New band, old favourites: All-star East Coast players form new group

Four veterans of the East Coast music scene have found a new spark after decades of playing. Wayne Nicholson and the East Enders say they're making some of the best music of their careers.

Wayne Nicholson and the East Enders features members from Oakley, Rawlins Cross

Wayne Nicholson and the East Enders features Doug Mackay (far left), Nicholson (2nd from left), Brian Bourne (second from right) and James Logan(far right). (Wayne Nicholson & the East Enders Facebook page)

A group of four old musical friends who have ruled the stages and studios of the Maritime music scene since the 1970s have put together a new group.

With decades of experience between them, Wayne Nicholson and the East Enders have played just about everywhere on the East Coast in all sorts of beloved bands, but they say this new one has something special.

"It's going to be raw, a good raw," said lead singer Nicholson. "Well-played. The musicianship is just magnificent I think. Everyone's a great musician. I'm very excited about it, I haven't been this excited for an album for a long time."

Nicholson has been the voice behind groups that provided the soundtrack to the Maritimes' nightlife for a couple of generations.

In the 70s, he joined the Truro group Horse, before joining up with iconic band Oakley through the 80s. Since then he's had his own solo career as well.

Wayne Nicholson has sung professionally since the 70s, in bands such as Horse, Oakley, Granfalloon and on solo albums. (Wayne Nicholson & the East Enders Facebook page)
The new band slowly came together through a gig of Nicholson's.

Matinee idols

"Two-and-a-half, three years ago, we got asked to do a matinee over at Monte's in Dartmouth," he said. "I was using different musicians, and then bringing in a guest every week.

"Then we started playing with just myself, James Logan on guitar, Doug MacKay on drums, and Brian Bourne on the Chapman Stick. And something happened. I just didn't feel it, the audience felt it. The applause got louder, the players got better, the solos got better, we all started playing and singing better. And it was like magic."

MacKay and Nicholson were long-time colleagues, playing in Horse together. Since then, he'd drummed for Maritime blues-rock royalty, including Joe Murphy, Sam Moon, Minglewood and more.

Brian Bourne led Fredericton favourites Redeye in the late 70s and into the 80s, and has been with Celtic-rock fusion group Rawlins Cross since the late 80s.

James Logan is a studio stalwart in Nova Scotia, as well as the guitar anchor for successful musicals such as Drum! and the local production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Brian Bourne was in the popular Fredericton band Redeye, and in the late 80s joined Rawlins Cross, and is still a member of that group. (Wayne Nicholson & the East Enders Facebook page)
It's more than likely that most Maritimers have seen one or all of these players in some show at some time.

The matinees just kept getting better and better until Nicholson decided it was time to get back in the game, not having released a studio album since 2006's Playin' It Cool, and a one-off Horse reunion live album in 2015.

"I started saying we have to record, and we have to write some songs, and we have to pick some songs that suit this combination, because it's magical," he said. "And everyone felt the same thing. It felt like it hadn't felt in years, it felt like a group instead of like it had when I'd done solo albums, where you just bring in musicians for different songs."

The four have done some original writing, and gone way back to find old blues favourites, by the likes of Bessie Smith.

Recording underway

They've already recorded basic tracks at Joel Plaskett's New Scotland Yard Studio in Dartmouth, and are now adding vocals and solos, with hopes to have the album ready to go in the early new year.

In the meantime, the band continues playing to packed crowds every second Saturday at Monte's, and earlier in November showcased the new act at the Music Nova Scotia conference.

Nicholson hopes that will lead to tour opportunities and the festival circuit in 2017.

"I really would like to get out and play more, because playing with these guys, when you come and see us play, that's the best. The people that come and see us are just amazed by the show. But since I haven't been out there in awhile, that means I have to go and talk to somebody!" he laughed.

No record companies this time, though, as these old dogs have learned some new tricks.

They are recording and releasing the album themselves, with the help of Kickstarter campaign, available through the group's Facebook page.