Well, we were back to Ayers Cliff and home for exactly one day and night after a summer away. We didn't even bother to unpack the van since we were returning to the tour and driving directly to Ottawa. On our way back to the Cliff, we managed a flying visit to our respective families in Ontario. It was wonderful to see everyone again and it all but nailed the coffin shut on the summer.
Our billet in Ottawa was as good as it could get, at Ann Sharpe's beautiful Bed and Breakfast, A Rose on Col. By. We shared the digs with Stephen Fearing and Chris Chanter, and it was great to see them again so soon after Summerfolk. Stephen gave an excellent Mainstage set on the Saturday Night.
We had a live radio workshop with Ron Moore on CKCU's "Back Forty Stage", sharing the mainstage with the Laws, Jenny and Dan Whitely and Willie P. Bennet. Although the format was more in the country/bluegrass end of things, Ron was good enough to include us. It was an interesting and interacting workshop. I have listened to Jenny's new album often and rarely miss her band performances at festivals. Singing harmony on her songs comes easily and joyfully. I greatly admire her writing and her company. I was less familiar with the Laws, but was thoroughly impressed with both them and their music. Nice people as well. Playing with Willie P. Bennett was as good as it gets for the likes of me. I have been a dyed in the wool fan of the man from the first time I heard "Trying to Start Out Clean" so many years ago and rarely, if ever, missed a Toronto show during the 10 years I lived there. I remember seeing him at Harbourfront and screwing up my nerve to approach him about buying a tape of "The Lucky Ones". Of course, he was gracious in the face of obvious adulation. I have had two opportunities in my musical incarnation to sing harmonies with him and both times, I had the sensation of the impossible come true. I may not deserve to have such a wish come to fruition, but am more than appreciative of the machinations of the Fates. I can't think of anyone who has written so close to the mark from my own perspective on life. He's an astonishing writer, and a pure pleasure to talk to.
Chris White, the AD for the festival was good enough to place us in a workshop that afternoon with the Laws and Jesse Winchester. The crowd was huge, drawn by the opportunity to sit back and enjoy the songs and singing of one of the finest writers anywhere. The emotional link between Jesse and the audience was palpable, and a wonderful thing to be a part of. Obviously, this man has touched many people over the years with his songs, and his own singing and playing were a reward in themselves. I was fortunate to have been selected as host of the workshop, and received many compliments on conducting it. Really, all I had to do was say "and now over to Jesse Winchester" and I had done what was required. It was a rare moment.
Our own 30-minute set was in the food court behind the mainstage, and coincided with the performance of an excellent but extremely loud band. The wind picked up considerably and the tent looked to be preparing for take off. The crowd was a fine mix of old and new friends, and was a joy to play for. They persevered and so did we.
The highlight for many people attending was the evening performance of John Prine, the brilliant American singer songwriter from Chicago. I have all his albums and have been a life long fan since first seeing him at Mariposa in the early Seventies. He is a writer with his finger firmly on the pulse of the world around him and his tongue often firmly in cheek. He is another performer that I never missed in Toronto and his 2-hour set in Ottawa was typically warm and magnanimous, self effacing and beautiful. Wonderful songs so honestly delivered. I sat near the apron of the mainstage and found myself transported down the years to my own youth, reflecting on the impact that his writing has had on my own musical and literary development. Not maudlin nostalgia but an appreciation of both his old and new writing, a mental acknowledgement of the continuing poignancy of the stories therein. On a given evening, thousands of people at a sold out festival felt the same I think.
The end of festival party was held at our beloved B&B, and was especially enjoyable for us thanks to the superb playing and company offered by Toronto fiddle virtuoso Oliver Schroer, band friend and genius at large. A remarkable composer and human being. The duets performed by Oliver and Geoff were heartbreakingly beautiful. The celebrations went on until the break of dawn, and I spent a contented first half hour of the new day reflecting on the general beneficence of life, sitting on a bench with Oliver and "mein host" Ann. The sun was barely up and our final festival was officially over, our summer now relegated to the realm of memory. But what memories.
It's been a pleasure to have written these entries and I would like to thank all who read them and sent or gave their comments. I very much appreciate the support and communication. And so, we return to a porch that needs mending, calf high grass on the lawn and bills past due. There are over 200 e-mails to go through, so if you have written me and I haven't answered, bear with me.
I hope all who read this had a splendid summer and I wish you a' the best. I am looking forward to our up-coming concerts including Octoberfolk festival in Brantford on October 6.
From all of us to all of you, take care of yourselves and thank you all very much, yours,
David Francey appearing next week: