J. Knutson's Road Diary
|| Out of the blocks for 09
Slowly, slowly, says the old Greek adage, so that?s how we?ll ease into this 09.
A few years back after climbing and searching for a ?vortex? of power and illumination in the Sedona area of Arizona I found a stream.
Hot and tired I rested on a rock in the middle of the stream.
No alarms of epiphany went off, the self actualization I sought was not a bolt of lightning from the heavens.
As I began to relax and my mind to drift, it struck me that the water flowing to me was my life ahead. I could no more control the water?s flow than my own destiny.
The water would flow to me, around me and behind and I could either allow it to be so, or fight the current in futility.
This is a nutshell is my resolution of 09. To continue to allow the waters to flow unimpeded, to observe, and to ?go with the flow?
The subtlety of nature is true enlightenment.
|| Reflections of Camelback
Pulled out of Nogales yesterday
With a case of ?Fat Tire? and a bottle of tequila.
It was a hundred and five in the shade.
I?m feeling haunted
In The Black Canyon City.
Haunted by the memory of you.
There?s a white cross put up on the microwave tower
Not far from Horsethieif?s Pass
There?s rows of motor homes that mark the ?Spirit Trail?
Long live the Apache and the Navajo,
The original velvet Elvis and the sunset cactus
There?s an historical auto court ahead.
Can?t rest because this rest stop has been closed for years
Hope you have had a good and relatively warm winter.
As spring sets ready to push its head through the last bit of west coast slush, I was hoping to foster up a bit of support for what I think is a rather exceptional young woman.
Carli Travers is a 24 year old woman who is now living in Uganda and single handedly taking on the challenge of looking after a group of orphaned children.
It?s an amazing story of humanity. Please follow this link and check out the more complete story.
I have been in contact with Carli and I have expressed to her my wish of support and encouragement.
We have agreed to start a series of benefit concerts in aid of her quest.
The first show is planned for March 9, 7 PM at The Citroen Caf? on Lonsdale Ave. at 2nd St. in North Vancouver.
The show will feature The Celtic Swamp Devils, the group I will be playing with at the Vancouver Celt Fest Sunday March 16th at 4:15 The Main Market Stage on Granville St. and at The Roxy on St. Patrick?s Day, 6 pm-8PM.
I am hoping that we can raise $1000.00 for Carli, enough for a month?s rent and food for the 6 children she personally takes care of.
I would ask your help in whatever way you think you could contribute. Just getting word out to a group of friends, perhaps thinking of another venue or fundraiser that we might be able to put together.
As I mentioned in my first letter to Carli, as musicians this is one way that we can help raise awareness, and assistance to the issues that are most important to our community and communities around the world.
She has taken on this remarkable journey herself, I hope that we can rally around her efforts.
Please pass this on to whomever you feel may be able to help, I hope to see you March 9th.
|| Happy New Year! Entry into the great 08'
Lets's start it off with a new tune shall we;
Final Word J. Knutson 01/08
Yes I still see colours brightly
Though their borders now are blurred
Running off in all directions
Waiting for the final word
Dare to tread where few have ventured
Raise your head above the clouds
Common sense cannot be censored
Lift your voice up, shout out loud
Believe the man who?s walking slowly
Listen to the seldom heard
Those that have the best intentions
Wait to hear the final word
Dare to tread where few have ventured
Raise your head above the clouds
Common sense cannot be censored
Lift your voice up, shout out loud
Shout out Loud.
|| Season's best to you!
Let's think about this ol' illogical world of ours for about 7 minutes.
Check this out:
We neen more logical ammunition!
|| Mid summer murmur
It?s about this time in August that autumn will occasionally hint at its oncoming presence.
Just a hint mind you. A cooler than usual breeze, a rainy day from between the sunny stretches or the thought of a sweater at night.
With that notion also comes the inevitable task of ?organizing for fall?.
Collect the nuts, make sure the den is in order, get ready to hunker down for the long cold seasons ahead.
The school bell across the street has been put back on schedule. With almost a month left in their summer, it?s a very cruel prank to play on the kids.
There are still a few families that have yet o take their ?summer holidays?, but not many, most have committed to memory their summer souveigneirs.
It?s another oncoming season of resolution. September is the month of possibility.
A chance to re-invent oneself again.
Just like putting the tools of trade in the new desk. There?s a box of unused chalk on the ledge and the brushes aren?t going to leave tell tale traces of white residue all over your new shirt every time you pick one up.
Open up the storefront, open up the mind front, its time to think about learning something.
|| Ottawa July 1 2007.
Every once and a while in life an opportunity will come along that offers you a glimpse of fulfillment.
A moment of perfection, a sense of peace, a level of calm and contentment.
Like any moment it is fleeting. . Many people will spend the rest of their lives trying to re-live, and re-create such a moment.
Some will gain entry to that place several times, some may never get there, a handful of people in our history have ?lived? there.
When I was asked to write a song to commemorate Ottawa?s 150th birthday I was honored. I felt it could be challenge, one that I was excited but somewhat anxious about.
The song came together and the story unfolded. As did my role in it?s delivery.
This past Canada Day I was asked to perform the song on Parliament Hill as part of the day?s celebration.
After rehearsal on June 30th I was asked to perform the song in the east block to a private gathering of sponsors for the events.
The eastern block of Parliament was built primarily for Sir John A. MacDonald and has housed prime ministers and their private meetings ever since.
The courtyard, (where the nights event was held) is somewhat magical with the trees and garden the surround the eroded stone dwellings.
As I sang the song I realized the ghosts of all the names of which I was singing were listening from the building surrounding me.
It was a beautiful feeling of history at hand.
The morning of July 1st, Canada?s 140th birthday, saw me at the raising of our nation?s flag. Attended by some 5000 morning faithful and an honor guard of RCMP as well as a few politicians and dignitaries, I once more sang the song as our flag was raised to fly over that special day?s festivities.
The sound was like playing above the Grand Canyon, open and cavernous yet magical in the echo and reflection.
Noon came and I played in a songwriter?s circle with some of Canada?s more prolific and well known singer/songwriters, including Don Ross who has always served as a ?guitar inspiration? to me. Each writer had their own take on our nation and played the tunes that pulled together the mosaic of musical style, history and form.
By late afternoon, as the crowds continued to grow I became aware that in a few hours would be playing on the main stage to an audience of over 70,000.
I tried to keep the song, the place and the event in perspective, and breathe through any of the inevitable nervous twinges that would come in waves.
I have performed to large crowds before but never ?on my own? and certainly not in front of anywhere near that many people. That doubled by the fact that this was being broadcast across Canada and being webcast all over the world to quite literally millions of people.
As the final call went out to get in place, my heart was pumping quickly and I was glued to the monitor for our opening cues.
After the preliminary introductions I was called backstage to ?standby?.
I could see the audience from side stage, but couldn?t grasp the width or breadth of its numbers.
With my intro, and the walk on stage, a surreal sense of calm came over me. I stood on stage with a world watching and I felt at peace.
The song, the beautiful evening light of day and the warmth of the audience brought the story to life. I lived the journey of the characters I had written about and placed myself as witness to the building of our nation?s capital. I remember smiling at the thought of the timeless stones behind me being raised to place, and truly felt the patriotism of the collective history that was in front of me.
With the delivery of the last few lines of the song I stood back from the mic and cherished the feeling of being on such a stage again, permanently marking that moment to memory so I could visit it again whenever there would be troubled times or self doubt or sadness.
I walked from the stage, reached the wings, and my knees almost gave out.
The rush of what had just transpired left me breathless.
I sat for a moment and collected my thoughts and my strength, then returned to the backstage area and counted down the minutes until I could return to the show?s finale.
I am eternally grateful for that glimpse of fulfillment, and truly thankful to everyone who helped me see it.
It was the most wonder birthday present a country could offer. Inspiration.
|| End of Term
O.K. so back on track. Physics 192 has wound down for the term.
It looks like I?ll be up on the hill this July. Not Burnaby, but Parliament Hill.
Negotiations are under way in the usual Ottawa fashion for an appearance on the evening variety show, televised and coast-to-coast. What a great view of the fireworks!
Plans are also gelling for the summer dates. I should be able to get back into B.C.?s interior and Alberta before heading back east to Ontario and Quebec for the first few weeks of July.
I?ll keep the calendar up to date. Watch out for upcoming 24 Hour Cardlock gigs, yes off of the blocks and into a local drinking establishment near you this June.
Josee and I have completed the 1857 tune for the Ottawa birthday party. It will be available for download by the end of April. You can visit www.1857.gc.ca to get it.
Knutson/Lajoie will also be playing a series of dates in and around Ottawa just after Canada Day and officially releasing the ?9 Pieces au Depanneur-Live? C.D. on July 14 at Old Hull?s Depanneur Sylvestre.
That?s the business out of the way. Hope you?re all well. Drop me a line, tell me your thoughts, vacation plans, predictions on the Stanley Cup playoffs? Go Nuck?s Go!
Check the C.B.C.?s playoff pool, it seems ?The Swamp Devils? are sitting at #10 after the first game. Hey, that?s the highest chart position I?ve had in 15 years.
Lotsa Love J.
|| Holy Freakin? Fiddy better have a Party!
Yes it?s the half-century mark, and if Alice Cooper were to re write his old classic,
it might go like this;
Hair grows on my ears and my nose
I still can?t tell you where the money goes
I?m here at 50 with too many plans
I need a doctor to understand,
That I?m aging
Get more confused everyday
Aging, I?ve still got plenty to say
Aging, keep the lawyers at bay
We?ve got to get out of this place
Maybe a reno, cause I need more space
Kids grown up now, with kids of their own
Mom and Dad are in the ol? folks home
I?d go see the world if only I could
But I bought a new house in my old neighbourhood
I?ll write a book someday
Aging, my comb-over?s going astray
Aging? I need a new car
We?ve got to get out of this place
Nip, tuck and Botox to help fix this face?
I can?t remember all the words to my songs
I need my glasses just to sing along
I?m still not sure where it is I belong
My mid life crisis has come and gone,
Now I?m Aging
Aging, Aging, and I like it?..
One fell swoop, Big Birthday Bash, everyone turns the corner on Fiddy.
We're gonna have a party, while we can still shake what we go left!
We bring the sound gear, they give us the space, oodles of bands on hand. "Jerry Atrick and The Heartstoppers", "The Good Ol' Boys", "The Late Bloomers" and "Rear View Mirror".
The catch is it had to be on a Sunday, so, hey we're old enough to go out on Sunday nights and make some noise, hell it's our BIRTHDAYS!
No excuses about next day having to go to work. At 50 we better act on it while we still have time.
There's a whole crew of geriatrics comin? in from near and far.
We have access to the Mosquito Creek bar and Grill Sunday March 11.
No tickets necessary, no minimum to spend, no muss no fuss. Let's just get as many of us 1/2 centurions in the room early (maybe 6-ish), earlier if they want to eat dinner there. Its pretty decent food.
So, next step is to get the grapevine lit up and get word out.
Drop a note or a call to as many as you can think of. Of course respective wives, friends and families are welcome.
Let's fill it up and party down.
|| 1857 (un amour, une histoire) J. Knutson
In eighteen hundred and fifty-five
The Irish clan that were left alive
Saw the last of holy ground at the harbour at Cobh
Tired lost souls seeking lands unknown
Disease grew rampant when the crops had failed
Their very own unions put the hungry in jail
The wealthy landowners then tightened their grips
And forced three million on the coffin ships
A mother?s cry for mercy had come too late
A lone boy orphaned at the factory gate
He could barely know the horrors that were held inside
Worked and beaten most eventually died??.
But the Spirit grew with young Donal Kennedy
His dreams marked freedom in a land overseas
When the gate flew open at just 16 years
He never looked back as he left the pier
Three weeks was the journey to a Canadian dream
Many never saw land again, buried at sea
When the ship weighed anchor and the journey was done
Young Kennedy stood on Les Isles de la Madeleine
Un amour, une histoire
Forging together stronger than ever
Un amour, une histoire
Ensemble, on b?tit un chez nous
Une jeune fille, ? peine 15 ans
L?a?n?e d?une grande famille dans l?bas du St-Laurent.
Un enfant d?la Nouvelle Terre.
Elle s?appelait H?l?ne Ste-Marie.
Par son village passaient souvent
De nouveaux arrivants en qu?te d?un avenir
Le jeune Donal ?tait d?ceux-l?
Avec lui la belle H?l?ne est partie
The St. Lawrence stood to meet them with her arms opened wide
And further ahead lay fertile countryside
To help build a nation, to the sawmills they?d go
Along the Ottawa River and up Gatineau
In 1857, the queen?s message was sent
Find a location to house parliament
Richard Scott looked to Sir Edmund Head?s eyes
And Ottawa?s accepted as ?fair compromise?
By the Rideau Canal the first stones were laid
To form the foundation with Bytown?s estate
Constructing a capitol, one federal state
Under John A. MacDonald and George Cartier,
For French, for the English, for the MicMac and Cree
and all the first nations, and those from o?er seas
For Helene St. Marie and Donal Kennedy
A new life, a new nation, a new family
Un amour, une histoire
Forging together, stronger than ever
Un amour, une histoire
Ensemble, un b?tit un chez nous
Un amour, une histoire
Bring our voices together, stronger than ever
Un amour, une histoire??Ensemble
To mark all the dreams we?ve yet to fulfill
For time and memorial the stones are there still
So the hopes and the strengths of Canadians? will,
Rings out from the tower on Parliament Hill
|| Double ought 7
Cue the theme music, pan left, frame Daniel Craig, frame jiggles and ? fade to red.
Happy 007; a dramatic entry into what promises to be a dramatic year.
The resolution list;
Be- more happy.
Be- a more diligent blogger.
Eat more broccoli.
I never did care much for broccoli, but I keep reading about all the benefits, and I did like Cubby R Broccoli producer of the James Bond films ? that brings us back to square one.
After all, if we can land back at the base then it?s mission accomplished.
In a nutshell, (also very high in benefits), this year starts with a commercial we worked the theme music to, that runs during the football playoffs. People are gonna be pissed at me for putting that Teee? Beee? Vets jingle through their sub conscious, but it was for a good cause. Sorry they play the thing every 15 minutes. Nobody knows its me singing anyway (except you now) don?t tell any one else. You see reading this stuff has benefits of it?s own.
Logarithm and Blues is up and running its course at SFU. We haven?t blown anything up yet so I think all are pleased. There was a pretty impressive pyrotechnics display the first day. If it was 10 times bigger we?d blow the roof of B.C. Place, but I guess that?s been done.
Finally there?s a tune that has made its way to Ottawa to commemorate the founding of the ol? Bytowne as our nation?s capitol some 150 years ago.
It was a great honour to write the song, and an even greater honour to be a part of the ?Six String Nation? project, (see; six string nation.com) which will all take place at Winterlude in Ottawa this February. There?ll be a few special guests on the opening night?s ceremonies, and Josee LaJoie and I will get to perform the song then.
I?ll post the lyrics to ?1857 (un amour, une histoire)? in the gallery section of the web site.
So have yourself a special 2007, by all indications a year for the books.
Thanks for reading along, I?ll keep you posted.
|| The Day After
Well it?s really like a couple of months after.
I?ve taken on a teaching gig at Simon Fraser University.
The Science of Sound, or more like Logarhythm n? Blues.
Physics and music-joined at the hip, and it?s the ?hip? we?re shooting for.
This is a course designed to pull the science student (up to their eyeballs in the formula trench that is first year sciences) and drag them into a creative perspective.
It?s a course that will give the first year arts student some idea of what those graphs they?re staring at are when they?re recording their sound collage or soundtracking their film noir.
For me it?s a new window, an opportunity to pool my accumulated bits of info, trivia, twisted logic and experience and parlay them into application with a gifted and dedicated co instructor Mike Haden from the SFU Physics dept.
It?s all a bit of an experiment, but hey isn?t everything.
An attempt to shine some scientific insight on the magic, smoke and mirrors of music.
The course starts up in January and is filed as Physics 192.
And speaking of dragging things up from a trench, there may be some hope yet for our southern neighbours .The Democrats reclaiming the house and senate is a step in the right (left) direction. If there is a terrorist behind every Bush, with Rumsfeld gone and Dubya eating crow, maybe we can take a lead, get our boys the hell out of the A-stan frying pan, and hope that some common sense starts to dictate over the global village and its idiots.
|| Long way home.
After what had been a revelation in terms of performances, lifting the bar to a new level, we took a 10-hour bus ride back to earth and all troubles that she has to endure to keep turning on her axis.
The terrorist threat, the bobbies on street corners now bearing AK47?s, steel re-enforced gates dropping to trap tourists for hours in hallways and public toilets. The hysteria.
Jolly ol? land of paranoia. Terror at 35,000 feet read the headlines in 2 inch black font.
A cellphone had rung causing the pilot to turn around and shut the airport down for another 6 hours. Someone?s cellphone had rung?a breach of security, the soft white underbelly revealed, a nation under siege.
4 hour line ups through security. It looked like Christmas holidays.
People waiting for days. No planes in, no planes out.
Second day,4 am at the airport, nothing other than a wallet and passport allowed on board. Mountains of luggage waiting in purgatory on the tarmac.
Absolute chaos. Terrorists mission accomplished. A cell phone had rung.
After 2 days we board for the 9-hour flight home. Enthusiasm dampened somewhat, but hey it?s the new world, the global village of fear. Atta boy George, right where you want em!
|| How I spent my summer vacation Part 1
Scotland ?ill aye be my home, at least for a couple of weeks for The Aberdeen International Youth Festival.
32 fine folk from the Celtic Ensemble, more I-pods, fiddles and enthusiasm than sense.
This one is for all last year?s work. A chance to take the step up, raise the bar a few notches and stand on a world stage.
35 countries represented, 870 young people and a handful of us old sods along for the ride.
After countless hours of wait, fly, wait, fly and wait we arrive in London at the end of the day.
A shuffle through Gatwick and we board the bus bound for Aberdeen. Aberdeen has reached mythical proportions in our minds. Like the allusive carrot it always seems to be just a little further, just a little bit more money down the road. Now the road is rising up to greet us, and after the first of what would be several ?All niters? we pull into town bright, early and dog tired.
Some sleep at the university (remarkably beautiful, founded in 1495).
I won?t go over the next 12 days rigorous scheduling, suffice to say that The Celtic Ensemble performed more in those two weeks than it had in the previous year.
From the sublime (the beach ballroom or His Majesty?s Theatre in Aberdeen) to the ridiculous (on a flatbed truck on the side of a hill at Keith Fair, an outside mall or a jam factory), but the jam was very good and as it turned out so was the experience, the confidence level and the bonding of the group.
With the last few gala performances the bar had definitely been raised, and once that?s done there?s no lowering it.
We did on one occasion get to perform the tune ?Aberdeen? which I wrote after a trip there way back in the early 80?s. The Blue Parrot as the backdrop, it felt good to realize that tune in its original environment. So hard to believe that 20+ years have slid by and still the vision and story of those 3 boys leaving their little town of Aberdeen remains so fresh in my mind.
At the opening ceremonies of the festival, whilst all the flags of the participating nations were held, when all the national anthems were being sung, when our turn to stand and represent our country was at hand, along side a tremendous feeling of national pride and the notion that we are truly blessed to be Canadian I couldn?t help but feel the bitter sweet irony of knowing that we were one of the very few groups there receiving no support from our federal or provincial governments. Not a dime was given for us to fly our flag on this international stage.
1 Billion dollars to the military, and not a cent to the youth to carry the torch of hope, pride and possibility. Shameful.
That our kids got there, and delivered the goods, was a testament to their resilience and determination.
I will embellish and recount the tale of trail home in the next installment
|| Canada Day 06
The Celts were off to Ottawa, new uniformed tie-dye shirts and fiddles in hand.
After the red eye and the longest round about route possible to get there, we arrived at Cartier Park and the Franco side of Canada day celebrations in our nation?s capitol.
If there?s one thing to be counted on in Ottawa around July 1st, it?s volatile weather.
This year was no exception. Thunder, lightening, heavy rain, extreme humidity, blazing sun, all wrapped up into a long weekend package and capped off with fireworks.
The group played well and over the next three or four days between Wakefield, Almonte and the capitol region. A musical tightness evolved that only playing on the road can deliver.
The others went on to Montreal; I stayed to do a show with Josee LaJoie in Gatineau.
I have done some odd venues in my day but I can?t honestly say that I?ve ever played a ?corner store?. That all changed with an appearance at Depaneur Slyvestre.
It was, indeed a corner store in a neighborhood of old Hull .It magically transformed itself into a lovely little gig, when the bags of chips, loaves of bread and bottles of milk were pushed aside and chairs put up.
Next, on the bus to Montreal and the Jazz Fest.
This city has hosting a festival down to an art form. A mainstage erected perilously close to a main street, full of traffic, converted in 1/2 an hour to become a public viewing area complete with beer garden. This transformation takes place everyday at 6pm for about 10 days.
World cup mania had swept through Montreal. I caught the first half of the final at an Italian caf?, quaffed a latte and cheered with the Italians, ran down the street to St. Denis for the second half, drank beer and cheered with the French. Overtime was viewed on the way to soundcheck in a Quebecoise bar, La castor (the Beaver) 3 Italian fans 3 French fans. After the shootout 200,000 people descended on the streets for the finale of the Jazz Fest, another 200,000 people on Pont Cartier to watch the fireworks and a good 1/2 a dozen upstairs at Club Utopik to catch a set by Anique Granger and myself.
It was a ?Righteous Babe? audience straight back from the Ani De Franco show at the Spectrum the night before. A great time to be in Montreal.
Back to Vancouver, and out to The Mission Folk Fest. 40-degree temps, more humidity than the poor ol? guitar could bear and 24 cranky violins cut a swath through the dank early evening air. I discovered the cold shower tent the second day of the fest and managed to peel away the previous days layer of permasweat n? dust.
?Frigg? from Scandinavia were amazing,
We returned to Vancouver after mainstage Saturday, another night of camping with 25 djembes drumming to a full ghetto blasted Dark Side Of The Moon til 3 in the morning was not to be re lived.
Only once in a lifetime should one experience such a multi cultural slice of evolution.
Off to Scotland.
|| Quick reflections
There?s a kind of flash card synapses of memory that follows a ?pocket tour? like the one I have just finished.
Revelstoke; Woolsey Creek Caf?, delicious Pad Thai a bit of Au Nang in the mountains of B.C. Kootenay Brown Ale on tap, I-pod shuffling through the Rogers Pass, cardio submission high altitude vista.
Field; The Pig?s Truffle, another delectable discovery, and a testament to taking the ?world organic? little by little. Fair trade, grown in the shade, it?s the power of the consumer to alter the ethics of this global marketplace.
Through the Rockies, I just found god where he always was.
Calgary; Neapolitan Pizza prescribed to the principle pasta. Calzone and tradition on tap England over Trinidad 2-nil.
Rosebud Alberta; tucked under a cooley, along a slow winding river, nowhere to go to fast, the home of multitudes of feathered flock. The Bud of The Rose with theatre school, opera house and Caf? home of the folk club, A Bob Newheartland population 80 dream on stage in the flesh.
The new waterfront property of southern Alberta, 100cm of rain in 24hours. Rice patty perfection on a wheatfield submerged.
Take to the hills and the skyline pass, Salmo shines on the roof of the Western World.
Ghana 2, Czechs nil.
Nelson watches as the pine beetle encroaches, more rain, Edmonton goes home one goal short, the streets of Whyte Ave. cleared of Oil.
Rossland; alpine Grind, a black bear takes in the show, steals the show then consumes local flora, all in a day?s work. The ?banshees? ride the steepest Red trails, from far below the folk music wails, pack up the gear and set the sails.
|| Our imminent demise
After a long weekend on a couple of the Gulf Islands, and the relative release from the confines off this city fortress that surrounds the North Shore I am left wondering can we indeed see the forest for the trees?
The news has just become too damn depressing to listen to.
The world is lighting the fuse on the powder keg that it is perched upon.
Our socially convoluted ideals have clashed in a new world crusade where it seems that for many Armageddon can?t come quick enough and this hip-hoppity rapture culture seems to be the catalyst, our rocketship to oblivion.
The bulk of the population trudges on blissfully unaware of man?s inhumanity to each other, nature and himself but we sure as hell can keep tabs on the status of the Brittany Federline marriage, if Lindsay Lohan breaks a nail at a New York Disco, or Paris Hilton?s latest pubic haircut.
We keep vigil on the garbage bins of the Branjolina Namibian compound for signs of a discarded newborn diaper like we look for white smoke in the Vatican signaling a fearless new leader.
There?s a new star above Africa and the wise men have gathered bearing gifts of Gucci, Microsoft, BMW, Rolex and oil rights.
As I lay in bed after a show on Cortes I heard the crickets and frogs, I was cloaked in complete darkness save for the multitude of stars above. I realized the scope and the scale of our significance in this universe.
The king is dead, long live the king.
|| As the Sugar Suite closes it's doors for good, I wish the best for Paul and Dan who were open and caring enough to make the little community of Lynn Valley once again aware of it's self.
Like all small communities across this country it is very easy to get swallowed up by the strip mall mentality that pre-eminates and dominates them.
For most their sense of autonomy or identity is lost to the endless parade of big box chain stores.
The little cafe that could offered a glimpse of what could be done with a little community support.
I say that because of the people that gave their support, not the district whose complete lack of help or understanding simply reflects the dysfunction they are famous for.
Without the ability to comprehend how community works at a civic governmental level there can be no foundation for growth.
Despite the barriers, roadblocks and utter nonsense thrown at the Sugar Suite by the district they continued until they simply could not afford to play the game any longer.
Faced with a lease increase of some 300% The Suite closed it's doors for good, leaving a gaping hole in the community 3 times the size of the mall developement across the street.
In Lynn Valley, it's very hard to see the forrest from the trees.
|| I?m going to break the code of silence.
I may be betraying all those industry types and fellow musicians out there who are perpetuating the myth, but I?m willing to take the heat.
As Pamela Anderson said when taking a shot at the seal hunters at the Juno?s ?I can handle it? (more on the Juno?s later). (no, I take that back there will be no more said about the Juno?s)?(ever again).
The C.D. was once heralded as the cutting edge of technological prowess.
To have released a ?disc? was to have clawed your way into the hi-fi spectrum once only reserved for Steeley Dan and a handful of audio-phile compliants.
It put ?direct to disc? to shame, it struck fear into the heart of ?Chrome low noise tape?
