Q&A with Maple Blues Award drummer, Jim Casson of critically acclaimed Roots combo Davis Hall & The Green

"Soul is everything in music, but it is not as attainable without the practice of technique."

Jim Casson: Funky, Fun, and Uplifting

2022 Maple Blues Award Drummer of the Year, Jim Casson (Downchild, The Maple Blues Band, The Hogtown Allstars, Dark Orchard) releases the second album from his musical adventure Davis Hall & The Green Lanterns, titled "Canboro Canborough" (2023). While the recording of the first album searched for an identifying sound, this album focuses on the core group of Casson on drums, N. Jay Burr on tuba, Wayne DeAdder on guitar, Mike Branton on slide guitar and a guest appearance by Mark Lalama (Sisters Euclid, Dizzy & Fay) on keyboards. The sound is funky, rootsy, quirky and fun. As was the case on the first album, these songs were built from the ground up, starting with drum improvisations and then creating bass lines, and chord structures to fit those initial drum parts. Once Casson had edited those parts into song structures, the soloists and melody players were added to the funky gumbo. "Canboro Canborough puts the brass in the bass, the grit in the guitar, and the fun in funky", says Casson. "There is a lot of laughter on this album."                      (Photo: Jim Casson of Davis Hall & The Green Lanterns)

The song titles on this album once again pay tribute to Casson’s home of the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, Canada, with the names of historical villages that he found on a 1907 military topographical map that hangs in his office. The title track “Canboro Canborough” is a reference to the street that Casson grew up on. Also, returning on this album are audio clips from a 1963 recording of local disc jockey Bob Bowland on CHOW 1470AM in nearby Welland, as well as a few other amusing clips.

Interview by Michael Limnios                  Special Thanks: Sarah French Publicity

How has the music influenced your views of the world?

To me, music has made the world smaller. It brings different cultures together through rhythm and melody. In the past it was much harder to experience those forms of music. Communication has allowed that music to travel and bring us closer to each other.

What's the balance in music between technique and soul?

Soul is everything in music, but it is not as attainable without the practice of technique. 

Where does your creative drive come from?

The need to create is in all of us. My mother was a painter, and she was always creating.  It’s always been part of who I am.

What moment changed your music life the most?

I think it would have to be when I was accepted into Mohawk College music program in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Over those 3 years I learned so much about musical styles, technique, communication, and collaboration.  That lead me down the path I’ve taken since.

What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

So many… performing in great venues, working with amazing musical mentors, touring around the world, but maybe the coolest thing I ever got to do was be the drummer in the pit band for the high school musical that my then 15-year-old daughter was the lead in. That was special.

"I guess, like a lot of musicians my age, I miss the simplicity of really talented people playing and reacting to each other. Now, so much is done on the computer and performance manipulation is so easy that all you need is a good image, and the talent can be secondary. I know this is not a new thing, but I hope we can get back to really talented people making great music for the masses without them needing to be attractive on camera." (Photo: Davis Hall & The Green Lanterns)

What characterize “Davis Hall & The Green Lanterns” music philosophy?

The simple answer is that it has to be fun. And make you feel something. 

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Again, so many… but recently I had a chance to perform at Massey Hall in Toronto with Downchild Blues Band, and one of my biggest influences, Daniel Lanois, was appearing with us as a guest on a few songs. During rehearsal I saw him pick up on something I was doing, and he came over and told me he really liked that.  I kinda melted a bit.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I guess, like a lot of musicians my age, I miss the simplicity of really talented people playing and reacting to each other. Now, so much is done on the computer and performance manipulation is so easy that all you need is a good image, and the talent can be secondary. I know this is not a new thing, but I hope we can get back to really talented people making great music for the masses without them needing to be attractive on camera.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

That you could actually make good money by selling your music. I wish it hadn’t been devalued to a free commodity.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

I just hope it makes you smile, laugh and bob your head.

"To me, music has made the world smaller.  It brings different cultures together through rhythm and melody. In the past it was much harder to experience those forms of music. Communication has allowed that music to travel and bring us closer to each other." (Photo: Jim Casson)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

I have people ask me “How do you make it in the music business?”  I say that you need 4 things. 

  1. You need to be talented. There is no substitute for that.
  2. You need to be easy to work with. Drama Queens and Pains in the Butt eventually fall by the wayside. No one wants to work with them a second time.
  3. You need to be responsible. Show up on time with the right equipment and know the show. Being reliable to a band leader is paramount.
  4. You need to be lucky. Being in the right place at the right time makes all the difference. It’s probably the most important thing, but you can’t get lucky without the other 3.

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