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A Conversation with Corey Lueck of The Smoke Wagon Blues Band


By Ken Wallis



The award-winning Smoke Wagon Blues Band has captured another prestigious award, The Maple Blues Award as the Recording/Producer of the year. Based in Hamilton, Ontario this rollicking band knows how to crank out some great blues. The band describes their music as “featuring whisky-stained soul vocals, funky blues harmonica, slick R&B/roots guitar, swinging piano work, soulful organ, riveting saxophone, with a racy, taut rhythm section”. And that’s just scratching the surface of this terrific band.


Ken Wallis interviewed Corey Lueck for his radio show Blues Source Canada. The following excepts are taken from that interview.




Ken Wallis

The song we just heard was The Ballad Of Albert Johnson from the album of the same name. It is The Smoke Wagon Blues Band and I’m so excited to tell everyone that they won the Maple Blues Award as the Recording/Producer of the year…and joining us to talk all about it is Corey Lueck, the leader of the band…Corey thanks for coming on the show.


Corey Lueck

Thanks Ken…thanks for having me on


Ken Wallis

What was your first reaction when you found out you won


Corey Lueck

I have to tell you I was quite shocked…I think I was as shocked as the host was when he opened the envelope…I'm such a pessimist when it comes to awards that I just never think we're gonna win anything and it was just a little bit of a shock. I was actually working…I have to moonlight like other musicians in a machine shop…so I'm at work and I couldn't even have a drink to celebrate…I just had to look over at another guy running a machine beside me and say 'hey, I won you' and he's 'like you won what?'


Ken Wallis

Well I hope you made up for lost time…


Corey Lueck

Later…yeah absolutely…I had a drink when I got home and we'll have to have a virtual drink with the guys.


Ken Wallis

How did you guys go about writing all the songs for the album?


Corey Lueck

This album was pretty collaborative…all the guys had a say in the writing. The Smoke Wagon Blues Band is really band-oriented…it's not like a solo artist thing so we all kind of bring different songs together and we rehearse and when we bring songs in we can't be too stuck on what we want because the other guys are gonna add their input and things are going to change…and that's a great thing about playing in an actual band…the music really evolves. We actually recorded this album almost twice because we were playing the songs on the road and they were changing and they were getting better and we had to go back in and re-record them


Ken Wallis

The album is definitely steeped in the blues but it seems to be a little bit more than that going on… there's a bit of a diversified sound to the album.


Corey Lueck

Yeah we seem to draw from our experiences all over the place. Sometimes a little bit of classic rock seeps in there and obviously with the blues…Chicago blues sounds…New Orleans sounds…Canadian blues sounds of course. Sometimes I'm worried that we're a little bit too all over the map with our different styles of blues but we just love it all so much and we like to show the audience and our fans how well we can play different styles of blues like R&B and boogies…it's just a lot of fun creating putting all those sounds together.


Ken Wallis

Give us a little bit of the background of Albert Johnson.

Corey Lueck

Well Albert Johnson was known as the mad trapper…he led the RCMP on the largest man hunt in history in the early 1930s…through the Yukon and into the Northwest Territories. He was trapping without a permit and the natives in the area weren't happy so they reported him and when the RCMP came…and back then they had to come on dogs and sleds and it took them two weeks to get out there just to investigate. And when they got out there Albert Johnson wasn't too happy to see somebody on his property and he took some shots at them and then they had to retreat.They had to come with more men and he wouldn't back down and he shot at them some more and they ended up having quite the fire fight out there.


They had to blow up his cabin and somehow he escaped into the mountains and they went on a three-month manhunt.

Ken Wallis

Did they ever catch him?


Corey Lueck

Actually they did catch him…it was one of the very first aerial searches…they used planes to track him down… otherwise he probably would have got away.


Ken Wallis

There's another song on the album I’d like to highlight Matapedia River Blues. What's that all about?


Corey Lueck

That song appears on one of our very early albums and we did a redo…a new take on it. That song is about a beautiful piece of Canada right on the border of northern Quebec and New Brunswick and I have family there. I was traveling out there years ago and it's just such a beautiful area and I learned so much about the area it compelled me to write that song.


Ken Wallis

You're wearing a hat that says make it right and I think you guys sure did that with this album


Corey Lueck

Thanks, yeah well I'm just getting ready to head out so I got my toque on but the funny thing this hat actually was given to me by Mike Holmes the building guy. We played a show in Oakville years ago and we were on a bill with him…it was for charity.


Ken Wallis

The Maple Blues Award is for The Recording Of The Year but it's also for the Producer of the year. Tell us about your producer.


Corey Lueck

We couldn't do anything without Steve Sherman and he's become part of the band now. He's pretty much officially a part of the band and we've been playing with him at festivals and whatnot for the last two years. Gordon Aeichele, our sax player… way back maybe about 15 years ago…we were recording and we weren't that happy with some of our sounds that we were getting in the various places that we were recording in and he said you gotta come try my guy. Steve is just fantastic…once we started working with him and it's been so many years now he just knows exactly the way we like to build a song. It's just a winning combination and we always had Nick Blagona do our mastering so we had kind of a winning formula…our albums were just sounding fantastic and unfortunately Nick passed away so Steve did it all this year… he did the engineering and and mixing and mastering so I hope his name gets out there a little bit more but I hope he doesn't get too popular though because we need that studio time [LAUGH]


Ken Wallis

Well one thing's for sure…I think it’s great you guys winning the Maple Blues Award. It proves that listeners across Canada voted for you it wasn't just the Hamilton area it was Canada-wide and I think that's a marvellous accomplishment for this band.


Corey Lueck

Yeah super exciting. I was so shocked…I just had no idea that the fans would show us the love… and something so big like this and I can't thank the fans enough from around Canada and you yourself Ken the radio play just means the world to us especially here on the home front.


Ken Wallis

So tell our listeners where they can get ahold of your album


Corey Lueck

You can get our album right on our website at the smokewagonbluesband.com and you can listen to it free on there too right now. We've made it free around Christmas time and it's still free right now. You can listen to all the tracks for free and you can download the album right from our website and order the physical copy.


Ken Wallis

Buy it and support the band because you guys have proven one thing…you're the best in Canada right now so that's wonderful. Corey thank you so much for your time and we'll keep in touch and I can't wait to see you guys back live on stage.


Corey Lueck

Thanks so much!

Website: smokewagonbluesband.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com

Twitter: twitter.com/smokewagonblues