NEW VENTURE- Russell deCarle brings tunes from his first solo offering Under The Big Big Sky to The Matchbox Oct. 21.

Prairie Oyster’s deCarle plays The Matchbox

Prairie Oyster frontman Russell deCarle is hitting the road to showcase his first solo offering Under The Big Big Sky.

He plays The Matchbox Oct. 21, with showtime set for 7:30 p.m.

Rounding out the back-up players for the City show are guitarist Steve Briggs and Denis Keldie on accordion.

deCarle is of course founding member, lead singer, bassist and contributing songwriting for legendary Canadian band Prairie Oyster, which has rounded up four number one country hits over the years, not to mention produced several gold and platinum CDs.

They were recently inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame as well.

“For decades people have been asking for a solo record,” he says. “But I never thought I was ready and the band always satisfied the musical part of my life.”

Still, as a solo artist, deCarle has been making solid strides and a bunch of doors have swung open.

He has appeared on CBC’s Songwriters’ Circle, opened for Merle Haggard on his nationwide tour and was a guest on storyteller Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café Christmas Tour back in 2008.

deCarle’s new disc is certainly a labour of love – he penned nine of the 11 tunes featured on the project. And it’s his unique, earthy take on creating music that gives the disc such a rich, distinct sound from the slowed-down charms of Baby Don’t Come Round Here Anymore to the immediately engaging East of the Sun.

“I’ve always thought of myself as a singer, not just a country singer,” he explains. “I’m a music lover first and foremost – a product of all the stuff I’ve ever listened to – and my tastes are very broad. To me this is a torchy, bluesy record more than anything else. It’s certainly a product of where I came from musically.”

deCarle’s vocal prowess, which varies from rugged rocker to smooth storyteller, is what has really always stood out across the stream of Prairie Oyster discs and all the more on Under The Big Big Sky.

The project was also recorded with the core rhythm section of deCarle on rhythm guitar, Koller on bass, Mark Kelso and Al Cross on drums, Steve Briggs on guitar and pianist John Sheard.

Other featured guests include Amos Garrett, David Wilcox, Keith Glass, and Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo fame, who lends his clear, expressive voice to the tune Don’t Ask the Question.

“I’m honoured that everybody I wanted on the record ended up on it,

he says. “They really dug deep and did an incredible job.”

Meanwhile, Prairie Oyster’s latest CD, One Kiss, finds them at the very peak of their form. With more than 30 years under their well-worn belt, deCarle is still singing the praises of the band’s continuing knack for crafting groundbreaking yet accessible material.

As for the current trek in support of Under The Big Big Sky, deCarle certainly has solid support as he introduces his music to folks across the country. Guitarist Steve Briggs has performed, arranged and recorded with an array of Canadian artists from Sylvia Tyson, Murray McLauchlan to Carroll Baker. And keyboardist Denis Keldie has collaborated with everyone from Canadian songstress Jann Arden, Stompin’ Tom and Serena Ryder to Rita Coolidge. For tickets to deCarle’s Red Deer show, drop by The Matchbox or call 403-341-6500.

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