New Music: Earle & Coffin’s ‘Wood, Wire, Blood & Bone’

You’re never too young to sing the blues. Earle & Coffin of St. John’s, NL proved that with their awarding winning debut ‘Nick Earle and Joe Coffin Live At The Citadel House’ when it earned them a Canadian Folk Music Award, and a Music NL nomination – all before either of them finished high school. Now with their second album ‘Wood, Wire, Blood & Bone’ they’re going to prove it wasn’t a fluke.

As with their first album, ‘Wood, Wire, Blood & Bone’ was produced at Citadel House in Lewisport, Newfoundland by Dean Stairs, under his label of the same name.  Their first album paid tribute to the giants of blues, and managed to squeeze a few of the staples onto the second. Included on ‘Wood, Wire, Blood & Bone’ is Albert King’s iconic ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’, the lyrics of which are well suited to the two seventeen year old bluesmen:

“I been on my own ever since I was ten,
Born under a bad sign,
I been down since I begin to crawl,
If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all”

The two realized they were in a bad way at an early age.  Coffin say he discovered his affinity for the more woeful side of music through classic rock,  “I discovered Eric Claptons unplugged album when he covered all of these old blues songs. I really loved them and did some research into it and found all of these older artists like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and BB King. All of these great blues legends.”

According to Coffin, Earle discovered the blues on a DVD from Costco. “It was a trip to Costco with his parents when he was younger. He ended up picking up a Stevie Ray Vaughan DVD there just to see what it was. Ever since listening to that he’s been hooked on blues and blues rock as well.”

The sounds of their heroes ring strongly through the album, echoing their inspirations. Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton, and Muddy Waters all hold places that can be picked out as you listen along. There are times when  even Jimmy Page can be heard, like the intro to ‘Hypnotize’. ‘Who Were You With Last Night?’ even stands in for the traditional ‘In The Pines’ .

The track is one of several that sounds a little out of place when given the age of the two musicians. They toss out lines like, “Babe, you can pack up you things, and find yourself a new spouse,” but Joe Coffin argues that the blues are just as much about empathy as they are about experience.

“Empathy does have a limit in what it can create,” says Coffin. “I guess that is one small step back in being young blues musicians. But it really is difficult to say what empathy can or cannot create. It really depends on the mindsets and situations and all that.

Although we haven’t experienced many hardships ourselves, we do understand what other people go through. There is also influence from world news and hardships as well. It helps to get into the spirit of writing songs with a sad message.”

There’s something about the blues that’s more than just catharsis. As perhaps the most raw and expressive genre of music there’s something in that evokes a tangible sense of communal mourning. Some artists can get out on stage and bleed authenticity, an earnest expression of suffering, but there’s a merit in earnest enthusiasm.

But a genre may as well die if it stagnates. It seems anachronistic to hear two young men lyrically lamenting a voice message left by a lover’s lover on the answering machine, but in 2017 that’s the equivalent of an old guy finding a love note.

Coffin insists there is still plenty of potential left in the genre, so long as there’s someone there to explore it.

“I don’t believe it is a dead genre. And I believe that it will never die. It produced so much influence for modern music. But for the genre itself, I don’t think it’s dead. Especially with great artists like Gary Clarke Junior and Joe Bonamassa who are very popular artists today doing their own spin on blues. It really does re-define itself all the time.”

Earle & Coffin show remarkable talent, whatever their age, and give the genre a kick in the pants.

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