MUSIC PREVEW: Hawksley Hard Workman

Hawksley Workman GigCity EdmontonIt’s a long way to the top when you take the road less traveled from left field and outside the box on the edge of the mainstream and add your own cliché for being “quirky” – but the rewards can be far richer.

Like having a career that lasts longer than one top-40 hit. Like critical acclaim. Like having lots of fans who stick with you no matter what weird thing you get up to. Hawksley Workman is one of these rare artists who have been allowed (or made it happen himself) lots of time to develop exactly his own unique sound, and while there have been radio hits – Striptease in 2001 – he has not relied on them for success. The result has been the making of a prolific and incomparable Canadian cult hero.

Ha! No one is incomparable. Original as he is, veering from genre to genre, from old-time ditties your grandma would like to flinty new wave rock favoured by punk cousins, Hawksley can be compared to a rockier Rufus Wainwright (another guy who takes roads less travelled), along with people like David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno and U2. Heavy company, to be sure, and along with that comes high expectations for his show Friday night at the Winspear Centre.

Hawksley tours behind his latest album, Old Cheetah, his umpteenth album since first turning up in 1999. Not content to be the hardest working Workman in show business, he also plays drums for the Canadian indie supergroup (oxymoron alert) The Mounties with Ryan Dahle (Limblifter) and Steve Bays (Hot Hot Heat); he put together a cabaret called The God That Comes that sold out the Citadel Theatre a few times; and he has been even been making TV appearances. And next we’ll be told he plays every musical instrument and produces, too? Actually, yes.

Tickets to the 8 pm show, with opener Fiona Bevan, are $37, BUY. Workman is also doing a sock drive on this tour, so bring a pair of extra socks for local donations to the Bissell Centre.

Friday 23

Finger Eleven – They were once known as the Rainbow Butt Monkeys, which we’ll never let them forget because it is a teaching moment in the difficult art of band naming. The Ontario band has since redeemed themselves as credible rock artistes, driven to fame by the killer power ballad, One Thing, in 2003. They tour now upon their latest long-player, Five Crooked Lines. River Cree Casino, with the rapper-singer Everlast in support – remember him? Show at 8 pm, tix $40, BUY

Sass Jordan – From bloozy soul shouter to Canadian Idol judge and back again, here is a legendary example of the highest order of the rare performer known as, and comfortable with the term “Rock Chick.” Even acoustically it holds true. Sass performs with her husband Derek Sharpe (current singer for the Guess Who), and opening act Paul Woida at the intimate Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts, a benefit show for same. Tickets are $125 and include a wine reception, BUY

We Hunt Buffalo – Dirty, grimy psych trio out of Vancouver – the best kind, really. Their new full-length Living Ghosts was released in September, recorded by Jesse Gander (Bison, Japandroids, Anciients). Brixx, 8:30 pm, $10. BUY

Saturday 24

Salt-N-Pepa – Yes, hip hop has been around long enough to qualify as “classic,” and so has a welcome home on the casino circuit, no less when it comes to what is considered the first female rap group. From a legacy of 1980s hits such as Push It, Let’s Talk About Sex, and who could forget Shoop, they were disbanded for more than a decade before coming back together in 2007 with the original members – all moms by then – Cheryl James (Salt), Sandra Denton (Pepa) and Deidra Roper (DJ Spinderella). River Cree Casino, 9 pm, $40, BUY

The Unfortunates – A solid blast of good, old-fashioned modern rock awaits fans of this happening local fivesome as they play a newer venue on the radar, called 9910 (easy to remember its location at 9910B 109 Street). No surprise these guys wound up as a Sonic Band of the Month. With openers Death by Robot, another happening Edmonton band, and The Den, 8 pm, $10 advance, BUY

Michael Rault – Why must we refer to returning ex-pats as “Prodigal Sons” as if they’ve done something wrong? Because the Son of Lionel moved away from home, that’s why. This retro rocker is very “Beatlesque,” a term that shouldn’t be thrown around lightly, and tours on his second album, Living Daylight. Wunderbar, 8:30 pm, $10 advance, BUY

Sunday 25

The Bros. Landreth – These rustic bilingual indie folksters from Winnipeg do a nice version of Paul McCartney’s Let ‘Em In, along with their own haunting material on the Juno-winning debut record Let It Lie. Starlite Room, with opener Donovan Woods, show at 8 pm, tickets from $17.50, BUY

Ken Stead – Soulful sensitive smart Sherwood Parkian singer-songwriter (a six-S-er!) celebrates the release of his new CD, Fear Has No Place Here. At the Mercury Room, 6:30 pm, $20 advance, BUY