You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘music’ tag.

sunset1

If you’ve been reading this blog (and I know there are people faithfully reading – amazing but true!), you’ll know that I’ve been moving around a lot in the last few months. Since I started writing this little cyber-journal in April and then printed Walking with Wolf in May, I’ve written about my impressions and experiences while wandering through a bunch of places, selling a bunch of books. However, I don’t think I’ve written all that much about Hamilton Ontario, my birth place which I returned to after about twenty-five years of living in the northern bush and the tropical tangle.

In 2000 I came back here and bought a house with my ex-partner, Jim, in the fiercely proud north end of the city. Hamilton is a port and this is the oldest part of the city, close to the water. It was the only neighbourhood I was interested in living in, as it is bordered by the Hamilton Harbour and the Bayfront Park, giving me close access to the waterfront, as well as being a fifteen minute walk to downtown.  Although I wouldn’t swim in the water here, there are places that I can go to sit on a park bench and look across the bay, and totally forget where I am which I find quite conducive to day-dreaming and creative-writing.  As it says on the back of Walking with Wolf, I was born here but left, then came back rather unwillingly but stayed because I found this artistic renaissance happening here – and, always a grassroots person myself, I appreciated that the cultural revolution was swelling from the ground up.

skyline

Hamilton, once a raging steel-factory-dominated city, built by Italians and with deep working-class roots, has always been maligned.  I grew up across the bay in Burlington, a suburban city – from there the body of water is called the Burlington Bay.  From the big houses along the Burlington lakeshore you look east or south at the Hamilton skyline of smokestacks and shoreline of slagpiles.  When the industrial barons built those big houses over in Burlington, they no doubt liked to look at the factories that were making them rich.  That skyline was one of the things that sent me running to the northern bush as a teenager. 

 

treeswater

Now, from my vantage point on the Hamilton side of the bay, I don’t see the factories at all.  I go a few minutes from my house and look north toward the tree-lined coast of Burlington, at the sailboats flying across the waves, the sun setting in the west, and the convoluted rocky Niagara Escarpment that adds a geographical uniqueness to the landscape.

I told Jim that I would stay here for two years and that was IT! I quickly found out that I could live here cheaper than in most places and that was reason to stay, since I was gone half of the year to Costa Rica. Jim had his work here and I began writing the book and didn’t want to uproot in the middle of that process. After a couple years, we bought the house directly across the street from where we were living – an indication of how much I liked the street and our neighbours. The neighbourhood changes constantly – people can actually afford to buy houses here and, even in a collapsed market, houses in this barrio sell quickly.  About four years ago I gave up my vehicle, realizing that I didn’t need it to get around in this city, preferring to walk or ride my bike, and public transit can take me easily to Toronto and the airport.  When Jim and I split up a few years ago, I stayed in the house which is perfect for one person, on this street where a number of single women live (a sign that it is a comfortable and safe neighbourhood to be in), and in this city, which slowly but surely seduced me with its dirty urban charms and incredible artistic community.

This is the appropriate time to focus on the gritty city (even our literary festival is called Grit Lit) because it is the week of the Hamilton Music Awards, when local fans and music industry folk get together to celebrate the Hammer’s musicians and the music.  This is my fourth year working as a volunteer backstage.  I do it simply to help JP Gauthier, whose brainchild this is, to honor the musicians, and to spend several nights feasting on the fine music here. 

Although the classics in all fields are represented in Hamilton (there is a thriving Philharmonic Orchestra and an ever-growing jazz scene), the music that excites me the most is the stuff that feels like it was born on the streets. The musicians I’ve met and those I’ve watched perform have a voice and a sensibility here that is very different from the other musical communities I’ve been part of – Quebec and Costa Rica – which actually share many characteristics – or eastern and northern Ontario. I’m not sure how to describe the difference – beyond being urban – but it is definitely fed by gravelly-voiced irreverant singer/songwriters (Tom Wilson, Tim Gibbons), vixen songstresses (Lori Yates, Buckshot Bebee, Jude Johnson), smokin’ guitarists (Brian Griffith), flying keyboard fingers (Jesse O’Brien) and a whole slew of talented musicians, raunchy performers and hard-working producers.  Uber-producer Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan, Neville Brothers, on and on) comes from here and returns regularly.  The music community tends to be very supportive of each other. In this city of about half a million people, there is still a feeling of it being a town, a hard-rock over-sized village, but there have been enough imports and exports that there is a bit of a cosmic-politan air as well, even if that air is a little dirty.

