Talking Bands (Guys)
by Fraser McCallum
Few PEI artists have kept a calendar as packed and professionally diverse as Charlottetown’s John Connolly. The past three years have been non-stop for the accomplished singer-songwriter, actor, producer, and upright citizen. Now, with a new album, a new car, and a few thousand kilometres to trek, Connolly is crossing the country on his first major tour.
This past winter, in between spending time in writer’s residency at the Banff Centre and performing with his band at Atlantic Canada House for the 2010 Olympics, Connolly journeyed south to Nashville, Tennessee to record and co-produce his third studio release, The Wind. The songwriter had boldly approached legendary Canadian producer Brian Ahern (Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs) on a 2009 trip to Nashville and a few months later was able to collaborate with Ahern and engineer Donivan Cowart on six new songs.
“It was a learning experience working with Brian and Donivan. They’ve been working together since 1971 so there is a lot that goes unsaid between them,” says Connolly, in between tour stops in British Columbia. “Brian gave me space to do what I wanted. When he’d feel strongly about something he’d offer his input. The guy is brilliant in the studio so everything he has to say carries a lot of weight. I look at this album as another step forward. I hope people get to hear it.”
The Wind shows a move towards a more folksy, porch-sittin’ sound than Connolly’s 2008 self-titled album with songs stripped down to band, voice and featured lead lines on fiddle. “I wanted to make a very natural recording,” he says. “I’ve been writing songs that depend less on the arrangement and more on the bone structure of the song. I like it when a song works just singing it with an acoustic guitar. At the same time, I’ve learned a lot about my voice since my last album so I knew I wanted to build around those two elements.”
The six-song album, although a quick listen, flows effortlessly from track to track and instantly sets the listener at ease with superb production and memorable ballads of new love, longing, and the passing of a close friend.
At press time Connolly is wrapping up more than a month of touring, mostly as part of Home Routes, a national network of house concerts where the musician lodges and dines at the home of those hosting the show.
“Home Routes is amazing” Connolly praises. ”The reception has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s nice to play and stay in homes because you’re immediately a part of the community. Every show is cozy, the people are fantastic and the scenery beyond compare.“
Connolly’s tour does demand some intense driving, crisscrossing between, among many others, Grand Prairie, Prince George, Vernon, Prince Rupert and eventually back east to Montreal. “By the time I get home I’ll have logged 16,000 kilometres and two months on the road so I’m really looking forward to some time on the Island.” However, with his usual poise, Connolly is quick to dismiss any dislike for all the to-ing and fro-ing. “I really love the road though. It’s always a privilege to go out and play for new people.”
Connolly will be covering more tour ground in 2011 but in the mean time can be seen in Charlottetown on the 19th and 20th at Baba’s Lounge and the 22nd at the Globe.