Yes, the headline above could be taken two ways, but those who know guitar wizard Terry Tufts and the strong life-affirming, healthy planet values he holds dear know I’m talking about a packed house at the Westboro Masonic Hall. No one was turned away and every seat was filled. That’s the kind of magic that Terry brings to his shows. We missed Kathryn Briggs who stayed home with the flu but Terry (also suffering but persevering) along with Ken Workman (bass and guitar) put on two great sets that earned a standing ovation and encore. Click on over to the Spirit of Rasputin’s Facebook page (https://www NULL.facebook NULL.com/pages/Spirit-of-Rasputins/170789479642525) to check out Kate’s photos and leave your comments. Don’t forget to Like us while you are there.
Concession 23 lived up to their promise as an award winning band. Check out Kate’s photos here…
If you missed this concert here is a taste of the evening.
Review by Lynn Stevenson
Missy Burgess wrapped a highly supportive crowd at the Westboro Masonic Hall in a warmth as special as her famous blue sweater to launch her new CD, Play Me Sweet on Saturday. The evening was a lovefest for Missy with the audience singing along to many of her better known tunes as well as old standards. Fans gave her a standing ovation and left happy and humming into the November night.
Missy’s guitar work stumbled in spots, but that hardly mattered as it is her unique voice and larger than life personality that folks were there to see – and they were rewarded with beautiful servings of both. Down to earth and funny as hell, Missy Burgess is a joy to watch.
With the talented Alrick Huebener on upright bass and simply outstanding Keith Glass on guitar and electric guitar, there could be no doubt the evening would be a success. “It could go one of two ways from here,” quipped Glass at the start of the show; it definitely went in the right one.
Despite a cold that he claimed affected his singing, Glass put in a tremendous performance on a studio acoustic that he fussed over with a tenderness and humour similar to that with which he treated Missy. According to MC Karen Flanagan McCarthy, Glass told Missy the first time they played together – “I got your back” – and that support and friendship was evident throughout the night. The banter between the two alone was worth the price of admission.
Glass not only provided stellar guitar and great backup vocals for Missy, but he produced the new CD which may be her best yet. It includes her fabulous take on Tom Waits “Time”, her signature “Don’t Go to Cincinnati” (with four syllables Missy and my new favourite, “Drive to the Moon” in which Missy’s voice takes on a new dimension that promises great things ahead. The title track “Play Me Sweet” is a poignant piece that listeners will definitely want to hear again. And the jazzy “Let There Be Peace” along with classics “Smile” and “We’ll Meet Again” lent a nostalgic warmth to the evening that clearly resonated with the audience.
Glass opened both sets with a few of his own songs which he promises will be part of a new solo album in the near future. This will definitely be something to watch for. Glass put off production of his own CD to help Burgess polish her sound on Play Me Sweet – and Missy fans are thankful for it. Until his CD is out, be sure to enjoy Glass on Missy’s new offering, her third in four years and a tremendous achievement for a truly amazing woman. Congrats Missy!
You can also see Missy, Keith and Alrick along with Lynn Miles and Michael Burgess among others at the 7th annual Healing Garden Music Fest on Sunday Nov. 27, 2 p.m. at The Bronson Centre.
Review by Hollis Morgan
Amidst outragious hats, colourful shoes, and folkies waltzing in the aisles, Dean Verger was inducted as Spirit of Rasputin’s first Honourary Lifetime Member on October 22, 2011. The celebration was both lighthearted and heartfelt. Dean, always thoughtful and generous, has never been one to take himself too seriously. So it was suitable that Sheesham & Lotus were there to counter the serious presentations with their comic brand of old-time music. Their tongue-in-cheek motto, old-time music — better than it sounds, set the tone for evening.
Before the music began, Pat Moore reminded us of the Razzie Awards (of which she is a multi-winner) by reciting her poem about them composed way back in the 80′s. Then Tom Lips celebrated the Open Stage by singing acapella an almost finished song about performing almost finished songs at the Open Stage…a wonderful and logically circular composition. After the intermission Chris White, with help from the audience, recalled all the initiatives begun by Dean that are still carried forward by Spirit of Rasputins. Missy Burgess, in full regalia, recalled how Dean had ruined her life by encouraging her to become an accomplished singer songwriter and musician. Finally, president Hollis Morgan presented a certificate of Honourary Lifetime Membership to Dean followed by the proverbial official photo op.
The music for the evening was absolutely appropriate. Sheesham Crow on violin, harmonicas and kazoo, and Lotus Wight on banjos, jaw harp, harmonica and kazoo have polished their show and talent over the years. They too had fond memories of playing at Rasputin’s Folk Café. With their array of home-made musical accoutrements — including the remarkable contra-bass harmoniphoneum — their performance ranks with the best of vaudeville acts combining accomplished musicianship with hilarious schtik. With Dean, his wife Ruth, and many others dancing along, the evening was truly a barrel of fun. One of many highlights was the five minute hambone duet, involving only the rhythm of hands flailing on thighs and other body parts. You had to see and hear it to believe it.
A review of the September 17,2011 Rasputin’s Beard
by host and organizer Carol Noël
Well THAT was an exceptional evening of entertainment! Lucky us to be part of this full house, packed-to-the-walls energy! The fiddles and jigs of celtic big-band Fumblin’ Fingers put big smiles on faces and got toes tapping! Steel Moon’s romantic pop ballads – Lise’s vocals and Dave’s creative guitar, tasteful looper-use and harmonies – were soulful and beautiful; their upcoming CD will be the stocking stuffer! The intricate a capella harmonies, joyous energy and comedy of the Pouch Cotätoes quintet earned them an encore! Lost Colt’s alt-country originals were authentic, their lead-vocals outstanding and acoustic guitar solos all came straight from the heart! All this for pass-the-hat? Rasputins Beard is absolutely the best music deal in town! All these local groups have websites; check them out for gigs and CD-orders.Next Beard: December 17th…be there or be square!
Review by Lynn Stevenson
“Shall I do it in E? No maybe in G? Okay let’s try it in C…” and so John Lloyd, in spiffy attire and a lopsided grin launched into his very fun performance. In any key, “Blue Sweater” by Ottawa’s Missy Burgess is a joy to listen to and much admired by her fellow performers. The audience at the Westboro Masonic Hall were treated to two very different versions of Missy’s classic tune on Saturday, May 28th at the annual Chrysalis event – a unique celebration of Ottawa singer songwriters hosted by the Spirit of Rasputin’s.
“Chrysalis” refers to the fascinating transformation from cocoon to butterfly. In the context of this event, it symbolizes the rebirth of a song and the magic that happens when someone other than the writer performs it. Now in its 8th year, Chrysalis has provided Ottawa singer/songwriters with rich opportunities to re-invent, re-imagine and just enjoy the tremendous songwriting talent that exists in Ottawa – in all its varied forms and vibrant colours.
The dominant colour of this particular evening was clearly blue – not only the shade of that much loved old sweater, but “Missy’s Blues” sung with gorgeous depth by Carole Trepanier (wow what a voice!) and “The Blues Will Always Be the Blues” written by talented newcomer to Ottawa Wen Chen (aka Blue Blue Satellite) with which Missy concluded the show. The highlight in that hue for me was Jeremy Owen’s rendition of Missy’s “Blue Dog Man” – a simply sublime performance that caused Missy to comment, “One thing I really love about Chrysalis is when you get to hear your song performed even better than you do it yourself!”
The evening was full of tributes such as this, as one after another songs were transformed in beautiful and sometimes unexpected ways. Using looping technology that was tricky and not entirely successful, Wen Chen also performed a fine Blue Sweater - his personal thanks to Missy for her leadership and support. There were tributes to songwriters old and new – Margaret Currie did a beautiful job on a John Casselman song, “Don’t Worry Mother, I am not a Ghost (Yet)” and Greg McGillis performed a gutzy anthem to girl power written by his 13 year old daughter Bronte (now there is a great dad!) With far too much talent for one so young, Spencer Scharf did a fab job on the Johnny Cash infused “OC Transit Strike Blues“.
