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words from the road...
aka the Hobo Travelogue

Hobo Travelogue, December 25, 2016: Holiday hellos, Alberta CD release dates, European and South African rambles, and a Christmas song for you and your family!

Hey friends, I'm writing you my parents' place just outside Edmonton, and I can't tell you how good it feels to be home. I trust this Christmas finds you in good company, whether enjoying the flush of summer on the other side of this spinning rock, or curled up somewhere cozy on this side.

As for me, I'll be spending the next two months around Alberta. That's a sigh of relief in the form of a sentence. I've certainly got my work cut out for me: putting the finishing touches on the book for the new album, and releasing it with a string of dates around the province, as well as catching up on taxes, hitting the gym hard, and building a lap steel guitar with my Dad. But work, of the stationary, shoulder-to-the-wheel kind, is actually the thing I'm lusting after most after this epic year of travel and dissolute living.

It's been just six weeks since I last wrote you, friends, and though you may not believe me, I'm gonna celebrate Christmas (and this Hobo Travelogue's punctuality) by writing a relatively short one!

Before I get to last several weeks of roads, though, I want to take quick look ahead, to the Alberta dates on the horizon. As you may have gathered, I'm in a bit of a frantic rush to finish the new album, Further Down the Line, in time for our dates around Alberta. My CD packages have been getting bigger as the years go by, and this one's far from bucking that trend. Rather than a CD wallet with a booklet, this one's a real book (with a CD slipped into the back cover), containing a long look back, in words and pictures, on this last decade of rambling.

The Second Chances and I will be releasing the album with a string of theatre dates around Alberta, and I'm so excited to bring it to the province! But first, we'll be ringing out the old year at McDougall United Church, in the good musical company of Gateway Festival City Fiddlers, Back Porch Swing, the Justine Vandergrift Trio, Benjamin Williams, Twin Peaks, Daniel Gervais, Clint Pelletier, and Jeremiah McDade. We're just singing a few songs, and we won't have the CDs for this one, but if you bring a donation (cash preferred) for the food bank, I can promise you'll go home with a heartful of love. I'll also be singing a couple tunes for the annual Hank and Townes tribute from 6-11pm at the Black Dog the next day. But the big event, our hometown release, will be January 27 at the Shell Theatre in Fort Saskatchewan. We're gonna charter a party bus to bring you Edmonton people out and back, so please, mark it in your calendar!

The Alberta CD release dates are as follows (all theatre shows unless otherwise noted):

Thu Jan 5 - Barrhead - Barrhead Arts Council
Fri Jan 6 - Westlock - Westlock Cultural Arts Theatre Society
Sat Jan 7 - Edson - Chautauqua Arts Council
Wed Jan 11 - Brooks - Newell Concert Series
Thu Jan 12 - Daysland - DaysArts show at the Palace Theatre
Fri-Sat Jan 13-14 - Wainwright - Wainwright Encore Entertainment Society
Sun Jan 15 - Vermillion - Vermillion Allied Arts w/ the Long Weekends
Thu Jan 19 - Slave Lake - Stage North w/ the Long Weekends
Fri Jan 20 - Drayton Valley - Eleanor Pickup Arts Centre w/ the Long Weekends
Sat Jan 21 - Red Deer? - TBA
Sun Jan 22 - Whitecourt - Sweet Things Cafe
Fri Jan 27 - Fort Saskatchewan - Edmonton area CD release at the Shell Theatre with guests
Sat Jan 28 - Forestburg - Forestburg Concert Series
Thu Feb 2 - Consort - Neutral Hills Arts Alive
Fri Feb 3 - Calgary - Ironwood Stage with Carter Felker
Sat Feb 4 - Lethbridge - Lethbridge Folk Club
Sun Feb 5 - Canmore - TBA

As always, the details for those shows are on www.scottcook.net/news.php. After that, I'll be flying down to the Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City, and then we'll be flying to Australia for five weeks of trio tour, which I'm already super pumped about.

But for now, to bring you up to date on the last month and a half of roads! Last I wrote, Donald Trump had just been elected president. I tried to strike a conciliatory note in my Travelogue, in hopes that Americans (many of whom were as shocked as I was) would at least have a peek outside their bubbles and try to understand each other, rather than just write all Trump's voters off as racist and sexist. Nevertheless, I did lose a few subscribers that day, not for being overly inclusive, but rather, for calling Trump a fascist. To be fair, I called Clinton a fascist too, so at least it was equal-opportunity offending. And to be absolutely clear, Trump's recent appointments of crony capitalists to the highest ranks of his cabinet have already proven my assessment quite correct. But you just can't please everybody all the time.

The news of Leonard Cohen's death the next day hit me harder, to be honest. He was a huge inspiration to my younger self, moreso than any of the bright lights we've lost this year. Before I'd even heard his music, I'd come across his first three books of poetry in the Sherwood Park library, and they blew my 14 year-old mind. I'd never read anything so simultaneously edgy, racy, and righteously prophetic.

It was a testament to his commitment how long he stayed on the road, and how long he stayed on stage in his shows those last years. With some artistic geniuses, it kills them. For Leonard Cohen, it saved him. And his song "Anthem" became my saving grace in those strange days after the election:

The birds they sang, at the break of day
Start again, I heard them say
Don't dwell on what has passed away
Or what is yet to be
Yeah the wars, they will be fought again
The holy dove, She will be caught again
Bought and sold and bought again
The dove is never free
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in
We asked for signs, the signs were sent
The birth betrayed, the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood of every government
Signs for all to see
I can't run no more with that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places say their prayers out loud
But they've summoned, they've summoned up a thundercloud
And they're going to hear from me

I had a really nice week in Germany and the Netherlands, meeting up with a German gal I'd met in Australia who tattooed "Pass It Along" on her arm(!), playing a couple sweet venues in the tiny Dutch towns of Steendam and Spijkerboor, surprising my Winnipeg pals JD Edwards and Cara Luft (aka The Small Glories) during their show at the historic Taverne De Waag in Haarlem, and doing a wonderful show, organized by a fan I'd never met, at an old monastery in Woerden.

Back in England, I reunited with Jez and Nye to do a sweet Woodburner show in London; play the last foreseeable Sofa Sessions show for a packed house in Kettering; sing for lovely listening audiences in Bath, Priddy, Stroud, and Glastonbury; revisit the wonderful Priston Village Hall; and close things out with a bang for a capacity crowd at the palatial King's Weston House near Bristol, alongside our good friend Nathan Ball. On the last afternoon we sang for the good people crammed into the Square and Compass in Worth Matravers, truly one of the most charming character pubs I've ever seen, then I was off toward Gatwick to spend the night at a hotel before flying to South Africa.

If you're interested, I took some photos along the ramble, and you can have a look here.

En route to South Africa, I had a one-night stopover in Dubai, and enjoyed exploring the city a bit before I had to fly out. There are a few photos from the city, and a bunch from the flight down the length of the African continent. I've never been happier to have a window seat!

I was received in Johannesburg by my long-lost Anglers bandmate Duncan, who informed me that thirteen years had passed since we last parted ways at the end of our Canadian tour. It was hard to believe it'd been so long, but we picked up right where we left off, as you do with good friends. He'd managed to set me up a last-minute show in Joburg, when the fella who was working on his guitar told him he'd lost his headliner for his monthly folk night, and it was a heartwarming welcome to that new land. I spent the next several days hanging with Dunc, seeing some of the sights and enjoying a slower pace for a change, and capped it off with a packed house concert for 65 folks in his studio.

Dunc set me up with a new phone (a gift from his friend) and a rough plan for my travels, and I set off in a rented car, stopping first at Golden Gate National Park and then Nambiti Game Reserve, two mind-meltingly beautiful days that were my first experience of the African countryside. I saw baboons, blesbok, wildebeest, red hartebeest, impala, inyala, kudu, a secretary bird, a black rhino, ostriches, zebra, elephants, buffalo, neon rainbow-coloured locusts, guinea fowl, jackals, hippos, warthogs, giraffes, waterbuck, vultures, and five lions, right up close. Later on in the trip I also saw a mongoose, vervet monkeys, rock hyraxes, and seals.

It wasn't until the I got out into the back country, though, that I really felt like I was seeing Africa. Tiny little villages of mud huts and corrugated tin shacks, women carrying loads on their heads, little kids bathing in streams and waving as I passed, goats everywhere, you know the scene. I drove southwestward through the Transkei, a Bantustan that was granted independence by the Apartheid regime, but wasn't recognized by the rest of the world (as that would mean supporting Apartheid), and has remained largely undeveloped. Dunc had found me a place to stay, but I hadn't really looked into it, or realized just how far off the beaten track it was.

I was way down the back roads before I left the pavement, and must've spent another two hours or more getting lost on broken dirt roads before I ran out of phone reception. The village I was looking for was spelled 'Nqileni', which I had no idea how to pronounce, unaware that the 'q' was actually a post-alveolar click. I drove back to where my phone worked and called the lodge, but was having a hard time understanding the directions. After a while driving in the gathering dark, I ended up talking to a high school kid who offered to show me the way. He hopped in and we started driving, trying our best to make understand each other with his broken English. He asked when I'd be coming back, and I told him it'd be the next day. Apparently having nothing else to do, he asked if he could come along and sleep at the lodge. I told him I really didn't know. After a while he told me we'd already passed his village, and he wanted to go back to his family, so I drove him as far as I could, until the road was impassable from a landslide, and he gave me rough directions to Nquileni. I made it eventually, and was mighty glad for the experience. It had been a while since I'd had that wild feeling of driving deep in the back-country with no cell service, no map, and no local language.

They set me up with a rondavel (a mud hut like the locals live in) and gave me the scoop on the lodge (which was started by a white South African but is now totally owned by the community) and all the good work they've been able to do out of it. Infant mortality, illiteracy, and unemployment in the Transkei are horrible, but they've been able to start a clinic and a school, and support several local micro-enterprise projects. Good people.

From there I made my way down to East London, to stay with my friends Lisa and Morgan, who I hadn't seen since they left Taiwan fourteen years ago, and to meet their 13 and 11 year-old kids. They're next-door neighbours with my dear friend Emma, who's now got a 3 year-old daughter, and lives next door to her parents, who I'd met in Taiwan years ago when they came for the wedding of their son, my Smoking Cones bandmate Dylan. They set up a nice little show in the village hall for friends and family, and we got in some beach time, fine eats, and hangs on the deck before I had to head off toward Cape Town.

In Cape Town I played a heartwarming cafe show, organized by my Taiwan friends Ange and Luke, and stayed with my old Anglers bandmate Darryl, his Canadian wife Kristy, and their two hilarious pugs. They showed me around the area, including a hike up the Lion's Head, and sundowners on the beach every evening. All too soon, though, my time was drawing to a close. On the last day they took me to buy a new mbira from a local craftsman and hear some music in the street before I embarked on the five-flight journey home.

It was just a little taste, but I'm so glad that I had it, and it's whetted my appetite to see more of the continent. South Africa's still getting over its recent, ugly history, and there's a long way to go. The government's unbelievably corrupt at every level, and inequality and race issues are impossible to ignore. It's broken, and dangerous, but incredibly beautiful, and the South African people have a great sense of humour. Finally getting to visit my long-lost friends in their homeland made a lot of sense of things, and also gave me some perspective on all the roads I've travelled since we last parted ways. It's so good to revisit old friends and find the connection still strong. I took some pictures, if you wanna see them.

Well, that's about it for now, friends. Thanks, as always, for reading, and here's wishing you blessings aplenty in the year to come. I'll leave you with my favourite Christmas song, a Dar Williams tune I recorded in a London hotel along my way home just now, wishing for peace on Earth (and around your dinner tables) this holiday season:

"The Christians and the Pagans" (Dar Williams cover)

All my love,

s

Nov 10, 2016: The world's still here! A new fascist in the big chair, another European tour, another marathon ramble-recap

Good day to you, friends, whatever time zone you're in. I woke up in Amsterdam yesterday to the news that Donald Trump's been elected President. I checked outside, though, and it turns out the world's still here. The birds are still singing, the trains are still running, and the struggle goes on like it always has. A lot more on all that later, but for now, at least, the world's still here, and it's still the only one we've got.

It's been three months since I wrote you last, and for that I do apologize. These last months haven't left much leeway for this sort of thing. But yeah, you may want to put a bookmark in this thing somewhere along the way :)

I did touch down back home in Edmonton briefly three weeks ago, just in time for sweet reunions at my good friends Picture the Ocean and Billie Zizi's album releases, a trip up north to play the amazing strawbale hall in Demmitt, and a round of hugs from my people. Before I could settle in, though, I was on a plane to London via Reykjavik, and off around the UK with my tourmate Jez Hellard. We had small crowds at most of the shows, but there were some really special stops among them, including a lovely night at Hop Yard Brewing Co. in Forest Row with a bunch of Small World festival crew, a house concert at Jez' parents' place with our good friend and bona fide magician Nye Parsons on the double bass, and a visit to Scotland for Dougie MacLean's charming Perthshire Amber festival and a heartwarming house concert in Fife with the Letham Nights crew. Autumn was incredibly beautiful up there, with the leaves shimmering gold and a beautiful amber light pouring over everything. On Monday I took a train to Harwich and an overnight boat to Holland for a little go round the continent.

1. The road ahead

The next couple weeks of rambling look like this:

Thu Nov 10 - Bremen, Germany - Paradiso
Fri Nov 11 - Steendam, Netherlands - Podium Cafe Peter en Leni
Sat Nov 12 - Spijkerboor (Drenthe), Netherlands - 't-Keerpunt
Tue Nov 15 - Woerden, Netherlands - Het Klooster
Thu Nov 17 - London - Woodburner with Jez Hellard & Lisa Canny
Fri Nov 18 - Kettering - The Sofa Sessions with Jez Hellard
Sat Nov 19 - Battersea - Lost Horizon Sauna Party at the Magic Garden
Sun Nov 20 - Bath - The Bell Inn with Jez Hellard
Mon Nov 21 - Priddy, Somerset - The Queen Vic with Jez Hellard
Wed Nov 23 - Stroud - The Prince Albert with Jez Hellard
Thu Nov 24 - Glastonbury - Hawthorns Hotel with Jez Hellard
Fri Nov 25 - Priston, Bath - Priston Village Hall with Jez Hellard
Sat Nov 26 - Bristol - Kings Weston House with Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra
Sun Nov 27 - Worth Matravers, Dorset - Square and Compass with Jez Hellard


We're especially keen to bring a crowd out for our November 17th Woodburner show in London (contact Theo at info@woodburnermusic.co.uk for the secret location!) and for our Bristol show, November 26th at Kings Weston House, a restored 18th-century manor house in Shirehampton that I can't believe they're letting us into!

Hugely excited to play with Jez and the Djukella Orchestra in a big, swanky wooden room that rings. For those of you on Facebook, please share and spread the word around!

UK Tour
London show
Bristol show


As usual, all the details for those dates can be found on my news page. As soon as the UK tour's wrapped up, I'll be flying to South Africa, via a couple days' stopover in the UAE. I've never been anywhere in Africa or the Middle East, so I'm really excited to finally be making the trip. I have a bunch of friends in South Africa from my time in Taiwan (including two of my old bandmates from The Anglers), and some of them have kids I haven't met yet.

I'm not really organizing a tour in South Africa, for lack of interest and apparent lack of an English songwritery scene, but I actually feel better about that, with all the friends to visit, new kids to meet, new country to see, and African music to absorb. I would be glad to sing, though, wherever there's folks who want to listen, and I'm willing to play house concerts if someone wants to host. Basically, it'd just be an unamplified performance in your living room, for 20-40 of your friends, by donation. Drop a line to grooverevival@gmail.com if you're keen and I promise I'll do you proud.

I'll be landing back in Alberta on the Solstice, and spending Christmas with my family, as well as playing Penny Malmberg's always-wonderful New Years event at McDougall United Church with the Second Chances. In the new year, we'll be releasing our new CD Further Down the Line with a string of gigs in theatres all around Alberta, including the big hometown event Friday January 27 at the Shell Theatre in Fort Saskatchewan. We're gonna sort out a party bus from Edmonton, so all our local friends can come make a night of it.

In February, I'll be taking the new album to the Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City, and then the Second Chances and I fly to Australia for five weeks touring there. Shortly after that I'll be on a Second Chances tour of Western Canada, and a solo tour down to the Southern States, including another stop at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas, before I make my way back northward for festival season. Come fall I'm still planning to cycle down the west coast, after which I'll likely be doing the rounds of the conferences, making another tour of Australia, and then taking the Second Chances on their first tour of Taiwan.

So yeah, I know I said in the last Travelogue that I'm thinking of settling down. But I've had to confront an uncomfortable reality since then. Whenever I think of finding a place to live, it's always a year away. And it's mostly just a nice fantasy I've been carrying around, of a place where I can stop all this rushing around and learn to sit still. But really, the craziness doesn't come from the road. It comes from inside me. Slowing down is a lesson I've got to learn, not a place I've got to go.

2. Last hurrahs out west

Last I wrote you, dear readers, I was about to head into Edmonton for a farewell show at the Mercury Room alongside the handsome fellas of the Folk Road Show. Little did I know that my friends had been scheming behind my back for several months, on a surprise that was about to be sprung that night. Onstage about halfway through our set, Bram took the mic and told me they had a surprise for me. I turned around and there was a Martin D-28. I was too shocked to cry. Here's Jacquie's Instagram videoof the moment.

My bandmates had been asking me for a while when I was gonna get a new guitar, as my D-15 was cracked in a dozen places, and held together with super glue. The intonation was starting to get really bad, where nothing short of a neck reset would fix it, but I was wary of pouring so much money into a guitar that was in such rough shape already. I'd started looking around, but hadn't yet found the one. Well, actually, I had played one really sweet one, a used D-28 at Acoustic Music Shop in Edmonton. It was the only Martin they had in stock, and it was already on hold for somebody else. My buddy Chris Quesnel was working that day, and he said "why don't you give it a go anyway?" While I was trying it out, he was around the corner texting Jesse Dee, who had put it on hold for me, "He's in here playing it right now!" When I was done, he asked what I thought. "It plays like a dream," I said, "too bad it's already taken. Who's it on hold for, anyway?" "Oh, just some customer." "Just as well," I said, "I probably couldn't afford it anyway."

Over the previous couple months, Melissa and Bram had been collecting donations from loads of my friends and family, and come up with enough for the guitar, with money left over for a pickup. That's how good my people are to me. Jesse called me up about a week before the show, having heard that I'd been looking in earnest, and told to me to wait a bit, 'cause he might have a line on a used D-28. Turns out the line was on me :)

My tears waited 'til the following morning, when I woke up in the van next to the guitar, took it out of the case and let it ring. It's a beauty. It fits my hands just fine, like the song says. But that wasn't what made me cry. It was the card Steve Teeuwsen put together, with the names of all the friends who'd pitched in, and their kind words. What an amazing group of people to be loved by. And to think that I can carry hopes from them! To think that we can change the world with love and song and honesty! And how so many of them reminded me to take good care of myself on the road. Never in my life had I felt more humbled, nor honoured, nor surer of my calling, than that day.

Oh, and I got another birthday present that night, from Sean Vandenbrink of Boots & The Hoots: a tattoo gun! I've been talking about getting into tattooing for a couple years now, and he had a whole kit that he'd never used, so yeah, I'm now equipped to make permanent marks on bodies, for better or worse! I'm gonna start with my own legs, of course; it's only right that I take the first dose of my own medicine.

Here's a little snippet of fun from that show, right after I was given the guitar, that our good friend Radar was prescient enough to catch: "Kitchen Dance Party On"

The next week the Second Chances and I were off to our last fest out west for the summer, via shows at the Valemount Legion and at our friend Glenn's house in Prince George, alongside the mighty Raghu Lokanathan. It was my fifth time at Music on the Mountain (or MoM Festival, as it's now called), and only the seventh year for the fest. The now-legendary first year featured an incredible lineup (Fish + Bird, Fred Eaglesmith, Jesse Dee and Jacquie B, Brian MacMillan, Scotty Dunbar, Faye Blais, Scarlett Jane, Sarah Burton, Diana Catherine, Mason Rack, our new Australian pals Jungal, Aurora Jane, Tim Bennett, and Mal Webb, and many, many more), and a just-as-incredible lack of crowd. It was such a spectacular financial failure that the organizers Lionel and Rosemarie had to re-mortgage their house. But like any of us psychotically unrepentant dreamers would do, rather than give up, they doubled down. And seven years in, the festival seems to have found its stride.

