Works of empathy, yearning, memory, comedy, incitement, resolve, and gusto will be rewarded this weekend at the Canadian Folk Music Awards in Calgary. Let’s continue to examine the tip sheet:
Producers, who are ideally responsible for making sure we hear both the forest AND the trees that fall in it, are a clandestine lot, with fetishes for isolated cottages and modified vintage equipment. They also, it is worth noting, are always men, (unless they are co-producing). Legend has it that if ear-avatar David Travers Smith even listens to your voicemail, you stand a fair chance of having a good record. He will be represented by two great records on Sunday: Ruth Moody’s These Wilder Things and Jaron Freeman-Fox’s The Opposite Of Everything. Jory Nash and David Francey are both musicians who have grown inner ears intricate enough to be welcomed into this micro-oscillation-worshipping tribe. Their outstanding auteurship on the gently rolling pop parables of Little Pilgrim and So Say We All, respectively, will be under consideration for the production cup. Steve Dawson long ago perfected the musician / producer hybrid paradigm. He also will be represented by two disks, out of the dozen or so that he has made in the past year: Kelly Joe Phelps’ tonally rich folk blues testimony on Brother Noah And The Whale and Jim Byrnes’ sweet record of late-fifties and early sixties country music covers, bleeding with tremolo and heartache, I Hear The Wind In The Wires. But do any of them actually have the spunk to stand up to a 4-CD musical audio novel with illustrated songbook? Rick Scott’s The Great Gazzoon, embraces genres from Gilbert & Sullivan to slam poetry, sound effects and cartoony voices. It may have been equaled in scope this year only by Corin Raymond’s double CD mini-coffee table book, an engaging opus of love, hard work and underground currency. Paper Nickels received a single nomination, in the Best Ensemble event, for The Sundowners.
Canada’s lyricists are world champions, famously. But the doggerel eat doggerel feud is silenced, as the power of what words can’t say takes the glory in the Instrumental Groupderby. The Boxcar Boys’ strategy is to take us back a century with the hype clarinosity of John David Williams (whose work is on three of the nominated disks), the woozy trombone of Karl Silviera, Tabasco string garnishings of girl-Boy fiddleuse Laura C.Bates, and the tuba turbine of Rob Teehan, enclosed in the time machinery of Ronen Segall’s wistful accordion twisting. It takes episodic journeys that leave you nostalgically blessed out. Featuring the same horn-men, the cinematic bombast of The Lemon Bucket Orkestra’s Lume, Lume blows through the same pipes, but is a different drug altogether. This isn’t a band, it’s a community. Scrums and huddles reconfigure the musical tactics in mid-song. Chanting, polyrhythms, and sporadic dynamics are the intoxicants that have accelerated their growth into the busiest live band in Toronto. The Opposite Of Everything‘s pervasive modernity of stance and Jaron’s superior axe bracket puts this disk head-to-head with Gord Grdina’s Haram for this slate’s new-trad component. Haram, meaning any act forbidden by Allah, is, in the musical sense, as haram as hell. They are a rocking slaughterhouse of western harmony and rhythm strained through meshes of Iraqi folk and Egyptian radio hits. Finally, there is a debut disk by The Log Drivers, young and highly-credentialed workers of Uilleann equations and Celtic chemistry. And, as all the girls know, there are none has the style of a log driver. All instrumental category contenders, btw, feature vocals.
Old Man Luedecke, besides being the most charismatic performer this side of Rich Aucoin, is a banjo wiz with a command of the contemporary vernacular, hip-hop syntax, and a voice full of starry delight. His Tender Is The Night disk is as comfortable as a pair of polar fleece overalls. His noms for Contemporary Singer and English Songwriter pit him doubly against John Wort Hannam. As for him, my friend the late Harley Fader (he’s not dead, just tardy) e-mails it best: “First I cry, then I get mad at J. Wort for making something beautiful that makes me cry, then I get sad for getting angry – try it out and see for yourself. I blame the dobro.” Justin Rutledge’s first self-produced record, Valleyheart, is crackled with warm reverb and tremulous solo and harmony sentiments, and has enough alt-countritude to automatically airlift the listener to a dim Tuscon saloon with twelve brands of tequila. He has carefully scheduled a break in his western tour to attend the festivities. Why don’t you do the same?
Roots Music Canada is proud to stream the Canadian Folk Music Awards for the fourth straight year, from beautiful Calgary, Alberta, on Sunday, November 10 at 9:30 PM EST/ 7:30 PM MST.
Stay tuned for Part 3…Painting by Paul Corby