-Tribute to Gord Downie; Part 1: The following is from of an article I contributed to in June, organized by Anne Thériault. It consists of personal stories about the music and influence of The Tragically Hip from 27 writers. You can read the whole article here: 27 Short Essays About The Tragically Hip. Part 2 of my 2 part series will be on my website this Thursday, consisting of a video cover of one of Gord's tunes featuring Myself and Merival.
38 Years Old
I don’t remember a time when the Tragically Hip weren’t in my life. Their first LP (1989’s Up To Here) was released at the beginning of my earliest musical exploration. When I was asked to sing in my first high school band, we learned 5 or 6 tunes, including “New Orleans Is Sinking” and “Blow At High Dough”. They were the soundtrack to bush parties, high school basketball games, long car drives, proms, they were everywhere.
And I hated them.
Let’s talk about a song, though. Actually let’s talk about songwriting. Even in the days when I hated the Hip the most, I always had this nagging inner voice telling me that I might be making a horrible mistake in harbouring such a negative (and unpopular) opinion about the band. Eventually that voice became too loud to ignore, and at that point I began to pay attention to what these tunes were actually about:
They were telling their Canadian audience that there was no shame in telling Canadian stories, and they’re right. There isn’t.
Jeez, Gord. I’m sorry I didn’t see this earlier.
In 1989, when Kim Mitchell was vapidly lamenting his “Rock And Roll Duty”, and long-forgotten chanteuse Candi was reminding us that “Love Makes No Promises”, The Tragically Hip were singing about The Millhaven prison break (“38 Years Old”). That particular story is just as interesting as anything from San Quentin or Folsom, but what made Downie’s telling of it extraordinary was the choice he made in focusing on the emotional and the familiar instead of the sensational. And, with all due respect to Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, that’s what holds this song above your average prison song. Downie creates an empathy for the song’s protagonist, Mike, that I’ve never felt for Cash’s chain gang murderer. But at the same time, Downie manages to avoid the weepy sentimentality of a “Moma Tried”; When Mike’s mother cries that “the horror has finally ceased,” the scene is played in such a matter-of-fact way that it feels real. It feels like it could be my family.
“38 Years Old” is just one example of Gord’s genius for combining Canadiana with brilliant storytelling. Since that first LP, The Tragically Hip have told the stories of Bobcaygeon, The Isle Aux Morts, Sault Sainte Marie, Niagara Falls, Toronto, a lake in Quebec, Algonquin Park, The Prairies, the 100th Meridian, a cemetery in Kingston, hockey, bears, CBC, Canada — just to name a few. Put it this way: if it’s a Canadian event, place or feeling, the Hip have probably sung about it. And all of this has paved the way for other Canadian singer-songwriters, like myself, to explore their own relationship with this country and its history.
Jeez, Gord. I’m sorry I didn’t see these things earlier.
I don't play this song all that much, mostly because it's performed on a baritone ukulele, and I don't really cart one around to gigs (although it was written on guitar). This tune was heavily influenced by Leon Redbone, and the intro was added very late in the game, giving it more of an old timey feel, as if sung by Eddie Cantor or something (quickly describing an experience I had in India, driving an auto rickshaw down the west coast). The line "Will I come back as a sea shell?" is one of my favourites, and one I spend a lot of time on. In the end I sent 4 different possible "re-incarnations" to artist Jessica Rae Gordon, and she helped me settle on the my final life destination! (it could have been "Snow Fox" or something).
Canadian Music Week is quickly approaching, and I'd love to tell you about a couple shows I'm playing! Click on the links for ticket info.
First up, Wednesday May 4th, I'll be gracing the stage of Cameron House (back room), 7pm.
Then on Sunday May 5th, I'll be playing at Burdock, 9pm (this show also has Taylor Knox on the bill, and he's great). Both shows will feature my friends David Gluck on the bass, and Mike Dossey on guitar!
See you soon!
About a month back, me and my friend Erin Klassen did a DJ set at Evergreen Brickworks for their winter market. We chose the theme of "Great Music From Great Women", and I think it went really well! Luckily Morgan Yew was there to record it, and now, if you're looking for a fun playlist, you can listen to all 3 hours below! (Side note, I meant to start the set off with Fleetwood Mac's Christie McVie led "Little Lies", but accidentally started with the Lindsey Buckinham tune "Big Love"... )
If you're looking for more great DJ sets by a diverse range of people, please check out the other sets Morgan has recorded (and performed) here: https://www.mixcloud.com/ExLibris/
Hey there friends! It's a new month, and a new... bunch of shows....
