Joe Nolan's voice sounds like it swam an ocean of pain (and/or whisky) to emerge on the other side barely breathing and stronger for the suffering. That pain – something like wisdom – resonates through every one of Nolan's songs.
After a few shows in September, I’m taking on a more manageable pace on the way to Halloween (and before things get real hairy in November!) I’ve got just one show this month here in Edmonton, so I’ll be throwing all my musical eggs into that sweet Empress Ale House basket. Or keg? Get ready.
Braden Gates is often referred to as a 'troubadour' or 'raconteur'. These are old words chosen to distill what makes Gates special. Something to do with time and timelessness. With lineage and dipping one's feet in the ancient stream of song. With Gates, I get the impression he soaks in that stream, while I'm lucky if I know where to find it off in the woods.
If you are a fan of folk music in its truest sense – music that tells the tale of common folks – then you owe it to yourself to hear Braden Gates.
I recently got to visit local videographer, drummer and music-enthusiast Daryl Payne in his beautiful downtown apartment. We looked over the Brewery District, peppermint tea in hand. The sun shone in and cast a golden glow across his barn wood Feature Wall.
While folk songstress Maddie Storvold waited — mouse-quiet in the wings — I grabbed my guitar, cleared my throat, and did this ...
Monday night I’m sitting in the Princess Theatre holding back tears until I finally give in. The battle starts with the opening scenes and is lost long before the closing credits. Nearly all of us watching are hesitant to leave when the movie ends. We don’t want to break the spell. We don’t want to lose what we’ve been given. We’ve just watched “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
The story of Fred Rogers’ unlikely rise to stardom is a well-crafted homage to simple goodness. Filled with beautifully animated cut-scenes and brilliant editing, this is the best of what a documentary can be. Here is a story about art that becomes its own masterpiece.
As I’ve reflected on why this story is impacting so many people – why it has left a mark on me – I come back to one word. Goodness.
Monday night I find myself in the basement of El Cortez, a grotto-turned-speakeasy packed with fifty sweaty fans of Dan Mangan. We've all been tipped off to a secret show, starting at midnight, in one of the most intimate concert spaces I've been in.
Mangan plays tune after tune that take me back to specific moments. The first time I heard 'Basket' and got a little teary and hit repeat. The times I've played 'Road Regrets' load to kick off a long vacation drive. There's barely room for Dan Mangan and a drummer with a stripped-down kit, and the sound shrieks feedback every so often, but we don't care. We surprise Mangan by turning his so-sad ode to senility into a rousing sing-along. He says its the first time Basket has become a singalong and I believe him.
When Mangan gets to 'Robots', his early hit and crowd favourite, he announces this one will be 'campfire style' and unplugs his guitar so he can walk into the centre of the crowd. Then he sings for us, and we sing for him.
"Robots need love too. They want to be loved by you. They want to be loved ..."
"I've spent half of my life in the customer service line. Flaws in the design ..."
The words are sometimes silly, but something is happening beneath them that is deeply meaningful. Music is magic in times like these.
Joel is one of the founding members of the band I've recently joined, Soft March. We've been playing together for a couple of months now, and had our first gig together just last week. I've been cramming a whole lot of new material in a brain that's already frazzled by some big life changes, including buying and selling a house. I'm thankful for the grace these bandmates have shown as I try – and fail – to perfect these new tunes.
Joel and I performed a cover of Van Morrison's Into the Mystic, followed by my song Haunted, and finally the Soft March tune This Day's Not Done. You can hear it all right here ...