"Packed my bags, I believe it's travellin' time Too cold in this town, and I've got leavin' on my mind"
From Eastbound Train - words and music by J.P. Lepage
"I don't know what I was thinking," chuckles J.P Lepage, when asked why he left his small town Manitoba roots behind to move to Ontario. "I just ran off with a girl." In part, Lepage's explanation is true, but there is, to be sure, a great deal more to the story of the singer/guitar player whose love of the blues has dictated much of the course of his life thus far.
Lepage's is a story of struggles: times of living off of credit card advances and minimum wage dead end day jobs, moments of self- doubt and discouragement about his own abilities and the tenuous nature of his chosen profession. But his is also a tale of elation and success, nights of finding himself onstage with legends like Pinetop Perkins and Lazy Lester, enjoying part ownership of a first-rate blues club, and playing in one of Ontario's most respected blues bands, the Windsor Dukes. There is indeed a love story in the background, but Lepage's biography is ultimately one of a man following his heart wherever it led him, regardless of the risks, in search of a dream.
Traditionally, the musical genre known as "the blues" has always been about escape: the urge to travel, a chance for new love, the hope of a peaceful afterlife, and, of course, emancipation. Born out of slavery and rightfully respected as one of the most important products of African-American culture, the blues is nonetheless best understood in terms of feeling rather than race. It is not just "black music." It is the sound of freedom and transcendence.
Discussing the process of migration from a rural centre to a large city in an interview with the BBC in 1976, first-generation bluesman and piano player Thomas Dorsey (better known as Georgia Tom) described his arrival in Chicago in 1916 by saying that, "I came looking for deliverance, and to get deliverance, you just have to wait on the movements of providence." Dorsey's beliefs in deliverance and providence are shared by many other musicians who have left their small-town roots behind to travel to larger centres in search of success. Undoubtedly, J.P. Lepage is one of those musicians.