Other highlights included: Chris White performing Tom Lips’ “Judgement Day” which, in classic Chis fashion, got the entire crowd singing along. Chris also sang Shelley Posen’s “No More Fish” and used the opportunity to underscore the importance of social activism and caring about the communities we live in. Trading his guitar for a banjo, Dan Arnott worked a similar magic with “Arboretum, Arborteum” by Shanker and Romps and “Lessons” by Chris Landry & the Train Jumpers. Both were lots of fun – Dan, you’ve been away too long! Arnott was honoured in turn by Sjef Frenken who did a beautiful version of “Another Winter Like This” which was so fine it left Dan speechless. Sjef was the only performer who played piano which Missy was pleased to point out had been purchased with funds from Chrysalis events past along with support from Writer’s Bloc. And so the gift continues.
Along with the many tributes were heartfelt thanks to songwriters who supported and encouraged others when they were just starting out. On a personal note, I would be amiss not to thank the wonderful Greg Kelly for letting me perform his beautiful song “Stepping Stone“. Greg, a terrific songwriter, was in fact the first performer of the evening offering splendid versions of Peggy White’s “Awhile” and Rick Hayes wonderful song “Legends“.
There were many more performers and many great moments – too many to cover here. Ever the advocate for Ottawa musicians, Missy promises an even bigger Chysalis next year – or, she says she’ll take the show to Toronto and fill Massey Hall. “Missy does Massey” now that would be something to see! But for now I am just grateful for a fine evening of friendship and splendid song.
Review by Serena Williamson
What a delight to be introduced, by the Spirit of Rasputin’s Arts Society, to The Echo Hunters. These five men from Montreal brought their unique, smooth, folk/rock/blues sound to the Ottawa stage and wowed us all!
The Echo Hunters feature the collective writing and performing talent of longtime friends Larry Cassini (lead guitar, vocals, harmonica), Gordie Fleming (lead vocals, 12-string guitar, harmonica)–who jokes about being Larry’s brother) and Rob Couture (drums, percussion). Carl Rufh (vocals, bass), and Sylvain Dancausse (violin) complete the group. The band has played concerts, festivals, clubs and showcases across Canada, the United States and the UK.
In private conversation, Kate Morgan, who books acts for the Spirit of Rasputin, confided a concern. She feared that the combination of torrential rain and the fact that this group was not as well known to the Ottawa folk scene as some of the other acts she has booked would lead to a not-so-full house. But her fears proved to be unfounded. The almost-full house virtually vibrated as audience members clapped and danced their way through the group’s fantastic sound. Those who were not there missed something special.
A unique feature of the Echo Hunters’ style is how they showcase individual group member talent. Many of their songs begin with about a minute-long instrumental. One instrument starts, perhaps backed up by drums. Or perhaps a drumbeat starts the song. This is then joined by a few bars of sweetness from another instrument. You find yourself watching the stage, wondering which instrument will be featured next. But it’s just a taste, an exquisite appetizer. And the tension builds, along with the complexity and the volume. We would be content if this remained an instrumental, until Gordie Fleming slays us with a searing lyric line and we are hooked.
Their sound features haunting vocal harmonies on thoughtful lyrics, driving acoustic guitars and an eclectic rock ‘n roll groove; it can be classified as folk-rock, but with blues, gospel and country roots. They also have a quirky side, to which the audience responded with glee.
Gordie Fleming and Larry Cassini are the front men in the group, with their vocals and delicious guitars, and Rob Couture on drums is great. Carl Rufh, with whom this reviewer chatted in depth before the performance, did a great job on bass, but there was a diamond almost hidden in the back. We never heard a word from the mouth of Sylvain Dancausse. He was the only band-member who did not have a microphone as this francophone apparently strives in vain to speak good English. But he did have a red electric violin! One could spend an evening just listening to him. The man is brilliant. What a sweet, delightful sound! The Echo Hunters are great, and not to be missed when they come to town.
This review would not be complete with out a tip of the hat to the group that opened the evening, Ball and Chain. Michael Ball and Jody Benjamin, regular features on the Ottawa folk roots scene, play a mixture of original and cover tunes leaning towards the earlier country music of artists such as Hank Williams, George Jones, Roger Miller and Webb Pierce. Michael and Jody love original Cajun music, and their down home style makes us love it, too. With Michael on violin, which he has played since childhood and Jody on guitar or traditional Cajun triangle, we can’t help but want to get up and dance.
Michael and Jody brought their usual rollicking enthusiasm and playful style to the evening. Their original songs varied from moving to just plain fun, and their traditional songs made us crave jambalaya for dinner.
Ball and Chain can be seen regularly around Ottawa. In addition, Jody directs the two Ottawa chapters of Georgette Fry’s community women’s choir, Shout Sister!, while Michael plays standup bass every Sunday night at Irene’s Pub with the popular bluegrass group, The Dusty Drifters.
Review by Serena Williamson
May 1st, 2011
“Workers of the world unite” rang through the packed hall as folk music lovers, many wearing orange or red to reflect their political perspective, gathered to celebrate May Day, a time when working people everywhere get together to speak up and sing out. Red diaper babies now in their fifties and sixties, socialists in their twenties and people who may be neither communist nor socialist but just enjoy a good sing-along, filled the Hall in Ottawa to have a good time.
Gil’s Hootenanny is organized by the Spirit of Rasputin’s Arts Society and is sponsored by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). It is inspired by the memory of Gil Levine (1924-2009), the founding Director of Research at the CUPE national office. Gil was a long-time trade unionist and a great lover of folk music. Creating the power of song together and celebrating May Day were part of Gil’s vision of a better world.
More than a dozen local artists gathered to perform sing-along songs by the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Bill Withers, Merle Travis, and Billy Bragg. Songbooks were provided and music and fun filled the air. Artists’ egos were left at the door, since the goal was hootenanny rather than performance, yet all performers did a fabulous job. One musician in particular, stood out.
Lyndell Montgomery’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows was astonishing. Accompanying herself on the violin by playing various tracks, recording them, then singing along with her own recording, was brilliant. As the tension in the song built, so did the complexity of her musicality. And the woman did it all sitting on a corner of the stage, never even standing up! We were blown away. Throughout the evening artists kept requesting her to come up and accompany them on either violin or electric bass. She wielded both as if they were part of her own body, and in unique original styles; for example, at times she played her violin as if it were a guitar.
Another artist that stood out was Jeremy Owen. A recent arrival in Ottawa, Jeremy burst on the music scene with a vengeance. His version of The Internationale revved everyone up, preparing us for Chris White, a key player in the Ottawa folk music scene and a primary organizer of this event, to close the show by leading us all in rousing chorus of Solidarity Forever. We had a blast!
If you were there, leave a comment with your thoughts.
by Lynn Stevenson
Stephen Fearing fans hoping for a taste of the heaven and heartache he is known for were destined for disappointment, as Fearing, together with long-time friend and fellow singer-songwriter Andy White, delivered a distinctly different brew to a sold-out crowd at the Westboro Masonic Hall in Ottawa. The two insisted on a bass heavy sound that, in this reviewer’s opinion, did not do justice to the gorgeous guitar and rich vocals Fearing in particular is known for.
On this Fearing was unapologetic, stressing that the job of the artist is to grow and change even if your audience has not moved with you. He adds, “As Elvis Costello says, if you are not pissing somebody off, you are not doing it right.”
