Neither Potholes Nor Speed Limits Can Slow Wolf Willow Down

by Pearl Mowbray, Entertainment Reporter, Borget Observer

It was a cold trip from Borget to Regina to hear Wolf Willow perform at The Exchange on December 15, but worth every ounce of diesel.

Navigating the grid roads and wreckage of paved provincial highways winding through the RM of Slippery Butte has its moments. A brilliant full moon compensated for the loss of one headlight, thanks to a passing unwashed Dodge Ram – licence plate concealed, truck nuts polished. Clearly, the RM’s threats of tougher speed limit enforcement are lost on some people.

Turning onto the TransCanada, Wolf Willow’s hit Long, Gone Highway came to mind.

The triple bill had Wolf Willow’s performance bookended by Kevin Roy’s five-piece band from Winnipeg and Regina troubadours The Dead South, who were celebrating a sold-out, three-night CD release party.

Wolf Willow took command of the stage at 10 p.m. Actually, it was Moose who made a bold opening statement that suggested the audience was in for a wild ride. In an uncharacteristic move, he stepped from behind the pedal steel guitar to take centre stage for a harpoon solo that screamed rebel. New, bad boy hair and sideburns suggests someone might be cheating on his stylist. Looks like that simply aren’t on the menu of salons in Borget, Darston or any neighbouring towns.

Host of the Wolf Willow Radio Hour and soon-to-be-new-mom Mitsy Mueller lit up the stage with a maternal glow that outshone the moon outside. Without a doubt, this new chapter about to unfold for Mitsy will influence her song writing. It may even take her advice column in a new direction.

Fans of Annie Dimple were overjoyed by her guest appearance. Not even an uncooperative microphone could throw off the songstress, who delivered a string of hits that kept toes tapping and audience members on their feet.

For a seven-piece band, plus guest artist, a large stage is ideal but uncommon at most nightclubs. The band managed the close quarters without missing a beat and venue’s acoustics were especially complimentary to Wolf Willow’s horn section, featuring Herb L’Flic and Ms. Delilah. A talented instrumentalist and singer, Ms. Delilah delivered a haunting rendition of Honk, if You Like Herefords. “A voice as smooth as molasses” were Mitsy’s words to describe her bandmate.

What seems to be a bit of an onstage rivalry between guitarist Stone-faced Stanley and bassist Marv Ptlosky may have backstory rooted in local politics. Marv is reported to carry some resentment over the results of municipal elections last October, while Stan stays mum on his support of any particular candidate running for RM council. Famous bands have split over less complicated matters. Let’s hope they can work things out.

Drummer Sleek Steve seemed to be taking some of his own frustrations out on his kit. Rumour has it that a backstage rift between Steve and the pedal steel guitar player in Kevin Roy’s band nearly brought the night to a halt.

Was it the power of the full moon or the spirit of the season that kept tensions from boiling over? Or can Mitsy can take credit for keeping the show on track? Her due date quickly approaching, Mitsy had no time to waste on clashing personalities. It seemed her mission to see that Wolf Willow’s final performance in 2016 would end on a positive, resounding note.


Mitzy welcomed baby Minnie into the world on January 10, 2017. The RM of Slippery Butte made a commitment to posting more speed limit signs and enforcing fines and surveillance. Moose’s rockabilly look sparked a craze among teenagers in the area and two new salons opened. The spike in business has eased any feelings of betrayal.    


Wherever Wolf Willow plays, the band attracts an enthusiastic audience – whether entertaining a local crowd or taking its popular Wolf Willow Radio Show on the road to neighbouring communities.


A recent road trip took the musicians to the Ness Creek Festival, near the town of Big River in northern Saskatchewan. The annual showcase has earned its reputation as one of the province’s finest outdoor summer festivals. Groups from across Canada are envious for a spot in the lineup.

