By Riley Hill
The Coal Creek Boys write and play the sort of earnest country songs that make them a perfect fit for a folk music festival. The Canadian band’s songs speak of the lives they have lived and of a recurring topic that listeners will hear: the coal mines.
The coal mines just north of their home town of Elkford, British Columbia influence almost everything the band does. They sing about coal, play tours in coal-mining towns and, when the records weren’t selling, they went back to work in the coal mines. Singer and guitarist Johnpaul Smith says these songs have won them a loyal fan base in the southern United States — where coal is king.
“Last year, we started getting emails for hard copies of our records from the southern United States,” Smith says. “West Virginia is right full of coal mines. So is northern Tennessee and Kentucky, so our music in the South was just a natural fit.”
Smith says country fans in the South are more receptive to the band’s traditional, gritty take on country music that does away with the polished sound found on pop-country radio.
“Americans, they really have two types of country music. In Canada, ours tends to be very poppy,” he says. “Down South, the music tends to be real traditional. It’s got to be the real thing.”
Turning away from the pop-country heard on the radio, the Coal Creek Boys’s sound is more heart than humour, but they still deliver a high-energy live show that gets crowds dancing.
“The shows will be high paced, high energy, early seventies style, Waylon Jennings style music. It’s really boot stompin’ fun with lots of stories,” Smith says.
The band will play three shows at the Calgary Folk Music Festival — one on Saturday and two on Sunday.
The band is currently on a summer tour that has brought them across Western Canada and to Calgary several times this year. Their Calgary shows included two Olympic Plaza gigs during the Calgary Stampede and several shows at the city’s downtown bars earlier this month.