Jason Fowler

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Jason Fowler

Jason Fowler is a Toronto singer/songwriter, session guitarist and producer. His latest CD, Buckets of Rain is a solo acoustic collection of 14 covers of songs by the likes of Bob Dylan, Hoyt Axton, Tom Waits, Blind Blake, Doc Watson, Arlo Guthrie, Bruce Cockburn, and Gordon Lightfoot. He has released five CDs under his own name and has played on over 100 albums.

A two-time winner at the Walnut Valley National Guitar Championships in both the Fingerpicking (1997) and Flatpicking (2000) categories, Jason is acknowledged as one of Canada’s premier guitarists. He holds a degree in Classical Guitar Performance from McGill University and was the inaugural winner of the OCFF (Ontario Council of Folk Festivals) Instrumental Composition of the Year Award in 2004. He is a consummate musician with an encyclopedic knowledge of musical styles from folk, country and bluegrass, to blues, rock, jazz and classical.

Jason has appeared on over 100 recordings by artists as diverse as Ian Tamblyn, Oliver Schroer, Amy Sky, Shlomo Simcha, Evalyn Parry, Colleen Peterson, David Bradstreet, Susan Crowe, Brent Titcomb, Ken Perlman and Teresa Doyle. He has performed with April Verch, Marc Jordan, Lawrence Gowan, The Cottars, Quartette, Nana Mouskouri, Murray McLauchlan, Ember Swift, Madviolet, and many more from the Canadian roots music scene. He was the 2003 recipient of the CEC McEachern Porcupine Award for Outstanding Musical Accompanist in his hometown of Toronto. The Porcupine Awards are handed out each year by Steve Fruitman of CIUT Radio as a way to shine some light on those who deserve to be noted for their work at enshrining Canadian folklore into the sub-conscious realm. Fruitman said this of Jason’s guitar accompaniment: “His guitars are like lungs breathing airs of brilliance behind a variety of foregrounds."

He has played on scores of TV commercials, film soundtracks and radio spots. 2 of his original songs were featured on prime-time television: Party Of Five and Time Of Your Life.

Since 2001 he has toured extensively with renowned Irish Tenor John McDermott. He is also a charter member of Toronto violinist Anne Lindsay’s group along with bass whiz David Woodhead and drummer Al Cross. In recent years, Jason and Anne have been performing as a duo and have plans to record a duo record in the near future. With the thousands of hours logged in recording studios playing on records and working with some of Canada’s top producers, it was a natural step for Jason to start producing other artists. His studio savvy combined with his musical literacy and vast stylistic knowledge led to production work on David Bradstreet’s Lifelines, D’Arcy Wickham’s Feather Fingers, John McDermott’s On A Whim (co-produced with Brigham Phillips and Phil Dwyer) and Just Plain Folk and Blake Papsin’s Serious Boy. In 2006 he composed and recorded an album of relaxation music titled Unwind for Somerset Entertainment. That same year he arranged and produced Peaceful Country for Somerset, an album of instrumental versions of top country hits.

Jason began playing the guitar when he was seven years old. His first lessons were from his father and later his older cousin, both self-taught guitarists and songwriters, who introduced him to many of his musical heroes: Bruce Cockburn, Gordon Lightfoot, John Prine,, Ry Cooder, Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Jackson Browne, Lenny Breau and Jim Hall. Private lessons from the age of 8 honed his sight-reading and theoretical skills and introduced him to classical and jazz guitar through his longtime teacher David Hayes, a busy Toronto theatre and freelance guitarist of the day. (This training prepared Jason for the day in 2002 when he was called to sub for Rich Whitelaw in the Toronto production of The Lion King playing guitar, ukelele, and kalimba). Jason played in various bands throughout high school and went on to McGill University in Montreal where he graduated with an Honours degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 1992.

Jason arrived on the Toronto music scene in 1995 with the release of his debut album Hiss Of Distance. Billboard magazine called it “a real gem” and RPM noted that “It’s Fowler’s fingerwork on the guitar that demands first attention.”

In 1998 Fowler released the follow-up Life Is Rich . With a bigger budget, more time in the studio and a fresh batch of new songs, Fowler’s second release featured a bigger band concept and incorporated jazz and blues influences as well as folk and rock. Lambda magazine exclaimed, “Life Is Rich is full of everything music is missing these days…talent, excitement and heart.”

In 2000 Fowler released the all-instrumental Big Hill, Little Hill. Recorded at a friends home studio over the course of a years worth of Sunday night sessions, Big Hill, Little Hill was a departure away from songwriting that coincided with becoming a father and having less time for songwriting. What precious time there was was spent on the guitar, often lulling his baby daughter to sleep and in the process composing the pieces that would become the new album. It included a cover of Garnet Rogers gorgeous Green Eyes and the classic Irish tune Shi Big Shi Mhor by blind Irish harpist Turlough O’Carolan. Later that year, Borealis Records put together it’s first volume of Canadian instrumental guitar music and included Jason’s version of the piece. The album’s producer Bill Garrett said, “Jason plays this famous Turlough O’Carolan melody as well as anyone on any instrument. It’s quite simply beautiful.”

Local Canadian musician and artist Kurt Swinghammer reviewed the album on his online blog:
“This beautiful sounding disc is by an extremely accomplished acoustic guitarist from Toronto…The album’s centerpiece is a 6 plus minute long trilogy that unfolds like a classic narrative, expressing an interest in European modernism with unusual voicings far beyond the expectations of Americana folk forms. A strong step forward for a local artist seeking recognition in a crowded, competitive forum.”

2003 saw the release of Temporary Ground, which came on the heels of the dissolution of his marriage, as well as extensive touring with Irish tenor John McDermott. His travels gave him new inspiration and new musical friends with which to collaborate. Canadian bluegrass virtuoso Ray Legere lends searing mandolin ands fiddle work on 2 tracks, Anne Lindsay plays a soulful chorus on the instrumental version of The Tennessee Waltz, veteran Canadian musicians Al Cross (drums) and David Woodhead (bass) lay down a solid groove on My Daily Burden, and Gary Breit, keyboardist for Bryan Adams (and brother of Canadian guitar whiz Kevin Breit) lends some soulful organ playing to a few tunes. It received the widest and warmest reviews of his career, doubtless due to his growing reputation as a tasteful and versatile Guitarist For Hire. The Toronto Star’s Greg Quill stated "The guitarist rips off some astonishing licks in the pursuit of melodic enrichment, never just for show. This is as fine as acoustic guitar gets." And The Vancouver Province’s John McLaughlin wrote "A guitarist with flashes of brilliance on a par with Cooder, Doc Watson and Tony Rice. A great find." And Penguin Eggs, Canada’s roots music magazine glowed, “…a nicely crafted CD, with some exquisite guitar work…Fowler’s depth as a songwriter and instrumentalist is evident; there is nothing temporary about Temporary Ground.”