NEW HERALD NIX
HERALD NIX - RONNIE HAYWARD - JAY JOHNSON - JON WOOD
recording Soul of A Kiss in East Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada PHOTOS: LINCOLN CLARKES
from Swerve Magazine • Calgary Herald
He don't talk much, but who cares? Herald Nix sings like Hank Williams,
writes like Steinbeck and paints like nobody else.
The country-bluesman brings his artwork, and his guitar, to town.
Nobody but Chad VanGaalen can keep up.
Herald Nix is a man of many talents and few words. But if you listen to the
superlatives spouted in western Canadian indie-music circles, they'll tell
you plenty. Like how the country-bluesman's tenor has all the hallmarks of
such late greats as Hank Williams; how his bottleneck slide work pays homage to his
Delta blues hero, Mississippi Fred McDowell; how his Steinbeckian ballads recall
Woody Guthrie and Lefty Frizell--"the best country music singer ever," according
to Nix, who covers "Love Looks Good on You" on his latest album, Soul of a
Kiss, recorded with Calgary's Ronnie Hayward on bass. It's only Nix's second
release in eight years, since moving back to his hometown of Salmon Arm,
B.C. from Vancouver, where the singer-songwriter, an impressive presence at
six-foot-three, was once a live staple with his snappy, sometimes
reflective, sometimes raucous, post-punk rockabilly band.
Now, it's Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind--scribes
are all over themselves with comparisons, while the 50-something Nix prefers
his life in the relative obscurity of the Sicamous Lake region, parlaying
seclusion and quiet contemplation into a pastime he's pursued for 30-plus
years: oil painting. More specifically, landscapes en plein air, often quiet
locales he approaches by rowboat.
"A landscape painting is just a study of nature translated into the
language of paint," he says softly, almost inaudibly, the sleepy hush due in
no small part to the all-hours framing and prep necessary for his Calgary
exhibit. "I always loved landscape painting, ever since my early teens. Just
sort of gravitated there. Can't say why."
Not that it matters, says abstract painter Chris Cran, the Calgary-landed
artist who grew up with Nix, and who is certainly no stranger to accolades
himself. "He's a remarkable painter," Cran says of Nix's thickly applied
oils. "They are very lively, painterly landscapes."
Back in the day, Nix first encouraged Cran to try painting, showing him
around Matisse and early 20th-century works. The two even played together in
bands (they dubbed themselves the Stray Cats long before "Stray Cat Strut").
The old freinds will be reunited this week as Nix, with his trademark bowler
hat and dark suits, plays the HiFi where he'll share the stage with the
equally prodigious Calgary musician/visual artist Chad VanGaalen, whom he
met at the Blues and Roots Festival last summer in Salmon Arm. "He's great"
says Nix, noting their parallel lives and talents, choosing instead to let
pastoral silence do most of the talking.
• Herald Nix's work is on exhibit until April 19 at Wallace Galleries, 500
5th Ave S.W., 262-8050. Opening reception is this Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Artist
• Nix plays Saturday with Chad VanGaalen at the HiFi Club, 219 10th Ave.
S.W. Tickets, call 263-5222. Catch the Ronnie Hayward Trio every Thursday
and Friday night at the Palomino Social Club, 109 7th Ave. S.W. 532-1911.
Hayward jams Sunday afternoons at Broken City, 613 11th Ave. S.W. 262-9976.
Composing music, landscapes gives space for experimentation
Edmonton Journal • Friday, April 14, 2006
Section: What's On Byline: Gilbert A. Bouchard
HERALD NIX'S RECENT PAINTINGS
Showing at: Vanderleelie Gallery, • 10183 112th St. Until: April 22
Be it music or landscape painting, Herald Nix likes to be grounded in the
powerful, foundational traditions of his craft.
On the music end of the game, he's respected for a brand of
smoother-than-smooth B.C.-lake-country blues that pays due homage to its
artistic predecessors. While a profoundly original and evocative singer,
Nix's take on the blues is often compared with the old-timey greats such as
Mississippi Fred McDowell, Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers.
It's the same deal with his landscape painting. As evidenced by his most
recent showing of work -- Recent Paintings at the Vanderleelie Gallery --
Nix is a confident painter not afraid of a traditionalist take or paying his
dues to the basics of craft.
"I've always done landscape and need that firm foundation in formal
Nix, 55, adds that his chosen subject matter is usually the lakeside vistas
and forest floors around his beloved Salmon Arm.
"Abstraction in painting is a very beautiful thing, but I'm more interested
in abstracts in the way that (early abstract painters like) Mondrian and de
Kooning created their abstracts grounded in the formal."
That being said, Nix's landscapes are far from photorealistic. Producing
images as lyrical and impressionistic in nature as his music, the
singer-painter says he's not interested in copying nature but in
artistically responding to what he sees, in particular his fanciful
interpretations of "local colour" and highly textured skyscapes.
"A good painting will stand up against nature because it is not a facsimile
of nature. Be it painting or singing, it's all about the singer and not the
"I can go back to the same place and paint it 50 times over and get 50
different and strong paintings, because I'll be responding to different
things every time. It's the same with my musical compositions. I'm playing
songs that are all in one chord, which gives me lots of space for repetition