One of the most unique things about the fest this year was the Sorokathon: Grand Forks songwriter Dave Soroka decided he'd try to raise money for the festival by playing a 24-hour set, all originals, with no repeats. People could sign up to pledge any amount per hour that he actually finished. I don't think there are many songwriters in the world with enough material for a 24-hour set. But Dave brought a big stack of printed lyrics, and thumbed his way through the pile, singing song after song for whomever was there, and dropping them into a big box marked "Used" as he went. He still had plenty left over by the end. And these weren't throwaway songs. I came in for a listen Saturday morning, about three-quarters of the way through the thing, and he absolutely killed me with four songs in a row.

Dave had contacted me before the festival, asking me to play guitar for a couple numbers, because he figured his hands might not last the marathon. And I did sit in with him, as did T-rav The Transformer, Sunny Daye, and plenty more folks. But his hands and voice held up, and with a few breaks (which he stopped the clock for, of course), he made it past the 24 hour mark, ending with a half-hour-long Dylanesque rant called "That's the Way the Game is Played". I swore he must've used every possible rhyme with "ade", but afterward he showed me a printed list of words he hadn't used, in hopes that other songwriters would write more verses. That's the kind of guy he is. Anyway, a few of us had already decided to demand an encore, so immediately after the big finish, we started yelling "One more!", "You're lazy!" and so on. And whaddayaknow, having already played twenty-four and a half hours, he didn't even waver, he just launched into another one. That's the kind of guy he is.

One of Dave's steadiest supporters through the Sorokathon was a lady named Edith Wallace, who I'd met last summer at Nimblefingers Bluegrass and Oldtime Music Camp, and who had recently found a new lease on life after leaving a loveless marriage, finding her own voice, and moving into a van just like the young'uns do. She was so inspired by Dave and the whole thing that she wrote a song of her own about it, which she performed in her main stage set on Sunday. And that must've been the sentiment all my stored-up tears had been waiting for, 'cause they sure came rushing out when Edith sang "what the world really needs is one more song." Because it actually does. The world's drowning in bad songs; we need more good ones that float to hang onto.

From MoM Festival it was straight to Edmonton, to drop off the Second Chances and get the van changed back over into a home for one. I had a free night for a farewell party before I left, which Steve Teeuwsen and Zach were kind enough to host in their treed-in back yard. Their spot was the site of many a beautiful campfire, but the province has decided to turn it into parkland, so it was great to enjoy one last hurrah before it lives only in our memories. It was a lovely night, with so many folks I care about gathered around the fire sharing songs and laughs. That right there is home for me.

For some reason, though, rather than shutting it down at a reasonable hour after a sweet night like that, Steve and I stayed up 'til the wee hours drinking whiskey, which made for a hard ride to Dundurn, Saskatchewan the next day. And that seemed to be an omen of how the trip was to continue for the next couple weeks: long, hard drives every day, with all the urgent work left undone and loose ends left untied nipping at my heels along the way, followed by partying too hard, blowing off steam every night, leading to another long, hard drive the following day.

3. Travels eastward

The nights were good all the same, though, and reminded me how many seeds of love have been planted on all the previous, often-lonely journeys across Canada. In Winnipeg, I got to open two shows at the legendary Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club for Jaxon Haldane, lead singer of erstwhile Winnipeg classics The D Rangers, who I finally got to know earlier this year down in Australia. Plenty of old scenesters came out for the early show with kids in tow, and it was a real honour to feel at home in that big family. Jaxon closed out the late show with an unamplified encore, standing on a chair in the middle of the room, including a whistle solo duet with Times bartender and killer drummer Joanna Miller. The crowd still wanted more, so he went back to the stage and rocked a duet of Fred Eaglesmith's "Forty Years of Farming" with Times doorman and killer songwriter Andrew Neville, and it was truly Winnipeg at its best.

The next night I was in Sioux Narrows, Ontario for a sweet house concert organized by my friend Ashley, whose house I'd played at years ago in Kenora. It was an exhibition opening for the lady of the house, Jennifer Swenson, who makes evocative watercolours and multi-media works, and it was classy and sweet. But some of us carried on the local bar afterward, where I got a proper taste of Sioux Narrows on a Saturday night: hunting-lodge decor, a DJ spinning dance tracks, and Anishinaabe girls getting down. One fella who'd been at the house concert was there, sporting a Donald Trump "Make America Great Again" hat, which I just assumed he was wearing ironically, 'cause who in their right mind would seriously wear a thing like that, right?!? But after talking for a while I realized he wasn't joking. And that's when I made up my mind that I had to have that hat. Mostly just so he'd never wear it again, but also for the comedic potential.

It ended up involving hours of negotiation, with invaluable help from Ashley, but I finally got the hat, on the condition that I wouldn't deface it, and that I'd write something suitably ecumenical about the whole incident; something about how not everyone who disagrees with you politically is just ignorant and evil. I figured I'd do it in the next couple days, but as I mentioned, my rides were long every day, my late-night decisions were often poor, and I was barely keeping the show on the road. On top of that, the news reports over the radio were making it harder and harder to see how anyone who wasn't a total asshole could support that pig. But I've thought long and hard about it over the last couple months, especially today, and I'm finally going to deliver on that promise at the end of this email.

Next stop was Thunder Bay, where I played the Apollo, one of Canada's longest-running rooms, which most everyone who's taken up the stupid habit of touring coast-to-coast across our sparsely-populated country has played at least once. The owner Sheila took care of me on my first time through, back in 2008, when I played for a crowd of three people and slept upstairs, and I've never played anywhere else in T-Bay since. I usually prefer to tour across the Midwestern States rather than Northern Ontario, barren as it is, but every now and then I stop in for a show. Sheila's fallen on rough times of late, business-wise and health-wise, and I arrived to find them with no power in the building. But the show must go on, as they say, and it did, with a roomful of candles, beer on ice in a cooler, and a battery-powered record player for the intermission.

Then it was onward and eastward to Wawa, where I did a house concert for a young fella named Kjell. He and his friends, who were the opening act (Smokies and The Bear), had seen me years ago at another Wawa house concert, and rolled out Wawa's warmest welcome for this weary traveler. Sharing the show was something of a dream come true for them, just as they're about to embark on their first tour, and that in itself was a big honour for me. I stayed up late partying with the kids, dug the starry skies, and felt my way back to the newness of this old world.

The big gig I'd been rushing eastward for was Shelter Valley Folk Festival, a hilltop beauty on a lavender farm in Grafton, Ontario that I'd first dropped into on a Sunday back in 2005, as Raghu Lokanathan's guest. Raghu had stayed up into the wee hours the night before, swapping songs with the folks, and told me that I must check out a fella named Jonathan Byrd. Predictably, he blew my mind, as did Aengus Finnan, who I heard for the first time there too. Jonathan offered some valuable perspective on the road forward when we were talking shop backstage, about turning down work that won't pay your minimum fee, which was a totally foreign concept to me then. I could only dream of getting a gig like that someday.

This year I finally made it, and among good friends, no less. Corin Raymond, Irish Mythen, Kaia Kater, our friend Noosa aka Winona Wilde, David Ross Macdonald, Brian MacMillan, the Lonesome Ace Stringband, and many more talented folks were there, and we swapped songs and drinks and laughed 'til our sides hurt. They humbled and honoured me with the last set on main stage on Sunday. Afterward they fed us a great dinner, complete with tinfoil-wrapped hot potatoes that everyone was carrying in their pockets to stay warm. Oh, and we talked the funniest talk. And Corin Raymond's working on a tune about a couple overeatering desperados called "Paunchy and Hefty". You heard it here.

After a Monday in a hotel to recuperate, I headed to Toronto for the first of three Tuesdays at the Cameron House. Brian Kobayakawa and Scott Galloway played bass and keys, Winona Wilde was our special guest, and a whole bunch of Shelter Valley friends were on hand to make a big ol' reunion out of it. Corin was out, and convinced me to stick around for Run With the Kittens, who somehow managed to roll everything awesome about 90s music up in punk rock and light it! Needless to say, another late night.

The next day I headed out for a string of gigs around Ontario, alongside Anthony Damiao, David Ross MacDonald, and Winona Wilde. I got back into Toronto in time to sing for a Unitarian Universalist service, and sing a few more in the basement of my friends Faye and Vic's bar, Wenona Craft Beer Lodge, back alongside the handsome fellas of The Folk Road Show.

The following Tuesday I was joined at the Cameron House by Brian and Scott, who were again such a pleasure to play with, and Sarah Jane Scouten, who writes great songs and delivers 'em with panache. After the show, Noosa and I drove out to Sarnia, so we'd be in a good spot to cross the border the next day and make it up to my house concert in Petoskey, Michigan. I often have hassles at the border, so we talked through some of what we might say if it came to the whole asking-us-questions-in-different-rooms kinda schtick along the way. But that morning, Noosa put on some lip gloss and a nice pink sweater that covered her tattoos, and we combined our Jedi powers with her mom's prayers to Allah (which Noosa reckons are just magic by another name), and whaddayaknow, we sailed through the border with a smile! She might actually be a good luck charm. I was flooded with memories of family road trips gone by when we got out at the first roadside rest stop and smelled the air. And beyond stoked to be able to introduce Noosa and Michigan to each other.

I've gotta take a moment here to aquaint those readers who don't know Noosa (aka Winona Wilde) with a figure who'll undoubtedly appear in many Travelogues to come. We met last summer, when we shared a campsite at Nimblefingers in Sorrento, BC. Corin had already given me the heads up, having heard her songs at the ArtsWells festival a couple weeks before, and as usual, his judgement's right on the money; her songs are funny, sad, and undeniably good. She'd been lingering in obscurity for years, singing country songs for drunks, but since last year she's taken the tiger by the tail, and even showcased to a capacity crowd at the Folk Music Ontario conference just now.

I was thankful for Noosa's company when we paid a visit to my my dad's mom, who's moved into a care home, and is gradually sliding into the fog of Alzheimer's. She didn't recognize me at first, and barely understood anything we said, but Noosa managed to get us all laughing together, and it was wonderful to be with Grandma in that childlike space, where the details may be ungraspable, but the now's right here. She gave us a tour of pretty much everything in her room, including every article of clothing in her closet, saying things like "This is when it was raining" when showing us her raincoat, and life stretched out forever in a sad and beautiful way.

I had Noosa sing a couple tunes at both of my Michigan house concerts, and during my set at Earthwork Harvest Gathering, and she absolutely slayed it everywhere. We had a gas at Earthwork, hanging with my family, jamming with our folksinging friends Heather Styka, Eric Nassau and Caroline Barlow, drinking Budweiser (which has been renamed "America" for the election season), and riffing on Donald Trump's slogan, with gems like "Make America Twerk Again", "Bake America Cake Again", "Make America Great For a Change", and Noosa's favourite, "Pee America Poo Again". On the Monday night we hung around and swapped songs around the piano in the barn, and I was ever so grateful to see faraway corners of my life coming together.


Noosa at Earthwork Harvest Gathering, drinking America great again!

Here's one she sang at the Earthwork farm, which feels like the timeliest of tunes right now: "Pop and Chips for the Apocalypse"

From Michigan we were straight back to Toronto just in time for the last of my three Tuesdays, this time with Nigel Hebblewhite of Run With the Kittens filling in on bass, and David Newberry as our special guest. He'd broken his hand recently, so his friend Brin Bessie played the electric guitar while Dave animated the songs ably in spite of having one arm in a sling.

I drove out that night, slept in a truck stop along the 401, and carried on to Montreal the next day. I'd had a feeling for a while that I was playing it pretty close to the line, and indeed, it caught up with me that night, sniffles and coughing and all. I pushed through it for the audience of a dozen or so at Le Cagibi, alongside a great young Edmonton songwriter named Eva Foote, and was pretty much over it by the weekend, in time for the Deep Roots Music Festival in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. It was another dream come true for me to finally play that festival, which I'd first dropped into back in 2005, on that first disastrous tour across Canada. I'd played the night before at Union Street Cafe in Berwick, one of the few proper shows of the tour, and they'd offered me the room upstairs, with the proviso that the bed hadn't been changed since legendary Toronto songwriter Bob Snider slept in it the night before. Well, there must've been some kinda mojo in that room, 'cause I sat by the window and came up with a guitar bit that became the title track to my 2007 album Long Way to Wander. The next day I got to see Bob talking about songwriting in the Convocation Hall at the festival, and left feeling mightily inspired, both about songs and about the dream of playing the festival someday.

I played the pub on Friday night, and several other stages through the weekend, but on Sunday they had me play next to last in the big theatre. I can't emphasize enough what an honour it is to be trusted with an audience like that at a time like that. The feeling was only amplified by the fact that my old Taiwan friends Katie and Shali (along with Shal's hubby Steve Gates and their two kids) were all in the audience.

I made my way back Stateside via a lovely Music Runs Through It show in Fredericton, and spent a few days on the Eastern Seaboard, with a couple little shows in Boston and Philadelphia that reminded me of the kind of touring I used to do. It still seems that everywhere I go, I've gotta start from scratch, which makes me all the more grateful for the full-grown flowers of the seeds I planted long ago.

It was pretty much a straight shot westward after that, with a few stops along the way: in Fort Wayne, Indiana to see May Erlewine, Lindsay Lou, and Rachel Davis' group The Sweet Water Warblers; in Cross Village, Michigan to see Seth Bernard's killer trio at the amazing Legs Inn; in Mackinaw City for another visit to my grandma; in Munising, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, for a show at Falling Rock Bookstore and a walk in the fall colours; and in Duluth, Minnesota, for a sparsely-attended but nonetheless lovely show with my Taiwan buddy Paul Lawrence. From there I just drove for four days straight, gathering autumn leaves along the way for the new album booklet, through a snowstorm in North Dakota, up into the high country in Montana, over the Great Divide and down into the rainforest of the Pacific Northwest.

I knew I was seriously road-tired when I arrived at the FAR-West conference in Seattle, and the one thing I was ecstatically excited about was the thought of staying in the same hotel room for three nights in a row. Seriously. I played for almost no one at two showcases in a row on Thursday night, and asked myself again why any of us were there. But thankfully I found a potty-mouthed Canadian named Carolyn Mill and her fella Reid Jamieson who served me "Canuck-tails" (rye & maple syrup on the rocks), and soon enough my new friend Robert Sarazin Blake showed up, and we were laughing and life was making sense.

I had an official showcase Friday night, and finally got to introduce myself to everybody at once, which is kind of the point of these conferences. I'm just following up now, but it's looking like the connections have been made to make sense of that bike trip down the coast in the fall.

On Saturday, they gave "Best of the West" awards to Peter McCracken of the Centrum Foundation, whose acceptance speech was very short, but contained two bits of hard-won wisdom from his many years of organizing, teaching, promoting, and preserving the folk music tradition: "The bigger the mistake, the longer the memory," and "You can't just squirt a little vinegar on a cucumber and call it a pickle." The other award went to Danny O'Keefe, who wrote "Goodtime Charlie's Got the Blues", and has been covered by the likes of Jackson Browne, Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell, John Denver, Jerry Lee Lewis, Judy Collins, Leon Russell, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jimmy Buffett, Alison Krauss, Ben Harper... you get the point. His speech, interspersed with songs, had me and plenty of other folks in tears.

I went to hear him give a talk on songwriting afterward, and at the end he played a song called "Old Dog", from the perspective of an abandoned dog: "the man in the pickup was the one who brought me here / to this place that always smells of medicine and fear... And the wolf who lives within me, is howling at the moon / I know you don't believe me, they never meant to leave me / they'll be coming for me soon". The whole room was crying openly. I've never seen anyone do that with a song. I choked up even trying to tell people about it afterward. Wow. Again, I felt more committed than ever, to the art form and its power. It can truly open hearts. And hearts need opening, maybe more than ever.

At a time like this, when the worse of the two fascists-on-offer has clinched the Presidency, and the country seems more polarized than ever, I'm grateful that I get to sing. I'm grateful that songs can work on hearts in ways that slogans and arguments never could.

4. All you fascists bound to lose! But maybe not today.

So yeah, the election. At least that's over. As long-term readers of this Travelogue know, I was hugely inspired by the prospect of Bernie Sanders' candidacy, and hugely disappointed, but not surprised, to see how low the Democratic National Convention (in coordination with Clinton's campaign) was willing to stoop to prevent him from winning. Some of my radical and anarchist friends questioned my wholehearted support for Sanders, who despite being the best major-party candidate we've seen in forever, still voted for the war in Afghanistan, soft-pedalled the audit of the Federal Reserve, and falls far short of the kind of revolutionary politics we need. But I've become more of a realist as life goes on. Sometimes you just take what you can get. Bernie conceded defeat and went on to hammering out the details of the Democratic platform. And while the larger aims of the military-industrial-financial complex aren't in question among either major party, other issues are legitimately in play, and progress on them is preferable to moving backward. Which is why I, like Bernie, was hoping for a Clinton presidency, despite my deep misgivings about her.

Let me unpack what I mean a little, and I hope my friends on the right will stay with me. Typically, the issues we get to vote on are "wedge" issues--the kind that split the electorate down the middle. I'm talking about abortion rights, access to contraception, gay marriage, gun control, and whether we can say "Merry Christmas" anymore. The clash between left and right on these issues is what we call the culture war.

The stuff we don't get to vote on are things like support for multi-national trade deals like NAFTA (which really did screw Middle America) and the TPP, bailouts rather than prosecution for the criminals on Wall Street, funding for the military-prison-industrial complex, continual war, warrantless surveillance, and so on.

Electing a black president was a victory in the culture war. It meant that the country was (mostly) growing up, to the point where a black man could sit in the White House. Some folks couldn't stomach that fact, but his election to a second term was an undeniable statement that their America was a relic of history. Obama also came out in support of gay marriage, which cost him nothing politically, but again, was a tangible sign of how the country has changed.

On the other scorecard, very little changed. We're still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we're still in bed with the Saudis (the world's prime exporter of Islamic fanaticism), we've still got Guantanamo Bay, oil companies trampling on Native rights, impunity for the fraudsters on Wall Street, a ballooning surveillance state, for-profit prisons, militarized police, and extrajudicial execution by drones. Obama has prosecuted more whistle-blowers under the espionage act than all past presidents combined. He's also deported more people than any past president, a fact the right don't like to mention very often.

Remember George W. Bush? What a dick. He talked like a dick, and walked like a dick. He bragged about opening a can of whoop-ass on the world. A lot of people woke up during the Bush years. But Obama's presidency seemed to lull many liberals back to sleep. We've got our guy in there, right? He's good on gay marriage, good on reproductive rights, and so on. As in, he's on our side in the culture war.

Same goes for Canada's new prime minister, Justin Trudeau. I expect very little in the way of real change from him, but the optics are just so much more pleasing to our eyes on the left. He appointed a gender-balanced, diverse cabinet. He talks like he's educated, and hip. He isn't friends with Nickelback. You get what I mean. But in a deeper way, the new boss is just like the old boss.

Americans have a serious hate on for the bosses these days. They hate Washington, the duplicity, the politricks. Along comes a guy like Bernie Sanders, who promises to scrap the TPP, rein in Wall Street corruption, get money out of politics, legalize pot, and find an alternative to endless war. The Democrats pulled every trick in the book to stop him from being the nominee, and succeeded. They weren't interested in the kind of change Bernie was talking about, and neither were their friends in the financial and pharmaceutical sectors. Hillary's safe for them. She's cozy with Wall Street, never met a trade deal she didn't like, and only turned against the TPP to try and outflank Sanders.

Rust belters who used to have jobs in the manufacturing sector are rightly angry at her and the policies she represents, just like the simmering anger in post-industrial England that gave rise to Brexit. Most unforgivably, Clinton (like Trump, despite his recent denials) supported the Iraq war, which she now calls a mistake. For those of us who were against that war from the beginning, it's really hard to see how it could've been a mistake. She undoubtedly had access to more information than we did. And we could see plain as day what a con it was from where we were.

With an electorate so fed up with the establishment, it isn't hard to see how Trump could cherry-pick the bits of Bernie's platform that are undoubtedly working, on the one hand, while refusing to disavow (and often actively courting) the support of white supremacists, Alex Jones and Breitbart wingnuts, and whoever else might vote for him, on the other, to win the election.

Michael Moore called it back in July, in his article "Five Reasons Why Trump Will Win. Seriously, have a read if you're having trouble comprehending this thing.

Most likely, the hawks backstage will keep running the show much as they have. The real power isn't in the Presidency, that's just the face it uses to talk to us. I get why people want to shake things up by electing a self-made man (despite the fact that he's not) who can say he isn't beholden to those powers. I just don't get why anyone expects a serial liar, fraudster and egomaniac to change what's obviously a very profitable arrangement.

I'm pretty sure Hillary would've found a way to start another war. The ones we've got going so far are gifts that keep on giving, pumping money through the machine with no sign of slowing. I have no idea what Trump'll do. He probably doesn't either. And while I'm seriously worried about the prospect of such a harsh, vindictive egomaniac destroying the world rage-texting with the nuclear codes, I'm not even sure the president really can launch the nukes. I'm not sure of anything.

