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Pop Montreal 2006

A grand ol' timey time

Posted by Cat / October 6, 2006

Lake of Stew, Kvasir, Creaking Tree String Quartet @
Main Hall, October 5th

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I'm in an Irish Tourism Council commercial! I'm in a Newfoundland pub, a Danish dancehall, a party barn in the Ozarks! I'm stuck in Peter Greenaway film score and my feet have a mind of their own.

Actually, I'm at the string band show at Main Hall. True, the show was last night, but damn, if it doesn't stick with you for a while. And damn if you don't feel that you could go without sleep, food or drink if only the music would never, ever stop. Well, maybe not drink. This is music meant for letting loose to, and some of us need a little liquid encouragement from time to time.

But I swear it won't take much before you succumb to these infectious sounds. This is toe-tappin', hand-clappin', finger-snappin', thigh-slappin', possum-trappin', pants-crappin'ly good music! The crowd was rarin' to go with no signs of stoppin'. There was whistlin', hootin', and hollerin' and nary an “ing” to be written!

IMG_0911.JPGKvasir are two young lassies from Denmark who could hold their own with any veteran of Danish country dance-hall tunes (a subject I know intimately, and that is a possible lie). These gals can play somethin' fierce! From haunting traditional melodies to rollicking folk dance and polka tunes, their fiddle and accordion are bound to get the blood flowing and stave off even the coldest chill from a dark, Danish winter. Their charming stories of island and village life in Denmark lend a wonderful intimacy to this gathering.

Sadly, I missed Montreal's own Lake of Stew. But I did snag a copy of the songbook that was distributed and damn if I wasn't sorry to have missed that sing-a-long, especially with such tunes as "Ride the Bear" ("we'll ride the bear as if he wore a backpack, we'll ride the bear, ride the bear…"). Dancing took place and the doorman claimed that Lake of Stew was the reason he'd signed up to work the show. Just two weeks ago they received a hearty endorsement from none other than Annabelle Chvostek at the recent Wailin' Jennys show. I will definitely catch them next time.

The evening's headliners, The Creaking Tree String Quartet, are regulars on the Toronto folk music scene and that might provide the one and only reason to move to that there town. I've really been missing a regular Americana gig – this stuff is addictive and the lads of Creaking Tree are four VERY talented musicians. John Showman's fiddle can rant and rave with the best of the Celtic masters. Brad Keller's guitar playing evokes comparisons with the venerable Leo Kotke. Brian Kobayakawa may very well be the hardest working uprighteous bass player in the biz, and Andrew Collins manages to coax the devil himself outta the mandolin, then tremolos him into submission. Tater bug ain't never rawked so hard! These dudes move seamlessly from Celtic and Appalachia influences, through true-blue bluegrass, roots-rock, new jazz forms, and classical symphonic phrasing. This is the new acoustic movement, as championed by the likes of Bela Fleck, and it is none-too-easily mastered. Creaking Trees brings Americana to orchestral orgasm.

The whole evening just left me soaring. Soaring high above weathered cliffs, windswept crags, and breaking whitecaps. The coastline recedes and I'm standing at the stern of a small fishing boat, the fog is thick and it cloaks everything in sight. I hear a whale's song through the grey. Then another tune, a fiddle this time, sweet and low. I troop up rocky shoreline and make my way to a fish shack, splintered and salt-caked, with a puff of smoke curling from the tiny chimney. The kettle's on; I hear it whistling. The whistle grows louder, louDER, LOUDER and now it's a full-blown steam train, whining, snorting and pawing its way through a prairie summer. Cerulean sky and golden wheat weaving and rippling as far as the eye can see. The train is blowing and chugging, pulling through the steely winter night, hauling carload after carload of coal from Kansas down to Georgia. The tracks stretch further, farther, further still till I come to rest in the doorway of a ramshackle mountain cabin, the spring mist lying thick over the valley below. I watch the men make their way back home, from the mines and the fields. Hickory smoke and the sound of a mandolin drift up through the stands of alder trees. The branches part and the rich green fields stretch before me, with the Old Post road winding off to the west. I follow it to the village and make my way to the local pub, the scent of whiskey and peat fires wrapping me in warmth. I pull up a stool next to the flagstone hearth. Oh sweet music, I am home.

Discussion

12 Comments

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