Lee Harvey Osmond with Harlan Pepper and Lindi Ortega Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON, June 19

Lee Harvey Osmond with Harlan Pepper and Lindi Ortega Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON, June 19
Photo: Stephen McGill
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"I'm just a fucking loser without your love," snarled Tom Wilson over a slow, slinky groove. Judging from the crowd's reaction to his swampy singer-songwriter routine, I don't think he has to worry. Smiling, yelping, buried under a great tangle of long hair and beard, Wilson rocked like the legend he has come to be in the eyes of many on the Americana scene. Harlan Pepper, the Hamilton-based roots group, looked to be in heaven as they backed a veteran of Junkhouse, current member of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and frontman for Lee Harvey Osmond. This fresh supergroup stuck to fairly basic blues arrangements for their playful set, but a band boasting this much talent can get away with some loose jamming. It helps that Harlan Pepper's absurdly young — did I ever look that young? — lead guitarist is just sick, cutting Robbie Robertson-style staccato trails through his energizing solos.

To great applause, Nashville-via-Toronto's rising star Lindi Ortega came up for a few numbers, somewhat shakily integrating into the band's amped up performance. (She was invited to shake a tambourine and "dance awkwardly" on one song, which she did, but probably shouldn't have.) Her big voice mostly handled the rough spots, especially as she had to struggle through a rough section of one song while the drummer lost the beat. But, overall, wearing a black veil and doing everything she could to recall a young Linda Ronstadt, Ortega impressed. It was a fun, if inessential, set; a great introduction to these artists for the folks around me who'd never heard of the fresh-faced Harlan Pepper. Expect to hear more about them from now on.

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