Ex-Big Sugar rocker serves 'Poison'

-- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 4:39 AM ET

Gordie Johnson hasn't had facial reconstruction.

Nor has he had a personality transplant.

Still, the Alberta-raised musician is not the same man he used to be.

Best known in this country as the vocalist and guitarist for the blues-rock band Big Sugar, Johnson is now making a name for himself as a member of the Texas-based trio Grady.

Later this month, the band, which comes to Calgary on a promotional tour tomorrow, is releasing their sophomore album A Cup Of Cold Poison.

Johnson says it marks a new beginning for him and the group.

"Our last CD was kind of transitional from my old band to the new band. With the new record, I think the ideas are more fully developed in terms of the band concept -- it's a darker record. It's probably closer to some underground heavy metal stuff that we affiliate ourselves with in Texas.

"It's more me right now. I'm not the same guy I was in 1998. I don't live in the same place. I don't do the same things."

In foreign territories (mostly in Europe and Australia) where there is no Big Sugar, Johnson says Grady, which includes himself, drummer Billy Maddox and bassist Big Ben Richardson, is on a metal label.

"I'm not wearing a spikey belt or anything, it's just where the music fits in."

Johnson admits Canadians may have some difficulty putting Grady's music, which has been described as equal parts southern gospel and satanic ritual, into a comfortable category.

And, to add to the confusion, the new disc was recorded at Willie Nelson's famed Pedernales recording studio and features an introduction by the country music star.

"He came in to the studio and told the joke. We laughed our asses off, and that was it."

Johnson says, even for non-country musicians, living in Austin provides all kinds of opportunities to work with various artists, regardless of genre.

That, he adds, is why he moved there in the first place.

"Local musicians are your important people in that city, not famous people. The guy who does a regular Monday night gig can actually get on the front page of the paper," he says.

"After having lived in Toronto for a decade, I love that. They eat their young there -- they are just cold-blooded."

Grady's A Cup of Poison will be released across Canada on June 19.


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