Canada has special place in Ann Wilson’s Heart

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Canada has special place in Ann Wilson’s Heart

Ann Wilson may currently be occupying solo territory with her new album “Fierce Bliss,” but she hasn’t lost her Heart.

During a recent interview to promote the album and her date opening for Journey on Friday at Scotiabank Arena (which has since been postponed), Wilson said plans are afoot for 2023 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the rock band she fronts with her guitarist sister Nancy.

“We plan to do an event and we’re going to do it up in Canada,” Wilson said. “And no doubt we’re going to be recording that.”

The fact that our home and native land is the preferred spot for a Heart milestone concert shouldn’t be a surprise since it was Canada that broke the band in the first place.

“Canada made it possible to get where we were,” Wilson said. “Our first label was Mushroom Records in Vancouver, a little indie — you can’t get more Canadian than that. That scene really was our birthplace.”

It was in Vancouver that the Seattle-born Heart recorded its memorable first album “Dreamboat Annie,” yielding the classic airplay staples “Magic Man” and “Crazy on You,” causing no shortage of confusion for radio stations trying to determine whether the band actually was Canadian.

Ann Wilson felt she was an honorary citizen.

“I lived up in Vancouver for about eight years, and I took landed immigrant status and everything, and lived happily there,” said Wilson, 71. “I felt like I was Canadian. Of course, I was born in the U.S. (in San Diego) and went to Seattle and then up to Vancouver. But I think in a sense we were Canadian because we broke out of Canada.

“I do miss Vancouver. It’s a really brilliant little city: very international and sophisticated. I really liked living there; it was such a cosmopolitan place. It’s funny: if you’re on the East Coast, you see Vancouver as being way out at the edge of the universe or something, but it’s really quite beautiful there and it’s where I met a lot of very interesting and creative people.”

She notes the irony of such Canadian music icons as Joni Mitchell and Neil Young having to leave the country to find their niches.

“We were American … but we went to Canada and found our success there.”

And some success it was. Heart has sold more than 35 million albums across several decades and spawned such hits as “Barracuda,” “Straight On,” “These Dreams,” “Alone” and “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You” among others.

But at the moment, Wilson and her incredible voice are focused on her third solo rock album, an 11-song mixture of covers and originals.

The familiar includes Wilson’s renditions of Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs,” the Eurythmics’ “Missionary Man,” (both featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd on guitar) and Queen’s “Love of My Life” (a duet with Vince Gill). The new includes collaborations with Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes (“Gladiator,” “Angel’s Blues,” the latter not available on the vinyl version of the album) and a band of musicians she calls the Amazing Dawgs, whom she raves about to the point where you start thinking the players in Heart were chumps.

“I’m always pushing the envelope,” Wilson said. “For instance, the bass player I’m working with now, Tony (Lucido), is so imaginative and muscular, but yet intelligent and sophisticated … it’s just musicianship on a level that I have yet to experience. They challenge me. They push me to be better. They push me to think about newer ideas. I really, really like and need that.

“The band that I put together for this, which is now my touring band, too, is a really impressive fiery rock band,” she said, explaining the sentiment behind the title “Fierce Bliss.”

“So there was that aspect and then the joy I got from the whole experience — it was like bliss, you know? It just had everything that I needed. So those two things just went together. I thought the album was a joy to make and I loved the people that I made it with.”

“Fierce Bliss” was written and conceived after COVID-19 lockdowns forced Heart off the road. Wilson nestled into her Florida home, which apparently has an inspiring view.

“I just had enough time to sit and daydream and … soak up the serenity of being at home without expectation and pressure,” she said. “It really made me able to just go ahead and dive into the songwriting thing. My imagination came alive and a few of the songs, like ‘Black Wing,’ were written because I live on a big river. During that whole pandemic time, I’m looking out the window and seeing these big sea birds flying around.

“They were free and they could go where they wanted — they could go to New York if they wanted — but I was stuck inside so I wrote a song where I was talking to these birds. It was a nice space and time to just really be creative and get in front of a notebook and just start dreaming.”

For those coming to see Wilson and the Amazing Dawgs — guitarist Tom Bukovac, bassist Tony Lucido, drummer Sean T. Lane and keyboardists Gordon Mote and Tim Lauer — she promises a varied program guaranteed to satisfied all.

“Half my set is Heart stuff, and the other is new stuff and the other covers that I like to do, so it’s really quite fun. It’s an emotional, high-powered and tender set. It’s got everything Heart should do plus more, you know? And I love to be doing it. I feel great. My voice is in good shape, so I hope people will come see.”

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