Those old Dark Side Of The Moon half speed gold masters paled in the eclipse of the digital donut.
So at what level have we taken the bar to today? Well in most cases, below bar stool level. Hear the sonic splendor of a new Toby Keith recording, or the low fi mastery of your flavor of the week, bearded alt-rock collective. Wave your hands in the air like you just don?t care, and do it whilst grooving to a drum and bass loop mixed to shake the chassis of your pimped out 1970?s Chrysler Imperial.
Our appreciation of the full spectrum sound at hand has been fully realized.
With the advent of digital reproduction the DDD spelled ?demise?.
Direct to hard drive was the highway to hell. Every Tom, Dick and Moby has released their own c.d, most cleverly hand labeled with a Sharpie, and photoshopped to the masses.
With garage band we have created a monster in the garage, no band no garage just a lot of ?frooty loops? that have left us koo koo for coco puff daddy.
When your new disc ?drops? in the forest, does anyone really hear or care.
What kind of numbers can one expect to sell?
Burn a thousand? It used to be the minimum. Now you?re lucky to sell enough to cover the cost of the yellow cartridge on your ink jet.
No, my friends, we commit our music to the memory chip for one reason only and that?s so you can hear it. Gold status in Canada is ?break even?.
You can rip down load up on all the latest sounds save to your cell phone, hell, even use them to tell you your phone is ringing. You can edit them to just catch the chorus, change the mix, add your favorite rhythm track, bring John Bonham back from the grave and use the ?stadium? e.q. setting so it sounds like U2 coming out of your 3-centimeter speaker.
All that having been said, at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, when our arms are tired of waving them like we just don?t care.
It will come back to the songs.
|| Maybe on this April Fools day we should look to ourselves, and check out the fool within.
This message is simple:
Too much talk, not enough action.
Too many speaking, not enough listening.
In a flurry of activity, I find myself needing to listen more.
As Jon Anderson said in "Your Move"
"Don't surround yourself with yourself"
|| Live @ The Sugar Suite
So it?s stripped to the bone and there for all to see.
The songs just as nature intended. Recorded over a couple of nights last December, Live @ The Sugar Suite is a retrospective of almost 25 years in this wacky business.
I wanted to use a true cross- section of tunes from all the various musical incarnations I have lived. I tried to take a snippet of each one and bring it back to where it started, just voice and guitar (or bouzouki as the case may be).
As I mentioned in the liner notes, I have had the great opportunity of working with many gifted, talented musicians over the years, I have learned much and made some good friends. Their contributions to the songs are immeasurable, their influences often detectable, so this project is in tribute to them and our association.
13 tunes whittled down from about 30. It?s a bumps left in, raw account of a time, place and story.
The c.d. is available through e-mailing me, or at a few locations around Vancouver including The Sugar Suite in North Vancouver.
Thanks again to Daniel and Paul for all their help in getting this project and the singer/songwriter series off the ground.
|| Bigger Fun
The world is working too hard and getting too little out of it.
We are hell bent on making life the best it can be on two weeks holiday.
50 weeks of slog for a couple with the grog.
There has to be a better balance.
The computer and the cyber-world has given us the illusion of more time away from the desk when in fact we are anchored there for most everything we do.
O.K. if we?re not going to change this habit, lets make it a little more exciting.
The tremendous success of information exchange sites like ?Craig?s List? is a testament to the growing number of those who would look outside the conventional commercial websites for most anything including lifestyle.
I think that most folks are wary of websites that might compromise their basic conservative nature, or possibly expose their curiosity to something other than the image they project in public.
The Internet is still very much regarded as ?public domain?.
The resurgence in popularity of Las Vegas has everything to do with the new adult oriented city theme and their motto ?What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?.
Las Vegas tourism runs TV. commercials showing the need to keep these little secrets in order to fully appreciate the city?s services and in turn live your dreams.
Not everyone can go to Vegas, and many wouldn?t want to.
It is still ?public in the open? and anonymity is certainly not guaranteed.
The growing interest in websites such as Mask TV, where you can live out your most intimate fantasies, while wearing a mask suggest you can keep your identity a secret, but you have to be willing to have the whole thing filmed and then displayed on line.
For the more voyeuristic this might be a kick, but for most that?s where the fantasy ends.
After spending time in Asia, I saw that privacy there is most difficult to obtain. People seek their moments of escape through ?virtual freedom? and spend a lot of time supporting their on-line personalities.
There is a very strong ?grassroots? movement, to be independent of conventional mainstream music, literature, visual art, clubs, theatre and movies. There is also a groundswell of interest in the discussion and involvement of this movement.
?Underground? clubs spring up weekly to provide themed events. Independent bands release entire albums of music on-line, strictly for file sharing. Art has left the galleries and is appearing in alleys, lofts, airplane hangers and private homes.
?Newsgroups? are a viable way that like-minded people can exchange pertinent information, world events and current issues, and then address the issues that are relevant to their place in this world.
This is potentially the largest ?niche? market in the world.
That is to say that it?s a whole lot of niche groups that have the potential to invoke social change at a level that affects them personally.
This having all been said, at this stage in our lives I?m not sure that any of us are seeking another battle to wage.
I think we have probably become far more accepting, a kinder, gentler demographic.
But this doesn?t mean we can?t have more fun, or get excited about a few things now and again.
As we make our way through our 40?s and 50?s and stare 60 in the eye, it?s time to prove there?s a little life in those ol? bones yet.
How about a website where a group of friends/acquaintances/confidents can log in and share their views, chat about anything, post their art, compose, reflect, stimulate and titillate?
It would just take an identity and a password.
If you travel and it?s late, you?re on your own and you need company, dial it up.
If you just finished a new song or short story, post it to the group and gain some feedback.
I know many of us have existing websites, and do write blogs, but this could be different, a personal site for ?personals? but not the back pages of some free seedy magazine personal.
This would be a behind closed door personal, with a limited but growing amount of like-minded adults, with common interests.
These entries could be discreet and directed to an individual or a group. They are posted with a purpose ?to share within the members?.
. This could be for singles or couples, those committed to a relationship, or those seeking a sense of autonomy in an environment where discretion is paramount.
It wouldn?t be a dating line or a hook-up site.
This site would grow with the people that were invited to be a part of it, with those people that would add to the ambience, culture and nature of the site, with those that would contribute to it?s evolution.
I think the technical logistics of developing such a site would be relatively straight- forward.
The main objective being ?the content?
Kind of like pen pals with an edge.
The web site could be the very nucleus of a ?Cultural development?
With growth we broaden the boundaries to include issues, events and topics that relate to our demographic and the things that interest and affect us.
For example; The Environment. Politics, Spiritualism, Health (fitness), Sex, Food (wine beer) and Travel.
This might seem like a pretty broad list, but these are the topics of our days and everyone involved isn?t necessarily going to be interested in every field. We could run a side bar list. After logging in, you choose your topic of interest.
Again, ?Content? would be king.
I think that we could have enough people writing, contributing and posting in each category, not only to carry the subject, but also to stimulate dialogue.
Obviously something like politics would have been a prime focus in the last month or two but probably not looked at much for the next little while. But this is good; the site grows, evolves and breathes with current events and issues.
This is a very interesting time in our lives, one of re-evaluation, of re-development and re-invention. From within a relatively small group could expand a new fun, inclusive culture.
The opportunities abound from there.
Drop me a line at email@example.com and let me know what you think.
|| It?s well into 2006 and this is the first entry into our little ongoing blog.
For that I would apologize except that not having been on the computer for a month, the time has been well served as a refresher. A much needed kick in the pants, a break from the ol? routine and a recharging of the batteries.
O.K. now that all the clich?s have been rounded up in one paragraph I?ll move on to more pressing rhetoric.
How bout that election! We are not men we are devo. The de-evolution is here. Jump on the bandwagon. Strategic voting? What the hell is that? Good strategy, vote for the lesser of two evils? you are left with ?evil. Anyway you look at it.
Now our evil of course is a much gentler kinder evil than that to the south, but make no mistake, there beneath the surface lays a fire and brimstone agenda.
Are we to act surprised when the ?good moral family values? stand up and slap us in the face? Then who?s going to be ?left behind??
But I digress.
This particular entry was to show the re-invigorated dedication to song.
All these diversions, all that beauty.
New Zealand is like landing in the middle of the national parks. I am constantly amazed at the geographically diverse nature of the land and it?s people.
One month is barely enough to scratch the surface and this is the 4th time I have had the pleasure of visiting the land of the Kiwi.
The fact that they?re enjoying the heights of summer is also not too hard to take.
The Kiwis have inherited a rather dubious distinction from the rest of this fossil fuel gobbling orb. They have the highest rate per capita of skin cancer in the world. This is the result of a big ol? hole in the ozone that lives right above them.
Because of the non- ratification of the Kyoto agreement by the likes of the Americans and Aussies (the kiwis direct neighbours ) New Zealanders have been taking it on the chin or the forehead or neck.
We know that the Bush administration doesn?t believe in ?global warming? hell it?s the coldest winter in years ain?t it! We also know they don?t know their derri?res from a hole in the ozone.
Now Harper is going to pull Canada out the agreement in favour of the American-flavoured oil company driven we?ll just do our own part and you should be happy about it plan to clean up the environment plan.
We can?t let it happen. Let em know.
|| Primordial Stew
Somewhere around the time that man decided he?d had enough of the oceanic quagmire and extracted himself from the politics of the primordial stew, a new party was formed.
Man was convinced that he could trip the light politik more effectively on land.
Several million years later little has changed. Pre historic attitudes still prevail on most political levels and bureaucracy grinds the best of intentions into a dust that lines our caves floors. Traditions long held sacred such as dragging one?s mate by the hair back to the bachelor layer are held up to be ?politically incorrect? by a handful of minority self interest cave-people which operate on a single issue personal agenda.
Witness the recent local elections. These finely run machines produced a campaign that was reduced to mud slinging and name-calling. The end result was a revamping of the municipal electoral maps and in most cases a chance to stall any important decisions the communities might face until next time their collective asses are on the line.
We are seeing this first hand not only on a local level, but provincially, and from our nation?s capital.
Nothing is getting done. We have shelved initiatives and bills that are there for good reason to make this land a better, safer and healthier place to live. Issues that have been fought tooth and nail to pass through all levels of governmental discouragement.
Politics has become a bad reality game show, it?s hosts lost in rhetoric and bound by 30-second sound bites. It?s one long info-mercial for slice and dice ideology.
We wonder why there is such apathy towards government, elections and politics in general? Look no further than the de-evolution of the parties themselves. They?re a half beauty contest, half gong show Heinz 57 bunch of used car salesmen who once fully indoctrinated will only tow the party line, which is, simply do or say whatever it takes to stay in power.
There is no accountability, it?s not part of the platform.
We as voters don?t even know how to ask for it any more. It has gone the way of the dinosaur. A non-issue.
Dog eat dog in the ol? rat race, the one with the biggest club rules the roost.
If this all sounds a tad vague, then it?s meaning is successful. Avoid specifics, shy away from the black and white. . Kind of like impressionist electioneering.
You fill in what it means to you and the most commonly accepted theory is the one that we?ll stick with; it?s the one that will get the votes.
|| Bulkley valley
It started in Prince Rupert, a town that I last played 30 years ago. It was the first year of ?being on the road? and two weeks in Rupert was an eternity, even though it ended in a bang. The owner of ?The Royal Cellar? (where we were performing) decided that the latest notice of ?Condemned? was the last straw. He took it upon himself to demolish the building in one fell swoop.
Set the joint on fire and collect whatever insurance he could from this endeavor. Unfortunately for him, the police got the wiser and he landed in jail.
We landed at The SlumberLodge and awaited the opening of the snowed in Skeena Pass to get to Burns Lake our next northern town to be conquered.
All this to say that when I arrived 30 years later to P.R. very little has changed. There is still a hole in the ground where the Royal Cellar stood and although the names have changed most of the buildings, stores and streets look just as they did all those years ago.
The Skeena Valley was awash in morning light and looking every bit as majestic as the rugged mountains surrounding it. The drive up the valley to Terrace is beautiful.
Then on to The Bulkley.
The show that night was in an ancient catholic church converted into a daycare by day and coffee house at night. Dragons now preside over the area once exclusively reserved for things far holier, but not necessarily any less dangerous.
The next night after a long hike up to the top of Hudson Bay Mountain, (I believe named after the blanket not the body of water to the east,) we stayed in a cabin at the tree line.
A wondrous storm that evening nestled us in amongst the old wood stove, candles and the ubiquitous Yaghtzee game. So Silent, so dark, like sensory deprivation and revitalization at the same time. Silence isn?t so much golden as it is ebony and limitless.
The next day back to the Bulkley Valley Exhibition in Smithers.
Here I was billed like a scene from Spinal Tap, after ?Fly Casting Contest?, but proudly headlining over Pie Eating Contest and Over 50?s Line Dancing.
I played in the staging area while the Calf Auction competed for air time.
It gave me an idea for the next album?s ambient background ?Do I hear 50, yes, 50 going once, twice?sold to the folk singer on the next stage over?.
So I returned from the North with a wealth of memories and a 6-month-old cow named Ethel.
She?s not taken much to the apartment life, but hey I got used to it, now there?s free milk and, free cable
|| If This Is Tuesday.... This must be Sointula.
Aug. 21 Denman Island- after 20 years a return to play Denman Island. There was a warmth in the back hall, both from the candlelight and the audience. The Gulf Islands have a charm and a unique character to each. It is always a treat to play there and to share the stories of the area.
Aug.22 Telegraph Cove- The Enigma, a small little end of the road resort with an injection of big time American savvy. The plague had struck and left the area decimated. 21 million die from the influenza in the 20?s and two of those were the sole inhabitants of Telegraph Cove, but the mystery is there was never any outside human contact during the infection period. Once again, it must be those damn seals. As the night settled on the beautiful little orca beach a sasquatch in heat broke the silence and sent us scurrying back to our tent pitched amongst the motor-home fishermen. Thank goodness for mobile satellite dishes or we would have missed the re-re-run of Everyone Loves Raymond.
Aug.23 Port MacNeill/ Sointula Island-wonderful Sointula makes the Scandia-blood run warm. 200 foot Sitka Spruce on the Bere Point walkabout. And a lazy lunch in pristine Mitchell Bay.
There?s a change a comin to one of the last bastions of ?hippiedom?wrapped in escalating real estate, sea shells, canned fruit co-op commerce and $150 a night B&B RV sites.
But the halibut was like butter.
Aug 24 Port Hardy and The Inside Passage-15 hours along the most beautiful coastline this province has to offer. Greys and Humpbacks, eagles, porpoise, and miles and miles of untouched forrest, waterfalls and shear granite cliffs.
The Great Bear rainforest, Bella Bella and all things mythical.
The German tourists, the SUV?s and all things predictable. The ying and the yang.
As Kafka said ?There is hope?just not for us?
One cannot escape the idiocy of the George Bush administration. Even here, lost along the wilderness of the west coast the lunacy of his words permeates the airwaves. Inescapable.
In 1942 during Hitler?s ?expansionist policy? it was written ?the warrior caste often become protection racketeers. In times of crisis, power is easily stolen from the many by the few on a promise of security?
As Ronald Wright has stated ?the more illusive or imaginary the foe, the better for manufacturing consent? he goes on to say the ?the inquisition did a roaring trade against the devil?.
And finally as John Steinbeck wrote? Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires?
Does this all sound too familiar?
|| I hate to rant about things like this but?.
Lets look beside ourselves for a moment.
Is anyone standing there? Does it matter?
Most of us are looking straight ahead with the blinders on.
This myopic vision is infecting our decision-making and our bearing on the rest of the world.
Come on Paul Martin, it?s time to read the writing on the US embassy walls.
Come on America fess up, 8 times you?ve been found guilty by a NAFTA commission to be in contravention of our trade agreement. Bone up and give the money back.
You can?t just decide that when the law doesn?t work to your advantage you don?t abide by it.
Or can you?
If that?s the case we?re not playing anymore, we?ll stick to our own sandbox, keep our water, keep our fish, keep our lumber, and keep our oil and our pot.
Not practical you say?
What if the world was to practice the same ridiculous trade embargos on the U.S. as the U.S. has placed on Cuba. How resourceful would they be? You can bet in a New York minute that there would be swift and forceful aggression displayed. Shock and Awe.
And speaking of the sandbox, the Alberta Tar Sands people have announced that they are sitting on a reserve of 175 billion barrels of oil, ?billion?.
That would make Canada second only to Saudi Arabia in oil production.
So just who is forcing the price of oil through the roof? Who is announcing that they may have resort to invading Iran to stop that county?s nuclear power ambitions? Let?s look beside ourselves for a moment.
Lets not even start talking about the drug war, and illegal extradition of those (not even charged in our own country) of alleged crimes not committed on American soil.
World police indeed!
I have had the good fortune of having extensively traveled in the United Mistakes of America this past summer and there are many wonderful, warm people there. People who care, people of conscious thought, people trying to do the right thing. People with tears in their eyes, apologizing for the shameful tactics of their country?s ruling administration.
Many fear that the path the U.S. is taking is a one-way path of confrontation, conflict and bloodshed. George Bush and The Republican right wig-nut Christian fundamentalist zealots are leading the way.
We?re seeing the results before our eyes, right now. No WMD, just the breeding and birth of insurgents hell bent on creating chaos and taking out as many American kids as they can.
As the slogan goes ?Support our troops, hell yes, bring ?em all home?
Cheney, Rumsfeld Halburton, KBR, all of George Bush Sr.?s band of henchmen and the hundreds of millions of dollars unaccounted for and sent out to the ?spoils of war??
Is there a conspiracy or at very least another agenda?
We know how this administration does business. We?re experiencing it first hand.
Come on Paul Martin, someone has to cut a new trail.
|| Laissez Le Bon Temps Roullez
After the tornados, floods, heat waves and countless kilometers that have been the summer of 05 so far, a few quiet gigs around the west coast are a nice change of pace.
I will elaborate at length later on the series of vignettes that have captured my imagination this June July, but for now check out the Nouveau Station Wagon section of the photo gallery to get a visual on this hectic yet thoroughly enjoyable pace we have set.
It was a real treat getting to play with Daniel Lavoie again after so many years. He is a consummate professional and a wonderful performer. The ol? Wagoneers put on a pretty good show of our own and each of us seemed to be cross pollinating our ways through the roster of artists so that the Cartier Park Ottawa Canada Day show took on a ?big happy family? dynamic.
Claude joined the line up of Nouveau Station Wagon (replacing an absent Johnny Comeau), and so most admirably. There?s a little more zigga zigga in his classically trained frame that he would care to admit, but it all comes out in the wash, and the Rimouski roots were showing to the great delight of the Quebecoise locals.
Solange was in top voice, smiling her way through virtually every twist and turn we could throw at her, and Wally and Mitch climbed right back on the horse and rode into the sunset as The Nouveau Station Wagon left a trail of dust behind.
As soon as the dust settles I?ll get to the full post mortem rundown.
For now, keep the sunscreen handy and a full tank of gas in the tank. Cheers.
|| Omahawks on the horizon.
Seattle was a blast. Really hot weather, record crowds and a green crop of young celtic fiddlers rosining up their bows for their first standing ovation.
America is a mystery. Such devotion, such encouragement, such passion all wrapped up in a governmental administration of draconian measure. And nowhere is that contradiction more evident than middle America. It?s as volatile as the cold front smacking head on into the hot Nebraska air mass. The turbulent result is of a whirling vortex of enthusiasm, denial, patriotism and orthodox religion. The media is an instrument of guilt, playing the tune of consequence. Red State, Blue State, me state you state.
Kansas City featured a ball game at Kauffman Stadium, right next to Arrowhead. The Royals kicked the daylights out of the overpriced and over hyped NY Yankees.
6 bucks American, for a bud, 4 bucks for a hot pretzel, 26 for a Royals cap, A-Rod at the plate swinging and missing at 25 million a year: priceless!
As we get into the car in the parking lot the rain begins to heave baseball size drops at us. Within 20 minutes it drops from 84 degrees to 64. This has the makins of one of those legendary Tornado soups.
By the time we reach the highway we can?t actually see the highway. Fortunately the ?Waffle House? neon cuts through the shower curtain and we navigate inch by inch into the parking lot.
1:30 a.m. and we?re celebrating Neil?s birthday with a slice of surreal Americana a la mode. Our waitress, who?s as big as a house, signals to the chef ?Jer? (head waffleer) to drop 25 cents into the jukebox. We?re just outside of St. Joseph?s Missouri, there?s one ol? fella in the corner behind yesterday?s newspaper, three of us, the waitress and ?Jer?.
?Hey Jer? we got us a birthday. The jukebox drops the ?Waffle House? birthday theme featuring ?Rose Marie? Broadway star and permanent fixture on the Hollywood Squares (in between Wally Cox and Grandpa Jones).
?It?s your birthday, why not top off the day with a slice of Waffle House pie, It?s your birthday and you?re a very special guy? The Guy Lombardo organ solo allowed me to grab a napkin wipe up the tears of laughter. Twin Peaks had nothing on this.
But damn those waffles were good.
A few storms and a couple of gigs later we?ve lived the ?Omaha? experience. Some wonderful people, some talented musicians, some good friends and a glimpse into the American heartland.
I?ve just completed the ?SynThesis? art installation.
For the last couple of years my mantra has been ?be open to all possibilities and opportunities?.
This opportunity was a challenge and a wonderful way to rediscover my love for creating visual art.
On a private commission, I set out to visually interpret the dualism that we all struggle with.
I?ll post the final result in the gallery section of the website, but it really is meant to be seen 3 dimensionally.
When ?Thesis? was done, the c.d. tray holder and disc itself provided a medium to sketch out the concept. With the finished ?SynThesis?, I think the concept was more or less realized.
It was somewhat of a cathartic experience. There are so many paths that lead to the same place. Each of us will take a slightly different and personal interpretation of the road ahead. We all have something to offer. It doesn?t have to be genius. Simplicity can be the most effective route. As long we as sing from the heart, write from the soul, the mind will lead us the in right direction.
The spring/summer season ahead looks to be as varied and challenging as any I have faced, but I look forward to that challenge and the experience it will provide.
There is still so much to learn.
|| Everything’s Irish
Top of the morning to ya. A trio of gigs today.
It’s a bit like Christmas and New Year’s in one fell swoop.
St. Paddy, the patron saint of Auto insurance, guided by Larry Bird , the greatest Celt of them all provides a pot of gold in the middle of March.
This is the day when all the world’s Micks and Mick wannabe’s gather to raise a creamy darlin’ to the Blarney. Play a jig and a reel, dance with reckless abandonment, just don’t move anything above your waist. Sing the first three lines of Danny Boy, for the pipes, the pipes are calling. Wear the green and fly the orange. It’s a shamrock Valentine’s without the massacre, a Hallmark ceili, and somewhere in this city the likes of Bono and The Edge are going to make unsuspecting revelers a night to talk about for the ages.
Leave the troubles behind, we’re singing in the rain in ol’ Vancouver town.
|| Spring Again
Well that wasn?t so painful was it?
Once again the winter spares us it?s hardships and toil, and gently sends us down the road to springtime.
Now having spent the last week in Cuba certainly helped to buffer the transition from Lion to Lamb.
Havana is a magical city.
Despite the ridiculous foreign policy of the Americans the Cubans have persevered and the cultural identity they have nurtured is one that we ?developing? nations could only strive for.
The music is alive. From Spanish melody fused with African rhythms they have formed the backbone of Caribbean ?salsa? or ?son?.
The show at The Tropicana (which has been running for over forty years) was the culture defined, animated and in full colourful regalia.
Lucy and Ricky howling Babba-Lou at the moon above, Fred and Ethel quaffing mohitas. More booty than Captain Hooks treasure chest.
And the weather? the tropical breeze cooling the sun?s easy bake oven persistence.
They live in paradise; obscured by political quibbling, sore loser embargos from an American administration hell bent on breaking the spirit of a people fiercely proud and patriotic. Guantanimo Bay still spitting in the face of the Cuban people. American military atrocities on foreign soil, how convenient. The billboards in Havana read, ?George Bush equals genocide?
Illegal Soft Lumber tariffs, Mad Cow hysteria, off shore oil exploration and missile defense fairy tales. Doesn?t it seem like perhaps we could learn something from this tiny island to the south?
|| Gung Fat Balk Choy
Yep it?s the time of re-surfacing.
Wasn?t Gung Fat one of the villains on Hawaii Five 0?
MaGarrett could never get a hold of that Gung Fat dude, Danno never got to book him and he retired to make Nike knock offs in Hong Kong, he also did a record with Fiddy Cent.
It?s the year of The Rooster, or The Cock depending on what version of the Chinese calendar you are reading, either the new or old testament. Of course there?s the Red Southern States version which simply refers to the cockle doodle do character as a ?bird of pray?
Empower yourself don?t deflower yourself is their modus operandi.
But I digress; it?s so easy to do with that giant republican weapon of mass distraction aimed at our common sensibilities.
It?s Venus Envy.
10 cents worth of talent and 3000 bucks worth of boobs, you just never know who?ll be famous next!
The event?s horizon your spirit?s black hole. Crime Time reality and ?go for the gold?
We edge ourselves over the precipice for a glimpse into the realm of the sacred.
?I think therefore I am ?not getting anywhere?
Yes while Babylon burns so the spin of Venus envy.
As Cintra Wilson says in her book ?A Massive Swelling?, ?screaming self loathing burns supersonically like a dated racing stripe?.
What does it all mean? That?s a very big question and the subject matter for a new song.
Happy New Year.
|| With this new year of 05 in front of us and the whirlwind of global activity that was 04 now in it?s tsunaminous wake, it may be a good time to take stock of what we?ve got here.
The world has come together in the aftermath of the biggest natural disaster of our lifetime. The outpouring of relief (both financial and humanitarian) has been unparalleled. This all bodes well for our ?human condition? Is it possible that multi national self serving initiatives are being displaced by public displays of sympathy, generosity and compassion? One can only hope.
With apologies and acknowledgements to Neale Donald Walsch, a simple revelation may have transpired on our way to the year of 2005. It seems that life goes something like this;
Like a giant lava lamp we are all part of the same soul. We come to this earth carrying bits and pieces of the universal spirit, in this mortal coil. Each time we come, we carry with us another part of the shared soul, the life essence, the energy of the universe.
Those who have shared a soul find familiarity, comfort and peace with each other. We deem this love.
Sometimes the attraction is so strong so familiar that feel an overwhelming need to
Re-unite, and that energy is paramount in our consciousness.
