#88 "Bless Them Volunteers"

Well, we pulled it off!! The 20th Anniversary of Stewart Park Festival is now in the history books as one of the most enjoyed, measured by people's positive comments. Isn't it amazing what a bunch of energetic, questionably sane volunteers can do, here is our quaint shire. Bless the 100 or so volunteers who gave some of their precious personal time by monitoring gates, musicians parking, working backstage at the Mainstage or our Wendy Laut River Stage, hosting in the backstage kitchen, moving equipment, making food, driving all over town to pick up necessities, painting faces and insuring the kiddies had fun safely, helping with set up and take down... all those little jobs that go to make a successful event. They are what make it all work.

There is a small core group who meet year round to plan and organize. John McKenty chaired this years' event which is never easy. Anyone who has ever been to one of our meetings will know how hard it is for us to stay on task but somehow, through John's leadership and vision, we got it done.

When trying to host a free, three day festival, economics are extremely crucial. Every year we provide a quality line up of musicians and artisans, in spite of necessary costs like sound and light, tent rentals, musician expenses going up every year. With pennies so tight, it's sometimes hard for us festival committee 'lifers' to entertain new ideas that would heighten the festive mood in celebrating our 20th. Enter John. When he first suggested the Sunday Brunch, all we saw was more work and expenditure of funds but by next meeting John came back with a plan that worked. I'm sure all that did attend will attest and agree with me in it being one of this years highlights. Twenty years of Volunteer shirts hung from the rafters, gently blowing in the breeze, sparkling white linen table clothes adorned the copious tables while the sweet sun shone overhead. Patrons were entertained by strolling musicians. Held in the Crystal Palace, Waterfall Catering put on a majestic feast that satisfied everyone's palate, all in an atmosphere so visually appealing, situated by the Turning Basin's fountains and shore. Thanks John and your helpers.

Our Artistic Director, Carolyn Sutherland provided a great mix of past and new performers that pleased the multitude. It's always so nice backstage as there just isn't the ego's ... just a great bunch of musicians eager to share their gifts. We were honoured to have CBC come and record both Jadea Kelly and Dave Baxter's shows for future airing on both radio and the internet. This last minute addition was only made possible by another one of those great community volunteers, Garry Munroe, who added the needed electrical connections.

I'm the Onsite Coordinator and so getting everything set up and keeping things running is my responsibility. Its a task that starts on the Monday with the Wendy Laut Stage going up, Tuesday with tents going up, Wednesday the stage going up and Thurday all the rest of the set up being completed. Every year there are some volunteers who step up way beyond their shift hours, get caught up in the great vibe backstage and keep things going. Two guys took it upon themselves to improve crowd control while preserving the gardens near the stage. Ed Roberts and Peter Cochrane moved the snow fence, placed barricades at appropriate places and even assisted artisans in repositioning their booths so the crowds wouldn't trample the beautiful gardens running along the edge of the park when transitioning into the park. John McNeil and Paul Brady were others who seemed to always be ready to do what was needed, no matter the time of day. Steve Sproule successfully survived his inaugural hosting of the Wendy Laut River Stage this year with help from his big ‘brudder’ Al Sproule. This seemed fitting as both lads had gone to high school with Wendy in their ‘yeut’, so it was special for them as well. Once again, the unique mixing of musicians over there provided many musical memories.

What people don't see are those behind the scene who make it all possible. By chairing the Sponsorship Committee to raise the funds, Diana Bracegirdle and her illustrious crew were magnificent at scraping together what we needed. Tracie Goodberry works all year to masterfully coordinate the Artisans and Food area while Sheri Halpenny, John and Barb St. Arnaud are our Volunteer Coordinators, a task so necessary. Heather Hansgen, our Producer and BIA Coordinator is another who weaves throughout to keep us crazies focused. Joanne Hughes is the Backstage Queen, welcoming backstage attendees, securing food and drinks for Volunteers while Sue Tennant and her crew provided the incredible food spread for the musicians every night. Jamey Cameron cut his teeth this year as Stage Manager and was another who never said stop. He and his far better half, Dorothy, were seen with Carolyn Sutherland in the wee hours of Sunday morning moving gear from one venue to another to be ready for the next day. That's the type of volunteer who makes it happen. After Hours was a success again due to the hard work all year of Paul Brady. Tara MacDonald brings great creativity to our well attended Kids Area, much to everyone’s delight. Carol Onion of Hillside Gardens and her gang arrive every year to beautify the stage setting just cuz she cares. And if you ask them why they give so much of themselves, they'll tell you it's because of the live music and the great satisfaction they get watching the audience enjoy themselves.

So, bless all you Volunteers. One of my friends was in a bank machine line up on Monday morning following the festival. The gentleman ahead of him had on a car racing hat so my friend asked if he'd attended the race. The visitor turned and said, “No. Let me tell you what my family and I did this weekend. We came across the Stewart Park Festival on Friday and were blown away by the community spirit so much we stayed for the whole weekend and we'll be back next year.” Doesn't that just sum it up?

To those locals who are not music lovers I apologize for all the crowds and the difficulty getting around while the festival is on but I hope you realize what a positive image Perth offers via the yearly Stewart Park Festival. I know many people who have moved to our community because of the good feelings they got when attending. Many out - of - towners come back throughout the year to revisit our amazing town, supporting the local economy, again, because of the great vibe they got while attending the festival. I just have to mention our festival or town name to musicians everywhere and they drool at the possibility of playing at such a well respected event. So Perthites, be proud !! Thank all the wonderful Sponsors who donate to allow things to happen each year. Thank those who volunteer and thank the Town Staff who go out of their way to keep things running smoothly. If you have any ideas or want to help, contact one of the organizers and we'll get you connected. Onto our 21st being even better, if you can imagine. Perth Be Proud !!!!

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# 87 – "Yours For the Listenin' "

Festival season is upon us. We attended the 5th Annual Elphin Roots Festival and enjoyed many memorable moments. Safely tucked into the McDonald's Corners Agricultural Hall due to rain (and good planning by organizer – Jenny Whiteley) a multi-generational crowd enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, creative playing and impromptu 'cross-pollinations' of groups. Lots of young families took advantage of the open spaces and, as a result, it was wonderful watching the knee high gaffers run, tearing past the front of the stage, only to become mesmerized by the music on stage, suddenly stop, often drop to sit on the floor taking it all in. Depending on their interest level and concentration spans they'd sit, as if transfixed as other micro boppers would go running past.

Given my Scottish heritage, I felt a bit of guilt at not attending the Kilt Race held the same day but as I sat taking in a plethora of roots music it came to me that just as the race was archiving the heritage of Perth and area, so was this musical venture in that, in those hallowed halls of the Agricultural Hall of
McDonald's Corners, many generations of live musical events have left a legacy that is being taken up and carried forward by the energetic, creative players who strode onstage. Roots musicians blend the historic sounds of folk, country, gospel, jazz, blues and bluegrass into their own style and sound, moving forward the past to create futures for us all to enjoy. It's easy to imagine how that magical hall's memories help shape the musical memories we beheld. A perfect place to host this event.

One of the musical gems I'll carry for awhile was Joey Wright's incredible playing. Every time he stepped forward he outdid what I'd heard him do previously. Another was Terry Joe Banjo being joined onstage by several members of Notre Dame de Grass where the pickin' underlined sweetness. Jenny and Dan Whiteley singing an old gospel number a cappella was honey to the ears. Kingston's Rueben de Groot are definitely a group who I'll seek out more of as their various styles left me desiring more.

I'm off to Ottawa's Bluesfest this week to join the hords. Sunday July 11th I'm off to especially see John Hiatt and his band as this songwriter who I've seen many times never ceases to impress. On the same stage later that night is the legendary Levon Helm (drummer of The Band) and whatever configuration of great players he decides to bring with him. At 70 years of age, he still has it and I can't wait.

The 20th Anniversary of Perth's Stewart Park Festival – July 16, 17, 18 again hosts a wonderful line up of musicians, some of your favourites being brought back and some new. Conlin Flynn has done a remarkable job of arranging some of Perth's up and coming musicians for our Friday opening. You'll be impressed. Also notable this year are fabulous blues of Suzie Vinnick & Rick Fines with backing horns, Jenny Whiteley, the musical comedy of The Arrogant Worms, worldbeat's Mighty Popo, our own Guthrie House, balladeer James Keelaghan, danceworthy Souljazz Orchestra and The Whiteley Family made up of Ken Whiteley, his son Ben, his niece Jenny and nephew Dan Whiteley. James McKenty of The Spades, a great power trio, heralds from Perth and is back to Wow us all. Check out both Jadea Kelly and Dave Baxter as I was recently impressed by both acts this past year at other venues. Everything is free during the day and After Hours (where acts move into various venues throughout the town) entry is by $20 passes which are good for all venues, as long as space is available all weekend long. The secret though is still our Wendy Laut Memorial Stage on the far side of the park where various players from groups reconfigure and present offerings under themes. These often offer unique pairings and resulting memorable moments. Though the Festival is free, please donate generously to help keep it this way. Don't forget to come out and celebrate our 20th Anniversary on Sunday at the Brunch being held at the Crystal Palace – all you can eat for $10. Come join in the fun for all, share your stories and enjoy more live music.

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#86 "Community Matters"

Though I've long been a believer in the strength of 'community', like most, there are times when existing views are challenged. Via some various events recently attended though, my faith in community has been recharged in a multitude of ways. Here are a few examples.

We're all Irish around St. Paddy's Day and I attended the 2nd Annual Kitchen Party fundraiser at the Westport Legion in aid of the Westport Summer Music Festival. Many interesting groups such as Plastic Patty, Romeria, Celtic at Heart, Celtic Rabble Band and String Tease, from around that locale donated their time, providing toe tappin' and dance music to a full house. It was obvious how much work the musicians had put into providing unfamiliar, yet appropriate set lists complimenting the Green Theme. Nice to hear styles and variations not often heard. Perth's Legion was the site of another St. Paddy's Day on the day, where the packed to the rafters crowd were able to enjoy the country music stylings of Ed Ashton and his friends including a young guitar picker, Brad Scott from up Almonte way. A smattering of interspersed Irish standards had the crowd joining in. We were all part of the Irish community that day.

Perth Citizen's Band presented their Swing Into Spring Concert at the Perth Legion to an appreciative crowd. Entertaining with a mixture of tunes from a variety of musical era's and styles arranged for concert band made for some interesting listening. We are lucky to have so many local musicians from school age to senior citizens come together weekly to work on their various repertoires for no other reason than the love of making music. A perfect example is bandsman, Doug Arbuckle who celebrated his 88th birthday that day, having retired to Perth @ 10 years ago following a long history with Ottawa Air Force Band.

As a side note, I picked up the book “Sound the Trumpet”, written by Daphne Overhill about the Perth Citizen's Band and have been enjoying it's insights back into previous era's such as the bands beginnings in the early 1800's. For example, we forget, back then, how the invention of the telegraph, as dated as it seems now, was monumental in allowing distant communities to be in touch to invite others to group band concerts and competitions.

I would like to acknowledge the successful community partnership of the University Women and Stewart Park Festival who recently presented The Priorities, in support of mutual causes. As someone who has been part of the Festival Organizing Committee forever and struggled for years to raise funds, I cannot thank the University Women enough. Their dedication, organizing and generosity helped pull off a sold out 'Best Dance Ever' that saw a constantly busy dance floor mixing generations graciously. I was so proud at the strength of our community that night. Thanks to all who came out to make a good thing, great.

The very next night I watched a full house of community members from across the Valley come together to show their appreciation and support for a long time fiddler from the area, Wade Foster, who held his first CD Release. I ran into many old friends and acquaintances, young and old, all with a different reason for being there. Some were neighbours of Wade growing up who had seen him develop his sweet and strong fiddlin' skills. Others were fiddlin' officianado's who'd watched him grow up through the various fiddle contests around the area while others knew him from some of the bands he's been with. Trust a musician to turn a profitable self venture into a fundraiser for the local hospital that saw over $3000 raised, thanks to his musical cronies and local sponsors. I would heartily encourage people to give Wade's 'Sounds Like Home' CD a try. I especially enjoy the wide variety of strong, solid fiddling of his self penned songs - 'Stewart Park' and 'The Sunset Waltz' being my favourites. Wade's musical friend John Wilberforce showed his multi-instrumental support in some tasty ways. Pick this one up.... Community supporting long giving local musicians made for a memorable evening.

I enjoyed a Sacred Hearts Church of Lanark - Funds for Haiti fundraiser in Carleton Place, arranged by one of Lanark's best kept secrets, singer, Arlene Quinn, family and friends. It's interesting how so many of the same faces seem to show up to offer their talents. Eddy Ashton, running on about 3 hours sleep was there, playing most of the day. Ray Donaldson shared his always tasty pedal steel, backing everyone. Terry 'McKilt' Kittmer on drums, Maureen Young on keyboards and again Brad Scott on guitar all backed those who came to sing or play a few tunes. Perth's Tony Leduc, who I'd seen playing at Maplefest the day before was part of the musical offerings as was Brock McNamee and an 11 yr old lass by the name of Charlotte Lake who stole the show with her well - seasoned vocals. Jamie and Jeff McMunn, Andy Bowes, Johnny Spinks were great perennial crowd pleasers as was Arlene Quinn, wrapping up a successful event, all in aid of great cause.

A couple of weekends ago, we joined forces with folks from all over to help mutual friends mud the walls of their timber frame straw bale home, miles out in the bush. As I sat on the second floor pressuring the mud through the meshed bales with my hands, my mind wandered and I listened to the mixer unable to block out the bird's ongoing serenade. I reminisced how this type of construction had been the norm for many centuries all around the world and here we were performing the same type rituals that friends and community did back then, joining in to help provide shelter ...one that will last for a lot longer than what has become the norm, these days. When someone questioned out loud where the tunes were, it seemed only fitting that someone picked up a banjo and entertained with a few songs. It was amazing how those lonely musical pickings transported me back generations so naturally.

