The Shantymen’s Song

The history of the lumber trade in the Ottawa Valley is quite rich and when I started writing songs about the area, it was obvious that celebrating the work of these men and logging mogul J.R. Booth was all too easy a subject to tackle. The tune does, admittedly, carry a similar feel to that of classics like The Badger Drive and Logdriver’s Waltz. Hey, it’s the folk process, right?

Read more »

The Ballad of Colonel By

The building of the Rideau Canal is one of the most dramatic and brutal undertakings in the history of Canadian (in this case pre-Canadian) infrastructure. While Colonel John By is thought of as something of a hero with locals, he was not regarded as such by the British Government and his questionable methods, no matter how effective, did result in one of the greatest engineering projects of the 19th century. Without the Rideau Canal, it’s possible that Canada’s capital would today be Kingston.

Read more »

Beethoven’s Fifth, the Way it Should Be

I spend a fair bit of time perusing YouTube for readings of orchestral works and have found that Asian orchestras have a unique interest in Beethoven’s symphonic output. Not only that, but they tend to perform ol’ Ludwig’s scores more accurately than many of their Western counterparts, that is to say without adding any superficial sentimentality by way of unnecessary pauses and dramatic effects not inherent in the music itself. Even without adding unnecessary flourish, the music seems more direct and real. Beethoven took great pains to specify his demands in terms of tempi and expression, something which became of even greater importance to him later in his career.

Read more »

John Wills

One of the first stories I encountered when researching for my Ottawa Valley theme album was one about this fella named John Wills, a pirate of sorts who trolled the rivers until finally being captured by one Constable Cosgrove. Wills eventually got off on a technicality. The story seemed a suitable subject for a somewhat smug, first-person, Celtic-inspired ballad, which pretty much just jumped on to the page.

Read more »

One Last Goodbye

While surely not an original premise, the idea of a born-and-bred Newfoundlander returning home for a final visit before heading back to his Western life seemed one that I could play with. It’s a little too sentimental for my tastes but it captures the moment I was seeking.

Read more »

The Battle of Crysler’s Farm

Back in 2007, I was knee-deep in researching Ontario history, primarily for songwriting fuel, which of course must include the battles between the British North American colonies and the Americans, known commonly if inaccurately as the War of 1812. (The war lasted about 32 months, not twelve.) I discovered some fascinating details about one of the more pivotal battles and from those facts created a fictional, nameless character recounting the moments chaos of the fight.

Read more »

Chicken Paprikash (paprikás csirke)

This is a recipe that I learned when I was younger and became enamoured with my Hungarian heritage. Food is about my only connection to my Magyar roots these days but, hey, how can I complain? Hungarian food is delightfully tasty, although not ideal when you’re counting calories like I am these days. Still, if you’re looking for stick-to-your-ribs eats, this will more than satisfy your craving.

Read more »