The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Folk singer Joe Nolan serenades audiences at The Blues Can

thumb JoeNolan1It's 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night and I've just arrived at The Blues Can located in Calgary's historic neighborhood, Inglewood.

As soon as I step into the dimly lit bar, my heart starts melting at the sound of Joe Nolan's voice. Tonight the cozy little bar is hosting folk singer Nolan and guitar player Steven Halvorson.

The Blues Can, once home to the Ironwood Stage & Grill, is a live blues bar that hosts live music seven nights a week. Their intimate setting is perfect for the open jam sessions they host every Sunday night and the weekly "Rockabilly Wing Ding Wednesday."

There's about five or six people sitting at the bar, including a man with the longest white beard I've ever seen. It's a shame that their backs are turned to the spectacle that's happening on the tiny Blues Can stage.

"Calgary is slowly starting to feel really great. I'm starting to meet people and do more shows. It's a great city."
—Joe Nolan
Folk singer

Watching Nolan's face as he performs is almost as magical as the music itself.

He sits there with his shoes slipped off, eyes closed and mouth contorting in ways that are awkward, perplexing and wonderful all at once.

The guys are playing a four-hour set, covering songs by The Band to Springsteen. Just before they do a cover of The Beatles' "Come Together," Nolan whispers into the mic, "If you guys like dancing, you can twirl to this song."

I want to ask for his hand in marriage when he pulls out his harmonica and starts to sing Neil Young's "Cowgirl in the Sand."

Nolan also performs songs from his third and latest released album, "Goodbye Cinderella."

He strums away quietly and introduces his next song, "Hold me up." The song includes gut-punching lyrics.

After they're done, I sit down with Nolan and Halvorson. Even though it's well past midnight, they're talkative and friendly. Maybe it's the beer.

They've been casually playing together for the past six months and tonight it was announced that they will be a Blues Can fixture every second Tuesday of the month

Nolan, who hails from Fort Saskatchewan (17 km outside of Edmonton), has been compared to Bob Dylan and Tom Waits in the past, so it's only fitting that he pay tribute to these legends.

On April 7th, he is heading to Toronto to play a tribute show to Dylan at Hugh's Room. There he'll be covering four of the legendary musician's songs alongside six other musicians.

Nolan plans on playing two of his Dylan favorites, "It's all right, Ma" and "Maggie's Farm."

Halvorson thinks his hometown of Calgary is a great city to drive and bike around in. Nolan, who has only been living here for a year, says he's just starting to value the vibe of Calgary.

"Calgary is slowly starting to feel really great. I'm starting to meet people and do more shows. It's a great city."

Just as we start to discuss the music scene in Calgary, a dark-haired woman steps up to our table, shouting, "Joe rocked the house." She then asks for a hug. Nolan bashfully obliges. Apparently he was her first live show. Not a bad intro to the local music scene.

JoeNolan1In between songs, Joe Nolan, addresses a small crowd of Calgarians at Inglewood’s The Blues Can.
Photo by: Thomi Olson
Nolan is becoming Inglewood's own musical gem. Thanks to his manager, Neil MacGonigill, he's now taken residency in Inglewood's Lolita's Lounge (formerly Club Paradiso.) He can be found playing there two Sundays of every month for a ridiculously cheap $7 cover charge.

We finish off the night talking about what's next for the both of them. Like most of those in their early 20s, it's just about trying to figure things out. How's the rent going to get paid and where's the next show? Oh, and most importantly, we discuss man ponytails. Nolan's been trying to convince Halvorson to tie his flowing locks back, but he's just not having any of it.

"When I do it, I look like a samurai. I have the hairline of a samurai . . ." Halvorson says trailing off.

I encourage him to go for it, looking like a noble warrior could never be a bad thing, especially if you can play guitar.

For those wanting to know when Joe Nolan plays next, check out http://joenolansongs.com

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