Yes, there's something about live music that helps rally the troops, whether it's mudding walls in the middle of nowhere, marching for a cause, gathering to raise funds or whatever. And it's also good to remember to thank those tireless troubadours who share their musical talents throughout our communities, usually gratis, be it in aid of a cause, a community celebration or just for the shear joy of providing music that makes our world a better place. Thank you musicians, everywhere. It's up to all of us to do our part to keep our communities vital, inviting, sharing, welcoming, accommodating, musical and safe.

Speaking of sharing … if anyone has stories they'd like to share from the past 20 years of Stewart Park Festival, ( July 16, 17, 18th), the Organizing Committee would love to have you submit them. Send them to myself at: stevert@sympatico.ca

Just a note also to keep Saturday June 26th open for Jenny Whiteley's 5th Annual Elphin Roots Festival, where an incredible assortment of indie musicians play in a lovely space nestled in the trees. Jim Bryson, Peggy White, Notre Dame de Grass, Luther Wright, Terry Joe “Banjo”, Doug Paisley, Joey Wright, The Jack Grace Band, to name a few, will be performing from 2pm till 11pm with food on site, vendors, arts and crafts, all in a kid friendly environment. Tickets @ Shadowfax in Perth. For more information go to www.jennywhiteley.com


# 85 "Observing Maturity’s Rise"

Just as, over time, I watch our kids grow up, mature and evolve into wonderful adults in this crazy world of ours, recently a couple of situations happened that made me realize I have been party to the same thing happening to some local musicians.

Anyone who reads this column with any regularity will know I try to cram as much live music into my days as is affordable, fits into my time schedule and interests me. A staple event over the past five plus years or so has been catching Brock Zeman at O'reilly's most Tuesday nights. I was turned on to this young Carleton Place singer / songwriter about eight years ago by Keith Glass, guitarist for Prairie Oyster and previous resident of Perth. Keith had a recording studio locally back then and Brock wandered in wishing to record some of his songs. Keith and then partner, Jon Van Wingerden were so impressed by the then 22 year old's song writing ability, Keith began working with him performing live and it wasn't long before his first cd “Cold Winter Comes Back” came out in 2003. They played our first house concert. I watched Brock , thanks to Keith's mentorship, evolve as a musician from being “this kid” strumming and singing his own songs in the shadows of a seven time Canadian Country Guitar Player of the Year to someone who now tours all over North America, has put out seven well received CD's and is developing his own recording studio.

Though Keith continues to play occasionally with him, Brock moved on and worked with another seasoned veteran; multi-instrumentalist Dan Walsh, a previous long time member of Fred Eaglesmiths' Flying Squirrels. Together they toured and Dan produced two of Brock's CD's. Walsh helped Brock learn the 'rules of the road' and introduced him to some musical contacts in the 'good ole' south' that Brock has since been able to build on, establishing successful tours of his own all over North America.

Brock's story telling style songs stand alone lyrically but as we all know, it's the arrangement of a tune that catches people's attention. Zeman has been skillful at utilizing stellar players around him to help create the right atmosphere to sell the song. It started with Keith, moved along to Walsh and, at times, utilized other skilful local players like Joel Williams on guitar, Dawson Willsey on bass and Steve Foley on drums. Through all of this though, as I've watched week after week, Zeman's most recent playing mate, Blair Hogan has been the one who made me realize just how Brock's music has matured.

I remember the first night Blair nervously showed up at O'reilly's to try out playing bass. Hogan has played electric guitar in several bands in Ottawa but like previous players, became smitten by Brock's songs and style and, as a result toured with Walsh and Brock, playing bass for the past couple of years. Most nights at O'reilly's would find Brock on acoustic guitar with Blair on bass until recently, when Blair moved from bass to acoustic and electric guitar. Suddenly this duo, as a result of what must have been hours and hours of obvious hard work put into changing arrangements, tightening performances and Blair's acquisition of and skillful development of the mandolin has become something to behold. Blair has come into his own, pickin' and grinnin' his way up and down the fret board to the repeated appreciative response from any audience. In early February I caught Keith Glass backing Brock at the Elmdale Tavern in Ottawa where he passed his guitar over to Blair to let him show his stuff. When asked later what he thought of Blair's playing he conceded, saying, 'Hogan sounds like me 30 years ago .... only better” ..... quite a compliment coming from Mr. Glass.

One of my favourite nights of music is when Brock comes back from tour. Recently he and Blair were out on the road for a month, returning the day after Brock's 29th birthday to O'reilly's. They'd been playing almost every night of the past 30 days, tightening up and evolving arrangements with changes to vocal harmonies, tempos and guitar riff's. That's when it hit me how far these young musicians had grown and matured. From 'those kids' they had become these successful touring musicians who were catching and impressing those who heard their craftful presentations… a new maturity realized.

The second realization happened recently while enjoying Guthrie House open for Fred Eaglesmith in McDonald's Corners. As I sat there, I remembered back approximately 8 years ago witnessing one of the first practices of this band in an old barn out in Brooke. Since then I've heard them several times sporadically but not since Christmas past and WOW, how they've evolved into a stellar sound. Performing their own rock tunes, lead singer / rhythm guitarist - Dave Balfour ; lead guitar/ harmony vocals - Steve Hanna; stand up bass player Marty Crapper have been joined by Melanie Morris on vocals and Justin Purvis on drums. I'd heard several of the songs in their short set before but each of these have gone through some loving, often subtle changes that made all the difference to my ears. Some chord progressions were revamped to more creative minor elements, giving much more depth for their sweet harmonies to work off of. The whole sound has reached a new level of maturity and creativity. Steve's guitar work brought much mid - song applause and their overall sound won over a crowd that were impatient to hear Eaglesmith. We're blessed to be living in an area with such creative musicians we can continue to admire and watch grow. Just as our kids grow, so do the creative juices of these locals who are willing to work hard to share their imaginative gifts with us. Yes, we're blessed.

Don't forget a great dancing opportunity Saturday April 17th with The Priorities playing at Farrell Hall. This wonderful 7 piece horn band perform R&B, Soul, Swing, Blues and good ol' Rock 'n Roll that will keep the dance floor full. Put on by the amazing University Women and Stewart Park Festival, tickets are going fast and are available at Home Furniture or Oxford Linens in Perth. See you on the dance floor.

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# 84 "Fredheads Unite"

First off, I'd like to welcome those who, due to the new format of the Perth Courier, are reading Musical Musings for the first time. Bitten by the 'Live Music' bug as a young lad, Musical Musings is a column I write to attempt to share this passion that captivates me. Through it I attempt to offer my views on a variety of musical topics, especially live events attended. I've been writing for the past 7 years, when moved to do so. If you'd like to read some of my past articles, go to: http://steversmusicalmusings.blogspot.com where a number of them are archived.

Second, I'd like to thank those who wrote in or spoke to me about my last article entitled 'Who Dances Anymore'. It's good to hear people are still slippin' around the boards through square dancing, ballroom dancing and many others. Feel free to contact me at stevert@sympatico.ca .

So, on we go .... There's an ever growing group of people of all ages and backgrounds out there who proudly call themselves 'Fredheads', having been smitten by one of Canada's best alternative country singer / songwriters ... Juno Award winning Fred J. Eaglesmith.

Eaglesmith has always been a fiercely independent musician who, by his never ending touring in Europe, Australia and all over North America, has earned the reputation as an outspoken individual and true grit troubadour. He learned his strong work ethic growing up on a dirt poor dairy farm as one of nine children in Southern Ontario. Leaving home at 15, he struggled through, obviously with an eye for those unique characters and situations that tell the many stories of the underdog, foreclosed farms, tractors, old pickups, trains, with all the rash worn humanity hanging out. He and his band put on live shows that people drive tons of miles to see, then drive on again to catch the next one. Amazon.com describe their shows as “a truly timeless brand of primitive rock’n’roll [that is] exactly like the sort of music you dream of hearing in some crowded, hot, beery bar near closing time”. Fred played at the first Stewart Park Festival some 20 years ago, hosts several yearly festivals in both the US and Canada, his comedic between song banter having become legendary.

Seventeen albums later, Eaglesmith's writing has not gone unnoticed. The late, great Willie P. Bennett many years ago, foregoing his own career, became a member of Fred's band, The Flying Squirrels until his first heart attack in 2007. Eaglesmith's songs have been recorded by the likes of notables such as Mary Gauthier, Toby Keith, Cowboy Junkies, to name a few. Alan Jackson's next album is “Freight Train” and the title track is none other than an Eaglesmith tune. His tunes have made it into feature films by Martin Scorsese and James Caan. Eaglesmith presents his own unique blend of folk, rock, country, gospel, bluegrass, olde tyme music that's compared to such songwriting heros as Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie, Guy Clark, Steve Earle and Ray Wylie Hubbard.

Fred's charitable promotion of World Vison in Haiti and his free Christmas show for the jobless Steelworkers in Hamilton attests to a man driven to work hard and give back. It's with this charitable motive he comes to our area to play two shows to fundraise for the Tri-County Dental Coalition being developed to assist our working poor with costly dental work in Lanark, Leeds & Grenville Counties. On Friday March 26th Fred and his band will perform at the Smiths Falls High School and on Saturday March 27th they'll be performing at the McDonalds Corners Agricultural Hall. Tickets are $30 and available at Shadowfax in Perth, Nature Lover's Bookstore in Lanark, Hill General Store in McDonald's Corners. I'd get your tickets early. Like the New Yorker Magazine said “If you're missing Fred Eaglesmith, you're really missing out”. I'll see all you Fredhead's at one of the shows.

An almost full house got caught up in the frenzy of east coast’s Matt Anderson's recent performance. A mountain of a man who's hands dwarf the acoustic guitar's neck he masterfully runs up and down seductively, his voice offering the span from its great depths to searing harmonic squeals. This award winning Canadian Bluesman took us through the emotions of heartbreak, longing, suggestive innuendo’s, loss and humour, his stellar vocal control teasing our heartstrings. His energy, dexterity, musicality and style pleased the crowd to two standing ovations. I'll be catching him next time he's near. Thanks to Folk Upstairs for a wonderful evening.

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#83 "Who Dances Any More"

Who dances any more?
I was at a wonderful party last weekend, deep in the snow covered trees of the Highlands of Lanark. The Brothers Chaffey Duo with a drummer were entertaining in a toasty heated garage to a mostly younger, appreciative audience. (This is happening far more lately, this pushing 60 scribe notices). After enjoying a tour of a recently constructed igloo, complete with fire heat, I returned to the garage. As I walked in I was immediately taken by the music, my dancin' feet seeking a locale. Standing at the back of the audience I could tell I wasn't alone for I noticed many a 'swaying to the music' body and feet shufflin' , yet no one seemed to want to be that first couple on the dance floor .... that age old issue we've all seen from our early times of school dances, community dances, clubs etc.
Enter one couple who were definitely there to dance. I'm proud to say they were from closer to my age group than many of the 'pups' in the room. From the moment they stepped up and linked eyes, they were in sync and swept the dance floor, to and fro, oblivious on anyone else but their partner. It was so obvious they had been doing this for years. One had to only witness their steps, that unspoken communication between partners who've danced together for years to see why. It didn't matter if they were just boogiein', jiving or swirling in one another's arms. They were relaxed, in their own world. Nice to see. Eventually the floor started to fill up, mostly with women enjoying the groove, but eventually some of the guys joined in but I must say, I was one of the few guys out there. It got me thinking and reminiscing back to the great times I've spent 'cuttin' the rug' over the years.
I've always loved dancing and was lucky enough to grow up in a time when most things traditional were challenged. The only dance lessons I remember were in gym class when we were talked through square dancing once, to everyone's embarrassment. Free form expression became the rigor of my youth so, if you could catch the beat and in some way move to it, you were laughin'. I picked up enough jive moves to be able to lead satisfactorily, without breaking anyone's arm or planting them on their tush. My far better half and I have, in our day, cleared many a dance floor with our moves, to appreciative applause. But that was many moons ago and other than this recent party, the recent Stove Project and Foodbank dances, we never are invited to go dancing.
It seems the older we get, the more inhibited we become in public. Just watch children in a musical setting and see if they keep their appendages still. Oh, I know there are groups still taking ballroom dancing for social outings and exercise and I applaud their diligence. Dancing in a predetermined style like cha cha, rumba, foxtrot has always brought out my two left feet hence my previous comment of feeling lucky to be able to enjoy free form expressive dance. I do love to see couples, like the one at the party on the weekend who can glide around the floor in a relaxed and shared ease. It's always a pretty site.
So, who dances any more? Is it an age thing? Do we endure in our youth as part of that mating ritual like some others of the animal and bird species? Once mated, other than weddings, how many of us actually go out to dance? I know very, very few of those I know do. It’s kind of a shame really because, from the smiles and joy seen on prancers faces at those recent dances previously mentioned, most, like me were having a great time.
I love that phrase “ Dance Like No One is Watchin ” . For the sake of fitness, sheer enjoyment of body movement and catching that proverbial groove, I hope all of you will continue to shine up your best dancin' shoes to attend upcoming fund raising dances. One upcoming opportunity to strut your stuff is Friends of Stewart Park Festival's April 17th Soiree at Farrell Hall with The Priorities – a wonderful R & B group who've played the festival before. It will be a wonderful time and more details will be here in the future. Mark your calendar and I'll see you on the dance floor ... just don't watch.
For you singers out there, here's an interesting upcoming event. On Thursday January 28th from 7 to 9 pm, Canadian singer / songwriter Brenda McMorrow, who specializes in Devotional Chants in Yoga at the Yoga Connection Studio – 32 North St. Perth. Open to people interested in singing ( no experience required ), meditation, sound healing or just wanting to try something heart-opening and new. Cost $25 at the door.
Have I got a wonderfully unique gift for you to give your honey for Valentine's Day. Sunday February 14th at 2pm will see Music On McLean hosting recent “Songs From the Heart” Award winner Cindy Doire and her touring partner Andrea Ramolo – two edgy, sweet sounding, sexy gals whose jazz / blues, sultry tunes will tickle your heart. Call Susan at 267-7902 to make the necessary reservations. Cost $15. What a cool way to impress your sweetie.....

