Reprinted from Canadian Online Explorer

Friday, March 20, 1998

Are you Jimmy George?

By BEN RAYNER -- Ottawa Sun

No doubt there were a few tears shed into green beers at Barrymore's this St. Patrick's Day as local bar-circuit mainstays Jimmy George took their final leave of the stage. Mind you, if the band was doing any crying about its nominally permanent break-up, those might well have been tears of relief.

"I don't think any of us are going to miss it, just 'cause we've been doing it for so long," says singer/guitarist J. Todd, who joined the Celtic-punk-flavored combo shortly after its formation nearly eight years ago. Not that the band is dissolving amid acrimony or any particular hardship: Todd says the eight-member lineup is simply getting so swamped with other obligations - musical, professional and parental - that Jimmy George is becoming more and more of a logistical impossibility. "It's not like we're really sick of it," he says. "If some bar offered us a regular gig, we might do it - as long as it required the least amount of energy and effort on our part, which has always sort of been our credo, anyway. "We like playing, but as you get bigger it just means more and more demands on your time. It's fun to play, but everything else is just a job - it's worse than a job ... Just calling and arranging a practice for this show was absolute hell."

Jimmy George was always meant to be a fun thing, anyway. Guitarist and mandolin player Joel Carson (who, along with guitarist Mike Lawson, is the only original member left) initially conceived of the band while he was a member of The Whirleygigs, as an acoustic side project for him and some friends who performed with other Ottawa bands. The original plan was just to take the group busking in the Byward Market during the summer, but by early fall Jimmy George had landed a spot as the Duke of Somerset's Sunday-night house band - a position the band didn't relinquish until last November, and which, Todd recalls, had a large hand in the development of the band's reeling, Celtic-punk sound. The guy running the bar in those days, he explains, was Irish. "He was the guy who was paying us, hence ..."

In subsequent years, Jimmy George found time to record two albums (1993's A Month of Sundays and 1995's Hotel Motel), staged a few only minorly disastrous cross-Canada tours, survived multiple membership upheavals and developed a loyal and thirsty local following that routinely jammed the Duke wall-to-wall on Sunday nights. That residence came to an end, however, last fall when the Duke underwent a thorough makeover - temporarily relegating live acts to the disused, boxed-in back room that has since been transformed into a new stage - and decided to dump Jimmy George in favor of a new house act, Rude Boy. "We'll never know if it was attention waning for us, or the fact that we were playing in a construction site," says Todd of the band's last days at the Duke. "It was just bare walls and rubble ... There weren't any tables or chairs in that room - there wasn't even a place to set your beer. I don't think there was a horizontal surface anywhere that you'd trust to hold your pint."

Tuesday by no means marked a full retirement from music for the members of Jimmy George. Carlson is a member of General Guinness, guitarist Steve Donnelly performs with Laguna, bassist George Jennings has a healthy gig with Toque and drummer Tom Werbowetski is making some wonderful lo-fi pop with Mystic Zealots' Jeff Kainz in Werbo. For the record, Todd - who's already playing solo sets around town with his acoustic guitar - doesn't predict a Jimmy George reunion in the near future. "I don't know if I can handle Sunday nights anymore. My kid doesn't get up any later because Daddy went out drinking."