waiting to become a condo.”
Libby got into the blues as a young child in Moose Jaw thanks to his father’s extensive record collection. His dad even took him to see Louis Armstrong while Satchmo was still singing, an experience Libby still savours.
“I said right there, ‘That’s what I want to do.’” he says.
At 14 he picked up an acoustic guitar. He was singing and writing songs, but was still more of a strummer. It was only once he tried starting his first band that he slid into the lead guitar role.
“I had an incredible time finding guitar players I liked playing with. Finally, I just said to hell with it, if I can’t find a guitar player, I’ll make one,” Libby says.
His sonic passion took him to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, which was founded in 1945 and claims to be the first American school to formally teach jazz. Libby recalls his time there fondly. It was the 1970s. Although the instructors were professionals, and some had toured with jazz greats, there was a camaraderie between teacher and pupil.
“There was a feeling that everybody there was a musician, and because you were there you were treated with respect,” he says.
Over the years he has played in several bands. In Toronto in the ’80s his band Dirty Movies rode the ska wave of the time, inspired by bands like The Clash. Libby says that ska and punk have more in common with the blues than you might think.
“It’s got the same sort of message and the same sort of emotional honesty,” he says.
He came back to Moose Jaw in the early 2000s, when he was working on a book about the city’s history. At that time, his most recent band had been called Automatic Slim. Once the book was done he decided to get back onstage.
“I was just going to revive Automatic Slim, but I Googled it, and there were about eight bands around the world with that name,” he says, laughing.
His current name was inspired by a conversation he saw on an online message board. They were debating whether a white guy can truly play the blues.
“I’ve been putting up with that ever since I first started. I got so mad I said, ‘F--- this, I’m calling it Whiteboy Slim.’ It was a direct comment on that,” he says.
He has never looked back. His backing band changed a few times, but he and current bassist Dustin Bowyer have been touring as a two-piece for more than three years. Bowyer plays drums with his feet along with the bass, and Libby mixes in some harmonica.
Although they’ll head out of province sometimes — including a recent trip to the North by Northeast festival in Toronto — Saskatchewan is Libby’s bread and butter.
“We’ve kind of made a specialty out of playing small towns in Southern Saskatchewan,” he says.
He hits Regina and Saskatoon several times a year. On Aug. 2 he’s scheduled to play three gigs in Saskatoon in one day, at Lawson Heights Mall, Ribfest and a house concert.
“The logistics of doing more than one gig in a day are kind of tricky,” he says.
His next Regina gig is scheduled for Sept. 13 at Broadway’s Lounge. He’ll play songs from his latest album, Box? What Box?, a two-disc outing split between more traditional blues and the other genres he likes to explore.
With some of the blues venues he used to frequent no longer around, Libby is always on the lookout for new spots. He hopes that with enough hard work by him and others, the blues can re-establish a strong foothold in the Saskatchewan scene.
“There are a lot of blues fans around here. The problem is, now a lot of the blues places are gone, and there’s no real central place they can come to. When I played the Plains it was great because it was the home of the blues. You didn’t even have to advertise.”
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix
Bourbon Street blues from River Street
A new two volume CD from Moose Jaw’s Whiteboy Slim
If you’re a blues fan in Regina, you’re likely familiar with Moose Jaw based, Whiteboy Slim (AKA Maurice Libby). If not, you should be. Whiteboy Slim is known for traditional blues, Funk and Jazz, with solid guitar licks and a voice that sounds like smoke-filled bars and a lot of rough scotch. He covers old tunes and new ones, always with his own spin on it. His own lyrics tackle the human condition (it’s blues, after all) and his musical stylings sometimes push hard on genre boundaries. The last Whiteboy Slim album “I’m Still Here” (2010) spent six months in the top ten of the College and Community Radio Folk/Blues/Country charts. Now, with a new, two volume album called “Box, What Box?” Whiteboy Slim has released a new one.
“We were working on the current CD, planning on having a 12 – 13 song single CD,” said Libby. “But we were experimenting with a lot of different sounds and pulling up a bunch of songs that I‘d done in previous bands and genres over the years. We got into the studio and we recorded 24 tunes which is way too much for one CD. So, we just split it into two – 13 on one and 11 on the other. The first CD is called ‘Bluesification’ and is stuff that Whiteboy Slim has been doing for years now - blues with a little bit of funk and jazz thrown in.”
