Notes from the Road
by Catherine MacLellan
I boarded the plane to Calgary for the shortest of tours, two shows in Alberta, not really wanting to leave PEI on that beautiful spring day. I rearranged my iPod with only my favourite records and started playing them beginning to end.
At the very start of this list is Halifax's Acres and Acres and their album All Nations. It has been out for a couple of years now but refuses to get old. Their music touches my heart and mind. Songs about polar bears, cell phones, Johnny Appleseed, and so much more. Dave and Kris, the two main members, have just started working on their follow up and I can’t wait.
I also just downloaded Rose Cousins’ newest album, We Have Made a Spark. This is her third full-length record and as always it is full of strong, heart-wrenching songs that seem to read my heart. Rose is in constant motion, always traveling back and forth between her different homes - PEI, Halifax and Boston. This latest offering was recorded with her Boston friends and shows off their talents. Another beautiful record from Miss Cousins.
Someone that I’ve heard of for ages but never had a chance to hear is Cam Penner. My journey to Alberta started with a night off so we headed to the Ironwood in Calgary to hear Cam and his band. The guys playing with him that night were the same folks who recorded his most recent album, Gypsy Summer. The songs are personal tales, sung with a gruff but emotional voice that pulls you into every line. I almost always prefer to hear someone live rather than recorded, and it was great to see him live before hearing the record, but the canned version certainly didn’t disappoint and I can’t wait until he finally comes East to the Maritimes so everyone else can hear him too.
Eventually, we headed south out of Calgary to the town of Nanton. Many of my friends had played the Auditorium there and I had heard a lot of stories about this small town tavern. Even so, I wasn’t really prepared for what we were in for. Chris and I walked in to a room full of taxidermy—bobcats, moose, birds, and so much more. Leading up to our show and in between sets young local guys playing pool would put on Metallica and Iron Maiden hits on the jukebox. The place was dirty in a way that only an old tavern can be but the people were amazing, the biggest hearts you’ll meet and huge supporters of songwriters.
The next night we arrived at the complete opposite of a venue, the Arden Theatre in St. Albert, just outside of Edmonton. There, we met up with Ron Hynes, Dave Gunning and Madison Violet. We were playing a songwriter circle for Bluebird North. Lisa and Brenley, who are Madison Violet, had just arrived the day before from Australia, and were feeling like they weren’t really in any time zone. We had all performed quite a few shows together over the years, but never all of us at the same time. It was a really sweet night and made the whole trip worthwhile. I also got to sneak in a visit with some of my Edmonton family, which is a rare but special treat.
Getting on the plane home, I put on another of my favourite records, Mercury by Pieta Brown. It was the perfect happy, rootsy soundtrack to head me back East to my home, back to the red mud roads, the snow-edged fields and the quiet of a Prince Edward Island night.