Actually, I am sure of one thing, and that is the only way to stop terrorism is to stop making people want to kill us all. "No fly zones" and "surgical strikes" are bullshit. And most everyone we've made war on in the last few decades has been a former asset of ours. Seriously, give this a read if you think we're on the side of the good guys.

At the very least, I just hope this election result wakes up the nation, and especially the Democratic Party. There are genuine progressives in the Democratic fold, but they've been sidelined for decades. And only a genuine popular movement like Bernie built will bring them back.

Back to the ol' culture war scorecard for a second, though. Unknowables aside, that's where Trump's win undoubtedly matters. He'll appoint a Supreme Court justice or two, and the Republicans who are currently complaining about activist judges will be elated to see the judiciary furthering their own activist agenda. The big executive decisions will probably be made by Trump's advisors (let's be honest, he's a G.W. Bush-level intellect), but I expect they'll do whatever they can to roll back LGBTQ rights, reproductive choice, and the whole terrorists-shouldn't-be-allowed-to-buy-assault-rifles line of talk. Now that Republicans also control the House and Senate, I expect to see the trend toward privatization and free-market-worship carry on apace, in a fire-sale of public assets. More importantly, though, Trump's win emboldens those folks who fondly remember an America where a man could say whatever he wanted about foreigners, Muslims, women, gays, and trans people, and get away with it. He scored like that. He advocated religious tests for immigrants. He bragged about sexual assault. He dialled the conversational clock back decades.

He talks at an elementary-school level, but he was cunningly clever in that regard. He successfully mobilized racist, nativist, mysognistic, xenophobic, and whacko folks to vote. But what I couldn't stomach, all through this process, was the oft-repeated suggestion that anyone who's voting for him must be all of those things. I have family members and friends who were pulling for Trump. The common liberal response is sickeningly smug: anyone who supports a racist and a misogynist is therefore also a racist and misogynist. End of conversation. Block and unfriend! As if a vote against one were a wholesale endorsement of the other. And as if the old left vs. right culture war were all that mattered.

What liberals seem unable to bring themselves to admit is that the right is sometimes right. Political correctness really can be overdone. Clinton really is a warmonger and a liar. Obamacare really is a mess. And the mainstream media really did collude with the Clinton campaign. The refusal to acknowledge any of our potential points of agreement is what's made dialogue impossible between ordinary people on both sides of the fence, who actually share more common interests than they realize.

Remember All in the Family? Remember Archie Bunker, that loveable bigot? Remember the theme song?

Boy, the way Glen Miller played
Songs that made the hit parade.
Guys like us we had it made,
Those were the days.

And you knew who you were then,
Girls were girls and men were men,
Mister we could use a man
Like Herbert Hoover again.

Didn't need no welfare state,
Everybody pulled his weight.
Gee, our old LaSalle ran great
Those were the days.

Well, I know some people like Archie. Dean Hager, the fella who gave me the Make America Great Again hat, is a loveable guy. He's misinformed, in my opinion, but at least he's honest. He tells it like he sees it and doesn't get upset if you disagree. He's willing to talk things through, and I'm pretty sure he won't unfriend me over this post.

That an unhinged, pussy-grabbing conman could represent the last hope for tens of millions of working Americans is a pretty clear sign that the system's broken. But it doesn't mean that all his supporters are racist idiots, as the liberal media keeps repeating.

Surprisingly, his election's had an invigorating effect on me, like the Bush wins did. There's a lot of work to be done. And while I have mixed feelings about Michael Moore's often manipulative and loose-with-the-facts style, he's laid out a pretty good plan for the way forward here.

The struggle for a better world is as old as the world itself, and it won't ever be done. But the way forward involves building bridges of inclusion, even if that means gritting our teeth once in a while. People don't change their mind or come to recognize their privilege by being shouted at. They come around by having friends who are different from them. Keep your ears open to both sides. Don't reflexively defend your own side, exaggerate its victories, or underestimate the cunning and resolve of the powers that be. Remember that change is incremental, and that we all carry both sides of everything inside ourselves.

I'm gonna leave it there, friends. One last item of business, though: since a ton of people have been telling me to get on board the Instagram bandwagon, I finally did. Somehow I managed to get 250 followers before I'd posted a single picture! But I've finally figured out how to use the thing, and if you wanna see some snaps as I go, you can follow me here.

Those of you who've been following this Travelogue for a while will know that Aftergrams tend to be more my style, often WAAAY after the fact. Well, if you're into that sort of thing, here are a bunch of random shots from the loooong summer wander.

I'm finishing this from a hotel in Bremen, Germany, where I'm about to get dressed up to go sing songs for people. And I'm sending you all my love from here. Keep your fire lit, and hold it high. In solidarity,

s


August 10, 2016: A new CD in the works, a brand new video, and an update from another relentless summer

Howdy good people,

I trust this finds you flourishing, wherever it finds you. As is often the case in summertime, I've been way too busy living to get around to writing about it. But while I'm home in Edmonton, and again nearing the doorstep of the road, I figure this is the best chance I'll get. It's been over two months, so there's a lot to tell.

We do have one more Edmonton show before we go, tonight at the Mercury Room, and I imagine it'll be our last until next summer. The Second Chances and I are opening for an international supergroup of sorts called The Folk Road Show, which consists of our Australian buddy Benjamin James Caldwell, Canada's Dominique Fricot and Nick Petrowich, and Olaf Caarls and Pieter Van Vliet from the Netherlands. I've heard rave reviews about this show, and I'm really looking forward to sharing the stage with these guys. They'll kick things off at 8:30 with two songs each, then we'll play a set of our own at 9:30, before the Road Show finishes out the night.

Next week the Second Chances and I are heading out to BC for one last fest out west, MoM Festival in Fort St. James. As always, loads of our friends are on the bill, including the Party on High Street, Billie Zizi, Wax Mannequin, Twin Peaks, Raghu Lokanathan, Joey Onley, Doug Koyama, Joline Baylis, our Aussie buddy Tim Bennett, and a little punk band you might have heard of called D.O.A. It'll be great to shake it one last time with everybody before the show must go on eastward. I'll be making that trip alone, out to Ontario, down to Michigan, out to Nova Scotia, down to the eastern States, back across to Seattle, and back home for a brief visit at the end of October.

Thu Aug 11 - Edmonton, AB - Opening for Folk Road Show at Mercury Room with the 2nd Chances
Wed Aug 17 - Valemount, BC - Royal Canadian Legion with the Second Chances
Thu Aug 18 - Prince George, BC - Backyard concert with the 2nd Chances and Raghu Lokanathan
Fri-Sun Aug 19-21 - Fort St. James, BC - MoM Festival with the Second Chances
Thu Aug 25 - Saskatoon, SK - LOOKING FOR A SHOW
Fri Aug 26 - Winnipeg, MB - Times Change(d), opening for Jaxon Haldane's trio, 7pm and 10pm
Sat Aug 27 - Sioux Narrows, ON - Vilij Well
Sun Aug 28 - Thunder Bay, ON - The Apollo
Wed Aug 31 - Sault Ste. Marie, ON - Loplop's with Trevor Tchir opening
Thu Sep 1 - Sudbury, ON - House concert SOLD OUT
Fri-Sun - Sept 2-4 - Grafton, ON - Shelter Valley Folk Festival
Tue Sep 6 - Toronto, ON - Week 1 of residency with Brian Kobayakawa and Scott Galloway plus special guest Winona Wilde
Wed Sep 7 - Guelph, ON - The Cornerstone with Anthony Damiao
Thu Sep 8 - Peterborough, ON - BE Catering with David Ross MacDonald
Fri Sep 9 - Ottawa, ON - House Concert with David Ross MacDonald
Sat Sep 10 - Thornhill, ON - AUER-House Concert
Sun Sep 11 - Don Heights, ON - Don Heights Unitarian Congregation
Tue Sep 13 - Toronto, ON - Week 2 of residency with Brian Kobayakawa and Scott Galloway plus special guest Sarah Jane Scouten
Thu Sep 15 - Rapid City, MI - Saunders house concert with Medicine Bell Trio opening
Fri-Sun Sep 16-18 - Lake City, MI - Earthwork Harvest Gathering
Tue Sep 20 - Toronto, ON - Week 3 of residency with Brian Kobayakawa and Scott Galloway plus special guest David Newberry
Wed Sep 21 - Montreal, QC - LOOKING FOR A SHOW
Fri-Sun Sep 23-25 - Wolfville, NS - Deep Roots Music Festival
Thu Sep 29 - Fredericton, NB - Music Runs Through It concert at Corked Wine Bar
Sun Oct 2 - Boston, MA - Lantern Sessions in the Backroom at The Burren
Wed Oct 5 - Philadelphia, PA - Open mic feature at Burlap and Bean
Thu-Sun Oct 13-16 - Bellevue, WA - Official showcase at the FAR-West conference

All the details, as always, are on http://www.scottcook.net/news.php. I'm all ears for ideas of shows to fill in the gaps in the schedule, of course. And as I always say, don't be shy of the house concerts! You'll have a great night out, and you'll meet some new friends. You just need to email the host if you wanna come.

In October I'll be making a quick trip up to the Peace country with the Second Chances, then I'm flying across the pond for a tour of the UK with Jez Hellard, a few solo dates in Europe, and a month in South Africa. That's right, it's finally happening. I've wanted to visit Africa for years, ever since I left Taiwan, and at last it's actually on. It's not so much a tour per se, more just a visit, to see my long-lost friends, meet the new children in their families, explore that beautiful country, and soak up some music in the place where music came from.

I'll be home for Christmas and New Years, then setting out with the Second Chances for a bunch of CD release shows in theatres around Alberta. That's right, the new album's coming out in style in January! For the Edmontonians reading, the closest we'll get is the lovely Shell Theatre in Fort Saskatchewan, Friday January 27th. Don't you worry, we're gonna hire a party bus to take folks out there and back.

In February I'm gonna take the new album down to Kansas City for Folk Alliance International, and at the end of the month The Second Chances and I will be touring the new album around Australia. I can't wait to show Bram and Melissa around, and to bring these new songs to the people there.

I've been working on edits for the album these past couple days, and it's really exciting to hear it coming together. We did the bulk of the recording in July, over four days and nights at our buddy Adam Iredale-Gray's place on Mayne Island, BC. For those of you who've been out that way, when you're taking the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, there's a point where you pass between two islands, and the ship's horn sounds. That's called Active Pass. Galliano Island is the one on your right, and Mayne's the one on your left. Fiddle Head Studios is set up in Adam's family's old house, just five minutes' walk from the ocean, and has already turned out records for his band Fish + Bird and plenty other acts. It's also the site for their well-loved Campbell Bay Music Festival. His girlfriend and Aerialists bandmate Elise Bouer, his sister Meg O'Mally, their mom, our folksinging pal Jenny Ritter and her mom, and our fellow Long Weekends Matt Blackie and Dana Wylie all visited during that time, along with two hilarious dogs, and an unending parade of deer across the yard. We cooked communal meals in the kitchen, went for walks, swam in the ocean, practiced yoga, listened to records, played music in the yard, and marvelled at the ease of creating music in a place like that.

The album should be released in January or so, on both CD and vinyl, but of course you faithful readers will have a chance to get your ears on it earlier if you so desire. I've set up a Kapipal page for pre-orders, right here.

I can't tell you how excited I am to get these new songs out into the world! I think it's my best writing so far, and the most topical as well. The album's gonna be called Further Down the Line, and for those who'd like a preview, here's a video of the title track, shot by my friend Damon Smith while I was in Australia:

Further Down the Line

Now, what about that relentless summer that's been keeping me so busy? I sure can't tell you all of it, dear readers. I don't wanna test your already formidable patience. But I'll try to cover the highlights.

Last I wrote you, I'd been living in Vancouver for the month of May, and was once again readying myself to hit the road. As I said, it's been pretty all-consuming since then, but it's been incredibly kind. Unbelievably, undeservedly kind.

First off, my upright bass-playing friend Shari Rae flew out to meet me in Victoria, and we took the ferry across to Port Angeles, Washington for the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts. I actually had to run for the ferry, after arriving late and then being unable to find a parking spot nearby, but once again, that crossing had the nicest American border guards you could ever hope to find, and they let me on the boat, frazzled and gasping for breath. Notwithstanding all the bad news we've heard lately, there really are good people in uniform out there.

The festival was great, as always, and we had two lovely shows in the theatre and the Elks lodge. Our billet host loaned us her truck too, and we took it for a drive westward along the northern coast of the Olympic Peninsula. On a hike through the sun-flecked rainforest, I mentioned to Shari that I'd dreamed of riding my bicycle from Edmonton to Vancouver and down the west coast to San Francisco since I was in high school, and she confronted me with that often-unasked but powerful question: what's stopping you? I couldn't think of any good reason. Back then, it was lack of money. But nowadays, I can make money by singing along the way. The only reason left was the other things I could be doing, most of which were work opportunities, and none of which were tugging at my heart like the thought of a bike ride through the redwoods. So I decided then and there that as soon as scheduling allows, I'll be setting out from home on a bicycle bound for San Francisco.

We did a string of dates on the islands after that, including a lovely stop at the Victoria Folk Music Society, Shari's first visits to gorgeous Salt Spring and Gabriola islands, and a nice reunion with long-lost friends at the Elevate Arts Festival in the Comox Valley, where I'm seriously considering finding a place to live in the year to come. That's right, friends, all that talk about slowing down and devoting more time to practice isn't just fantasizing. It will have been ten years without a home by then, and I think it's time for another chapter of life.

As often happens, the most lucrative show of the tour wasn't at a public venue but rather a private house, in our friend Elissa's yard in Prince George, BC. There were about sixty well-dressed, mostly older folks there, and Shari wore a nice summer dress to suit the scene. Elissa's dog Finn, a big golden retriever, had been having the best day ever, greeting all the guests and getting lots of pats. When I introduced a new song called "Dogs and Kids", I decided to dedicate it to him. He was visibly excited to hear his name called in front of everybody. But once we kicked into the song, he expressed his excitement the only way he knew how, by attempting to mount Shari while she had her hands occupied with the upright bass. It was too much. We had to stop the song to laugh. And again, later, as the song unfolded and the lines took on new meaning in the light of what had just happened. I didn't even see it coming, but Shari did, in the second verse, when I sang "chasing and sniffing and eating's all they're on about / they don't complicate their blues, they just moan / they don't think much about themselves, they just freak out / if they got a bone to pick with you, it's probably just a bone".

From there we went to Wells, to reunite with a whole bunch of folks I wouldn't get to see on account of missing Artswells this year, and to play in my favourite venue there, the tiny old church known as the Tempest Stage. At the end of the set, as we sang "Talkin' Anthropocalypse Blues", a thunderstorm of truly apocalyptic proportions barrelled in. "So it begins!" I shouted, as the lightning flashed and the windows shook. We ended up hiding out in the entryway, drinking donated wine for hours, until the storm let up enough for us to walk to the pub.

We made our way from Wells to the Kootenays via a lovely stop in Salmon Arm, where our friend Ted Crouch has been organizing shows in the old auto shop of a now-defunct Canadian Tire store. Once again, I thought I'd played every kind of place, and I was wrong.

The last stop of Shari's and my tour was the Tiny Lights Festival in Ymir, BC, a gem of a festival in a tiny mountain town just south of Nelson. It's the younger sister fest of Artswells, and like that one, the performances take place in a variety of mostly indoor, often unamplified venues around the town. Loads of our friends were there, including Jez Hellard and the Djukella Orchestra, all the way from England for their first Canadian festival, and our buddies Scotty Dunbar and Winona Wilde, neither of whom had the gig, but both of whom put in surprise appearances and even graced the stage with us.

We skipped out of the Sunday night party (can't tell you how hard that was for consummate Sunday-night partiers like us) to start the drive back to Calgary for Shari's work on Monday afternoon. I dropped her off and drove back to Edmonton, feeling a bit dazed on arrival. It had been six and a half months since I saw the old place. Things looked pretty much the same, at first glance. Of course, there was green back in the grass that had been snow-covered when I left. There were a few new storefronts, new construction sites, and a new internet password at my folks' place. But behind the scenes, time had been at her steady, unforgiving work. Back when I left, the world still had David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Prince, Guy Clark, and Muhammed Ali. I'd even lost an aunt and two friends since I left, the most recent of which, my friend Justin, took his own life that Saturday night in Taiwan while we were revelling at Tiny Lights. Forty-nine more souls were snuffed out by one man's bigotry and religious delusion in Orlando that same night. I could easily have done it to myself with a microsleep behind the wheel on that long road home. None of us can dodge death forever. But as I was reminded at Tiny Lights, there's so much we can do with what time we have left. We can say what's in our hearts. We can love one another fearlessly. We can live while we're alive. Shane Koyczan brought me to tears talking about it on Saturday:

Pinned To The Dish, by Shane Koyczan

You're dying. Don't panic. You are only dying. You're not dead.

Back when I left, the thought of Donald Trump becoming president was unbelievable. But back when I left, my friend Tigi and my bandmate Jacquie B didn't have babies in their bellies either. My friends Sahana and Jess and Amanda didn't have new ones out in the world. Two days later I was headed up to the 38th Annual North Country Fair for the big reunion. It was my twentieth or so Fair, and my twelfth as a performer. The site's changed over the years, and we have too. We've got grey hairs, some of us have kids, and some of us are the kind of gone that doesn't come back. But the love's still with us, and there's enough to go around.

Buffy Sainte-Marie came to the Fair for her first time that weekend, looking incredibly spry at 75 years of age. Our buddy Fish Griwkowsky wrote an article about her appearance for the Edmonton Journal, which included a borderline-slanderous reference to me as a "roving night panther", whatever that means (http://edmontonjournal.com/entertainment/music/buffy-sainte-marie-adding-spirit-to-north-country-fair). Needless to say, we had plenty of laughs about that. But the tears flowed for me on Friday, when I got to hear her play for the first time, alone on main stage in front of a rapt audience. She sang her hit "Universal Soldier", from her 1964 debut album, pausing to speak potent lines like "without him Caesar would have stood alone", like we were hearing it for the first time. Truly, many of us were. She also played a new song called "Carry It On", which she introduced by saying the lyric aloud:

Hold your head up
Lift the top of your mind
Put your eyes on the Earth
Lift your heart to your own home planet
What do you see?
What is your attitude
Are you here to improve or damn it?
Look right now and you will see
We’re only here by the skin of our teeth as it is
So take heart and take care of your link with Life and
Carry it on, we’re saying
Carry it on, keep playing
Carry it on, and praying
It ain’t money that makes the world go round
That’s only temporary confusion
It ain’t governments that make the people strong
It’s the opposite illusion
Look right now and you will see
They’re only here by the skin of our teeth as it is
So take heart and take care of your link with Life
Look right now and you will see
We’re only here by the skin of our teeth as it is
So take heart and take care of your link with
Life is beautiful if you got the sense to take care of your source of perfection
Mother Nature, She’s the daughter of God and the source of all protection
Look right now and you will see she’s only here by the skin of her teeth as it is
So take heart and take care of your link with Life


So much wisdom in that message, a truth she's been speaking for sixty years, and one that she feels strongly enough to just keep repeating. Like Pete Seeger did. Like MLK did. Like so many did, when they were sure of it, when they knew they just had to keep saying it for as long as they could.

Despite my best intentions not to drink too much at the Fair, I ended up overdoing it on the Sunday, crashing early, and contending with a now-familiar anxiety on the Monday when I was trying to leave. It was another sobering reminder that I can't drink for days on end anymore, if I ever could. I start to lose my link with Life. And I'm just here by the skin of my teeth as it is.

Back in town, I'd barely caught up on sleep and scrubbed the dirt out from under my fingernails before it was time to host the ninth-annual North Country Fair Afterbender, at the Needle Vinyl Tavern this time. As usual, it was a lot of organizing and running around on my part, but once again, the thrill of seeing all those artists on one stage, and all those Fairgoers reuniting, made it all worth it. The Long Weekends opened and closed as always, and in between we had performances from Jez Hellard and the Djukella Orchestra, Picture the Ocean, Joe Nolan and the Dogs, Derina Harvey Band, Winona Wilde, Mohsin Zaman, Swear By the Moon, Sean Brewer, Tim Bennett, Natalie B, the Mad Dogs Experience (an all-star Edmonton superband tribute to Joe Cocker that was pretty much everyone's favourite thing at the Fair this year), and some guy who wanted to sing "Wagon Wheel" but was flatly refused, and gave us "Good Night Irene" instead.