#82 Gifts to Our Communites

We are surrounded with music from the beginnings of our lives and it can't but have effects on us. Nursery rhymes seemed to almost naturally become parts of our early repetoires. I recently spent a weekend visiting my parents in the Orillia area and through our many reminisces I was reminded of my standing on the garbage pail box in the backyard of our west end Toronto home, apparently boisterously belting out my 5 yr old interpretations of hymns from church, much to the neighbours and my parents entertainment (but more likely amusement).
Radio's seemed to always be playing in the background. Participating in school music classes, school choirs and later band practices and concerts helped some develop musically. There were youth church choirs too where we learned many musical skills. School, church, private lessons were all ways people developed their passion to make music that some have thankfully carried on through the rest of their lives. Some carried on to become musicians in various genres, earning a living full time, part time or whatever. Some are happy enough to play for their own satisfaction while others find ways to satisfy their musical urges by jamming with friends or joining community groups. It is these people I wish to
recognize today ... those who volunteer their time providing music in our community.
Most obviously in Perth is our own Perth Citizen's Band, Canada's longest, continious - playing town band, beginning 157 years ago in 1852. Averaging around 50 musicians over the years, they have provided music to Santa Claus and Perth Fair parades, Remembrance Day services, as well as bi-weekly concerts in Stewart Park throughout the summer, their strawberry social event being a town favourite. Ranging in age from students to retiree's, beginners to professional musicians, they all dedicate many hours volunteering with this musical institution.
But these things don't just happen. Weekly Tuesday night practices are necessary to maintain their constantly changing repetoires to keep up with the seasons musical requirements and continue challenging their musical abilities by working on charts that range from classical, pop, the 50's, The Beatles, Broadway hits, war songs, Christmas carols, all to provide musical variety to their appreciative audiences also of a wide age range.
There's also the Perth Community Choir who stage outstanding musical shows every fall that require many musicians for their accompanying band, usually a large chorus, as well as many backstage support staff who also volunteer countless hours to give our community stellar entertainment, year after year.
We are blessed in Perth and surrounding community to have so many people willing to give their time to present musical offerings. There are the Women of the Tay and Men of the Tay Choirs, The Oddities, The Fiddle Orchestra, besides the various church choir members who take time each week from their busy lives to share their gifts of music, much to the community's appreciation.
Sometimes it takes going away to put things in perspective and remind us of what we should appreciate more, back home. Recently we were visiting family in the Burlington – Hamilton area and were invited to attend a Top Hats Marching Orchestra Christmas Concert at the Burlington Legion. Two of our friends are in this adult group of @ 70 musicians that grew out of the famous Burlington Teen Tour Band who have marched all over the continent, performing in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, as well as countless community parades on both sides of the border. The Top Hats, who describe themselves as "behaviourally maladaptive individuals who possess a great sense of musicianship” , certainly live up to this description. They were having a great time. You could see the comradery as they quipped amonst themselves between tunes. And the sound ..... how often do you have 10 flutes, at least 8 clarinets, french horns, @ 5 trombones, a large trumpet section, and tuba players squeezed in with their backs in a coat rack, several cymbal players and percussionists, all held together by the ever present bass drum beat you could feel in your chest. Many of their charts were arranged by previous and existing band members. Their renditions of many Christmas tunes brought many a tear to those in the room beside myself.
As I hoisted one with them later, it is easy to see why they put so much into it. They get even more out. They practice hard and party hard at breaks and other social engagements that seem to spin off. This group have a yearly fishing trip they go on, for example. There are singles, couples, families all inspired to be together to make music, just for the love of it. They practice their marching drills as well as musically practicing weekly to be ready to perform wherever asked. A bunch were planning on being on hand to musically welcome home some Make a Wish kids who had a flight with Santa in St. Catherines, later in the week.
All for the love of music, we are blessed to have the many dedicated musicians who give so much of their time to keep our communities full of live music. Anyone who attended the Foodbank Dance at the Legion last week witnessed how Tell Mama & The Commuters offered their musical magic to get the dance floor hummin', all in aid of raising funds for our less fortunate.
Thanks to all of you out there who share your musical gifts with us. You give so much of your time for us by practicing, keeping your instruments repaired, taking time from family and friends to be part of so many events in the community. I hope all of you reading this will take it upon yourself to personally thank those you know or meet who offer these incredible community inspiring gifts.
As we enjoy the holiday season, don't be afraid to belt out those carols, step up to the karoke machine, encourage others to do the same. It feels so good to join in musically (or just havin' fun trying).
On behalf of my family, the Music On McLean gang, we wish everyone a safe, healthy holiday full of music.
Support Live Music Everywhere.

#81 On The Road Again

Anyone who has been a long standing reader of this column will know that birthdays for me are a cause to celebrate surviving another year livin' as crazy as I do and I do so heartily and with longevity. My family have been wonderfully supportive and this year was no exception. Given my musical love they took me first to Hugh's Room in Toronto for a Friday evening concert and then on to Barrie where we spent the night and then attended the Barrie Folk Festival on the Saturday. To top it off one of our friends who attends our house concerts offered to drive so I didn't even have to do that. Yes, I agree, I'm a lucky guy.
As I've admitted in previous articles I came to enjoy folk music later in life. Oh, I dabbled in my youth seeing then popular players at Toronto's Riverboat and Egertons, among others. Unfortunately I never heard the late Stan Rogers live. I've certainly heard his well known songs many times but I've never taken the time to dig a little deeper. Our trip to Hugh's Room gave me another taste of his truly remarkable gift of lyrics as we attended what I believe was the 6th Annual Tribute to Stan Rogers.
Coordinated by Paul Mills (aka Curly Boy Stubbs) who produced and played on most of Stan's recordings, he brought together an eclectic group to pay homage. The band consisted of Paul & Chris Corrigan on guitars, Trevor Mills on bass, Tom Leighton on piano, accordian and percussion backing two sets of different singers.
The first set started off with the emotionally powerful voice of Nonie Crete whose first intrepetation left me quietly weeping in the shadows (and I can't even remember the name of the song). We were impressed by Nonie last year in Barrie when she had just recovered from a brain anurysm so wasn't pushing her stellar lungs then but on this night, she was captivating. Terry Kelly's name may be familiar to you as the presenter of the Remembrance Day song and video - 'A Pittance of Time'. A multi award winner from the east coast, he helped me to realize just how powerful Rogers lyrics were. Joey Kitson was a welcome addition as he'd just finished a summer run of the musical play 'Stan Rogers – A Matter of Heart' in Charlottetown, PEI. He has just put out his first solo cd entitled 'Stan', a tribute to Stan's music and is a member of the award winning Rawlins Cross. Multi-guitarist Chris Corrigan was also part of the musical, produced and played on Kitson's cd so you can see the quality we were lucky enough to hear.
The second set was headed by Ariel Rogers, Stan's widow and keeper of his legacy through Fogerty's Cove Music label. She also has a solid voice and tenderly shared her interpretations. Her daughter, Stan's stepdaughter, Beth Rogers, also impressed with her vocal style. Stan and Ariel's son, Nathan shows that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Though not yet as deep, he has that strong voice which sounds like dad did in his younger years. Nathan has just released his second cd and is on the road touring. No evening would be complete without a group sing of Barrett's Privateers and Northwest Passage where it became obvious how many of the full house were long time Stan fans.
I know I'll be delving into the Stan Rogers archives to appreciate his wordmanship, storytelling and musicianship more due to it being sparked by this tribute. One just has to hear '45 Years' or the nautical epitaphs of 'The Mary Ellen Carter' or 'White Squall' to relight that spark. It was nice to hear Stan's songs actually orchestrated with arrangements by Paul Mills. I was speaking to Tom Leighton (of Haines & Leighton) saying how much I enjoyed his grand piano and accordian work and he said how thankful he was that Paul asked him to be involved instead of getting a fiddler, to which I must agree added greatly to the accompanyment. Nice touch Paul.
The next day we arrived at Georgian College in Barrie at noon to start a lovely day with 2 stages performing all afternoon. Creative mixes of singer/songwriters as song circles offered and shared on both stages. It's much like how Stewart Park Festival has the Wendy Laut Stage where they take turns doing there own material, often with the others joining in. The unique configurations put together masterfully by Arnie Ivsins, Artistic Director and resulting spontaneous mixes make it a special treat. One grouping was The Good Lovelies, a female harmony trio, Dala , a female duo with sweet melodies and Jill Jambor, a newcomer who is just starting out. The mix was enchanting, especially as they added touches to one another's offerings. Seeing a nervous Jill receiving spontaneous harmonies from the other groups certainly added some confidence and satisfaction for her.
This year Barrie Folk seemed to feature more traditional groups like Hawp, Dentdelion and the finale in the evening of Tanglefoot. This band, originally from Owen Sound, have been together for the past 30 years, played all over the world and have announced their demise by the end of the year with two separate groups, Disentangled and Sweet Patootie rising from their ashes. Kingston's Sheesham & Lotus and their unique shtick wowed the crowd on every stage. What a wonderful way to spend a musical weekend.
And the party just keeps rollin'. This weekend my far better half has invited one of my favourite singers to perform. Tannis Slimmon, who won a Canadian Folk Music Award last year and her partner Lewis Melville will be gracing the Music on McLean stage (Nov 22nd). I'm blessed with all the talent that abounds that we're able to enjoy and share with our community.
Upcoming Events – Friday Nov. 27Th – a 70th Birthday / Fundraiser for Peter D'aoust is happening at the McDonald's Corners Agricultural Hall. Peter's cancer treatments have left him too fatigued to work in his woodshop these days so Sonic Roots, Freddy Dixon and many surprise guests will be appearing.
- Saturday Nov. 28Th – 3 time Juno award winner David Francey and Mike Ford (Moxy Fruvous) at Studio Theatre – 8pm highlighting their collaborative new cd “Seaway”
It's that time of year when everyone's out, trying to find that perfect gift for a loved one for Christmas. Don't forget to support all our local artists by purchasing their music.
Support Live Music Everywhere.

#80 - Bittersweet Serendipity

I don't know about you but we're not ones to win things. Oh, we buy the tickets for this cause or that, seeing these as more donations than chances of winning but last week we were the beholders of some bittersweet serendipity. Let me explain....
As I shuffled to the breakfast table last Tuesday morning, my far better half cheerfully informed me she had an early birthday gift for me. When I groggily asked what is was she informed me she had won 2 tickets to '1000 Kisses Deep - A Tribute to Leonard Cohen' concert being held at Centrepointe Theatre Wednesday evening. I was thrilled as I'd seen the advertisements for the show that included several musicians we hold in high regard, including Suzie Vinnick, Lynn Miles, Anne Lindsay, Rebecca Campbell, Lorraine Segato, David Gray, 2009 National Jazz Vocalist Nominee D.K. Ibomeka, David Sereda, Luther Wright, with Holmes Hooke moderating. Needless to say, I headed off to work that morning with a far bouncier step than usual.
On Wednesday morning while I headed off to work, again groggy, battling the remnants of one of the crazy bugs that seem to be invading us all, my attention was drawn to the car radio news of a 19 yr old woman who'd been attacked and killed by coyotes on a Cape Breton hiking trail the previous day. Having hiked some of those trails in my 'yeut' and the freakishness of the attack by coyotes woke me up quickly as I listened to the scant details. Fifteen minutes later, as I sat orienting myself at my work desk the phone rang and my far better half was weeping. Sue asked if I'd heard about the attack and when I said yes, she informed me it had been an up and coming singer / songwriter, Taylor Mitchell , whose CD Release at Hugh's Room in Toronto this past March where we'd taken our daughter Jodi to celebrate her birthday. Following that show I'd written enthusiasticly in one of my previous columns entitled 'Faith in the Future' where I stated my reaffirmed trust in the young singers like Taylor carrying on the task of capturing our world in song. I'd written “ ... we were impressed by a young 18 yr old singer who defied her youthfulness by exhibiting a timeless confidence and professional style on stage that is seldom seen in performers so early.” I also wrote how Taylor had been mentored at the Ontario Council of Folk Festival (OCFF) - Conference a year ago by Juno Award winning veteran Lynn Miles and that Taylor's skill and enthusiasm had caused Lynn to end up co-writing some songs and recording on Taylor's CD. Suzie Vinnick and Anne Lindsay were also captivated by her talent to also spend long hours writing, arranging and recording on Taylor's CD. Taylor had just been nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award and we'd just seen her at this year's OCFF, where she was promoting herself in multiple showcases and talking enthusiasticly of her upcoming first east coast tour. In fact, she'd just learned to drive to allow herself to do so.
I was numb as this all flooded back to me. I remembered how she'd stated the CD release night had been a dream come true, being backed by such a stellar band onstage that night and on the recording when she was used to plugging away solo or, if lucky, with one guitarist. Like so many young musicians, she was struggling to pay her dues on the road to support her first CD. I remembered Michael Johnston, the flamboyant keyboard artist who'd played Stewart Park Festival and our own Music On McLean and produced Taylor's CD, that she lived in his neighbourhood, had impressed him with her talents several years ago and was the only babysitter he'd ever trusted with his child. The random thoughts just kept flowing as I sat in a day long workshop.
I first realized the bittersweet serendipity as we drove into Ottawa that evening. Lynn Miles was interviewed on CBC about her connection with Taylor and she described being charmed by Taylor's talent and enthusiasm enough to spend countless hours working together in preparation to record the CD. Lately she'd been emailing Taylor, giving her a to heads up on what to do and not do while travelling solo on the road, based on Lynn's 30 + years of experience. Lynn then went on to explain how she, Suzie Vinnick and Anne Lindsay were playing that night for the Leonard Cohen Tribute and had all been devastated by the tragic news of Taylor's demise. I realized then that Sue and I were attending a concert with people who also had been touched by Taylor's talent and were feeling the same loss we were. Early into the show Lynn paused to share the news of Taylor with the audience, Taylor's connection with Anne, Suzie and Holmes and to indicate they were dedicating the evenings performance to Taylor and her family whom they'd been in contact with. The concert then continued and each of the artists seemed to dig just a little deeper to share Cohen's music through the tragedy that was on their minds.
As we drove home we fully realized the bittersweet serendipity of winning the tickets therefore being able to attend the concert. Following the show we were able to share hugs of sorrow and support, along with “Taylor” stories with Anne, Suzie and Holmes, people who knew her, as we would normally do at a wake. They told us of Taylor's love of all wildlife, her working with damaged horses, her love of the outdoors and it just making sense she would take advantage of her time off to explore the picturesque nature on the trails Cape Breton had to offer. Lynn had a bad cold so didn't mix with the crowd. Suzie said they'd found out late Tuesday evening, hadn't really slept since and she had done at least 10 interviews throughout the day. Being able to share with others who knew her helped take away some of the numbness of the day for me. Though who I sat with all day at work could relate to the tragedy of the attack but had no connection to the amazing spirit Taylor portrayed.
One never knows why these tragedies happen. Why so young and gentle a person leaves us so soon. The next day via email I read how McDonalds Corners musician Bill Cameron had been down east and chanced to hear Taylor in Sackville NB last Thursday, singing her heart out to an unfortunately empty room, yet she presented as if the room was overflowing. And isn't that it? She was on the road, practicing her craft, seeking her fortune by baring her soul through the songs she sang. She was brave enough to shoot for the moon like we all need to do more of .... follow our dreams. Serendipity. You just never know....
Upcoming live musical events of note are:
Friday November 6th – Gordie Tentrees – wonderful Yukon roots artist - O'Reilly's Pub
Saturday November 7th – the tantelizing Aengus Finnan @ Sullivan's House Concert on Bennett's Lake. Call 613-268-2376 for more information.
Saturday November 14th – fiddler John Showman (Creaking Tree String Quartet) and banjo player Chris Coole (Foggy Hogtown Boys) at MERA Schoolhouse – call 613-278-0689 for details
Sunday November 22nd – 2pm - Tannis Slimmon & Lewis Melville @ Music On McLean – call Sue @ 267-7902 for necessary reservations.
Saturday November 28th – 8pm – David Francey & Mike Ford (Moxy Fruvous) – Studio Theatre – Tix at Shadowfax
Support Live Music Everywhere