We recognize the common experience and long to once again be as one. This desire to unify the spirit we call ?falling in love?
There is a moment when from across the room an energy is exchanged. The energy is powerful enough to transcend the physical limitations of space. It draws the kindred spirits together. The energy is radiated, and glows in warmth and attraction. The desire is fueled by the need to be together.
When these bodies are brought into unison by ?making love? the soul is elevated to its highest earthly form.
The combining of this spirit, the re-unification of soul, the exchange life?s energy results in the rebirth and emergence of a whole new spirit. This takes the shape of a child.
That child carries the essence of the evolution of the shared soul.
It is only upon the end of life that the soul is transferred back to that giant lava lamp to once again become whole with the universe.
So every once and again this ?collective soul? (besides spitting out pop radio singles and touring football stadiums) rise to the forefront of our consciousness and yields genuine humanitarian concern.
We are all brothers and sisters, we are each other?s angels, and we are all one with the universe. Isn?t it sad that only in the face of disaster we get a glimpse of the big picture?
|| The benefit of benefits.
One thing we as musicains can do to support our community is donate our time and respective skills to organizations or community groups that are actually trying to change things for the better.
As we know with the exception of those lucky few that were hit by the lightning bolt of financial independence, musicians are, for the most part barely make enough to scrape the rent together. What really irks me is that when we get approached to donate our time and music it usually comes with the tag
" of course there won't be any money, but there'll be lots of exposure".
In Canada every year hundreds of thousands of musicians die of exposure.
The stage hands are getting paid , the p.a. rental company,paid. The newspapers, media outlets all get their dough the musos take it on the chin and are "just glad to be there"
Don't get me wrong, most players are happy to do what they can, and there's usually "free food" the magic words to open up even the strongest vault of resistance. "Play a benefit for the save the two toed tree frog of Burma" and there's perogies to boot.
It's true we do it for the love and for the food .
|| From The Crow’s Nest
So, where did the fall go? It certainly wasn’t monitored in these diary entries.
Yeah it just kind of slipped by.
Such a time of change. I get the feeling that the world is changing at such a rapid pace it’s all we can do just to find an assemblance of structure and substance in our own lives never mind that of the rest of this foggy blue marble.
I’m in the midst of doing the new Coquitlam Celtic Ensemble c.d. , as well as finishing off the move from below earth to high above it. I must say I like the view better from up here.
It’s certainly a tad more inspiring pounding on the keys from my perch in the Ivory tower.
The tug boats below keep the big guys in line, kind of like the way society works. Just cause you have the biggest smokestack doesn’t mean you can do it all by yourself. We all need a little guidance from the tugboats to get us safely to harbour. One anchored, load up on supplies, let the crew blow off some steam, and then get the help of a tug or two to push the boat back out to sea.
Lots of new projects on the horizon. It’s far easier to get a sense of perspective from the middle of the ocean.
7 Seasons will eventually come to fruition. I will see to it that /05 brings in the new recording and a lot more live dates.
In the meantime, keep an eye on the calendar and one on the horizon, and smooth sailing ahead!
|| The Fall calls…
Well that was a summer that wasn’t as planned.
Just goes to show you that if you think you’ve got it all figured out, life will find a way to show you otherwise.
So. It’s another attempt at trying to make the routine fit into ever-changing days.
Isn’t it funny how we strive to breach routine, and then get right busy at conforming.
It’s our nature, we are creatures of habit. Maybe it stems from our animalistic need for structure.
No surprises please, just clean my cage make sure the water is topped up and I’ll pace back and forth wondering what the hell would happen if I was cast out to fend for myself.
All this to say that amongst the chaos we find organization.
It’s like staring at the dots long enough until you see the dolphin jumping the waves.
Now it’s September and I’m looking to the horizon for that dolphin.
|| Just a regular perfection
When my dad was just a boy he was stricken with Polio and forced to stay in a hospital for several years.
This left him with a weak heart and clubfeet. He had to abide by his physical limitations his entire life.
Subsequently, was slow and meticulous in all he attempted, always striving for perfection.
Before Dad got sick he would religiously tend the fishpond in our back yard.
Each morning he would feed the fish, making sure the shore netting was in tact so the raccoons wouldn’t eaten them all, and then skim the pond of excess foliage, always leaving the growing, struggling lily pads enough space so they would one day bloom.
As dad grew more and more incapacitated, the Alzheimer’s stealing his words and memories, his physical movements hampered by swollen legs and painful joints, he would still find his way to tend the pond. He did this until he was taken to the hospital a few short weeks ago.
As dad lay in the bed again, I could only hope he was spared the memory of his early hospital years, not led to wonder if he had come full circle.
After his condition seemed to stabilize I thought that I might be able to travel to Southern B.C. and Alberta for a few shows I had arranged earlier in the year.
Before leaving I went to the hospital to check up on him.
He was sleeping when I arrived. I stared briefly at him prone on the bed, and listened to his breath. It was strong but hampered by sickness.
I didn’t want to wake him. I asked the nurse how he had been last night and she said that she thought the pneumonia was under control and he would get through this.
I decided to go through with the trip.
When I went back home to load some final things into the car, the phone rang.
By the time Mom and I made it back to the hospital, he had left this world.
Nothing can prepare you for the loss, not even the best itinerary, not the best efforts, not the best laid plans.
The next morning as mom was watering the garden she called to me to come and look at the pond.
There, in full bloom, was a single, perfect lotus blossom.
I miss you dad, I love you.
|| I love this time of year.
It’s the time when the festivals flourish and music floats from parks in the great outdoors.
Our whole season kicks off this week back under the shadow of the space needle in Seattle, the site of the annual Northwest Folklife Festival. One more chance to display the fabric of our culture in our southern neighbours back yard.
Before the big outdoor fest-o-rama , a pre cursor, warm up/dress rehearsal (I use the term lightly) on the coffee house circuit in North Vancouver.
One of the beauties of working with so many gifted performers is that every once and a while the planets align and gigs fit into what would seem like a masterplan, something other than the usual messy quiltwork of happenstance that usually weaves the pattern of live shows.
This week the Celtic Ensemble readies itself on Tuesday, Wednesday Miranda Frigon and myself break in the newly christened Sugar Suite Caf?, Thursday The Last Family is on Lonsdale, and then we’re off to Seattle on Friday. From Seattle I’ll fly to Chicago and check into the “big windy” for a few days before returning back to an outdoor rock blow out in New Westminster the following Friday with the Celts.
The pace will be hectic but adrenalin will run high and the music will prevail.
If only the rest of life were so succinct, concise and logical.
Stay tuned for the post-mortem.
|| Spring State of The Onion
Things round this side of the country are in full spring splendor.
This time of year makes it very difficult to dwell on the negatives.
The sun is shining and the whole city seems to shout out for renewal.
My life is also shouting at full volume.
Sometimes there is so much darkness in our world, that it’s overwhelming.
I have to get to the woods, run as fast as I can and breathe in the very life force that supports the calm in this insanity.
It’s been a pretty tough go for the last few months and the forecast is more storms on the horizon.
I will persevere, I will maintain my self-confidence, and I will see it through.
There’s no need wishing, no what ifs? no need beating around the bush. Good things will come of the whole experience.
It is the experience that I will gain, and the knowledge that I take I will use somewhere down the road to help others.
That is my mandate. We all do what we can.
Spring has a way of getting under your skin. (Maybe its just a reaction from the pollen) or maybe its life’s way of kicking us in the butt.
Get off the couch and bloom. The season is short, take advantage of growth now.
Build a nest, go out on a limb. Create, procreate, take a step off the edge and know that your wings will carry you. Learn to fly.
I can see light from inside the cave, it’s been a lifetime of hibernation and I’m damn hungry.
|| The Power of The Pen
I wonder sometimes just what magic is conjured up when putting pen to paper.
The insistent tap tap tap of the keyboard keys just doesn’t resonate the same way as the strokes of a pen. The scratch and scrawl, the loops, the crosses, the dots, they all seem so expressive as compared to the utter conformity of the keys.
The ability to detect one’s mood, character and emotions are void in the software vortex of the computer.
Even the assured contentment of “typewriter production” is gone on the “word program”.
I recognize that this is the very tool that allows me to post to the world, but never would I consider sitting down in a moment of inspiration without pen and paper.
It’s the creative process incarnate.
It’s part of the work ethic.
It’s the finished masterwork, scribbled on the back of a restaurant napkin. That is the document.
I remember staring for what seemed hours at original “Beatle’s” lyrics in the British Museum.
“In My Life” scrawled on loose-leaf, entire lines scratched out and new one’s added with arrows.
You could see John Lennon in his room; you could feel the biography etched in front of him.
“A Day In The Life”- a few verses from John in one handwritten note, the next verses from Paul McCartney taped together in different writing. Just as the song came together as a masterpiece, so was the process laid out before us.
Check out the Jimi Hendrix display at The Experience Music Project in Seattle.
“Purple Haze”, “The Wind Cries Mary” and “A Room Full Of Mirrors” all on display in their original psychedelic handwritten splendor. They are a marvel, a glimpse into a world of legend.
Those “captured moments” are the archives of culture. They show us the life, they reveal the muse, and they show us the person.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to “speelcheck” and word count before this gets uploaded.
|| For those of you not in the immediate lower mainland area of Vancouver, I’ll spare the rhetoric about spring and it’s life affirming rejuvenating powers. The whole “I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vail and hill, when all at once I spied a crowd, was paranoia from all the pills” or some such ode to spring, probably leaves our eastern cousins rightly pissed off.
In Vancouver, anything east of Hope is back east. The Rockies truly are the great wall. Rambunctious heathen hordes run amuck in the great plains. They are cast out to live with snow shovels and little else.
No wonder when the weatherman decries “and on the west coast its showers”, the rest of the country rejoices. Not another wide angle shot of some in-line, short sleeved, coffee swillin’ Vancouver couple sauntering around Stanley Park on a day when everyone else in the free world is indoors working to put a roast on the table. Nope, you won’t get that here. Not the roast or the jab. I’ve been out there. I know how indignant lalalanders can be. The insensitivity, the callous disregard of our parka brethren.
On this upcoming St. Paddy’s Day we revel in the west coast’s first Green Parade, a unification of all things Celtic, a tip o’ the tam, a jig and a reel for the great saint who banished the snakes from Ireland and put them in the United Nations Security Council, The White House, The Pentagon, The G7, The IMF, and virtually every corporate entity on this blue marble.
Hoist a creamy darlin’ to the day, and to spring, which springs eternal (in some area a little earlier than others), and pass the sunblock.
|| It was quite a revelation to climb out of the airplane in Vancouver and find the city firmly entrenched in springtime. I know it’s the old west coast clich?, and one which labels those from the left coast as braggarts, but it is more than comforting knowing that the blossoms have erupted, the daffodils sent their rays of yellow skyward and that spring is going ahead with or without the co-operation of the rest of the country.
Having said all that today is kind of dull. There’s a gray that sits on top of the city and begs the word “uncle” so that the people below won’t have to endure the wet, damp tarp tossed from above.
The past few weeks have been somewhat of a blurred memory, like a hasty Polaroid, a memory of past faces, places and times steeped in routines from another life.
To say that time moves quickly would be rather obvious, it is “the speed of time” that keeps the perspective of life. It’s a measuring stick, a notch on the doorframe to let us know where we stood before passing through that door.
All those incremental etchings form the basis of where we are going. Most of the time, despite our best intentions, we move adrift, at the will of a string of past consequences that drops us from web to web.
Each time the web vibrates, it alerts the new spider waiting in the wings. The spider is a new test of will and conviction.
There’s no turning back the hands of the clock, why would we want to?
On the slim chanced that we can revisit our past, nostalgia is the deceiver.
Unless we can obtain some relevance to our life now, it’s just watching an old movie.
But hey, there’s some damn good old movies out there so fire up the popcorn.
|| It’s been a day to remember. One of those stellar winter days that permanently etch their way into your
personal Kodak moments.
The sun has visited the nation’s capital and warmed the snow-carpeted fields. The cross-country ski trails are starting to demand extra wax, and the multi-layered fleece and gor-tex wardrobe is hinting that its days are numbered.
After a quick trip to Montreal, it’s back to Ottawa and a little r&r before returning to Vancouver.
The Festival du Voyageur wrapped up with Nouveau Station Wagon rollin’ its way through the Relais.
It was great to tighten up the bolts on the ol’ wagon. It’s possible that with a little tweaking here and there we can keep the wagon roadworthy for a few years yet.
So much music to hear. So much talent in every town, but still in the nation’s media we are subjected to the same retro, homogenized, assembly line, idol worshipping that has sapped the life and creativity from the music industry, not to mention stunting any hope of injecting motivation and inspiration beyond that of trying to get your face on the side of a bus.
Everywhere I go…..kids wanna rock!
Lets give em’ enough rope, not shove it down their throats, tie it around their necks or tell them how to dance with it. Give Paula Abdul the rope, take away the pancake make up and let’s let the cream rise to the surface.
Next week, a return to the coast and time to get The Celtic Ensemble wound up for the oncoming festival season.
|| They say that you can’t really ever go back home.
There are very few instances in life where one gets the chance to visit the past, as it was.
Nouveau Station Wagon is back on the trail, not the comeback trail, but the trail it left over 10 years ago.
The ol’ Wagon took a major detour.
Everyone involved in the group was busy pursuing dreams of fame and fortune in ever way possible short of the one under our very noses. To return to where it all started, St Boniface Manitsfreezin’is a giant leap into the twilight zone. The same faces, the same places, only the altered mortal coils, receding hairlines and expanding waistlines have changed the old Wagon Trail.
The Festival du Voyageur, a week of woop, woop, woop, hay ho and away we go.
The rust on the ol’ Wagon was ingrained to our psyche. A fresh coat of paint covered the cosmetic flaws but rust runs deep, and I hear it never sleeps. The biggest challenge was not falling into the same quicksand that swallowed the Wagon many moons before. All the buried issues surface with the new dawn. All the bruises return in the new light. For better or for worse is often the curse.
So, all this to say that with a few days rehearsal, weeks worth of shows, a couple of T.V. appearances and a radio gig, it’s like we never left.
The band is “big fun” and big fun is where it was conceived. Damn it!
Johnny Comeau on fiddle, Solange Campange-vocals, Wally Landreth-bass, Mitch Dorge-drums, and me on guitar. Everyone sings cause everyone can. Yun, Duh, Twah and we’re off.
“Funky Multicultural Bilingual Canadian Celtic Zydeco Rock n’ Ethno Fusion”
Who says you can’t go home.
|| Calgary –51 with the wind-chill
6 hours later, Holguin, Guardalavaka, Cuba plus 32 without the humidity
How is it possible that we share the same earth?
How can we be expected to live in the same reality?
Yeah I know we have the high speed modems, we’ve got 24 hour, 7 day a week drive through banking, coffee, insurance, dry cleaning and vet clinics. But we live in a hostile environment, ready for a hostile take over, ready for a complete make over.
I’ll take the soft tropical breeze, salsa in the sand, a mohita in the hand.
The rather large couple sitting next to me on the plane informed me they were from “Kamloops”, yep we’re going to Guadalavakia or something. They had chocolate bars and t-shirts commemorating Loggers Sports Days to give to the underprivileged locals.
One can only speculate how humiliating it must be to be Cuban, you try to perform songs of your culture to a group of foreigners and they cry out “do that One Ton Of Marrow tune”
I kid you not; the greatest dancers in the world were reduced to flapping their arms like chickens to appease their guests. The mightiest cultural calling card we as Canadians own, “The Bird Dance” took full flight in XXL Bermuda shorts, knee high sport socks, sandals and a Labatt Blue T-Shirt.
I know that Don cherry has taken a lot of flak for his “French Guy “ rant, please don’t ever let him near the Caribbean. The Quebecois have become “the ugly American:.
Insurmountable mounds of flesh in a Speedo Grande, the ubiquitous unfiltered cigarette dangles and mixes with beer and rum. The leather epidermal wrinkle culminates in a Harley Davidson “gumby”. Excess, overindulgence, you place the synonym here.
Binaro, birthplace of the worlds most famous ex-banana picker Fidel Castro, birthplace of the revolution, and site of a little known cheese factory, a model T Ford, a host of free range pigs and Mrs. Castro’s kitchen. Please pay one American dollar if you would like to take a picture.
The tour guide informs us that despite rumours to the contrary, Castro’s health is perfect and that if you had noticed great leader limping as of late that was due to a nasty mosquito bite. He turns 126 next week.
Santiago was hot hot hot, and site of the new revolution. Kids in DKNY, Levis, Tommy Hilfigger, and the “hustle”. How quickly they learn.
A Canadian from London Ont. pointed out that one good blast from one of our “cruisers” (Canada flexes her military might) would take out the fortress at the mouth of the harbour, Watch out world! This is no idle threat.
The Castle guarding the harbour has stood since Long John Silver pillaged, plundered and filmed the adult XXX feature “Long John Pillages and Plunders”.
Here’s the itinerary;
Go to favourite breakfast spot, have fresh papaya, banana, pineapple, tangerine and yogurt.
Go to favourite beach spot.
Go to lunch, have fresh salad tomato, cucumber, sweet cabbage and local bread and beer.
Back to beach.
Afternoon Mohita. (crushed ice, fresh lime juice, crushed sugar cane, mint, soda water and copious amounts of rum)
Cocktail, then Dinner, evening drink, dance and listen to “live” music. BBC World news (if there’s no really depressing stories in the headlines) then Bed.
Repeat. Repeat and Repeat.
The true final frontier, the wonder of our world is beneath the sea. Just get a mask and some flippers and witness its marvels. It never ceases to amaze.
So the hitch? Well Yofi, an extraordinary guitarist that works the resort circuit (cause that’s where the money is) plays 5 nights a week, 3-5 sets a night and at the end of the month collects the stately sum of
Its true that you don’t need much in paradise, but freedom would be nice. That and the occasional chocolate bar from a well-intentioned Canadian traveler.
|| So what has been happening all year?
Since the last break (which I guess was sometime in the summer) The Celtic ensemble has released a new c.d., Pauline LeBel has released a new c.d., Miranda Frigon has a new band, new songs and a new c.d. on the way and The Last Family will eventually get around to releasing a bunch of new songs on a c.d. in the new year as will the resurrected Nouveau Station Wagon. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been involved in all the above, so as the kids these days are so fond of saying “it’s all good”
All these projects were done in different studios, many time lines were crossed and sometimes so were the band members, but no-one got hurt, and the music stands up on it’s own. ( C.D. jewel cases make that possible).
As for the 04, well, anything can happen. Lots of travel, oodles of tunes, and yet another attempt to keep you posted on the lot of it. There’s also some changes coming up on this site, as we’ll be “weedified” in the very near future. That means maybe there’ll be a whole lot more people in on these close kept secrets and precious tidbits. That’s good, cause it will force me to be far more diligent about “updating” the chitchat.
In the meantime, here’s wishing all the merriest of holidays
|| I’ve been good.
Santa should be very pleased (apart from the odd little indiscretion that those punk elves better keep a lid on if they know what’s good for them)
Otherwise it’s been a year of lots of music, a few travels, a bit of carousin’ and the completely upstanding and respectable life of a teacher, (no, those xxx photos that were planted on my website weren’t me, they were Tommy Lee, I have a lot less tattoos).
It should be an eventful new year, a new album is in the works, the latest Celtic Ensemble C.D. was just released and Nouveau Station Wagon is “off the blocks” and back onto a new set of snow tires, bound for Winnipeg and set to roll in February. We’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime have a wonderful holiday season, raise a glass at midnight to friends there in spirit, and we’ll chat soon. Cheers J.
|| The return of The Halloweiners, October 23,2003
O.K. since the last time we spoke the leaves have fallen from their respective hosts, the drought is officially over on the west coast and our toes are risking trench foot from soggy basement carpets.
A lot happens over a season. Then again a lot stays the same over a season.
We’re in the studio next week to do the next Celtic Ensemble c.d. This time back to Baker Street Studios where I recorded Through These Windows.
The material is fresh and crisp just like the fall. We’ll see what sticks to the wall.
Next week also marks the return of The Halloweiners, the odds n sods of the senior Celtic Group and The Last Family all stirred up into one witch’s cauldron with a bit of eye of newt and devil’s claw and out comes “The Celtic Voodoo Big band”
Two nights on the unsuspecting Nelsonites. String up the garlic.
Last week I was in Seattle and checked out The Hendrix Music Experience Thingamajig.
I think that was what it was called, it was put together by some dude from Microsoft so what did you expect. Anyway it was heaps of fun and educational to boot in a Jack Black kind of way.
Just the actual “flyer”advertising the Monterey Pop Fest was worth the admission.
A 6 buck weekend pass got you in to see The Doors, Janis Joplin, Greatful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, members of The Stones, The Animals, Ravi Shankar and Justin Timberlake. and if that wasn’t enough, it was all being broadcast live 30 years later to rock radio stations who will continuously play the concert for the next 30 years. What a show!
|| How I spent my summer vacation
It kinda started out on The Kettle Valley Railway. I rode the valley for 3 days, saw some amazing scenery and passed over 18 trestles and 3 tunnels. The KVR is an old rail line with the tracks taken away to provide a beautiful 360 km. cycle path. Unfortunately the fires that have ravaged B.C.’s interior have left most of the KVR in ash. Apparently 90% of the line was lost. I hope that they can get it back and cycling, it was really quite unique.
From there it was a quick little tour through the Kootenays, Okanogan and into Calgary for the Stampede.
It was freezing in Calgary (4 degrees on July 4th) and attendance was down. The sheer alcoholic exuberance of the cow-people kept it from being a ghost town. A few good gigs on the way and it was back to Nelson, all things culminating at The Starbelly Jam, a wacky in the middle of nowhere folk/cyber festival. Some good music and some very good B.C. bud (as could only be expected in the Kootenays)
The rest of the summer kind of blurred like the horizon in the forest fires, and moved just about as quickly.
A week on Galliano Island was the necessary tonic for the hectic pace set earlier. A morning beach, an afternoon beach and a sunset beach. What more does one really need?
So now it’s back to business at hand. I’ve got a couple of albums to produce this fall, as well as teaching a dozen private students, and directing the North Shore Celtic Ensemble, which is now a full blown 65 kid non-profit charitable organization. Need a tax receipt?
There’s still the odd bit of playing to be done, but it seems that most of the road miles are put in getting to and from lessons. Various little side projects are keeping the ying in yang. I’ll keep you posted as we go.
|| The State of The Music Industry
We need look no further than the “review” section of our nations newspaper ‘The Globe” to get an accurate appraisal of the state of things in the “industry”
Just the term “industry” sounds dirty, grimy, slimy, and offensive. The image conjured up is that of sweaty slaves hauling buckets of something very heavy and pouring them into a big vat. Much like the way the musicians cart off their profits and pour them into the major label coffers. But I digress.
Front page Wednesday August 15, Globe Review.
“Hipster, Oddball, Kitsch”- the story of a frustrated singer-songwriter who enlists the help of his fashion challenged wife and 9 year old daughter (on bass and drums respectively) to propel his career to the front pages of papers and magazines across the free world. The article goes on to say that this summer they will release their “independent demo c.d.” direct from the “East Village” in New York, no less. All this to pimp their upcoming show at Harbourfront in Toronto. They’ve been on Conan O’Brien, they’ve got “major label interest” and the 9year old has had “movie offers”. Her hero, by the way is the mega talented “Meg White from the White Stripes”, whom she is often compared to. Just a few weeks ago when playing a show in Seattle (former hotbed of all musical trendiness) young Rachel was not allowed in because of her age, so she stayed in the hotel to watch cartoons while ma and pa did the gig. Dad recalls “the show wasn’t as good, the songs lost a lot without her on the drums”
Page 2- Australia’s “Jet” plays the revered Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. “On the heels of the Datsuns, the Vines and D4 comes Jet, a Melbourne foursome that “Keef” the pirate liked enough to include on the bill of the Stones recent Forty Licks tour. Of course the press eat em up, “They wear denim, and don’t use razors. When not drinking, fighting or cussing they study songs on the juke box.” Wow, how’s that for street cred. The reviewer goes on to say “there was a not-unpleasant workman like quality to Jet’s songs, most of which were burly rock numbers built on ancient, but still effective riffs…those long nights the Cester brothers spent in the roadhouse gurgling battery acid and swallowing steel wool have paid off”.
Page 3- Canadian Idol takes run at TV viewing records. “Canadian Idol continued its run to become one of the highest rated Canadian television series ever” this ecstatic news came on the heels of the Monday night “Canadian Idol Motown Show”. Now if that’s not Canadian, we’d better rethink our beer ads. The scariest part though is that the idol show is actually outdrawing last season’s hockey playoffs. “Representatives from host network CTV say the current show average puts Canadian Idol on track to become the most popular non-sports series since the early 1990’s.” Bigger than the playoffs? Is nothing sacred?
This is just a small sample of one day, one paper, one section. This is what we are fed, this is what we consume, this is what we breed.
|| Starbelly and the Lost Time Capsule
If there are a few of you out there that are wondering what could have happened to the updates that come so consistently, let me assure you that now that I have my computing device back on the west coast, I will oblige with the inside “tack” a little more frequently.
Nelson was, as usual, a trip back to the days when folk music flowed freely, unencumbered by the obstacles of modern concern.
A little further up the road was Crawford Bay, home of The Starbelly Jam. Crawford Bay is the town that alternative agriculture built, a lovely little artisan villiage where most of the inhabitants have “outside jobs” to assist in the development of their crafts. Glass Blowers, Weavers, Carpenters, Iron Workers Chefs and Painters have assembled there to display their wares. This all culminates in a festive collective around Starbelly, 3 days of altered consciousness induced by music, food and “the harvest”
Cottage Industry taken to the next level. I had so much fun that the observance of time and place melted away in the warm Kootenay air, as did my memory.
After leaving for Vancouver, at a gas station in Grand Forks, I realized that I had left my computer, day timer and phone book in Nelson.
Fortunately I had idiot-proofed the hiding place where they were living for a few days and the test proved positive as this idiot completely overlooked their place of residence, and drove away unsuspectingly.
As you can tell at this point they have returned from they’re sans J sabbatical and I am able to enter into dialogue once more. Phew, technology once more rears its co-dependant head.
The Vancouver Folk Festival was well The Vancouver Folk Festival. Same ol’ same ol’. No need to fix it if it ain’t broken. If you “put up the stage, the people will come”, what’s more they’ll plop down $55 a day to be there, without even knowing for sure that Ah-nie De Franco and Utah Phillips have once again made the trek to mecca this year.
What’s even better is that after shelling out $110 for two to get through the turnstiles, you have to pay another 2 bucks to find out who’s playing, where and at what time.
Don’t ya just love this free enterprise system? We were informed at the program distributors that we could have downloaded the day’s line-ups and saved the extra toonie. That’s helpful.
So was it good? Well, its always good, its all good as the kids love to say. Where else could you hear bonafide folk stars, making up songs in the moment, on stage, in front of an audience that would cheers if they passed wind. Where else could you get that crazy, spur of the moment inspiration by the same folk stars as they struggle, “live” to remember the words and chords to a old Jimmy Buffet tune cause she “thought it might be fun”. Now that’s entertainment. The evening shows were even more inspiring. As the little girl behind me said, “Who is That Skelton man playing the “gingerydoodle”, it sounds like our old horse”… Spoken from the mouths of babes.
Actually the Skeleton Dude was from “White and the Cockatoos” the emcee was Robin Leech, who knew he would bring along the cast of “Homes of The Rich and Famous Aborigines”
On the truly inspirational front, Scott Merrit once again proved that if he had been brought up in any other country than this one he would be a globally recognized house hold word, and Michael Franti and Spearhead showed that they are in a league of their own, that’s why they’ll never make it in the states. God Bless our neighbours to the South, they give the folk singer so much ammunition.
The stampede week went out on a whimper. I guess the SARS, West Nile, Mad Cow furor that has eclipsed the country is taking its toll on the hoopla.
Good thing The Rolling Stones are still there to rectify the problem, lest’ the economy would be in a real fix.
Even the drinking subsided somewhat, a sure sign that all is not right in Rivertown.
The last show at The Ironwood Stage was to a handful of friends, the manager said it could go either way during the stampede, it took the detour.
Ah well, it was fun to have the whole band sans Pete, back in the picture. The new line-up with Kyle fiddlin’ and Kit playing bass was a refreshing hint of what can happen with a little rehearsal.
So today I’m sitting on the banks of an old gold mining river in The Monashee Mountains just outside Cherryville in the Kootenays. It’s idealic; a wonderful battery charger for the non-stop driving of the last few days Last night was borscht night at Maria’s Diner in Cherryville and with a dopple of real sour cream my evening was made.
At The Goldpanner campground and cabins the Sierra Design home away from home was pitched and by 9:30 I was in another universe.
11 hours and a bowl of porridge later I’m heading south to Kaslo.
I’m not sure where I’ll stay tonight, but I believe the chances of human interaction are better and alien abduction less in the town campsite.
|| Whaa-hooo, it's the C-town celebration.
This is like Mardi gras without the beads and sex. What's left you ask? Well booze....., and a few things that the Louisiana counterpart forgot like buckin' bronks, country karaoke, and oodles of ten gallon Stetsons. Come to think of it, Mardi Gras does have spurs and bullwhips.
There's cow pies a plenty and hoopin' and hollerin' akimbo all fuelled by testosterone and Budweiser.
The 03' Cowboy and Cowgirl is equal parts Wrangler, Armani, John Deere and Kid Rock rolled into one, heated up on a rodeo skillet and served with fries. When asked "Wassup in the hood?” our country compadre replies "a 427 hemi", yessir, 350 horsepower and we aint talkin' Clydesdales.
Tonight, I'm checkin' out Nashville North and the traditional country stylings of Kenny Shields and Streetheart, I wonder if Kenny knows "Red River Valley"
The continuing adventures of……
No such luck, not only did Kenny not know Red River Valley, (although he did include a Steeley Dan and a Rolling Stones cover in his set), we couldn’t even get into the tent. A full and fully inebriated audience was supported by a three-block line up to pay 5 ? bucks a bud. This truly encapsulated the Stampede Spirit, drink till ya drop and like a good cowpoke start er’ up again the next day.
The gig at Jackdaw’s was sparse but fun, I think Neil’s family enjoyed themselves.
Tonight, it’s light em’ up agin, jus past the stampede parking lot, round the corner and over to The Ironwood Stage and Grille, I do believe we follow Happy Hour, and jugs o’ Bud are on special all night long.
Wha-hoo, it’s Stampede time in C-town.
Checked out the big parade today, 2 ? hrs of rolling cowboys and Indians, marching bands, varmints, critters and financial institution floats.
More cops than you could shake a baton at, a few sports action figures and some crusty ol’ politicians.
Everyone loves a parade. We got to hear “Scotland The Brave” 3 times from 3 different pipe bands and there was candy for the kids. My favorite chuckwagon was the Brentwood Hyundai entry. Those crafty Koreans, they know how to fashion a stagecoach.
So, after a quick 11-hour tour through the wilds of B.C., we pitch the tent on the edge of the great North American plain once more.
A new band in tow, a once over the material and we’re off to the rodeo. That ol’ cowpoke Kit Johnson on bass and yodellin’, Kid Kyle Taylor fiddlin’, and the town drunk Neil “Homeless” smackin’ the pots and pans.
I took the left fork in the road and got there just in time for “The Big Breakfast”, the usual 7 a.m. chaos ensued, and we played second fiddle to 30 Korean fan Dancers. Those crafty Koreans are everywhere and pissed at us cause we stole the Olympics. It’s a good thing that we’re the ones toting the Winchesters.
I’ve been promised a solid display of debauchery for the gig tonight, nothing like a little drunk and disorderly to kick off the summer tour.
Stay tuned for the review.
|| Memorial Weekend
The road diary is not seeing much more pavement than the end of the driveway, but that’s all to change soon. There was a quick jaunt to Seattle, a city I hadn’t played since my days with Spirit of the West.
The Seattle International Folklife Festival hadn’t changed much in the last 10 years. It still exudes the true folk spirit and all the hippy dippy tie-dye yeah hoopla that surrounds such a gathering. They do come out of the woodwork. After a cabin fever induced dreadlock holiday, they cometh, equipped with mountain dulcimer and organic carrots and converge to twirl away a world that seems at odds with every aspect of the beliefs. The “impeach Bush” campaigner was in full high-flight profile, I even overheard a 40ish strait up republican utter the words “Son, those kind of people are what we call Communists.” Hemp clothing haute couture, and of course the protest songs of a lost generation, ( now more concerned with how many more B.T.U.’s the back porch Barbie could produce). The songs of the 60’s still ring through the festival echoing the romantic notion of free love, free food and free water. Dasani and Aqufina, love children of a bygone era.
Folk is dead, long live Folk!
|| Setting out
As the ongoing recording process winds its way through the valleys and canyons, hills and mountains of the vast cranial wasteland, I am struck with the simple need to get back out and play to people.
I think in a studio situation it is very easy to get wrapped up in technological uber-thought, down the slippery over analytical slope to excess and self-indulgence. Lose oneself on the beach of decadence.
Better to cast the tunes into the laps of an audience and see if they’re thrown back as applause or met with indifference, then to be filed away with other strata marketing gems and past glimpses of self wrought brilliance.
You can’t pull the wool over the live audience. All that is shroud in “product management” must eventually
pass the test of metal. Meet your maker. “Shut up, Get out and play that damn guitar” the voice inside is singing. How can I argue? Pass the procrastination please, a little more of that delicious fence sitting? Nope, pack up the truck and drive to Calgary, Oil wells that is, stampedes and ten-gallon hats filled with visions of 4x4’s and gun racks. Whaahooo , we’re going to rodeo.
Summer is pushing its newly hatched head through the egg of cherry blossoms, past the Rocky Mountain birth canal, re-born to the great wide open. Wagon ho!
|| On It Goes
The long winding road of the recording process continues.
Last night we set up the map for a couple of new songs.
Rough working tracks were laid down for “Camellia”, and for “Winter Roses”
Camellia is all about an Inuit elder I had met while in the far north two summers ago.
She has lived out on The Mackenzie River Delta for about 65 years, each summer fishing, hunting and trapping to get enough together to get her and her family through the oncoming winter.
She had amazing tales of chasing away grizzly bears from the drying fish with no more than a broom, of bring back whales to feed her community, and of the celebrations of life she held so precious.
Camellia was concerned not only for her family but also for their way of life. She recognized the change in her environment, the money at hand and the inherent social problems that have arisen with this disposable income. She also worried because the tradition of her people, an aural tradition, was on the verge of extinction. With the fading of her memory would go the last recounts of a culture never to been heard from again.
“Winter Roses” tells the tale of determination, perseverance, and dedication, but most of all of a love not tarnished by the eroding factors of our day-to-day challenges. Heady stuff eh? It’s mostly about my Mom.
So, I managed to get back on track with this journal entry and keep it “on the music”.
That’s all gonna change next time when we enter into the foray of “Music on the Internet” and “Peer to Peer File Sharing”. Knock yourself out!
|| Hidden in Plain View
Once more I must apologize for being rather lackadaisical in these journal updates.
This time of year not only ushers in a sense of renewal and optimism, it also brings on the hockey playoffs.
I’m not going to use the ol’ sports clich?s and try to justify the work ethic or symbolize aspirations of greatness, not even metaphorically correlate the struggle of the Canucks to that of society in general.
Lets just suffice to say that the playoffs give us all a chance to ride the roller coaster.
We ride together, everyone’s got a say and does so at nauseum on the plethora of phone in talk shows.
There is nary an unenlightened critic amongst the masses. Each of these arm chair coaches has the formula for success and feels the need to let their opinion be known so that one day, the answer from the equally illuminated host, will prove the callers point and they will both resign to the fact that as a team this caller and host would be “unbeatable”
The advice of the journalist does not stop there. This insight can be cross-pollinated to politics, health, religion, economics and family. Is there not an oprah out there who doesn’t have the formula?
We should revel in the knowledge that the truly spiritually enlightened have taken post in amongst us as Talk Show hosts. I for one sleep a lot better at night knowing that Tom Like-Us is presiding over our better interests.
Didn’t I say something last entry about sticking to the music?
|| What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?
There isn’t a globber on the planet that isn’t taking the opportunity to get his 2 cents in on the war issue.
Everyone deals with this kind of global conflict in his or her own way. The mere fact that we can now overtly create dialogue about such issues, the fact that the world is thinking about the situation and a resolution, is a major step. The forum of the information super highway has made it possible for virtually everyone to voice an opinion if the choose to do so. And oh so many are.
With voicing an opinion publicly comes the responsibility of standing behind the statements and when the rubber hits the sand you better have a few facts behind you.
The facts seem to be something like a budget. You can pretty much massage the numbers however you desire to make ‘em fit. We are pretty much being led down the hanging garden of Babylon path by the images and viewpoints of a few television networks.
Isn’t it interesting how by “embedding” journalists with the troops, they pretty much follow military policy.
Now there’s a brilliant way to stop the “unilateralists” from stirring up the muck. They just don’t get access unless they’re firmly entrenched and scared silly like the poor kids out there wondering where the next missile is coming from.
It’s Don Cherry’s right to wear bad ties, (red, white and blue or not) just as it’s Ron MacLean’s right to call him on it (whilst listening in one ear to the director who has given him the first period score because neither Punch or Judy have been following the game).
Give any yokel two minutes on national television and they’re sure to pontificate some spoon fed rhetoric in order to look like they grasp the state of current events. If the U.S. ambassador to Canada decides he’s disappointed in us for not backing W’s game plan, that’s his right, just as it is ours to call W out for “poor statesmanship”. I believe that puts him in the penalty box for 2 minutes, he didn’t get the game misconduct (even though he’s drawn blood) and the referees, (read UN Security Council) are getting together with the International Figure Skating Union to strengthen their credibility. Once they can convince the World Boxing Federation to climb on board, the world will be able to sleep a little easier.
Apparently the Iraqi sport of cock fighting has never been more popular, and the two main combatants are referred to as “Bush” and “Saddam”. Hell why bother with the roosters lets get the real dudes in the ring, sharpen their fingernails and let em’ go at it. The UN declares the winner and we all go home, back to watching Joe Thousand ire, or Nashville’s Pop Idol Pollooza.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot the music. Isn’t that what we’re here for.
|| Another week…..
The songwriting process can be a lonely venture indeed.
Probably the most commonly asked question is do you write the lyrics or the music first.
The answer is yes.
The muse sometimes takes hold like a sugar craving needing to be fixed in one big chocolate dipped ice cream cone with sprinkles. Other times it is an olive, one will do, then move on to the cheese.
To sit placed in front of a blank sheet of paper, pen in hand is to be removed and remote like an astronaut walking about in cyber space, tethered only by a thin fibre optic line of communication, motioning to a world below where he can only transmit, not receive.
Having said all that it’s been a productive week on the song assembly line.
7 Seasons continues to take shape, at this stage much like the contents of a lava lamp, but I’m starting to see images in the clouds.
“Layers of Grey”, and “Like My Love” have foundations, “Up From The Ashes”, and Neil’s “Lesson” have got rhythm, words and guitars in their pockets, and two new songs have emerged.
“25,000 Days” and “Camellia” came from the recesses of the soul after stewing about in the sub- chili- con conscious for the last several months.
“Satan’s Limousine” has come back from the body shop with a new drive train, and “Screen Door” and “The Famine” are being sent out to the cleaners.
So there you have it as it stands. Up to date and in the loop.
As I float around out here in creative outer space searching for the lost planet of poignancy, I look down at Earth below, and realize that we are all hooked up to the same lifeline. God isn’t taking sides, he’s watching from out here, and man the CNN reception is amazing.
|| The Rundown;
Before committing any songs to the recording process, pre-production (the hash it out, slash and burn stage) is undertaken.
I know this “pre-production” thing has a ring of formality, but in reality it is just getting all the players on the same page. Making sure everyone knows the changes and finds their place in the groove.
We normally facilitate this by bringing in a case of beer and running the songs a couple of times.
After “demoing” (recording rough takes of the song structure, usually with equally rough vocals including a lot of La La La’s because the words are inevitably not finished yet), the playback will pretty much paint the picture of what bits of brilliance are hacked and what happy little mistakes stay for the actual tracking.
Laying down the “beds” can be the most arduous task of the whole puzzle. Drums and bass and attempted beside a “ghost” vocal and rough guitar or keyboard track. Usually after several takes, and a great deal of profanity, if the groove fits and the rhythm tracks are locked, then we have the form, or the foundation of the song.
From there on it’s adding colour, texture, atmospherics, and melody until it becomes so cluttered that you once more go back to the playback and decide to strip away most of the noodling which is the colour, texture and atmospherics. This is a hard lesson to learn, and one that you relearn every album. Ultimately in the studio, “less is more”. Even if it means sacrificing your Al DeMeola guitar licks, your vocal lines will thank you for it.
And so it goes. Pull out the machetes and we’ll commence to carving out the jungle.
We’ll start out this project (7 Seasons), with about a dozen songs, some complete, some just sketches.
So far the potential roster includes “ 25,000 Days, From The Ashes, Layers of Grey, Winter Roses, Dawn,
Camellia and Avenue Tendresse,” (all new songs whose shape and sound will no doubt go through several metamorphoses’), a new song by Neil called “The Lesson”, and a few visits to the vault of past glories that need to be re-invented. These include “Screen Door”, “The Famine”, “Like My Love For You” and “Satan’s Limousine”.
For the next couple of months I’ll attempt to share with you the trials and tribulations of giving birth.
Hold on to your stomachs, its gonna be bloody.
|| 7 Season Notes
Preparation for the new album has begun. Once more Rob Clements is manning the console and will get a few guitar licks in this project. The usual cast of characters are laying down the tracks. Pete Lepine is playing bass and keys, as well as harmonica, vocals and a few other noises. Neil Homulos is keeping it steady on drums, perc, vocals and we may even let him play some rhythm guitar if he behaves himself.
There will no doubt be a host of friends and players contributing their 2 cents worth, for their efforts I will remunerate them at least double that and they’ll see a good nickel back. Not to be confused with “the” Nickelback whose copyright I’m probably violating but just mentioning their name. No, if we can manage to move as many albums as the Nickelback boys send to their cousins in Alberta this project will be a success.
So, with the luxury of internet communication, for the first time in my illustrious career I shall attempt to keep you at home keeping score, informed of the goings on and a key witness to the evolution of “7 Seasons” from it’s inception.
Many would ask just how do you get an album off the ground? The answer is they do make wonderful but deadly Frisbees and can often double for those ninja weapons so affectionately used in Jackie Chan films.
Other than that most don’t get off the ground, so this whole exercise may simply be literal masturbation.
But hey let’s get out of the closet and expose the seedy underbelly.
The Dreaded Concept:
Yes, as with any good project their needs to be a road map. Somewhere back in the mid seventies, amidst many a bad haircut and a plethora of Styx knock offs, a scribe somewhere decided that from this day forward all concept albums, any record of concept or any work of art with the word “concept” subliminally uttered backward, forward, sideways or etched in the run off groove shall be deemed “ pretentious”.
From that point on the industry has avoided the “c” word like the plague.
For this reason alone I have once again pulled out the old Jethro Tull albums and embarked on the next conceptual journey. 7 Seasons.
In this next chapter of my “thesis” I put forward that life be divided into 7 Seasons, no not the photo of little house of the prairie with flowers full bloom juxtaposed by the fall colours, then the smoke coming from the chimney in a snowy winter wonderland. No, these seasons represent 7 stages we all go through in coming to terms with our own mortality. An existential inquisition.
Season 1 – The formative years of growth from birth through to age 12. Impression period.
Season 2 – The teen years of investigation and experimentation. Pushing the envelope.
Season 3 – The 20’s, where the world is your oyster, shucked and ready for spice.
Season 4 – Approaching mid –life or at least what you think of as mid life when your in your 20’s, this is the nesting stage, the homing instinct kicks in and so does the mortgage.
Season 5 – Cultivation, harvest, and a need to visit the eye doctor.
Season 6 – Rediscovery, Re-awaken, Renew…mostly your prescriptions which are starting to look like a grocery list.
Season 7 – Observation and release, kind of like the “catch and release” system, except this time you’re put into a whole new ocean.
There are on average about 25,000 days in any one human’s story, 25,000 days to make a difference.
There are 7 wonders of the world, 7 shakras, 7 seas and now there will be 7 seasons. I’ll keep you posted.
|| I love the thought of spring being just around the corner.
It’s like when you set out on the road and you know what’s coming over the next hill, but when you get there, there’s always a little variation from what you remembered.
The advent of the spring season is the official kick off to the New Year. Plans, preparations and itineraries are planted in the winter and they start to take bloom in the spring.
The calendar starts to fill up for the summer months, spring gives you time to wrap your head around upcoming shows, festivals and tours. Summer holds the months the fly by “in the moment.”
Spring brings dreams, fantasy and whimsy.
How can you look the first blossoms of spring and not feel a sense of renewal and rejuvenation. The power of the flower, one much stronger than its physical form.
The last warm caress of the sun on long afternoons,
And from the power of god, the flowers bloom, like my love for you.
The sound of the ocean at dawn,
When the light of the candle has gone, it’s life ends too soon,
But once again the rays of the sun come shining through, like my love for you
Happy belated Valentine’s to you all, a big hug, a kiss and I look forward to getting back out this spring and summer to personally deliver the goods!
|| Here we are in the year ’03.
There seems to be lots on the plate for the brand new year.
The “Listen Up Festival” in Vancouver at the Van East Cultural Centre with The North Shore Celtic Ensemble, as well as Festival du Bios, a North Shore Arts Centre Show and a multi disciplinary co-production (sounds like a disease) to be held March 1 at The Centennial Theatre.
So maybe ’03 is off on the right foot.
It was my New Year’s resolution, (can I tell you that?) (I will any way), to get more playing in this year.
Since my world domination tour of the hinterland of Canada two summers ago, the touring and playing has ground to a snail’s pace. This, I hope to rectify in the upcoming year.
If any of you, reading this, (I hope there are still a few gluttons for punishment) would like to host a show, drop me a line at the link provided on the home page. Lets see who’s out there!
No reasonable offer refused, hell in most cases if you have a living room and a couple of friends, and you provide a glass of wine or two …I’m there. Of course if you happen to live in Wawa Ontario, then you’re gonna have to chip in for the gas. If you’re living in Malmo, Sweden forget about the gas, but the wine better be really good, and you might have to take on a tour of Marcus Naslund’s hometown.
It’s all negotiable.
So set the night, call up yer crew, drop me a line and we’ll see how we do.
And for those of you who don’t fancy having me tromping around in your living room, but enjoy reading this anyway. I will try to be more diligent about diary entries. (Even though that wasn’t a resolution)
|| So this is Christmas, ….it’s been one of those years where I guess a lot of things happened, I just have to sit and think about them for a minute to figure out where the last 365 days have gone. (maybe I should read my own journal)
There was a trip out to the east coast; Newfoundland was amazing, as was P.E I. and Nova Scotia.
I hope to get back before too many years slip by.
The Planetarium show in Vancouver was a musical highlight, but also a financial lowlight.
It would be nice to think that I could re-mount “Thesis” and the wonderful group of players, without having to take a bath doing it. Ah, such is the cost of grand dreams.
And grand dreams continue. The Celtic Ensemble received “non-profit status” so now we can officially make no money.
This year also saw many friends come through town, play great shows and move on. A pint raised to Jim Keelaghan, Stephen Fearing, Mitch Dorge, Wally Landreth, 24 Hour Cardlock, and Fraser Mackenzie who all continue to bang the drum.
To the lovely venues and hosts we had the pleasure of visiting I tip the touque.
To Peter Lepine, Neil Homulos, my partners in rhyme. To Bill Arab, Rob Clements, and Moritz Behm, who all threw their hats into the sing. To Claude Giguere and the rest of the Plywood Underpants. I thank you all for keeping my jaded, cynical alter ego hidden in the cloakroom.
It is my most sincere wish that we can travel along this road together in peace. (maybe not in one van)
So, as this year of”02 draws to a conclusion once again we ask “Why Drive Further?
The answer is just over the next hill.
|| It's tough to do a road diary when the only road you're seeing is the local stretch of blacktop. Now there are debatably many things of note and worthy of comment on the "block", but I'm not thinking of any at the moment, so I'll just stick to the agenda until the Christmas cheer kicks into gear and then perhaaps I'll elaborate. Things are getting rolling though and 2003 is shaping up to be very busy for myself, the band and The Celtic Ensemble. I will keep you posted as to what where and when, but suffice to say there a couple of new recordings in the works and some tour dates for the spring and summer a brewin'.
In the meantime, if we don't speak before, Have yourselve's a merry little Christmas and a great 03' New Year. Cheers J.
|| Just returned from the islands tour.
Highlights included sleeping the first night in the Cortes Island pre-school, complete with lillapution tables, chairs and washroom facilities. 11 hours of ferry transfers and sight seeing landed us at the Robert's Creek Hall. Full chaos ensued as The Halloweiners devilishly rocked the house, before returning to the nearest "subway" for re-fueling.
Next week more island hopping to the Isle of Bowen. If I could only figure out a way to get the Swamp Demon "splash" costume and make-up back on year round.
|| The Boy from Away
From the Confederation Bridge you can see “all the way to where you are”. 17 kms. Of slightly winding elevated water skipping, brought Cap Lumiere into the picture. The wild, wild, Acadian coast puts me on the trail of Cajun music, cohaugs and great open beaches.
In the midst of the apple orchards the sweet sounds of Acadia flow. An amazing culture tattooed with the flag of blue white red and the yellow star.
Halifax is growing up. Every visit sees the city gain a little confidence staking its ground as the hub of Canada’s east coast. Festivals, street life, music, and colour have woven their way to the daily life of the locals. The bonus of course, is its located on one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.
Peggy’s Cove, Mahone Bay, Lunenburg, they’re all just so darn cute. Casa codfish on the exquisite Unesco World Heritage site. Gorgeous Victorian villas nestled amongst the quaint shops and shoreline. A Kodak moment round every bend. But no live music in Lunenburg? The fishing village has not changed in appearance for over 200 years, but I bet there was more than the odd shanty sung in the pub.
North of Halifax near Lawrencetown, there’s surf dudes on the waves, love shacks on the dunes and waterfront to be had for $3000 an acre. Get in early, it won’t last long. This is the boom for the Atlantic coast. The rest of the country is going to figure this out pretty soon. The Americans already have, and like most other aspects of our recent culture, once it’s flying in the states, we’re sure to follow suit.
At that point will we be able to afford it?
Martinique Beach worth the drive and home to the “Sunflower Caf? and Bakery”, best cinnamon buns in Canada
|| A couple of Newfoundland reels.
Daddy Shot The Cat, and Pull The Goalie, you probably won’t find them in the “traditional’ section but there as down home as salt cod and a jigs dinner.
When we last left our hero he was wondering aimlessly on the Island of Prince Edward, combing the tourist misinformation offices for a line on renting a car.
A good friend of mine, the legendary Urban Carmichael once told me the only thing you can grow in Newfoundland is old. Perhaps a bit of a stretch but compared to the lush potato heaven of P.E.I., he was pretty much spot on.
Urban was once tracked down by a couple of friends from Germany, who not knowing his number, or his address showed up at the tourist information booth in Charlottetown.
They inquired if the assistant might know the whereabouts of one Urban Carmichael.
The clerk looked at her watch and said “well its a little after 2, so he’s left the office and is probably sitting at the bar on George Street.
The travelers went to the pub and there he was in the flesh. A true story.
Urban also tells the story of a package that arrived for him in the mail from Jamaica. It was labeled “URBAN” Canada. That’s it. On the back, the sender had mentioned they hoped some day to get to see him again on his Island of Prince Edward. From that, the post office deducted that the package would go to Charlottown, there it seems locating the man was no mystery.
The city of New York, along with its younger brother Boston, have contributed a great deal to the climate of the east coast, mostly in the form of huge blankets of smog the get funneled up north and deposited over the Maritimes like an exhaust pipe. It was at the end of this tail pipe I sat for a few days with a humidex of 42 degrees Celsius.
Now fortunately the beaches of P.E.I. are some of the most beautiful in the world, and no finer day was had, despite the smog, with an afternoon skinny dip at Greenwich beach, just the seagulls watching.
Big fat ol’ Lobsters provided the dinner, Tim’s provided the morning tea and bagels, the perpetual dunes set the backdrop for a wonderful ride around Canada’s little jewel in the mouth of the St Lawrence.
The semi truck driver from Montague after blowing out two of his “jakes” confided in me that he was actually about 24 thousand pounds over his limit. There’s a Stompin Tom Tune in there somewhere.
“I was out on a contract on the TCH,
about 24 g’s over maximum weight,
there’s smoke out the back and the hot wheels are cryin’
100,000 pounds of potata’s are fryin, that’s one heap of chips. French fries that is, P.E.I. gold.
Being “away folks” as we were, we were still treated with warmth and hospitality and kindness.
One such treat was a special “Folk night” at a campsite near Point Prim. This could have been called Ol’ folk’s night, but we wouldn’t have known that until the show was in full slow motion.
For the last 18 years, every Friday in the summer, this group of cagey veterans gathers at one of the provincial parks and present some pickin’ and grinnin’. We were lucky enough to catch Don and Edna, with Bobby, Harry and Heath playing to a full field of fellow seniors. Not one under 70, the oldest being Don, who at 89 could still rock the field with his button accordion.
It was a special evening and the crowd (who drove right up the stage and parked there) watched from their four door Chevrolets. At the end of each song they honked enthusiastically. It was as surreal as the sunset through the smog, but equally as beautiful.
When the show was finished and Edna was ushered back by car horns for an encore, she came to the mike, thanked the organizers and said “sure we’ll play you another, I don’t have to be back home till tomorrow mornin’ to let the dog out” Now that’s a line I could use.
|| A Day At The Races
Deer Lake Newfoundland. There is an airport. There is a lake. Didn’t see any deer.
After spending 6 hours in the trucker’s lounge at the Irving gas station/bus stop, the custodian informs me that the DRL bus out of St. John is leaving without me.
I scramble to reach my hostess and driver hustling towards the White Whale, coffee cups in hand.
“We won’t make the ferry by’ but wee’ll give er a go” Small consolation.
So Berts on his cell phone to the next stop, or at least someone he knows who lives by the next stop in the next town. The conversation goes as follows.
“Hey Mary, have ya got yer clothes on girl” “Could ya look over to the Irving station and see if there’s any one waitin’ on the bus”…. “No, oh that’s good, we won’t be stopping then, we got some folks looking to make the ferry and we’ll be in a hurry”
On it goes down the line till we reach Port Aux Basque. One last MacPuffin sandwich “2 Macpuffin patties, turnip, cabbage, in a pork scrunchian fried bun” Yummm, that’s home cookin’.
Into the bowels of the great passage transport. The ferry has been sold out for weeks and looks like it hasn’t changed crew or seen a vacuum in as long. It’s decorated in a quaint 20th century bus depot motif. I forget the vacuum and settle on a valium. The big ol’ comfy chair, all suited for one to curl up in, is in fact a chameleon and reveals it’s true Spartan nature. I awake to a beautiful sunrise on the Atlantic. The boat looks like an old episode of the “outer limits” where an alien gas has left everyone sprawled across their furniture. Back into a bus, down Cape Breton by the gorgeous Cabot trail all the way to Antigonish.
I call Hertz to confirm the car reservation for New Glasgow. Low and behold, no car to be had. Apparently the reservation doesn’t count for much when I finally discover New Glasgow’s “fleet” is in fact 4 cars. “But I have a confirmation number I say”, “ Well it won’t do ya much good here, we aren’t on the computer ya know”.
I tell the good man I have more cars in my garage than he has in his fleet. He doesn’t seem amused.
A taxi through Pictou and on to the P.E.I. ferry.
From a ferry a good truck driv’in fellow says he could give us a lift in his semi up to Montague, where he believes (like everyone else aboard the ferry) that they have a car dealership that will rent out a car.
I ask if they’re on the computer.
“Just got back out of St. John, dropped off 40,000 lbs of potata’s and picked up some gravel”
“There’s no gravel on P.E.I., least none that’s any good for concrete, won’t hold”
“So now I’m weighin’ in at bout 220,000 lbs, a hundred over my limit, hah”
I’m beginning to think this may not have been the most prudent decision as the back wheels start smokin’ and catch fire. “Not to worry, just got to disengage the jakes”
Minus our “jakes” we coast to Montague, wheels a smokin’. Fortunately it’s flat at the crossroads and I’m glad to stand two feet solid on the red red clay of P.E.I.
|| A few long-winded notes from the East Coast;
Shaga..somebody rocked the George St. Festival, here’s a little ditty called “Daddy Shot the Cat”, oh
Aysa by that builds a boat, aysa by that sails ‘er, “I came in with a Hat”, and The Islander got 3000 odd Newfies into a lather. The alien language and cod dinner set the tone; from there we screeched our way into the rock’s psyche. St. John’s rocks.
Rain Mist Cool Temperatures more cod and chips, the Quiddy Viddy Regatta, yes St.John’s rocks but Rita Hagan cooks! There’ll be a bed made for you in heaven. There are only two things to believe in here, God and the C.B.C. “Bill Henderson slept here” apparently he didn’t go away with an empty stomach either.
The was an odd ghost or “spirit” of the west hanging over my movements from the entrance theme song of some local band covering “the crawl” to old records posted on the wall in the used record shops. Funny thing to go all that way and find the familiar, even the very close.
“The Rock of the Rock” let me know that Deff Leopard was still alive and well and residing every 2 hours on the local airwaves. Aysa by only goes so far.
The next day Dodge Neon off road driving to Cape Race and the moors of shipwreck city.
Great Big Sea fills the information centers and there they should be. The islands own.
No Jiggs dinner or Figgy Duff, I hear the Puffin is tasty.
Puffins, Whales and Icebergs fill every Kodak moment, until we reach the stunningly beautiful town of Twillingsgate, just o’er the last dark tickle. Durrell, French Beach played host to the “Humpbacks of Notre Dame Straight”
On the highway the “bake apples” were stacked up on ghost cars, a good cop has them attached like hood ornaments and speeds after the unsuspecting motorist ready for canning.
Through the Rocky Horror Harbour and the bastion of American sightseers onto “Gross Morne”
The melodrama is only obscured by the Airstream antennae and radar dishes zeroed in on providing a home cooked sunset with brutal pizza muzak.
Hugo Montenegro swings like the pendulum do, Chryslers, Sunfires and Windstars run wild in the park.
Pete Moss and Bogs house Wild Orchids, 700-year-old pollen and an occasional wooly mammoth.
Baton down the lighthouse, big winds on the horizon. So we flee on the Big White Whale, the weakest link in the chain. A devilish bill of $666 for the wicked Neon, one last steeped tea and a low fat fruit explosion later we leave the shores of Nova Terre, bound for the mainland.
To be continued…..
|| So So Sorry for keeping you all in the dark.
I have been remiss in informing you of my whereabouts.
Fear not, the complete sordid unexpurgated tales of the trip to the East coast will follow later this week.
As you can imagine getting on line on the rock posed it's set of challenges. So if I trust my memory, notes, and decipher my own handwriting you'll be back in the light and on top of it all soon.
|| Cortes Island, B.C.
There are a few places in this great land of ours that have taken it upon themselves to develop and nurture their community, as well as their environment.
Cortes Island rolls in on the high tide of commune idealism and all things organic.
Pick a field, build a stage, and they will come. How could one refuse?
The gestures of love, affection and openness are as free flowing as the spin dancers with their skirt defying gravity and liquid choreography. The optimism lights up and is twirled about like the fire spinners torches.
The Cortesians are cast, driven and woven into the chaos of Vancouver Island political representation. “Take things into your own hands,” cries the osprey, “find your own guiding light,” signals the phosphorescents.
After surfacing and blowing out the last of the salt water from your spout only to find that you’re beached, who wouldn’t take one look at the state of the world, dial 911 and call in the coast guard for an airlift back to the gypsy pod.
8 hours, ship to shore, then finally into the soup. The stress floats from me like my sunscreen in the ol’ salt chuck. No need for a business suit, no need for a bathing suit. Doff the duds and into the suds, o’er the waves we roll.
The evening cast the spell of celtic voodoo, and five hours and some fifty tunes later we unplugged the amps under the full moon.
When all was said, danced and done, I walked to the sea, listened to the chants of the night birds and followed the shimmering carpet of moonlight to the path of stars. Amidst the chaos of our world there was perfect order in the universe.
7:30 a.m. (next morning) our blissful harmony is greeted at the dock by Beelzebub, in from the gates of hell, and taking the form of a B.C. ferry.
|| Summer in the City
A few weeks now in and around my own town.
The summer has a way of transforming even the grayest of November memories into the bright, bold, hot, wet and wild experience of July and August on the west coast.The evenings of opalescent magic, afternoons that linger in long shadows until dusk finally puts them to rest. Skies, all shades of blue unimaginable. Sweet floral aromatic waft, pine and salt, cedar and kelp.
The summer soundtrack;
Lawnmowers, hoses firing jets of water, swimming pool splashdowns, bar-b-que fire up, baseball in the background.
Timeless, nostalgia and invention. Create and dream. Daydream, best of all ice cream.
|| Return Trip, back from the hills
Happy Birthday Canada, 134 and counting despite what Heddy Fry might say.
A couple of days in Edmonton, songwriters in the open air, Canadianna everywhere.
The tarmac reflections of 12 hrs. drive time from Edmonton to Vancouver result in a
Things to Do List upon arrival:
-sell a million albums
-travel the globe
-discover the formula for world peace
-cure and eradicate disease as we know it, cancer and aids to start with
-bring representatives from all races, creeds and colours together in one huge celebrative orgy.
-live the rest of my days in a state of self-actualization and spiritual enlightenment
-get a new muffler on the car
I know that this list usually concludes with selective listening aids, but every once and a while there’s something so visually stimulating that it must be spoken of. I don’t encourage this kind of perusal whilst behind the wheel, but check out Alex Grey, an artist from the states, and his book “Transfigurations”.
This cat has got his finger on it. Unworldly and enlightening.
The Tiki Room is Open- John Hiatt, and the reformed Goners.
Dave Mathews- Everyday
Terra Incognito- Chris Whitely
Tom Wilson- On The Radio
|| Drive a Little Further …continuing adventures of…..
As I get ready to embark on a whole new season of cross-Canada escapades, a few things come to mind.
As I mentioned in a letter to a friend recently, there are 5 basic principles to achieving political enlightenment;
1) transcendent individualism
2) non-violent pacifism
3) educational evolution
4) ecosocial altruism
5) universal democracy
There are also 5 basic principles to making a good light piecrust;
1) make sure the flour is pre-sifted
2) always use a top quality lard
3) substitute soda water for regular
4) make sure the oven is not too hot
5) use filling of a firm substance
It is armed with this knowledge, that I set out again to uncover the whole story.
The ol’ Toyota is oiled, lubed and purrin’ in the driveway. The tent and sleeping bag have been aired out after winter’s hibernation and all ties to the domestic bliss and complacency I have nurtured in the past 9 months, have been severed.
Cut the umbilical cord, gentlemen start your engines; Let’s see what lies up the road.
Drive a Little Further …continuing adventures of…
|| C-Town shenanigans
It’s hot, hot, hot in the ol’ Cowtown. Record temps and rising tempers surround the cow trail with the wrap up of the World Summit meetings of the G-8 tomato heads.
Yesterday morning at dawn the “Big Breakfast” T.V. extravaganza had me flying by the seat of my hiking shorts trying to get a couple of tunes in while the “protesting band of hooligans” did the snake walk through the city canyon. Then over to the park bar-b-que for some more sabre rattlin’ and some fries to go with a mixed agenda of union sloganeering and protest songs sung by the raging grannies local 145. Why is it that all the pro- labor, “damn the corporation” theme songs are sung to the tune of nursery rhymes?
The trip from Nelson was spectacular. The mountains are in full bloom, and the rivers are high.
The coyote seems to be the mascot of the journey, two more ushered me through the mountain passes and on to the plains before getting stopped and interrogated at the B.C./Alberta border. “Honestly officer, I’m on my way to Calgary to play folk songs in a bar to a handful of drunken cowboys, I don’t even like V-8 except if there’s no clamato left for the Caesars. That vinegar is because of my fondness of fish and chips. The only thing I know about Monsanto is that he’s the bass player for Sarah McLaughlin and I’m all for sending Lemon aid to Africa if they can’t get the lemons themselves, they must be very thirsty. Perhaps those new sports drinks would be a better idea.”
I’m through the blue’s line of defense and up highway 22 towards Calgary. Not even my “all access” pass for the Canada Day Celebration with Big Sugar in Ottawa can get me through to Kanan “asskiss” country. There’s half a dozen blacked-out S.U.V’s patrolling the lonely side road, I make great time and soon I’ve found my way to the town o’ plenty.
Bruce Cockburn is playing at “the picnic for placards”. Here’s one guy and a guitar and they can’t get the guitar on. But as Bruce says diplomatically “it is what it is” and they call it democracy. I call it a bad battery in the direct box.
You got to love Nelson; the protest button is turned on 24-7.
The story was related to me of a young Nelson freedom child by the name of “Starblanket”.
Starblanket was cool with his handle until he got high school and realized maybe he could better serve the cause as something a little more socially homogenized. After all, in Nelson Starblankets are a dime a dozen, he decided a name change was in order. A new nom de plume to preserve self-identity. After serious deliberation his mark was made and he became…..Pete.
We should all be so bold. Find a cause, stand up and be heard for Pete’s sake.
Soundtrack for the revolution:
Rufus Wainright- Poses
James Keelaghan- Home
God Save The Smithereens
Mike Stack- I Need Wheels
Dar Williams- The Honesty Room
|| Organic Oasis- Nelson
Nothing like a couple of days r &r in the whole food capital of the western world.
Yesterday had me playing 3 separate gigs outside in the sunny splendor of summertime.
The only time it registered that this was becoming tiring was lugging the gear to and from the stage areas.
How tired can you be when your backdrop is the mirror smooth Kootenay Lake with the mountains crouching down in front of the full moon? It was a good day.
It dawned on me as I watched a bunch of kids digging in the sand, that we men have an inherent need to dig things up.
Doesn’t the fence surrounding the construction site sum it all up. There are 3 separate viewing portholes, at 3 different levels, capable of supporting the viewing habits of 3 generations of boys watching big machines dig a big hole. The bigger the better. This could be the true fixation with men and size. You know what they say about a man with big feet……..big shoes.
I myself have no background whatsoever in construction, demolition, machinery or excavating. The fact that I am a musician with a journalistic degree does not dissipate the sheer enjoyment of seeing the earth upturned by some massive power shovel.
So there you are on the beach with the kids and a grandfather communing with your basic natural instincts.
Everyone’s digging in the sand, the worlds a safer place for it.
Get the tofu cutlets on the “barby”, crack a cold one, break out the Bowen Island Bud and lets all dig.
Diggin’ in the Dirt – Peter Gabriel
Fixin’ a Hole – Beatles
Dig it – Prince
The soundtrack so far:
Vancouver to Nelson- Bruce Springsteen, “Nebraska”, The Band “Last Waltz”, Fabulous Thunderbirds,
The Byrds Greatest Hits
Around the Double O Dude Ranch- Gabrielle Roth and the Mirrors “Luna” and “Bardo”,
Massive Attack “ Mezzanine”, Larry Carlton and Lee Retinour “ Larry and Lee”
|| Drive A Little Further June 20th Nelson B.C.
A little further down the road. The western mini- tour pales in comparison to the behemoth undertaken at this time last year, but it’s still 9 hours of open road ahead as I make my way from the clutches of the big smoke.
A quick stop at a specialty foods store to pick up a few tins of Chapotle peppers in Adabo sauce (not easily found and highly coveted in the Nelson Region), with Bridal Falls in the rear view mirror I’m off like a new brides nighty.
Chiliwack boast the cheapest gas in B.C., so I fuel up, grab a tea and “low fat fruit explosion” from Tim’s, and set course for points east.
The Fraser River has risen to near record flood levels, as has virtually every other river this side of the Rockies. It is somewhat disconcerting to see the campsite we spent the day at last year under three feet of water. Live salmon on the bar-b-que!
The music selection is stocked for the trip, this time featuring those nostalgic hits from my formative years. An opportunity to re-visit the soundtrack of my youth. But before losing myself in the memory of the mullet, hockey hair, the Canadian Passport, I turn on C.B.C. to hear what they’ve been up to in the last 9 months. Quelle surprise! It’s the best of This Morning… Tonight, featuring an encore presentation of a return to The Stratford Festival. I swear I heard this last year somewhere in northern Ontario.
I draw comfort in knowing that friendly voice will continue to whine on endlessly and meld into the sound of the 18-wheeler lurching ahead of me.
Just before Princeton, a sign. Not a road sign but one sent from the Great Spirit. A guidance, an omen and the first glimpse of wildlife thus far. A coyote, looking me right in the eye. He’s not only observing the car coming towards him he’s looking at the driver and staring me down. I notice that he’s protective of something at his feet. Roadkill perhaps, or maybe a trophy of his mastery of adaptation. Yes all of the above, it’s a discarded Jack Daniels bottle and he’s leaning down, tongue protruding, to sip up the last drops of sour mash.
It is a sign, because just around the corner they’ve gone and closed my favorite little gem of a pub, so its every man, woman and coyote for themselves.
The dry barren pocket desert gives way to the Kootenay evergreens and one cinnamon bagel later I’ve rounded the corner to Tagham Beach.
It’s summer solstice in Nelson, ushered in, in a rather low-key ceremony, revolving around the England vs. Brazil semi final of world cup soccer. England tries valiantly, but succumbs to the powerhouse offence that is Brazil. The coyote and me go out for more beer. It’s officially summer.
|| March 7, 2002
Well Happy Birthday fellow Pisceans.
It was many years ago, on this day that I first greeted this world.
As long as I can remember music has played a part of my consciousness.
When I was just a kid, birthdays meant the chance to pick up a few more 45’s, the likes of The Bubble Puppy, The Music Machine, Blues Magoos, Troggs, of course Dave Clark Five, Beatles, Stones and Turtles, Simon and Garfunkle. Every week there was a new addition to the top 40 and I would budget for it. (Remembering that singles were about 70 cents then, it wasn’t a big stretch)
As psycadelia reached a feverish pitch in the late 60’s, so did the record collection. Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Fever Tree, Moby Grape, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane I couldn’t get enough of the “experienced” trip rockers. The album covers alone took up a good portion of my formative years, many hours were whiled away daydreaming of the electric ladyland that stood just a few rehearsals from reach.
The emergence of school “play” mates, found a group of us in the recroom, with a name (Plum Pudding), one amp, three guitars and a snare drum. I couldn’t cop the licks from my favorite tunes yet and didn’t have the patience to decipher Bob Dylan or John Fogerty’s lyrics, so I started to write my own.
By high school, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, and David Bowie were the soundtrack. Our very own band “Bullrock Sludge” were rockin’ the sock hop circuit in North Van and the platform shoes took us to new heights of cafeteria stardom.
With the advent of and personal obsession for bands like King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Led Zepplin, Thin Lizzy, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Jethro Tull a funny thing happened on the way to the Coliseum. I discovered the acoustic side of the spectrum.
All of a sudden it was the singer/songwriter who became the nucleus of my galaxy.
Better late than never, Richard Thompson, Phil Ochs, Neil Young, Tim Buckley and a host of new folk troubadours took their place beside my guitar heroes Rory Gallagher, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Steve Howe.
I mention all of this because March 7 is not only a birthday, but also a personal time to reflect on the music that always has and always will be a huge part of my life. Time to blow the dust off “Crimson and Clover”, open the 3-gate fold to Brain Salad Surgery, layback and watch the clouds disappear on a wave of familiar and comforting sounds.
|| I see Red.
Nearing the approach of St Valentine’s Day.
He was the reddest of all the saints, even more so than St Nicholas. Ol’ St. Nick also had green and silver going for him, that of course diffused the spectral focus and tarnished his redness.
Valentine was the Crimson King.
So red was Valentine that everything he touched turned to the color of blood.
Was it a co-incidence that the massacre happened on Feb.14th?
This notion of Valentine’s Day would make the best of men blush, again not co-incidentally “red”.
There are many conspiracy theories about the formation of St. Valentine’s Day, not the least of which comes from the Russians. Just look at their hockey uniforms.
Even the Detroit “Red Wings” (of whom Valentine held seasons tickets), brandish full red road colours, are full of Russians, and in turn, attract girlfriends like Anna Kournakova. Valentine would sit up high in the stands and shoot his darts of love at Federov, striking his red heart, and forcing him to go top shelf, one on one with love, even though he knew that cupid’s weakness was the “five hole”.
Canada on the other hand is somewhat Red, but the constant juxtaposition of white tends to neutralize the power colour’s effectiveness.
So for the love of country, dump the white, get St. Valentine on our side, go bold, bear the rouge and beat the Russians at their own game. Bring home the Gold?
If there was a 4th place medal at these Olympics we all know what the colour would be, lets just hope that this time round we see more Gold than Red.
|| Just getting geared up for the new season. Lots of things on the burner. Whats left of winter to be played out on various ski slopes with the Last Family, then on to finishing some recording.
The spring and summer look to be heading east, with dates in Newfoundland, P.E.I., and further down the coast being seet for June through to August.
The house concert concept will continue to move forward.
If anyone is interested in hosting such an event contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I'l give you the details and maybe we'll do a show in your basement
|| A whole new 2002
Yes here we are in 02, it crept upped on us like the winter, although 01 hangs around like the raspberries on the bush outside, waiting for the final wrench of frost to sever the fragile lifeline to the past.
Who could have guessed that beneath the chaos on the tail end of 01 would be a whole new year, a new perspective and the advent of better things to come.
I’m not one for resolutions at year’s end, although its always a good time for reflection and to re-assess objectives and goals.
This oncoming 365 days will inevitably bring a great deal of change and challenge. Hey, I’m up for that.
As it stands, boiling and bubbling in the cranium, I hope to be back in the east this summer.
Newfoundland is on the burner, then P.E.I. and the east coast in general after that.
The North Shore Celtic Ensemble has released its new album, (now in it’s second pressing) and there’s the summer festivals to attend to. This can be an ambitious task when dealing with 30 odd people.
There’s also talk of getting back into the studio with the Last Family to finish off the long awaited “big hits album” This should be a balls to the wall, go for the commercial jugular, featuring all those fave tunes from the live show that we just can’t get around to committing to tape. Hey, I’m up for that.
That’s this year’s mantra, no offer too low, too obscure, too irrational or too fantastic, I’m up for it.
I’ll let you know if it lands me behind the counter of Starbuck’s, but what the hell, as long as it’s a Starbucks in New Zealand.
I also commit to getting the download section of this site up and running like a kitten, so I can get some new stuff on it.
Last but certainly least in the eyes of the great prioritizer, the illusive “gallery” will surface with pics from the last few years of shows, candid behind the scenes shots and lots of nudity or Knudity depending on who’s taking control of the camera.
Lets get this show on the road. Cheers!
|| As Christmas time quickly approaches and the concerts are winding themselves down, the holidays offer a time of reflection over the past year.
First of all, as always there is a great deal to be thankful for. A wonderful time traveling across this vast land of ours with new album in tow, renewed friendships, a continued ability to be a part of something I love to do, the establishment of this medium to communicate with you.
In retrospect things have moved pretty fast. The world as we know it has changed, not just because of a series of events, but also in attitude.
As another curly haired folk singer once said “ the times they are a changin’”
It’s pretty hard to speculate what the next year will bring. Personally, I can only hope that I may be allowed to continue on this journey, and keep the adventure alive. There are many more songs to be sung, and many more stories to discover.
To all of you that have been a part of the trail thus far, for those that have offered continued encouragement, food and shelter and ongoing inspiration, I thank you from all of my heart. I think of you as close friends.
I look forward to seeing you again before too long.
There is no greater reward for what I do than to keep in touch with you.
Have a wonderful and joyful holiday season, and may we all know peace in 2002.
|| The true beauty of a web site is that unlike time, one can erase a history.
Therefore with the flick of a switch we start again.
Perhaps by keeping a somewhat more optimistic view of the state music, a little of that positivism will rub off. One can only hope.
Seeing as though hope and a prayer are the two mandatory ingredients for success in this business, we’ll start them up now.
O.K., for those of you that have followed this journal you will notice that there is a gaping hole in entries and even the odd omission. Well, as I mentioned in the introduction that’s the beauty of a “delete” key.
Let’s just suffice to say there was a period of discontent running through recent entries, one of which found it manifesting in everyday activities. I don’t feel the need to burden you with that sort of personal trauma.
On to the further adventures of……..
The Comeback Trail
Lets not talk about logic
I’m far too logical for my own good
And somehow the timing’s tragic
And somehow the point is never quite understood
You could spend a lifetime waiting
A lifetime praying for common sense to prevail
Ah yes, we’re just waiting on the big one
A single step forward to the comeback trail
Lets not talk about product
We’re all products of our environment
We didn’t have the choice
And if its cheat, steal and slander
Just turn a blind eye and learn to lower your voice
You could spend a lifetime waiting
A lifetime praying that the cheque’s in the mail
Ah yes, we’re just waiting for the big one
With both feet planted on the comeback trail
And this trail is marked with false hopes and dreams
And this trail is littered with loneliness and despair
And this trail, and this trail doesn’t go anywhere
Lets not discuss our future
Lets pull out the Nintendo and prepare for war
Can’t we forget the economics?
It’s the corporate philosophy that we’re fighting for
Lets not discuss religion
While people are starving and there’s no relief on the scene
And just as there’s a merciful god in heaven
We’ll turn the starving villiagers into fighting machines
And you could spend a lifetime waiting
You could spend a lifetime praying
You could spend a lifetime
|| A whole new day
It’s been a long day in the studio. We’re laying down the tracks for the upcoming Celtic Ensemble C.D.
I realize that I may have been ranting a bit in my last entry. There are times when you just feel you’ve reached the end of your rope.
I want to clarify that music will always be a part of my life, but the business of music won’t.
The industry has become just that, an industry, hell bent on cornering and strangling the marketplace with its product.
I know I don’t have to tell anyone that a musician’s success today relies on 85 percent marketing and 15 percent on being in the right place at the right time. I’m afraid that songs and talent don’t much figure into the equation any longer. I don’t want to sound bitter about it nor will I let it turn me into a full-blown cynic too jaded and negative to open my eyes and mind to the beautiful world around me.
It’s not worth harbouring those kinds of feelings. If you do they will manifest and seethe to the surface eventually overtaking one’s character and common sense.
I believe it is time to take stock of the things that are important and what’s worth salvaging from the wreckage.
And that my friends all boils down to love, respect, friendship and trust.
If you surround yourself in a world void of these then nothing positive will emerge.
Its not just music or art, its life.
As I said before, we’re recording a new album for the Celtic Ensemble. This is a group of kids between the ages of 12 and 17, full of hope, piss and vinegar. There is a beauty in working with a group of people where anything is possible, where they have not yet succumbed to the bullshit.