Two days later was Canada Day, for which the Second Chances and I had been hired to play the civic celebrations in both Edmonton and Spruce Grove. It was a lot of running around, but I made it out to Tofield at the end of it all, to reunite with friends from far and wide at the Wild Oats n' Notes festival. The Long Weekends had a sweet time-slot, at 7:30 Saturday night, and I don't think I've ever been so excited about a set in my life. Jacquie B and I even worked out choreographed dance moves for our new song "Kitchen Dance Party On". Sweaty, panting, grinning fun.

From there I headed southwest with the Second Chances, playing a bunch of stops that we hadn't hit yet this year, including our favourite venue out west, Penticton's Dream Cafe. Scotty Dunbar dropped in from his fruit-picking hermithood in Naramata to sing a couple songs for the nice room full of people. And the next night we sang and camped out again by the creek at the Old Grist Mill in Keremeos. The world is richer for places like those.

We headed to Mayne Island from there, for those lovely four days of recording I already raved about, and then back, rested, for bar gigs in Vancouver and Nelson, en route to South Country Fair. I'd pretty much sworn off the chatty bar shows, but both nights redeemed themselves by the end, with loads of long-lost friends making appearances, and rooms that actually came around to listening once they got their chatter out.

The next stop was South Country Fair, one of my first-loved festivals, and one of the best anywhere. I wrote "Fish Jumpin" there, probably fifteen years ago. My Taiwan band The Anglers played there in 2003 and met the gal whose house appears on the cover of our album, who just happened to be back this year with her man and two kids. I fell in love with my last girlfriend there back in 2008. It's a magical place. I've dreamed of playing main stage there for a long, long time. And doing it with the Long Weekends, well, that's about as good as it gets. The next day our good friend (and daughter of the Fair founders) Little Jill organized a workshop with the Second Chances and two great writers I'd never met: Robert Sarazin Blake, from Washington, and Carter Felker, from the neighbourhood. We all feel deeply in mutual word-love, and it flowed like water over rocks.

The weekend also marked another important milestone in my life: the time when that handsome devil Tyler Allen from Boots and the Hoots drank a dram of scotch out of my belly button. Ladies around the world trembled, I'm sure of it.

The following weekend I was down in Canmore for my old friends Joe and Catherine's wedding when my driveway hosts offered me the use of their house for the week to come. I took full advantage of the chance for some solitude in the mountains, and I'm really glad I did. Again, it was impressed on me how much more effective I can be with a place of my own.

Soon enough, though, I had to drive back to Edmonton to catch my flight to Ottawa for Blue Skies Music Festival, another dream come true for me. I first heard about it nine years ago, in the middle of a financially disastrous cross-Canada tour, when I had no gigs for the weekend and my friends The Cracker Cats invited me to be their guest at Eaglewood Folk Festival in Pefferlaw, Ontario. On the rained-out Friday night I met Corin Raymond, Treasa Levasseur, Sean Cotton, David Baxter, Claire Jenkins, Trevor Mills, and so many more amazing musicians at a jam in the community hall. Corin stood up to sing "Three Thousand Miles" and changed my life right then and there. I've written about this elsewhere, including the preface to the 10th anniversary reissue of Corin's album Record Lonesome Night.

But back then we were strangers, and I was having trouble dealing. All weekend I watched these people sing their songs, heard the conviction in their voices, and saw the love on their faces when they backed each other up. I wanted nothing more than to be a part of it. But I didn't even sing a song in front of them all weekend, so deep was my outsiderness and imposter syndrome. I was a young flailer, and they were all doing what I only wished I could do.

A bunch of them were fresh from Blue Skies that weekend, and got starry-eyed when they talked about it. At that time the festival didn't even have a website; it just sounded like a dreamland. An ongoing, multi-generational experiment in togetherness, a little piece of heaven that you could wander into for a weekend. And it truly is. At 43 years old, it's an amazing example of how sustainable and safe a festival can be. There are no porta-potties, only composting outhouses. There are no trash cans, even. Everything gets recycled or packed out. And amazingly, there's no trash to be seen anywhere. The cell reception's patchy at best, and I can't recall seeing anyone looking at a screen all weekend. I left my valuables unattended in my tent the whole time and never gave it a second thought. Young and old folks from all walks of life were taking care of the land and each other.

A bunch of friends were there, including Corin and Treasa, Brian Kobayakawa, David Ross MacDonald, Jonathan Byrd and his family, Tannis Slimmon, Irish Mythen, Greenbank, Washboard Hank, and many more, and the starlit campfire jams were sublime. The last night's jam went until well past sunrise, as it turned out, song following song, all of us by turns awestruck and laughing out loud. At 8pm Saturday night, I got to play main stage on my own, and what a pleasure it was to sing for that hillside full of attentive, open-hearted people. To make it even better, I was warming up the stage for Corin Raymond, who inspired me more than he knew all those years ago, and who showed again, with an electric set of tunes from his new Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams album, what an ever-evolving artist he is. The next night I got to hear Jonathan Byrd for the first time in a while, accompanied by Brian Kobayakawa on bass and the ultimate showman, Johnny Waken, on Telecaster, mandolin, and saw. David Ross MacDonald and I were sitting front and centre for the whole set, on the little kiddie benches, mouths gaping open in wonder. We got taken to school that night. We saw again how alive the art form is, and how bendable all the rules are.

Back in town, I've been working away on the editing for the album, tour bookings for the fall and the new year, and back taxes, while struggling all the while with the allure of these beautiful sunny days and all the good folks I'd rather spend time with than my computer. I took a break this weekend for Edmonton Folk Fest, which was amazing as always. And very soon I'll be shutting this computer and heading into town for our show. But I do want to leave you with one thought, friends, and that's the thing Buffy said, about our link with Life. I've made plenty of reckless decisions through the years, as most of you know, but I've gradually come to an awareness of what my tank runs on; what keeps me living and loving and linked to the greater flow of Life. I'm starting to recognize my limits, how too much of anything is too much. And I'm seeing more and more sense in Buffy's words, that Life is beautiful if you got the sense to take care of your source of perfection. Take care of yours, friends. And I'll see you down the road. Yours forever,

s


May 25, 2016: the joys of being stationary, summer tour dates, another free song, Jez Hellard in Canada, and the limitless power of practice

Hey friends,

I'm writing you from my soon-to-be-former home in East Vancouver, where I've been enjoying an unprecedented amount of uninterrupted downtime. It's been so good that I'm kinda wishing I had another month of it. Who knew staying in one place could be so much fun? And what a place to stay! I've been living with my friends Joy and Christian, with a big glorious rooftop overlooking Commercial Drive, starting most mornings with rooftop yoga, and generally enjoying all the sweetness Vancouver has to offer: fancy coffees and dinners with friends, random meetings in the street, backyard barbecues, DIY repairs at the bike co-op, shows aplenty, swing dance lessons on Granville Island, bluegrass nights at the Anza and the Heatley, and jams with some of the great songwriters and musicians in this incredibly creative city.

For the first three Wednesdays of May, I hosted a musical variety show at Skinny Fat Jack's that included a bunch of them, and every week was a heartwarmer. It's a tiny room, so everybody's there for everything. We had guest appearances from A Million Dollars in Pennies, Dennis Bouwman, Winona Wilde, Jayne Trimble, Tatam Reeves, Jesse Ganj, Chelsea Johnson, Alison Jenkins, Leah Barley, Marina Lagace, and Joline Baylis. Hopefully some new friendships got made and some new writing got inspired.

Tonight I'll be playing my last show in town, swapping songs in the round with Canadian folk royalty Shari Ulrich, Murray McLauchlan, and my pal Winona Wilde at the lovely Roundhouse Theatre. Come tomorrow, I'll be bidding this fair city adieu, picking up double bass maestro Shari Rae in Victoria, and getting this show back on the road where it belongs! Look out for us:

Wed May 25 - Vancouver, BC - Bluebird North at The Roundhouse Theatre with Shari Ulrich, Winona Wilde and Murray McLauchlan
Fri-Sat May 27-28 - Port Angeles, WA - Juan De Fuca Festival of the Arts
Sun May 29 - Victoria, BC - Victoria Folk Music Society
Mon May 30 - Salt Spring Island, BC - Stowel Lake Farm
Tue May 31 - Duncan, BC - house concert
Wed Jun 1 - Gabriola Island, BC - Hive Emporium
Thu Jun 2 - Nanaimo, BC - The Nanaimo BAR
Fri-Sat Jun 3-4 - Courtenay, BC - Elevate Arts Festival
Tue Jun 7 - Prince George, BC - house concert
Wed Jun 8 - Wells, BC - Tempest Stage
Thu Jun 9 - Salmon Arm, BC - It's Handmade: An Artisan Co-op
Fri-Sun - Jun 10-12 - Ymir, BC - Tiny Lights Festival

For Facebookers, the tour event's here, and all the details, as always, are on my news page. And hey, don't be shy about the house concerts! Everyone's welcome, it's a cheap night out, and you'll quite likely make some new friends. Just be sure to email the host and let them know you're coming!

One reason I'm especially excited about Tiny Lights fest is the return of my good friend Jez Hellard to Canada. I've done three tours of the UK with him, but he hasn't toured in Canada since 2009, when he was travelling with Dana Wylie. This time around he's bringing his trio the Djukella Orchestra, and their terrifyingly good new album Heavy Wood. Don't take my word for it; here's what Folk Radio UK had to say!

I'm organizing an Alberta and BC tour for them in June and July, and they've still got some open dates, so if you think you might be able to round up twenty or more folks, they'd love to play your living room! If you need any more convincing, here are a couple videos to give you an idea of what Jez does:

Songbirds Miner's Picket Dance

After Tiny Lights I'll be driving Shari back to Calgary and heading homeward to reunite with my people at the North Country Fair, which is about as close as heaven gets to earth. Early-bird tickets are on sale until June 1st. Get in!

As usual, the Long Weekends will be hosting the Official Unofficial North Country Fair Afterbender, now in its ninth year, at the Needle Vinyl Tavern, as well as appearing at Wild Oats n' Notes in Tofield and South Country Fair in Fort MacLeod. The Second Chances will be touring BC and recording an album on Mayne Island in July, and travelling out to Music on the Meadow in Fort St. James in August. I'll also be performing solo at Blue Skies and Shelter Valley festivals in Ontario, Earthwork Harvest Gathering in Michigan, and Deep Roots Music Festival in Nova Scotia. It's gonna be an amazing season.

In the spirit of summer and all things sun-drenched, here's another free track from Scott Cook and the Long Weekends Go Long, the band's theme song! You can download with a right-click.

Long Weekends Theme

Well, friends, that's about all the news for now, but I can't leave you without a little word about those dance lessons I mentioned. They've been challenging, to say the least. I've always been uncoordinated, never excelled at sports, and never really learned to dance with a partner. But it's gradually opening up to me. And I have it on good authority that every style of dance gets easier once you've learned a few. Same goes for languages. Same goes for instruments. I remember clearly how unnatural trying to play the guitar felt once upon a time. And later, how strange and frustrating it was to play clawhammer banjo, which requires a whole different set of movements. How every old-time tune I learned on it felt absolutely insurmountable until it was something my hands learned to do on their own. The thumb piano's completely different to both guitar and banjo, but as I've gotten into playing it, I've come to see its similarity to the other two. Any motion, no matter how strange it feels at first, gradually becomes normal; automatic, even. Same goes for all the habits we cultivate, whether productive or self-destructive. We learn by doing, over and over. I don't aspire to be Fred Astaire, but I'm drawn to the joy in the dance. So I'm committing myself to the practice.

Yehudi Menuhin said: "Practicing is not forced labor; it is a refined art that partakes of intuition, of inspiration, patience, elegance, clarity, balance, and above all, the search for ever greater joy in movement and expression." And I guess he would know a thing or two about that. Here's wishing you all productive practice, and an amazing summer! Your fan,

s


April 18, 2016: Bali and Lombok, Taiwan tour dates, Australia in the rearview, and the road home

Hey there lovers,

I'm writing you from Lombok, an island between Bali and Sumbawa in the Indonesian archipelago, where I've been parked for about a week, digging the change of scene and pace. I'm on the south coast, in Kuta (not to be confused with Bali's Kuta, where most of the partiers go), and while it's developing fast, it's still mostly bamboo buildings and dirt streets. I rented a motorbike for exploring, and have been amazed by the ever-unwinding coast, with bay after bay and beach after beach, mostly empty.

I landed in Indonesia almost three weeks ago, worn pretty thin at the end of the Australian tour, but very happy to have a house of my own in Ubud, Bali's art and yoga mecca, thanks to my Aussie musician friend Tom Richardson and his lovely Albertan partner Kim, a yoga teacher and jewelry maker he met at the North Country Fair several years back. They arranged for their landlord's son Wayan to pick me up at the airport, and it was great to spend my first hour in the country with an English-speaking Balinese fella who could answer all my questions.

Bali's overwhelmingly Hindu, in contrast to mostly-Muslim Indonesia, and I was struck right away by the elaborate architecture, and its similarities and differences with the architecture of India, Khmer Cambodia and the old Cham culture in Vietnam. Familiar characters like Hanuman, Ganesha, and Garuda stood alongside distinctly Balinese figures like Celuluk, a fierce crone with dangling breasts and tongue, stringy hair, claws, and a fierce fanged mask, who greeted us on our way out of the airport. Like pretty much everywhere in Southeast Asia, the traffic's crazy, the roads are broken and potholed, the ditches are full of trash, the chickens run loose, and the barefoot kids are impossibly cute.

As I mentioned in the last Travelogue, I opted out of New Zealand in favour of somewhere the downtime's cheap, and Indonesia certainly fits the bill. Changing just over $100 Canadian makes you a millionaire in rupiah, and while the big numbers are a bit daunting at first, the conversion's simple for Canadians (and Aussies too): 100 rupiah, the smallest coin, is a penny, and 1000 rupiah, the smallest bill, is a dime. Their biggest bill is $10, and most small stores won't even be able to change it. If you eat at western-style restaurants, it's about $3-5 Canadian for a meal, but if you eat at streetside stalls, it's more like $1. My motorbike rental's $5 a day. The GDP per capita for Indonesia's around $3500 (less in Bali and Lombok), and plenty of families subsist on a dollar a day. For me, the biggest bargain's the local fruit: mangosteens, rambutans, passion fruit, dragon fruit, pomelo, and salak (or "snake fruit", a new discovery for me) are all cheap and abundant.

Balinese culture's incredibly rich, communal, and artful. Every day they put out little offerings, flat baskets woven of bamboo leaves, with cooked rice, flowers, betel nut, lime paste, and incense inside, both to honour the good spirits and to placate the evil ones; each of them intricate, throwaway works of art. Besides the Gregorian calendar, the Balinese have two other, unsynchronized calendars of special days, plus a multitude of reciprocal obligations to attend weddings, funerals, tooth-filling ceremonies, and the like; so much so that Fred Eiseman, an American who's been living there for years and even adopted Balinese Hinduism, estimates (in his great book Bali: Sekala & Niskala) that one-fourth of an adult's waking hours are taken up by religious and community obligations. And indeed, the landlord and his wife came by about half of the days I was there, to sweep and put offerings around the house for one holy day or another.

Balinese children are named according to birth order, with the first child (regardless of whether it's a boy or girl) usually named Wayan, the second Made, the third Nyoman (or Komang), and the fourth Ketut. If a family has more than four children, they start the cycle again, naming the fifth child Wayan Balik (Wayan again). I had no idea of this, so I was a little baffled when I went mentioned Wayan at his uncle's restaurant and no one knew who I was talking about.

The Balinese are super friendly, and I was continually impressed by how hospitable and generous folks were. Every night in Ubud, there were groups of fellas sitting outside the convenience stores, drinking and singing songs, and they always welcomed me to join them. I never even showed my passport nor paid any deposit when renting a motorbike. Several times, people have called me back to give me change when I wasn't expecting any. Undoubtedly things'll change when more foreign jerks come and take advantage of the small-town locals, but for now it sure feels nice.

My friend and fellow Canadian songwriter Tereza Tomek arrived after midnight that first night, also fresh from Australia, but from the west side, which may as well be a different country. The following day we explored town and checked out the Monkey Forest, where we fended off pickpocket attempts from the little goofs. My Taiwan bassman Tom Squires and his wonderful partner and songwriter Megan Dooley arrived in town later that day, at the end of their trip, so we had a chance to catch up, and see our first Legong show, marvelling at the expressive, intricate movements of the dancers and the complex, rapidly changing polyrhythms of the gamelan orchestra.

Tom and Megan wanted to visit the market before they left the next day, so I accompanied them, hoping to find a plaid sarong of the kind Indonesian and Malay fellas tend to wear, which I've spent many an hour looking for over the years, but never found in tourist shops anywhere. They were even hard to find at the market, because they're not the Balinese style, but a few shops had them tucked away under piles of more flowery designs. I got a pretty hilarious re-education in haggling that day, talking the first lady down from 350,000 to 200,000, then getting the next one for 100,000, the next at 80,000, and the next for 70,000. I still reckon they can be had for 50,000 ($5 Canadian) or less by someone savvier than me.

There was a thing called Bali Spirit Fest happening in town over the weekend, and entrance was by donation on the Sunday, so Tereza and I went down to check it out. In addition to a lot of cringe-worthy talk about how to spell your galactic name and the like, we did find an African dance workshop, with some incredibly handsome gents playing the drums, a beaming, charismatic lady leading the dance, and some of the most joyful, beautiful women I've ever seen dancing along. There were a few of us fellas trying our best, too. I stumbled along, and resolved right then and there to take an African dance class when I get to Vancouver. We were pretty sweaty by the end, when the instructor gathered us around the drummers and taught us a Senegalese song, accompanying herself with a thumb piano, something like the mbira I play but with the keys laid out differently. The song was about honouring ancestors, and the only word I understood was "mama", but I actually had a hard time singing along for choking up, thinking of all the generations of mothers stretching back through time immemorial; all the struggle, and all the love. I don't know why that song landed so hard, but by the end my cheeks were wet with tears.

Perhaps part of the reason I got so emotional is that I'm on a break from the booze, and it's allowing a lot of buried stuff to come to the surface. I did pretty well on reining in the partying for most of the Australian tour, but lost the plot a little over the last two festival weekends, dealing myself a couple hangovers that I'm too old for on the days after. My shows went great and everything; professionally, both festivals were big successes, but personally, I let myself down. I disrespected my body, pissed away my money, and did some reckless things, not all of which I even remember. All that added up to a pretty clear sign to take a break for a while. It's been interesting, as it always is on the rare occasions I stop drinking, to see how deeply it's woven its way into my thought processes; how it serves as a sort of social prerequisite, how I notice places to stay within walking distance of venues (forgetting that I can always drive), how the evening hours seem to open up, how much less money I spend, and how many fewer calories I consume. It's also interesting to see how successfully alcohol can blunt the feelings; how it helps me forgive the world, and forgive myself.

After my friends left I spent a week alone, putting in long hours on booking tours, making posters and all that, punctuated by banjo practice (Red-Haired Boy, Arkansas Traveler, and Whiskey Before Breakfast are pretty much licked), motorbike rides through the countryside, yoga classes, and yummy Balinese food. After months of non-stop touring, it was glorious to stay put. One night I went to see a Lecak dance, where the dancers were accompanied by a male chorus chanting a polyrhythmic "cak! cak! cak!", followed by a fella walking barefoot on the glowing embers of a coconut shell fire. I also got to witness a local temple ceremony, with about a thousand Balinese dressed up in beautiful sarongs and formal tops, Barong dancers, a gamelan orchestra blasting out through distorted speakers, and a big crowd of young boys, standing on their tiptoes to watch the dance, smoking with their friends, and trying to chat up the young girls.

But Ubud's a tourist town, and as much as I enjoyed the space and solitude of having my own house, and the multitude of organic cafes filled with pretty backpacking yoginis sipping fresh fruit drinks, it eventually felt like time to go see some real Bali. Tereza came back, accompanied by a Dutch guy and a Javanese gal, and we set off northward on two bikes, through the rice-terraced countryside up to the crater edge of Gunung Batur, an active volcano in the island's northeast. It was up there that I got my first whiff of sketchiness in Bali, from the first tour guide we met, who offered us a great price, led us to his hotel, then changed the deal, got mad, and started threatening our Indonesian traveling companion when we demanded our money back. We left in the dark, back up the hill rather than further on into our would-be guide's village, on the advice of another fella who said it'd be best if we never saw him again. Eventually we came upon another group of folks who found us a grim but serviceable place to stay and took us up the mountain at 4am. It was foggy and raining, so we didn't get to see the sunrise, but it was still a righteous start to the day, and a glorious sight on our way back down, when the clouds finally parted to reveal the black lava flow and the blue crater lake.

