Musical duo Brooks & Bowskill (Brittany Brooks and Jimmy Bowskill) are performing a number of shows in the Kawarthas during February — including three shows at The Ganaraska Hotel in Port Hope — having recently released their debut full-length album Too Many Roads.
The 12-song album is a rootsy mix of well-crafted songs, smooth vocals and tight harmonies, and precise instrumentation and production. It has both a classic and original sound that defies easy categorization.
The collaboration between the two musicians is described on the Brooks & Bowskill website as “the story of two old souls coming together through music and each bringing a wealth of unique experiences to the partnership that seems beyond its years.”
The “old soul” reference is especially apt when applied to Jimmy, who was described the same way when he first burst onto the musical stage at the age of 11. Born in Toronto in 1990 and raised in Bailieboro, Jimmy got his first guitar when he was 10 years old. Largely self-taught, he quickly mastered the songs of iconic American bluesmen like Robert Johnson, Son House, Charlie Patton, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf.
In 2001, his father took him to Toronto where Jimmy hoped to demonstrate his guitar-playing prowess in an open jam at legendary blues guitarist Jeff Healey’s Bathurst Street club.
“They wouldn’t let an 11-year-old inside his club, so I started busking on the sidewalk outside,” Jimmy told Guitar Player Magazine. “Jeff heard about me, invited me in to play, and I did pretty well. I got a lot of gigs and exposure just from that one night.”
The following year, Jimmy recorded his first album — called Old Soul, of course — with contributing musicians including Jeff Healey, Alec Fraser, the Weber Brothers, Jack De Keyzer, and Jerome Godboo. When his second album, 2005’s Soap Bars & Dog Ears, was nominated for a Juno Award for Blues Album of the Year, the 14-year-old Bowskill became the youngest person ever to be nominated for the award. In 2005, he won a Maple Blues Award as Best New Artist of the Year.
Since those early days, Jimmy has continued on his musical trajectory, performing with The Jimmy Bowskill Band and Jimmy Bowskill and The Hometown Beauts, touring Europe with Joe Bonamassa and Jeff Beck in 2010, joining The Sheepdogs from 2015 to 2022, and joining Blue Rodeo in 2017. He currently lives in Cobourg, where he opened Ganaraska Recording Company in 2020 with Jim Jones of Zap Records.
Jimmy’s musical and romantic partner Brittany hails from St. Catharines and is now living in Cobourg. She’s also a singer-songwriter and guitarist who released her debut solo album Lend Me Your Hand in 2020. She previously performed in the folk duo Howler, which later became Creature Speak and released the full-length album Shadow Songs in 2015.
“Born with the gift of rhyme and storytelling, Brooks is known for her imagery-rich lyrics that pour from a direct heart line,” according to the Brooks & Bowskill website. “Her voice sounds as though she walked off a Greenwich Village stage in the 60s and was on her way to play the late set at a country honky tonk. Her buttery vocals have been described as a dance between Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris and Norah Jones.”
As well as being a musician, Brittany is a long-time multimedia artist specializing in graphic design, illustration, and animation. She has created album cover art and concert posters for bands and musicians including Blue Rodeo, John Borra Band, The Doghouse Orchestra, and Mike T. Kerr.
Brittany and Jimmy wrote all 12 songs on Too Many Roads, with Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor sharing a writing credit on one tune. Recorded by Jimmy at Ganaraska Recording Company and mixed by Jimmy and Steve Marriner, the album also features Kyler Tapscott, Ian McKeown, Steve O’Connor, and Wayne Deadder. Released on January 12, the album is available for streaming on Spotify.
VIDEO: “Too Many Roads” – Brooks & Bowskill
VIDEO: “Little Gem” – Brooks & Bowskill
Brooks & Bowskill opened for Blue Rodeo when the band performed at the Peterborough Memorial Centre on December 28, and they’ll be opening for them again at Blue Rodeo’s one-night-only “Seldom Heard Songs” concert at Toronto’s Massey Hall on February 25.
In the interim, the duo will be performing along with Greg Keelor, Matt Mays, Terra Lightfoot, Melissa Payne, and more at Market Hall Performing Arts Centre’s 25th anniversary concert celebration in Peterborough on Friday (February 3).
If you didn’t get tickets for that sold-out show, you can also catch Brooks & Bowskill at one of three concerts from February 17 to 19 at The Ganny in Port Hope, where they’ll be performing with their band The Hometown Beauts.
Shows start at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Tickets are $20, available at The Ganaraska Hotel (30 Ontario St., Port Hope) and Zap Records (45 King St. E., Cobourg).
Brooks & Bowskill will also be performing at Campbellford’s Aron Theatre Co-op on Thursday, March 30th at 7 p.m. Tickets are $28 in advance or $32 at the door.
For more information about Brooks & Bowskill, visit brooksandbowskill.com.