Tag Archives: David Wiffen

One More Lumdy Lai by Jon Zaslow

Reviewed by Bill Monahan

When you finish listening to the eight songs on Jon Zaslow’s CD, “One More Lundy Lai” the tune keeps playing in your head.  Which tune?  Well, that’s the thing.  There is a consistency to this CD that makes it hard to distinguish in retrospect one song from the other.  Along with the melodies and rhythms, there is a theme throughout of relentless disappointment and regret.

The title “One More Lumdi Lai” comes from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ first hit, “Mickey’s Monkey”.  With that as the leading and title track, you might expect an album of Motown flavoured dance music (the song was about a dance called “the monkey’, not about the primate).  Instead it is reminiscent of a decade later, post-Beatles, when album oriented radio was dominated by introspective singer-songwriters like Eric Anderson, Jackson Browne and David Wiffen.

Those were the days of mournful reflection set in beautiful studio arrangements.  Jon has excelled in setting his tunes within that genre.

  From the opening chord, through very tastefully balanced elements like slide guitar and saxophone, and impeccably subtle backing vocals, this album sounds beautiful.

Blackie And The Rodeo Kings To Play In Collingwood

Blackie And The Rodeo Kings will be playing at concert at Collingwood’s Historic Gayety Theatre on Sunday, Feb. 26th, the second stop on their new tour to promote their latest album “Kings And Kings”, released late last year.  After the kickoff concert at Massey Hall the night before, they will coming up to the southern shore of Georgian Bay at the behest local music promoter Steven Vipond.  “Steve’s an angel,” says Blackie co-founder Tom Wilson, “and you need guys like that in the community who do it for the music”.  Local fans can be grateful indeed to have a chance to see a band of this quality.

Willie P. Bennett

Although they are categorized as “Americana” music, Blackie And The Rodeo Kings are to some extent the archtypical Canadian band.  They began as a gesture of love toward the legendary singer-songwriter Willie P. Bennett (taking their name from one of his songs), who ranked high in their collective esteem.  “Willie’s music was just so powerful,” says Wilson, “but just when it looked like success for him was just down the road, he would always take a turn right into the ditch.  This was our way of supporting what he gave all of us”

The three principals who came together to make up Blackie And The Rodeo Kings, Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden, and Tom Wilson were already highly respected Canadian talents at the time, with Junos, platinum sales and even film appearances in their individual histories.  It wasn’t so much a matter of them hitching their fortunes to Willie P. Bennett’s as it was of hitching his star to theirs.  And this reflects an essential element of the band’s mindset: they exist not just to promote their own (formidable) talents but to share with their audience the talents of other (mainly Canadian) artists for whom they have the greatest respect.

It began with “High or Hurtin’: The Songs of Willie P. Bennett” twenty years ago.  As they continued to record new albums, they added tributes to other great and sometimes underrated Canadian tunesmiths such as Bruce Cockburn, Fred J. Eaglesmith and David Wiffen.  In a band that had excellent songwriters built in, it was inevitable that they would eventually record albums that were all originals of their own.  But that would never be a permanent situation.  Their sixth album, “Kings and Queens” was a collection that brought their favourite female artists to join them on each track.  Along with high profile American artists like Roseanne Cash and Emmylou Harris, they included such Canadian treasures as Mary Margaret O’Hara, Holly Cole, and Serena Ryder.  Their sequel, “Kings And Kings” teams them up with another mix of great talents, male this time, that includes vocal as well as composition credits from Bruce Cockburn, Rodney Crowell, Nick Lowe and Dallas Green, among others.  And they haven’t forgotten Willie P., including on the album his song “This Lonesome Feeling” brought to life by Vince Gill.

Blackie And The Rodeo Kings have become, as a band, a great Canadian treasure in their own right.  But they have never forgotten nor ignored the idols of their youth, stretching back to the days when Colin and Tom haunted the coffee houses of the day to catch performance by the artists they continue to pay tribute to.

These days you can count the Canadians winning Grammy Awards to find ample evidence that Canadian music is appreciated well beyond our borders, but it wasn’t always that way and these three guys have been around long enough to remember how tough it has always been for Canadian talent.  If you listen to songs like David Wiffen’s “Coast To Coast Fever” or Willie P. Bennett’s “White Lines” you get a stark portrait of how difficult it has been in the past for Canadian original talent to succeed.  Wilson says they still end every concert with “White Lines”, a song that inspired him to make music his life’s work.

Tom Wilson with his paintings

Tom Wilson has always been a triple threat creative artists and, like his bandmates, he pursues other projects outside of Blackie.  One of Colin Linden’s recent gigs has been as technical supervisor on the TV show “Nashville”.  And Stephen Fearing, in order to join the others on this tour, has had to insert it into his own solo tour, flying in from the U.K. just before the kickoff Massey Hall show, and then picking up his own tour after this tour ends in mid-March.  Tom Wilson has always been musician, artist, and writer simultaneously.  These days he earns a third of his income from his paintings and he’s currently contracted to Random House for a memoir he’s writing with Dave Bidini of The Rheostatics, due out this fall.

To itemize the careers of these three extraordinary creative artists would require a book in itself but it is worth spending a few moments looking at another Tom Wilson project because of what it says about Canadian music and his personal dedication to it.  That project is a band called LeE HARVey OsMond, formed by Wilson in 2009 as a collective that includes members of The Cowboy Junkies, The Skydiggers and 3’s a Crowd (along with Suzie Vinnick).  Like Blackie And The Rodeo Kings, it’s a band that also carries the history of Canadian folk-rock in its personnel, and it is a band built around a specific vision.

Be Still, Listen Softly To Zachary Lucky

The sad lonesome sounds of Saskatchewan’s Zachary Lucky are coming to the upstairs room at The Bruce Wine Bar this Friday.  It’s music to sit back and reflect upon.

Although the presence of a steel guitar and his Don Gibson smooth baritone voice put him in a country category, his songs are closer to Canadian folk traditions with honest straightforward stories of life around him.

If you’re old enough to remember, his songs might bring back memories of albums from the seventies like Eric Anderson’s “Blue River” or David Wiffen’s “Coast To Coast Fever”.  These were albums that were unrelentingly low key and introspective.  Zachary Lucky’s adoption of this style in this day and age is a departure from most of what you will hear on the radio, country or otherwise, and he is gaining a solid fan base because he dares to be different.

Known for his relentless touring, he is pulling back on that now, to make sure he can be a father to his new son, but his recording career continues to progress with this year’s release of “Everywhere A Man Can Be”.

Leave your dancing shoes behind when you go out to see Zachary Lucky but bring along your heart.  Argue Job says it best: “If you want to feel like a leaf about to break from your summer branch and float quietly and inconsequentially to the ground, drop the needle on this new record and know you’re lucky. He (Zachary Lucky) is truly the bread and butter of the massive praire folk scene.”

There will be two dinner shows (reservations recommended) at 7:30 and 10:30, Friday Nov. 25th

Return to Front Page for today’s update