If you’re a Sherman Downey fan, you might have noticed a change in his band, the Ambiguous Case, lately.
The band members are still around, but they’re now going by a new name — The Silver Lining — pretty much, according to Downey, because people were too ambiguous about the word “ambiguous.”
“I think Newfoundlanders were getting it, but a lot of times on tour we’d go to play a show and people wouldn’t understand, they’d have it spelled horribly wrong or we’d be called The Sherman Downey Band or something,’ Downey explained.
Their new name is ironic, since these musicians haven’t had to dig far to find the positive side of any situation since they started playing together with the release of their first album, “Honey for Bees,” in 2010. That year, they toured the record in Atlantic Canada, played gigs in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics, and performed at the East Coast Music Awards and Juno award ceremonies.
The group earned five MusicNL award nominations in 2010, Downey winning for Male Artist of the Year, as well as ECMA nominations for Rising Star Recording and Best Group Recording. Songs from the record have been receiving national airplay on CBC Radio 2 programs such as “Canada Live” and “Deep Roots,” and the band released a music video for the tune “Keep Your Head Up” about a year ago.
Downey and the guys spent the new year in Australia performing at the Woodford Folk Festival in Queensland, Australia, as part of a delegation of local musicians that also included The Once, Ron Hynes and others.
They’re no strangers to the road, having driven halfway across the country and back in The Beast, their Ford Econoline. Just back from the Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis a couple weeks ago, the guys left Tuesday for Toronto for Canadian Music Week.
It’s their first time playing the national event, but conferences seem to have been their bag over the last few months, meeting with record labels, managers, agents, film and television producers, musical directors and other stakeholders in the music industry.
“When you first start playing music, the initial desire is to get your name out and to get people to hear your music. At some point, making money becomes a factor, and conference showcases are the best way to connect with people in the business,” said Downey, a former teacher who gave up his job to pursue a music career full time.
At the end of the month, Downey and the Silver Lining — Andrew Ross, Bill Allan, Neil Targett and Paul Lockyer — will make friends with The Beast once again, hitting the road on a tour of the province’s Arts and Culture Centres, starting in Gander and ending in Labrador City, with a break for this year’s ECMAs in Moncton, N.B. in between. Joining them on the island portion of the tour will be singer/songwriter Andrew James O’Brien, with O’Brien’s girlfriend, musician Catherine Allan, coming on stage for the St. John’s show.
Downey and O’Brien are longtime friends, having started playing music together in Corner Brook around the same time. Downey’s music is upbeat bluegrass-influenced folk-pop with songs about everything from lost cats to muddy jackets, while O’Brien’s consists of thoughtful ballads about lost love and pop-rock tunes. Still, they complement each other well on stage, due to their shared appreciation of a good story.
“I’d say you’d find a lot of crossover between our respective record collections. We both see the importance of a strong melody and narrative and I think that’s our common thread,” O’Brien explained.
“How will I compliment him on stage? I’ll say how lovely I think he is and how wonderful the band sounds,” he continued, laughing. “Feel free to print that.”
Downey and the Silver Lining have been recording a second CD in dribs and drabs, a few hours here and there, between studio availability and the members’ schedules, and are hoping to have the record out this summer. Studio time is much more efficient now that it was when they did “Honey for Bees,” Downey said.
“We never really started playing as a band until we did the record, and at this point we’re more familiar and confident with each other,” he said. “That’s one thing that being on the road together so has given us.”
The new album won’t stray too far from ‘Honey for Bees,’ though it may be a little heavier, Downey said. The band will be testing out some of the new tunes on the Arts and Culture Centre tour, as they’ve been doing with their live gigs over the past few months.
The guys are especially looking forward to getting back to places like Gander and Grand Falls-Winsor, where they’ve played a couple times before, but have never really had a chance to frequent, given the Corner Brook/St. John’s weekend rush. Corner Brook takes up a special place in Downey’s heart, as well.
“Everyone’s here has just been so supportive of us,” he said. “This will be our first time playing a show at home in a long time, and we’re excited.”
Sherman Downey and the Silver Lining will perform in Gander March 30, St. John’s March 31, Grand Falls-Winsor April 1, Corner Brook April 18, Stephenville April 19, and Labrador West April 21. Tickets for each show are $20 and are available online at www.artsandculturecentre.com.