The Wolf Willow Radio Hour was featured as part of the afternoon entertainment on Saturday, July 16. The band was invited to perform on Ness Creek’s workshop stage where, like in any workshop, new ideas or inventions are hatched and some take flight, while others are discarded to the bottom of an abandoned well.

The group seized the opportunity to collaborate with multiple JUNO-nominated artist Danny Michel and merge the exotic flavours of his lyrics and melodies with the Wolf Willow sounds.

How do you approach a musician as established as Michel and propose alternate renditions of his tunes? “We followed Danny closely on the Internet and kept emailing him until he agreed,” answered Wolf Willow pedal steel guitar player, Moose. “We assured him that we could perform tasteful variations of his songs in both styles of music – country and western, and told him to show up at our campsite one hour before the workshop. He seemed a little apprehensive, but once he heard the mariachi horns embellish his song inspired by David Bowie, he was blown away.”

The numbers performed with Danny Michel were hits, as were those with guest performers Maureen and Maurice Cheeseman, from Millard. Maureen has appeared on the Wolf Willow Radio Show numerous times in the past, while Maurice is a regular in the audience but has never been invited onstage. It was treat to hear what the talented, deeply sensitive musician had to offer. The numbers with Maureen and Maurice were in characteristic Wolf Willow style with toe-tapping rhythms and lyrics that invoke local legends and the intricacies of life in the Rural Municipality of Slippery Butte.

“Rich, cream-filled poetry” and “tunes that stroke the heart strings” are not overstatements of the band’s expressive lyrics and tender melodies. Hits like Honk if You Like Herefords, What Would Buck Do? and If You’re Leaving received thunderous applause from the Ness Creek crowd. It was obvious that the audience relished the experience. But how was it for the band?

A usually chatty Mitsy Muller refused an interview after the show, although she stopped briefly to talk to fans and give out relationship advice. There are several theories behind her quick departure. Rumours of a surprise encounter, rekindled romance and Mitsy’s own relationship scandal began circulating before the festival ended.

On the other hand, an unsettling moment during the performance may have accounted for her behaviour. Mitsy was clearly shaken when bandmate Stone-Faced Stanley made a bold, unrehearsed manoeuvre during his guitar solo. To everyone’s astonishment, Stan took advantage of two-bar break to shed an article of clothing. The sight of him flinging his smartly tailored jacket to the stage floor caused one excited audience member to scream, “He’s hot!”

Unsurprisingly, Stone-Faced had little to say and could not explain his impulsive action. The hint of a devilish smile appeared on the face of this normally deadpan character when asked if the spectacle might become a regular part of the show’s routine.

Trumpeter Shirley Sure-Hand spoke on behalf of the horn section, comprised of her and saxophonist Herbert L’Flic, who quickly slipped away after the performance. His only comment was that the growing conditions of the boreal forest were not to his fancy. Shirley had great things to say about the festival, noting the “structural soundness of the stage structures” and the solid bracing that could withstand the “hippies and all who gathered ‘round.”

“Hell on earth,” was heard uttered by drummer Sleek Steve after the show, although he clarified that he was referring to an encounter with leeches earlier in the day. Blame bass player Marv Ptlosky for coaxing several band members and a number of fans into the crystal-clear water of Ness Creek and leading them a quarter-mile upstream before setting them back on the path to the festival grounds.

Interestingly, Marv had a delicious swagger and unexpected confidence about him during the entire festival. At one point, he declared “Wolf Willow is bigger than J.C.” Clearly, he meant Jerry Cauldor, popular reeve for the R.M. of Slippery Butte, whose contrary position on pasture management has triggered an outcry from Marv’s temperamental acid reflux on more than one occasion. No such discomfort this time. In fact, nothing seemed to rattle the musician, jubilant in his understanding that “Ness Creek is not a place – it’s a state of mind.”

Was the Ness Creek Festival Wolf Willow’s “lost weekend” or did it mark a rite of passage for the group and the beginning of some new, experimental sounds? Fans may find out when the band next plays on September 17 opening for the Andino Sons at the Exchange in Regina