Surfing the Canadian Shield – an evening with Ian Tamblyn

by Lynn Stevenson


Ian Tamblyn

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.


Ian playing hammered dulcimer

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.


Andy Mason

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.

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