Isaac & Blewett Say Goodbye – For Now

After 15 years, six albums, and earning the respect of musicians and fans throughout the Maritimes and across Canada, folk-influenced duo Isaac and Blewett are putting the band on indefinite hiatus.

No, it’s not a break-up. In fact, there is a very good possibility that the duo of cellist Tim Isaac and guitarist Jim Blewett will make music together again in some capacity at some point down the road.

For the bulk of their decade and a half together, Isaac and Blewett have refused to be confined by virtually any limitation thrown their way. Their musical pallette has been a diverse one and has undoubtedly played a part in their longevity. The group built its name on innovative music, eclectic and electric live performances and honest songwriting.

Speaking with The Times & Transcript last week prior to rehearsal, the duo is adamant that their show at Parkindale Hall is a farewell for the time being, acknowledging that, as fulfilling as their time making music together has been, the time has come to move onto other ventures.

“To be honest, it is more a feeling between Tim and I that the creativity has stopped,” Jim Blewett starts. “We feel as though we have wrung out of ourselves what we are able to wring out. Rather than continuing to play the same songs, we have decided to pursue other interests that each of us have going on.

“Neither of us are done making music by any means, though. This is just more of a ‘See you later’ than anything else. We are not parting on bad terms by any means.”

“We had been mulling this over for quite some time,” Blewett’s band mate Tim Isaac continues. “We felt as though it was a good time to look at taking an extended hiatus. It is one thing to stop making music for a few months but we have found that even then, it doesn’t necessarily give you time to recharge. We decided to opt for a longer pause and just let the band float for a little while. I am completely confident that we will pop up in the future.”

When the duo look back upon the last 15 years, one can’t help but get a sense of gratitude from them both.

In the earliest days of the group, the duo performed as a trio with guitarist Allan Cooper. Blewett admits that they were fortunate to receive a significant amount of attention right off the bat. He attributes this early success to the fact people were ready to hear something a little different.

“We weren’t really a band that played ‘the game’ when it came to the music business, however that didn’t stop us from completely throwing ourselves into music,” Jim says. “We toured and really promoted ourselves but being away from home can be hard on people and Allan ended up dropping out.”

Cooper would amicably enter and exit the group over the course of the next few years before leaving the group once and for, leaving Isaac and Blewett as the sole remaining members.

Undeterred, the duo created beautiful soundscapes based around Isaac’s cello and Blewett’s guitar playing. They would go on to record with blues trio Hot Toddy with Blewett lamenting the fact that their collaboration with Fredericton band the Olympic Symphonium wasn’t perhaps as realized as he would have liked it to have been.

The group began eschewing professional studios in favour of recording at home. Isaac says that this decision allowed them the freedom to experiment without needing to worry about running up a significant tab.

“By recording at home, we were able to sit and get exactly what we wanted to get from the songs,” he says.

“I feel that we were really hitting our stride musically in terms of being creative with our instruments,” Blewett says. “Right now though, the lack of new songs is the problem. There is nothing new happening and both Tim and I felt as though writing new songs wasn’t something that we wanted to force.

“Music has never been a job for me and I didn’t want it to start feeling that way. Things can sometimes run their course but it doesn’t have to be seen as anything negative. Playing with other people gives you a whole different creative vibe and perspective on things.”

As Neil Young once sang, “It’s better to burn out than fade away.” It is an ethos that both Blewett and Isaac subscribe to. In other words, they would much rather be remembered as choosing to step down while at the top of their game rather than to fade into a parody of what they once were.

“Anything is possible for us down the road,” Isaac says. “We are great friends and there is no denying the chemistry that exists when we play music. Both of us feel however, that it takes more courage to step out of something that is comfortable and predictable and instead step out into the unknown. You just have to have faith that everything is going to work out.”

Article published in July 27, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript