Blog entry: 26 January 2012

Yesterday was Robbie Burns Day– we have one resident piper on our little island – he spared us, so it was a quiet one. Robbie could rest in peace, as far as Protection Island goes, and I could sit down in peace at the typer and blog away.

I’m getting the last of the house fix-ups done so that I can take off for most of the month of February to ply my craft in the wilds of Ontario’s folk/roots/ blues scene: 14 gigs spaced out over three weeks – back on the familiar home turf one more time.  In honour of the new CD, Rolling Fork to Gallows Point, we’re calling this the Rolling Fork Tour and roll we will.

The tour kicks off in a new fashion – new for me at least – I’m taking ViA Rail across Canada. In return for a couple short sets in the lounge car each evening, I get my passage paid across the country. It’s four days on the train, so I’m hoping the Service Manager sees his way clear to assigning me to a private roomette –  oh, how I hope so. It should be an interesting experience, however it works out – lots of characters on the train, for sure, and plenty of time to read and write. Thanks to my pals Mae Moore and Shawna Caspi who’ve done these trips before and filled me in with some pointers. And thanks to Genvieve Beland at VIA, Montreal, for setting this up.

The first gig is in Huntsville on Thursday, Feb 9. Huntsville was the first place I landed when I came to Canada in 1971 – we rented a little place outside of town for awhile before we moved to the farm up in Emsdale. My son Peregrin was born there and I still have friends in the area, especially Bill and Marguerite Urban, and the whole Marshall clan up in Emsdale, so it will be a real homecoming.

The concert will be for the Huntsville Festival Society, at the All Saints’ Church Sutherland Hall – an historical building in the town with great acoustics, so it should be just fine. Friday morning I’ve got a songwriting/my-life-in-the-arts workshop at the high school and then an evening off to rest up – which I might need after those four days on the train.

On Saturday, Feb 11, I head up to Sudbury for a house concert under the aegis of Northern Lights/Festival Boreal founding Artistic Director Scott Merrifield. I’m really looking forward to this. I played at several of the early Festivals but haven’t seen Scott in years- so we’re both looking forward to a good reunion. The folk/roots audience in Sudbury has always been amazing – I couldn’t think of a better Sudbury Saturday Night.

Then it’s back down to the big city for a Sunday, Feb 12 evening concert at the Toronto Tranzac Club with old friend and colleague Colin Puffer. This is a Flying Cloud presentation and should be a great evening. Colin’s just been doing some serious renovations on the hall, so the place will be looking and sounding just fine. Colin and his pals at the Flying Club have been huge supporters over the years, so I’m really happy about this opportunity to share some music together.

On Monday, Feb 13 I’ll be rolling out across the hills to Beeton, for one of the evenings I’m most looking forward to on the tour: an up-close and personal house concert with David and Susan Zub. We’ll be following the marvelous format that Acoustic Harvest’s Lillian Wauthier worked up – with the audience asking questions and discussing the songs and music with yours truly. Sort of like a seminar…but with wine! …and music!  If only we’d thought of that when I was in graduate school. My dear friends David and Susan are moving up to Sault Ste. Marie soon after this concert, so the evening will also be a farewell for them to many members of the folk scene in the South Simcoe area.

After Beeton, it’s back to Toronto for a cameo appearance at the Winterfolk Open Stage, Tuesday, Feb 14 with Festival AD Brian Gladstone presiding. I’ll be up for a new numbers and probably some good jamming with Brian and his great crew of hot pickers – really should be a fun evening. The venue is likely going to be in one of the fine watering holes along the Danforth – check your local listings, as they say on CBC.

On Thursday, Feb 16 I’ll be taking the mighty GO train over to our old hometown of Hamilton for a concert in a venue that is new to me and is certainly coming highly recommended by my colleagues: The Artwood Artbar. Judith and Ron have put together a really nice listening room and I’m looking forward to the concert there. I’ll be hanging out with my great old friend, Mark McNeill, who’ll also be doing the opener for the show. I know the Hamilton blues crowd is planning to turn out in force, so it should be a good one.

From Hamilton, it’s back to downtown Toronto for Winterfolk X – coming to you this year from the warmth of the Delta Chelsea Hotel: Friday, Feb 17 through Sunday, Feb 19. All of the venues are in the hotel, so no more trudging through the snow – check your coats and mittens at the door and enjoy the music in venues, large and small, spread throughout the premises.  It’s a three-day-and-evening event and it’s free to the public… just come on down to the Delta….sounds like my new CD, doesn’t it? Festival AD Brian Gladstone will be putting together his wonderful combinations of musicians on stage and I’m really excited about performing again with old friends and colleagues.  It’s the anchor event of the tour, so I’m hoping to see lots of you there.

Monday, Feb 20 is Family Day in Ontario (no such luck in BC, where it’s just another bloody Monday…) and I’ll be heading out to Orangeville for another sweet concert in my favourite music store: Broadway Music . We’ll have a good reunion with old friends Heather Katz and Michael Griffin who preside over this emporium of fine instruments and great vibes. The store is housed in an old church, so the acoustics are wonderful and the ambiance couldn’t be better.

After a few days off Minett, courtesy of my friend Leah Leslie at the Marriot Rousseau, I’ll be taking the good old VIA down to Windsor for a concert presented by dear friend and colleague, Allison Brown, in one of the city’s stellar venues: Mackenzie Hall. That will be on Friday, Feb 24, with Chris Crossroads doing the opening act. I’m really looking forward to hearing Chris and being back in Windsor again after a lot of years. Last time I played downtown was decades ago at the Old Club Sandwich in the Press Club. It will be great to be back – and in this exquisite hall. Thank you, Allison!

The Rolling Fork Tour winds up in the city that, in so many ways, gave me my start in the biz: good old London. Home County AD Catherine McInness has put together a concert series at one of the city’s most venerable venues: the Grosvenor Lodge and I have the honour of doing the kickoff show on Saturday, Feb 25. It’s all part of the re-branding of the festival to the Home County Music and Arts Festival and I’m delighted to be a part of it. Other performers in the series include old friends Ken Whiteley and Katherine Wheatley, so it’s going to be a fine series of musical evenings – and a great way for me to end the tour.

Monday morning, Feb 27, I’m scheduled for an early-morning flight from London to Calgary and then on to Vancouver – ferry to Nanaimo, putt-putt out to Protection Island and then, God willing and the boat don’t sink, I’ll be HOME!

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More to follow from road… and from the rails… four days on the train….can’t wait…