Feb 6th: Tranzac club, Toronto, with the wonderful Abigail Lapel, 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Feb 13th: Apple Annies, Orillia, with the equally wonderful Matthew Hornell, 1pm to 4pm
Feb 20th: DJ Set! I return to the Evergreen Brickworks! Spinning from 2pm to 5pm
In other news, earlier last month, I got together with. Will Whitwham (Wilderness of Manitoba), Skye Wallace and the boys at the I Quit My Job Podcast, to talk about the late, great David Bowie. It was really great to talk and hear the different ways in which Bowie had affected everyone. You can listen to our talk by clicking the photo of Mr. Bowie, below
So I'm a little late on this, but here's my Top 15 of '15!! These albums really made an impression on me in one way or another, and I think you should check them out. If you click on the pictures it'll send you to a spot to listen, I tried to find full albums, but no luck for all of them, at least you can get a taste! (at least one of them sends you to a page were you can download the album for free!)
Let me know what you think in the comments, tell me what your favourite albums were!
15. The Young Novelists - Made Us Strangers
14. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Asunder Sweet and Other Distress
13. Shamir - Ratchet
12. The Del Fi's - Crowd Pleaser
11. courtney barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just SIt
10. Benjamin Hermann - Windows Wide Open
9. Daniel Romano - If I've Only One Time Askin'
8. James Bunton- Ceasura
7. Kendrick Lamar - How To Pimp a Butterfly
6. Jessica Pratt - On Your Own Love
5. Kamasi Washington - The Epic
4. The Weather Station - Loyalty
3. Nils Frahm - Solo
2. Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass
And the number one album of the year was an album that came out right at the end of 2014, but managed to stay on my ipod for the whole 365 days,
1. D'Angelo - Black Messiah
Hey friends! First thing first, check this out! BlogTO has put together a list of their top 10 folk songs about Toronto, and lo and behold, "Tranzac Club" is on it! Read more by clicking the pic below!
Now how about some shows? Here's what's coming up
NOV 6: Burdock, Toronto, opening for Jos Fortin and Ptarmagin
NOV 8: Artword Artbar, Hamilton, with Megan Hamilton, Anthony Damaio, Daniel Dell
NOV 21: Harmony House, Fingal (near London), House/church show with Leah Morise
NOV 28: Tranzac Club, Toronto, with Melissa Marie and Baanya
CANCELED!! DEC 4: The Fox, Barrie, Nilsson/Newman Tribute with Stonetrotter, Brett Caswell and Jerry Leger
CANCELED!! DEC 5: Burdock, Toronto, Nilsson/Newman Tribute part 2! Same lineup.
Hey kids, how ya been? Just thought I'd check in, and let you know about some upcoming shows, including a couple tribute nights!
Next up, you know who I love? Tom Petty. I really started rediscovering his work on my last tour with Sarah Beatty. I picked up two of his albums for the road trip, 1995's Wildflowers, and the 96' soundtrack "She's the One". Aaaaanyways, his music has become my new obsession, so on Friday October 23rd, I'll be performing a Tom Petty tribute at Burdock here in Toronto! I'm lucky to have backing band The Bad Apples
(Graydon James, Myke Mazzie, Noel DiTesto, Jason Lapidus and special guest on the keys, Alli Sunshine!) Come share some great music with us!
And finally, another tribute night, actually 2 nights! It's going to be a joint Toronto/Barrie tribute to Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson! It will feature performances by myself, Jerry Leger, Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose, and Stonetrotter! First night in Barrie, December 4th at the Fox. Second night in Toronto, December 5th, again at Burdock!
In between, I'll be going to this year Folk Music Ontario conference, if you're attending, let me know! It's a great time for anyone who wants to see what's up in Canadian folk music!
Hope you're all good. Talk soon!
June 19th: NXNE! Playing at the Cameron House, full band! 11pm Sharp. Great lineup that night with Birds of Bellwoods, Sarah Burton and Beams.
July 10: Orillia, at the brownstone opening for The Key Frames!! Should be a blast.