The two CD’s also feature Dustin Bowyer on bass and veteran drummers Michael Libby (brother) and Greg Schathowsky on drums, plus backing vocals by Cynthia Wells. The second CD is called ‘Transgenred’. “It’s got some reggae tunes, some ska, some country tunes, and some unclassifiable things,” said Libby. “We’re sort of pushing the boundaries a bit with this one.”
"Blues", said Libby, "has always been a very inclusive, diverse genre, and it wasn’t until the 1970s that it became more defined. It’s still blues, he insisted, but now, it may have a reggae beat."
“I’m a big proponent of blues as a living genre, not a museum piece,” he said. “There’s a lot of people playing as if it was 1955. I think the only way it can stay alive is if people push the envelope.”
As a two-man act, (Libby and Bowyer) Whiteboy Slim is on the road this summer playing numerous locations on the plains, and is pushing the envelope in terms of performance, too. Bowyer plays both bass and drums and has rigged up a drum kit allowing him to simultaneously play both. (He plays the drums with his feet). For his part, Libby handles guitar and, simultaneously, using another innovative rig, also plays harmonica. They’ve been (jokingly) calling themselves a ‘two man quartet’ and you can see them in action in Regina at Bushwakkers on July 14th. “It’s fun,” said Libby, “and it has re-vitalized everything we do.”
Review by Brian Bowman (BUZZCity)
Music & Opinion for the 21st Century
Whiteboy Slim – BOX/WHAT BOX:
Our blues pal Slim has outdone himself this time – no QUESTION. Definitely a box full-o-blooz that will turn you on your head! The opener on Volume 1 (this is a two-volume set), “Undercover Blonde“, pits Whiteboy’s gravel-laden voice against some rippin’ guitar licks that make this song alone worth the purchase price of the set. If you don’t get on that train to Chi-town, “Baby Took The Train“, you’ll be missin’ out for sure. It was the jumpin’ “Down By The River” on Volume 1 that got my vote for favorite of all 24 tracks, though… absolutely gittin’ DOWN on this one! For rabid blues fans everywhere, this one gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at Slim’s official website. Rotcod Zzaj
Review by Rotcod Zzaj (Improvijazzation Nation)
Blues Underground Network
Whiteboy Slim "Box? What Box? Vol 1 Bluesification" and
Whiteboy Slim "Box? What Box? Vol 2 Transgenred"
It is certainly a rarity nowadays to be treated to a double album and it is equally a rarity to be treated to a double album as diversified as Whiteboy Slim's great new release, ""Box? What Box? Vol 1 Bluesification" & Vol 2 Transgenred", two amazing little masterpieces, together covering over a half a dozen distinct genres, which included Blues, Jazz, and Funk via Vol 1 and Ska, Reggae, Americana, and Ambient grooves via Vol 2. Together Whiteboy Slim has no problem showing us all how amazingly unique and creative he is as an artist.
""Box? What Box? Vol 1 Bluesification" & Vol 2 Transgenred", together consisted of 24 Tracks of which all are Originals, written by Whiteboy Slim except for two Tracks on Vol 1, "Killing Floor" (the Howlin Wolf ), and "Messin With The Kid" (First performed by Junior Wells, with writing credits going to Mel London).
In addition to Whiteboy Slim (Guitar/Harmonica/Vocals), the other great performers were Dustin Bowyer (Bass), Michael Libby & Greg Schatkowsky (Drums), and Cynthia Wells (Vocals on Vol. 2).
Both of these CD's were quite enjoyable, which is certainly saying a lot for Vol 2, since I am not that much of a Ska or Rap fan, but never the less, the way those particular Genres were performed, I really enjoyed listening to them.
With 24 great Tracks to choose from it wasn't as easy as you might imagine to choose three Favorites, never the less I chose Track 1 "Undercover Blonde" & Track 5 "Killing Floor", from Vol 1 and Track 11 "Homestead" off of Vol 2.
More than often, I choose the opening Track as one of my Favorites and this time is no exception. "Undercover Blonde" was a great opening Track, which more than stirred me up and got me wanting a whole lot more. Lots of great stuff on this opener, including Whiteboy Slim's great gravely Vocals, and super Guitar work.
