Ragged but right

Cariboo outlaw-country maverick Joey Onley plays Kimberley

Ferdy Belland

Over the past quarter-century, thousands of young acoustic-guitar-wielding upstarts across North America have shunned the cloying “Bro-Country” of the modern Nashville scene – turning their backs on the mindless glossy insincerity and putting their hearts to the soundholes.

Folks like this take retrospective inspiration from the classic era of country music (1948-1978, bracketed by Hank Williams Sr. on one end and Waylon Jennings on the other) and churn forth modern reimaginations of working-class stories…pain, love, loss, humor, sorrow, work, or no work at all.

Stories seen through the brown glass of a longneck beer bottle at Last Call. Stories heard through the howl of the Cariboo wind under a full moon at midnight, or heard through the rattling roar of a failing glasspack muffler baling-wired to the undercarriage of a battered-up, rusted-out ‘81 Silverado pickup with lapsed plates on a logging switchback somewhere around 100 Mile House.

Some call the movement “Alternative Country.” Some call it “Outlaw Country.”

Such are the stories of Joey Onley, the Outlaw-Country King of the Cariboo, who hits the stage at Canoes & Brews Pub in Downtown Kimberley this coming Wednesday December 13.

After cutting his early musical teeth in punk-rock bands, Joey Onley took his childhood love of gritty old country songs, shook it all up with a heaping dollop of sneering punk attitude, got himself fitted out with a Stetson, grew out his mutton-chops, bought a Gibson acoustic, and changed from East Vancouver’s little Johnny Rotten into Wells BC’s mutant offspring of Merle Haggard. Since 2004 Joey Onley (either as a solo artist, or with the infamous revolving-door cast of liquor-sodden reprobates known as the Joey Onley Outlaw Band) has racked up over 1,000 live performances across most of the stinking dive-bars and overblown folk festivals that all ten provinces have to offer (and a few Territories, too).

As an in-demand supporting artist, he’s shared stages with such CanCon icons as Gord Downie, Blue Rodeo, the Sadies, Fred Eaglesmith, Buffy St-Marie, and Washboard Hank, among many others – all of whom were more than happy to have this sideburned scruffbag play with them.

Joey’s lyrical content veers into the realm of socio-political protest, and tends to focus on the sublime pleasures of boozing it up, small-town history, robbing banks, traveling long on the endless open road, and last but not least: marijuana. Don’t worry, the Prime Minister says it’s okay.

CBC’s Bob Nixon described Joey as “an anarchist sort of Stompin’ Tom Connors.”

Joining Joey Onley onstage in Kimberley is Vancouver’s musical wunderkind Adam Farnsworth, keyboardist-vocalist for the band High Society. He’s been carving out a strong name for himself in the West Coast singer-songwriter worlds, and is noted for his own passionate performances, so when he and Joey get together, who knows what wrath will be wrought?

Joey Onley (with guest Adam Farnsworth) take the stage at Canoes & Brews Pub (340 Mark St., Kimberley) Wednesday Dec. 13. 7 pm.

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