by terry smith
When people think of Gordie Sampson, they usually think of him as one of the best sidemen in the business. They might know that he performed with Realworld and co-wrote their three Top 20 hits, “We All Need”, “Throwing It All Away” and “Angels”. They might know that he has played in Rita MacNeil’s band for a couple of years and has toured or performed with a number of others including Ashley MacIsaac, Natalie MacMaster, The Barra MacNeils, The Rankin Family, John Allan Cameron, Bruce Guthro and the Summertime Revue. They might even know that he co-wrote Ashley MacIsaac’s huge hit “Sleepy Maggie”, but I don’t think anybody knew Gordie as a frontman – that is, until the 1997 East Coast Music Awards.
Gordie’s mainstage showcase performance blew everyone away and earned him the media award for Best Showcase Artist. His showcase has started another big buzz in the east coast music industry that Gordie is on the verge of joining all those people he has played with as a successful artist in his own right.
To complement Gordie’s amazing guitar talents, he assembled a dream band that consisted of Tom Roach on drums, Ed Woodsworth on bass, Billy MacAulay on keyboards, Fred Lavery on guitar and Wendy MacIsaac on fiddle.
The set opened with Sampson at piano singing “Old Ways”, which he wrote with Jimmy Rankin and Bruce Guthro. After a blast of Cape Breton fiddle tunes, the band rocked through a couple more original compositions including “I Go Deep” and “Stones” which was written with Jamie Foulds and David Rashed. The high point of the showcase, however, was when Doris Mason, Jamie Foulds and Bruce Guthro joined Gordie on stage for an amazing version of the Scottish traditional tune “Wild Mountain Thyme”. The rich harmonies and Bill MacAulay’s killer organ solo made for such a powerful combination that it gave the song a definite spiritual feeling.
Gordie plans to release a solo album in the fall of this year that he says will include many of the songs from his showcase, as well as instrumental material. He’s already been in the studio doing pre-production work with producer Declan O’Doherty. Before releasing the album though, Gordie will play the consummate sideman one more time for an upcoming Rankin Family tour.