green-table

Last Sunday afternoon, I set up a little Walking with Wolf table at the Mad Hatter’s Green Tea Party in Dundas (once its own town, now considered part of the larger Hamilton area unless, of course, you live there). After a week of balmy weather, it had turned cold and grey with frosty flakes drifting about.  So it was pleasant to be in a cozy room with a number of greenish vendors, a silent auction, live music provided by locals Kim and Frank Koren, and a bonus to be set up right next door to the coffee and goodies.  They were healthy ones and exceptional, especially a chocolate-covered mousse-filled biscotti….

Besides spending a very nice afternoon, I sold two books and traded another one for a stained glass peace dove and a glass bauble.  I also bought a theatre ticket from a fast-talking man who I had met the night of my book launch at the Pearl Company [see A Pearl of a Night.] The play, “You Are What You Do” is actually at that same Pearl in December and now I’ll be going, thanks to this very good salesman (not that I mind at all-in fact look forward to it). The organizers of the tea party – including Peter Ormond, a local Green Party candidate, and Barbara Maccaroni, a raw food chef and soon to be house-sitter while I head south – did a great job, provided us with a pleasant time, and even made a fair chunk of change for the Green Party. 

jackie

The rest of the week is about the music. It got started off in a great way as people gathered last night at the Bread and Roses Cafe to celebrate Jackie Washington’s 89th birthday. Jackie is a local legend, a great blues man but not just that – he is reputed to know more than 1200 songs off the popular charts. He is a very entertaining storyteller, his voice strong and clear even on the cusp of his ninetieth year.  Jackie was born in Hamilton and has been singing songs since the age of five, first with his three brothers, and then as a regular well-loved participant in blues and folk festivals around the country.  He’s played with Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee as well as Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot. He no doubt could have had a career in the United States but instead rode the rails in Canada working for Canadian Pacific to satisfy his restlessness and always lived his life in the Hammer – in the words of songwriter Colin Linden, in a song sung by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings –  “He never crossed over that American border, though he lived just a few miles away.  He said ‘everything I need I can find right here – north of the USA’.” 

birthday

 

 

A crowd of local musicians, fans and friends came out to honor him last night and listen to his stories of what the music business was like in Hamilton in the thirties, the sixties, the eighties – well, close to ninety years of tales and tunes.  So very happy birthday, Mr. Washington – “long may your sweet song carry on”.

 

 

 

 lori

 Lori Yates

 

I was there with my pal, Lori Yates, and also bumped into guitarist extraordinaire, Brian Griffith.  Brian is Jackie’s nephew – he has the incredible musical genes that have been passed through this family – these genes also have given them both the longest fingers in the land. He is another man happy to stay in the Hammer and as he says, will only go on the road if the opportunity is just too much to miss – as in when he toured with Willie Nelson for three years and played with Bonnie Raitt or was asked by Dan Lanois to sit in on recording sessions. He is Hamilton’s guitar idol and the sweetest man as well.  That’s in his genes too.  

 brian1

                                                                                      Brian Griffith

 So for the next four nights I will be out at musical events, taking tickets at the door (at the Pearl, once again), running around backstage first at the industry awards on Saturday and then the big celebrity-laden rockin’ Hammies on Sunday, each night followed by fun and frolicking in the Hammer-core.  In the days, I’ll be re-working my power point presentation to present the book in Guelph at the eBar next Tuesday night as well as be connecting with the kind folks who are helping me set up book events next spring in Philadelphia, New York City, Boston and Maine.  Yaaaaawwww – excuse me -nnnnn…I’m getting tired just thinking of it.  