Any album that contains a decent Cover of "Killing Floor" is certainly going to have that song picked as one of my favorites, with this offering from Whiteboy Slim being an especially tasty one. In addition to more great Vocals and Guitar, Whiteboy Slim also steps in with some really fine Harp work. Howlin Wolf, I am sure, would of certainly liked what Whiteboy Slim did with this classic.
Craig Hughes is a no nonsense straight forward musician, as many of his songs are simply him and his Guitar, with Rhythm Stomps thrown in for good measure. He is also one of my very favorite Blues artists out of Britain, of which "Homestead" really reminded me of Craig Hughes style, a style I really love listening to and a style that I really believe is at the heart and foundation of what makes Whiteboy Slim's music so good. "Homestead" is music at it's rawest, just an artist Singing and playing Guitar and doing nothing else but honestly putting his heart and soul into his song. A masterful end to a couple of really fine Albums.
As with the previous albums of Whiteboy Slim's, he continues to show me a very unique artist whom continually rides "the cusp of new musical discovery ".
Review by John Vermilyea (Blues Underground Network)
Blues Underground Network
"Whiteboy Slim "I'm Still Here"
Digging way down in the dirt and coming up with a fresh take on traditional blues, and then some, has always been what Whiteboy Slim is all about. Now with his new release "I'm Still Here", he digs even deeper and offers us yet another side of his many talents via acoustic tracks, for the first time, on this CD.
Music captured Whiteboy Slim (Maurice Richard Libby) at a young age, sparked in part because of the love of music by Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong. In fact you can almost hear a bit of Louis Armstrong in his uniquely delivered vocals.
At a young age Whiteboy Slim loved to experiment with various musical instruments and even "winning awards with his first band". Still a teenager, he played in a blues band called Red Meat, along with his brother Michael and Guitar Extraodinaire Ray Montana. Ray "went on to back up Sawyer Brown, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Waylon Jennings, and Johnny Paycheck". Throughout his various experiences both as a studier of Music Composition at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he got to hang out with some of the greats such as, "jazz great Gary Burton, pianist Al Copley (co-founder of Roomful of Blues), and bassist Ron McClure", and his musical tour of duties, especially in the group Automatic Slim, Whiteboy Slim has managed to weave himself and his music into a comfortable place.
"I'm Still Here" was not one of those projects that happened overnight, in fact it was a musical journey of nearly two years in the making. It is also an Album that stays true to Whiteboy Slim's philosophy of combining Traditional and Experimental elements together.
"I'm Still Here" as with his previous release "Aka Whiteboy Slim", consists of 14 Tracks, of which 11 are Originals written solely by Whiteboy Slim. Also on "I'm Still Here" are 3 great Covers, "Death Letter" (Eddie J. "Son" House Jr.), "Hear Me Talkin' To Ya" (Louis Armstrong), and "Route 66" (Bobby Troup). Besides Whiteboy Slim on all guitars, vocals, and harmonicas, the other musicians on "I'm Still Here", included Jim Mitchell on all Basses, and Whiteboy Slim's brother Michael Libby, on Drums.
The first thing you will notice right off the bat with "I'm Still Here", is the realization that this Album has a great live feel to it. Whiteboy Slim explains, "The rhythm tracks on this one were recorded live off-the-floor, giving it a very live feel". Recording music in that way really gives you the feel that you are right there in the room with those guys. It is the style of recording I have really come to enjoy and wish more artists would adopt that style of recording more often.
"I'm Still Here" is fairly well rounded production with quite a few Tracks that I really enjoyed, especially the opening Track "Death Letter", which was done with just Whiteboy Slim singing and playing acoustic. A great start to this Album.
The next highlight for me was Track 4 "I Got The Blues", which I particularly enjoyed when Whiteboy Slim broke off and did a nice nearly 1 minute long guitar solo.
Nearing the end of the Album is a virtual treasure of a Track with "Route 66", done just right with just enough guitar twang and the get down gravelly vocals of Whiteboy Slim. Once again we have the Guitar stepping to the forefront showing us just how talented of player Whiteboy Slim is.
