Canada: Storytellers in Song

Canada. From the rocky coasts of the Maritimes in the east through the cold landscapes of the Yukon down to the plains of Saskatchewan up across the Rockies to the Pacific shore at Vancouver Island, it is a country that reaches, in the words of songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, from sea to sea to sea.

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A land of immigrants, native sons and daughters, home seekers and ramblers. Canada is also a nation of storytellers.

David Francey’s stories on So Say We All are often of travel, of loss of change, and of the questions that try to find sense in all that. He frames his stories in details of his own experience on Canadian roads and in the landscapes of life which transcend geography. Francey was born in Scotland and came to Canada with his family when he was twelve years of age. For decades he worked as carpenter before, at his wife’s urging, sharing his songs in public. With a style that is both straightforward and poetic and a heart and head for writing from the perspective of that carpenter’s time, Francey has become one of Canada’s most respected songwriters. On So Say We All he writes of dark times and bright ones, as well as life on the road, on songs including Rain, Pandora’s Box, Cheap Motel, and Blue Skies.

Update: Also learn about David Francey’s album The Broken Heart of Everything:

All across Canada there are communities who trace their heritage to France, and come the feast day of Saint John the Baptist near the end of June, they’ll be celebrating those ties between France and Canada. Nowhere is that more true than in the province of Quebec.

The three men who make up the band Genticorum — Alexandre de Grosibois-Garand on flute, Pascal Gemme, who handles fiddle, and Yann Falquet on guitar — know the traditional rhythms of Quebecois music in their bones, and it is to the eastern townships of Quebec, to the hotel de ville, the city hall of the town of Farnham, that they came to record their album Enregistre Live. They offer sets which range from lively Quebecois jigs and reels to quieter airs, all infused with the mix of culture and landscape which arise from French Canada. On sets including L’Outarde au Vin, Valse Belle Isle, and Le Forgeron, contemporary tunes flow naturally into music handed down through tradition.

Laura Smith, who lived in Nova Scotia, draws on heritage and her own clear eyed songwriting both for her recording Everything Is Moving. The heritage in her case leans toward Ireland and the clear eyed part comes from changes and struggles and triumphs which kept her away from recording from some years. Smith sings in an immediately distinctive voice which sounds contemporary and yet holds echoes of older times, a voice which adds dimension to the songs she chooses. She tells an enigmatic story from the history of Canada as she illuminates Alex Sinclair’s song Magdalen MacGillvray, draws on a song from Newfoundland tradition in Lonely Waterloo, and writes and sings of love’s hopes, dreams and changes in I Built a Boat. Update: Laura Smith passed away in March, 2020, in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. Her music lives on.

April Verch is from the Ottawa Valley, a place that holds confluence of French and Scottish tradition. Her family loved country music too, so that figured into the mix as she learned to play fiddle, to step dance, and to sing. Each of those talents is well integrated into the music Verch offers on Bright Like Gold, as are her gifts as a composer and songwriter. She’s accompanied by her regular band mates Cody Walters and and Hayes Griffin, along with a few well chosen guests, among them Bruce Molsky and Mac Wiseman, as she offers songs and tunes including Sandy River Belle, No Other Would Do, Raven in the Hemlock, and Evening Star Waltz.

Update: April Verch pays homage to her favourites from the 50s and 60s in her album Once a Day;

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One Response

  1. Kerry Dexter October 3, 2013

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