After the climb we found another hotel, and made a big excursion from there the next day, over the mountains to the north coast and the city of Singaraja, along broken backroads through tiny villages to Jembong and Aling-Aling waterfalls, which we had all to ourselves; up to Gunung Batukaru, another volcano with two big crater lakes; and back home, through the gathering dusk and then wet, bone-chilling darkness. We saw only two other foreigners the whole day, got an eyeful of beauty, and felt incredibly alive.

The next day Tereza and I set out for Amed, on the east coast, where we snorkeled out from the beach over a Japanese shipwreck, and dug the local reggae band. When we got back to our homestay that night, we realized we'd forgotten to get water, so I set out in search of anything that was open. I drove for quite a ways before I finally saw someone, a fella sitting outside a scooter rental stall. I asked him if there was anywhere to buy water, and he said no, but the sound of us talking drew his friend outside, a young, shirtless fella holding a big bottle of water that was about two thirds full. He passed it to me, and when I said "I don't want to take yours", he said "In Amed, all is brother."

The next morning I drove Tereza back to Ubud to pick up her stuff and get to her flight, got on a bus to the boat to Lombok, and then took a taxi down here to Kuta. Lombok's very different from Bali, so much so that it feels like a different country, and indeed it probably would still be, had the Dutch not invaded and unified Indonesia in the process. The flora are even noticeably different, a fact first remarked on by Alfred Russell Wallace, who pointed out the sharp line (now called Wallace's Line) dividing the biomes of Eurasia and Australasia at the narrow Alas Strait, which I crossed on Wednesday. The local people are Sasak, and though they're cultural cousins to the Balinese, they converted to Islam in the 16th or 17th century. It's way less developed here, plenty of people still get around by horse cart, they wear peci (like fezzes) and plaid sarongs rather than the Balinese style of little turbans and flowery sarongs, you can hear the call to prayer five times a day, and the roads are shared with packs of wild dogs and water buffalo.

When I was driving back into town yesterday, I chanced upon a wedding celebration parading through the streets, with the young bride and groom at the front, and two mobile bands rolling behind. In front they had marching band-style drummers and dancers, then a big sound system on wheels, powered by a generator, with a keyboard and improvised drum set attached to it, and then a cluster of wires going back to the rest of the band, with electric guitar and bass, a set of bongos played like tabla, and a couple microphones for the singers. I followed them for quite a while, digging the distorted sound, the tightness of their changes, and the kids dancing in the garbage-strewn dirt streets, one of whom sported a backwards ballcap that said "Lombok F**kin Hardcore". It was one of the greatest scenes I've ever seen.

I shot a little video, too, and while it doesn't do it justice, if you turn it up as loud as it goes, you just might get the idea, here.

People have been very welcoming here too, and though I've heard some stories of theft and even muggings, most people, like anywhere, are good. Like elsewhere in Southeast Asia, it's hard to square the friendliness of the people with the brutality of their recent history, especially with what's presented in Joshua Oppenheimer's chilling documentary The Act of Killing, about the massacres of 1965-66, when probably a million suspected communists, ethnic Chinese, and other undesirables were murdered by paramilitary death squads who have never been brought to justice. It's another example of the banality of evil, I guess. No more surprising than the West's unflinching support for the murders: the support, training, weapons, and actual lists of names the killers received from the CIA and US military; the diplomatic cover provided by Britain and the United States, who were keen to remove Indonesia's first president Sukarno for being uncooperative and nationalizing the country's industry, just like they did with Mossadegh in Iran in 1954 and Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954; and the awful complicity of the Western media, who referred to the bloodbath as "hope... where there was once none" (U.S. News & World Report) and "the West's best news for years in Asia" (Time Magazine). We continued to back Suharto, reportedly the most corrupt leader in modern history (having embezzled an alleged $15-35 billion during his rule), despite, or perhaps more accurately because of, all the killing, right on through the genocide in East Timor, until domestic pressure and the Asian financial crisis finally brought him down.

I did remember to take some photos while I've been here, if you wanna have a look.

Tomorrow night I'm heading back to Australia for a week, to tie up loose ends, visit friends, and sell my trusty ride Skippy to my good friend Maddie Spawton. Hard to let him go, but at least he's staying in the family! I'll be bringing the Second Chances along for my next tour of Australia, in late February of 2017, so we're gonna need a bigger ride.

After Australia I'm flying to Taiwan for just five days, with three shows among them. I didn't have copies of the new CD last time through, which didn't make for much of a CD release tour, so I'll be playing shows in Taipei, Kaohsiung, and Taichung in hopes of getting them into my Taiwan people's hands! The Taichung show's strictly limited in terms of capacity, so if you are planning on coming, be sure to get your ticket. I don't expect to be back in Taiwan for at least a year and a half, likely longer, so if you're around I'd love to see you. The dates are:

Fri Apr 29 - Taipei - Café Vergißmeinnicht, at 92 Ai Guo East Road, with Tyler Dakin on lead guitar and Tom Squires on bass, 9:30-11:30, 200nt, magic or your money back.

Sat Apr 30 - Kaohsiung - Rocks, 11pm start, 300nt with a free drink, and a closing set from The Smokes!

Sun May 1 - Taichung - Afternoon show at Lei Gallery with Tom Squires on bass and Tyler Dakin on lead guitar, 3pm doors, 3:30pm start! This show is PRE-SALE ONLY, and tickets are strictly limited. If you want to come, you'll have to contact Jon at jrenzella@inbox.com to reserve, and then drop off the 250nt at Lei Gallery to secure your seat.

From Taiwan, I'm flying to Vancouver for a month of mostly downtime, living with my friend Joy and her partner, right on Commercial Drive. I haven't lived anywhere in years, and I can't tell you how excited I am at the prospect. I'm gonna take dance lessons, practice yoga, get a gym pass, and try my hands and feet at rock climbing. Oh, and I'll be playing a bit too: the first three Wednesdays in May, with various musical friends, at Skinny Fat Jack's, and the last Wednesday in May, in the good company of my friend Winona Wilde, our hostess Shari Ulrich, and ten-time Juno winner Murray McLauchlan, for Bluebird North at the Roundhouse Theatre.

At the end of May I'm heading back out on the road with my good friend Shari Rae on upright bass, playing the Juan De Fuca Festival in Washington, the Elevate Arts Festival on Vancouver Island, the Tiny Lights Festival in the Kootenays, and a bunch of places in between, then making my way up to reunite with those sorely-missed Long Weekends at my home festival, the North Country Fair. All the dates, as always, are on my news page.

Last I wrote you, friends, I was halfway through three months in Australia, taking a mid-tour breather at my pal Aurora Jane's place before I dove back into the thick of things. On my last night in Melbourne I played a house concert for Peter and Jane Crone, a sweet couple I met at my visa sponsor Andrew Pattison's Burke and Wills Folk Festival. They had about seventy ticket-buyers seated in their living room, and I wondered what alternate reality I had slipped into somewhere back along the way. I really can't overstate the enormous help that people like Peter and Jane are to ramblers like me. I feel incredibly, even undeservedly lucky to sing songs for such folks and their friends rather than slogging it out in chatty bars.

From Melbourne it was up to Beechworth to see my Taiwan friends Jack (who gave me my first paid solo gigs, at Banjo's in Hsinchu) and the McLean family: Aron, Sabrina, and their brilliant kids Ocean and Indigo. Aron and Jack sat in with me for a set at Tanswells Hotel, and we had loads of fun. Aron also booked me a show the following day at a tiny country pub in Wandiligong, and it was the closest I'd felt to Canada on the whole trip, riding through alpine forest, playing for the folks and kids on the lawn, and then hanging around swapping songs with the locals afterward. The road out front was nearly unvisited by cars, and the sky overhead was chock-full of stars.

From Wandiligong I drove up through Kosciuszko National Park, following the Murray River (Australia's longest) up to its headwaters in the mountains, camping for free by a creek at Geehi, and then over the Great Divide, following the Thredbo River down to beautiful Candelo, where I was reunited with local musos Heath Cullen, Mike Martin, Melanie Horsnell, and David Ross MacDonald. It's crazy how much talent there is in that tiny town. Mike and his lovely wife Sharon put me up in their old house (the one they lived in while he built the strawbale beauty they live in now) for the week, and it was a real treat to have a front porch from which to contemplate the world, and practice yoga and banjo. My new friend Sue arranged a songwriting workshop and a house concert in the neighbourhood, and Mike organized a show at the tiny Kameruka Village Hall, with short opening sets from him, David Ross MacDonald, David O'Connor, a first-time performer named Adrian, and local concertina whiz Steve Wilson. Oh, and I also got to help David put the final framing panel on his house, a "twenty-minute job" that ended up taking a couple hours, but actually made me feel like I'd done some honest work for a change.

I played two more lovely house concerts in Nowra and Picnic Point before heading up into the mountains to spend a couple days with Maddie. I came back down to play a bar show in Sydney, shared with two young, talented touring acts headed in opposite directions, and was again reminded of how fortunate I am to be invited to play people's houses. There were about a dozen people there throughout the night, only half of whom were there for the show, and even those still talked all the way through it. The promoter really had done her best to get the word out, and was relentless with the hat, but at the end of the night, each act made $20. I wondered again why I'd booked another bar show, but at least it was a one-off for me. Those kids were in for weeks of the same, some nights better than others of course, but still, a pretty thankless grind. I did it for years, and I know how brutal it can be. Nevertheless, they were out on the road, where they'd wanted to be, and they would either find enough nuggets of beauty, sex n' drugs, and inspiration along the way to keep going, or they'd quit. That's the road.

From there I was up to Woy Woy (another town so good they named it twice) to play the Troubadour Folk and Acoustic Music Club. I had a few days off beforehand, and my hosts Michael and Ina were kind enough to offer me the use of their cottage for as long as I needed. I caught up on work, went for a paddle on the inlet with Michael, and even wrote a new song while I was there, a feminist singalong called "Fellas, Get Out the Way". The show was lovely, for a packed, tiny hall on the waterfront, as was the next night, for a small but appreciative audience at Sunset Studio in Newcastle.

After a night camping out alone, I made my way up to a little off-grid, solar-powered village called Billen Cliffs, to play a show organized by Anastasia Guise, an author and activist I met at Woodford. En route, I had the distinct pleasure of hearing "Pass It Along" played through Skippy's radio, on ABC Radio National! The host Paul Gough had been mailed the album by another fan I'd met at Woodford who was organizing the show in Kempsey. He talked about the tour quite a bit, and even mentioned Billen Cliffs, which the locals thought was pretty hilarious, and since then, at every show there was at least one person who told me they'd heard me on the radio. It's amazing what the radio can do. And also amazing to me, who's never been played on the national CBC, to be hearing myself on Australia's national broadcaster only two years after my first visit.

On the way back down I played a great verandah concert for a fella I'd met in the bar at Woodford, and then to a packed house at the Odd Fellows Hall in Kempsey. Back in Sydney, I returned to the great Music Lounge in Brookvale, this time to play a monthly folk event called The Shack, and then headed back up into the Blue Mountains to play for a sweet crowd in the attic at Hotel Blue. Further down the coast, I played a house concert near Jervis Bay, and then headed west for another house concert in Newstead before rounding out the weekend at my visa sponsor's tiny Burke and Wills Folk Festival. It's just one tent-covered stage, with one kitchen and bar, at their home and winery, but he always brings an amazing collection of talent. This year he had fellow Canadian Dave Gunning, Philip Henry and Hannah Martin from the UK, and plenty of Aussie greats including Martin Pearson, Enda Kenny, Fred Smith, Liz Frencham, Dingo's Breakfast, and Michael Waugh.

After the fest I headed back to Melbourne town to catch my Canadian friend Miss Quincy at the Retreat Hotel, and then had my own show the next night at Open Studio with Michael Waugh, Mandy Connell, Kate Crowley, and John Flanagan. From there it was back up to Aron and Sabrina's in Beechworth, and to Yackandandah for their amazing folk festival, the closest Australia gets to Artswells. I had backup on double bass from Aron, and from the amazing Liz Frencham, who'd complained at Burke and Wills that no one ever hires her because they assume she's too busy and they can't afford her. Having assumed the same myself, it was great to finally play with her, and especially nice to sing "Pass It Along" with her to a full house in the dark at the Public Hall for Earth Hour.

From there it was back to Beechworth for a couple days, and then to Canberra for the National Folk Festival, and a side appearance (along with fellow Canadians Gordie Tentrees and Jaxon Haldane) at the National Anti-Folk Festival, organized by local scene stalwart Nigel McRae at Smith's Alternative. I wasn't really on the bill at the big party, except to play a couple Gordon Lightfoot songs as the token Canadian for the Festival Folk Sing CD release, but the National has plenty of blackboard (open mic) and unplanned-but-invite-only slots happening over the weekend, so I actually had a pretty full weekend, with sets at the Stock Camp, the Bohemian Bar, and the lovely Flute and Fiddle, which strangely enough, has apparently never been called the Fruit and Fritter, the Dude and Diddle, or the Ute and Yodel. I also had the great honour of having Jaxon Haldane for a sideman, guesting with my new friend (and powerhouse performer) Sian Evans, and playing "Pass It Along" with Liz Frencham again, for the release of her CD of duets, to a capacity crowd at the Flute and Fiddle. Liz is a towering talent, and I look forward to making more music with her in the future. You can see that one here if you're so inclined.

That weekend was also my first chance to see Steve Poltz, who I'd heard about from friends for the last few years, and had listened to live on ABC radio a couple times as well, both times in Australian bush campsites, ready to make a fire but unable to tear myself away from the radio. He was even better than I expected. I saw all three of his sets, and each one blew my mind in a different way, widening the horizons of what can be done in a show. Best of all, it looked like he was as awestruck and tickled as we were. During one set, someone threw a "leg bag" (also known as a "stadium buddy"; basically a catheter attached to a bag that straps onto your leg, for the incontinent or those who just don't wanna miss the game) onto the stage, and Steve had to ask what it was. The crowd told him, and he came up with a song about it on the spot, complete with looped beats and crazy auto-tune effects. His overflowing joie de vivre, his openness to the randomness of the moment, and his way of always bringing everything back to the tradition, to what it means to be a folksinger, were hugely inspiring to me even after all these years in the game.

All around, it was an amazing weekend, and it seemed like nearly everyone I knew in Australia was there, along with a bunch of new friends I hadn't met yet. The session bar, as I'd heard from anyone who told me about the National, has really got to be seen to be believed. It's a huge area, chock full of folks jamming in any style you'd care to name, and by some strange magic, you can actually hear all of them.

Of course, it's also a bar, as is pretty much every other venue at the National, and I must admit, I did a lot more drinking than jamming. In fact, I think I did more drinking than anything else. And while there were lots of laughs and new friendships made and all that good stuff, well, it was pretty clear to me on that shaky, anxiety-ridden Tuesday morning that it was time for a break from the booze. It's all too easy, particularly in my line of work, to make a constant companion of drink, and I know full well where that leads. Some people (like Steve Poltz for example, or Jonathan Byrd, another laser-beam of a man) decide the only solution is to stop altogether. I hope I'm not one of those people, though if it turns out I am, sobriety sure beats the alternative, going the way of Townes and so many other tragic characters. For now, I'm hoping a break will help me re-orient and re-evaluate my relationship with the stuff. Because I really do enjoy it. I enjoy it enough that I better not let it become a problem.

I know, it's my own issue to deal with, but I'm saying it in case there's anyone reading who's been less than impressed with themselves and could use a little encouragement to try something different for a while. It's not like you'd be missing anything special. And in fact, you're already missing plenty, every night that you don't remember, and every morning that you lie in bed, not quite ready to face the world yet.

I'm also telling you this, friends, because these Travelogues are a letter to you, not a bit of advertising. All too often our online self-revelations, especially in the music industry, paint a picture of going from success to success. It's true things have been going great for me lately, career-wise. But success, narrowly construed, isn't the whole picture. It isn't even the most important part of the picture. And despite my efforts at maintaining appearances, well, I just don't always have it together, and I'm not always worthy of the songs I sing. That's one reason I keep singing them, because they have lessons to teach me.

The year ahead's looking good. I'm more excited than ever about practice, and how it gradually makes impossible things possible. I'm even excited about the boring things I've gotta do, like three years of back taxes. And I'm hugely excited about writing. There are a bunch of festivals in the calendar that I can't tell you about yet, but I can at least say that there's exciting news in the pipeline. One of the most exciting bits of news that I can let slip just now is that the Second Chances and I will be recording a new album with Adam Iredale-Gray (of Fish + Bird fame) on Mayne Island in July. It'll be released in early 2017, and I think it's gonna be the best one yet.

While we're on the subject of new albums, if you don't already know, my good friend and constant inspiration Corin Raymond has just released a new record, Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams, that's unlike anything he's done so far. He's on the road in Alberta at the moment, with the new album and Jonathan Byrd too, and he'll be plenty more places with it in the months to come. But you can have a listen now, and even get your hands on it, at www.corinraymond.com, and I heartily suggest you do.

Alright, I'm signing off for now, but of course, not without a word for our man Bernie Sanders. Nobody in the mainstream media believed he'd make it this far, and they're still doing their best to ignore him. New York votes Tuesday. If you live there and are registered as a Democrat, please vote, and drag your friends along, too. If you live elsewhere in the States and want to help, throw some money his way on www.berniesanders.com.

Be kind to yourselves, friends, and to one another! Here's hoping to see you somewhere soon. Love from Lombok,

s


February 11, 2016: words from down under, three new videos, and the road ahead

Howdy friends,

I'm around the halfway point of my stay in Australia, and I reckon it's about time for an update. I'm writing you from my good friend Aurora Jane's house in Melbourne, where I've enjoyed the longest stationary stint of the trip so far. Jane's in LA at the moment, schmoozing music business types, so I've got the use of her lovely little cabin in the back garden. It's the sweetest little oasis, all treed in, with bamboo, palms, flowers, and birdsong... you could very nearly get the illusion that you're not in the city. I just returned here on Tuesday, after my first trip to South Australia, and I'm grateful for another stopover. It's 20 shows down and 23 to go on this Australian jaunt; which adds up to a dozen more than I began with, as I've been invited to some more places along the way. Here's how the weeks ahead are looking now:

Fri Feb 12 - Melbourne, VIC - Eaglemont house concert
Sat Feb 13 - Beechworth, VIC - Tanswells Hotel
Sun Feb 14 - Wadiligong, VIC - Wandi Pub
Wed Feb 17 - Tilba Tilba, NSW - house concert
Thu Feb 18 - Wolumla, NSW - songwriting workshop
Fri Feb 19 - Candelo, NSW - Acoustic night at Kameruka Hall
Sat Feb 20 - Nowra, NSW - house concert
Sun Feb 21 - Sydney, NSW - house concert
Wed Feb 24 - Sydney, NSW - FolkSwagon at Cafe Lounge
Sat Feb 27 - Woy Woy, NSW - Troubadour Central Coast
Sun Feb 28 - Newcastle, NSW - Sunset Studio
Tue Mar 1 - Billen Cliffs, NSW - Community Cafe
Thu Mar 3 - Nana Glen, NSW - house concert
Fri Mar 4 - Kempsey, NSW - Oddfellows Hall
Sat Mar 5 - Brookvale, NSW - The Shack
Sun Mar 6 - Katoomba, NSW - Live in the Attic at Hotel Blue
Wed Mar 9 - Cudmirrah, NSW - house concert
Fri Mar 11 - Newstead, VIC - house concert
Sat-Mon Mar 12-14 - Mia Mia, VIC - Burke & Wills Folk Festival
Wed Mar 16 - Melbourne, VIC - Open Studio with Mandy Connell, Michael Waugh, Kate Crowley and John Flanagan
Fri-Sun Mar 18-20 - Yackandandah, VIC - Yackandandah Folk Festival
Thu Mar 24 - Canberra, ACT - Smith's Alternative with surprise guests!
Fri-Mon Mar 25-28 - Canberra, ACT - hanging around the National Folk Festival

There's still plenty of room in the schedule, but I think I'm going to leave it as is. I've been loving the days off I've had so far, both for the opportunity to get caught up on things, and for the opportunity to explore. I spent Monday night alone with a campfire under the stars and gum trees in Little Desert National Park, and I was reminded again of how important that kind of time is.

At the end of March, I'll be heading to Indonesia for a month of downtime, rather than touring in New Zealand as I'd hoped. I couldn't find a registered entertainment company to sponsor me for the visa, I was already behind on the bookings, and the whole thing was stressing me out, so I decided to put that trip off 'til it wants to happen, and head where the downtime's cheap instead.

Taiwan

Last I wrote you, friends, I was heading out to play a show in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, halfway through my road trip around that island. I'm happy to report that Tom's motorbike and I made it around without incident, although both of us were certainly road-worn by the time we made it back to Taipei.

