I love conveying, through music, unique stories about people or places or things. In some cases, documenting these stories through song preserves what would otherwise be a lost or forgotten record. Here are some of the songs that are in development. The plan is to record these and other songs in a new album in 2021. Live, acoustic recordings of these songs are available below. Check them out!
The Ballad of Rose McKenna - this song is about a tragic accident at a homestead in the Ottawa Valley where Rose McKenna, a mother of 4, was crushed by a stone. A large stone was in the process of being moved out of the way by digging a large hole next to it and rolling it into the hole. For some unknown reason Rose went into the hole and the stone rolled onto her , killing her instantly [Pembroke Observer, 1921]. She had sent 3 of her children to school, and her husband, Willian McKenna, was off to work on the CPR rail line. Because there was no witness, speculation leads to 3 different stories. All 3 stories agree that she died in the hole and she remained there for hours until someone stopped by and found her dead, with her young son Martin sitting next to her. In researching the story, I learned that this type of accident was not uncommon.
Newfoundout - the story of hope of immigrants from Ireland that settled in the Ottawa Valley in the mid-1800s. These folks came to Canada to escape poverty, starvation (potato famine) and oppression. As arduous as it would have been to turn the forested, stony hills of the Opeongo Range into farmland, it was far easier to survive (and thrive) with this settlement challenge than to remain in Ireland. To this day, there are many reminders throughout the Ottawa Valley of the influx of the Irish at this time, from the names of settlements to celebrations of Irish heritage. This song was inspired by exploring a mysterious ghost settlement in Ontario called Newfoundout.
North Star - the story of a German pilot from WWII who escaped from a POW (prisoner of war) camp in the remote interior of Algonquin Park (Nipissing River). What is remarkable about this individual is he traveled north from the POW camp using only the north star to guide him. He traveled only at night and hid during the daylight hours. After 3 days (nights) he reached the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) line, where he hopped on a slow-moving train. His train ride took him westward to Winnipeg Manitoba, where he was recaptured and put in another POW camp. His night travels in a rugged wilderness region were terrifying. This journey happened in May (late spring), when lakes and streams would have been icy-cold, and biting insects would have been emerging, if not constantly feeding on the prisoner. The song is about the north star journey and, most importantly, the feeling of hope when he first heard the distant rumble of the train.
Half Way There - the story of an old abandoned "depot farm" called Halfway House that supported the bustling logging industry in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. Xavier Pilon was the name of the farmer who cleared the land in a remote wilderness area half way between two major hubs in the travels of seasonal workers. Thousands of men would migrate into the bush to cut giant white pines, staying at lumber camps located throughout the vast forests. The depot farm provided food to lumber camps as well as lodging for the men who traveled by horse-drawn sleigh to the lumber camps. Ruins of old buildings are all that remain today, and there are few records of the Pilon farm. I have yet to meet with descendants of Xavier Pilon to collect more details of the man and the farm. This song was inspired by visiting the farm, and enjoying the taste of the rhubarb picked from a patch still growing at the farm.
Trunk of Secrets - the story of an antique chest that I bought in Westmeath that used to belong to the famous Everest mountaineer A.C. Irvine who died in his summit attempt in 1924 (how the heck did the chest get from England to Westmeath?).
Mayflower - the story of the 1912 marine tragedy of the sinking of the Mayflower in Lake Kamineskeg, between Combermere and Barry's Bay. The sinking occurred during the last run of the year as a November gale beared down on the region. Nine people perished, but 3 survived by clinging to a coffin that was being transported to Combermere.
From You - an upbeat love song that rides a vibe reflective of it's beginning during a stay in Costa Rica with a nice travel guitar.
Forward - an introspective song about being in a passive headspace where time passes without notice during a long portage... an inner peace, of sorts.
It Must Be True - a funky upbeat song about an old guy that tells tall tales. This is a biographical piece written for my kids, who have endured many stories of past fictitious conquests, for fun.
Talk to Me - an introspective song about old trees .. if only they could talk and tell the tales of centuries of being there, overlooking the ruins of old lumber camps or farms or unexplained features in the woods.