The Kings of Lowertown have a singular affinity for the constellation of small towns that are scattered along the Ottawa Valley’s Highway 17 corridor. Their new EP Missouri Lowsider is the band’s latest endeavour to capture the essence and spirit of the area through their signature backwoods blues sound, a little more rustic than bucolic. Mike Mackey, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and band founder, describes The Kings of Lowertown’s approach as “Renfrew County rural blues”, a form that “mixes blues elements with characteristics of country and folk, filtered through my experience.”
Mackey has been writing and performing music in and about the Ottawa Valley for over a decade. The general tenor of the project hasn’t really changed; he maintains that over time, “each single or EP release it’s gotten deeper and better within the emotion, spirits, intensity and utterances.” However, the essence of the “Renfrew blues” that Mackey channels has remained abiding.
The Kings of Lowertown, with Mackey at the helm, have lived and breathed the Ottawa Valley their entire lives, and the sound that the band captures is one that they feel palpably hangs in the air. “It’s a sound that I hear every day from the life I live in the Pontiac, the Ottawa Valley and travelling old Highway 17.” Mackey explains, “The music was there long before I was breathing. Generations of families from this specific geographic region are privy to the notion. Go to Quyon, QC, Greenwood, ON, Renfrew, ON and the sound permeates. Just sit quiet and listen.”
The band’s new EP, Missouri Lowsider, was produced and engineered by Jordon Zadorozny (of renowned indie rock band Blinker the Star) in Greenwood, Ontario, and is scheduled for release in early 2018. The first single, “Wood Pile,” exemplifies The Kings of Lowertown’s driving, rural blues sound. The distinct blues rock is propelled by foregrounded driving rhythmic work, and layered, interwoven strands of acoustic and electric guitar, among other instrumental threads. Mackey’s unmistakable voice features a sort of laid back intensity and an affective nuance that seems to distill the heart of that small town feel, in all its complicated charm. The music video was produced by Matt LeMay of LeMay Media and was filmed in Chapeau, Quebec, a place that is very dear to Mackey.
When asked about the support for music and artists in the area, Mackey explains that he’s “damn lucky to have the Ottawa Valley.” According to him, “It’s one of the last places that people aren’t interested in. One can live a life in music and side-step many of the unsavoury aspects of the industry. I’ve only experienced support and artistic growth in this region.” Some great regional talent that’s on Mackey’s radar, include Blinker the Star, John Christink (who has just joined the band’s line up), Kelly Prescott, and Peter Dawson.
If you’d like to hear more of The Kings of Lowertown and keep up with the band’s news, be sure to follow them on Instagram. Their music is available for purchase at their shows – something Mackey recommends checking out in order to get the full Kings of Lowertown experience.
Their next show will be at Avant Garde Bar on Saturday, December 2 at 5 pm. And in you happen to be in Toronto on December 4, head over to the legendary Horseshoe Tavern to see Kings of Lowertown bring their small town sound to the big city.