Quinton Blair, May 17th at O’Hanlon’s

Before and after his Tuesday night performance this past week at O’Hanlon’s, I had the distinct pleasure of getting to speak with Quinton Blair, a country singer from near-Steinbach, Manitoba. In those short snippets of time I saw a genuine prairie man with an open heart. Maybe that’s a lot to infer from a total 37 minutes of conversation, but I really did believe that Quinton cared about what I had to say. Within minutes of meeting him, we were swapping stories and sharing laughs.
This demeanour is not unlike his stage presence. Even to a half-empty and still often-talkative room on a Tuesday night at O’Hanlon’s, Quinton appeared, from the stage as he does in person, to be genuine, kind, and respectful. Gravitating to those who were instantly caught up in his performance, he was able to cultivate an intimate atmosphere in spite of the usual bar crowd. Every strum of this old-school country troubadour’s guitar and every note he sang was placed with mastery that deferred to musicality. He was practised and yet he was raw. Each finely-crafted song shows individual nuances in his guitar playing that would make Joel Plaskett smile and nod, as well as a human quality and power in his voice that would sound at home next to that of Northcote or early Dallas Green. Unfortunately, I forgot to inquire about his possible punk-rock pedigree.
If you can’t tell by my weak attempt at making connections to other musicians, I’m not exactly up on my country music. But when I was watching Quinton it didn’t much matter. The common ground he finds for anyone to stand on is the craft of storytelling. He has songs that cut to the quick and capture identifiable snapshots of moments in time, as well as others that let their limbs stretch out and paint a more narrative picture of life on the prairies. Mix that in with his genuine charm and a few cover tunes that remind me of my dad (Neil Diamond and Townes Van Zandt among others), and Quinton was an easy sell. I can’t wait to hear him again this summer at Gateway Festival with his full band.
Dana Rempel

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