#79 – Les Paul Remembered

When we turn on some music we rarely think of where that sound came from. On August 15th 2009 the world lost one of the true originators of what has become the music of today. Lester William Polfuss was born in Wisconsin in 1915, later changing his name to Les Paul and is most known for being the creator of the solid body electric guitar. Most won’t realize at age 8 he also developed the hands free, around the neck harmonica holder; his design still being produced today.
He played publicly when he was 13, left high school at 17 and moved to St. Louis where he played in Sunny Wolverton’s Radio Band. It was Wolverton who gave him the nickname “Rhubarb Red” which he continued to use in Chicago where he became a radio celebrity known for his hillbilly pickin’ and also as Les Paul, jazz guitarist. His first solo recordings under the name Rhubarb Red were in 1936. By 1938 he’d moved to New York to be part of a nationally known radio orchestra ‘Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians’.
Les Paul didn’t like the sound from the commercially available hollow body electric guitars because there were so many feedback problems so he tried many variations, including using a railroad tie in his basement. Utilizing the Epiphone Company factory space and machinery, in 1941 he ended up with a solid body guitar, affectionately known as ‘The Log’ that gave him more of the sound he was looking for.
After nearly electrocuting himself in 1940 with his tinkering and being unable to play for two years of rehabilitation he moved to California and was drafted into the army but allowed to stay to play for the Armed Forces Radio Service. His guitar playing prowess developed and he established the Les Paul Trio who became regulars on Bing Crosby’s radio show. Crosby went on to sponsor many of Paul’s recording experiments. In 1945 Bing Crosby with the Les Paul Trio had his first million seller with “It’s Been A Long, Long Time”.
Continuing to try different things Les Paul started dubbing live recordings over recorded material and also playing with playback speed. What resulted was his 1947 hit instrumental recording ‘Lover (When You’re Near Me)’, made up of him playing eight different guitar parts, all recorded together.
Les Paul had to be part cat as he definitely had seven lives. In 1948 he was nearly killed in an car crash where he convinced the doctors to set his right arm and elbow in the guitar picking and cradling position, which allowed him to continue.
Musicians and music lovers everywhere should be raising a glass to this man as he developed what has become known as ‘multi-tracking’, which is now synonymous with all recordings; where different sounds are recorded on different tracks and put together to form one sound. Music and movies use this all the time. Les Paul’s inventions developed much of the professional studio productions we still hear today.
Meanwhile Les Paul continued to try to improve the guitar sound and in 1952, after being hired by Gibson Guitars with exclusive design privileges to develop a commercial solid body guitar, the Gibson Les Paul Model, the Les Paul Goldtop being the first. 1954 saw the arrival of the Les Paul Custom, the Les Paul Jr. and 1955 saw the Les Paul Special hit the stores, with the Les Paul Standard arriving in 1958. These guitars revolutionized the sound of music around the world.
In 1948 Steve Miller was taught his first guitar chords at 5 years of age by his godfather, Les Paul. Steve’s father had befriended Les Paul and Mary Ford and they became regular visitors to the Miller home. Mr. Miller was best man at the Paul / Ford wedding. Steve Miller attributes his success to the early encouragement and tricks shown him by Les Paul.
With rock and roll surfacing in 1955, musical tastes were changing and they didn’t fit any longer. He and now wife Mary Ford continued to record many hits up until that time and had a successful television show from 1953 to 1960. They parted in 1964 and Les began playing in Japan. In 1977, at 62, he recorded a Grammy winning album with Chet Atkins entitled “Chester and Lester” after enduring arthritis and permanent hearing loss. He suffered a heart attack following this and took a long time to get back to regular playing health. A stubborn individual, he was back in the 1980’s playing and has continued to play weekly in New York until just before his death at 94 years of age. ‘The Godfather of the Electric Guitar’ received indoctrination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and just about every other award available.
I have a wonderfully educational and enjoyable DVD called “Les Paul – Chasing Sound” that features Les describing his inventions and also playing with BB King, Steve Miller, Jeff Beck, Chet Atkins, Paul McCartney, to name a few. I highly recommend watching this remarkable memoir. We are all indebted to Les Paul.
All you rockers out there ….. don’t forget the 9th Annual Elphinfest to be held in Elphin, ON, behind the chip stand. Hosted by the one and only Rick Killingbeck, it’s on Sunday September 6th – noon to midnight with great rockin’ bands including Indyscretion, Pocket Change, See See Rider, Jake Desjardine Trio, Sonic Roots, Woodcutters, Still Dangerous and many surprise guests. Cost is $10 at the gate and will be a great day of music.
As summer winds down, don’t forget to get out there and support Live Music Everywhere.

#78 So Much Music, So Little Time

I can't believe we're two weeks into August already. That 'summer' we wait expectantly through long, bitter winters for, seems to have evaded us this year but it hasn't stopped some great musical opportunities happening.
Due to my onsite responsibilities at Stewart Park Festival, I actually catch only a few tunes of most performers but, as usual, enjoyed the weekend. Many thanks go to the wonderful organizing committee and especially the volunteers who helped make the 19th Annual another memorible one for many. Highlights for me were many but the first was the Friday afternoon kick off with all the incredible musicians performing from our two high schools. We are truly blessed to have such quality being offered by our youth. I heard many comments from audience members reinforcing this. Thanks go to Dave Balfour for organizing this segment.
Another highlight was South Mountain, with multi award winner Steve Piticco's guitar work. There were many recognized guitar players backstage drooling while watching his prowess. Just back from a 5 week tour of Europe which he's been doing since 1989, their solid show was very impressive. Tracey Brown and Randall Prescott's kids, Kaylan and Kelly make up the band Prescott and they continue to impress me with their creativity. Second place in highlights for me was Saturday's last workshop on Wendy Laut's River Stage with The Sojourners, Georgette Fry and Ladies of the Canyon. Harmonies abounded throughout, as the varying players supported one another. Together they played withour emotions, from laughter to tears.
The highlight of the year though was having C.R. Avery, a Vancouver based beat-poet / hip hop artist, who is incidentally originally from Portland, ON matched together with the gospel trio The Sojourners. These two groups were originally orchestrated to join forces by CBC producer Amanda Putz for her now defunct radio show Fuse, where she would pair up artists and have them perform together. C.R.'s crafty work blending social activism, blues, great harmonica work, unique orchestration, etc into his hip hop stylings would not originally be thought to blend well with The Sojourners gospel style but, as if by magic, the two styles support one another wonderfully. (I hear C. R. Avery wowed them at Blue Skies this year as well).
Following SPF I head to the lake exhausted to rest up and attempt to remember my name. My far better half Susan orchestrated a pleasant surprise though by booking 2009 Blues Album of the Year winner, Julian Fauth of Toronto into O'Reilly's a week later. This barrelhouse style piano player, backed by James Thomson on stand up bass created enough of a buzz that, for the first time I actually witnessed O'Reilly's become a 'listening room' where, from the entry door to the stage, the whole room was captivated by Julian's presentation. Low key and subtle, it was his musical magic that mesmorized. Julian's friend, Bill Heffernan, presented a couple of spoken word offerings that impressed the room as well. My blues bugs were well fed. Expect them back again. Catch 'em where you can.
A year ago I was impressed when now local fiddler Johnny Richard sat in with Sue Foley and James Cohen one evening at O'reillys so when he suggested recently that I attend an evening called An Evening of Musical Variety at the Studio Theatre and started naming the stellar players like previously mentioned Steve Piticco and the likes of Tracey Brown, Neville Wells, Ed Ashton, I was full of anticipation.
I was glad to see such a good turn out at this show as it was truly impressive. The band were made of of veteran musicians who each took a turn at shining with self penned tunes and covers. The sets were diverse, ranging from country to folk classics. Don Cochrane of Kingston shared his velvet vocals on tunes he'd written like Hey Uncle Tom and Gordon Lightfoot's 'Did She Mention My Name'. Tracey Brown entranced the room with her silky smooth rendition of Roy Forbes' (Bim), ' Let Me Make It Up To You Tonight'.
It's always great to hear veteran musicians play together because long gone are the ego's, while musicianship and all its subtlies shine. Steve Piticco and Johnny Richard showed their mastery of tender fills and creative instrumental harmonies that only strengthened the overall sound of the others, while stepping up to join forces to create lovely renditions of 'Sweet Georgia Brown' and Rose of San Antone'. Neville Wells and Tracey did a memorible duet of an old Louvin Brothers tune, 'When I Stop Dreaming ' and he again shone with his own 'But I Was Younger Then'. Randall Prescott stepped up to share writing and playing credits with Tracey on the comical 'Down At the Holiday Inn'. It was truly a superb evening of music that I hope is repeated locally again soon.
I couldn't help mentioning a chance encounter last week when Brock Zeman and Blair Hogan were hosting their usual Tuesday night O'reilly's stage. Summer brings previous Perthites home for visits and for the last set they were joined by Dawson Willsey sitting in on bass and previous Perthite, Ray Newton on drums. Ray is now living in Montreal where he is playing and teaching. He'd never played with Brock before but added a rhythmic shift to several of his tunes. You never know what's going to happen which makes life interesting.
While at the lake, we hosted a small soiree to celebrate our family's 25 years of being at Skycroft Campground and were entertained by String Tease, an acoustic quartet from Westport area. Chuck Gobeil on mandolin and his partner Carolyn on button accordian, Dawson Willsey on stand up bass and Dave Drummond on guitar, with each taking turns on vocals and harmonies offered some gypsy to blues tastey covers that you have the chance of catching this coming weekend at Westport's Music Festival on Saturday August 15th. Also of note are not to be missed, Spoon River, made up of brothers Seamus and Jeff Cowan from the Cove and their friends. Juno nominee's Mr. Something Something, country stylings of Emily Fennell and Sugarplum, with other diverse acts presenting jazz, a harp duo, cuban strolling minstrals provide a great day of live music on three stages throughout town. Mumbo Jumbo Voodoo Combo close things out at The Cove at 9:30pm. Everything is FREE and outdoors except Spoon River and Mumbo Jumbo where there is a $5 cover. So, while this summer marches on, don't miss the chance to get out there and Support Live Music Everywhere.

