A Canadian and an American-Australian with a Canadian surname walk into a bar wielding guitars. They are Tim Chaisson and Mark Lizotte AKA Diesel. When you put the two gentlemen together what ensues is an excellent night of blues, folk and pop music.

Chaisson was visiting from Prince Edward Island, near Nova Scotia and he’d had an “interesting journey”. Put mildly this had involved a horrible plane ride and a bout of sickness but you wouldn’t have known this on the night. Chaisson was all smiles as he divided his time between an acoustic guitar and a violin or fiddle. He performed his own compositions including songs he’d written with The Trews plus at least one cover of a traditional tune.

“Speak Easier” was a soaring ballad that seemed to embody the spirit of three chords and the truth. It was a pleasant enough track but Chaisson’s strongest material was when he was playing, looping and rocking out on the fiddle. He told us his Dad had said to stick with the violin and it seems like Chaisson-senior was right. His cover of a traditional number was just like The Chieftains and was easily the best cut of the set.

Just recently, Chaisson had noticed a tweet by Leann Rimes where she had talked up “The Healing”. This evening’s rendition proved to be a sweet love song not unlike a Neil Finn creation while the following “Come Clean” reminded me of Glen Hansard’s work. The support slot would be a full 45-minute show from this down-to-earth artist. His songs “The Other Side” and “Slippin’ Away” were good but you really couldn’t go past the veritable smorgasbord of sound he had offered earlier on the fiddle.

Diesel took to the stage at 10:05 and the rather appropriate sounds of Link Wray’s “Rumble”. Lizotte had set it up so that his fans could help choose the set list from a collection of predetermined songs but the night was all about his own individual take on the blues. The set focused primarily on Diesel’s first two albums and also featured some covers by way of love letters to guitar greats that Lizotte has clearly worshipped at the altar of.

“One More Time” was the first of many songs to showcase how brilliant a guitarist Diesel actually is. He said he’d spent years learning songs from his Dad’s record collection (including playing loudly with his bedroom window open, much to the annoyance of his neighbours). He also remembered the early days he spent gigging, playing to a handful of people and having difficulties filling the full-half hour set. But times have certainly changed. He had just performed shows in far North Queensland and he managed to coax more guitar sounds out of the one instrument then some musicians could hope to achieve in a lifetime.

“Soul Revival” made me think of The Backslider’s album, Starvation Box, as it had a hungry blues sound mixed with just a hint of influence from our homeland. For “All Come Together” Diesel had the audience clapping and asked us if we could keep it up for the ensuing four and half minutes of groove-filled pop. In this one Diesel made me think of Sting as his range and musical taste is so variable, whereas at other moments during the night you could definitely see this guy sharing a beer or two with Jack White.

A cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” also got a look-in and this proved my own personal favourite. It was a perfect rendition with just the right amount of distortion and if I’m honest, this was a more faithful version of the hit then Mr Young did when he was in town in March (well, the grumpy one had cut it short for a start!) The same cannot be said for Hendrix’s “Wind Cries Mary” because this one felt too much like Diesel covering the guitar legend rather than making it his own.

The covers continued thick and fast with “Spoonful” (made famous by Howlin’ Wolf), Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and the start of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”. The highlight of the night was Diesel’samazing “Tip Of My Tongue”. It had everything a good song should have from his beating along on the guitar and Chaisson on the fiddle to the audience being swept up in the wave of nostalgia and showing their appreciation by clapping and singing along, as Diesel the master muso switched between electric and acoustic guitar sounds. Unfortunately, the following track and finale, “Crying Shame” paled in comparison as it was a little too slow and laboured.

I must say that I’m a new convert to Diesel, having only seen him for the first time at Stone Music Festival this year when he played with a full band. That show was fantastic, as was The Vanguard one where he was stripped back and in solo mode. Lizotte has to be up there with being one of the best guitarists this country has helped produce and on this tour he played an excellent selection of covers and his own classics that you couldn’t really want for anything more – not even dessert – and there’s always room for that!

Diesel’s Sydney set list:
1. One More Time
2. Since I Fell For You
3. Love Junk
4. Soul Revival
5. All Come Together
6. Cinnamon Girl (originally by Neil Young)
7. 15 Feet Of Snow
8. Wind Cries Mary (originally by Jimi Hendrix)
9. I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (originally by Otis Redding)
10. Spoonful (originally recorded by Howlin’ Wolf)
11. For What It’s Worth (originally recorded by Buffalo Springfield)
12. Come To Me
13. Tip Of My Tongue
14. Crying Shame

Originally published on 19 May 2013 at the following website:

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