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Big Sugar pours it on for Golden Spike - Tricity News

Roots-reggae act has become more rock ‘n roll, founder says

Article by Janis Cleugh

It may not be Canada Day when Gordie Johnson and his band, Big Sugar, hit the Golden Spike Days festival stage in Port Moody, but it’s close enough.

The band’s founder and frontman plans to lead the crowd in a singing of the national anthem at their June 30 show at Rocky Point Park.

And Johnson will also be hoisting his signature double-neck Gibson guitar, which displays a Canadian flag on its back.

“We’ll definitely be flying the colours,” Johnson told The Tri-City News last week by phone. “I love it.”

Johnson’s patriotism runs deep, especially when he’s on tour.

His instrumental version of O Canada, from the band’s album Brothers and Sisters, Are You Ready?, is so classic that Universal Music included it on its box set to mark Canada 150 two years ago.

Cross-country trips to promote their act — and celebrate the nation’s music — are frequent.

In December, they played a sold-out concert in Toronto to pay tribute to their late bandmate Garry Lowe, who died of cancer last summer; the show featured a several Canadian bands such as Wide Mouth Mason, I Mother Earth and Barenaked Ladies.

For this long weekend, Big Sugar has dates in Squamish and Port Moody before it flies to Regina for the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ July 1 home opener against the Toronto Argonauts.

Still, the national anthem won’t be the only song on their list.

They’ll also feature their past hits such as Diggin’ a Hole and If I Had My Way from their Hemi-Vision CD; some covers (Dear Mr. Fantasy); plus half a dozen tunes from their new album that’s due out this fall, called Eternity Now. It was recorded and mixed at Johnson’s studio in Texas, The Sound Shack.

Once it drops, more Canadian concert dates will follow, he said.

As for the line-up, which has changed since Johnson formed Big Sugar in 1988, he now has his wife, Alex Johnson on percussion/backup vocals, Rey Arteaga on percussion, Chris Colepaugh on drums and ‘Big Ben’ Richardson on bass.

Johnson said the group has more of a rock edge these days. “We’ve evolved but we still have those reggae vibes,” he said.

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