Rocks in Kaohsiung and Goat's new reggae bar in Hengchun are both amazing live rooms, the likes of which Taiwan's not really used to. Goat's even has a band room in the back, which I certainly appreciated, with the long drives every day. Dulan was a heartwarmer, with Darren and Terra of Tainan's late great Tin Pan Alley just settling into their new digs, my buddy Jason (aka Mister Green) coming down to share the show, and Barry, Roman, Chris and Winnie, Steve and Muakai, and a bunch more old-timers coming out of the woodwork to say hi. Sadly, I'd heard the news the night before that An-Chih, who used to book the Sugar Factory, had taken her own life; the third friend I lost in Taiwan in the past year.

Jason and I stayed up much too late and drank several beers and whiskies too many, and we weren't in stellar shape for the ride the next morning. As if they knew they were needed, rainbows kept appearing around the bends of the east coast--I counted five in total. Our Hualien hosts Paul Lawrence and his girlfriend Romi were very understanding, and make us feel welcome while the guests trickled in. Paul opened the show with an impressive and inspiring set of his new tunes, and then Jason and I did our best not to sound like a couple fellas in our condition.

The next day was another long ride, up the coast to Ilan and over the mountains to Taipei, but I made it with time to spare before our show at Sappho. We had a really sweet crowd, of familiar faces as well as new ones, and I think we Anglers played our best show of the tour. I spent my last couple days visiting Crees and family in Fulong, and Calvin and the crew in Jungli, only further reminding me how many people I love on that island. I'll be back in April, but only briefly, and only playing three shows (Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung). I'm already looking ahead for a couple months I can spend there in the years to come.

Woodford

With all the reunions, the long rides, and the late nights, I was worn pretty thin by the time I left Taiwan, but still didn't manage to get much sleep on the plane. I landed in Sydney early Christmas morning, and took a cab to where my friend Maddie had left my trusty chariot Skippy the (Townace) Bush Kangaroo. I giggled when I spotted him; he was even smaller than I remembered! He fired up without complaint, though, and we set off northward on the long drive up to Woodford Folk Festival. Tired as I was, I made it almost halfway before pulling off the road to camp on the beach at Smoky Cape, with the jungle towering skyward, the woods smelling of camphor and thrumming with bugsong, and the white moonlight pouring over everything. The only space I could find to park was awkwardly close to another fella's campervan, so I asked him if it was alright. "Pardon?" he asked in a grizzled voice. I repeated my question twice before he finally understood and laughed at it. "You can do what you like," he said, and I was glad to be back in Australia.

I made it to Woodford after dark the following night, but my buddy Tim Bennett found me on arrival and led me on a tour of the massive, as-yet uncrowded site. I'd heard lots about Woodford through the years, but I was still blown away by the sheer size and scope of it as it filled in. There are about thirty performance spaces in total, including a massive amphitheatre for the big shows. Everything you could imagine at a folk festival is there. Every kind of music you could imagine, even doof-doof for the youngsters. Every kind of dance, including Morris Dance (which is ubiquitous at Australian folk festivals), lindy hop, and ballroom dance. Acrobats, jugglers, magicians, tightrope walkers, contortionists, comedians. Vocal freedom workshops. Educational workshops on any topic you care to name. Guided meditations. Round table political discussions, with full houses in attendance. Former prime minister Bob Hawke (the guy I mentioned in a previous Travelogue, who held the world record for skulling a yard of beer) talking about Australia's future. A tiny house showhome. The Great Comedy Debate, about whether one person can actually change the world. A team of performance artists dressed like the Secret Service messing with people. Lantern parades. Morning bird walks with an ornithologist. Nighttime insect walks with an entomologist. A pottery class, complete with wheels. Classes on felting, self-portraiture, didjeridoo-making, every kind of craft. Fire, and lots of it! Woodford's even got a "Lettering House" where you can send out a letter to someone in the festival, and a team of posties on bicycles to deliver them. I was present when one of the postladies came by a French restaurant with an anonymous love letter for the handsome fella working inside, and the boys (who were all incredibly handsome) argued over who it must be for.

One of the most unique things there, and the one the young teens were really crazy about, is called The Game. There are teams of people in costumes at various stations around the site (a team of pirates in a ship, a team of knights in a castle, and so on) who induct the kids into The Game by giving them a challenge. Completing challenges earns Magic cards. I don't know much about the nuts and bolts of it, but The Game was a presence through the whole week, like another world going on in parallel with the grown-ups' world. Several kids asked me for help with various missions. And on the last day, there was a grande finale on the Village Green, with all the players dressed in costume, and a character on a tower, handing down judgements based on all the plot twists that had taken place during the week. The condemned had to die, falling flat on the ground and then surrendering their Magic cards one by one until the winners were decided.

The festival's a week long, and they had me playing six shows in total, three of them at a great, low-key spot called Bill's Bar. The second show, though, was on the Grande, Woodford's second-largest stage, in company with fellow Canadians Irish Mythen, the East Pointers, and the Franklin Electric. I reckon it was the biggest audience I've ever played for. The first three acts had the crowd absolutely amped, bouncing up and down and pumping fists in the air, but I led in with Trevor Mills' song "The Kid with the Comic Book" and it worked. I promised the crowd not to repeat songs, and that seemed to work too, with a gradually snowballing crowd following me through the week.

I took a nap in the wee hours of New Years' Day, and got up at four to watch the sunrise from the hilltop, with Tibetan monks chanting, and the Glasshouse Mountains looking otherworldly in the distance. I'd gone up alone, and sat huddled in my blanket, thinking back on New Years past, especially my first overseas, among friends in Montezuma, Costa Rica, at the turn of the millennium, and the next one, greeting the sunrise on the dirty streets of Taichung, Taiwan, hanging with new friends in Dakeng, then riding home on the train, slack-jawed and wide-eyed with the window open; arriving home too excited to sleep, and writing a group email to the friends I'd spent the previous New Years with, the first of a series of letters that eventually became this Hobo Travelogue.

I chatted with a few folks as the daylight gradually found us. A bunch of naked people did yoga. And it was 2016. I played my last set in Bill's Bar that day, and that night watched the fire show, probably the biggest spectacle I've ever seen, with innumerable lanterns, a huge festival choir, and the People's Orchestra, led by my buddy Mal Webb.

The next two nights' shows in Maleny and Brisbane were packed with Woodfordians, most of whom still had their wristbands on. It's natural, after spending time among such a diverse, peaceful group of beautiful people, befriending and being inspired, to want to carry that energy with you when you go. You might even wonder why the world can't always be that way. It's a valid question. But there's always a distinct moment, too, when you're unceremoniously reminded that the world isn't yet that way. It crept in for me, with news from the outside world on the radio, and a pointless half-hour conversation with a phone company employee who was powerless to help, but the real rude awakening came a few days later. Driving out to Currumbin to drop off CDs at my publicist's office, I passed a gigantic sign, nearly covering the front of a house, that read "No Mosque in Currumbin!" and then, in smaller letters, "I would be offended. Honk if you agree." Later that day, somebody drove up behind me and scraped his mirror, hard, most of the way along Skippy's flank. I was looking forward to telling him it was okay, but I didn't have a chance; he just drove away. Aww yeah, the "real world". No matter, that night I played my friends Ron and Donna's house, on a mountainside in the Gold Coast Hinterland, for a warm and receptive bunch of folks, and I thanked my lucky stars that I don't have to live in the "real world" all the time.

More travels down under

I had a great time up in Queensland, and made it up to Hervey Bay (where the bats are enormous), for a house concert and a songwriting workshop with school kids. It was great to hear the songs come out of those teenage minds. Two of them got stuck in my head for days. In Sandgate, I played the Music By the Sea festival, in Sandgate's beautiful town hall, and relished the air conditioning. In Alexandra Heads, I played a bar show with Benjamin James Caldwell, and remembered why I don't want to play bar shows anymore. It was a great chance to hang with Ben, though, and he finally uploaded the video we shot last time (at great risk to my guitar and even greater risk to his camera). Have a look, it's sweet:

Broke, and So Far From Home

Before I left southward, I had an opportunity to shoot two more videos with a fella named Peter Murtagh, in a couple gorgeous spots in Springbrook National Park:

Among the Trees Your Sweet Time

Springbrook's pretty amazing all around. While up there, we saw Antarctic Beeches--a tree that used to grow across Antarctica, South America, and Australia, when they were all joined together as the supercontinent Gondwana, and when Antarctica was green. Today they only survive in a few pockets in the highlands of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, and in a slightly different form, in the highlands of South America.

I also saw pademelons up there, three of them, hopping across the road, about as cute as anything could be. Look 'em up if you haven't heard of them! I spent the next couple days driving through the mountains, luxuriating in all the greenery and the solitude, before emerging to play a lovely house concert in Wingham, a tiny town that almost nobody's even heard of. From there I was off to Sydney for a couple shows, and then to Illawarra Folk Fest, where the organizers were nice enough to comp me a weekend pass, and I had some lovely reunions with folks I met last year. After that it was back up into the mountains to spend a few days with my friend Maddie, who might well inherit Skippy at the end of this trip, and then down to Canberra and into Victoria for the Newstead Live Music Festival, which was amazing as always. After Newstead I spent most of a week here in Melbourne, ducking out on the Saturday to play a last-minute house concert for about 35 folks at a winery in Harcourt North. After the show, the hostess' mom, who's in her 80s, and a cancer and heart attack survivor, was asking all the fellas to dance, so I got my guitar back out to play some rock and roll as she requested, and we had a proper dance party. From there I cut down to the coast to share an afternoon bar show with my friend and fellow van-dweller Candice McLeod; again, it reminded me not to book any more bar shows, but it was great to hang with Candice before we went our separate ways.

My way was westward, to South Australia for the first time. I had a crazy allergic reaction in Mount Gambier which is still unexplained, but made my eye swell up something fierce, so I ended up spending two nights in a motel there, catching up on work and waiting 'til I didn't look like Quasimodo. The next day I made the drive to Adelaide and picked up Liz Stringer for shows at South Coast Folk Club and the Wheatsheaf Hotel. Liz is not only hugely talented, but she's wickedly funny, and quickly edged into the ranks of my favourite people over the span of two days. I also got in a great hang with my buddy Tim Bennett and his family, staying another night in Adelaide before I headed south to McLaren Vale for a hilarious, rowdy but heart-filled afternoon show at the Groove Garden. I'll be back, South Australia.

So yeah, now I'm back in Melbourne, and about to hit the road again, eastward this time. I just wanted you to know I'm all good. I've been taking some photos along the way, that you can see here if you like.

Not being one to sign off without my usual serving of propaganda, I've gotta say: if you haven't been following Bernie Sanders, you're missing out on a rare moment in America's political history. It looks like the people might actually have the chance to change things. I never say that sort of thing about a politician. If you're so inclined, have a read of this Village Voice article.

And check out this interview with Killer Mike!

Oh yeah, and I'm looking for digs in Vancouver for the month of May, so if you hear of anything, please do let me know! Sublets, house-sits, whatever. I'm trusting something's going to open up, and already looking forward to being in one place for a while.

Keep shining, friends. Love from here,

s


December 16, 2015: Taiwan tour tales, Australia tour dates, life lessons from the fall tour, plus propaganda for Jez Hellard and Bernie Sanders

Hey there friends,

It's about time you had a word from me. I'm writing you from a hotel room in Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second-largest city, where I'll be playing later this evening, mid-way through a two-week round-the-island tour. I've just come down from three days spent alone motorbiking through the mountains, and I feel I've had such an eyeful of beauty that it's gonna spill back out at the people tonight.

I landed on Taiwan just a week ago, after an unexpected turn of events. I left the van at my friends Scotty and Jen's place on Vancouver Island, reasoning that it'd be better left there than in Vancouver, and I could just take the ferry back to the city for my flight. Misfortune struck, though, in the form of a storm at sea, so big that the ferries couldn't safely sail. So I was stuck 'til the following morning, when I made it to the airport to beg my way onto the next flight.

The change meant an overnight in Shanghai, which I thought would make for a good opportunity to catch up on email, and maybe even finish this Travelogue, totally forgetting about the Great Firewall of China. Neither Gmail nor Facebook work there, so instead I settled for wandering the streets of that town of twenty-four million, taking a few pictures and fending off the advances of sex-sellers and would-be tour guides. Later back at the hotel, fiddling around a little more, I found that while searches for stuff like "VPN proxy" (whereby you could use the web through a back door) and "Falung Gong" (where the Chinese government supposedly harvests the organs of folks for meditating a certain way) returned no results, Wikipedia was still fully functional, at least in English, so I spent a couple hours reading about the various ways the Party has crushed dissent through the years. It made me ever more grateful for Taiwan's tenuous existence, as the first flush of freedom in Chinese history.

Just the smell when we got out of the plane made me unbelievably happy, as did the bus ride into Taipei, the broccoli-covered look of the hillsides, the old brick farmhouses, the phoenix-crested temples, the rooftop pigeon houses and water tanks, and the sound of Taiwan's particularly slurry brand of Mandarin. That evening I played a feature set at Bobwundaye's weekly jam, and got predictably inebriated. The following day I got my host and Taiwan bassman Tom's bike working, and reunited with the Anglers to rehearse and re-learn our tunes, which we hadn't played in a year and a half. On Friday I started the bike trip, out to Jungli to play our old family home-away-from-home, the River. Both of my bands used to jam there every Thursday, and I've had many a late night at that bar, so it actually felt kinda overwhelming to be starting the tour there. But the folks were kind, and the owner Kimmy was in great spirits. Several of the old crew that I hadn't seen in ten years or more appeared, including Andy from Japan, Zach from Idaho, and Matt from NYC. An amazing reunion as always at River, and a late one as always too.

The next day I got up early to haul down to Taichung for an afternoon mini-festival that Paul throws whenever I come, Hobo Happiness. This was the fourth time around, and it went off without a hitch. The cops didn't even come. My only complaint is that it felt way too short, to be reunited with so many good people at once, for a mere few hours.

The next day was another afternoon show, at a really cool new venue called Thinkers' Corner, run by a Taiwanese professor, writer, singer, MC and activist named Jui-chuan Chang. The fabulous Mojo and Sons (made up of members of the great Muddy Basin Ramblers) opened up the show with an exciting set of old tunes that warmed up the room something fierce, and joined me on a few numbers later. It felt incredible to play for an audience of silent, open-eared and open-hearted people, a real rarity in my experience here. Some folks cried. That's when you know it's working.

The next morning I was up early again, anxious to take advantage of the abundant sunshine and get up into the mountains. I rode out towards Alishan, Taiwan's second-highest peak, and followed winding ridgelines, through the high mountain tea plantations, and sun-dappled pine and cypress forests. The views were even more beautiful than I remembered them.

I stopped for the night in Fenchihu, a tiny town nestled on a mountainside that sprung up as a stop along the Alishan railway. The Japanese built the narrow-gauge line when they occupied Taiwan, to haul trees out from Alishan down to the coastal plain, but now it's just for tourist traffic. I asked some locals who directed me to a Catholic hostel. I've stayed in the one in Taroko Gorge before, and it was cheap, so I went to check it out. When I pulled in it was dusky already, and there were three women having an animated discussion in Chinese. I walked up and asked about a room, and the stooped, tiny nun asked "你從哪裡來?" (where are you from?), to which I replied "我是加拿大人" (I'm Canadian), but as I was replying, I noticed her blue eyes fixing on me. It genuinely tripped me out at first. "I am from Switzerland", she replied.

After I got over my initial surprise, I inquired more, and found out that she'd been there for over fifty years. The thought of it made my head spin. Taiwan was under martial law 'til 1987, and I don't know many foreigners who were here before then. 50 years ago the streets of Kaohsiung and Taipei were full of bicycles, and there was no road to Fenchihu, only the train. There were no Taiwanese living there then, only Tsou aboriginal people. I tried to pick her brain for more, but she didn't offer more than was asked. She had been back to Switzerland a few times, and remarked that they didn't have Taiwanese-style 3-in-1 instant coffee there. That's because they like good coffee in Switzerland, I said, but realized it wasn't the right thing to say. There's doubtless lots about the world that I know that she doesn't. But she knows plenty I don't, including one amazing secret, the secret to staying in place, staying where you think you're needed.

The next day was another breathtaking drive south through the mountains to Cha Shan, a tiny town at the end of one of the most beautiful valleys I've ever seen, where my friend Tea Andy directed me years ago. On my way out of town, I stopped to ask an old fella directions, and he invited me up on his porch to have some tea. It turned out that he knew Andy, and asked after him. After more talking, it turned out that he remembered me, from when I'd come by years ago. He remembered that I'd come with a tent and a guitar and camped by the spot where fire and water meet (a methane bog that's constantly on fire). I ended up deciding to stay at his guesthouse around back, which he rented to me for a friend rate of 500nt (about $20 Canadian), and he took me for a tour around town, pointing out the distinctive decorating and dress styles of the Tsou and Bunun tribes who live here, and saying hi to his friends. His wife cooked us dinner, and we retired to the porch, where we drank tea and coffee grown right in Cha Shan, and ate a fruit jelly that his wife made while we watched, from the seeds of a local fruit, ground together inside a tea bag in water and left to sit for about twenty minutes. He also gave me a "mystery fruit" (synsepalum dulcificum) to try, a red berry that once eaten, changes the taste of other things eaten afterward from sour to sweet, by the means of a glycoprotein named miraculin that binds to sweet receptors on the tongue. He showed me pictures of local bird species he'd taken himself, and I sang them a couple songs, much to their delight, even though they couldn't understand the words.

Today's drive was equally if not more beautiful, and it was graced by more different kinds of bird than I think I've ever seen along a drive in Taiwan, darting this way and that across the road. I even followed a bird of prey flying directly in front of me for quite a while with the motorbike. For parts of the drive the mist was spilling out of the valley and over the road so thick I could barely see the turns ahead. And later the sun shone beautifully on the aboriginal villages tucked in the valleys, with their colourfully-painted houses and profusion of flowers.

I took some pictures from the trip, which you can see here if you'd like!

I rolled out of the wilderness today, grateful for the sweet reminder of the beauty of this island, the importance of alone time now and then, the interwovenness of the world, and the amazing generosity of Taiwanese people, like the mechanic who took my bike for a spin to see what was wrong, brought it back and fixed it, and took it for another spin to make sure it was fixed, and flatly refused payment. What a place. I've got just a few more days left on this lovely island, and even fewer dates:

Wed Dec 16 - Kaohsiung - ROCKS with Jack Conqueroo and The Smokes
Thu Dec 17 - Hengchun - Goat's Reggae Bar
Fri Dec 18 - Dulan - Tin Pan Roadhouse with Mister Green
Sat Dec 19 - Hualien - house concert with Paul Lawrence and Mister Green
Sun Dec 20 - Taipei - Sappho Live with the Anglers and Mojo and Sons, 8:30pm


All the details, as always, are on my news page.

Next Wednesday I'm flying to Australia to move into my other summer home, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. I'll be landing in Sydney on Christmas Day, and heading straight up to Queensland for the Woodford Folk Festival, a legendary fest in its 30th year. The next three months'll be spent around Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, doing the usual gigging in addition to a fair bit of bush camping and writing. I think I'm finally learning to slow down and play less shows, as the shows themselves get better. The tour dates so far are:

Sun-Fri Dec 27-Jan 1 - Woodford, QLD - Woodford Folk Festival
Sat Jan 2 - Maleny, QLD - Upfront Club
Sun Jan 3 - Brisbane, QLD - Triffid Roots with Irish Mythen, 2:30pm
Wed Jan 6 - Hervey Bay, QLD - school workshop and house concert
Fri Jan 8 - Guanaba, QLD - house concert
Sat Jan 9 - Sandgate, QLD - Sandgate Music by the Sea Festival
Wed Jan 13 - Wauchope, NSW - house concert
Thu Jan 14 - Gymea, NSW - Sutherland Acoustic
Fri Jan 15 - Sydney, NSW - The Acoustic Picnic
Wed Jan 20 - Canberra, ACT - Canberra Musicians' Club
Thu Jan 21 - Bendigo, VIC - Billy Roy's Blues Bar
Fri-Mon Jan 22-25 - Newstead, VIC - Newstead Live! Music Festival
Thu Feb 4 - Port Noarlunga, SA - South Coast Folk Club with Liz Stringer
Fri Feb 5 - Adelaide, SA - Wheatsheaf Hotel with Liz Stringer
Sun Feb 7 - McLaren Vale, SA - Red Poles Cafe, 12:30pm
Sun Feb 7 - McLaren Vale, SA - The Groove Garden
Fri Feb 12 - Melbourne, VIC - Eaglemont house concert
Sat Feb 13 - Beechworth, VIC - Tanswells Commercial Hotel
Sun Feb 14 - Wadiligong, VIC - Wandi Pub
Fri Feb 19 - Candelo, VIC - Acoustic night at Kameruka Hall
Sat Feb 20 - Nowra, NSW - house concert
Sat Feb 27 - Woy Woy, NSW - Troubadour Acoustic Club
Fri Mar 4 - Sydney, NSW - house concert
Sat Mar 5 - Collaroy, NSW - The Shack
Sun Mar 6 - Katoomba, NSW - Live in the Attic at Hotel Blue
Fri-Mon Mar 11-14 - Mia Mia, VIC - Burke & Wills Folk Festival
Thu Mar 17 - Melbourne, VIC - writers' round at Lomond Hotel


For the month of April, it looks like I'll be heading to New Zealand, though I'm not entirely sure yet. I had considered South Africa, but since nothing's coming together, I think it's best saved for another time, likely December of 2016. Part of playing better shows means not rushing into things, or trying to force them when they don't want to happen.

