Blast from the British past

Musical group pays tribute to British folk musician Nick Drake

Nick Drake tragically died at the age of 24 after a drug overdose.
Nick Drake tragically died at the age of 24 after a drug overdose.

If going to see a musician’s live show isn’t an option, make your own live show of their music.

British 70s folk-rock musician Nick Drake didn’t have much commercial success in his career. But his lack of album sales during his life slowly reversed after his death and since then Drake has developed a strong following.

Luke Jackson is one of those followers. He became a fan of Drake’s music and he is now one of 12 performers in the tribute band The Songs of Nick Drake, inspired by the man himself.

Jackson is also the tour producer and built the band up to what it is today.

“I haven’t picked this artist willy nilly, I’m not a particularly big fan of tribute concerts per se,” he said. “Nick Drake played very little live and people love his records and never imagined they could hear his songs played live, much less in an elaborate setting on this tour.”

Drake, who died in 1974 at the age of 24 from a drug overdose, has an aura of mystery and mythos behind him due to the little people knew about him.

“He’s not an artist who you can go find on YouTube and search for footage of him playing live because there’s no video footage of him at all,” Luke said.

It was his want to pay tribute to Drake that drew Jackson to start The Songs of Nick Drake tribute band three years ago.

“When you really get into his music, you wind up getting into his life to a greater degree.”

Jackson’s known and worked with Robert Kirby, a music producer who helped Drake with his first album when they were both 20 years old in 1969.

Kirby later worked with Luke on a Nick Drake tribute show in 2009 in Toronto.

“I had planned to do a more elaborate one with a full string section and a band,” he said.

Kirby was going to fly in to help develop strings for the show but he passed away unexpectedly, leading Jackson to cancel the show.

Despite that setback, Jackson would bring together the musicians in 2010 for a show dedicated to not only Drake, but also to Kirby.

Since the success of that first concert, the “string-laden folk pop” sound of The Songs of Nick Drake will be going on tour and featuring 12 different musicians when they play Kingston including Jackson, Oh Susanna, Kevin Kane, Kurt Swinghammer and special guests Jim Bryson and Jeremy Fisher.

Jackson knows the assumptions made about tribute bands — sometimes people would rather pay more money to see the real thing.

“It’s like, ‘why go see a Neil Young or Tragically Hip tribute concert when you can pay two hundred bucks and go see the act themselves,’” he said, “but Nick Drake is different.”

The Songs of Nick Drake plays Chalmer’s United Church on Nov. 7 at 8 p.m.

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