The duo must be doing something right – packing halls across Canada in a CD release tour that started in Duncan, B.C. on St. Patrick’s Day and ended here in Ottawa. Their 13-song CD titled “Fearing and White” is an interesting mix of the two – at times brilliant, at others somewhat forced and unfinished feeling. The fusion worked on the driving “Under The Silver Sky”, the pop tune “Heaven for a Lonely Man” and the techno inspired “Mothership”. “Faithful Heart” had the strongest echoes of Fearing’s solo work – a beautiful song in which the different styles and voices blended remarkably well. MC Pat Moore complimented their “brother harmonies” – clearly reflective of the strong friendship and close collaboration the two have built over the years.
Their achievement is impressive given the fact that the two friends live on opposite sides of the world – Fearing in Canada and White, born in Belfast, now in Australia. They have collaborated for years since their first meeting at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1998. They’ve finished each others songs, and offered ideas and long-distance inspiration, but it wasn’t until late last year that they were able to take it on tour. Fans of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings will recognize several songs on this new CD which White co-wrote with Fearing including “October Lies” and “If I Catch You Cryin”. While I personally prefer the BARK versions, it is evident that Fearing’s collaboration with White has added a new energy to his work and has taken him to places he might otherwise not have gone.
Their enthusiasm for the outcome was infectious. Jet-lagged but jubilant, these two charming Irishmen (Fearing grew up in Dublin) amused the audience with tales of everything from donuts to dueling GPS systems. “So how many guitars can you pack into the back of a Chevy Impala?” Affectionately dubbed “Vlad” (the impala), Fearing is proud of the fact that he can fit six into his rental ride including two gorgeous Harmony electrics – one a blood red twelve string that despite being the property of White had mysteriously shifted to Fearing’s already crowded side of the stage. The “Man Who Married Music” clearly loves his guitars, demonstrating considerable skill and showmanship even with the notoriously fickle 12 string. White, who shares Fearing’s guitar fetish, played a fine electric bass most of the evening – infusing a Brit pop energy to the performance.
Fearing, who credits his early success to the support he received from Rasputin’s Folk Café in Ottawa, says he has always resisted the folk singer label. In an opinion piece he wrote last year for Penguin Eggs, Fearing called folk music “an old leaky vessel that sinks under the weight of its cargo”. He explains that what he was reacting to is the narrow notion that true folk music – like authentic blues – must always be performed in a certain way. The attitude is wrong he says, “because it fixes everything in amber forever…it doesn’t acknowledge the fact that folk music is breathing and alive, it waxes and wanes, it changes constantly and it always has.” “So I don’t call myself a folk singer.. the stuff I am doing with Andy is actually more true to my roots than anything I have done to date”.
Stretching and changing is essential for any genre of music to grow and thrive. Both White and Fearing remarked on how fortunate we are to have such a vibrant and eclectic folk music scene in Canada. Said White, “the heritage that you have here is really strong; it informs your musical tradition… So you have these beautiful festivals that are not niche festivals – they are for everyone.” In Ireland, by comparison, he says folk festivals are more narrow and highly competitive. Having played in festivals all over the world, White says the situation here doesn’t exist elsewhere – not in Australia, not in Ireland, not in the U.S. or the U.K. He is equally impressed by the number of young people who have grown up going to folk festivals in Canada. “So now you have all these kids coming up. You have hundreds of thousands of young people playing guitars and creating their own music. You have eighteen year olds in ‘old timey’ bands – it is wonderful, amazing really.” And so we are lucky.
While not what some may have expected, the audience for Saturday’s performance must also have felt lucky to have sampled the mixed but splendid brew that is Fearing and White. Hopefully they will find time to collaborate further, polish their sound, and perhaps will pass this way again.
Review by Greg McGillis
Marie-Lynn Hammond tells stories of ache and inspiration with songs of tribute and tribulation that evoke multiple levels of understanding even in a first listening. She is a natural and easy storyteller who draws her audience into her confidence. Her concert with Tom Leighton on March 19th at the Westboro Masonic Hall as part of the Spirit of Rasputin’s concert series seemed to shrink the small venue with its intimacy. Wit, humour and irony suffused the songs and the delivery, all performed with the light, bittersweet touch of a woman who has had to find her irony in the pain of a sometimes tragic life. She contrasted her deeply personal and touching songs with highlights of her humorous repertoire, the topics ranging from her beautiful horses to her personal roots in the Outaouais.
Hammond began the concert with “Girl Who Can’t Say Yes,” a song about a woman and her troubles with commitment. Playfully, she continued with a comedic song about two lovers and the problems that the Canadian weather and its linked clothing faced them with when it came to intimacy. Its title was “Canadian Love.” Next came “Chestnut Mare,” which drew the picture of a beautiful but defiant horse she had owned, and of the abiding love she had for horses. Hammond spoke of her riding accident, and of the pain of putting aside her love of music for when it occurred.
She then sang about her mixed English and French roots with two of several French language songs, “La Tête Anglaise, le Coeur Français” and “La Chanson de Corinne”. “Tête”, in particular, plays on Hammond’s mixed French and English heritage. Songs like “Elsie,” about Hammond’s grandmother who lived life on her own terms, “Emily Flies”, “The Cat Song” and “Keyboard Kitty” build on simple domestic realities and sometimes, as in “Keyboard Kitty”, got the audience singing along.
The second set took up domestic themes again, with the western-style “Mothers Teach Your Sons” and “La Jeune Mariée”. The mood was increasingly poignant and bittersweet in the second half with songs like “The Canadian”, “All the Horses Running”, and especially “Omaha”, one of the last songs written before Hammond stopped writing for several years and that she wrote in the shadow of her sister’s death. “Omaha” in fact may be Hammond’s strongest song of the set, unsentimental, truly authentic and highly private as it is. Just in case one might think that Hammond doesn’t have range as a songwriter beyond her favourite themes of domestic humour and passion for horses, “Omaha” is the best example on the programme of Hammond’s ability to reach you where you least expect it.
Hammond was joined by Tom Leighton mostly on keyboards, including a turn at accordion that was really a treat. Her delivery could be unsteady, which is not surprising for someone coming back from years away from concert halls, and she was clearly fighting a cold. No matter. Marie-Lynn Hammond clearly made a successful return to public concerts worthy of a Hollywood movie but grounded in her love of writing and performing.
by Lynn Stevenson
Who else could make socks seem so salacious? Cedric Smith is larger than life and over the top – with his arm in a cast and high on medical morphine – he added his amazing voice and huge personality to the unique musical conversation that is David Woodhead’s Coffee House Confabulation. “Spirits of Rasputin! Spirits of Raaaassputin!!!” bellowed Smith. In frigid Ottawa – home of “Winterlewd“… “Women shall be raaaavished. There will be VODKA!”
Anyone unfamiliar with the singular blend that is the Confabulation became quickly aware this would be a very different evening – a night indeed to remember. For there was not only Cedric Smith – actor, performer, poet extraordinaire and the multi-talented David Woodhead on fretless bass and various other instruments, but stylish Doug Wilde on keyboards and the simply wonderful Anne Lindsay on violin.
As Spirit of Rasputin’s Host Tony Turner pointed out – these are all “musicians’ musicians” working at the interplay of an incredible range of musical styles and genres. With layers of sound rich and poignant, mixing and blending a potent brew – the experience was at times exhilarating, at others moving, and at others still – very funny. I won’t quickly forget the conjured image of “The Codpiece of Gerussi” swaggering unencumbered through the dark streets of Stratford.
Best known for his highly creative instrumental work, Woodhead amused the audience by morphing into folk singer mode, capo judiciously applied, to sing his “railway song” before moving deftly back into what can only be described as Beat inspired “folk jazz”.
“Where were YOU in the sixties?” says Smith as his intro to Coffee House Days – Confabulation’s tribute to the glorious sixties coffeehouse – places such as the Black Swan in Toronto or our own Rasputin’s Cafe. Real or imagined – the memories are sweet.