#77 Jackie Washington Remembered

- Look to the Left

# 76 - Remembering The Ramblers

In a time when Reunion Tours of famous vintage rock bands seem to becoming commonplace with a recent tour by Police and rumblings of Led Zeppelin and Rod Stewart and the Faces each hitting the world tour circuit, with more reunions being announced regularly, you might have missed the recent reunion of The Ramblers.
In their era, this country band made up of five Carleton Place High School students were regular entertainment throughout the Ottawa Valley, originating over 53 years ago. We're talking 1956, when television was still a rare commodity, with radio being the most advanced wide – spread media. I mention this because for most people, their world was a lot smaller, a more local place back then. Country dances and sock hops were teenager’s entertainment in halls close to home. The drinking age was 21 and imbibing in parking lots beside the country halls from the trunks of cars was unofficially accepted decorum. Another thing to remember was these were primarily acoustic affairs. The Ramblers played acoustic instruments without amplification except for their electric guitar player who used a small amplifier. Their lead and harmony vocals were done around one microphone with a small amp which is quite different from today’s amplification. A different time technologically.
Country and Popular music each had their own charts and radio stations. Cross-over hits were evolving, with songs from the country side sharing radio space on Popular stations. Early rock 'n roll was beginning to catch on. Imagine the effect cross over hit makers Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and the harmonies of the Everly Brothers had on these lads raised on old time fiddle and acoustic guitar based country music. The Ramblers credit their influences to these then young musicians, WSM Nashville’s Grand ‘Ole Opry and to a local Ottawa group called the Happy Wanderers.
Formed in 1955, the Happy Wanderers played Saturday nights at the Carleton Place Town Hall and CFRA radio broadcast weekly ½ hour shows across the Valley. Like most local lads, the future Ramblers attended these dances and saw them as mentors. After being together for just over a year, The Ramblers auditioned to be the fill in band at the weekly Saturday dances, taking the stage when the Wanderers took a break. They also got to play a song of their own across the radio airwaves. Thanks to the Wanderers, the Ramblers shook hands with Johnny Cash and his then band The Tennessee Three and also The Wilburn Brothers in 1958. From hearing the tight harmonies the Wilburn Brothers provided to some of Cash's tunes, the Ramblers became attracted and this became their hallmark sound. The Wanderers are a group that 'keeps on giving'. One of their members was Joe Brown who later went on to form his own group, The Family Brown with his children where they had a nationally syndicated TV show for many years. Joe's daughter, singing star Tracey Brown married another jewel of the Valley music scene – harmonica, bass, successful producer, Randall Prescott and two of their children are now performing as Prescott at Elphin Roots Festival and Stewart Park Festival this year.
The original Ramblers were Merrill Fisher – acoustic guitar and lead vocal, Lloyd Brunton - fiddle, Robert Francis - guitar, Tom Gardiner – acoustic guitar, upright bass, solo and harmony vocals and Larry Paul on piano. Doug and Ray Thompson – guitar and harmony vocals and Murray McNaughton on banjo and some solo vocals also joined in sometimes. They played dances and socials at the Almonte Agricultural Hall, Ferguson Falls Hall, the Union Hall outside Clayton, Antlers Lodge at Rideau Ferry, Balderson Hall, McDonald’s and Watson’s Corner’s Halls and Perth Town Hall, to name a few. After 1960 they each went their separate ways for various occupations. Over the years they've gotten together for some family parties, hosted a 40th Reunion in 1996 and a 40 + 2 Reunion in 1998, both at the Carleton Place Curling Club to sold out shows, the room full of their high school peers, like them, now all Senior Citizens from their era who danced up a storm, begging for more. Their most recent endeavour was the CD Release, again held at the curling club to a standing room only crowd in May 2009. Doug Thompson passed away in 1998 and his guitar duties passed over to local guitar and pedal steel legend Ray Donaldson. The 20 tunes are all over the map with covers of duets by the Louvin Brothers, Wilburn Brothers, Stanley Brothers, 3 original fiddle waltzes by Lloyd Brunton, two Paul Family heirlooms, as well as songs of Kris Kristofferson, Ray Price, Willy Nelson and Vince Gill. Larry Paul, one of Lanark County's busiest musicians does a nice tinkly piano version of Floyd Cramer's 'Last Date', the vocals and harmonies are impressive as is Ray's steel work. All are 70 + and enjoying the memories their musical history together conjures up for them and their many groupies.
The guys live around Ontario, are still in touch regularly, often by that new fangled email thang, sharing the humour and love of music that has kept them friends all these years. Something like The Ramblers who are still packin' them in after all these years show us that bigger isn't always better but quality continues to shine and music makes lasting memories and friends. Way to go, lads.
The annual Relay for Life at the Lombardy Fairgrounds is always a fun but emotional event. I congratulate the organizing committee for all their hard work and all the dedicated people who give up their night, many spending many hours ahead of time with fundraising, costumes and organizing to raise funds to beat that terrible disease that has touched us all. I'm also thankful to all the musicians who come out to encourage and entertain all of us walkers throughout the night. I enjoyed Smiths Falls own ESP with Dennis Staples and the lads earlier in the evening but I must admit the Stanley Cup Game Seven did distract me for awhile. Later on I was impressed with the presentation by Runaway who provided some great covers too, their vocals by Leanne Nisbett and Rachael Warren impressing me the most. Being a blues lover I stopped and took a seat to listen to most of Elyssa Mahoney, a mite of a lass with the voice of forever and her stellar award winning guitar wizard sidekick, Lucas Haneman and the rest of the band. I've seen them before but it was a couple of years ago now and have they ever matured. They whipped through a short set (always too short for me) but never the less they impressed many. They've got a great future. There's something about walking around that luminary candle - lined track on a moonlit night with music floating magically through the air that helps us all keep going and remembering why we're there. We remember the many friends and family we've lost who enjoyed those tunes with us in better days. Thanks again for a memorable evening.
Don't forget the 19th Annual Stewart Park Festival is only a few weeks away on July 17, 18, 19th. Carolyn Sutherland has again put together a great line up and I know After Hours will be hopping with some great bands. Go to http://www.stewartparkfestival.ca/ for all the information. I'd also like to thank our Fundraising co-chairs- Doug Barr and Diana Bracegirdle and all those who stepped up to help us make our Festival viable again this year. On behalf of the multitude of music lovers who enjoy Stewart Park Festival each year, I appreciate all your diggin' down deep to allow us to put on another memorable weekend of music. Bless ya, every one.
Support Live Music Everywhere

#75 Love-in's Prevail

Oh.... you could feel the Love in the room. Thanks to my buddy Gibber, I was sitting with the rest of the full house in the National Arts Centre, anticipating the eminent arrival of a 74 year old poet / songwriter who, just a couple of years ago said he probably wouldn't tour again because there wasn't enough interest. Well Leonard Cohen is thinking differently now. He literally pranced out on stage for the second night of two Ottawa “Sold Out” shows to be welcomed by a heartwarming standing ovation before he'd even uttered a note. And it's just not here as he's selling out everywhere he takes this beautiful production on an extensive world wide tour. The rather matronly woman sitting next to me was from Sault Ste. Marie and came for both yesterday and this evening's performance. At minimum $150 a ticket, plus transportation, hotel, etc., you've got to know she's a dedicated long time fan. Next to her was a couple of lads about 20 years young, also loving every moment. The female dominated crowd appeared to be around the 50+ with a smattering of younger folk.... all humbly in awe of 'his highness'.
There was a casual elegence to the whole affair from the attire of the 6 piece band and 3 female back up singers to their wearing of hats similar to what Cohen has been sporting lately by many members. Neil Larsen on keyboards, often B3 organ; Raphael Gayol on drums, musical director Roscoe Beck on bass, Bob Metzger on primarily electric guitar but some acoustic and pedal steel, Dino Soldo on various saxes, bass clarinet, amazing harmonica with string machine fillers and Javier Mas on various acoustic string instruments all played in an understated way, always leaving lots of room for Cohen's bottom end vocals to be the intended focal point. The Webb Sisters and Sharon Robinson surrounded his vocals with two and three part harmonies that nicely added to the consistently sweet (and yes elegant) sound. Roscoe, Bob and Dino also provided background vocals so, mixed with the 3 female voices offered the sum of almost a full gospel choir- like background. Very tasty.
He had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. The room seemed to hang on every word, as if every poetic phrase was being offered to each one of us personally. His lyrics do that. They expose those inner thoughts and feelings, often sensual, even sexual, reminding us all of the historical emotional roller coaster rides deep in our own hearts and heads. Let's face it. Cohen's singing voice never was a rich instrument. These days it's more of a lyric - reciting bass line which he fluctuates up and down a few notes in a masterful way. Add some depth and echo through the sound system and he exudes a wonderfully haunting sound. Like Van the Man who also has limited range, it's more the presentation style and lyric content that keeps everyone coming back for more. I want to throw cudo's the sound man's way for his sound mix was stellar. Solid lighting cues and lighting effects also added to the overall ambience. One memorable such scene projected a gigantic silouette of Javier Mas, seated, playing a lute of some sort, high on the backstage wall. Colours ranged from deep sacred purplish reds to squinting sunset oranges, each adding to the lyrical pictoral offering. Elegence prevailed.
Cohen's stage presence was effective. From prancing on and off, dropping often to his knee, dancing lightly to and fro, left or right, he seemed to be almost trance – like during each song. He gave each player and singer the opportunity in the show to 'strut their stuff' so to speak. Sharon Robinson co-wrote several tunes with him over the years which, along with Larsen's Hammond B3 often added lovely gospel sounds. The B3 sounds seemed to always be gently swirling between parts adding nicely to the overall audio product. Cohen offered many of his hits, each with a slightly different twist through instrumentation or arrangements. He performed a long first set, gave our emotions a break and came back for another full set, followed by at least three encores (I lost count). Yes, the love flowed and we all felt it, right to the final benediction.
I've stayed at the Delta Chelsea in Toronto for the past 25 years while attending conferences, board meetings, etc and not once, in all that time was there any live music that ever caught my ear enough to settle in for a listen. That being said, you can imagine my delight when I recently attended a provincial Community Legal Clinic Conference and, upon checking in found that Thursdays have become 'Blues Nights' there and are co-hosted weekly by none other than Juno and multiple Maple Blues Award guitarist Jack de Keyser joining the incredible blues harmonica player Jerome Godboo and his seasoned band. It was great to see Jack again after his last show at O'reilly's a few months ago. He's playing Blue Skies this year too and watch for him back at O'reilly's. So, if you're in Toronto on a Thursday night, check out the Delta Chelsea... no cover. We danced up a storm and had our blues needs satisfied.
Locally, mark your calendar because you’ll have a chance at your own ‘love-in’ as Jenny Whiteley presents the 4th Annual Elphin Roots Festival on Saturday June 27th in Elphin, 1pm to 11pm, with a rain location at the McDonalds Corners Agricultural Hall. We were at a private function a week ago at the Elphin site and it truly is a wonderful space. Featured are Chris Coole, Aengus Finnan, The Gertrudes, Lynne Hansen, Music Maul, Prescott, Sheesham & Lotus, John Southworth, Sugar Plum, Ian Tamblyn, Brock Zeman and many more. Go to http://www.jennywhiteley.com/ for more information. Tickets are available at Shadowfax, in Perth. See you there…..

#74 ~ Those Songs ~

What embeds those songs into our memory banks? You know the ones. The ones that trigger you to hit the button to skip it back for replay . Yeah... those songs that reach out from wherever to press your neurological 'pause button', somehow transporting you from the 'now' to a picture instantly forming in your head of a place, an emotional bubble, happy or sad … with whomever, somewhere, however.
We've all got a few of them. Whenever I hear Chicago (then Chicago Transit Authority)'s self titled first album I flash back to my buddy Chuck in his parent's living room where he introduced it to my high school friends and I, playing it repeatedly. Chicago's second album, especially the song Color My World, takes me to a totally different situation ... cruising to lunch in a car with my now wife and her then boyfriend, in the Muskoka Lakes area; my buddy and I trying to impress by singing all the vocal and horn parts. To this day, some 40 years later when I hear Procol Harem – Live With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's 'Conquistador', I can still see the wild excitement on my friend Mikey's face, an album far from his usual tastes, when he played it for the first time on my parents stereo. So many songs ... so many memories. For some unknown reason those specific bunch of sounds at that exact moment take us back to some historical event in our past. Be it weddings, first dates, intimate moments, kids, friends,.. the list goes on and on. Amazing what music can do to us.
Just as hearing old songs can bring back those memories that stir us, it's equally interesting how really listening to a new song, when performed live, can evoke as much emotion from deep inside. I was in Toronto last week at Hugh's Room catching a long awaited double feature with Mary Gauthier presenting her new album 'Between Daylight and Dark' and the wonderful Eliza Gilkyson; veteran singer / songwriters from the States. Both offered meaningful, descriptive lyrics that were able to paint you into the scene, stroke or scratch a memory, have you feel the heat as the singer exposes raw vulnerable emotion. A prime example is Gauthier's 'Thanksgiving' where she places you in line with family members going to see loved ones on Thanksgiving Day at a prison . Can't say I ever thought about how wide reaching an event like that would be. She had me wiping my eyes several times. Now that I have the cd and again listen to that song, I still get goose bumps.
A couple of days later, the reverse happened. I've been listening to veteran blues singer / actor - Jim Byrnes and the Sojourners from BC since they first released 'House of Refuge' back in 2007. For this album, when Jim couldn't get the Soul Stirrers – a veteran gospel group from the US for background, the Sojourners were created. The three man chorus is made up of Marcus Mosely, Will Sanders and Ron Small and are all members of the Good Noise Gospel Choir of which Marcus Mosely is a co-director.
House of Refuge won several awards including a 2007 Juno for Blues Album of the Year, 2 Maple Blues Awards and 2 Canadian Folk Music Awards; one of them being Producer of the Year – Steve Dawson of Black Hen Music, based in Vancouver. Steve has also produced four other Juno Award Winners including Jenny Whiteley, Old Man Luedecke to name a few. Last fall, Doug Cox told me about the BC Scene, then being planned for Ottawa in the Spring of 2009 and, to my thrill he told me Jim Byrnes & The Sojourners backed by the Steve Dawson Trio (who had just played our living room) would be part of it.
After a couple of days in the big smoke I rode the 6:30AM bus back to Perth so Sue and I could attend one of the highlight concerts for the year for me. Ironically, as the bus turned north onto the Don Valley Parkway the sun was just rising and the first song that came onto my MP3 player was 'Fortify Me' from House of Refuge so I knew it was a good sign for a special day ahead.
We attended the concert at the Library & Archives facility (a lovely venue, by the way) and were immediately thrilled when Steve Dawson's Trio made up of Steve on pedal steel, weissenborn steel and guitar, Keith Lowe on bass and Geoff Hicks on drums, kicked things off and played several sweet tunes from his recent recordings. Next they were joined by The Sojourners, who've since evolved into their own group since House of Refuge with their own cd ' Hold On' of gospel tunes backed by the Trio. What can I say. It just kept getting better. These guys are the real deal. They transcend usual gospel, three part harmonies, creating a sound that, no matter your religious affiliations, take you to a higher place. After several tunes on came Jim Byrnes to join them all and together they wowed the crowd and for me, personally, made me feel like Christmas had arrived early. To see the musicians perform the music I've been enjoying for the past couple of years again brought tears of joy to my grateful eyes. It was worth every minute of that uncomfortable bus ride earlier in the day.
Throughout they played several new tunes from Jim Byrnes new cd 'My Walking Stick' continuing on with that blues / gospel sound. One of the cuts that blew me away was their version of Robbie Robertson's 'Ophelia', made famous by The Band. It's got an excellent time change going into the chorus that sticks in my mind. They also did a memorable version of 'Drown In My Own Tears' originally written by Henry Butler and made famous by Ray Charles.
Yes, it was wonderful and I know when I now hear those songs I'll be brought to that concert in my mind's eye. Ain't it grand, that crazy brain of ours?
Now, here's the topper. At a party following the concert I was told by The Sojourners manager, Cathy Campbell, that they are going to be performing at Stewart Park Festival, along with C.R. Avery so my Christmas is continuing.
So it's time for you to go to your musical library, put on some of your own favourite tunes, get comfy and let 'those songs', complete with the memories they bring back do their work on you..... enjoy.