Many would call it na?ve, I believe it’s encouraging. I long for those days again, to regain the ability to focus on your dreams undeterred, not letting the overwhelming undertow of greed and manipulation steer the ship.
It is time to re-focus, now, before the government cuts take this basic health care opportunity away.
By the way the Celtic Ensemble’s “Jigs Up” should be finished by November and released before Christmas through this site.
|| Hey Don't think for a minute that this lack of enrty equates to a lack of enthusiasm. I'm just kind of chargin the batteries, getting the juices flowing again. Maybe this is a good time to re-read some of your favorite inspired entries from over the summer.
Don't give up on me. There's new albums, new stories and adventures and lotsa laughs coming your way this fall. Don't touch delete on your favorites list quite yet.
|| Another day another crisis.
It’s a lonely ol’ world out there. Don’t worry I haven’t forgotten about you.
It’s just that in times like these, when the world is poised for irrational acts of retaliatory bravado and rhetoric, it’s hard to find the words that will make my little cosmos relevant.
We are all far too busy worrying ourselves sleepless to be pushing the poets, musicians and writers up onto the pedestals that they are accustomed.
Sales of gas masks have gone through the roof; c.d. sales have gone down the toilet. No one needs a soundtrack to the movie. Even CNN is using the same old tired audio loop over and over as we witness first hand America’s new war, live, intimate and interactive.
I don’t mean to sound cynical. Nor do I want to downplay the horror of what went on a few weeks ago in New York and Washington, but isn’t there just a bit too much waggin the dog.
Honestly, Peter Jennings getting death threats from hostile flatlanders because Rush Limbaugh heard something from an inbred cousin?
Is this McCarthyism rearing its greased down toupee, the one that had been on display at the Smithsonian for the last forty years?
Are we so agitated because we as Canadians were slighted in W’s call to arms? Better bolster up the troops and get those helicopters out of mothballs, and don’t think for a second of trying to get illegal arms by the heightened security on the ice cutters in the far north.
Are we actually prepared to buy back into a military fa?ade perpetrated by multi-national security firms hell bent on beating out the recession, single handedly propelling forward a stagnant economy and raising their stock prices in one fell swoop? You betcha! And pass the ketchup.
|| Back from the far north, back from the Vancouver Island dates.
In light of the sheer senslessness of the recent terrorist actions against our neighbours to the south, I can only offer my deepest heartfelt sorrow, sypathies and condolences.
It is hard to focus on business as usual, when the world has been turned on its ear.I know that we will all carry a bit of this tragedy and loss with us in all our actions and thoughts.
I am truly thankful for the life experiences and oppurtunities I have had and will have in the future. It is my one great hope that humankind will learn to live together, exercise tolerence and understanding of one another and cease its inhumanity unto itself.
We live in Paradise, lets try to recognise it as such and live with that awareness. Peace.
|| Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T
The flight up to Tuk was spectacular. We flew along the MacKenzie River to its mouth skirting the Richardson Mountains. (the northern tip of the Rockies). The mountains rise 8000 feet above the delta, jetting up from the water like jagged teeth from the gums of an old Eskimo.
We circles the “pingos”, land pimples 45 meters high that have forced their way above the surface by heaving permafrost beneath only to be popped after about 10,000 years and turned into yet another one of the hundreds of thousands of craterous lakes that dot the delta and tundra.
Over the Arctic Ocean we couldn’t see the ice (reported to be about 40 miles off shore) but you could feel the deep water below and imagine the stomping grounds of the polar bear when it takes it’s solid form in the months ahead.
Tuktoyaktuk sits on about 2000 feet of permafrost. The thin layer of soil that houses the summer vegetation is fragile and precious to life there. It’s also full of beautiful colour.
Tuk is a real honest to goodness genuine arctic fishing villiage. They hunt whale, trap and fish, still rely on dogsled a lot of the time and have maintained a character and integrity to the town that has long since been lost in the ”company towns”.
I know there’s always a whale bone of contention surrounding the hunt of these magnificent creatures, but it’s hard to deny the people their inherent culture and way of life especially if it is executed with grace, respect and dignity as the whale hunt here is. The locals rely on the whale as a staple part of their diet to provide them with the necessary vitamins and minerals the we derive from fruits and vegetables, something that is virtually non-existent in these parts.
As I’m writing this a mild earth tremor has just moved through my apartment. It can be somewhat disconcerting if you’re not use to this kind of thing but the people here know that they are simply a part of the land have an immense respect for what it may toss them. They take it all in stride. Just another day at the office.
Last night the Northern Lights made their first real curtain call. Words seem inadequate to describe this feast of light and fancy. It’s a laser show that Pink Floyd could only dream of. Unworldly colour, moving at light speed across the heavens, twisted and contorting like a full head-dressed Zulu dancer on ecstasy. The show knows no script but is riveting until it decides to take a break and let the stars improvise and fill in while The Aurora Borealis musters up its juices for the second set.
The theatre of this production is located about 200km from the Magnetic North Pole and is only 60 kms above. It using the entire sky as its screen and moves around it like Mercury through your fingers.
Tuk, like the Northern Lights are what I had hoped the Arctic might still be. It is tradition, it is timeless and it is hope. Its also a glimpse into a much simpler life and a valuable lesson for all of us should we decide to open our eyes and take in the show.
|| Week 1 Inuvik, N.W.T.
The first week is almost at a close, it’s been a long time since I have had a week engagement, never mind two. It takes some conditioning. 4 sets a night for 5 days, 2 off, then another 5 in a row. Yeah I know what you’re thinking, poor little folk singer has to work five days straight. I’m not complaining, five days straight means five days paid, that’s a huge bonus. The tough part is on the voice. Smoky bars, lots of hollering and constant strain makes me feel like that limp wrist Pavarotti. Did I just compare myself to Pavarotti? Well I’m not near that fat, and I’m afraid I couldn’t grow a beard like his if my high c’s depended on it, but me and Luciano we’ve got some things in common. We’ll both get finicky after a couple of gigs strung together. The main difference of course is that he’s pulling in a million bucks a show, I make less.
The wild wild north is on a bender. There’s a lot of money in this town and only a few ways to spend it.
Groceries are one, housing another, but booze seems to be the main expenditure for the wages earned.
I’m not going to climb back on my soapbox elevated nicely above the permafrost, but some things are really out o’ whack.
For the last ten years Inuvik has been on a steady decline. Oil and primary industries were waning and jobs were getting scarce. That has all changed with the increased demand for natural gas as a result of higher fuel costs. Yes once more it’s our dependency on the old dinosaur carcass has got us way up north digging through ice and rock to feed our habit.
The natural gas exploration boom ha seen an increase of companies in the area of about 100%. The town is on a roll again and naturally everything involved with that roll is at a premium.
Next month alone this town will see an increase to its population of about 3000 workers, all up here on contract to get the gas out. The town’s folk now only number about 4000 so that will virtually double in a month.
There’s nowhere to put them all, nowhere to feed them and not the services (ie; bars) to cater to the off duty explorations that these guys demand. The local hotels are giving it a run for the money though, and no one is going broke trying.
It’s the wild wild north, streets a bustling with Dodge Rams, F350’s and high suspension SUV’s all fuelled by testosterone, bravado, and copious amounts of nicotine and alcohol.
And how is the fair north, last bastion of unspoiled wilderness, eco –sensitive and bellwether for the plight of our planet doing in this gold rush?
Well, not too many are asking that question, not while there’s new swimming pools to be dug in Calgary, mortgages to be paid and rrsp’s to be padded.
|| Inuvik, N.W.T. Aug.20, The End of the Road, is it dawn or dusk? 1a.m.
First the facts.
Inuvik is on the MacKenzie River delta, which is the largest in North America covering over 7000 square miles. It is 97 kms south of the Beaufort Sea on the Arctic Ocean. Inuvik is further west than Vancouver.
The Richardson Mountains at the far side of the Delta are the northern tip of the Rockies, which continue to the Arctic Ocean. Population at last count was 3,296 but because of the transient nature of the locals it almost impossible to gauge accurately. It’s year high end temperature is about 32* this is also a little deceiving because it stays light 24hours a day and the temp just keeps climbing and climbing until it either rains, clouds over or starts to get dark near the end of August.
The other end of the spectrum, in the dead of winter Inuit could see temperatures of –56* and will go 30 days in December without sunlight.
The Dempster Highway, generally regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world, runs from Dawson City, 766 kms to Inuvik. The road continues, but only in the winter, because it goes through to Tuktoyaktuk on the frozen river, no ice, no highway.
I’m 3323 kms from Edmonton and a couple hundred north of the Arctic Circle.
There are 3 hotels in town, I’m playing at one, there’s an arctic Elvis impersonator at the other.
I kid you not, this Elvis comes from Whitehorse, (no wonder no-one could find him) and travels around the Arctic in an old red chevette, like the one that Prince drives. He has statues of the Virgin Mary and angels adorning the hood and roof and makes frequent stops in front of convenience stores to sign autographs.
Now how do you compete with that? I guess I’ll have to set up in front of the post office to sign autographs.
The land itself is amazing. Its like a giant rake was dragged over the glacial tailings, the gardener was Arctiticaca the ancient Greek god of all things polar and his yearly ritual was to whitewash the landscape covering all clues of the colour beneath.
We first touched down in Yellowknife, en route. It is stark, rocky and surrounded by lakes and water. It also felt like a mid November day, not a good sign considering this stop was just half way up.
I was surprised to see the green lush surroundings and much warmer temperature as I got off the plane in Inuvik. The sun just keeps circling around above like it was looking for clearance to land but the tower won’t give it the co-ordinates. Sometime after 2a.m. it got that luminescent shimmer thing happening, but wouldn’t stay down for the count and climbed back up on the canvass bleary orbed and battered but ready for the next round.
The people here have their own unique internal clocks. Snooze an hour here, drift off an hour there, as long as the sun shines let the games continue. The first snowflake will fall all too quickly, plenty of time for slumber during the 30-day night.
Spartan would be the best description of my new apartment home for two weeks. At $850 a month, this is Inuvik’s low-end real estate. I’ve got an old T.V. that gets one channel, C.B.C. North. Can you imagine the torture, repeat broadcasts of “Air Farce” sandwiched between the “comedy improv games” and the Dave Broadfoot special.
Apples $2.69 lb., Bananas $1 a pop, Orange juice $4.50 litre, Gas $1.10 litre.
There’s a natural gas gold rush going on and a scramble for the spoils.
There is also an unparalleled beauty to the north, unbridled and unabashed, as they say here “the real thing”.
You get the feeling that nature is still calling the shots, but as the legions of “logo riddled” cargo planes, cranes and automobiles show up to stake their claim, one wonders when the big ol’ Greek will uproot and sell the farm.
|| Aug.16th Get Back in the Car and Drive, Little Fort, B.C. +468kms
After a brief respite from the pavement, I’m back in the saddle and heading north.
This time very North. The Yellowhead route will take me to Edmonton, where I’ll board First Air and jet to Inuvik, North West Territories. This starts a two-week engagement in the Finton Hotel, one of three in the town of 4000, soon to be 4001 for half a month.
But first it’s back up to road speed, winding my way through forest fire ravaged B.C., the smoke so thick the #3 Highway has been shut down due to pea soup visibility.
Everything has a haze around it including my head, as I can’t believe that I’m driving another 11 hours after my coast-to-coast 13,000 km folk odyssey.
The good news is it’s a whole new route, with such attractions as “Little Fort”, on the banks of the Thompson River. This first stop features the latest addition to our ice-creamerie collection.
The “Out of this World” Ice Cream and U.F.O. sighting center has a complete pictorial history of the most significant U.F.O. observations caught on camera and documented with accounts from those that witnessed. All this and your choice of Rocky Road, Strawberry Cheesecake, Triple Chocolate Fudge or 20 other flavours, housed in a silver saucer with flashing red beacon.
Just down the road is the Little Fort Craft House and a rather intriguing promise of “drive through parking” posted in its front yard.
Eagles circle and point the way up river to Avola, Blue River, Mt. Robson and Jasper.
There is an awesome breakfast stop at the Saddle Mountain Lodge in Blue River. There is also a neighbourhood pub but the closest neighbours are an hour up the road so line-ups aren’t usually a problem.
Mount Robson comes from around the corner and smacks you in the face like a bucket of cold water.
It takes up the whole sky and barely leaves room for the road around it. Taking its picture is like trying to fit the entire grade three choir into a disposable camera lens, but this class won’t budge and projects it’s middle finger at your stubbornness.
Jasper National Park boasts countless miles of natural beauty and recreation tucked into a valley like a taco stuffed with oodles of gooey delicious eyeball taste treats.
The “Pocohontas vegetable stir-fry” near Miette Hot Springs can’t be added to the taste treat list though. Back in 76’ when it first went on the menu as a novelty item, the good folks at Bird’s Eye sent two sample packets of their fresh flash frozen veggies in a bag to the Pocohontas Cabins and Restaurant. Now in 2001, only one remains in the freezer.
After a couple of nights in the tent, and a bowling match of the gods sound and light show above the plains of Edmonton, I’m conditioned and ready for the 4 hour air trip north to the tip of the world, high above the Arctic Circle.
I realize as I get on the plane I’m looking a tad scruffy around the edges, like Mr. Brady on a bad hair day. I hope that someone at Chez Ookpik can give me a trim and make me a presentable envoy from the far south. I also stock up on Aqua Velva and Bryl-Cr?me in case I need to stay in Brady Bunch character for the duration of my stay.
Hey this time real live Elk, Marmot, Mountain Sheep, Coyote and Eagle and I haven’t even left the West Edmonton Mall yet.
Jonatha Brooke-10 cent wings, hard to find, solid singing and good writing. One half of the late “The Story”, worth hunting for.
Richard Wood-Come Dance With Me, a fiddlin’ tornado, you can feel the rosin fly.
The Notting Hillbillies- Missing, Presumed Having a Good Time, a fitting background for the journey through mining country and into them thar hills.
|| Aug 08-Aug 16 Gone Fishin’
|| The Island Afterglow, just a little further.
After spending the last few months behind the wheel of the car, you can only imagine the withdrawal I’m going through now back in Pleasentville,B.C.
The only course of action to take care of this habit was to indeed drive a little further, or at least get on a ferry to enable me to drive to the far west reaches of this expansive geography we call our home and native land.
So over to Vancouver Island I go. I short cruise up the inside coast to Parksville, blessed with a mini golf course of Disneyland proportions.
On to the top of Mt. Washington to visit the latest installation of endangered species recovery housing.
The Vancouver Island Marmot, (voted cutest of the endangered animals by a panel of scientists) have been chasing the dragon for the last few years and now find themselves close to their printed expiry date. There isn’t a milk carton campaigned to save these furry little varmints, its now up to those that pushed them to the edge to bring them back and set them up in the Rodent Radisson until they convalesce and get frisky enough to bolster their numbers.
Back to Nanaimo, a strip mall in every carport, then on to the site of the Worlds Largest Hockey Stick, Duncan. Nestled in the beautiful Cowichan Valley, where no back shall go without knitted buffalo wool emblazed with a thunderbird carrying a salmon. The restaurants feature the best of west coast seafood, and not a mad halibut amongst them.
The quest for ice cream takes us further down the road to Chemanis, The Mural Town. Years ago when the local forest industry decided to bail on this town the council put their heads together and came up with a plan to paint the town red, then blue then green, yellow and so on and so on and soon topical murals emerged creating a whole new industry of spawning tour busses and migrating wealthy Americans.
Today you can dine on local Tex- mex favorites, get those Beaver Tails, a Doctor Pepper and Moose dropping ice cream before they call you back to the bus and the beckoning Butchart Gardens.
Over the scenic Malahat and though to Sooke, the furthest West this trip will take me. The Juan De Fuca Strait is the tongue sticking out at the mainland from its Pacific Ocean throat. Sooke is what it is trying to taste. This little harbour community houses one of the most renowned restaurants in the world, garnering the Good Year, Firestone, Pirelli and Michelin awards for Gourmet dining. I mean whom better to judge epicurean excellence than tire manufacturers.
I run to the surf and attempt to dip my toe in the left coast water, get swamped by the briny whitewash and flea back to the car, my sanctuary, my confident, my partner in crime.
With reluctance I turn back to the east again and sail over the seas to Tsawassen. The journey has been given the coup de grace.
I will take a week, do a few local shows and then head to the far north and Inuvik. Not in the car
I realize that the latest few entries to this journal have been a bit sporadic. But I’m on holiday, there’s only so many ways I can describe brushing my teeth. I will be sure to let you in on the dental hygienics of the locals in Inuvik when we return to the road August 19th.
|| Why Drive Further? The Return, Vancouver 13,226km.
I guess this could be the epilogue.
Just over 13 thousand clicks later I am rolling along the Fraser Valley anticipating the Vancouver skyline right around the next bend. There’s the big Canadian Flag at some car lot then the Port Mann Bridge and finally, well, the skyline should be there. It never is of course. I have driven this road a thousand times and I should know you don’t actually see Vancouver until you’re on the second narrows bridge, but every time I’m kind of hoping that the city would be there to greet me with open arms. It’s like being at the airport getting through the arrival gates and realizing that your friends or family are still in a different town.
The drive from Calgary was its usual slow self. Unmercilessly winding through the Rockies behind a string of motor homes, semis and a slew of cars with what we on the west coast call “hazard plates”, that is any car from east of Canmore that doesn’t navigate mountains on a regular basis.
Field, Golden, Revelstoke through the Shuswap Lake area, Salmon Arm, and finally Kamloops.
This part of the trip although immersed in natural beauty, can be the most tortuous. For 4,000 kms across the great plains you average 110 kph, just to be held down to seventy through the mountain passes. The highlights are often reading the bumper stickers on the backs of the Winnebago dinosaurs as they lumber their way west. Sea Lion Caves, Enchanted Forrest, my other car’s a bigger Winnebago and even slower, baby in trunk, or Bush/ Cheney 00’ are just a few of the gems sporting bumper space on our highways.
No fruit ready yet in the Okanagan and no reason to stop at the stands unless you want to get a box of apples from Chile at a roadside hut near Salmon Arm. Maybe the owners brother in law does a trade off and sells Okanagan Macs in Santiago during their winter season. Now that’s free trade.
The final tally:
13,226 kms driven, coast-to-coast
3,576 Tim Horton’s spotted, 1,742 visited, copious amounts of tea, bagels and low fat muffins ingested
148 c.d.’s spun
17 jazz festivals, 14 jazz bands (Zubot and Dawson have become a franchise and have doubles showing up across North America, like Steppenwolf and The Guess Who)
7 gallons of windshield wiper fluid
6 sets of guitar strings
4 regional roadmaps and time zones
3 carwashes (not counting those mother nature provided complete with hail wax stripper)
2 oceans, 2 tires
1 very large American Express bill,…. Experience priceless
…and bugs that met their fate on the front of my windshield…. more than there are stars in the sky.
J.Knutson – Thesis
J.Knutson- Through These Windows
J. Knutson- The Last Family
Some old Spirit of the West stuff, and the odd ruffled folk anthem.
(Not that I actually listened to any of this stuff, just that it’s the commercial plug as they roll the credits, and fade to black…….
|| Why Drive Further? Back to Cowtown, 12,226 km.
I know they all hate it when you call Calgary cowtown, but it’s the week after the Stampede and everything is in cowboy withdrawal.
People here are reluctant to store away the Stetson for another year. Deep down inside there is nothing better than dawning the chaps, pulling on the Tony Lamas and moseying on down to the fairgrounds for a good doze of Rodeo. For a fleeting 10 days Bulls Eye Bar B Que sauce is more prevalent than Starbucks and everyone wishes that they drove a Dodge Ram instead of a Jetta.
I started out across the grain belt from Winnipeg and 14 hours later hitched up just this side of the Rockies.
The fields of flax blue and canola yellow were magnificent against their prairie sky backdrop. It was one of those truly magical weather days where all was thrown at you .I could see it coming for miles.
Tremendous thunderheads, gave way to hail so dense the cars on the highway were forced to pull over and wait it out. I thought for sure that my windshield was history as the frozen golf balls bounced off the car in a deafening roar. Lightning from the heavens jabbed at earth as if to test the meat to see if it was done, then throw a sheet of rain on as the final sauce. I made my way to Barney’s Prairie Pantry to stock up on provisions should I be forced to hunker down on the side of the road somewhere and wait out another storm. Getting out of the car I could smell the crackling ozone in the morning, it smelled like…victory.
Amongst all this meteorological mayhem was a billboard that urged me to pull in to the Moose Jaw Shoppers Mall and “experience the magic.” I thought about it for a moment then decided to continue to tempt Mother Nature’s fate and leave the mall magic to the local teens.
It got even crazier. The Cecil B. Demillian clouds pulled into formations of 1960 biblical proportions.
More hail at Rush Lake, the mall was sounding pretty good by now. My trusted prairie home companion, the C.B.C, was giving me blow-by-blow accounts of the wrath and destruction. A funnel cloud had been spotted straight ahead in Swift Current. I felt like one of those Hurricane chasers zeroing in on the prey.
But I live to tell the tail, and as I entered into cattle country, my brave hearted foolishness was rewarded with a top five sunset of all time. I couldn’t peel my eyes from the sinking ball of fire as it was eaten up by the camel and caramel surrounding hills. I love that time of day. The harshness is tapered by the calm of the long shadows. I pulled over to soak the whole thing in. Even the prairie dogs took a break from dodging Kenworths and stood on their haunches to give the sunset it’s due.
The day’s special effects crew had worked way over time and it must of cost the great creator a fortune.
By the time I got to Medicine Hat I was in a big ice cream mood.
There are so many really great ice creameries across this land, The Wapella I scream U scream, 2 Scoop Steve’s outside of Creston, Piccalo Grande and Lois and Prima’s in Ottawa, Nova Scotia Peggy’s,
The B.D.I. in Winnipeg, Mom’s and Mario’s Gelato in Vancouver, these are just a few of the real ice cream gourmet stops along the road.
Please e-mail me your favorite and we’ll compile the ultimate Canadian Ice Cream lover’s guide. Surely the Canada Council will kick in some kind of grant for such valuable definitive Canadiana.
Everything was too afraid of the thunder and lightning to show their faces, cowardly critters, except of course the brave and mighty prairie dog, who knows no fear, not even a full sized semi coming at him at 120 kph.
The soundtrack of the Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, and Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile all remixed by Moby so as to fit into a 30 second commercial framework. He’s the Cole’s notes of great composers.
Afro Celt Sound System- Further in Time, they continue to blend African rhythm with celtic melody meshed in electronic treatments. Heavy Groove.
Lucinda Williams- Essence, her best yet, Charlie Sexton has a big hand in this one and the result is the “essence” of good songwriting and sympathetic production
Soulive/ Modeski, Martin and Wood- a couple of Bluenote artists successfully and tastefully stretching the boundaries of jazz.
|| Road Rant, The return to the ‘Peg, 10,776 km
I understand that the Winnipeg Folk Festival was a roaring success this year. Great weather and record crowds, best of all no mosquitoes. Impossible you say. Let me assure you they were all following the little white Toyota with B.C. plates. I swear last night while unloading gear to the gig I got three bites. Today while getting my oil changed in the garage I got another. They even live in the malls. There is no escaping these little demons.
I know I rambled on about the C.B.C. last entry and lord knows I won’t try to defend them this entry, but the soundtrack section of the diary was pretty dry.
I have actually had the benefit of picking up a lot of great music on this journey and I am proud to say that the majority of it has been Canadian. There’s no 35% quota on this trip, no bullshit C.R.T.C rules to force me to load up my Cancon stock on the late night Sunday treks. No, its out there and its worth a listen, I do, because I like the music. Simple as that.
Here’s a partial list of those who have made the miles slip by a little quicker.
Jim Keelaghan, Connie Kaldor, Roy Forbes, Stephen Fearing, Scott Merrit, The Reostatics, Meg Lunny
Fred Eaglesmith, Veda Hille, Jack Semple, Don Ross, Rebecca Campbell, Claude Giguere,
Wally Landreth, Edmund Duford, and these are just some of the artists not mentioned in previous entries.
All are from Canada, none are on major labels, all are wonderful musicians, and, you will never get the chance to hear them on any conventional medium. ie; Radio.
Is there not room on our airwaves for something besides straight up the middle pop drivel? I mean are we really buying into the Sugar Jones world of totally disposable corporate jingles at the sake of our singer songwriter musical creators. The true middle ground lies between the flavour of the week upstarts that prefer to use cartoons as the basis for their “product image” and the “so far off the map, b-side re-mix of the bass player from Sonic Youth’s brother in law, who recorded the demo on a sound cylinder while vacationing in Amsterdam” I’m sure it was featured on Brave New Waves.
Maybe the “static” comment wasn’t so far off base.
O.K., that’s enough of a rant, I promise to limit them to once a month.
Just a quick two nights in the ‘Peg.
Summer has finally caught up to me, its 32 degrees and the humidex is underwater. Storms on the horizon. That’s the thing about the prairies; you can always see what’s coming at you. Big thunder, Big lightning. They’ve vacated the local pools, the kids are swimming along the sides of the roads, so are the cars.
It’s been a long day; the final chapter in my breakfast show saga was unveiled this morning at 5:30 a.m.
Tomorrow another 12-hour pleasure cruise across the ocean of wheat fields to Calgary.
|| Why Drive Further? Kirkland Lake, 9,039 km/ Shabaqua, 10,000 km/ Ignace, 10,247 km
I set out from Ottawa on Sunday afternoon. I got across the bridge and decided I better not venture too far without doing something about the tire situation. I was already riding on my spare because there was no tread left on the rear right early in the trip, now the left was about finished. So what better way to celebrate the 10,000 klick mark than by giving my trusty lil’ steed some new rubber.
With brand new skates we venture north. I’ll get a few hours behind me so tomorrow won’t be quite as arduous. Dinnertime at the New Liskard Husky. It’s got one of those little flipping clocks you just don’t see anymore. They’re very high tech, a new add for fertilizer every couple of minutes. Something else you don’t see very often is the dinner special, “Sloppy Joes”, with fries and jello. That’s some fine dining.
Sunset on the Timaskaming. Beautiful and remote. I drive into the heart of the sunset, it loses me and I’m under the star’s blanket before I know it.
I find a picnic spot in the middle of nowhere, and resort to “full kip in the car”. My car has served me well but a Winnebago it’s not. It’s a good thing the night sky is so fascinating because sleep doesn’t seem to be an option.