Sweeter still are the poems this group gave song to – poems of Neruda and Lorca, of Milton Acorn and Gwendolyn MacEwen, and Woodhead’s own grandfather writing of a brother lost to the machines and carnage of the Great War. Noise and violence. Air and atmosphere. Shards of glass bright and dangerous. “Buildings bumping into clouds.” A nameless worker falls to his death. Dark streets… “Sniffing wind so fine it was like ether.” And dandelions.. “Dandelions I love because they grow in all the places no one wants them, except children, and poets, and themselves.” from Acorn’ s Bright Moon. With Smith swaying to the intricate sound, gripping his newly broken arm, speaking strong images: “I have lost myself in the sea many times… my tongue full of love and agony” from Lorca’s Gacela de la Huida. It was impressive stuff.
Quiet by nature, a perfect foil to Smith – Woodhead was the architect of the evening and deserves much praise not only for his own remarkable talents but for bringing such wonderful voices together. A favourite of which had to be Anne Lindsay.
With dark hair and fingers flying – she was a delight to watch; delighted as she was with her own music and that of her fine companions. With so much joy, she whirled through traditional airs and klezmer tunes and even Don Messer tributes. And the woman can sing too! Backed up beautifully by Doug Wilde, Lindsay offered a heartfelt rendition of Gershwin’s The Man I Love.
This might have been a perfectly fine conclusion to an extraordinary evening – but the group offered one more. Smith sang Carrickfergus - blending Irish and Appalachian melancholy to find the perfect poignant note upon which to end.
This past Saturday, a full house at the Westboro Masonic Hall was privileged to listen to beautiful voices singing well-crafted songs, accompanied by superlative guitar lines and virtuoso mandolin.
The Spirit of Rasputin’s presented Juno award winner Jenny Whiteley January 15th, to a sellout crowd at our new venue. There she lived up to the hype and then some. We who had hyped her were grateful for this, though not surprised. Accompanied by husband Joey Wright (armed with a tasteful array of FX pedals) on electric guitar and mandolin, the duo held the room for two full sets of music, ranging from country, to bluegrass, to something else altogether. And that something else was very, very special indeed.
All told it was yet another memorable chapter in the Spirit of Rasputin’s Concert Series, and a perfect reminder of why we do what we do.
Submitted by your intrepid reporter,
“This is a song I love,” said Missy Burgess, more than once, as she introduced songs in her set. The sentiment was shared by many at Spirit of Rasputin’s first concert of the season: a fundraiser for the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada.
Preceding Missy in the first two sets of the evening were Kate and Hollis Morgan, and Greg Kelly and the Broken Windows Philharmonic, both well-known local folk acts.
It couldn’t have been more fitting. Though The Spirit often brings in acts from around the country, this season kicked off by celebrating our local all-stars. We heard many songs we love, including Greg Kelly’s countryesque masterpiece ‘Rainy Day in My Heart’, Kate and Hollis’ heartwarming ‘All I Can Think About’, and Missy’s bluesy, bittersweet ‘Don’t Go to Cincinnati’.
Accompanying Missy Burgess was her friend Ken Voita, who, with his heartbreak vocals and sweet mandolin complimented the veteran performer – not an easy task to accomplish. Hollis and Kate brought along Andrew Snow on double bass. His bowing on the gorgeous “There is a Color to this Night’ was nothing short of magnificent and helped the song to cast a moonlit spell over all in attendance. But no one brought more musicians than Greg Kelly; accompanied by Andrew Snow (again), Hollis Morgan on dobro, and the elegant Sarah Hill on fiddle whose perfect harmonies blended perfectly with Greg’s baritone. Just beautiful.
The Spirit Volunteers were in fine form as always. These heroes work tirelessly behind the scenes so that the entire operation appears as smooth and seamless as any professional theatre. It goes without saying that we couldn’t do it without them, but I shall say it nevertheless: We couldn’t do it without them!
It was a special treat to have the original Rasputin himself, Dean Verger in attendance. Missy Burgess, in addition to dedicating ‘Don’t go to Cincinnati’ to Sylvia (one of our hardest working volunteers), dedicated her entire set to Dean. It was a very special moment. Part of what makes folk music so special is its focus on tradition, which is why Dean’s presence meant so much to all of us, even those who never knew the original Rasputin’s Folk Cafe.
By this same token, the night’s most ‘folk’ moment belonged to Kate & Hollis, as they performed Pete Seeger’s ‘Oh Had I a Golden Thread’. Hearing his story about listening to Pete practice the song in his home seemed to complete the circle, weaving past, present and future together as one, and bringing our humble community into the greater tapestry called folk.
A night was chock full of the magic we have come to expect from the Spirit, framed by our new stage and venue at the Westboro Masonic Hall. If this is a sign of things to come, then we have a very bright future of wonderful music ahead.
By Lynn Stevenson
The Spirit of Rasputin’s 2010-11 Season got off to a “thrilling” start with a “Rasputin’s Beard” – our open stage for bands and the first event in our new location. (Check out the Photo Album!!)
Under the soft glow the Westboro Masonic Hall’s vintage chandeliers, The Cheapest Thrill’s Carol Black, in vintage dress, “bangs and spit curls” and electric stand-up bass, cast a magic spell of her own. Together with Karl White on a stunning resonator steel guitar, this very cool duo took the audience back to another era. Singing of lost love and travelling carnivals from days gone by, Black sighed “It’s only here for one night.” I am certain that will not be the case with this talented couple whose fabulous stage presence and “music for the contemporary speakeasy” would be right at home on the set of HBO’s new series Boardwalk Empire. Go to: http://www.myspace.com/cheapestthrill#ixzz0yNTgrrGs (http://www NULL.myspace NULL.com/cheapestthrill#ixzz0yNTgrrGs) to find out more.
The Overcasters were up next. This brand new band overcame a few stage jitters to put in solid performance highlighted by excellent guitar work and very fine banjo at the hands of leader David wood. Lost Colt, with Rick Fry, Conrad White, Dan Jette and Bruce Wozny got things moving with their great country sound spiced with shades of Roy Orbison.
I liked the smoky song “Ocean Wind” and “Dance Me” – their tribute to Ottawa’s The Hilotrons, but my favourite tune was “Mamma’s Not Been Well” – just made you smile (and tap you’re your feet!) Lost Colt are not just a fine country band, they’re also terrific contributors to the community, giving freely of their time and energy in support of many worthy local causes. Check out Lost Colt at: http://www.myspace.com/lostcolt#ixzz0yNVAqtPd (http://www NULL.myspace NULL.com/lostcolt#ixzz0yNVAqtPd)
But the highlight of the evening for me was Maple Hill - a resurrection of Pat Moore’s and Gary Greenland’s popular bluegrass band from the 80′s and 90′s. Gary has been described as being to “Canadian banjo picking what maple syrup is to Canadian pancakes”.
And Pat Moore, whose tremendous contributions to Ottawa’s music scene include The Vinyl Frontier as well as her charitable efforts such as Christmas Goose and the Ottawa Opry – can play one mean stand up bass! We need to see more of that Pat! Pat and Gary thanked Jonathan Ferrabee of Ottawa’s Concession 23 for putting away his own excellent bass and picking up the guitar to support Maple Hill for the evening – and he did a great job! As Gary said, bluegrass is a genre in which “the words are sad but the music is happy.” Hearing this band again definitely made me happy. The only sad thing was that more of Sunday’s audience didn’t stick around to hear them too. Maple Hill’s excellent set included: “Teardrops in my Eyes”; a fine version of Emmylou Harris’ “If I Needed You”; beautiful harmonies on “Making Plans (To Be Lonesome)”; and ending with a gorgeous rendition of “Golden Ring”. Hopefully Maple Hill is back to stay!
by Lynn Stevenson
If the test of character is how you function under pressure, then the people behind this year’s Ottawa Folk Festival passed with flying colours. Facing weather one fan called “biblical”, organizers quickly shuffled acts and rearranged venues to turn a bad situation into something very special. Much credit goes to Folk Fest organizer Dylan Griffith and his core team – but also to the many rain-soaked yet still smiling volunteers who made sure that the bands played on.
