Crank and wail, says ACourt

Peter Heckbert
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TRURO - 'Crank and wail.'
Alone, the two key words in that phrase have many meanings but when used in a musical context, you should be well-advised the tunes are going to pulsate with life, volume and emotion.
And that is especially true when award-winning musician Charlie A'Court tells you that will be the case when he and Little Derek and the Haemo Blues Band hit the stage this Friday night at the Engine Room.
"It's going to be electric and it's going to be loud," A'Court said with a laugh during a recent interview. "No one's going home until they're full of sweat," he added.
"We're going to crank and wail."
Of late, A'Court has been touring on his own, promoting his latest CD, Live at the Marigold, which featured the soul-filled performer backing himself with just an acoustic guitar. Friday night's show at The Engine Room, however, will be with the backing of a tight band that was put together in 2004 with a special purpose in mind.
Since the inception of Little Derek and Haemo Blues Band
in that year, the group has helped raise more than $110,000 for leukemia patients at the QEII Hospital in Halifax.
Derek Caine, the Little Derek of the band, was diagnosed in 2004 with leukemia.
"So about five-and-a-half years ago I was diagnosed with leukemia and after the seemingly mandatory period of feeling sorry for myself, I snapped out of the doom and gloom and just started to enjoy every minute of every day and will do so for the rest of my life," Caine explained during a recent interview.
"Then I put a lot of things into motion, one being the decision to work towards retirement and enjoy my family and also to do those things I had always wanted to do and for whatever reason had never done.
"So then I turned to music. I had never studied or played any form of music and just loved the blues, especially the wailing blues harmonica, so I started to play and found a release in music that helped me in many ways both coping with a terminal disease and healing. I was lucky and had made some friends in the music scene that played blues and I guess with what I was facing they made me welcome to sit in and play and learn with them."
From playing and learning, it was suggested to Caine by Ed Levick of Life-Line Entertainment Group that he do a CD, "to do it for you" and to help give something back, particularly to leukemia patients. Levick put A'Court and Caine together and the rest is history.
A'Court called some of his musically-inclined buddies, Danny Sutherland on bass, Dave Skinner on drums and Ross Billard on guitar, and the wheels started to turn.
The first CD, Little Derek and the Haemo Blues Band, raised $20,000 for the cause, something Caine said he was quite proud of. The second CD, the Red and White album, did much better in terms of sales and won the Jazz/Blues Recording of the Year at the 2006 Music Nova Scotia awards.
In addition to the proceeds from the CD sales, Caine has followed up with a lot of door-knocking and work to help make the fundraising effort as successful as it is. He
takes on the challenge with a passion in his heart because he knows what leukemia patients are faced with as they come to terms with their diagnoses and the aftermath that follows.
The monies raised are not for medical expenses, explained Caine. The fund is available to help patients and their families pay the extraneous expenses that invariably are part of such a life-altering illness.
While there is much work involved in the effort, Caine feels he takes much more from the experience than he puts out. Music "is my medicine. I go somewhere else when I'm playing, it's as if my health problems don't exist."
That, "and there's something magical happening when I'm with Charlie and the band. It's an integral part of my whole ability to fight this disease."
Caine is feeling great now but in the past there have been nights he didn't. "One night I was out but I was feeling just awful. I got ready to leave but they called me up to play and with the first note, I snapped right out of it. It really was amazing."
Little Derek and the band will be hitting the Engine Room stage at 10 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $20 each and are available at MacQuarries Pharmasave on the Esplanade or at The Engine Room.

Organizations: QEII Hospital, Life-Line Entertainment Group

Geographic location: Halifax

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