Next morning at 6 a.m. I’m back on the road. Another gas station diner for breakfast. There is literally 200 kilometers between gas stations up here in the near north.
Fortunately the C.B.C.is still in range, I hate to miss an encore presentation of the best of “This Morning, Tonight” on again this morning. Today featuring a full hour examining Shakespeare’s alleged lack of personal hygiene. Yes, the Canadian Broadcorping Castration has lined up another blockbuster summer morning of radio drama at its finest.
Every once and a while there will be a house by the side of the road. Usually quite quaint with wrap around veranda, old wagon wheel and giant satellite dish decorated with flower box and a Canadian flag. Apparently begonias don’t disturb the reception.
I start to lose the C.B.C, the “scan” button is pushed and goes around for two hours before landing on a local station. You have to love community radio in the far reaches. “Sports” mentions something quickly about the Argos losing again, the J’s dropping another and the Expo players upset that no-one is coming out to their games, and when they do they cheer for the other team. Finally they get to the meat of the sportscast, the local women’s softball scores. I found out that Franklin Jewel Box squeaked by Claude’s Meat Market in 8 innings last night. Damn, my money was on the Jewel Box.
Once an hour I try to find the C.B.C. There’s Klotz Lake 2 hours from anything resembling civilization. It has fishing cabins and one gas pump. It’s the last bastion of gas jockeys. Its like those guys that got caught on some remote island in the pacific and didn’t find out the war was over for forty years.
What happened to the man with the star from the Texaco?
He just disappeared, where did he go?
Is he just a faded super hero, or did he go the way of the buffalo?
I make it to the Petrocan in Longlac, they have the best squeegees in Canada, and lots of sudsy water in the well. No fear of those squeegee kids making off with this loot.
The C.B.C. returns briefly and mentions something about “the awfulness of oversimplification” before going back to its hiding place amongst the white noise and wilderness.
Finally, the odometer clicks over to 10,000 km. I feel the need to mark this moment, so I pull into the Shabaqua Corner Diner and find the only thing I can order is a bowl of broccoli soup and a baked potato. But it’s the 10,000 point I’ve got to stay here and celebrate.
I’m swacked, it’s been another 14-hour drive, and this one on little or no sleep.
Tonight I pull out the stops and get a motel room, past the giant Mosquito of Upsala, (at least they’re honest) and into the Trading Post Motel in Ignace.
My head is spinning but I need to go for a walk to get some air. The most exercise I’ve had the last two days has been scraping the bugs off the windows. I walk to Vern’s Live Bait and Tackle. The sign says “ live bait, souvenirs, moccasins, amethyst and Cuban Cigars?”
Sure enough, right beside the nightcrawlers and jumbo leeches is the thermadore with the Cubans.
I pass on the leech special and take home an “el Presedente”
10,000 caribou crossing the road at….no that was a C.B.C story,
a moose running amuck in a car dealership….no that was the local station.
A giant statue of a Mosquito, yeah I saw that.
C.B.C and static, I’m not sure which one I enjoyed more.
|| Why Drive Further? Quebec City 7,886 km./ Ottawa 8,324 km
That was a long one. Twenty hours behind the wheel. Blurry eyed and full of caffeine I set out from Halifax right after the gig. Dawn broke out over Acadia as I drove up the coast.
The vastness of this land can never be overstated. It’s awe inspiring beauty should be seen for longer than a fleeting glimpse through a window traveling at 110 k but it’s all in the job description. Right there in black and white, it states if you’re working for yourself you do things that no employer could possibly ask of an employee. There are laws against such abuse in the workplace.
So you crank up the music, get into high gear and set out for the west.
The flag of Acadie flies everywhere, it dots the landscape with its familiar yellow star surrounded by the French red, white and blue bars.
Today is blustery and gives you hint of what the Atlantic has up its sleeve for the unsuspecting visitor.
The drive is stunning, up through Boutouche, past Cocagne and along to the mighty Miramachi.
I cut inland at that point and spent the next few hours alone, with only the road signs telling me that Kouchaboucuac was still an hour away. No cell phone service, and a balding rear left tire had me inching forward in the seat, trying to gain an extra edge on the wilderness.
Finally, Plaster Rock ‘Home of the World’s Biggest Fiddleheads” greets me. Doesn’t a heaping bowl of big fiddleheads sound like heaven to you?
I’d stocked up for the road, but desperately needed another cup of tea. What was Tim Horton thinking when he overlooked Plaster Rock?
I push on and on . Back through Edmunston and the return to La Belle Province. Watch the speed.
Quebec, Quebec. The ville so nice they named it twice. You’ve heard the song.
Dum, dum, dumdee dum dum…..”It’s my kind of town, when they take the barricades down…. I want to own a part of it.. Quebec.Quebec”
So much history, the cafe society is alive and well and living in the capitale. You want to pull the canoe out of the basement, portage across the Value Village parking lot across to the Tim’s, order a “double double”, and toast the joie de vie of our founding fathers who “had it out” up on the plains of Abraham.
The Festival d’ete Quebec is on. The place is understandably filled with Americans who think this public display of ethnicity and culture is “cute”
Now don’t get me wrong I love this atmosphere but it’s a bit of an enigma. Everywhere are artists, freshly fuelled by Canada Council grants, singing ferverently about the inherent need to separate from the rest of the country.
Nationalistic pride? Absolument. Let the Fleur de Lis fly high, but doesn’t it stand out brighter and stronger against a backdrop of red maple leaves?
I breeze into Montreal by midnight, the Metropolitan 40 west, is as usual, clogged. It’s Wednesday 12 a.m. and traffic is crawling. The rational of the highway workers mid summer holiday escapes me.
You can only work on the roads here from May to October before everything goes into the deepfreeze. Come June they’ve managed to rip up all the main arteries. Is two weeks mandatory holiday in July really prudent? I honk the horn like the locals (although the B.C. plates mark me as an imposter) and weave my way to the Hull/Ottawa turn off. Two more hours of white line fever and I exit off the Island Park Bridge and into dreamland.
The Monster Truck Rally at Saint Heathclift sur La Mer certainly brought out some fine specimens, and the 24hr. “Bar Sexy” near the Quebec/New Brunswick border is a showstopper.
Greg Brown- Covenant, soulful sweet and poignant with a voice like butter.
John McCusker- Yella Hoose, traditional fiddle music with a twist, guest Kate Rusby adds colour.
Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill- The Lonesome Touch, the predecessor to “live in Seattle”, subtle and haunting, not for late night vehicle operation.
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings- Kings of Love, 2 c.d.’s of funk folk and groove. Good fun
Steve Morse Band- Structural Damage, absolutely necessary for late night vehicle operation.
|| Road Rash 2
Being in one place for a few days gives me time to recollect, both physically and mentally.
I’m staying in Dartmouth, they call it “darkness” here, I guess its an inside joke.
I find the whole thing amusing. Even within cities and towns we find a way of dividing ourselves.
Within families we do the same, I guess it all boils down to just being a lot happier all by yourself.
A long time ago, when the Earth was green, and unicorns pranced about the hills and took up valuable airtime on a.m. radio. I set out alone for my first real musical journey. I had been playing in rock bands and wasn’t totally convinced that this was going to get me the whole package. I found myself stranded in Kelowna, alone and broke, with just my gear and a few clothes. Rather than take a bus back home with my tail between my legs, I made a call to a friend who sometimes was tapped into the musical scene on the west coast. He told me he had got a call from this lounge singer guy who needed a guitar player. He told me his name was Bobby Curtola and that he had been something of a Canadian teen idol in the 60’s.
I am 18 years old at the time and the thought of getting a real gig, a salary and staying in actual hotel rooms rather than a van is all the motivation I needed. I set out to Edmonton. After meeting Bobby, his wife, secretary and a scattered entourage including a little Pomeranian snapster called “sexy”, I secure my first professional gig.
Now I won’t go into the year and half of misadventure that followed, but after getting an advance on my first weeks pay to go to Sears to buy a 3 piece denim suit, (the Curtola Mandatory Dress Code) and borrowing a cowboy hat (the other piece of the puzzle), we set sail aboard the ferry of the prairie for all ports of call east of Victoria and west of Lloydminster.
At this point in my illustrious career, I had discovered that it was quicker and easier to collect laundry than to actually do any, and besides it made great extra cushioning for the instruments in their cases and I’m convinced it brought out that special tone that normally only years of playing can garner.
One particularly busy stretch saw the people at R.C.A, (Curtola’s label at the time) flying us out to Toronto (the big smoke) for some kind of showcase. Normally this would have presented quite a thrill for me, but this date was sandwiched between the end of a 6-week stint in Leduc Alberta and a mall opening in Edmonton. So my first trip to the center of the universe was going to last about 8 hours.
I had been working on a large personal accumulation of dirty underthings and didn’t have time to get that fixed before we left. Again, any additional security against the tirades of luggage handlers at the airport and their fixation on fragile instruments could only help.
The trip itself is somewhat of a blur, but upon returning to Edmonton International we found the plane was an hour late and the staff at the new mall very anxious for our arrival. They picked is up in a van and assured us that all the gear would be shuffled to an awaiting stage in the new mall. All we had to do was get there, plug in and provide the mall magic.
Much to my surprise there was indeed a large crowd gathered in front of the stage, our instruments arrived and were handed to us while we checked out the amps.
The announcer introduced Bobby before we could even get the guitars out, so in my haste, I snap open my case and there poised in front of 300 middle aged housewives looking on to the second coming of their teen idol, my underwear and dirty socks fled their incarcerating confines and leapt toward the skies.
Two weeks worth of sweat stained underpinnings, fully on display in the brand new mall.
Curtola entered stage right and was seemingly oblivious to the previous goings on. A few squeals of laughter from the crowd and a very red faced guitarist was all that resulted. My pay cheque was secure, and I could continue payments on my leisure suit wardrobe.
|| Why Drive Further? Halifax, Nova Scotia 6,735 km.
I suppose I should ceremoniously dip my toe in the Atlantic.
It certainly feels like the frozen east coast. The grey cloak that shrouds the coast is unrelenting.
It could be November, but its July, too damn cold for July.
I just finished playing a bar in Halifax. It was like any bar anywhere, this is why I don’t want to do the bar thing anymore. Drive 3500 kms to do a folk club in Wawa? No problem. Go across the street to play in the bar? Forget about it. They’re all the same. Nameless, faceless and drunk. Do you know any Skynard?
Today by the way, was gorgeous. Blustery winds, restless seas bluer than the Mediterranean. Peggy’s Cove…so darn cute, you just want to pinch it. It’s a Kodak moment stretched along 35 klicks from Halifax.
To get here I rumbled along the 102 from Moncton. I even got to go by the Anne Murray Museum, in Springhill N.S. This confirms my suspicion that Anne had become fossilized many years ago.
There goes Stewiacke, I’m half way between the North Pole and the Equator, and all the way from the west coast, from sea to slimy sea.
Halifax has got a jazz festival going on. Does any hamlet between Glace Bay and Uclulet not have a jazz festival going on?
It’s a lot like the Shad Flies in Montreal. The jazz musician, after spending the entire winter in a suspended sense of animation, breaks from his cocoon and fleas to the Jazz Festival circuit. There, he is welcomed by throngs of press and cigarette companies.
They embrace the trumpet player, give him free beer, and put him to work on the “main stage”
For the next few weeks, like the shadfly he cavorts with females, many females. He eats, drinks and believes that he is making a living. Alas, poor shadfly your days are numbered and in two weeks you will be banished back to playing the bird dance at graduation parties or maybe get the Friday night ”regular gig” at the corner pizza joint.
But jazz, like folk is a very unassuming and non-threatening music form. Mayors of cities love this kind of thing. Everyone is well behaved and orderly, and no effigies are being burnt, except perhaps for the one of Kenny G. That one shows up quite often, but it’s nothing the local fire hall can’t handle.
Lots of shadflies with black satin jackets that say “Becker Bros. 1987 AkaiPro Asian Tour”
John Hiatt- Crossing muddy Waters, It’s great to hear John Hiatt down, dirty and raw
Colin James- National Steel, he’s doing the down dirty raw thing too
Bela Fleck- Tales from the acoustic Planet, Vol.2, he’s to smooth to be raw, this is folly cooked.
|| Why Drive Further? Hartland, New Brunswick, 6,264 km
After Canada Day week, I hit the trail. Into the eastern mid section of Quebec.
No foolin around I’m going for the jugular of this oft-misunderstood cultural enigma.
In France Kentucky Fried Chicken is K.F.C, as it is in most parts of the world, in Quebec its Poulet Frit Ken-tucky. These distinctions are important because you wouldn’t want to lose your uniqueness to a fried chicken chain with an anglo name.
Traveling up the fleuve, the mighty St Lawrence. How that little wooden Indian in a carved canoe paddled his way through this seaway is truly a wonder. Up the long valley, past every patron saint’s namesake and their brothers as well. I had no idea that Barney, Fred, Wilma and Betty were all canonized.
Past St. Jolly, Port Joly, Joly and Jollie. Believe me, there are lots of ways to say pretty, and just as many towns.
There’s the famous St Hubert, famed again for a fried chicken chain. This one is O.K though, because the chicken was given the once over in holy water before being tossed in the deep fryer.
It does bother me that the sign features the chicken saint himself holding a drumstick of his own kind. If I’m not mistaken that’s a sin, is it not?
Over the long hill stretch and into St Louis de Ha!Ha!, yes I kid you not. He’s the saint of comedy.
The joke was that at the end of the hill there was a traffic cop, nailing everyone to the cross for speeding
$145 dollar joke, but let’s see…there seems to be no English on this ticket and my French was never, how you say… all that good. Surite Quebec, its no co-incidence they wear brown shirts.
Into the land of Irving, there’s a giant Irving Oil flag welcoming me to New Brunswick, I stop to gas up get the Irving provincial road map and continue the journey. We’re approaching potato land. I see the first McCain sign. Working hand in hand to build a better east coast. Irving and McCain.
It’s getting late. There’s fire works on the horizon. I follow the smoke and sure enough there’s fire.
Hartland New Brunswick, home of the longest covered bridge in the world, (not counting the Lion’s Gate in Vancouver which has been covered in scaffolding and tarps for the last 67 years)
The good neighbourly folk of Hartland extended a firework salute to their friends in the south. Now that’s east coast hospitality, blow up something to make them feel at home.
I will now attempt to circumnavigate the Bay of Fundy before the tide changes and washes me out to Newfoundland.
There’s the “big potato”, I knew some community wouldn’t let that one slip by.
There’s a new research station “Spudtech”(you think I could make this up?) and finally the “golden arches” try to lure me in with the ever so tantalizing McLobster sandwich.
The “piece of resistance”, it’s the omni present Irving station, who’s sign offers me Gas, Fiddleheads and Cappuccino. Why drive further indeed.
Outside of the surly Quebec traffic cop, everything else was kind of tame
Local stuff, independent and Canadian
Danielle Hebert- The Alien Suite, Book of 13, an adventurous and very well produced sci fi romp through rhythmic energy and moody soundscapes.
Andy Northrup-Slow Burn Avenue, introspective and well written tunes from Edmonton’s best-kept secret.
And then the Chieftains for good measure, my favorite, Santiago,
The Rough guide to the extraordinary guitar work of “Franco”, and finally Led Zepplin cause I haven’t heard one of those “classic shlock” stations in days and I think I’m going through withdrawal.
R.I.P. Chet Atkins, an amazing musician, and one of my earliest guitar heroes.
|| Canada Day, Ottawa
You would think that if this were really a day to celebrate our roots as Canadians, we would hold the event in February, outside somewhere. That’s about the time that cabin fever sets in and Canadians from coast to coast are looking for any reason to get out, be it –32 or not.
I remember playing at the Festival de Voyageur where they closed of the main street in St. Boniface Manitoba to accommodate an outdoor stage featuring performers from all over North America.
It was –35 Celsius, and a little over 10,000 people showed up, snowmobile suits and wine skins bouncing to the beat. They didn’t stop moving for two hours, they couldn’t or they would freeze solid.
The capper was a band from Louisiana that had flown up that afternoon. They basically went from the airport, to their hotel then right to the stage. Most had been dressed in what they were wearing when they left New Orleans, jean jackets, light shirts, no gloves or toques. An hour later they’re on stage playing before the frozen throngs. It was true culture shock.
The poor soundman had to perpetually move the faders on the soundboard to keep them from seizing. The blast furnaces set up to regulate some heat on stage covered about the immediate three feet in front of them, the rest was arctic wasteland.
Any red blooded Canuck performer knows that to play this kind of gig, you need many “layers” of clothes that will no doubt be peeled off during the performance, a good onstage tuner because the instruments will stay in tune for about 20 seconds at those temperatures and the mandatory tight gloves with the fingers cut off for mobility. This is standard issue to the musical troops.
On Parliament Hill a few years ago at New Years, I did a show where over 60,000 braved the elements to hear a couple of songs from each of the featured performers. It was so cold the electronics on stage would not function, so everything had to be done to track, that is we had to pretend to play the instruments keeping the vocal mics “live”. Every breathe was painful, after the two songs, we bolted for the warm confines of the green room. One can only imagine how cold it was for the people that had staked out their turf and had been waiting in front for a couple of hours. The twirl dancers just didn’t look the same in Ski jackets and gortex pants.
This is the true Canadian spirit, a lesson in perseverance fuelled by cold beer, B.C. bud, a flask of “caribou” and a good pair of Sorrels.
To see the tropical carnival set on the first of July is simply denying our true identity. Cavorting in shorts and slapping on the sunblock…self-deception. Palm Trees in Vancouver? Who are we trying to kid?
Let’s do the right thing and get this holiday in its rightful place
|| Why Drive Further? La Belle Province, my home and naive land
O.K. so I’m about 2 km over the bridge on the Hull side, but it’s still Quebec.
I’m not even going to get started on the sign and language issue, that’s something far to hell bent emotional
for a road diary, but suffice to say most people have more pressing issues to be concerned with than whether “hamburger” violates the law if its written beside “hot dog”. Oiu, je prend un chien chaud et une hamburgoise. At least we know “Pepsi and Coke” pose no threat to anyone’s sensibilities, it translates to fine drinkin’ in any language. I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony……
If we would just let the multi-nationals run the big show, think of all those smiling faces, albeit short a few teeth from all that harmonizing.
I’m off the soapbox, with deux pieds sur terre.
Hey you heard it here first “the city of Hull as of January first will be called Gatineau, as will my old home town of Aylmer and Pontiac.
I guess Hull, Pontiac and Aylmer just didn’t have the right franco-ring to them, so they’re going to roll them up into one bag and call it Gatineau. The Bloc, they are so, how you say… subtle.
Did I say I was off the soapbox?
Today I rode around on two wheels and the same amount of pedals. What a nice treat its summer with a vengence.
Our nation’s capital is an inspiring place, also a perspiring place. The humidity is stifling, so is the hot air that usually wafts its way over from the general direction of parliament hill.
Festival d’ete, it’s a carnival. Bare breasted women, and men in nothing more than a strategically placed maple leaf and some red paint running amuck in the streets. They throw out beads from the parade and ……no wait that’s Mardi Gras. This is Ottawa, yeah; I can see Anne Murray, Susan Agluklark and The Guess Who taking the stage as we speak. I hope they’ve got beads.
|| Why Drive Further? 5,178 km, Aylmer Quebec
That was a long one. The lakehead was gorgeous but it does go on forever.
Wawa was a spectacular event, literally. It was at great expense that I brought in full production for the show, the 6 million dollar virtual sunset over the lake, the best digital imagery to simulate the northern Ontario summer evening sky, the full transition to starry night and the omnipresent full moon over Lake Superior. As you can imagine the audience was most impressed with the visual effects. I, of course took full credit and an extra bow.
From Wawa to the state of Michigan is 450 kms as the crow flies across the midland ocean. Its double that as the car drives just to get out of sight of that water.
And what sights you see as you leave the natural splendor, replaced by the billboard gravitational draw of the Soo.
Sault Saint Marie, both Canada and U.S., one and the same. A strip mall is a strip mall in any country.
Now the area is not without it’s charm. Uncle Rick’s Flea Market is just a few miles down the road.
At least it’s getting warmer. Drive, Drive and Drive Thessalon..Blind River….Drive Sudbury, hey there’s the big nickel, zoom, not even a picture …. Along the river Drive …getting hungry, there’s a Subway.
I know this Jared guy lost 450 lbs eating at subway. Have you noticed that he’s always got people trailing behind him, they’re carrying the extra skin he’s shed until the folks at Subway bone up for the nip and tuck to make him a full fledged poster boy. Till then they’ll just keep him buried in sand or wearing XXL double knit polyester tracksuits. Ah, good on him for the effort, but honestly, I’ve gone to Subway twice so far this trip and that was by default. I can’t imagine doing it a dozen times a week.
So here I am after watching the sunset in the rear view mirror. Check out the music file section of the website, there’s a new posting of a song that didn’t get on the Thesis album. The Man with the Star from the Texaco was written driving down this very road on a trip back to Ottawa from North Bay after a gig.
It reminded me of Texas. Once again the two universes run parallel. What did ever happen to the man with the star, and that slimy fossil fuel multi-national he was the figurehead for?
There was Fabulous Fannies XXX Adult Films and Toys in the Soo. Could it get any wilder than that?
Pat Metheney- We Live Here, a travelogue of pastoral images and soothing sounds, with just enough edge to keep my eyes open and my mind wandering
Putamayo’s Carnival- Various Artists, all focusing on “lessez le bon temp roullez”. The best of the festival, carnival artists rockin and reelin and chasin away da blues. Zigga zigga.
Steve Earle- I Fell Alright- The return album after spending a few years in the joint, and seemingly spending a lot of time with pen and paper in hand. It’s better to play rock and than it is to split them.
|| Why Drive Further? 4496 km. Marathon, Ont.
I left the flatlands yesterday morning bright and early and proceeded past the longitudinal center of Canada.
The journey, at least from a travel perspective is half way covered.
I finally got out of range of those really annoying Classic Rock stations. I would honestly rather hear a local station chatting about the 30 lb. Muskie Ed pulled from the lake than be subjected to another note of anything by Canadian prehistoric poser rockers like Triumph, April Wine, Loverboy and Prism.
Isn’t there an expiry date stamped on these bands, it’s starting to smell like the milk you left in the cabin fridge last summer.
Isn’t it also apropos that the main commercial sponsors for these kind of stations is used car lots, breweries and the W.W.F. featuring an intense Stone Cold Steve Austin appealing to our emotional sensibilities. Just give him one more crack at the title, be with him brothers and sisters next week via closed circuit TV. from the agriplex. You won’t want to miss this. Now back to “Classic Rock that Really Sucks” here’s Night Ranger…..raise your fists in the air and say YEAH!
The beginning of the continental shield greets you with what appears to be a large sasquatch hitchhiking. The last time I saw him he was in Harrison B.C. He’s made better time than me to Vermillion Bay, Ontario. Obviously he is also going out east cause that’s where the money is. Since they dumped him from the Kokanee Beer ads, it’s been a tough go in the west. Like every other unemployed actor has discovered, in Vancouver there’s only so many waiters positions at Denny’s. Besides the uniforms didn’t ever fit and they made him wear a full body hair net in the kitchen.
Holy cow, gas is at 95.5 at the Oxdrift general store and fillin’ station. I better wait until Dryden and take my chance with the big city prices. The “empty” light has been sending the distress signal and just in the nick of time there’s the welcome sign. Dryden, Ontario- home of Chris Pronger of the St. Louis Blues.
I wonder if they change they sign every time his free agency comes up. Can you imagine Claude Lemieux’s hometown sign? He’s played for every teal in the N.H.L. and then gone back to half a dozen.
The wild flowers are amazing this time of year around the lakehead. It’s so desolate. If a car honks on the lakehead, and there’s no one there to hear it, does it really make a sound?
It must, because there’s a sign telling me that there’s an Esso station coming up in Ignace and it has three car bays for my convenience. Its even got one of those ancient Voyageur restaurants, the one’s with the big red hat roof. One can only imagine the chili that’s been cooking in that pot over the years.
Tonight I’m sitting on the shores “of the great lake they call Gitcheegoome. The Lake it is said, never gives up her dead when the winds of November call come early”
Its beautiful, the sun has just set on the longest day of the year, and everything shimmers opalescent. It is as calm as could be, hard to believe that this lake could be responsible for all of those shipwrecks. It looks like you could water-ski from here to Detroit.
Thank goodness for modern technology otherwise I would be skipping rocks or walking along the beach instead of working on the laptop. You see how much easier life is now that we’ve become plugged into the computer age.
Apart from the big Sasquatch, there was a statue of Winnie the Pooh in White River, and a giant goose in Wawa. What’s with these other towns, surely they see that to get a mark in this world, you need some big mascot looking over the main drag. It doesn’t even have to be an animal, like the Veggerville Easter Egg, or Sudbury Nickel, just something big to call your own. Now there’s a town project the whole community can wrap their heads around.
Mosquitoes, I knew they’d be showing up before to long. These are the big back woods kind that can carry off small dogs and children. Fortunately my car seems to be taking out a good percentage of the mozzie population in it’s grill and on it’s windshield.
Bruce Hornsby- Harbour Lights, what a nice blend of jazz and rock without that dreaded fusion tag lurking over it. He’s a monster keyboard player who understates it by writing great songs.
The Church- Starfish, Aussie’s psycadelic atmo- pop veterans keep things dreamy.
Steve Vai- The Ultra-Zone, yeah, I know, but its one of those guilty pleasures and it sure keeps you awake on those long stretches. Besides, there are moments of very crafty melody as well as insanely executed licks.
Richard Thompson- You, Me, Us, ( the Nude side ), This guy is the most talented, relatively unknown songwriter in the world, he’s been doing it for three decades and still puts out consistently great albums.
He’s not a bad guitarist either. Strip it down to him and his guitar and it still shines true.
|| Why Drive Further? 3495 km, Winnipeg,Manitscoldhere
I’m not actually in the ‘Peg, I’m in the HiWay Motel, Portage la Prairie, and man it is cold here. There’s a big black cloud following me from the west. It’s keeping the grass green and me nervous.
I just don’t have the clothes for the cold. Who could have guessed I would need long pants and socks.
My two long sleeve shirts are in jeopardy of becoming threadbare. Its summer or almost, the Lanigan Polka fest is right around the corner. It better warm up soon.
The trip today was longer than most, a good 9 hrs in the car from Saskatoon.
