As Tom Petty sang, ‘the waiting is the hardest part.’ For some, that wait is longer; yet, no longer the length of pause, it is usually worth it. Kitchener-Waterloo musician Stewart McKie proves this point with Save Me a Seat. The artist’s solo debut arrives 30 years after shelving his dreams of a music career. Released in April 2021, the record features 14 songs that sway from country to soul and from rock to blues. Recorded in his hometown at Fred Smith’s studio (The Umbrella Academy, The Borgias), the compositions showcase the musician’s varied influences: Stevie Wonder, Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, the Beatles, and Bob Dylan.
McKie gathered a community of friends and veteran local musicians to bring their talents to the studio and help flesh out his songs; some new and some written decades ago. McKie plays lead guitar on nearly every song and sings on five of the tracks, including the current single: “Better Days.”
Save Me a Seat features a few co-writes and plenty of collaborations. McKie unpacked 30 years worth of songs scattered in notebooks, and buried in boxes from his various moves to British Columbia and back and wrote many new songs. The record opens with the catchy, “Dancing on Sunshine.” McKie’s son Mason inspired this song. Father and son were out for a walk one winter day when Mason turned to his dad and said, “We are dancing on sunshine Papa!”
“Prisoners of the Heart” features soulful sounds of Saxophonist Dave Wiffen and Trumpet Player Ray Podhornik as well as bluesy lead vocals from Cheryl Lescom — a veteran of the Canadian music scene, who once backed up Ronnie Hawkins and toured with Long John Baldry and Hills Walter from Fog Blues and Brass Band. Possessing a powerhouse of a voice, C J Cooper adds lead vocals on a pair of tracks (“Hardest Part”; “Walking Away,”). She also duets with McKie on “Blue Eyes in the Morning.”
Save Me a Seat is a bold statement. The songs linger long. McKie embodies the old cliché that you are never too old to chase your dreams. Mark my words. If these 14 songs are any indication, his musical journey is just beginning.
Author. The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern: A Complete History Dundurn Press (Sept. 23, 2017); Massey Hall: An Enduring Legacy (November 3, 2021)