#73 – Dedicated Musicians Keep Genres Alive

My hat goes off to those dedicated people who keep various genres of music alive for the rest of us to appreciate. I happened upon two examples in one weekend that were completely different but allowed me the opportunity to revisit different eras.
Following a wonderful dinner with friends in the Hintonburg area of Ottawa we headed out to the recently renovated, historic local Elmdale Tavern, originally opened in 1934 on Wellington St. W. where we came upon a local phenomenon. The spirited group, Ball & Chain, have been providing Cajun / Zydeco dance lessons for awhile now and as a result have created a group of followers who attend their gigs to practice their dance steps.
Ball and Chain, specializing in cajun / zydeco style music are made up of Jody Benjamin (previously with Toasted Westerns) on rhythm guitar, lead and harmony vocals and Michael Ball on violin, lead and harmony vocals as the band’s nucleus, often playing as a duo but this evening adding Alistair Dennett (original drummer for Prairie Oyster) and the dynamite Al Bragg on pedal steel. Jody and Michael take this genre of music quite seriously, traveling to study in Louisiana several times then returning home to Ottawa to share their learned skills enthusiastically through their dance lessons and shows throughout the area and across Canada.
Their now monthly shows at the Elmdale, the first Saturday of each month, entitled Honky Tonk Saturday Nites, one of which we walked into, found a full house, with the dance floor almost always busy with two-steppin’ couples circling; some still working out the steps by counting while others swirled in experienced comfort.
Their dance lessons helping to perpetuate this genre are being held for the next 5 weeks on Sunday evenings at the Elmdale where their goal is to teach men & women the basic (and beyond) dance steps used in Louisiana and New England areas, how to lead, follow and become comfortable with the social activity of dance. What a great way to develop your own horde of groupies.
Not being raised on country music, it was nostalgic to hear so many tunes that were considered popular hits on the radio in my early days (50’s and 60’s) when country crossover was far more frequent. Hearing Ball & Chain’s versions brought back summer memories of when my older cousins in Wiarton would take me to the arena to enjoy Gordie Tapp and Tommy Hunter presenting Country Hoedown; a live version of their weekly tv show that aired from 1956 to 1965. As I sat at the Elmdale with my family and friends enjoying the evening I was so thankful Jody and Michael are so dedicated to their passion of keeping alive great music and the dancing that goes along with it.
The following night I entered a totally different environment and experienced a completely dissimilar genre of music that was offered by equally dedicated musicians. I attended the Brahm’s Requiem, presented, again to a full house, at St. Pauls United Church. Thanks go to the incredible dedication of Brad Mills, who organized the event and all the choristers from St. Pauls and St. James who practiced tirelessly for weeks to produce this very difficult work, we were able to experience right here in Perth, this work originally presented in 1869. I cannot even begin to think of the number of hours Brad and his team must have worked to offer us this step back in time, but I’m sure glad they did. These choral and orchestral spectacles offer us amazing, moving music that touches my soul.
It’s only through dedication by musicians like these, as diverse as they are, that allow us the opportunities to experience glimmers of music from bygone eras and keep them alive in our hearts.

#72 – Faith in the Future

I would like to thank all of those people who have shared their finding and enjoyment of CBC 2; having followed up on what I’d suggested in my last article. It is gratifying to know people actually read what I’ve spent many hours writing and the ensuing conversations that followed were equally enjoying. Again, thanks for sharing.
Trying to earn a living in the music business has never been easy and is becoming more difficult all the time so to see youthful musicians, with all their confidence, energy and dreams successfully strutting their stuff is refreshing and reassuring.
My far better half and I zipped down to ‘Tranna’ last week to take our darlin’daughter out for her birthday dinner at Hugh’s Room on Dundas West, just south of Bloor, where we were impressed by a young 18 yr old singer who defied her youthfulness by exhibiting a timeless confidence and professional style on stage that is seldom seen in performers so early.
Taylor Mitchell radiated in her glory because it was her CD Release of her first disc ‘For Your Consideration’ and this gave cause for her to have thestellar group of musicians behind her from the recording sessions of which she verbalized was a dream come true considering she’s usually out there plugging away as a solo artist or, if lucky, backed by one guitarist.
This night, both she and her musical offerings glowed as the all-star band made up of the album’s producer, the gregarious keyboardist Michael Johnston, Gord Tough (Weeping Tile, Kathleen Edwards) on guitars, John Dinsmore (Kathleen Edwards) on bass, Noel Webb (Skydiggers) on drums, with Miranda Mullholland supplying harmony vocals and Anne Lindsay tastily adding her fiddle magic, all converged sweetly; augmenting Taylor’s self penned lyrics to forge a guilded remembrance for Taylor…. And that’s just who showed up. Taylor had met multiple Maple Blues award winner Suzie Vinnick at 16, a couple of years ago and Suzie was supposed to have been there to add harmonies on two songs she ended up co-writing with Taylor but instead was in Vancouver for the Juno’s. Veteran singer / songwriter Lynn Miles met Taylor at the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals last fall in a mentoring session, was suitably impressed so together they co-wrote one song on the CD. Lynn was to have been there as well but was touring in the States. At 18, to have the enough credibility and talent to secure the respect from these veterans says a lot about her future.
On the weekend we hosted another young artist, Layah Jane to our Music On McLean stage, backed on guitar and background vocals by Oliver Johnson. We first met this 24 year old about 4 years ago and were impressed back then but, since then she has spread her wings to a maturity of sound and presence that tantalized our full house. Layah’s fluent use of her vocal range and adept timing provided very affective enhancements to her lyrics. Given she was presenting in minimal light due to our observation of Earth Hour, Layah’s haunting vocals offered in the near dark, I know I can safely say mesmerized the audience. Oliver’s skills shone with his guitar dexterity yet his maturity as a player exuded in how he maintained that subtle, behind-the-scenes composure, gently augmenting Layah’s tender vocal stylings. Of note is that in the latest Spring 2009 Food & Drink magazine at the LCBO, on page 33 you’ll find a primo review of her latest 2008 CD ‘Brightness and Bravery’.
Both of these young women shared their snapshot views on life and the world around us that colourfully painted descriptive scenes as backdrops before our eyes; backdrops that enhanced their vignettes of self penned perspectives. I’m thrilled to see such talent emerging. I’m impressed that veteran musicians recognize these young people’s potentials and are willing to help mentor by sharing their experience and gifts to aide them along the way.
Just as I'm gaining hope for the future, locally I hear the Upper Canada & District School Board is planning on cancelling the amazing Kindergarten to Grade 8 Instrumental Music Program at Glen Tay Elementary School. This is just after, through fundraising by the Parent's Council and grants from the School Board they purchased 30 Canadian-made guitars so the Grade 8 students could utilize their previously developed musical knowledge from the earlier grades of the program and learn the skills to play guitar, learn songwriting and music composition. Through the magic of music it will prepare them for high school and the musical world. The wonders of music in neurological development has been proven to help increase learning capacity while giving the students improvements in their confidence, socialization abilities and life long functional skills ..... and they love it !!!
To find out more and what you can do to help, go to the website http://gtmusic.webs.com/index.htm or call the Upper Canada & District School Board to voice your displeasure. The Arts are vital to our development and we're just learning how important it is to expose and educate our children, in their learning years to the wonders of the Arts. Let's not deprive our children through short sighted planning and lets help the Upper Canada School Board realize the error of their ways.
Coming up locally as we head into the Easter season:
April 9th – The Crown Pub – from Orillia, The Brights, made up of Don Bray on vocals, guitar and mandolin and Alyssa Wright on vocals and cello will entertain those enjoying the Crown’s famous Two For One Steak Dinner Night.
April 10th – Twister Dance – McDonald’s Corners Agricultural Hall. Come to dance to the magical guitar of Keith Glass (Prairie Oyster) and his merry band.
April 16th – The Factory Grind – Kate Weekes will share her tunes of life’s musings from her now Yukon home, her Lanark County roots and beyond.
April 18th – Music On McLean House Concerts – Chuck Brodsky – legendary balladeer from the US who is one of my favourites. Call Sue for necessary reservations @ 613-267-7902

# 71 – Government Offering Something Good

The last things I’ll ever understand are politics and the economy. As I listen and read daily about our slumping economy, governments infusing billions to keep companies afloat, companies who then turn around and give millions of tax payers money as bonus’s to the same employees who created the problem in the first place, I just shake my head. Can government get anything right?
Well, I just had cause to spend the past couple of days, through my work, with clients in hospitals and, though there were waits and what transpired sometimes wasn’t what I would have wished, at least in our country we’re able to offer healthcare to pretty well everyone. We have our government-funded healthcare and, after hearing horror stories from friends living in the States, it says a lot for me to be thankful for…. not that it doesn’t need improvement, but at least it’s there… our tax monies at work.
Another place our tax dollars go to is CBC, both television and radio. We live in a huge country with incredible diversity, whether it’s geographic, climatic or cultural. Our people are so spread out it takes mass communications like CBC to try to keep us together, informed and entertained. Through CBC we learn from the glimpses into those diversities they offer us.
Have you checked out CBC Radio 2 (Ottawa -103.3, Kingston – 92.9)? I spend a lot of time driving and have been impressed with them. With recent program changes they’ve made, they now offer us wonderful opportunities to hear Canadian singer / songwriters from across our great nation. Several friends have been impressed by my suggestion to give CBC 2 a try.
I don’t know about you but I like variety. It drives me crazy hearing those same songs over and over on commercial radio, especially the ones that are typically played to maintain Canadian content quotas. Though I love Gordon Lightfoot, Valdy, Dan Hill and Tom Cochrane, there are so many other wonderful Canadian artists who receive little airplay.
We have several multiple Juno Award winners like Jenny Whiteley and David Francey along with single Juno Award winners Lynn Miles, Sue Foley and Ian Tamblyn who live within a half hour drive, along with many seasoned veterans like Melwood Cutlery, Joey Wright, Christine Graves who are rarely heard anywhere, even on our own local Lake 88.1. I can honestly say I’ve heard them all on CBC Radio 2 more than once.
‘Radio 2 Morning’ begins at 6am, going to 10am every day, hosted by Tom Allen weekdays and Molly Johnson weekends. Some may remember Molly sang here in Perth years ago as lead in the group The Infidels – brought in by Wendy Laut - and lately has swung into a more jazz oriented genre. They describe their show’s offering as: “A deep blend of new and established artists across musical genres in a mix you won’t hear anywhere else” which pretty much says it all.
‘Radio 2 Drive’ – the show from 3pm to 6pm weekdays, hosted by Rich Terfry (commonly known by his stage name as hip hop artist, Buck 65), offers programming best described by CBC as “ brings you a mix of current Singer-Songwriters, Roots and Urban music for you to discover.” I look forward to catching this show whenever I can.
Canada Live is from 8pm to 10pm where they offer a great variety of genres of live music, recorded somewhere in Canada. Most of these concerts are also offered on your computer and going to CBC’s ‘Concerts On Demand’ where almost 1000 concerts are available 24 / 7 for your enjoyment. And there’s no commercials on any of these shows!!!!! Now that’s your tax dollar at work. Thank you Canada.
Locally, I was unable to attend Kellylee Evans concert, opened by Julie Kevan but many people have stopped to tell me how great a show it was. Having been impressed by both these young women previously on a couple of occasions I can agree they both put on stellar shows. Meetings and work sometime get in the way of my musical enjoyment.
I was able to hear the tail end of Twister warm up at O’reilly’s and I got my much needed “fix” of Keith Glass’ guitar work. I’m always impressed with how Cam Gray on bass, Jeff Kohl on keyboards, Pete Bigras on drums, Michael Ball on fiddle and Wayne Mills on sax come together to make such sweet music. You, too, can hear them on Thursday March 26th at O’reilly’s as they again warm up for a dance they’re putting on at the MacDonald’s Corners Agricultural Hall on Good Friday – April 10th where we can all dance the night away. Also upcoming:
Friday March 27th is an Open Stage at The Factory Grind – featuring music and spoken word. This will be the forth of these eclectic ‘cerebral’ evenings that have had full houses every time.
- Saturday March 28th - Music On McLean House Concerts hosts Layah Jane – (sold out). You can read about her in the latest LCBO – Food & Drink magazine.
- Sunday April 5th – Brahm’s Requiem – St. Paul’s United Church – the combined choirs of St. Paul’s and St. James Anglican, with orchestra and guest soloists. Tickets at St.Paul’s. I look forward to this beautiful lead into Easter.
Thursday April 9th – ‘The Brights’ – an Orillia duo featuring Don Bray on guitar and mandolin and Alyssa Wright on cello are at The Crown to entertain during their Steak Dinner Night. See you there.
Thursday April 16th – Kate Weeks – Factory Grind – hear this previously local talent who now resides in the Yukon play her original, tale-telling tunes.
Saturday April 18th – Music On McLean House Concerts – the legendary balladeer from North Carolina, Chuck Brodsky. Call Sue at 267-7902 for necessary reservations.