Throughout "I'm Still Here" one really gets a great raw blues feel, thanks in part to the way this Album was recorded, which really brought out the instruments used throughout. Adding the icing to the cake though, had to be the unique deep vocal bluesy delivery of Whiteboy Slim, which brought everything together for an extraordinary listening experience. That coupled with an excellent choice of Covers and very well written Originals made for an immensely enjoyable Traditional Style Blues Album.
We no doubt have our share of Artists out there today that really bring something special to the world of Blues, and Whiteboy Slim is certainly no exception to that fact.
For those that like their music, especially the Blues, served up Raw, Whiteboy Slim and "I'm Still Here", is just the ticket.
"I'm Still Here" is a great follow-up to his previous award winning Album, "Aka Whiteboy Slim", and shows us an Artist that enjoys continually riding the cusp of new musical discovery.
Review By John Vermilyea (Blues Underground Network)
Bluestown: The City of Blues
Whiteboy Slim - (2006) Aka Whiteboy SlimSunday, March 02, 2008
Here is the latest release from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan native Whiteboy Slim titled aka Whiteboy Slim. Slim has produced a set of music that you will either love it or hate it. That is true with much of his music, and the verdict so far has been people love it… If you enjoy lots of original material and a few covers thrown in but performed in a way that makes them his own, you should enjoy this release.
He opens with It Ain’t Art, a neat song written by slim that pokes at the politically correct and out to impress types. Next is another original titled Hey, Hold On Stop. It features some nice harp from Slim and neat lyrics. This is a nice slow shuffle style song. The first of four cover songs is next and is 20% Alcohol written by J.B. Hutto. This song describes an alcoholic woman and the problems her drinking creates. Next is another cover, Too Many Drivers penned by Dave Bartholomew. This is a classic song and receives a slowed new treatment by Slim as he has slowed the tempo of an already slow tune which tends to make it a whole different sound. Blue Murder follows and is another Whiteboy Slim original. It features some neat lyrics and great slide guitar by Slim. Cards On The Table is another original, this was a favorite of mine for the lyrics and music. He offers some nice guitar on this song. Next is I’ve Been Down So Long and was written by Slim. This is a classic blues subject tune. It has some very nice harpwork and a guitar solo that really fit the song well. It’s Strange Out There is another original and couldn’t be more truthful in light of society today. Next is one that has already been very popular with Radio Dj’s and fans I have shared it with, Krispy Kreme Woman. This shuffle has resulted in many comments when I shared it with radio personalities, all positive. Next up is She’s Into Something written by Carl Wright. This song has been covered many times by a whole host of great artists and each has given it a personal touch, Slim is no exception. He has done a fine job on a truly great song. Be Cool Baby is next and is another Slim penned song. He gives a more funky sound on this with an intro on synthesizer. He has employed some neat sound effects to change things up a bit throughout the song. He follows with another original called Tears On My Pillow. I really enjoy this song as it has a beat that just isn’t meant for sitting still. The funniest track he has included is next in You’re Perfect, I Love You, Now Change. The title says it all… He closes with a great old song penned by Taj Mahal called She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride. He has provided a neat musical arrangement for it with song great harmonica to start it off.
Like it or hate it, this is a very solid effort from Whiteboy Slim. He is true to his signature style of pushing the limits of the music he plays. He is no cookie cutter blues artist, as he always manages to come up with a sound all his own whether the music is his or a cover he has chosen.
The Black Cat Blues Emporium
In a time when so much "big name" music is put into neat little packages that are devoid of all emotion, passion and talent where do we turn?
How about to Canadian bluesman "Whiteboy Slim" (Maurice Richard Libby) who on Homemade, has found a way to convincingly combine elements of modern music with a more traditional blues sound, creating an inspiring piece of work that is honest, heartfelt and just a little insane. Produced in a "homemade" fashion, the album although recorded using modern techniques, instantly with the rough blues of Slow Down, reminded of the early Delta recordings. After the more traditional sound of the first track, Hey Babe and I Found A Woman leap into a 50's blast with catchy jump blues. Elvis is in the building with Flesh & Blood, a tongue in cheek look at love and relationships. Great lyrics too:
"We tried to talk it over, never heard a word I said, The only time we got along, Was in my double bed."