I've been busy since I last wrote you, but the shows have been great, and I've learned a lot about the way forward. About how saying no can oftentimes open up better opportunities. And about how most of the obstacles I face now are my own.

In Ontario I got to play with some of my favourite songwriting comrades, David Newberry, David Ross MacDonald, and Winona Wilde, and got to play the third show in a very well-paid series that had so far hosted Jonathan Byrd, Steve Poltz and Irish Mythen, all powerhouse writers at the top of their game. Then in Saratoga Springs, New York, I got to open for my friend and mentor David Francey at the oldest continuously-running coffeehouse in America, Caffe Lena. There are pictures on the wall from when Dylan played there. All of that, together with other shows over the past year, seemed to coalesce into some kind of long-elusive validation for me. You see, I've always struggled with feeling like I'm an imposter, like I can't play with the big boys and girls, like I'll choke when the big chance finally comes, like I'm bound to go on slumming it and scraping by forever, like I'm not really worthy of my lofty dreams. But this past year has proven to me over and over that those things I've been telling myself aren't true. I'm a slow learner, but I think I've finally gotten the point.

Lurking in the shadows of that realization was a familiar part of me, the part that's afraid to step forward, that's attached to all those old stories, that wants to play small, and throws obstacles in my own path to keep myself where I am, to keep itself alive. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield names that force Resistance. I haven't beaten Resistance, and one probably never can, but at least I've gotten to know it better.

When I started out in this business, most of the doors I knocked on didn't open. Most people I emailed or called didn't get back to me; most of the "gatekeepers" I met wrote me off as an amateur. And I was. I hadn't walked far enough through my own lonesome valley of self-doubt. I hadn't put enough work into my craft. And I sabotaged my own efforts, by telling myself defeatist stories, by shrinking from the real tests, and by overindulging rather than facing my challenges with sober determination. As time's gone on, more and more of those doors that were closed have opened up to me. I've been given opportunities that other people dream of. And now it's amply clear that the majority of the obstacles I face are internal. I know how to succeed at this business by now. And I also know all too well how I routinely let myself fail.

After the Caffe Lena show I had four days off, and I managed to find the perfect cabin in the Adirondacks to hole up in, with the Hudson River running by out front, the fall colours all ablaze, a woodstove, a firepit, a hatchet, a woodpile, two oil lamps, and no power for the computer. At last I had the space to mull over those lessons, to learn a couple fiddle tunes on the banjo, to get back into my yoga practice, and to write a song for the first time since spring. I resolved to carve out more time for stillness, silence, and routine along the road ahead.

One small step toward that will be making my home in Vancouver for the month of May, and in Toronto for a month in late August through early September. I know, it's a far cry from actually settling down, but it's a step in that direction. And incremental progress is the only kind of progress worth aiming at.

Before I left Ontario I went back to the Folk Music Ontario conference, reunited with a lot of folks I've missed, made some new friends, and played a couple very satisfying hotel room shows. From there it was a straight shot home for the Alberta Showcase conference in Fort Saskatchewan. The Second Chances came along, we did our best, and we managed to get a bunch of cushy gigs for 2017. Both conferences served to further drive all the above points home.

After a few more shows around Alberta, including an amazing night at the Bailey Theatre in Camrose with the Long Weekends, I was off to the wilds of northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba for two weeks, playing living rooms, basements, community centres, and even one bar in a whole bunch of towns I'd never been to, and several I'd never even heard of. The tour was organized by Home Routes, a group based out of Winnipeg that has developed fourteen different tour circuits of mostly private houses in mostly rural communities all across Canada. My last run with them took me up to the Yukon. If hosting concerts in your living room sounds like something you might be interested in, have a look at www.homeroutes.ca.

A few days into the tour, I hit a crazy storm on the road up to The Pas, Manitoba, white-knuckled it through what was surely one of the gnarliest drives of my life, and admittedly wondered why in God's name anyway in their right mind would live up there. But I found a lovely community there, as I did in Flin Flon, further north. There's an admirable ruggedness and also a ridiculousness to northern life, no better exemplified than in their onetime winter pastime: dragging an old car out onto the frozen lake and taking bets on when it'd fall through the ice in the spring.

Flin Flon's got a vibrant music scene and a hospitable community, which opened its arms not just to me, but also to the Syrian refugees who will soon be arriving. They had just gotten the news, and they had already raised thousands of dollars and organized a sold-out fundraising dinner.

Touring through tiny towns in the prairies in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, I actually expected to hear more xenophobic talk than I did. I can't say I didn't hear any, but for the most part, I was hearing the tolerance, hospitality, and generosity that make Canada great.

Not so with the country of my birth. Over half of the States' governors said they wouldn't take refugees, and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump even proposed banning immigration by Muslims. The irony of closing our doors to the people caught between our bombs and a campaign of terror by a group we helped to create was lost in a chorus of fear-mongering by the folks on TV.

In case any of you dear readers are unaware of how rightly the West can take credit for ISIS (and Al-Qaeda too), please do have a read:

Salon: We Created Islamic Extremism

Counterpunch: How the West Created the Islamic State

The Guardian: How the US Fueled the Rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq

The Nation: What I Discovered from Interviewing Isis Prisoners

For an additional dose of irony, consider that our biggest Arab ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, is pretty much the Mecca (no pun intended) of Wahhabi extremism. In a recent poll, 92% of respondents agreed that ISIS "conforms to the values of Islam and Islamic law." The Saudi judicial system is based on Sharia law, dealing out beheadings for crimes like blasphemy and apostasy. And these are the people we arm and support.

I was only back in Edmonton for three days after the Home Routes tour, but did have the opportunity to watch our Edmonton Eskimos win the Grey Cup with my parents, and to play a lovely farewell show at the Mercury Room with Bram on banjo, Shari Rae sitting in on bass, and Jacquie B joining us on vocals. My one-time wrestling opponent Nadine Kellman, my Aussie buddy Benjamin James Caldwell, and a mind-blowingly good new-to-me local gal called Lucette all played amazing sets that warmed up the night and filled up my heart.

From there I braved the icy roads to Salmon Arm to play my buddy Mike's house alongside old friend Trina Nestibo, and to Vancouver to play Skinny Fat Jack's with my friends Dennis Bouwman, Michael Rush, and Marin Patenaude. It was a huge helping of soul food, as was the whole visit to the coast. As Winnie the Pooh says, "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard."

Just two more orders of business in the propaganda department, dear readers, and then I'll let you go. Some of you will already be familiar with my longtime friend and UK tourmate Jez Hellard, but you may not know that he's about to drop a new album on the world, and it's his best work yet. In the interest of full disclosure, I should let you know that he covers two of my tunes ("Pass It Along" and "The Lord Giveth (and the Landlord Taketh Away") on this project. I think you'll like them. He's also got songs by Cahalen Morrison, Tucker Zimmerman, and a bunch of other folks you may or may not know, along with mighty sets of traditional tunes from the British Isles. Twin fiddles, flatpicked guitar, double bass, harmonica, uilleann pipes, and accordion blend together into something terrifyingly huge. It's an amazing record, and as of this writing, you've still got a little time to pre-order it! You'll be glad you did.

Secondly, as I said earlier, the TV's no place to get your information about the world. For example, it seems those unlucky enough to be benighted by the nightly news barely know who Bernie Sanders is. He's received 1/30th the coverage of that asshat, Donald Trump. And yet he's consistently drawing bigger crowds on the campaign trail than Trump or Clinton, and fares better in polls against both of them. Time Magazine just chose him as Person of the Year, and he was on the cover of Rolling Stone. Could it be his willingness to take on Wall Street and the corporocracy that the TV news doesn't like? For whatever reason, they've chosen to pretend that Clinton's already the chosen Democratic candidate. Now, I don't agree with Bernie on everything, and I'm not saying he can be our saviour. If we're to be saved at all, we'll have to save ourselves. But it would be incredible to have somebody in the White House pulling for us. If you don't know about him, please check out BernieSanders.com, and throw some money his way if you can!

Alright, that's all the news that's fit to print for now. I've got a gig to get to. Sending you all the love from here,

s


September 30, 2015: Eastern tour dates, an endless summer recap, and a free song full of good advice I rarely take

Hey friends,

It sure has been awhile, hasn't it? Summer's just been way too full of fun to leave time for writing about it. I've finally got a couple days off on my own, holed up in a hotel in Buffalo, New York, and it feels great. Who knew admin could be so much fun? Tomorrow I'll be crossing the border back into Canada and meeting up with three of my favourite songwriters: Corin Raymond, David Newberry and David Ross MacDonald. Corin's band The Sundowners are playing 6-8pm in the front room of the Cameron House, and then the two Daves and I will be swapping songs in the round from 8-10pm in the back room. Both shows are by donation, magic or your money back. So yeah, here's how the near horizon looks (and it looks pretty exciting to me):

Thu Oct 1 - Toronto, ON - Cameron House with David Newberry and David Ross MacDonald
Fri Oct 2 - Toronto, ON - O'Hara House Concerts with David Ross MacDonald
Sat Oct 3 - Owen Sound, ON - The Bleeding Carrot with David Ross MacDonald
Sun Oct 4 - Grand Valley, ON - private cider party and house concert with Winona Wilde
Mon Oct 5 - Barrie, ON - Innisbrook Golf Course
Wed Oct 7 - Montreal, QC - Quai des Brumes with Bobby Dove
Fri Oct 9 - Saratoga Springs, NY - Caffe Lena with David Francey
Sat-Mon Oct 10-12 - self-imposed writing retreat in the Adirondacks!?!
Tue Oct 13 - Burlington, VT - Radio Bean
Wed Oct 14 - Ottawa, ON - Pressed Cafe with special guest Greg Kelly
Thu-Sun Oct 15-18 - Toronto, ON - Folk Music Ontario conference
Tue Oct 20 - Thunder Bay, ON - The Apollo
Fri-Sun Oct 23-25 - Fort Saskatchewan, SK - Alberta Showcase with the Second Chances


Same as always, all the details can be found on my news page.

As you may have noticed, there's a three-day window where I'm seeking solitude in the Adirondacks or thereabouts, to get some writing done. If you've got an idea (or a cabin out the back of your property), drop a line to grooverevival@gmail.com and hopefully we can work something out!

Now, how about that summer?!? Last I wrote you, good people, I was fresh from a blissful reunion at the North Country Fair, and gearing up for five more CD release dates around Alberta with the Long Weekends. I can't tell you how much fun it is playing with that band. Melissa took over the bass duties permanently, so it's her on both electric and upright, Bram on banjo and vocals, Jesse Dee on lead guitar, Jacquie B on vocals and tambourine, Dana Wylie on vocals and keys, and Matt Blackie on the drums. They're all monster musicians, and more importantly, some of my closest friends in the world, which makes every night feel like some kinda super-band love-in.

If you want to see the band in action, Alison Bortolin of Radical Productions shot video at Camrose's historic Bailey Theatre, and I've uploaded two songs to Youtube: "Use Your Imagination", with everybody taking fancy solos, and a new love song that you might not know called "Your Sweet Time".

By far the most fun, of course, was the hometown release. This year I decided to combine it with the eighth annual North Country Fair Afterbender, and settled on a Sunday at Bonnie Doon Hall for the lovely, leafy, afternoon vibe. We had sets from Nadine Kellman and the Black Wonders, the Kimberley MacGregor Band, Jenie Thai Nolan, Michael Dunn and the Moanin' After, Billie Zizi, Big Rude Jake, my Aussie pal Tom Richardson, Bill Bourne's new Indo-fusion outfit Ganges Delta, Picture the Ocean, Joe Nolan, Dennis Bouwman, Sean Brewer and Ayla Brook, Mohsin Zaman, and the Party on High Street, and everybody rocked out big time. After our closing set was done and the PA was turned off, I walked outside to find myself somehow magically transported back to the North Country Fair. There must've been at least a hundred people sprawled out all over the grass, laughing and singing and hula hooping and drinking and smoking various things, in that same bewildering half-light that could pass for dusk or dawn. And that, friends, was home.

I hung around Edmonton for the next month and a half, and it was a rare delight to get that much summer in at home. Plenty of days were spent biking around the sun-dappled streets and paths of town, watching shows in the parks and bars, and wiling away the evening hours on patios. Most weekends involved trips out of town, but they were short trips, to land among friends at enchanted reunions like Pembina River Nights and the 20th annual Sasquatch Gathering.

One fest, though, was a totally new experience for me: playing the songwriters' stage at the Big Valley Jamboree, long known to me as Alberta's second-biggest celebration of douchebaggery (second only to Boonstock). It actually surprised me some. Of course, there were things I expected: the biggest sea of white-topped RVs I've ever seen, Ian Tyson playing to regimented rows of lawn chairs while flanked by enormous electronic billboards, hordes of shirtless young dudes getting day-drunk and sun-burned, and even one guy who'd evidently passed out while his buddies were still awake the night before, emblazoned with rough-drawn dicks in permanent marker. But I sure didn't expect to see a couple fellas in cowboy duds holding hands! We did just elect a socialist government in Alberta this spring, though. Maybe ANYTHING can happen!

My longtime bass player Moses Gregg and his sweetheart Haley Myrol got married this summer, and it was pretty much the best wedding ever, complete with a pagan hand-fasting ceremony, rocking sets from all our friends under a gigantic parachute suspended by telephone poles, and a rowdy dance to "Hava Nagila" where the bride and groom, sitting on chairs, were lifted into the air and paraded wildly above the swirling crowd.

The weekend before the wedding, the boys went on a three-day canoe trip for Mosey's stag, and Bram and I ducked out of the Sasquatch Gathering on Sunday to join them for their last night. Our good buddy Steve had picked the spot in advance from Google Maps, a nice big island relatively close to shore with a road running right down to it. At least that's what we all pictured in our minds. After driving past six or seven signs saying "Private Road, No Trespassing" and even "Road Closed to Any and All Traffic by Government Order", we arrived at a locked gate with more similar signs, within sight of a house that was presumably the landowner's. Mosey and Steve, who'd come to meet us and were obviously well on their way in the day's imbibing, tried to foist whiskey on us along with assurances that everything was gonna be just fine. We left the cars, rounded the gate, tromped through the woods, passed another "Entry Forbidden" gate and arrived at the steep riverbank, only to be spotted by another bunch of yahoos who'd tubed to the same island, and were whooping and lighting off fireworks just in case the landowner didn't have enough to be pissed off about.

The boys (and Mosey's dog, a massive golden retriever named Einstein) had only brought one canoe to fetch us, so we set out tentatively with all five of us piled in; a wobbly, terrifying mess. The boys offered us a last chance to turn around and go back with no hard feelings, but we'd already come this far. I took my phone out of my pants and put it in the breast pocket of my jacket, thinking that if I fell in the river while I could still stand up, I might at least save the phone. Very quickly I reconsidered that if I fell in the river, saving my life might actually be the thing, and I didn't want to be wearing a bulky jacket while I tried to do it. So we got ready to swim and struck out boldly, all four paddling, losing ground against the current while the light drained from the sky and the canoe teetered, the gunwales occasionally ducking under water and the bottom beginning to fill. Good sense finally prevailed, and we managed to drag the thing back to shore to try a different tack. We slogged the canoe up the muddy, branch-strewn riverbank for ages before Steve and Mose, who were already soaked, volunteered to wade it along with me, Bram, his guitar, and Einstein sitting inside. After a half hour that was something out of Apocaplypse Now, we were within striking distance of the island. Steve, Bram and I made one run across the river, then he turned back to get Mose and Einstein, and they finally made landfall as the last bit of light left the sky. Let me tell ya, friends, there's nothing like reckless idiocy to make you feel alive.

The following day we rode back to where we'd put in, and were so overwhelmed by the sunlit beauty of the river that we actually considered riding all the way back to Edmonton, were it not for our cars being parked in the sketchiest place ever. Thankfully, they were there when we got back, and Bram and I contented ourselves with dreams of next summer's canoe tours.

Longtime readers of this Travelogue will be familiar with Tyler Dakin, my high-school bandmate and the other songwriter in our Taiwan-based roots and reggae band, the Anglers. He came back to Canada for a visit toward the end of my house-sit in Edmonton, with his lovely wife Yu Fang and four year-old son Tobiah in tow, and it was great to be able to host them for a couple days. We even got four-fifths of our high school band together, along with a bunch more old friends, and had a proper crokinole throw-down for old times' sake.

In mid-August it was time to hit the road again, and I actually felt kinda sad tearing myself away from town. Before long, though, the realization set in that rather than marking the end of summer, touring BC was actually squeezing a whole lot more out of it.

Disaster struck on the first day of tour, though, when my new van died on the way to Lethbridge for our first gig. Thankfully, we were only about an hour out of town, so AMA towed us back to the tranny shop free of charge. But my online search for rental vans was yielding grim results. The cheapest same-day deal I found in Edmonton would've cost $4000 for the month. I was pretty much out of options when Jesse Dee stepped in and saved the day, loaning us Picture the Ocean's trusty tour chariot Van the Van.

And we were off! First to the Kootenays for a couple wonderful days, then to Salmon Arm for our biggest gig of the summer, the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival. We had a proper crew of friends along, and we all camped out together. As far as we could tell we were the loudest campers, and the only performers, in the whole campground. On Sunday night we had the high honour of closing out the festival with my song "Pass It Along", which Peter, the Artistic Director, hopes will catch on as a festival finale. JD Edwards, Cara Luft, Tim Chaisson and Jacquie B all joined us. I actually felt kinda nervous beforehand, following John Oates (of Hall & Oates) on main stage, trying to figure out where we'd all stand, and all that... But as soon as I started playing it I realized that I do this all the time, and the size of the stage really doesn't matter. I feel like I crossed a line there, friends. So much of what holds us back is just a question of belief and self-sabotage. Our buddy Mikey B shot a video if you want to have a look, here.

From Salmon Arm, Bram was off to visit his family in Ontario, and Melissa and I were off to Sorrento, BC, for a week at Nimblefingers Bluegrass and Old-time Music Camp. It was my third year going by there, and it was more fun than ever. I camped with fellow songwriters Tereza Tomek, Winona Wilde (who Corin had just told me about after ArtsWells), and a bunch of other young folks, and for lack of preparation we settled on Trashgrass as our theme for the campsite decoration contest. Strings of empties looted from the recycle bins onsite, ever-growing piles of empties from our own week of debauchery, a spare tire on the lawn, a tarp with "Trashgrass 2015" written in masking tape, an old camper trailer with a broken window, and big bribery bottles of Baby Duck and Fireball on the table set the scene for the judges. The gals dressed up in appropriately trashy outfits and garish green eye-shadow, sang Andrew Neville's classic song "All the Stupid F**king Things I've Done", and won their hearts. There's still some dispute over whether they also won the grand prize, the Sofa of Serenity, only to be robbed by some back-door dealing, but we were content with the Ottoman of Serenity all the same. A number of instructors did seem to spend an inordinate amount of time at our campsite through the week, either for the folk sanctuary we'd created among the bluegrass jams and fiddle tunes, or for the total lack of sanctimony that a camp called Trashgrass provides.

The Wednesday night was my birthday, and I edged one last year closer to my forties, fumbling my way through square dances and waltzes at the Social Dance in the community hall across the road. It made me very, very happy.

For the Thursday night student concert, all our campmates played my song "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?", which might well be heretical at a place like that, but I think it was a hit. There's a venue at the camp called Spes Bona Lounge, so we named our band Space Boner Lounge. Our banjo-playing buddy Josh managed to capture the moment with his GoPro clipped to the mic stand.

From Nimblefingers Melissa and I ripped up to Music on the Mountain in Fort St. James, where I had an all-too-brief reunion with Scotty Dunbar, The Party on High Street, Twin Peaks, Melissa's band Two Bears North, Wax Mannequin, Folky Strum Strum, Barefoot Caravan, Black Spruce Bog, Red Haven, Doug Koyama, Dave Soroka, Joey Onley, Miss Quincy, and Aussie pals Aurora Jane, Liz Stringer, Tim Bennett, and Cat Leahy, among others. On the Saturday night we were treated to a fantastic display of Northern Lights, much to the Aussies' (and even some Canadians') amazement.