And play they did! Anywhere and everywhere shelter could safely be found, musicians jammed to the delight of a wet but enthusiastic audience. When the skies opened on Sunday and lightening forced most outdoor stages and tents to close, musicians found themselves in close quarters with artists they had never played with before – the results were always interesting and at times magical.
I am pleased to report that the Spirit of Rasputin’s rose to the occasion as well with great activities throughout the festival. SoR performers and volunteers were not put off by the weather or any other obstacles. For example, when sound-bleed from the main stage threatened to drown out our Open Stage in the OFC tent, our supportive audience came to the rescue clapping along with such energy that it seemed we built a sound-wall around the stage. The SoR info table came together nicely and the fridge magnets were a hit! While weather prevented having the table on Sunday, Spirit volunteers, in distinctive red Rasputin’s t-shirts, roamed the grounds sharing as much information and enthusiasm as possible. If you would like to get your hands on one of these limited edition “banjo version” t-shirts (design courtesy of Kate Morgan), come to our new Open Stage Monday nights upstairs at Whispers. You can also go to our website www.rasputins.ca (http://www NULL.rasputins NULL.ca/) for more info and updates [coming soon!] about our exciting Fall line-up (which may include some of the great performers featured in the 2010 Ottawa Folk Festival).
My favourite part of this year’s already eclectic Folk Fest mix was the shuffling together of different talents and genres at the many excellent workshops. On Saturday, I was pleased to find myself in the cool of the “Woe Is Me” workshop that featured Horse Feathers, Jenny Whiteley and my new favourite: Clarksdale Moan. Kevin Harvey on vocals and Kenny Pauze on harmonica and steel guitar added gorgeous delta blues to Whiteley’s perfect plaintive voice. (I had to go back Sunday for more Jenny, who together with her brother Dan on mandolin and an amazing back up band made me not regret having had to miss the FAB world rhythms going down in the dance tent.) While I was less thrilled with Horse Feathers, aptly described as “weary, yearning and a little distant” by the Citizen’s Patrick Langston, their clearly talented but awkward offerings were warmed up by the others in the workshop with the end result that all left smiling.
Sunday’s machinations were even more interesting as organizers tried to get as many performers as possible in front of fans. Hence Carolyn Mark found herself together with, not only the duelling fiddles of Scottish duo LAU and Acadians Joseph Edgar and Sébastian Michaud and the way too talented, too young and too cute guitarist from Wales, Gareth Pearson, but a “choir attack” complete with a back up band that included our own Hollis Morgan and Arthur McGregor. It was weird but wonderful – and performers and fans alike seemed to have a great time.
I would be remiss not to mention other highlights – including, of course, folk legend Ramblin’ Jack Elliot who delighted fans not only with his still wonderful music, but with his fabulous stories that stretched back fifty years. Mike Regenstreif’s interview with Ramblin’ Jack was a folk history lesson I felt privileged to take part in. Elliot’s unplanned collaboration with Jill Zmud in the It Takes Two workshop was sugarcane sweet as were others in that workshop that included Kim Beggs, Jim Bryson and Jim Cuddy.
While I did not get a chance to see them, delightful discoveries for my Spirit of Rasputin’s colleagues included Namgar, who played an amazing fusion of traditional Mongolian and rock and Delhi to Dublin that mixed traditional Indian instruments, fiddle and Hip Hop which SoR General Manager George Laing called “infectious”. I enjoyed Frank Turner’s high energy Billy Braggish tunes, not to mention his hilarious tales of scary girlfriends past and riot police. I also liked the smoky songs of Bahamas (although perhaps not as much as certain CBC radio hosts) which reminded one of Chris Isaac. The strange but thoroughly enjoyable evening ended with Jim Cuddy, his excellent band and special guests Luke Doucet and wife Melissa McClelland who did a fantastic and unexpectedly intimate show in the dance tent.
Lots of spirit and loads of fun – a little bit of weather can’t keep this fest or these great folks down!
A review by Lynn Stevenson
Terry Tufts has a thing for Julie Andrews – well at least the one with a spoon full of sugar in hand. “I liked that she could hover,” said Tufts who by that point had the entire audience floating – high on hope and the passionate lyrics of a man who believes to the core in what he sings. Accompanied by the blissful upright bass of John Geggie and flawless piano of Mark Ferguson, Tufts sailed through two perfect sets that began with a wake-up call and ended with a plea for the earth. In between were tales of adventure, of people who dreamed and saw no limit to imagination, dad’s wisdom, a beloved’s arms, precocious children and a wild ride on a fabled toboggan. I could not stop smiling. Song after song – each different yet perfect – fueled by the flying fingers of Terry Tufts.
There is no doubt that Tufts is an incredible finger style guitarist – his technical ability is amazing – but the message in his finely crafted lyrics is more inspiring still; it is the element that transformed a fine performance into something golden. Days later I am still hearing Tufts heartfelt words in my head. As we all stand sickened by the catastrophe in the gulf that cannot, it seems, be solved by the power of presidents or the might of multinationals – it is artists like Terry Tufts we need to listen to again. The Earth has indeed paid dearly for our neglect in pursuit of profit. Lets hope Tufts is right when he sings, “And still despite my growing fear/I find I’m counting on rebirth/And a prayer for willing hearts to hear/My Open Letter to the Earth”. Other issues close to Tufts heart include the need to bring home our soldiers, to stop fighting and try to heal the wounds we have already inflicted.
But I would be amiss to paint a picture of gloom and dire consequences. This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening that showcased the talent and versatility of Geggie, Ferguson and Tufts, as well as their sense of humour. The trio’s tribute to Pete DeRose’s 1934 hit “Deep Purple” was inspired. “Where did that come from?” said a friend next to me. Equally pleasing and funny was Tufts tale of unrequited lust in “Marylou in Burgundy”, his “Black Velvet Elvis” and the image of 5 kids and 3 dogs flying through the air on dad’s “Big Ol’ Toboggan”. Slipping easily from folk to funk to jazz, each demonstrated their expert skills. Ferguson, who Tufts says “learned to play piano to support his trombone habit” never missed a beat and Geggie’s upright bass simply smiled. The audience smiled too when after a particular solo that solicited a “wow” from someone close to the stage, Tufts said, “Well Mark got a ‘wow’ so he can go home now.” To everyone’s surprise Ferguson got up and left the stage and Geggie followed. Both moved to the side and left their amused friend to wow the audience again all on his own. His father’s day tribute “My Father Would Say” had already done that, but this last solo proved that, like that great toboggan, Tufts too is “still king”. Geggie and Ferguson helped Terry perfect his sound on his most recent album “The Better Fight”. Lets hope we see these three talented musicians together again very soon.
It was a great night and a glorious conclusion to the Spirit of Rasputin’s Sunday concert series which began back in February with Lynn Miles playing to a packed house and featured folk legends such as Ian Tamblyn. Other outstanding performers included: Missy Burgess with Keith Glass; Mike O’Reilly and Peter Dawson; Michael Jerome Browne and the Twin Rivers String Band; Chris Maclean with Fred Guigion and Beth Cahill; Lindsay Ferguson and Emily Fennell; Terry Gillespie with Terry Owen; Tony Turner (also our excellent MC), Tom Lips and Rob Heath, and Meredith Luce with Eric Vieweg (Withering Pines). One special Sunday witnessed a magical tribute to the late Gil Levine with over 12 artists singing songs of “hope and protest”. Although not part of the Sunday series, Chrysalis and the 18th Annual Great Canadian Song A Long added colour and many more voices to a wonderful season.
The Spirit of Rasputin’s Sunday Concert Series will break for the summer but will be back again in September. Look for details at www.rasputin’s.ca
by Lynn Stevenson
“I can feel the spirit building. Soft as a whisper. Loud as a roar.”
