When Sue Foley was a teenager learning about music, her go-to performers included some of the greats in the blues world — Billy Gibbons, Jimmie Vaughan, Charlie Sexton, The Texas Horns and Chris Layton.
Last year, she found herself in a Texas recording studio with them and many others she’s been listening to and learning from in the past since she started recording in the early 1990s.
“It was the greatest honour to be there,” she said of the sessions that led to her latest release, The Ice Queen.
“To have them acknowledge my existence and then to like me enough to want to record with me, what a great honour.”
She’ll be doing some tracks from that release, along with many others from the past almost 30 years she’s been performing, when she takes the stage at the Rotary Bandshell in Riverside Park on Monday as part of the summer’s Music in the Park festival.
Foley’s path to becoming a Texas blues guitarist started in her Ottawa home. Her older brothers were into bluesy rock “and that’s where I first heard the blues. I looked up to my brothers and my dad, who also played guitar, and then I started reading books and finding the [blues] greats.”
While she learned from listening to the musicians she now performs with, Foley said she’s always studying the history of the blues — and that has brought Blind Lemon Jefferson into her knowledge base.
Known as the father of the Texas Blues, Jefferson is notable for iconic songs like Black Snake Moan and See That My Grave is Kept Clean.
“I’m really interested in what came before and what came before that,” Foley said, “so I go back to the beginning, and Blind Lemon Jefferson was the first to start Texas blues. I’m just trying to follow the thread … I keep going back to the well.
“I always say, if you can drink from the source, you get the purest water.”
Twenty-eight years later, she’s still travelling with Pinky, her paisley pink Fendercaster.
“She’s pretty beat up now,” Foley said of the guitar that was a reissue in the late 1980s.
“I saw it and said I have to get this guitar. I figured if I had it, people would remember me. Willie Nelson has Trigger [his signature guitar] and Bonnie Raitt has hers and I wanted a signature guitar, too.”
Foley said another reason she chose it was to maybe inspire more girls to take up the guitar.
“A guitar is your friend for life,” she said. “You can hold onto it and it’s always there. There is power in that comfort.”
Music in the Park concerts start at 7 p.m.