Despite being too shy to play in front of an audience until just three years ago, Portage’s Brent Alarie and his band Wreckin’ SO are taking the music scene by storm, armed with a diddly bow and hubcap guitar, and a sound true to their hillbilly blues roots.
“When I was 12, my uncle gave me a guitar It was a knock-off, almost like the red Gibson Hummingbird I have now. I picked it up and started learning songs. “Every Rose Has it’s Thorns” and “Sweet Home Alabama” where the first two songs I learned. I’d play for the odd person here and there but no one knew,” recalled Alarie.969883_442284909200485_530197128_n
For the next twenty-five some years Alarie kept his musical interests somewhat a secret and it wasn’t until a few short years ago he unleashed his skills on an audience. All it took was a little personal inspiration and some encouragement.
“A good friend, Mark, heard me sing at a bonfire after a few wobbly pops and he said you have to come to the jams.” The jams were jam nights at the Army & Navy in Selkirk where local musicians could perform live before an intimate audience.
“I finally got the courage to go up and I played with my back to the audience. After about three or four jams I got up enough courage to do (sing) my first song and I was trembling and shaking but I got a taste of it and I kept going!”

Wreckin' So playing live.

Wreckin’ So playing live.

“I did “Country Roads” by John Denver and the crowd went nuts. The locals were like “wow” so I figured maybe I have something here. The Army and Navy was a great place to play because it was like family. There was no pressure.”
Alarie’s baptism into the performing quickly blossomed into a sudden ascent within the music scene. He also starting recording YouTube videos of his performances for a son’s friend to see that went viral among his friends and brought more praise and encouragement.
“I started hosting my own jams at a nightclub in the city and starting meeting people. I started writing music and it started to flow. I wrote a song that got accepted into Manitoba Song Fest. I recruited some other musicians and we entered the song called “Wreckin’ Ball Blues”. After I rounded up the guys we practised on Saturday night and we were on Shaw TV live Sunday and we nailed it!”
The group started doing shows known as the Wrecking Crew but after a short while they ended up going their own ways leaving Alarie and drummer Paul Pommer to carry on. It wasn’t long until the small set-back turned into a new opportunity.

“So Paul and I are jamming in my garage and I said I guess this is it, just you and me and he says “I reckon so.” I said there it is! Wreckin’ So. That’s what we are!” and the new band was made.

Brent Alarie with homemade diddly bow

Brent Alarie with homemade diddly bow

With a new band Alarie then set out to make them unique by diving head first into building classic blues instruments for the band by hand. His first creation was a diddly bow, a one string instrument made by hand.

“In the old days you just played what you could right? It used to be a fence post or a porch post, nail a string on it, wrap it around and a guy would play it by sliding a beer bottle up and down.” Alarie explains

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“My buddy had an old collapsed barn and I went fishing through it. That board is about 100 years old. All the parts except for the liquid wrench jar and the electronics and screws are from the barn.”
Within a week of building the diddly bow and making the new band they were back playing shows. Next up was Alarie’s second signature creation, his hub cap guitar.

 

Brent Alarie and hubcap guitar

Brent Alarie and hubcap guitar

“I rummaged until I found some parts. Actually, it’s a 1964 Meteor hub cap, I think. I put a telecaster pickup in there so it has some real twangy raunchy grit. The rest is hardware. There is some Harley Davidson parts on there. I built it all by hand. I built it on the tailgate of a truck because you can’t use a machine shop, you have to do it like you would have a hundred years ago.”

The band’s first album came out this spring and has been greeted by an impressive response.
“The CD was done in May, it’s being played on the U.K. internet radio. The song “Coming Back to Me” is trending and we are #1 in Manitoba, # 9 in Canada and #157 across the globe on Reverb Nation. It’s being played on CKUW radio in Winnipeg, MIX 96.5FM in Portage, 730 CKDM in Dauphin, and we were just picked up on Rockersdrive.com and Iceboxmusic on sound cloud. And there is a few more that have just added us in the last day or two.”
Alarie has written sixty to seventy more songs and acknowledges Mellencamp, Thorogood and Seasick Steve as artists who have influenced him along the way. Demands for live shows continue to pour in for the band and despite wanting to take July off they will be playing at Finn McCues in Winnipeg July 26.
Check out their music, merch, and info at: Wreckin’ So Website and Music

 

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