The Cameron Family SingerS CD RELEASE with DJ Tom Parker at the Cameron House (408 Queen West), Saturday (April 2), 6-9 pm. Pwyc. 416-703-0811. Rating: NNNNN
What Cindy Matthews and her partner, Jack Nicholsen, began as an informal weekly Cameron get-together to sing their favourite old-school country tunes with some friends has become one of Toronto's best-loved and longest-running residencies. The Cameron Family Singers have now been putting on their freewheeling Saturday-afternoon shows at the cozy Queen West club for eight years.
So it seems like the appearance of their first album, aptly named Saturday Matinee (CamFam Records) is long overdue. But according to Matthews, who doubles as the venue's booker, recording and releasing an album was never high on the agenda - mostly because the Singers have never really had an agenda.
"We've never considered what we do as the Cameron Family Singers a career," says Matthews. "Singing and playing classic country songs is something we do because we love the music and it's fun. There's no special lighting at the Cameron and we don't have a big P.A., so people can talk while we're playing. It's more like a little party in your living room than any kind of typical club show.
"Our big concern about recording an album was capturing that comfortable Saturday-afternoon feeling. Had we gone into the studio six years ago, we might've had some difficulty. But we've been playing together for so long, we figured, 'Hey, we can do this,' so we did!"
Perhaps the most surprising and impressive aspect of the disc - which they're celebrating with a second release party Saturday (April 2) to accommodate everyone who couldn't make it last weekend - is just how well their original songs stand up to their covers of Hank Williams's Why Don't You Love Me? and Dolly Parton's Jolene.
While no one (besides their Saturday regulars) was looking, they've slowly and quietly blossomed into a top-notch honky-tonk band .
"I think after playing this type of country music for a number of years, you become familiar with the patterns in the music. So when you write a song of your own, the choices you make tend to fit those patterns.
"Playing live shows every week in the same club is quite different from the way most bands work, which might involve rehearsing a couple of times a month and then maybe playing a string of one-nighters on the road. It's allowed us to develop in a very natural way.
"The fact that we're still seeing new and younger faces every week tells me that the interest in this music isn't waning. We're going to be doing this for a while." firstname.lastname@example.org