Your roving reporter will be back in a few days with more musical tales from the Hammer.

Advertisements

I am safely back in my home in Hamilton, unpacked and reconnected. It was a festive few days in northeastern Ontario that I just had the pleasure of passing while presenting Walking with Wolf and visiting friends.  There was also a bit of bush time, some sailing, and, of course, music involved and now all that is left are the memories.  I sold enough books to justify the trip, which wasn’t difficult as I will always jump on the chance to head north to the rocks and pines and lakes, so selling some books and getting the story of Wolf out only makes it that much richer.

The night before I left, my old friend Bob Martinez came to the Hammer. I was driving him home the next day to New Liskeard.  We can now tally one more convert, an innocent seduced by the brick city’s charms.  Sitting in my jungly backyard with the sun streaming through the leaves was beautious.  We then followed the call to go to the bayfront where some folks were drumming.  Bob is a fine drummer himself, just not doing it much these years, so it was good to see him doing the skin thing and enjoying himself. 

 

We then had the delicious favas and shrimp at the Wild Orchid (this restaurant in itself tends to bring my friends back) and then walked up to Pepperjacks.  Watermelon Slim – a truck-driving, union-carded, slide-guitar playing, harp-blowing, incredible teller of tales and interpreter of songs –  was playing and singing and talking.  Though I was falling asleep in my chair and knew I had to get up and drive, I couldn’t leave. The man was mesmerizing in a slippery kind of way. I think it might have been his shiny satin shirt but it was also his buttery voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday night at the Chat Noir in New Liskeard was warm and comfortable as a cat on your lap.  A number of friends, and others, came out – maybe thirty-five? – and we had a pleasant soiree.  Dave Patterson, one of the sweetest guitarists you could know, played along with Dean Murphy on bass and Dan Dalcourt on drums.  Although Dave has played for decades all over the area, this managed to be his first time at the Chat Noir Bookstore, a cool space run by Jennifer and Paul Fournier.  Besides a large variety of books and other items, as well as a stocked coffee bar, the place has a real friendly character. They have a perfect event space in Liskeard and are real nice folks to boot. (No, don’t boot them. Where does that expression come from anyway?)

A bunch of friends were there – from Temagami came Glen and Diane Toogood who, after more than two decades, have left isolated lake-living for closer access on the highway. We have lived in some bushy places together, and survived camp life at two wilderness canoe camps, along with other trials and tribulations, proving we can survive anything. They brought Heidi Buck, another comrade from past Temagami adventures. I learned many years  while in Costa Rica that Canadians have a very different sense of distance and time – to drive an hour to see a movie or have dinner with a friend has never been much of an issue when you live in the Canadian countryside, just the cost of living in a very big land – that is changing with rising gas prices, but is still part of our very large psyche.

Bobby, Terry, Linda & Bill From further north near Englehart came Joe & Kathy, Linda & Ambrose, Bill & Linda – all my old neighbours and wonderful friends. Even my ex-mother-in-law had been through and bought a book for me to sign.  A pleasant surprise that was. It was all real nice, and although I didn’t feel I talked as clearly as I did in Hamilton, it helps to not be a perfectionist…really, it was fine. 

               Kathy Martin & Heidi Buck with the Wolf.

 

 

The next morning Terry and Eva Graves, who helped me put the evening together, threw the afterparty and gave me a real comfy bed, took me out on steamy Lake Temiskaming in their sailboat.  That’s twice I’ve had the luck of going sailing in the last month after several years of nary a sheet in the wind. The lake, at the inevitable end-of-the-summer, was warmer than the air that morning, and the sun was beaming down, so there was a lot of mist and cloudy fog in the distance. What a way to start the day.

As it turned out, this was New Liskeard’s Fall Fair weekend. There were all the prerequisites – horses, chickens, cows, the midway and candy floss. And a huge crowd with a definite French accent – makes me think that the Quebecois (the border between provinces is less than half an hour away) really enjoy homegrown community-driven entertainment. With their band, Headframe, Terry and Eva played a set in the afternoon on the Harvest Queen stage.

