There is a quiet genius to Wayne DeAdder, lead guitar player for ‘The beat Heathens’, a local band that I’ve featured a number of times here in this space. Having performed as a touring musician for over twenty-five years, Wayne is among many artists who have settled into mainstream life, but kept the creative juices alive through part time gigging with his own trio. What DeAdder has created though, is a unique take on a theme started by the late, great Levon Helm after his playing days ended with ‘The Band’.

Levon started a thing called ‘The Midnight Ramble’ on his property in Woodstock, where touring musicians were openly invited to join in on sessions with Helm’s family home band. The result would be an evening of musical improv that was wholly unique with every gig. Borrowing that theme and with ‘The Beat Heathens’ trio acting as anchor for DeAdder’s concept, once a month a guest musician of renown has sat in to jam at ‘The Moonshine Café’ in Oakville, Ontario. Simply called ‘The Ramble’, this series has seen six different guest artists join Wayne, drummer Scott, and bassist Mike onstage. Each separate evening has produced a different sound while utilizing a similar song set, serving to stretch the band’s own abilities to new heights.

The culmination of the series to date came last Thursday night when guitar great Kevin Breit, joined Wayne and his bandmates onstage. An impresario of dizzying skill and imagination, Breit brought solos to rock and blues classics the likes of which I’ve never heard before. This was truly one of those ‘you had to be there’ moments. Infusing his jazz roots developed from award winning work over many years with his own band; ‘The Sisters Euclid’, and now matched with a solid rock trio in the Beat Heathens, Breit mesmerized the packed house with every successive solo.

Unless you were there to witness this set, you may interpret his musings as simply showing off. What can’t be conveyed by a couple of mere videos though, is the sheer joy displayed in the interaction between the band’s members and their guest soloist. I’ve never seen four musicians have more fun living out on the musical edge.

DeAdder has called Kevin one of his biggest musical heroes, and to afford himself the opportunity to trade licks with his mentor was nothing less than an obvious thrill. Wayne quipped later, “when you’re playing with someone at Kevin’s level, you can’t help but ‘squeeze the stick’ a little tighter. What resulted though, to carry the hockey analogy a little further, was an evening that can only be described as some kind of glorious musical shinny. Freewheeling, open ice runs through some of classic rock’s best made this show unlike any other, and no one wanted it to end.

So the question now becomes, where does ‘The Ramble’ go from here? Wayne himself admits he’s not really sure. Quite rightly, he’s reluctant to push a good thing too far, but what of the unforeseen moments yet to come? The beauty of ‘the Ramble’ concept is that each event is unique unto its own. Every new guest that shares the stage with The Beat Heathens is a breath of fresh air; a leap away from the mundane of ‘same time, same set, same band’ that we’ve become all too familiar with. If DeAdder is able to tap into and attract more musicians he’s met from his musical travels, why shouldn’t audiences benefit from each new experience?

Of course, as a fan this is a sentiment that’s easy to say. Ultimately the decision to continue the series rests with Wayne DeAdder, his bandmates, and John Marlatt; gracious host and owner of ‘The Moonshine Café’. Whatever his decision, I suspect Wayne would delight in the idea that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. After all, borrowing a concept from a legend like Levon Helm was just so. Perhaps some other artist out there will take a page out of Wayne DeAdder’s book, and develop their own series of shows in a similar fashion. What a win that would be for the future of live local music.

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