# 70 – Thank You Wendy

Perth lost one of its premiere music and arts supporters with the recent death of Wendy Laut on Monday February 23rd, 2009. Many knew her as Perth’s Deputy Mayor, a member of Lanark County Council and a tireless environmentalist but most knew her as the owner of Shadowfax – a funky boutique featuring unique clothing, jewelry, a wide variety of music cd’s and dvds, especially Canadian musicians. Many times I heard at the recent Celebration of Wendy, how people were always pleasantly surprised when going to Shadowfax to look for a specific cd and, in spite of the relatively small number, just how many times they were successful.
Contrary to Ticketmaster’s recently documented highway robbery with surcharges, Wendy’s Shadowfax has been the convenient ‘go – to’ place for tickets to most local events; a huge, cost effective benefit to many organizations. You could always count on her donating to most local fundraising activities and hosting posters for many events.
I met Wendy almost immediately upon our move to Perth in 1982. We visited her store but it was Tinker’s, (where The Crown now exists on Foster St.), a wonderful local pub back then, run by Sharon Swanson and Terry Champion, where she and I really connected, naturally through music. Tinker’s hosted many wonderful musicians like Colleen Peterson, Terry Tufts, Ian Tamblyn, Mose Scarlett, Jackie Washington, Willie P. Bennett, Bill Joslin & Georgette Fry to name but a few. Wendy was always there enjoying and, as I think back to those days I fondly remember how we’d often dance up a storm on that crowded, swaying dance floor to local acts with so many new friends she and her then husband Dave introduced us to. It was wonderful to dance and reminisce again with so many of those now old friends at Wendy’s Celebration of Life. Not surprising, it was her pre-planning that brought us all together again to celebrate the many facets of Wendy’s short time with us.
Stewart Park Festival owes its birth to Wendy and Marg Skinner – Smith (now Thompson) who, through the Perth BIA arranged the original weekend of music in the park to coincide with the Town of Perth’s 175th Anniversary in 1991. After volunteering at the inaugural event I remember later receiving a call from visionary Wendy asking me to attend a planning meeting at the Mapledrop to keep the festival going and being asked to be the onsite coordinator, a position I proudly still hold all these years later. Wendy booked most of the acts in the early years and was instrumental in developing the ongoing quality name of Stewart Park Festival, now recognized by so many throughout the arts lovers in Canada.
Always the environmentalist, Wendy championed the Earth Day - “Turn Out the Lights” campaign locally. In 2008, our Music On McLean House Concerts was presenting the Georgette Fry Trio and Wendy planned on attending. She called ahead to push us to comply and, thanks to that push, we were able to run our PA / lights for the prescribed hour off a battery on wheels, something we plan on doing again this Earth Day – March 28th 2009 when we host Layah Jane in Wendy’s honour.
Wendy’s energy and enthusiasm taught us a lot but one of the most significant realizations I had throughout the final days of her life and the week following was just what an amazing community we have here. Yes, it’s beautiful here but it’s people who make a community. The ongoing dedication I witnessed by family & friends who stood by her, visited, laughed, cried, sang … the coming together of our wonderful community through the sharing of their gifts, the hard work necessary to help realize her original desire to provide the community with a retrospective of her art, the hundreds of donations to her celebration, people of all ages’ attendance from all over the continent help us all realize and value what we have here. Thanks Wendy for that reminder.
Jacqueline Cosgrove, a previous BIA coordinator, summed it up beautifully, I feel, with the following: “ .. While Wendy has left us, I don't think its possible for her to be gone from us. I will hear her in the sound of the Tay River she loved so much, see her in the faces of the all people who come to Stewart Park each summer, and know her through the many things she has done, big and small, to make our world, and the world, a better, fairer place for all.” Yes, through these symbolisms, her wonderful son Nigel and each of our own fond memories, Wendy Laut will be remembered for a long time.
Upcoming events for your support and enjoyment are:
March 12th - Kelly Joe Phelps – a wonderful acoustic blues player performs, opened by Matthew Barber – Studio Theatre – 8pm.
March 14th – Music On McLean – Corinne West w/ Doug Cox – SOLD OUT
March 14th – Lanark County Interval House – Bread & Roses Pot Luck – Perth Civitan Hall – 4pm pot luck starts with musical entertainment following by Linda Marie • River Rose • Warner McQueen & other Local Talent
March 18th – Kellylee Evans – incredible Juno and Gemini nominated vocalist, opening by Julie Kevan at Studio Theatre – 8pm
March 28th – Layah Jane – a sensational singer / songwriter at Music On McLean House Concerts – call Sue at 267-7902 for necessary reservations.

# 69 Swearing In Brings Many Memories (Jan. 28th 2009)

On Tuesday January 20th 2009 another item was added to the list attached to the proverbial question, “Where Were You When …??” . There are those special times in our lives that seem to remain with us always. I remember where I was when Paul Henderson scored for Canada to win the 1972 Canada – Russia hockey series. I also remember sitting in my grade six classroom portable at Kipling Grove Public School in west end Toronto when we were told John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. In conjunction with that, I’ll never forget coming home from church that Sunday in 1963 to watch over and over on television as they repeatedly replayed Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald, right before our eyes.
Home for lunch, on January 20th 2009, in the privacy of my rec room I witnessed Barack Obama, the United States first black President take the oath of office. I shed tears of joy, never thinking in my lifetime that I’d ever witness this. In listening to his inaugural address I cried too as he asked us to remember the millions who’d lost their lives for the civil rights movement, through slavery, wars, riots, racially motivated actions. This touched me deeply because I’m old enough to remember civil rights activities being part of what seemed every newscast. We watched via American channels on television - the marches, sit-in’s, speeches and political jostling of the 50’s and 60’s. While on holiday with my parents in 1967, we stayed in a cabin in Sudbury where I watched all night, live on television, the Detroit riot, from cameras located on the rooftops. Forty-three people died, 467 people were injured and 2,509 buildings were burnt and destroyed. They were intense, scary times even for this, then 14 year old white Canadian kid from Toronto.
I raise all of this because music and the entertainment business in general had a lot to do with these times. Some black musicians and actors fought their way to acceptance by whites via their artistic gifts though it was generally profit margins that opened many doors. In spite of gradual acceptance, behind the scenes was filled with segregation and double standards.
I’m reading a book, “A House On Fire -The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul” by John A. Jackson and through it these ideas are backed up. He speaks of the early 1800’s when Francis ‘Frank’ Johnson, of Philadelphia, was “the first black musician to win wide acclaim in America and overseas.” Nicknamed the ‘Black Master of Melody’, this trumpet-playing star was the first to open a music school for black students and the first to appear with white musicians in integrated concerts. He was also the first musician – black or white – to take an ensemble to perform overseas.
Over the years, as racism became more intense, Jackson speaks of how blacks steeled themselves through their music, their churches becoming powerful institutions. In Philadelphia, gospel quartets became strong musical entities. The Dixie Hummingbirds, who I witnessed performing magnificently at Ottawa’s Bluesfest in 1998, began back in 1932 in South Carolina, first recorded in 1939 and moved to Philadelphia three years later. Their distinct harmonies, “…the use of dual tenor leads and soaring falsetto ornamentation …” was to have a significant affect on the Philadelphia sound. Secular groups like the Ink Spots, the first black group to gain national attention, picked up on these stylings and followed, creating rhythm and blues variations of their own.
In 1957, the American Broadcasting Company picked up a then locally televised teen dance show from Philadelphia called ‘American Bandstand’. Hosted by Dick Clark, the show became a national sensation almost overnight. Prior to this show making a ‘hit’ would often take months, shopping it around to various area’s throughout the country but now Dick Clark showed his power by often creating hits by playing the song one afternoon. This show remained lily white, not allowing many blacks on at all. The rise of black music and it’s expanding appeal to white audiences, along with a growing interest in black culture, nurtured by the hippy movement of ‘peace and love’ continued to bring more and more black arts to previously all white offerings. Remember the tv show, The Jeffersons, being a spin off of the tv show All in the Family? Remember American Bandstand’s rival, the dance show Soul Train?
Meanwhile, Atlantic Records, a record company started profiting by black pioneers like Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Lavern Baker, The Clovers, The Drifters and Clyde McPhatter. Jerry Wexler, a white producer for Atlantic, has been heralded a guru in developing black artists and their various styles of soul, R&B and pop. In fact, he’s credited with creating the term “rhythm and blues” as a way of renaming the previous term ‘race records’. His death this past summer was a sincere loss as he produced Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, Wilson Pickett, Dusty Springfield and Bob Dylan, among countless others. He created, in 1969, one of my favourite albums entitled ‘Dylan’s Gospel’ - all Dylan songs sung by a black gospel chorus, The Brothers and Sisters of L.A., which he created specifically for this recording.
In the 50’s, entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole and Count Basie played regularly at Las Vegas casino’s and Miami nightclubs but were not allowed to stay in their hotels or use the casino’s or restaurants. It wasn’t until Sammy Davis Jr. became a ‘superstar’ and was part of ‘The Rat Pack’ that he was able to boycott these venues until, eventually, thanks to Sammy and many others, they were all desegregated.
It’s hard to believe that it was only by 1970 that, at least officially, all segregation was declared illegal in the US. Separate sections on busses, schools, washrooms, etc, for “colored only” slowly disappeared. Through the tireless sacrifice of people like Martin Luther King, his musical followers like the Staple Singers and the millions of people who stood up to follow his guidance, the civil rights movement found its satisfaction politically. Less than 40 years later and we are again watching history in the making. President Obama speaks of “yes, we can”…. We’ll have to wait some more time to see what transpires but if even only half the generated ‘hope’ is turned into satisfaction, it’ll be worth the wait. We’ll remember, won’t we.
Locally …. Enjoyed The Camerons; Jamey and Dorothy, filling in for Smith and Smith, providing entertainment a couple of weeks ago at The Crown. Both acts do great covers and add to the dining experience. Also Jack de Keyser and band again showed us the real thing as they graced the stage at O’reilly’s. When a blues band can slip into such great grooves as easily as these guys, you know you’re in for a wonderful evening and the full house showed their appreciation.
The Factory Grind is again hosting an Open Stage for musicians and spoken word artists, the last Friday of each month, with it’s start being this Friday January 30th, between 7 and 10pm. There’s no cover and interested acts are requested to contact Sue at 613-267-7902. Come on out to support our local acts.
Support Live Music Everywhere

"Fixes for Everyone" #68 - Jan. 12/09

Well, the holiday season has come and gone for another year and we’re back, settling into our old routines. One of our routines is to catch Brock Zeman on Tuesdays at O’reilly’s but since we were unable to get our Brock ‘fix’ due to O’reilly’s being closed last week, we headed into Irene’s, on Bank, in Ottawa, Friday night with some friends. Though I’ve often praised Brock’s songwriting and performances, it was enjoyable to see him play to an appreciative full house in a larger, more electric setting. He had his steady bass player, Blair Hogan with him, Steve Foley (of Perth’s local Audio Valley Recording Studio) on drums and Perthite Joel Williams sitting in on guitar. They were having a good time. Nice to Joel pickin’ again. He continues to impress me with his developing tasty licksand added a nice, understated edge. Back to routine with Brock at O’reilly’s on Tuesday’s for the next couple of months. See you there.
I hope you’ve got Thursday January 15th marked on your calendar. A late Christmas gift appears that night. One of Canada’s stellar blues guitarists is coming back to O’reilly’s for one night only. Juno Award winner, with 7 Maple Blues Awards under his belt, the one and only Jack de Keyser will be strutting his stuff. Come on along and he’ll show you why he’s revered in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Always backed by a super band, you can count on having your blues ‘fix’ realized. See you there.
Speaking of ‘fixes’…. Anyone looking to enjoy the magic of hearing some great fiddle / violin, look no further than the intimacy of Music on McLean House Concerts, here in Perth. Anne Lindsay will be landing in on Saturday January 31st. Anne can crank out fiddle tunes like no tomorrow yet can also change her stylings to evoke her recognized violin prowess. At last fall’s Ontario Council of Folk Festivals (OCFF), I sat in a small hotel room as Anne showcased and within one minute her emotionally driven playing brought tears running down my face. Her varied skills found her in 2007 winning two Canadian Folk Music Awards – Best Instrumentalist Solo and Producer (shared with the late Oliver Schroer) – as well as Violinist of the Year from the National Jazz Awards. She also is part of Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy’s Band with whom she played here a year ago, supporting him. She’ll be backed by a masterful guitar player, Jason Fowler, who we’re pleased is making his return appearance to Music on McLean. Call Sue for necessary reservations at 613-267-7902. See you there.
As the winter’s madness with its bone shivering cold, short daylight and snowstorms cause us to cocoon in our warm homes, might I suggest some variety to your evening’s entertainment. We all walk by bins and racks full of dvd movies to rent or buy but there are some other DVD’s that capture some wonderful musical moments and can give scads of entertainment value. There are the old standards, Woodstock, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen to name a few but there are also more obscure dvd’s that can expand your knowledge and entertain at the same time. Here are some examples:
Steve Miller Band – Fly Like An Eagle – 30th Anniversary – Special Edition - offers you a wonderful in-depth interview with Steve Miller as he describes how he came up with the idea for this 1976 album.
Festival Express – this documentary, released in 2004, highlights a chartered train that left Toronto during the summer of 1970 with the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, Buddy Guy, The Great Speckled Bird (Ian & Sylvia), plus many other bands of the day and traveled west for 5 days, stopping in several cities to perform. Along the way the various musicians jammed, partied, socialized and show us a glimpse of the era and musical zaniness of the time.
Les Paul – Chasing Sound - released in 2006, this documentary highlights Les Paul (turning 94 in June), the inventor of the solid body electric guitar as well as many effects, now standard with guitarists. He also developed multi-track recording, as far back as 1940. Also a wonderful guitarist who still plays weekly, it highlights musical sessions he’s done with Keith Richards, Merle Haggard, Chet Atkins to name a few as well as insight into some of the technical history of electric musical instrumentation.
Heartworn Highways – my friend Fraser just lent me this wonderful 1975 documentary (released in 1981) featuring then young, primarily Texas singer-songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, David Allan Coe, Charlie Daniels Band and others. At a time, in the mid 70’s, when electric music was gaining more and more popularity, this story outlines how these musicians were taking the less traveled paths, often reinventing music of their ancestors in their musical creations that have grown and been appreciated. Nice to see where the roots of the musical styles I’m enjoying more and more began.
However you get your musical ‘fix’, I trust you’ll take some time to check out some live music somewhere, support the efforts of musicians who work tirelessly to share their musical gifts and the venues who offer live music.
Support Live Music Everywhere

