Canadian rocker Lee Aaron made the most of her Sunday at a Newton rehearsal studio, where the South Surrey-based musician filmed two videos for a new album of rockin’ blues.
The shoot took place May 27 at Music Makers because, as Aaron put it, “we needed a location that was in an industrial area with open space to park a limo.”
Aaron’s guitarist and songwriting partner, Sean Kelly, flew in from Toronto to help film videos for the songs “American High” and the Koko Taylor anthem “I’m a Woman,” both featured tracks on her Diamond Baby Blues album.
“‘American High,’ shot entirely in and around the limo, turns into a big, full-on glam – yet symbolic – party with the band and a cast of quirky, iconic American figures,” Aaron told the Now-Leader. “It’s a serious message delivered with a humorous rock ‘n’ roll touch, but you’ll have to wait and see the video.”
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The clip for “I’m a Woman,” meanwhile, required “a cool live performance space, and Music Makers had both,” Aaron continued. “We took over the venue with lighting, camera equipment, makeup and wardrobe stations, catering, not to mention the limo, and they were so gracious and accommodating.”
A video for Diamond Baby Blues’ title track is already shot and posted at leeaaron.com/media/lee-tv.
The new collection follows Fire and Gasoline, a 2016 album that, for Aaron, marked a return to writing and recording original rock music.
For much of the previous decade, the one-time “Metal Queen” of the Canadian music scene had focused on motherhood, raising a pair of children with husband John Cody, who plays drums for a living.
“Our kids, they’re 12 and 13 now, and my daughter is almost 14,” explained Aaron, born Karen Lynn Greening, in a phone interview, “and oh my lord, they’ve both grown taller than me, so I’m officially the shortest person in my family. It’s pretty wild. It’s funny because my son was quite short for awhile… and sure enough, he’s now three or four inches taller than me now.”
Aaron didn’t stop performing live shows during her “bit of a hiatus,” and she also completed a series of audio and video anthologies during that time.
“There was a lot of stuff done in that 10- or 11-year period,” she said, “but it takes time to create a body of work that’s original, and that was something I felt had to wait until my kids were a little bit older. That definitely requires more focus, and it’s hard to have focus when your kids are little,” she added with a laugh.
For Diamond Baby Blues – recorded at Hipposonic Studios, located in the former Little Mountain Sound space in Vancouver – Aaron again joined forces with Kelly to create the majority of songs, with some choice covers in the mix.
The covers, it turns out, were first order of business.
“Traditionally I don’t do cover tunes,” Aaron explained, “but (Kelly) and I talked about putting out a new album fairly soon after Fire and Gasoline, just to build on the momentum from that record, and he said to me, ‘You know, you always talk about doing some covers you’ve wanted to do, and this doesn’t have to be 100 per cent original, this album, so let’s pick some cover tunes,’ and that’s what we did first – chose some covers we wanted to, and kind of built the vibe of the album around that. We wrote the originals after that.”
With Aaron co-producing with John Webster, Diamond Baby Blues took shape as a seamless collection of guitar-driven tracks – many miles removed, in a sonic sense, from the jazz of Slick Chick, the 2000 album that came together around the time she settled with Cody in South Surrey. The new album is closer in sound to Aaron’s platinum-selling days of “Watcha Do to My Body,” from her late-’80s Bodyrock.
“There’s not a big disparity between the two, covers and orignials (on Diamond Baby Blues)” Aaron agreed. “My whole philisophy with covers has always been that if you’re going to do them, you might as well completely deconstruct them and put them back together, and make them your own, otherwise there’s not really a point, right.
“I’ve always wanted to record the Linda Ronstadt tune (‘You’re No Good’), and a couple of the older blues tunes, like ‘My Babe’ and ‘I’m a Woman,’ you know, and at the 11th hour, Sean texted me saying, ‘What do you think about doing ‘Black Cat’ by Janet Jackson?’ and it kind of threw me. I wasn’t sure it fit in but he had this really cool idea for that riff at the beginning, which makes it sound like we’re almost launching into a Rolling Stones tune, but doesn’t. When he played me that over the phone, I was like, ‘OK, I’m sold. Let’s try it.’”
With songs new and old, Aaron is more than ready to rock again in concert, and she’ll hit the stage at the Rock Ambleside festival in West Vancouver from Aug. 17-19, as part of a Friday-night lineup that also features Sweet and Loverboy. Other bands on the bill include Saturday-nighters Rik Emmett of Triumph, Chilliwack, Kim Mitchell and Trooper, plus Sunday attractions Doug & The Slugs, Toronto, Little River Band and Nazareth. Details are posted at rockamblesidepark.com.
“I’m really excited about that one,” Aaron said, “because every festival this particular promoter has launched, a few of them across Canada, have been wildly successful. So yeah, I did one in Kelowna a couple years ago, and others last year, and it’s always Rock the something – Rock the Park, Rock the Beach, that kind of thing, and very successful, and the last time I played Vancouver was at the PNE three years ago.”
With no immediate plans to leave the South Surrey area, Aaron said she’s enjoying her time making rock records again, and performing.
“I’m having so much fun still,” she offered. “You know, I don’t think any of us these days are making new music because we expect to be big rock stars again, or we expect to have huge radio hits, because radio is so controlled now, and the kind of records I want to make don’t get on pop radio. I don’t want everything to be programmed, and I’m still of the philosophy that you go in and hire people who actually know how to play their instruments and you write songs and you play them live off the floor, and you do minimal overdubs and make records that sound like they were performed by real human beings. It’s just still so fun for me, the creative process, to be able to do that.”