So sings Tom Juravich, one of a dozen amazing performers who raised their voices in honour of Gil Levine – union leader, social activist and folk music enthusiast who lost his battle with cancer last November. If the measure of a man is the love he inspires in others – then Gil Levine was clearly larger than life. The Elmdale Tavern on June 6th was filled to capacity with countless friends who came to share their affection for this fine man. “Songs of Protest, Songs of Hope” organized by the Spirt of Rasputin’s was not a goodbye, but a profound expression of hope and enduring gratitude for a person who meant so much to so many and whose influence continues to be strongly felt.
One after another, talented musicians took the stage to share a story about Gil, what he did for them personally and how hard he worked to improve the lives of people in our community. Kate and Hollis Morgan set the tone with Pete Seeger’s “Oh, Had I a Golden Thread” recalling how Gil Levine brought Pete Seeger to Ottawa when he was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Missy Burgess sang “Lucky Old Sun” remembering how Levine helped her with a difficult work-related situation, how fortunate she felt to have met him, and the rare talent he had of making anyone he spoke to feel special. Arthur McGregor was moved to pen a special version of “Last Night I Had the Strangest (Saddest) Dream” to “sing farewell to Gil.” Alex Sinclair sang of workers beaten but unbroken and the inspiration that comes when people band together to defend their rights. Jeremy Owen had the entire room singing “Solidarity Forever” – a stirring closure to the first set.
Hard to imagine it could get any better, but no voice was silent as banjo ringing, Gail Anglin, Tom Lips and Mary Gick led the audience in a joyous rendition of “If I had a Hammer”. Hair stood on the back of my neck as Maria Hawkins exploded into “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” – a stirring response to Chris White’s spontaneous effort to engage the entire audience in 3 part harmony to the timeless gospel tune. The room was electric with positive energy as Phil Jenkins belted out John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero”. And Tom Juravich moved me to tears with “Bread and Roses” – a tribute to women fighting for respect and a decent wage. Gil Levine was a strong supporter of the rights of working women. “Compassion” says Jenkins, is an endangered virtue” but Gil Levine was brimming with it – a precious tonic that he shared generously.
Another thing he shared with enthusiasm was his love of folk music. Although he couldn’t apparently carry a tune or play an instrument, Gil Levine had a talent to inspire and make things happen. “He was always organizing”, said his wife, Helen Levine. He was famous for his hootenanies, unforgettable evenings that lasted into the wee hours and brought the community together. In his obituary, he suggested that if people wanted to remember him, they could organize an hootenany. And this is what the Spirit of Rasputin’s has done. “He would have loved to have been here” added Mrs. Levine. It was a very special night – a testament to the power of participatory music and the memory of a rather special man. It was also a compelling indication of what the folk music community in Ottawa can do – when the spirit moves them!
The performers in order of appearance: Kate and Hollis Morgan, Alex Sinclair, Missy Burgess, Chris White, Jeremy Owen, Gail Anglin, Tom Lips and Mary Gick, Phil Jenkins, Maria Hawkins, Tom Juravich, Arthur Macgregor, Tony Turner (also host).
There are more photographs in the gallery.
A review, by Jeremy Owen
The first season of the new Spirit of Rasputin’s is drawing to a successful close (with just four Sundays left before the break -including the Gil Levine tribute on the 6th and Terry tufts on the 20th). It was both poetic and appropriate, therefore, to feature Meredith Luce this past Sunday night, since Meredith – by her own admission – got her start at the original Rasputin’s several years ago.
I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing those first sets, but catching Meredith’s show on Sunday showed me that the longevity of female singer/songwriters in Canadian Folk Music is assured. She is already leaving her mark upon the landscape, and I look forward to seeing in totality the legacy that is sure to follow in her wake.
For over an hour –sometimes alone, other times with Eric Vieweg of the Withering Pines- Meredith gave an enchanting performance and a preview of the future of folk; a future which, in her talented hands, seems quite secure. In her music she combines modern influences with the traditional, creating a timeless sort of stew, an exquisite balancing act between her rock-solid playing and her captivating voice.
In addition to playing songs from her latest album “Neck of the Woods”, she debuted a new song which has lingered with me long after the rest of the evening fades into memory. Called ‘the Legend of the Human Race’, the song describes future archaeologists who, sifting through our modern detritus, are trying to figure out who we were. In listening to the song and contemplating its message afterward, I felt fragile and fleeting, but the feeling was not without hope.
Because, her song promises, something will endure. Something will outlast us.
And if we are really lucky, one of those artifacts pulled from future digs may just be a copy of “Neck of the Woods”: let the people of the future judge us all by Meredith’s music and I’ll be satisfied.
If Meredith and Eric had been the evening’s sole performers it would still have been accounted a fabulous show; worth every penny paid in admission and beer. What really pushed the night over the edge however – and made it uniquely Rasputin’s – were show openers Rio Samaya. This duo –hailing from Vancouver but with a vivid Latin American flavor- did the work of an entire band, oftentimes swapping out instruments mid-song in what can only be described as an impressive display of virtuosity. It was simply amazing to see.
All told, it was another night of musical magic at the Elmdale, and another golden thread in the tapestry of local music history.
http://www.meredithluce.com/ (http://www NULL.meredithluce NULL.com/)
http://www.panchoandsal.com/ (http://www NULL.panchoandsal NULL.com/)
by Jeremy Owen
A non-review of Rasputin’s Beard – 5/23/10
I knew I was going to be late to the Beard last night; I knew that much. I was already cursing those circumstances that had conspired and reared their ugly heads at once to mire my day down in non-musical minutia. But even so, I had hoped to catch the latter half at least; 2 out of the 4 bands. I was hoping against hope that one of those bands would be Greg Kelly’s.
But then late became late, and then later still. By the time I arrived at the Elmdale tavern, daylight was fading from the sky, muting all the colors, turning everything to a washed out shade of grey. But I could still hear music as I approached and this was encouraging. I entered into a wave of enthusiastic applause which also boded well: whoever was onstage appeared to be holding the entire room in the palm of their hand.
And as I approached the bar for a half-pint the applause faded almost reluctantly and the band started up again.
The song they played was amazing. Crisp, clean female vocals, horn solo, deadly rhythm. After they were done Hollis Morgan took the stage and thanked everyone for coming out to another successful Rasputin’s Beard. The evening was over and that is why I cannot offer anything resembling a review of it – because I only caught two rounds of applause with a single song between them – a pair of thunderclaps and a flash of lightning. But I can offer a unique perspective all the same: that of the outsider, the latecomer, arrived just in time to see the effect but not the cause which preceded it.
To glimpse, in that last song the potential for the entire evening, makes this more of a cautionary tale than anything else: do not let yourself miss Rasputin’s events. You will be sad.
Jeremy Owen is Sad.
by Hollis Morgan
On a long-weekend Sunday, while a lot of folks left the city, the country rolled into the Elmdale Tavern and the 50 or so patrons who stayed were glad they did. While not all of the music was twanged with country charm, the opening and penultimate acts had that certain relaxed, comfortable feel that traditional country music exudes. The second band, however, exploded with youthful, pop-culture enthusiasm; while the closing act was an intriguing potpourri of jazzy, quirky folk.
Greg Kelly and the Broken Windows Philharmonic (a.k.a. “The Shards”) opened appropriately with songs from Greg’s CD Broken Windows. Rasputinites are familiar with Greg performing on his own, but it’s great to see him with a good band. Greg’s lyrics frequently contain a sense of sweet regret; yet there’s always something there to which each listener can relate. This was the debut of The Shards with Sarah Hill on violin, Andrew Snow on acoustic bass, and yours truly Hollis Morgan on dobro.