"Tis The Season" #67 - Dec.14/08

Tis the Season. Yes, it's that time when we're all looking for that special gift for our loved ones, searching to find our own bit of whatever Christmas means to us. There's those family rituals that are followed to the letter until the loss of a loved one or
one's 'family' dynamics change. The innocent smiles on kiddy's faces satisfy parent's previoius month long frustrations, the festive food helps us forget those diets that will wait to the new year and those seasonal tunes flood our audio receptors.
My brother gave me an early gift last weekend that helped bring the Christmas spirit to my searching soul. He'd heard me rave about Andrew Craig’s Gospel Christmas Project we'd seen, along with many from Perth, last year at the Almonte Town Hall. Andrew Craig arranged, directed and sang, along with the Sharon Riley’s Faith Chorale Choir and featured vocalists Jackie Richardson, Kellylee Evans, Alana Bridgewater and Chris Lowe. This show was presented again; this year at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District in downtown Toronto and, since I was down for a meeting the next day, he got us tickets. For the second year the magic of music helped bring me to that festive place. Such amazing singers, all backed by Craig's tasty piano work, accompanied by bass, drums, percussion, keyboard strings and wonderful Hammond B3 swirlings which, I feel, is inseparable to any gospel offering.
Most of you have seen Jackie Richardson as 'Nanna' in last year's Rogers' television commercials. She's done many acting roles on television but she's most noted for her roles in musical theatre. I've seen her in Cookin' at the Cookery, Ain't Misbehavin' and Crowns. Her dynamic vocal range reaches from the depths of her toes up through several octaves, all with the solid, captivating emotion befitting the season. She brings tears to my eyes with her soulful presentations.
Kellylee Evans has performed in our area several times and lives outside Stittsville. She's finalizing her latest recording at Audio Valley Studio, here in Perth. Her sweet voice offered God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen in a stylization, arranged by Andrew Craig that had the audience hanging to every note of energy she offered.
I first was introduced to Alana Bridgewater last year in Almonte but since then have enjoyed her in a lead role in the successful Queen musical, We Will Rock You. She also recently was featured in the Toronto Blues Society's "Women's Blues Revue". You would understand why when you heard her version of What Child Is This. Her dynamic range can slam you in your seat or just as easily tenderly float you to the ceiling.
Together with supportive harmonies by Faith Chorale, led by Sharon Riley, we were offered wonderfully arrangements by Andrew Craig of seasonal favourites like O Come All Ye Faithful, The First Noel, Little Drummer Boy, Go Tell It On the Mountain and Amen. We were all carried to our Seasonal Bliss by the wonderful music. Since then, I've even bought some Christmas presents.
Thirty-four years after first seeing Neil Young, I again took him in, this time at Scotiabank Place. The young power band, Everest, opened, definitely showing their Neil Young influence. One of my favourite acts, Wilco, came on next, led by songwriter / lead singer Jeff Tweedy. They offered several tunes from their latest cd ‘Sky Blue Sky’ - Hate It Here, Impossible Germany, What Light - that highlighted their harmonies, their strong instrumentation of 3 guitarists and often 2 keyboards, besides others from their previous collections. Their diversity of styles from ballad to rocker to roots effectives, sometimes blended into the same tune showed the crowd why they've become so well received worldwide. As a point of interest and kudos, they were also the band who British protest folkie, Billy Bragg, chose to collaborate with in developing two albums, Mermaid Avenue – Volumes 1 & 2, music based on previously unrecorded lyrics written by the late musical icon, Woody Guthrie.
Then came 63 year old, veteran Canadian rocker, Neil, with his wife Pegi ably providing backup vocals and a superb back-up band, powering into one song after the other. Always offering some 'theatre', this time it was an artist creating canvasses at the back of the stage throughout the concert. Other than introducing the band and thanking us for coming, Young focused on his musical offerings, one to the next. His guitar work, both electric and acoustic showed us why he's earned his icon status. One song saw him switching to a pump-style pipe organ to add some variety. He offered many of the standards expected by the full house like Powderfinger, Cinnamon Girl, Hey Hey, My My, which, among others, all built to Rockin' In the Free World climax. We all were on our feet squealing our pleasure and our efforts were answered by a haunting version finale of The Beatles' - Day In the Life. Judging from the smiles I read on the faces of fellow concertgoers as we headed to the parking lots, I'd say Neil was successful, yet again. His unique musical energy just keeps the world wanting more.
Don't forget the Annual Foodbank Dance at the Perth Legion on Saturday December 20th, hosted by Tell Mama, with Keith Glass, PUSH and Guthrie House. Let's all get out and dance our way to supporting this worthy cause.
As 2008 draws to a close I'd like to offer Season's Greetings to one and all from myself and my family. I thank all who have stopped to offer their comments on my past articles and look forward to sharing the music offered about us. A Happy, Healthy, Music Filled, Safe Travellin' Holiday to you all and we'll see you in 2009.
Support Live Music Everywhere

#66 - Places Dec.3rd/08

There are those places in each of our day-to-day lives that music seems an integral part of. Some public spaces like stores, malls, elevators, office waiting rooms, ice rinks each have their own subtle soundtracks that permeate our audio receptors to varying degrees of acceptance. Churches, depending on the denomination, have their own styles of music, varying from the grand pipe organs supported by large harmonious choirs, hymns led by piano accompaniment or country rooted gospel groups. As we spend more of our days on hold on the phone you’ll not.e attempts to utilize musical tracks to help keep us calm and wait patiently.
There are certain places I look forward to hearing their music. Our local Groundwaves store, for example, always seems to have music that pleases my musical tastes, as does O’reilly’s. I’ve filled this column in the past with my love of hearing music (sometime natural) in the warmer months at my camp. Cars, like the camp also seem to be a locale where I look forward to musical accompaniment, even more so because I can control what I’m listening to. I can dial in a preferred radio station, push in a cd or tape of my choosing, depending on the mood. Some can further define their aural accompaniment by turning on their satellite radio.
Rooms in our home pretty well all have some form of musical supplier. I can turn on a radio in the washroom, kitchen, most rooms, living room, rec room and even a stereo in the garage (no one ever said I was normal).
I raise all this about ‘places’ because I’ve realized smiles have taken over my face in a couple of locations recently where special moments of live music have caused memorable moments. Number one is definitely where I get spoiled every time we host a house concert and I’m able to enjoy stellar musicianship in my own living room with a house full of friends.
Just today I was reminded how the Atrium in Code’s Mill seems to be another of those special ‘places’. My parents live near Orillia, are in their 80’s and came for Thanksgiving. Generally they like to wander about beautiful town but a recent leg ailment kept my dad from doing this so they went to the Atrium, always a special ‘place’ for them to enjoy a coffee and some casual conversation. I joined them there shortly after their arrival and I found them grinning from ear to ear. It was Sunday afternoon and Clay Young on piano and a guest were playing. Dad had tears in his eyes as he attempted to describe their delight and giving thanks for being able to be in one of their favourite places and to have Clay providing live music as a bonus. That afternoon made Thanksgiving for my folks and I. Today as I was struggling to get into the Christmas shopping spirit I planned on strolling through the Atrium and came upon a wonderful choral experience. The Men of the Tay choir and a new choir, Women of the Tay were taking turns sharing their musical gifts of Christmas with myself and fellow shoppers. I’d like to congratulate Shelley McLaren for her leadership in developing these wonderful choirs that bring so much joy to their members, obvious by the harmonious exuberance and sweet smiles they’re so willing to share with the surrounding audience. Yes, the Atrium at Code’s Mill is one of those ‘places’ for me.
Last night another ‘place’ was rekindled. The Factory Grind hosted its first ‘Coffeehouse’ and a standing room only crowd was entertained by live music, poetry and storytelling. The presentations were as diverse as the age of the multi-generational performers. We were captivated by an ongoing stream of 15 minute sets offering a wide range. Country tunes, some with yodeling, some folk originals and covers as well as some good ol’ rock and roll were interspersed with a diverse mix of original poetry and some wonderful storytelling. This new opportunity to allow a place for people of all ages to expose their own or others material, to a welcoming audience in both musical or spoken word will start up again in January. Yes, yet another ‘place’ to enjoy.
Tis the season for Perth’s Annual Foodbank fundraiser, being held on Saturday December 20th at 7:30pm – Perth Legion. “The Night Before The Night Before” Fundraiser is again being hosted by Shelley Montreuil, lead singer of Tell Mama, who will be joined onstage by Prairie Oyster’s Keith Glass, the bands PUSH and Guthrie House. Comedian Deborah Kimmett will be the MC. Come on out with all your friends to help fill the Foodbank pantry.
Just a reminder to help support musicians by purchasing cd’s for your family and relatives this Christmas.
Support Live Music Everywhere

Monday, November 2, 2009

#75 Love-in's Prevail

Oh.... you could feel the Love in the room. Thanks to my buddy Gibber, I was sitting with the rest of the full house in the National Arts Centre, anticipating the eminent arrival of a 74 year old poet / songwriter who, just a couple of years ago said he probably wouldn't tour again because there wasn't enough interest. Well Leonard Cohen is thinking differently now. He literally pranced out on stage for the second night of two Ottawa “Sold Out” shows to be welcomed by a heartwarming standing ovation before he'd even uttered a note. And it's just not here as he's selling out everywhere he takes this beautiful production on an extensive world wide tour. The rather matronly woman sitting next to me was from Sault Ste. Marie and came for both yesterday and this evening's performance. At minimum $150 a ticket, plus transportation, hotel, etc., you've got to know she's a dedicated long time fan. Next to her was a couple of lads about 20 years young, also loving every moment. The female dominated crowd appeared to be around the 50+ with a smattering of younger folk.... all humbly in awe of 'his highness'.There was a casual elegence to the whole affair from the attire of the 6 piece band and 3 female back up singers to their wearing of hats similar to what Cohen has been sporting lately by many members. Neil Larsen on keyboards, often B3 organ; Raphael Gayol on drums, musical director Roscoe Beck on bass, Bob Metzger on primarily electric guitar but some acoustic and pedal steel, Dino Soldo on various saxes, bass clarinet, amazing harmonica with string machine fillers and Javier Mas on various acoustic string instruments all played in an understated way, always leaving lots of room for Cohen's bottom end vocals to be the intended focal point. The Webb Sisters and Sharon Robinson surrounded his vocals with two and three part harmonies that nicely added to the consistently sweet (and yes elegant) sound. Roscoe, Bob and Dino also provided background vocals so, mixed with the 3 female voices offered the sum of almost a full gospel choir- like background. Very tasty.He had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. The room seemed to hang on every word, as if every poetic phrase was being offered to each one of us personally. His lyrics do that. They expose those inner thoughts and feelings, often sensual, even sexual, reminding us all of the historical emotional roller coaster rides deep in our own hearts and heads. Let's face it. Cohen's singing voice never was a rich instrument. These days it's more of a lyric - reciting bass line which he fluctuates up and down a few notes in a masterful way. Add some depth and echo through the sound system and he exudes a wonderfully haunting sound. Like Van the Man who also has limited range, it's more the presentation style and lyric content that keeps everyone coming back for more. I want to throw cudo's the sound man's way for his sound mix was stellar. Solid lighting cues and lighting effects also added to the overall ambience. One memorable such scene projected a gigantic silouette of Javier Mas, seated, playing a lute of some sort, high on the backstage wall. Colours ranged from deep sacred purplish reds to squinting sunset oranges, each adding to the lyrical pictoral offering. Elegence prevailed.Cohen's stage presence was effective. From prancing on and off, dropping often to his knee, dancing lightly to and fro, left or right, he seemed to be almost trance – like during each song. He gave each player and singer the opportunity in the show to 'strut their stuff' so to speak. Sharon Robinson co-wrote several tunes with him over the years which, along with Larsen's Hammond B3 often added lovely gospel sounds. The B3 sounds seemed to always be gently swirling between parts adding nicely to the overall audio product. Cohen offered many of his hits, each with a slightly different twist through instrumentation or arrangements. He performed a long first set, gave our emotions a break and came back for another full set, followed by at least three encores (I lost count). Yes, the love flowed and we all felt it, right to the final benediction.I've stayed at the Delta Chelsea in Toronto for the past 25 years while attending conferences, board meetings, etc and not once, in all that time was there any live music that ever caught my ear enough to settle in for a listen. That being said, you can imagine my delight when I recently attended a provincial Community Legal Clinic Conference and, upon checking in found that Thursdays have become 'Blues Nights' there and are co-hosted weekly by none other than Juno and multiple Maple Blues Award guitarist Jack de Keyser joining the incredible blues harmonica player Jerome Godboo and his seasoned band. It was great to see Jack again after his last show at O'reilly's a few months ago. He's playing Blue Skies this year too and watch for him back at O'reilly's. So, if you're in Toronto on a Thursday night, check out the Delta Chelsea... no cover. We danced up a storm and had our blues needs satisfied.Locally, mark your calendar because you’ll have a chance at your own ‘love-in’ as Jenny Whiteley presents the 4th Annual Elphin Roots Festival on Saturday June 27th in Elphin, 1pm to 11pm, with a rain location at the McDonalds Corners Agricultural Hall. We were at a private function a week ago at the Elphin site and it truly is a wonderful space. Featured are Chris Coole, Aengus Finnan, The Gertrudes, Lynne Hansen, Music Maul, Prescott, Sheesham & Lotus, John Southworth, Sugar Plum, Ian Tamblyn, Brock Zeman and many more. Go to http://www.jennywhiteley.com/ for more information. Tickets are available at Shadowfax, in Perth. See you there…..SUPPORT LIVE MUSIC, EVERYWHERE

Wednesday, April 2, 2008