The Jackpines…. Have you heard of them? Maybe not, even if you have heard of Old Devils and Dead Rebels, which is what the Slave Lake musical group called itself for a while. Visitors to open mike night at Dom’s might have seen them a few times, pounding out the mostly unfamiliar tunes. Unfamiliar because they’re original.
“We’ve got about 30,” says guitarist Eric McWilliams.
“That’s just finished,” adds singer/harmonica player Tyler Thompson. “There’s a lot on the back burner too.”
Attendees at the Dec. 3 Stage North Trevor Panczak show at the Legacy Centre will see about 20 minutes of The Jackpines to start off the evening. How many songs will that be?
“We’re going to squeeze six in there,” says McWilliams
“Tight squeeze,” says Thompson. “All-original, small-town nasty pieces.”
Joining this songwriting duo on stage will be Tanner Mouallem on drums and Craig MacIsaac on bass guitar. MacIsaac occasionally appeared on lead guitar in a previous incarnation of the group, but left town and the band for a while. Now he’s back and part of the rhythm section.
In fact it was MacIsaac who introduced Thompson and McWilliams, about a year-and-a-half ago.
“Craig said he was jamming with this guy and said come out to Smith,” says McWilliams.
Thompson: “Initially I was intimidated because he was a better songwriter.”
Since then they’ve been collaborating, writing and performing when they can squeeze it in. Asked what their best gig has been so far, the two say it was opening for Jesse Stewart in a pub in Morinville a few weeks ago.
“It was just Tyler and me,” says McWilliams. “The rhythm section couldn’t make it.”
“We were successful though,” says Thompson.
“We didn’t get paid,” says McWilliams. “But it was worth it.”
McWilliams figures he’s been writing songs for about 10 years. Thompson says he started playing music in a band when he was 14 years old (he grew up in Widewater), and then “took a long, hard break for 10 years,” before getting back into it and making up his own songs. His first foray was with a local metal band called ‘Black Mamba Gun,’ which lasted long enough for “two shows at the Friendship Centre and a lot in my friend’s basement.”
Thompson was the singer for that outfit, but he says it was more in the line of screaming and yelling than actual singing. His musical taste has become more refined since then.
As for what ‘genre’ of music the Jackpines’ current repertoire fits into, perhaps it’s best not to attempt to categorize it. On the poster for this Sunday’s show it’s called ‘boreal blues.’
“The best bands mix genres,” Thompson says, adding that the music might also be called “acoustic rock.”
What else The Jackpines are up to these days is entering one of their original songs in a CKUA All-Albertan songwriting contest.
“It’s called ‘Alberta,’” says McWilliams.
The Jackpines (left to right) are Tanner Mouallem, Tyler Thompson, Craig MacIsaac and Eric McWilliams.