The Ginger Fox Band is a trio of twenty-somethings on a mission. Warren Meredith, aka the Ginger Fox, was energetic and strong on lead vocals, and writes most of the songs. While he writes well, I think his stories describing the writing process for each song add a lot to his performance. Backed up by rhythm and lead guitars, The Ginger Fox is Band sounds quite contemporary — alt rock perhaps –which is a little unusual for Spirit of Rasputins, but the band was still a great fit for the Beard based on Warren’s song writing and and how he reaches out to bring the audience into each song. The only non-original song of the set, Hurt composed by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, was definitely a highlight.
Huntley Slim and the Suburban Cowboys don’t take alt country too seriously. But they do take it where ever they can! From a song “older than my grandma” to a variety of well penned gems of their own, they were entertaining and just rough enough around the edges. With Chris Mellor – strong rhythm guitar and vocals, Seamus Mulready – both bluegrass and old-time banjo and vocals, and a stand-up bass player who got several rounds of applause for his kick-ass solos. This band is lots of fun. Okay Chris, we forgive you for not knowing the Tony Rice lick!
We finished this Beard with the Alise Marlane Trio. This is a talented, very professional sounding combo that manages to support Alise’ often quick and surprising chord changes. Alise presented her own material in this set which ranged from non-sense lyrics to a song about a toad…oh yes, and there were some serious songs in there too! And all of it set to jazzy rhythms and flowing chords spiced up by the by skilled and sensitive violin of James Stephens and a plethora of instruments from Brian Sanderson including ukelele and pocket trumpet. James and Brian took turns on electro-acoustic bass. All in all, a very rich and rewarding set for the end of the evening.
by Jeremy Owen
I’m stationed behind the CD table at the Elmdale Tavern and the anticipation is palpable: very shortly 2 local giants of folk will take the stage with a talented out-of-towner, like some sort of musical equinox, an aligning of the cosmos rarely seen and never to be repeated again.
There’s the scraping of chairs as their occupants maneuver for sightlines, the muted hum of a dozen conversations ready to fall silent at a moments notice. And you can just tell it’s going to be a good night for the Spirit.
Just when I think the room can’t hold anymore, it miraculously does; the walls seem to swell to accommodate the masses. Musicians armed with acoustic guitars storm the stage and the show begins. Tony Turner opens with an overview of the history of Rasputin’s, briefly detailing her rise and fall and recent resurrection. It’s an uplifting note to begin the evening on and after this introduction, Rob Heath from Edmonton plays the first song of the night, ‘Mystery of You’, followed by Tom Lips, followed by Tony himself.
It’s a merry-go-round of contrasting styles and vocals, woven together by a common thread; something which I can’t put my finger on but which transcends a lone performer with an acoustic guitar. A generosity of spirit perhaps, wedded to the sort of talent and ability that is honed through a lifetime of dedication to the craft. Whatever the case, all three men are in top form as they sing songs of love and life (Rob), history and death (Tony) and everything else beyond and between (Tom).
Tom Lips, a thinking man’s lyricist, sings and plays as though there’s a tempest somewhere deep inside him, one that he’s mastered and releases only in these short controlled bursts; Rob’s voice is the gentle touch of a true humanitarian (his generosity evidenced by his donation of CD sales to the Unitarian Service Committee). Bridging these extremes is Tony’s rock-solid baritone, around which the notes of his guitar seem to glitter and dance. Honestly, there are times when Tony is playing where you have to check the stage to confirm that only one guitar is being played – the sound is just so impossibly full, his hands working with the unhurried speed of a master.
All told, the trio provides a night of acoustic music as pure as the peeling of steeple bells; 2 sets that leave no one unsatisfied and everybody wanting more. The universal call for an encore does not go unanswered, as each performer takes one last song and gives us one last gift. Tony Turner closes the evening out with the crowd-pleasing sing-along “Kingpin”.
Afterward, the tavern empties as people go to their cars and their bus-stops, call their cabs or begin walking to those places which their feet can take them. They leave in groups and in gaggles, alone or in pairs, but each with just that much more spring in their step. That spring which is the true Spirit of Rasputin’s.
(The highlight of this magnificent evening, for me, was Tom Lips whom I knew but didn’t know that I knew. Tom wrote and performed a song about ghosts for this year’s Song-Along that completely sunk my ghost song’s battleship and some small part of me has been singing it ever since. Happily, he played that song again this night and it was like seeing an old friend.)
There are more photos here.
Jeremy Owen had some awkward issues with the present vs. the past tense in the writing of this review; these struggles bear an eerie similarity to those same issues he has with the past and present tense in real life. He lives in Ottawa and has a new kitten, Napolean.
“Where else can you catch an amazing set by an amazing band
and play with them afterward?”
by Jeremy Owen
The CKCU Weekend Wrap-up is an event still in its infancy, but if last night was any example, that kid’ll be walking and talking in no time. The Drifters (6 in all) packed the stage and packed the room, to the point where this reviewer was obliged to scribble notes while standing against the back wall. This itself provided a unique opportunity to gauge the effect on the audience themselves, mind you; an effect that was immediately apparent in every tapped toe, slapped knee and clapped hand that kept time with the music. The Drifters brand of bluegrass –traditional music with a twist- was such that it compelled you to move; even the bartender was bobbing to the beat as she weaved her way through the capacity crowd.
At the end of each song the band was greeted by a wave of howls, shouts, whoops and manic applause, along with the beating of beer glasses on tables – all of it justly deserved, as each of the Dusty Drifters is a musician of prodigious skill. A trio of guitars (one a dobro), stand-up bass, mandolin and banjo; all blended together with their layered harmonies to make a sound larger than life. The mandolin took a solo, then the banjo, then the dobro, as each of the musicians shuffled to the front the stage for their time in the limelight. What struck me almost as much as their talent was the sheer joy with which the group played, and the shared camaraderie of the players. They were having such a good time that it proved immediately contagious.
Following a solo set the Drifters began inviting up other players for the ‘jam’ portion of the evening, and this is where the Wrap-up truly differs from any other live event I’ve attended, and why I can’t wait for the next one. Where else can you catch an amazing set by an amazing band and then have the opportunity to play with them afterward? With half the proceeds going to CKCU and the other half to the band itself, this is a great cause to contribute to, and a great time to be had.
Here are some great photographs courtesy of Jake Morrison.
Jeremy Owen is a singer/songwriter who will do practically anything to get into a show for free. He’ll haul gear, sell merchandise, or, in this case, write a review. Available for weddings, funerals, etc.
by Jeremy Owen
It was an intimate and most fortunate crowd that had the pleasure of enjoying Terry Gillespie’s transcendent performance last Sunday at the Elmdale Tavern. In some ways it was –possibly- too intimate; one had only to close one’s eyes to have the image of Terry’s golden vocals being sung directly into one’s ear.
This listener, therefore, kept his eyes open at all times, and certainly suffered no less for it. Indeed, the band was very visually appealing; an aesthetic balance of percussion on the right (Jeffery Grosvenor) and saxophone on the left (Terry Owen).
Terry in the middle played a rectangular guitar (his own design) through 2 brilliant sets and an encore song that had the greater majority of the room on their feet. The percussion was tasteful, and, if you’ll excuse the expression, never missed a beat, while the sax solos broke the fourth wall and brought the audience even closer to the music.
And the music itself was superlative.
“Have you ever heard this guy before?” asked Rasputin’s regular Chris White during the second set.
“Never before in my life,” I replied.
“What do you think?”
In half a moment I had my answer. “It’s like the musical equivalent of floating,” I said. An impoverished description of an experience that defies words, but after the fact, it’s still the best I can do.
Jeremy Owen is a singer/songwriter new to Ottawa’s music scene. He comes from Alberta and would appreciate it then, if you would talk a little slower.
by Hollis Morgan
The Spirit of Rasputins Beard two-stepped its way into history after an evening of solid entertainment from a terrific line-up of four great bands. Most of the evening my attention was focussed on the energy generated by the entertainers on the new, wonderful stage at the front of the Elmdale House Tavern. But when I looked around half-way through the night, there were smiling faces right to the back of the room and every table was full. The Beard is having a good run.