Out of the eleven original tracks on this album not one is lacking in raw unadulterated love for the blues. You can hear it in his voice; you can feel it in the music. Libby is simply enjoying what he does so much that you can't help but smile.
Most of the material on Homemade dates back to the band Automatic Slim which Maurice fronted in Toronto. I don't know why it took so long to get this stuff out there but it is long overdue. This CD is blues with an attitude, check out the ferocious gospel of Sing Hallelujah and the harmonica/slide frenzied Waiting For The Sun. Influences that come to mind are Alvin Lee on I found A Woman and Frank Zappa on the wonderfully raw Reasons You Need (To Sing The Blues) and the delightfully weird It's Strange, which features the best guitar work on the album. One thing about "Whiteboy Slim" is that he has no fear of adventure, in fact he seems to relish it. So, if you prefer your blues to follow a more standard format, and can only relate to the music when the sound quality is crystal clear, then there are plenty of other musicians out there who may satisfy your needs. What's important here, and what makes this one special is the way the music is conveyed as much as the material itself.
"Whiteboy Slim" plays all guitars and harmonicas. They are far more than mere instruments, however, they sing and play as if they are actual members of the band. He also programmed the synthesizers which for the most part are kept in the background. As with all fine art there are flaws; on some solos the intensity in which the instrument is played comes across with perhaps too much passion (how often do you hear that?). An example would be Bad Timing, a seven minute plus slow(er) blues. On this number, the guitar layering comes across as a little busy. Some restraint on the fret board, using one or two sustained notes between the vocals would have added more punctuation to the song, which was actually still my favorite track on the album.
Homemade is a very enjoyable work that left me with a good feeling. No doubt about it, "Whiteboy Slim" has left it all on the studio floor with this record and what is left is the real deal. There are still musicians out there that can feel the blues. Maurice Richard Libby is one of them.
Cashbox Magazine Canada
CASHBOX CANADA’S NXNE LIVE FIVE
Thu, 06/10/2010 - 21:04
by Lenny Stoute
Intro: Amid the hustle’n’hype of NXNE, check this handful of acts rarely seen in Toronto and tres deserving of attention.
The artist known as Whiteboy Slim (Maurice Richard Libby), started life as the band known as Automatic Slim, the transformation occurring when the group blew up and the Toronto native took off out West.
Automatic Slim was an immediate force on the Toronto blues scene, getting attention for its quirky take on the genre, the quirk courtesy of Slam’s time at Berkelee College of Music in Boston, where his classmates included pianist Al Copley (co-founder of Roomful of Blues) and go-to soul bassist Ron McClure.
The hard-gigging unit played all the notable clubs in the city and for a time Automatic Slim was the house band at four different clubs on different nights of the week. Burned out with the T.Dot and armed with a growing national reputation, Whiteboy Slim had no probs impacting on the Western blues scene, playing all the major fests including Sasktel Jazz Festival, The Mid-Winter Blues Festival, The Prairie Arts Festival and the Flatland Music Festival.
Through all that, what didn’t change and hasn’t still, is Slim’s dedication to his very own brand of the blues; a blend of experimentalism and strict traditionalism that’s never boring.
Now, straight outa Moose Jaw and packing serious heat called "I'm Still Here", Whiteboy Slim’s looking forward to seriously kicking it on his T.Dot return. On the state of the “I’m Still Here” album, Slim blogs out like so:
“It has been almost two years since the project began. It is the first Whiteboy Slim recording that contains acoustic tracks, but it also contains the eclectic electric stuff that everyone has come to expect from Whiteboy Slim. The rhythm tracks on this one were recorded live off-the-floor, giving it a very live feel. The instrumentation is stripped down to guitars, harp and vocals, with no keys or horns this time round. It continues the balance of tradition and experimentation you have come to expect”.
It also contains another display of the man’s multi-instrumental prowess and fans are already lauding “I’m Still Here” as topping the envelope-pushing "aka Whiteboy Slim", which was released in ’06 and earned the Whiteboy three awards at the 2007 Toronto Exclusive Magazine Music Awards--Best Blues Album, Best Blues Song ("Hey Hold On Stop"), and Best Males Blues Artist.
Whiteboy Slim gets his Moose Jaw blues on Sat. Jun.19 7 PM The Silver Dollar.