 

 

 Our friend Dave Patterson, recently of Chat Noir fame, played a little violin with them.  Or was it fiddle? … still a question that.  Dave is very sentimental about the whole community fair thing.  It was real nice walking around with someone who wasn’t cynical but instead enthusiastic and downright tender with the spirit of the fair.  

Tom Preston &  Eva of Headframe & Dave Patterson

 

Alec Morrison of Crank Radio, Jeff Lundmark & Terry of Headframe

Near the end of the night at the Chat Noir, I realized just how well the Hammer was represented – I live here and Terry, my longtime friend, former boss and committed activist extraordinaire, who very kindly introduced me, is from here, as is Dave Patterson. Who said it’s only slag that comes from the Hammer? I spent the night with my pals Linda and Bill Murray up in Charlton, relaxing, eating mmm-mmm food and drinking a precious little bottle of Don Julio tequila they had given me for my birthday – I brought it back north to share with them, in Bill’s very tasty margueritas. That must be why there are no photos to document the occasion.

Sunday afternoon’s book show was about a three-hour drive away in Mattawa at the Moon Cafe. Lorne Mick and Bev Bell have a perfect recipe – great food, great people, great building.  They’ve only been open a year and a bit, and it is a struggle in a small northern town like Mattawa, but hopefully they’ll do well and the Moon will become a stop on everyone’s journey west from Ottawa on Highway 17. There wasn’t a big turnout that afternoon but it was a quality group.  I stayed with my friends Patti and Leo Lessard – Patti and I being old friends from the same neighbourhood and high school in Burlington. It was while visiting her back in 1982 that I got the job that landed me in that northeastern area of the province.

 

The youngest participant so far at any of the book events was the lovely Lily, their grandaughter, who seemed to enjoy the show.  There was an impromptu concert following the readings by Haley and Chanel, the granddaughters of our friends Terri and Ted Kennedy. Chanel promises to be a talented songwriter and Haley, well, she’ll just be a star. 

 

 

 

  Bev, K & Lorne of The Moon

 

 

The next day Terri and I took Little B and Trula, her bear-like dogs, out on the trails at Eau Claire Gorge. A new place for me, it was beautiful.

Autumn is in the air, there is no doubt.  You feel it faster up there, compared to here in Hamilton – and I’m feeling it here too.  Crisp walks in the woods at this time of the year is some of the best walking you’ll do – you can almost hear the sighs of the flowers as they fade and twittering of the leaves changing colour. The river was pretty high, what with all the rain that has fallen.  No drought this year in that area.

 

The last book talk happened at the Hibou Boutique in North Bay on Tuesday night.  Liz Lott and Christine Charette have a very friendly shop, eco-wise and people-wise, specializing in their own creations (restyled/recycled clothing, photography and porcelain jewelry) and very deliberately chosen smart products. Once again it was a small crowd out, but a warm one in a lovely space. Bob and Anna Gibson-Olajos came down from Temagami, carrying their 7-month baby melon with them (well, Anna is the vessel.)  I stayed with the Northwatch folks, my friends Brennain Lloyd and Phillip Penna and their daughter Beatrice who was headed to her first day of junior kindergarten.  A big day in the Penna-Lloyd house.

 

  Inside Hibou

 

 

I drove home as the green forest shifted colours in front of my eyes. This is the time of year I feel the most Canadian – it must be the red maple leaves everywhere.  The temperature is just fine for a northerner. And you know you need to enjoy every minute before the winter comes on.  Thanksgiving is coming up and ideas of fall food start to invade your mind’s taste buds…potatoes, brussel sprouts, turkey dressing, apples, pumpkin pie. I’m feeling tired and I don’t think it is from the trip – my natural rhythm tends to follow that of the world around me – and the days are getting shorter, the nights are coming on strong, my body is preparing for hibernation. Slowing down, slowin dow, slow...

August 2019
M T W T F S S
« May    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  
Advertisements