Julie Element and the Elementals delivered a wonderful opening set. They took us on a journey by plane, train and…uhhh, ambulance! Strummed major seventh chords; lush accordian, mandolin and congas; and tasty harmonica, all contrasted wonderfully with Julie’s quirky lyrics. At times, I felt I was seated along the Seine in a Parisian cafe. At other times I knew I was bouncing along in an OC Transpo bus. Julie Element is a wonderful performer with a growing local fan base who draws you into her stories. Well done.
Next up were godknowswhat from the Wakefield area. Not many Rasputinites knew about this quartet…but they sure do now! One-step, two-step, three-step…more!! This Quebecois, cajun style band had people out of their seats dancing to their infectious rhythms. And what was that drummer playing? A bodhran for a bass drum, a plastic two-gallon pail for a tom, a snare and a high-hat? Definitely a funk kit for the record books. This band performs in French and English, and in styles from up-the-valley, down-the-delta, and across-the-pond…did I mention the medley of Greek fiddle tunes? Godknowswhat delivers amazing energy with accomplished and polished musicianship. Strong, striding bass; tight percussion; excellent interplay between fiddle and accordian; and, the occasional ballad metered out on ukelele. I’m sure they’ll be back at the Elmdale with a party night all to themselves.
The third set was pure alt-country delivered straight from the hip by Old Whiskey Road. Without drums, the strong guitar of lead singer Dave Morrow drove the rhythm beautifully. Dave’s heartfelt songs and delivery, along with Chrissy Lovingood’s harmonies, had me thinking of Gram Parsons and Emmylou. Not that they sound the same…they have their own sound…but somehow it felt familiar. With just the right balance of electric guitars, keyboards, and acoustic guitar fills, Old Whiskey Road is rekindling a comfortable old style on which many of us grew up. I just sat back and mellowed out on this band.
Josh Taerk from Toronto, with one year left as a teen-ager, finished off this Beard with a set of self-penned ballads that spoke of love lost, love found, and love betrayed. Sometimes, a young man’s heart turns to song writing, and we all benefit! I’m an old folky fogy, but Josh took me back to my youth. Through his songs I remembered first loves, heartbreaks, betrayals, and the unexpected loss of a friend. Backed up by one of his bandmates on very tasty electric guitar, Josh delivered a warm set and finished off the evening nicely. With a gig coming up at The Wakefield Inn, and a summer touring schedule that promises to keep him on the move, some day we’re going to say, “I remember when I saw him at the Elmdale…before he was famous!”
Check out the photo gallery!
See you at the next Beard on May 23rd.
by Lynn Stevenson
Crushed in a corner with a capacity crowd, I wondered why I’d worried. Tickets hadn’t sold as quickly as expected, so new to ‘The Spirit’- I fretted. But when the night rolled round, Ian Tamblyn had packed the place and completely enthralled his audience. Despite the Sens game and the Junos, the Elmdale Tavern was jammed with devoted fans who hung on his words and laughed at his effortlessly delivered stories of places majestic and, well, less than so… From the open doors of lousy hotels in the middle of nowhere to the heartbreaking beauty of the North – Ian Tamblyn sings of experience. The man has been there and it shows.
Though hard to move at times, how wonderful it was to be in such an intimate setting and experience the power and emotions of this evening. Ian Tamblyn’s voice and guitar rang lovingly in a trip through time from his early recordings in the 1970s to the present day. The first set was dominated by these earlier songs such as ‘Ghosts of the Homestead’ and ‘Country Style Donut Tonight’. Some of these early songs he says he hasn’t played in 20 years – but magically, the hands and heart remember. In a reggae inspired tune he talked about Ottawa in the 70s, the band “Heaven’s Radio” and Terry Gillespie who will be performing in the Spirit of Rasputin’s Sunday Concert Series May 2nd – another show that should not be missed!
Moving forward, Tamblyn’s tales were beautifully enriched by Fred Guignion whose gorgeous guitar work on songs like ‘Old Voice” rose like whale song behind the heartbeat of Ian’s voice. Tamblyn acknowledged Guignion’s talent several times during the evening; praise well deserved.
Singer-songwriter Andy Mason opened the evening with half a dozen fine songs which reminded me of Paul Simon and my table mate of Lennie Gallant. Mason’s strong vocals and great guitar work shined most strongly when singing about Native issues close to his heart. In these songs in particular, the audience felt a shiver of the tremendous potential of this performer whose work was an excellent introduction to Tamblyn.
There was humour too – like Tamblyn’s ‘Trouble with Puffins’ in Greenland, or how unwise it is to try to surf on a lake in the Canadian Shield, how a hair dryer can come in handy in beat-up Volkswagen on a cold night home or why lust is really not very good for the neck. Tamblyn did two solid sets and one heartfelt encore before heading home himself – hopefully in a more reliable, although likely less amusing vehicle. The evening ended with 12 songs still to go on the set list – hopefully we will get to hear these at another magical Tamblyn evening soon.
by Tony Turner
The Wednesday edition of the 18th annual Great Canadian Song-A-Long gave birth to 18 new songs to a very attentive Elmdale audience. Songs were presented on one or more four themes – Lucky; I Wonder; The trouble with…; and Ghosts. The Lucky and I Wonder themes were particularly popular topics. Veterans of previous Song-A-Long events such as Greg Kelly, Rick Hayes, and Chrissy Steinbock performed as well as numerous first timers such as Jean Granbois, Kristine St. Pierre. Chris White, who has participated in all 18 Ottawa Song-a-Along events, collaborated with Missy Burgess on a heartfelt song imagining a better world. The event not only unveiled new songs but helped raise money for the volunteer-run Spirit of Rasputins cooperative to help continue its work to build a strong local folk presence in Ottawa.
by Hollis Morgan
You never know who will show up for a concert on a holiday weekend. But Lindsay Ferguson drew both fans and family to an almost full house sponsored by Spirit of Rasputin’s at the Elmdale Tavern on April 4. As the CBC says, “…born in Bermuda, raised in Prince Edward County & now living in the Ottawa area, [Lindsay] has a voice that can raise the hairs in places that you can’t even see.” And we sure found out all about that last Sunday. Performing solo with her guitar, she presented songs from her new CD Sound, and took requests for favourites from the audience.
The mix of family, friends and fans is always a treat for an artist who performs more away than near home. This made for some entertaining, and occasionally risque banter…prompted by her mother who was in the audience. Thanks to a strong fan base, she drew and entertained a crowd on what should have been a difficult holiday weekend.
Emily Fennell from Kingston opened the evening with an impressive set of original material. Emily’s voice haunts you long after the concert is over. Warm with a bluesy edge, strong, confident, and powerful, she accompanies herself on piano and guitars. Emily is successfully making the transition from the club scene to the concert stage. I hope to see her back as a headliner as soon as possible.
Chris was in great voice last night. A welcoming and enthusiastic audience was treated to songs both old and new. Assisted by Ottawa veterans Fred Guignon (guitar and dobro), Stuart Watkins (bass), and Beth Cahill (mandolin and vocals), Chris enchanted us all with her clear, strong delivery. What a treat!
Read Lynn Stevenson’s article "A Conversation With Chris MacLean"
The first Spirit of Rasputin’s Concert was a huge success with a packed house of dedicated folk lovers. Lynn, a consummate performer, was funny, thoughtful, and thoroughly entertaining. Backed by the rich and sophisticated guitar work of Keith Glass, the show ranged from tender to raunchy, and was filled with memorable songs from her recent CD’s. Lynn played guitar and piano with hilarious self-deprecating jabs at her piano skills…of course her former teacher was in the audience! Despite the playfulness, her piano skills were apparent. This was the perfect launch for the new Spirit of Rasputin’s Concert Series. By the way, if you missed this show, you also missed learning about HAD…High Altitude Dryness! The banter between Lynn and Keith around this “condition” had everyone in tears of laughter.