The sky was surreal, the clouds looked like bad stage props painted in colours that were left over from last years fence touch up. They just kind of hang there, uneven. I swear you could see the fishing lines from heaven, precariously holding the strata-cumulous pillows slightly above head level.
Past the five-acre car lot in Elfos that looks like they let one of those pink lawn flamingo designers arrange the large steel garden gnomes.
Past Climax, where there really isn’t a sign that says, please come again.
Past the Foam Lake Burger Pit, (you think I’m making this stuff up?) and the sign that says “point of interest 250 kms”
And past the endless silo advertisements, giant phallic billboards that keep teasing you and telling you there’s a pool in town, when there is nothing but wheat fields.
There was Klatter’s Kountry Kitchen, another entry to the KKK sweepstakes, and Harry’s Ukrainian Kitchen, which has the best borsht in the country. There’s Yorkton’s national treasure The Bonanza.
A few years back we were on the road and wanted to stop for lunch in Yorkton. “Oh, you’ll want The Bonanza” we were told when asking where we might get a bite, “they’ve got the best salad bar of the whole national chain”. We promptly got lost looking for it and rolled down the window to call to the car next to us. “The Bonanza, yeah, three blocks that way then make a left, you know its got the best salad bar in Canada”.
We found it and when we came across the manager at the front door I asked him “Is it true you have the best salad bar in the whole world”, he just nodded and said “That’s what they tell me”
Yorkton also boasts “The Holiday Inn”. Apparently they had the name first and have steadfastly held on to it all these years, cause there ain’t no big city chain that’s gonna muscle in on their business. I see they’ve added a waterslide (that should give them the edge over the imposters)
My favorite sign though is still the one that greets you when setting out across Canada from Chilliwack. It says in large bold letters “Prepare to meet GOD”, except with one particularly clever addition by a local graffiti artist, the sign now reads, “Prepare to meet “GOrD”, a little less dramatic, but probably easier to get an appointment.
Oh yeah, and why am I in Portage La Prairie rather than Winnipeg playing at the legendary Bluenote, like my calendar states?
Well, it seems the might Bluenote closed its doors for the last time last weekend.
The club of local legend that played host to a young Randy Bachman that then cast a shadow much smaller than the present“pieterbuilt”skyblocker he now throws. The club that a pre-puberty Neil Young sang a set that only dogs could hear, this notes for you .The club where Burton Cummings honed his chops, now the most common chops he displays are those of the pork variety.
Yes, boarded up. Gone but not forgotten. A whole legion of after hours muso’s will be in search of a new prairie home.
I’m on to Wawa.
More bugs than you can hurl 2000 lbs of automobile at, although its seems I’m collecting a fair share.
Some kind of Turkey Vulture surveying a mid afternoon roadkill, right behind him was some kind of Vulture Capitalist, trying to see if he could take this thing “public”, and issue an IPO.
Los Lobos- Kiko and the Lavender Moon, the quintessential Los Lobos album. This one set the standard for Latino Rhythm and Swing Psycho Alt Country Blues.
Thomas Dolby- Astronauts and Heretics, a fitting soundscape to the dali-esque landscape.
Beatles- Magical Mystery Tour, the perfect combination of melody and mystery. How they did this kind of thing in 1968 is the biggest mystery.
Alan Holdsworth- Secrets, this one’s no mystery, great guitar work but a little melody thrown in would sure make it easier to digest.
|| Why Drive Further? Saskatoon, 2575 km.
This may have indeed all been an ocean once. If it keeps raining like it has since I left we may see the return of the Saskatchewan Sword Fish, the Lethbridge Lobster, or the Brandon Bluefin.
The show last night in Edmonton was probably the best yet of the tour. Attendance could have been a bit better, but they were a tremendously appreciative audience.
I often think what exactly it is about some shows that really seem to trigger all the right chemicals in the brain and body. What is it that makes this performance thing so addictive?
A good show is like good sex, or fine wine, or an amazing meal, or any of those adrenalin rush sports the kids seem so fond of these days. More than that, a good show is like great conversation, meaningful, unforgettable and something that leaves you yearning for deeper understanding. A shared experience, a kinetic exchange of energy, a graduated bliss resulting in mutual orgasm. (I’ve only been on the road a week, and the sexual tension has reached the surface, where’s the message oil?)
A good show is something that reminds you why you continue to put yourself through all the shit that goes with such an insipid industry….And the people it’s only as good as the audience. As Bill Henderson once sang, “if there ain’t no audience, there just ain’t no show” Thank you Edmonton….Good night!
There were bison, or buffalo, what’s the difference? They were also behind a big fence, but they certainly looked old and scraggy enough to be wild. It was some kind of compound, like the Jurassic park or Kennedy. Or maybe it was Compound W, for those nasty, unsightly bison. It harkens me back to the prehistoric days when bands like Styx, Twisted Sister and Ratt ruled the earth. Rock on, buffalo dude.
Radiohead- Amnesiac, O.K. computer kid A, it was a bit of a stretch with the last Thom Yorke laptop noodle. I gave you that one, but its time for an upgrade on your sound card.
Paul Hyde – Under the Radar, I recently chatted with Paul and he said the album had sold about 2000 copies. If this was a flaky British band with bad attitude you could put at least another couple of zeros on the sales, and Much Music would be tripping over its own cables trying to get him in to their “environment” to talk trash about the other flavor of the week brit popsters.
Capercaillie – To the Moon, Karen Matheson has one of the loveliest voices in the whole celtic/folk/world music scene. This album is a little more subdued than past efforts but each note counts, and that counts for a lot.
|| Why Drive Further? 1879 km Edmonton
Its been raining for a week, the prairie looks like a golf course. I managed to tee off this morning at 5 a.m. in Calgary and drive up the fairways to Edmonton for a morning interview on CJSR, Campus Radio, then a short chip onto the green at CFCN T.V. for a cameo appearance on the local noon hour news, now I’m putting in for the evening at CKUA and another interview and song with Andy Donnelly.
I can’t wait till the 19th hole, a large beverage of champions and the big snooze.
Last night in Calgary went well. The Karma Arts House is home to plenty of good karma and decent Quesadeas. Back in the province of Big Rock, the tradition established with us years ago on the first “Spirit of the West” east of the Rockies eye opener.
Alberta has such a support system in place for the arts. It’s refreshing to see attention being turned to locals and what can be done not why it can’t.
Tonight is the Stony Plain 25th anniversary party, the label we as youngstars signed with, oh, probably about 25 years ago. But Holger Peterson, bless him, is still signing the occasional royalty cheque, and that’s enough to pay for my “green fees”……….fore.
A big ol’ deer, that had been smacked by a Mack,
There’s got to be a gopher out there somewhere.
Nothing but news. What a world we live in, I promise no more news, except of course if the “scrap metal Jesus” in Alabama starts to cry blood again.
|| Why Drive Further? 1592 km. Calgary
Snow in June, yep, 4 inches through the Kootenay Pass.
A veritable white out complete with a little slip slidin’ away down the far side of the pass.
That’s the beauty of this alpine country, an hour later you could brush off the powder on the picnic table and crack the Chardonnay.
The drive from there was a lot like home, buckets of rainfall, but nothing that a hearty bowl of soup in Fernie wouldn’t fix.
One last gasp of mountain air and I was spat out onto the flatlands. Okotoks Alberta on the horizon then into the prairie sprawl of Cowtown.
Its festival fever on the folk scene. All the line-ups have been more or less released and the friendly folk rivalries are heating up. Gentle cattle prodding.
This morning was the “Big Breakfast Show” on A-Channel, Calgary. It’s a 5:45 a.m. call to the small screen. There seems to be a devoted following of watchers at such an un- godly hour of the day.
Its good fun though. Dave Kelly and crew make you feel like you are indeed doing a t.v. show, not just the entertainment meat puppets used to separate commercials from the latest play-by-play of American executions in the news.
Hey, I even got to be the taste judge on the daily morning cooking segment. Yum, Lobster Thermador is a great way to jump-start your day.
This is a bit silly, I’ve just driven another 8hrs. though protected park and wilderness, sanctuary for all things wild and free. But zip… maybe they’ve figured out that they aren’t really wild or free and like every other union in the province they’ve walked out on strike.
So wouldn’t you know it, after dinner a walk down by the Bow River, downtown Calgary, and there are two beavers working hard home renovations to the lodge, smack dab in the middle of the concrete canyon.
Who’s going to bug them there? There are enough trees, fish and Tim Horton cups to satisfy even the most demanding nickel model.
Speaking of beaver, the first hardcopy issue of Penguin Eggs just clawed its way onto the newsstands and my article on Quebecois folk n reelers La Volee d’Castors made it in there relatively unscathed. There is also a transcription of “The Crawl” for the “play it by ear” challenged.
La Volee d’Castors loosely translated is “flock of beavers”, that of course is the Canadian tribute band to the 70’s chart toppers from Sweden or Finland or Latvia or wherever they came from and went back to.
David Gray- White Ladder, what’s all the hoopla about, please let me in on the secret recipe. Regular folk guy makes good with massive international hit, just add sequencing and a pinch of 808 drum machine.
Emmylou Harris- Wrecking Ball, now there’s some roots showing, infectious and haunting and not a one- fingered keyboard solo on the whole disc.
David Ashcroft- Alone with Everybody, they dissed him when he left the Verve and went on to do something with real guts and soul. It didn’t sell , maybe he could call David Gray for the recipe.
Lots of CKUA- the best radio station in Canada, bar none.
|| Why Drive Further? Kaslo
Indeed there isn’t much further you can drive up the Columbia, at least on that particular road.
Nestled in amongst the mountains and the Kokanee Glacier, is Kaslo.
As I mentioned previously, the “big game” was at odds with the “little show”.
It was of David and Goliath optimism that I plugged in.
A small but appreciative audience gathered in the old house. I could see Ray Bourque raising the cup in my mind as I launched into the first set.
Set Lists for a show like this are more or less like lines down the middle of the road, you don’t really need them but if they’re not there you start to wander and pretty soon you’re heading for the ditch.
So they go down beside the other little accoutrements that I set up. This is done partially for the routine, partially for superstitious reasons and mostly because it allows me to exercise an obsessive – compulsive nature that I need to mask most of the rest of the time.
Oh, Oh, I’m starting to break down the walls and let you all in to my inner secrets. I knew this would happen. Writing is cathartic and eventually the veneer curtain of self-censorship will fall like the dance of the seven veils.
Now not having ever seen the dance I can only imagine that we have shed the first and a hint of flesh is showing.
The danger of course is that these entries could turn into a full on lap dance.
I’ll try and stay composed until we truly get to know each other a little better.
Oh yeah, and the gig, it was fun, by the end of it I had moved my mind forward, all the way to the upcoming NHL draft, and how we need to get a good, high scoring center, and take a hard look at our goaltending situation for next season. Go Canucks, Go
|| Why Drive Further?
You’ve gotta love Nelson. Where else could you play at the public market 9:30 am Saturday morning, the night after finishing a house concert that lasted until 2a.m., and get the same people out to hear you. Good on ya. And the moneybag also contained a crystal, a ceramic goose, a bar of soap and an artichoke. Not bad for a mornings work.
The drive has been stunning. Everything is in full bloom. The mountains have reluctantly given up their omni present cloak of green, for bright hints of rainbow shades. Did you ever notice how Mother Nature, try as she may, is incapable of colour clash. She really out to think of going into marketing…corporate logos like that shwooshstika Nike thing but with a Martha Stewart sensibility, Laura Ashley attention to detail and Dame Edna bravado.
Tonight I venture along the highway to Kaslo, a beautiful little town in the heart of the Kootney’s.
It’s also the 7th game of the Stanley Cup finals tonight. The show organizer assured me that those in attendance would not be hockey fans, so the gig would start on time. How do I break it to him that this is one of those precious and fleeting moments of self-indulgence that necessitates me seeing the entire game, even if it goes into overtime. There have only been rare occasions that have warranted me delaying the start of a show. They have all come at a time where Canadiana was defined. Like Ben Johnson winning the gold medal in the 100-meter final. Weren’t we all so proud for the first few hours after the race? Not since the riot in Vancouver after the Stanley Cup was handed to New York in 94 did nationalistic pride run so amuck. These are stellar measurements of jingoistic significance. It’s as close as we come to doffing the cowboy hat and singing the star spangled banner.
Now, the fact that New Jersey is playing Colorado seems to throw a wrench into the perfect script.
There was a time when we could disregard the geographic challenge of the final being in the states because all the players were Canadian.
As you can see it’s going to be a bit of a stretch to get this game in before showtime
I don’t want to be responsible for the 01’ Kaslo riot, the one that burnt the little town on the edge of Kootney Lake to the ground because some west coast folk singer had to see a hockey game.
Hell hath no wrath like the impatient folky.
|| Why Drive Further? 679km
This will be brief. I’m not quite acclimatized to these 8hr drives yet, it must have to do with elevation or time lag or dehydration or something other than the fact that I just spent 8 hrs behind the wheel.
So here’s the vital stats:
Arr: Nelson, B.C
.- 11/2 gas fills @ 82.9, 1bag of pistachios, 1.5 liters water, 1carrot muffin, an apple, a banana and a large cup of Tim Horton’s specially commissioned orange pekoe tea.
So far my strict dedication to a healthy regimen is off by 1greasy carrot muffin, 1 bag of extra salty pistachios and regular fat milk in the tea.
But that’s O.K. it’s only day 1, and look at what B.C.’s new liberal government has managed to do in their first day at the wheel.
well, there was a pretty scary looking character driving a souped up 76 Camaro
And a marmot, or maybe it was a rat sitting on the divider near Castlegar.
The new Stereophonics, (it’ll need a few more listens)
Colin Linden- Big Mouth- more soul in his little slide finger than a handful of Manchester guitar whiners.
Metalwood- The Recline- much ballyhooed entrance into the major label kingdom, and we know how much those big guys love to promote jazz, it’s a good thing they got D.J. Logic to lay down the phat groove scratch thing.
Tool, Whatever the hell the new album is called, I never was good with schematics. - it’s loud even if it isn’t loud, even in the quiet parts it’s loud and did I mention angry. Yeah it’s that too, but it did a better job of keeping my eyes open than Tim Horton’s.
|| Why Drive Further? CCC
I found out last night that CCC stood for Christ Church Cathedral (Vancouver)
This of course is far more appropriate than KKK for a church. I know the people at Krispy Kreem, and other such fine multi- nationals would love to see all the C’s turned to K’s. Myself being a “K”nutson, I could have changed this site to “Kanoe”Songs. But I have gone to great lengths to preserve the integrity and quality of this medium. If for instance you type in “Canoe” to your browser, chances are that one of the top three sites listed will be a porn site. Probably, ”Little man in a Canoe” or something. I could have circumnavigated the whole issue by using a K instead of a C, but then what would the kids think? They’re having enough trouble with the language that our generation has mutilated, we can’t hand them a further abomination. “Cyber Speak” is the final nail in the coffin.
Once more I digress, but this is my diary and quite often this is how my mind works. Seldom linear, most times non-sensicle. (which by the way was my favorite, the root beer non-sensicle).
So last night was the Celtic Ensemble, first of two night, spectacle or as we say en francais, “Spek Tak”
The interesting thing about playing in a big old church is that there is evidence of God’s creation everywhere, except in the form of extension cords and washroom facilities.
The acoustics are always a challenge, after all, these places were designed for the “word “ of God, an occasional 3-story pipe organ, and a fifty-voice boys choir. An acoustic guitar, upright bass, percussion and string ensemble needs some sonic leveling to get the message across.
Anyway the show was fine.
Have you ever noticed that the purity of voice in a boy’s choir is directly connected to the white robe that the boy wears? If the robe is transformed into jeans, the voice becomes Bart Simpson.
Tonight is the second of two, and then the kids go on holiday until we re-assemble the Celtic Troops for the Harmony Arts Festival in West Vancouver in August.
Meanwhile, I shall be meandering my way across 5 time zones.
|| Why Drive Further?
Reflections of Roots Wednesday.
Could it be that we as a society are becoming de-sensitized to the point of total un-recognition of the validity of developing culture?
Is it that we are so contrived that we now lack the ability to distinguish product promotion, simple sales tactics, from the nurturing of a true art form?
Hey, only you can answer that one my friend. Who else is buying into all this shit.
We have come to a point of true corporate pacifism. It’s what we sought out in a basic ideological sense.
Ghandi couldn’t have played it better.
We just don’t take the time to question where all this wealth of abundant information is coming from.
It’s the information age, and we don’t believe its possible that we are being mis-informed.
Or maybe we believe that its possible, but its way too much trouble to investigate because there must be some board or committee responsible for monitoring this kind of thing, and they’re getting paid good government wages to ensure that this mis-information could not detract from our society in good standing.
What has all this nonsense got to do with a folk musician’s info web site and a series of shows aimed at establishing live music at a grass-root interest?
Nothing, and that is the point. Sometimes this whole darn world stops making sense.
Shall we open the lines to spirituality, or are we better served in a discussion of finance and the impact of a world economy that is being run by aliens.
Nope, I do believe that we should stick to the topic that we feel most comfortable with, and that would be……….television.
Just kidding, I guess the real point of this little entry to the grand diary scheme is that sometimes you just have to hold your nose and take a bite. Its not always pretty, but it gets the job done.
Yeah, I do take requests ,…..”Freebird”, sure, just keep those beers a comin.
|| Why Drive Further? Road Rash 1
As the festival season approaches, there are always a couple of recollections that race through my mind.
Just reading about the fires in northern Alberta surrounding the site of the North Country Fair, reminds me of the first time we played there.
When we first got invited to the folk festivals as “Spirit of the West” I must admit that we had not heard of half the places or festivals we were going to. This just kind of added to the adventure. There were a couple of question marks though. A lot of the festivals were relatively new and working out the bugs.
North Country Fair was one.
We were tired, cranky and somewhat hung over I recall when we landed in Edmonton to be shuttled off to the North. I began to think that things might go less than smoothly when we were met by an old orange school bus and told of our impending journey 3 hrs north. We slept and bumped our way along on the “get to know ya” trip that can often be a charming part of the festival experience. The weather was not looking promising, and neither was the festival site when we arrived.
It poured with rained and was just this side of snow. As the temperatures dropped, so did the spirits and enthusiasm. We found out that there wasn’t any lodging on site. A few of the bigger names, (who shall remain nameless) complained enough to get themselves a room at a nearby motel, we (being the new kids on the block, yet to establish moaning rights) were given the keys to our tent. Of course we had no sleeping bags, food or ammunition. They scrounged us up some bedding and we promptly retired to out quarters.
We vowed, bundled up three together, that unless it stopped raining or sleeting or precipitating in any way, that we would not leave the tent the whole weekend.
I was committed to this strike, sort of like John Lennon, except in a tent instead of the Toronto Four Seasons.
The next morning we were awoken by the dulcet tones of Valdy luring us out of our den.
Thus ended the protest. We waded through the mud in loaned rubber boots, and up to the stage.
We had taken off our watches and put them in a bag, to show defiance for convention and to make a statement about our regard for the scheduling. No one there had a watch anyway, and we soon found out that the only thing that stuck to scheduling was nightfall. Even the sun seemed to forget to show up for most of the weekend.
That evening after a lot of jigging and reeling in the muck, we sought out a source of warmth.
There was a guy who had brought up another old orange bus, this one he converted into a portable sauna.
It was parked in the camping area and the idea was, you left a few coins in the basket, stoked up the coals and sat in an old school bus naked for a good thorough cleansing.
It all seemed like a good idea, especially considering the option of three wet lads in tent with various states of sobriety lurking around them.
The fire was on, the door was shut and we three plus a festival organizer sat to soak up the atmosphere.
After about 20 minutes we decided that it would good to run and dip in the nearby lake. I jumped up to initiate the trip and discovered the door was locked.
Here we were locked inside a portable school bus sauna at 2:30 in the morning with no one else around, absolutely convinced that our fate was at hand.
“Folk band perish in the stomach of a Bluebird”, I could see the headlines.
With all the strength and rational I could muster, I prepared myself for one burst of super human kick at the windshield of our big yellow coffin. 3…2…1…and there was a fellow folk artist clambering towards the outside washroom. We all screamed, she heard us and came to free us, unlocking the door and spilling out the lobster- like naked trio into the night.
Next day we joined Valdy for a “ tribute to Sunday morning coming down”, packed up the sleeping bags and headed back out on the road.
We kept the windows of the bus wide open the whole trip to Edmonton.
|| Why Drive Further?
Yesterday seemed to kick off summer on the North Shore, Vancouver
It was Lynn Valley Day.
I grew up in a part of North Vancouver called Lynn Valley.
The Valley was famous for The Lynn Canyon Suspension bridge, The Cedar V Theatre and a rowdy group of kids (before we knew what gangs were) called The Lynn Valley Smiling Crab Society or L.V.S.C.S.
They used to have this old house as a clubhouse. There were great stories of what went on behind the clubhouse walls. Initiation rituals were legendary. Of course, the stories got bigger and bigger as the years went by, as legends always do. Needless to say in the mind of a child in his formative years, the spray- painted graffiti of a smiling “dancing crab” carved out a dire warning. Nothing could be more terrifying.
For years we would cut through an old parking lot on the way to school, the clubhouse lurking in the background. It was a fifty-yard sprint like there was no tomorrow, past the ramshackle building towards the safety of an ex-cops boulevard.
In my final few years of high school, they tore down the old house. As they were doing it we would try to bust a window with a rock thrown from the parking lot. It was a way of getting back at the place for all those years of inflicted fear. The coup de grace was they paved the old lot and built a dairy queen and Kentucky Fried Chicken where the house of horror once stood.
Now many would argue that this could also strike fear in the hearts of men, but more likely just a case of indigestion would result.
Lynn Valley Day was established in 1912, probably by some dude named “Lynn”.
You could really get into a lot of trouble with a name like Lynn in Lynn Valley in the 70’s, and you would never be let into a gang like the Crabs. But hey how could Lynn have known?
So how does this all relate to the “road diary”? Well for Lynn Valley Day 2001, we played the parking lot of the dairy queen and raised some money for the mentally handicapped as part of the Zazou “cutathon.”
I could still feel the ghosts of all those Crabs past. Even the double chocolate dip didn’t raise a chill like the thought of that ol’ clubhouse.
And the “cutathon”? It was very successful, haircuts in the sunshine, ice cream and live music.
One can only imagine what the crabs would have thought about a group of hairstylists and folk musicians dancing around on their turf.
|| Why Drive Further?
As I get ready to embark on the long, long road ahead, I think that I should preface the trip with some of the reasons that lead me to take on such a daunting task.
First of all it’s never a burden to see old friends, renew past acquaintances, meet new people and continue the “adventure”.
What does become very trying is overcoming the geography of this stupidly large country of ours.
For the next two months I will navigate my way across Canada, from Vancouver to Halifax.
Now I have been down this road before, in fact too many times to count, but this time out I want to reach the people “where they live”….literally.
As I mentioned in the previous entry, the way the music business is structured now, there is no option for the independent artist other than getting out and knocking on doors.
Hence, this trek will be based around the “house concert” format. That is, a small, intimate, interactive setting (usually someone’s home, church basement or small community hall). The organizer (usually a friend, or friend of a friend) takes it upon himself to round up 20 to 30 people that he feels would be interested in being at the concert. Those people (usually friends) would willingly shell out 5-10 dollars for a show that would let them be a part of the event. Its all very casual, people bring wine or food. In the break between sets you chat with the performer get to know a little about him or her as a person and maybe begin to understand what they are up against as a singer/songwriter in this country trying to make a living at it.
Hey you might even sell a few c.d.’s, and that’s more than you get when you’re in a bar and the prime concern is trying to sell beers and put bums in seats.
At house concerts once again the focus becomes the music, and that, as a performer is all you can ask.
As you can see, this process takes a lot of friends, and I don’t use the term loosely. (although you might not know it from this entry).
Isn’t that what the journey is all about? It sure isn’t about the money.
Music and friends, that’s why you keep on drivin.
So, ladies and gentlemen, start your engines, drive on brothers and sisters.
|| Well this is the first official diary entry. I hope to keep things rolling along in the next few months. I will be setting out on a cross Canada trek, covering most provinces from B.C. to Nova Scotia.
The note enties will be under the heading "Why Drive Further" maybe some day I'll put it into book form to re-live that endless stretch of highway from coast to coast.
Last night I was involved in the "Bluebird North" Songwiters workshop in Vancouver along with host Blare Packham, Barney Bentall, Vince Ditrich, Leslie Alexander and others.
Its amazing the amount of songwiters that are still out there trying to just make a modest living at it.The resounding truth seems to be there isn't even a modest living to be made. It takes all sorts of irons in the fire to irk out enough to support the songwriting habit. What is becoming evident is that "diversifiation" and a creative approach to marketing one's art is the only way it's likely to see the light of day.
That all being said I resort the the "oldest profession", set out on the road and hawk your wares.
I'll keep you posted. J.
|| The unofficial launch of canoesongs.com. No champagne, no caviar, nobody noticed really. There will be much more to come very soon. And it's not going to be this quiet. Stay tuned.
Hope you have had a good and relatively warm winter.
As spring sets ready to push its head through the last bit of west coast slush, I was hoping to foster up a bit of support for what I think is a rather exceptional young woman.
Carli Travers is a 24 year old woman who is now living in Uganda and single handedly taking on the challenge of looking after a group of orphaned children.
It?s an amazing story of humanity. Please follow this link and check out the more complete story.
I have been in contact with Carli and I have expressed to her my wish of support and encouragement.
We have agreed to start a series of benefit concerts in aid of her quest.
The first show is planned for March 9, 7 PM at The Citroen Caf? on Lonsdale Ave. at 2nd St. in North Vancouver.
The show will feature The Celtic Swamp Devils, the group I will be playing with at the Vancouver Celt Fest Sunday March 16th at 4:15 The Main Market Stage on Granville St. and at The Roxy on St. Patrick?s Day, 6 pm-8PM.
I am hoping that we can raise $1000.00 for Carli, enough for a month?s rent and food for the 6 children she personally takes care of.
I would ask your help in whatever way you think you could contribute. Just getting word out to a group of friends, perhaps thinking of another venue or fundraiser that we might be able to put together.
As I mentioned in my first letter to Carli, as musicians this is one way that we can help raise awareness, and assistance to the issues that are most important to our community and communities around the world.
She has taken on this remarkable journey herself, I hope that we can rally around her efforts.
Please pass this on to whomever you feel may be able to help, I hope to see you March 9th.