Wednesday, March 3, 2010

CD Odyssey Disc 100: Stan Rogers

Wow - here I am at Disc 100. I currently randomly roll from 23 roughly equal sections of 40 albums each, so that tells me I've still a ways to go.

After each landmark of 100 discs, I'll do an extra post taking a snapshot of where we are at so far - but first, the disc at hand is due its moment.

Disc 100 is...Home In Halifax
Artist: Stan Rogers

Year of Release: 1982 (although not released on CD until 1992).

How I Came To Know It: Back in 1995 my work took me to Ottawa, where I found a pub called "The Heart and Crown", which was a refuge for the many Maritimers that work at various political jobs in the nation's capital. For whatever reason, this place captivated me.

While there (on a series of nights) I got to know some of the pub's regulars, and they taught me all the words to "Barrett's Privateers" (you're supposed to sing along), complete with various actions.

Once I knew the song was originally by Stan Rogers, the rest was easy - except that I bought this album thinking it was a studio album - when it is in fact a live album.

How It Stacks Up: I only have this, plus one other album of Stan Rogers at present. As one is a concert, and the other is a studio album, they can't really be compared. For what it's worth - I like this one.

Rating: 4 stars.

As most everyone knows (or damned well should know), Stan Rogers is one of the greatest and most influential folk acts ever to come out of Canada. This album was made live in...Halifax in 1982 - and a little more than year later Rogers would be killed in a plane accident in Cincinnati at the age of only 33, with only three studio albums to his credit.

This album shows just how much he gave us on those three albums. He shares with Gordon Lightfoot as one of the great preservers of the traditions of hard working blue collar Canadians; with particular love for farmers, fishermen and all manner of Eastern Canadians moving west in search of work in the 1970s.

Each of these songs is sung in Rogers' instantly recognizeable gravelly baritone voice. The songs are simple in arrangement, simple in topic and deeply affecting to the spirit. It is clear that Rogers cares about these characters, and his words give voice to a dignity so often overlooked for flashier topics. It is folk music about ordinary folk.

I particularly like "Field Behind the Plow", which is a song about a farmer sowing seed, and thinking about the hard life he has chosen. I particularly like the second verse:

"Poor old Kuzyk down the road;
The heartache hail and hoppers brought him down.
He gave it up and went to town.
And Emmett Pierce the other day took a heart attack and died at 42,
You could see it coming on, 'cause he worked as hard as you."

This is a common theme in Stan Rogers' music, where everyday people make tough choices to earn an honest living.

Rogers also sings about Canadian history, and this album has the famous song about the "Bluenose" which always makes me swell with pride, as the song itself launches out of the gate:

"Once again with the tide she slips her lines
Turns her head and comes awake
Where she lay so still there at Privateer's Wharf
Now she quickly gathers way
She will range far south from the harbour mouth
And rejoice with every wave
Who will know the Bluenose in the sun?"

Answer - we all will, and we all do, and Stan Rogers' beautiful track will help keep the memory of that great ship alive. In fact between "Bluenose", "The Mary Ellen Carter" and "Barrett's Privateers (featuring the sloop "Antelope"), Rogers immortalizes three ships in one album. I'm pretty sure Gordon Lightfoot only ever managed the one.

Of course, the definitive Stan Rogers song will always be "Barrett's Privateers", a song about an 18th century pirate vessel (I mean "privateer" - they were licensed!) that embarks on a sad and ill-fated journey in search of Yankee gold during the American War of Independence.

The song is fun to sing along, fun to hear and best with as many friends and as much beer as possible. Many a night in my twenties recall fond memories of walking home from the pub, singing out the tragic tale of "The Antelope" yet again.

When I die, there will be two songs played at my funeral - "My Way" and "Barrett's Privateers" - and you better sing along when your part comes up!

Best tracks:Bluenose, Field Behind the Plow, Night Guard, The Idiot, Mary Ellen Carter, Barrett's Privateers, Sailor's Rest.

1 comment:

Sheila said...

If I am still alive when you die, I will be leading the singing, love!

I wouldn't listen to this whole album, but I do enjoy the songs.