On Sunday I had to split early, to do a house concert in Prince George for a fella I hardly knew, and wow, what a sweet welcome it was for a weary and hungover traveler. Sometimes I wonder how I got it so good. Thanks, Lafleches.

From there it was down to Kamloops to pick up Bram and our substitute bass player Lindsay Woolgar, who I'd never even met, and who'd just flown in from Winnipeg. She stepped in at short notice to fill Melissa's shoes while her band Two Bears North took part in a high-stakes radio contest called the Peak Performance Project, and our first jam was in the park right before we went onstage, but she did great, and she fit sweetly into our traveling family too.

The next couple days we traveled to the Yalakom Valley and the Beaver Valley to play for the folks in the hills there, got a proper dose of back-country living, and even saw three bears. Then it was back to the city and door-locking once again, for shows in Kelowna, Penticton, and Vancouver. En route to the Vancouver show, we heard that Stormageddon had hit the city, flooding streets, downing trees, and taking out power to huge swathes of town, including the venue we were supposed to play at. Thankfully we were saved at the last minute by the WISE Hall, and got to play after all, along with our buddy Jack Marks, who also hosted the afterparty at his place.

From there we were over to Victoria for an afternoon show, to my good friends Scotty & Jen's house to marvel at their fast-growing kids, and then to hang out with the beautiful, righteous-living people on Cortes Island, Denman Island, and Hornby Island, which had been the destination of my first hitch-hiking trip all those years ago. Looking at the moon over Tribune Bay on our last night, I felt the years winding back in me, and marvelled at all the roads that had passed in between.

After a nice show in Nanaimo we headed up to Powell River, where we actually had a hotel for two nights at the Sunshine Music Festival. We really appreciated the night off, to jam with our guest fiddler and new mama Sara Fitzpatrick, and the warm welcome at the festival the next day. We were up early Sunday morning, though, to catch the first ferry down the coast towards Keremeos, for our last show of the tour and our third at the Old Grist Mill. Bram and I had a long drive back to Edmonton the next day, but we stayed up around the fire all the same, sharing songs with our fellow campers and feeling about as warm and cozy in our hearts as can be.

I had just three days to get my life together back in Edmonton, capped off by a sweet night with close friends around the fire at Jesse and Jacquie's place, before I set off eastward again, burning up the miles to Winnipeg. I played alongside Andrew Neville (one of my favourite songwriters in the world) at the Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club (one of my favourite bars in the world), and I even had the pleasure of playing again with Lindsay, who'd flown home just days before. It felt pretty great. The next day I was across the border to Duluth, Minnesota, to play Beaners Central, a coffee shop I'd played on my first tour ten years ago, and one of the few venues I played ten years ago that I'd still play today.

After sweet stops among friends in Houghton, Michigan; Viroqua, Wisconsin; Door County, Wisnconsin; and the Chicago suburbs, I finally made it to Earthwork Harvest Gathering, which reconfirmed its place among those gatherings nearest to my heart. I played a rocking outdoor set with my buddies in Fauxgrass on Friday night, and an intimate set with my cousin Dylan, a great upright player named Dale Owen, and dobro whiz Mark Lavengood in the barn on Saturday night. By far the highlight of my weekend, though, was Monday night, after the crowd had gone, and we had a sweet jam in the barn with a bunch of the inner circle. Isn't it always better when you stick around?

I went up to my Grandma Cook's farm for the week after the fest, and had a great time with my cousin and his family (who live across the yard), despite the domesticity-envy they always evoke in me. On the Wednesday night I played a house concert with Bree Saunders and his crew in Rapid City, and on Friday I played another with Charlie Millard and a bunch of young, starry-eyed permaculture farmers in Harbor Springs, both of which were followed by great campfire sing-alongs into the wee hours, simultaneously heart-warming and sleep-depriving. Saturday morning I was up early for the long drive down to Indianapolis for a lovely show in a Unitarian Universalist church, and Sunday I drove to Columbus, Ohio to play alongside my buddy Eric Nassau on his 40th birthday. There was another campfire that night, but I knew it'd be the last for a while.

If you're still reading, you may be feeling vicariously tired, and I can't argue with you. It's been a heckuva season. I don't have anyone to blame for the breathless booking but myself. And I can certainly see the shortcomings of it as a long-term strategy. But wow, has it ever been a lot of fun, and furthermore, it's opened a lot of doors, to both hearts and homes. I guess I just need to learn to stay a little longer.

The new record's still trickling out; I'm actually packing up a bunch of copies for American folk radio today. Kinda funny, since it's a summer record, but it's hard to do everything when you're touring as hard as I have been. It did get its first review not too long ago, in the Edmonton Journal, and our man Tom Murray really did seem to have his finger on the pulse of it; have a read here.

Canadian college radio seems to be liking it too; it made the top ten on !earshot's folk charts (my first album to do that since Long Way to Wander), and it even hit #1 in Kamloops! Please call and request it on your local station if you're so inclined! And if you haven't got the album yet, you can order it direct from me via the Paypal button on my frontpage or by cheque to 3 Meredian Road, Sherwood Park, AB, T8A 0N5, or you can stream and download it on Bandcamp.

Oh, and in case your appetite needs whetting, or just as thanks for reading my interminable ramblings, here's a free one for you! It's the closer, and pretty much the song of my summer, if you ask me; a song about an inevitable but nonetheless elusive part of growing up, leaving while the party's still going. You can download it for free by right-clicking or ctrl-clicking on the link: While the Party's Still Going.

I'm already thinking about the next record, and feeling like there's a lot to say. There's not much point in trying to sum it up, except to say that this world needs compassion more than ever. There are more people fleeing the mess we've made of other countries, and the planet itself, every day. Some folks are preaching hatred and fear and the closing of borders. But there are other folks still speaking the language of compassion. And those are the kind of songs the world needs more of.

To my Canadian readers in particular, we've got an election coming up on October 19th. Maybe you're the type of person who doesn't believe in voting, and I don't blame you. But just humour me this once, will you? Our current government's talking the same hateful language that has poisoned these here Divided States of America. Let's oust them while we still have the chance. Oh yeah, and don't forget to bring along some photo ID, and proof of address! Apparently there are millions of muslims in burkas looking to sabotage our election. We can't be too careful.

If that last bit of political stumping was altogether too blunt, then I'll leave you with a dose of subtlety from no other than the king of nuance himself, Mr. Geoff Berner. I've been covering this song at every show in Canada since I learned it back in August. Political messages can really never be too understated, you see, especially for us Canadians.

Alright, I love ya, people! And I promise to try and write more often, so it won't be so freakin' long! Happy season to you,

s


June 25, 2015: Home at last, Alberta CD release dates, and Old World rambles aplenty

Dear friends,

I'm writing you from my folks' place, where I'll be house-sitting for most of the next month and a half while they're on vacation. It's a huge feeling of relief, the thought that I can be alone whenever I want. The thought of having my instruments set up in a place I can practice. The thought of practice in general, whether on music, exercise, or writing, and a space in which to make a routine of it. There hasn't been a lot of that in the last while. There have been lots of good times, rambling around the countryside of England, Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall with fellow troubadour Jez Hellard, and two weeks in the middle spent alone around the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium, getting around by backpack, bicycle, boat, bus, train, and plane. I've got lots more to tell you about all that real soon.

But first, to the matter closest at hand! At long last, Scott Cook and the Long Weekends Go Long is out in the world, and we're bringing it to our fellow Albertans in person:

Fri June 26 - Calgary, AB - Ironwood Stage, with special guests The Party on High Street

Sat June 27 - Lloydminster, SK - The Root Community Emporium with Earl James Stevenson

Sun June 28 - Edmonton, AB - 8th Annual North Country Fair Afterbender at Bonnie Doon Hall with Ganges Delta, Billie Zizi, Tom Richardson, Picture the Ocean, Nadine Kellman, Kimberley MacGregor, Michael Dunn, the Party on High Street and many more, 3-9pm, all ages welcome, potluck food encouraged. This party is BY INVITATION ONLY! If you want to come, drop a line to grooverevival@gmail.com and let me know who you're bringing so I can put you on the list.

Fri July 3 - Red Deer, AB - Fratters Speakeasy

Sat July 4 - Camrose, AB - The Bailey Theatre

As always, all the details can be found on my news page. Unfortunately, these'll likely be your only chances to see the Long Weekends in action this year, so I hope you can make one of the shows if you're in the neighbourhood. This really is the best band I've ever had behind me, and I'm stoked for you to see them in action and hear the new tunes.

It's a summertime record if ever I made one, so it made perfect sense to release it over the solstice last weekend at my home festival, the North Country Fair in Driftpile, Alberta. It's three and a half hours northwest of Edmonton, but I count the Fair as my spiritual home all the same. It's the place I got turned on all those years ago, and it's the reason I set out on this tangled path in the first place. This year was my twentieth at the Fair, and my eleventh as a performer. It was especially sweet to be doing it in the company of my old friends Jesse Dee, Jacquie B, Dana Wylie, Bramwell Park, Melissa Walker, and Matt Blackie. We got to bookend the festival, playing Thursday night around ten, and Sunday afternoon around four, right before the closing ceremony. Getting to play then, when everyone's a bit fragile and everything means more, was such an honour that I reined in my partying to show it due respect, and still had a voice by Sunday afternoon. Both sets were some of the most fun I've ever had on stage.

Of course, there was plenty of fun to be had off stage as well, dancing to the always-eclectic lineup, jamming tunes back at our camp (we even had a string quartet at the fire Sunday night), chilling in the river, and meeting kind folks all over that big piece of land. I've said it before, but North Country Fair really is the friendliest of festivals. You'd be hard-pressed to find a campfire in that whole field that you could rock up to and not be offered a seat and a drink. Making the rounds one evening, Bram saw an image that pretty well summed it up for me: a bearded hippie with long dreadlocks, and a redneck fella wearing one of those Rasta costume tams with fake dreads hanging off it, bro-ing down! Only at the Fair.

So yeah, I hope we can bring a little of the Fair to you, either in person (I'm carrying a gleam in my eye from it, and I'm pretty sure I've still got some Driftpile dirt stuck somewhere) or in your mailbox. There's a Paypal button right on my front page at www.scottcook.net if you want a copy of the album and the 48-page beersbie book. If you've pre-ordered and haven't gotten yours yet, hang tight a week or so and then shoot me an email if it still hasn't come.

Now for the roads behind! The day after I wrote you from Reykjavik, I got picked up in London by my old friend Jez Hellard, who came rolling up the street in a comically-oversized, sun-bleached Royal Mail van named Red the Wonder Horse. He took the stove and shelves and such out of his old van home Salima, and is set up in pretty palatial style in his new ride. I always envy folks who can stand up in their vans. He even hosted the after-party in there after one of our gigs.

The first few days were full of reunions, with longtime horse-drawn traveller and great singer of songs Gaz Austin, the Live on the Ley engineer Sam Welbourne, our lovely Bristol hostesses Jess and Jess, and our Cardiff buddies JC's Hopeless Sinners, who always put a smile on my face with their "pub church" tunes. There were reunions with folks from home as well, including Victoria singer Meg O'Mally and my hometown wrestling opponent Nadine Kellman, both of whose trips just happened to coincide with mine. That side of the pond feels homier all the time.

That first leg finished with a week in Cornwall, my first ever visit to that part of the world, and what a surreal place it is. They don't get frost there, so there's an unexpected abundance of tropical flora, grown somewhat bonsai-like from contending with the Atlantic wind. It really is a world unto itself. We played a bunch of small rooms in small towns, and met plenty of kind folks, including two old hippies that told me stories about driving their old schoolbuses overland to Afghanistan back in the day.

Our last night in Cornwall was spent singing songs around the firepit under a full moon at Henry's Campsite, a whimsical spot on the Lizard Peninsula with llamas, cows, pigs, ducks, and flowering tropical trees aplenty. After the show we cruised out toward Bristol, with a little detour to Britain's southernmost point, where we stared in slack-jawed wonder at the moonlit ocean's battle with the craggy serpentine coastline.

Along the way back toward Bristol, Jez got pulled over on account of my drunken direction-giving, and I was amazed by how polite the cop was. He talked like a public servant. He talked like a guy who wasn't carrying a gun. I thought of all the folks, mostly men of colour, who've been summarily executed by trigger-happy cops back home, and wondered if we'll ever bring some sanity to that whole situation.

I flew from Bristol to Amsterdam the next day, and spent an evening strolling along her moonlit canals before heading to Duisburg, Germany for the first of ten shows on the continent, a house concert Jez had referred me to. There was no answer when I knocked on the house, so I figured I'd kill some time at the pub next door. When I walked in, there was only one customer at the bar, so I asked if they were open. The bartender invited me in, and I asked if I could pay by card, since I didn't have any euros left. He said I couldn't, but he'd give me a beer anyway! After a bit of conversation, I told him I was there to play next door, and he said, oh, so you're the guy I heard about! Turned out my hostess had already talked to him about me coming down to play a set there after the house concert, which went off sweetly.

The next day I was in Schwalbach am Taunus, looking at the map outside the train station, when a fella walked up and asked if I needed help finding anything. Must be nice people in Schwalbach, I thought. Later on, my host Dietmar brought me to his place, and before long the same fella from the street showed up. Must be not many people in Schwalbach, I thought.

On my way down to Switzerland, I camped along the Bodensee outside of Konstanz, and was recharged by a night alone beside the big lake. In Zurich I met up with my Taiwan buddy Fabienne, and spent a night singing and drinking with locals by the river. In Stuttgart, I had the opportunity to play Cafe Galao, an oasis of awesome run by a great fella named Reiner, and sing songs to a crowd of pretty young girls for what felt like the first time in ages. After the show I met a German gal who'd lived in Claresholm, Alberta, of all places.

Riding back into Holland on the train, three undercover Dutch border police got on board and asked everyone for their papers, taking an Eritrean family of five off the train with them at the next stop. It was one of many reminders of my privilege on this trip.

In Amsterdam I rented a bicycle and set out on my little bike tour, following the Amstel River out of town and through the countryside toward Utrecht. It felt so good to be out touring by bicycle again, despite being out of shape and riding a clunker with a heavy load. Cycling's great meditation, and I got a much better look at the Dutch countryside, with its canals, windmills, dykes, thatch roofs, and free ferries, than I would've from the train. It sure makes the world bigger when you pass through it more slowly.

Up in Spijkerboor, I played Cafe 't-Keerpunt, built in 1756. There's a big metal ring in the wall that the local blacksmith installed to chain up a murderer while they waited to take him to jail, some twenty miles away. There was an American girl at the bar that night, and we were talking about how mind-boggling that kind of Old World history is for us, when Wilhelm the owner piped up, "My bar is older than your country!" He also showed me pictures of fellow Canadians Fred Eaglesmith, Willie P Bennett, Romi Mayes, Sarah McDougall, Allison Russell, and my buddy Luke Thompson drunk on Wilhelm's homemade bitters, and it made the world feel like a very small place, even while the biking made it feel enormous.

In Haarlem I played a tavern called De Waag, named after the giant scales that hang from the roof. It was built in 1597, as a tax-house on the boats carrying goods up and down the Spahn river, which runs right out front, and the massive scales were used to weigh the goods and calculate the tax. During the folk revival of the 1960s, it was a folk club that hosted Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Joan Baez, Simon and Garfunkel, and many more. I stayed an extra day in town, digging the little alleyways, the leaning buildings, and the centuries-old church bells marking the hours.

On my way back to England I passed through Belgium and France for the first time. I played a house concert in Antwerp, with its great squares, its baroque towers, its profusion of languages, its Jews, Moroccans, and Turks, and then passed through Calais, France en route to Dover. Calais is a tragic spot, where thousands of illegal, mostly African migrants ("sans papiers") are living in squatter camps, trying to stow away under a truck or otherwise make it into the UK, where they won't be asked to present their papers randomly in the street. A friend of mine's spent time working with these folks, seen the deplorable conditions and horrible police brutality, and assured me that the mass of displaced humanity I saw along the highway was just the tip of the iceberg. There were two border checkpoints, one for the EU and one for the UK, and I got held up at the UK one while they checked on my working visa, along with the only black couple on our bus. When the time came to leave, I was on the bus and they weren't.

Back in England, I met up with Jez (and my Canadian friend Julia K!) at the Small World Spring Festival, a great gathering of crusty travellers in a field that didn't make for much of a listening audience, but did make for one heckuva party. From there we headed further north to do third-time-around shows for Bar & Jac of Better Than Telly house concerts, and our buddy Stephen Goodall, a great socialist songwriter who's organizing a worldwide weekend of music October 2-4 called We Shall Overcome, opposing austerity and raising money for food banks. Find him on the website if it sounds like something you could get behind.

From there it was up to Scotland for a week of shows including great stops at Glasgow's Star Folk Club, Edinburgh's Leith Folk Club, Robbie Burns' old pub the Globe in Dumfries, and the wonderful Letham Nights concert series in Letham's village hall. We even had the opportunity to meet up with fellow Edmontonian musicians Tom Murray, Curtis Ross, and Jason Colvin for a dram of whisky in Glasgow.

We swung back into England for the Gate to Southwell Folk Festival, and were inspired by performances from Billy Bragg, Martin Simpson, Nancy Kerr, the Young'uns, and a teenage trad group called Granny's Attic, as well as my Aussie friends in Cloudstreet. Unlike Small World, Southwell is a folk festival, where folks actually sit down and listen to words! Later that weekend we made a little detour by the Appleby Horse Fair, the biggest annual Gypsy fair in Europe, where over 10,000 Gypsies and Travellers (and about 30,000 spectators) gather to parade their high-trotting ponies down the main street, wash their horses in the river, buy and sell horses, and celebrate their culture. The elaborately decorated wagons are really something to see.

From there we picked up double bass whiz Nye Parsons, played a house concert at our friend Amadis' place in London, and played another in Brighton at the home of my Taiwan bestie Jenny Mak, where we had a bit of a Formosan reunion.

After that it was back to London to release our new CD Live on the Ley alongside our comrades-in-song Alastair Caplin, Nathan Ball, and Carrie Tree, and then to Glastonbury with all those folks plus local boy Gaz Austin the following night. They were both magic evenings, and while having seven on the bill doesn't leave a lot of dough to go around, they sure did feed our souls.

For those who don't already know, Live on the Ley is a live recording we made at the end of the last UK tour, at a house concert in St. Dunstan's house in Glastonbury Abbey. The first album review's already in, from FolkWords, who chose it as their album of the month! Have a read here if you like!

Our last weekend was spent in the care and company of Rachel Chadwick, who organizes a concert series called The Sofa Sessions in and around Kettering. Sunday's concert was her 100th show, and the last at her house; after three years putting on shows, she's decided to move into a public venue downtown called Not Just Words. It's a beautiful old building that'll also serve as a bookstore, library (since the Kettering library's closed), internet cafe, and community hangout. She crowd-funded to secure the space and do the renos, and people have donated the rest. It's amazing what a few dedicated people can do to enliven a community. On our last night that community was out in droves, packing into Rachel's place for one last show. We couldn't have picked a better place to end the tour.

If you want to see some pictures from the trip, I took a bunch, here.

Oh, and one more thing: while I was across the pond, I got the surprising news that the New Democratic Party had pulled off a major coup in Alberta politics, the first such shift in a long, long time, and one that was long overdue. Alberta's been the most conservative province in Canada for ages, so a socialist majority was big news. My parents were even working on the campaign for their local candidate, and it was great to see their hard work pay off. I was walking around with a big grin all day, not really being able to share my elation with anybody there. Getting back here, the excitement was palpable, despite all the usual fear-mongering in the media. My friend and fellow musician David Shepherd, and Rod Loyola of local activist hip-hop group People's Poets are both in the provincial Legislature! The order of things is once again liquid.

If you're in Alberta, we hope to see you these next two weekends, and if not, I hope the season's treating you well. I'll be hanging around Edmonton for most of the summer, spending time with folks I haven't seen enough of lately, and remembering what life's about. Be well, friends, keep up the awesome,

s


April 23, 2105 - A brief brush with home, a joyful Hæ! from Reykjavik, not one but TWO new CDs ready for the world, and European rambles right on the horizon!

Hey friends,

So, I'm in Reykjavik, and it's the first day of summer. Well, their first day of summer, anyway. In their defence, it'd seem kind of funny to call June 21 the first day of summer this far north, when that's the very day the daylight hours start shortening. And the English actually call the solstice "Midsummer", with the first day of summer falling May 1, or Beltane, the day halfway between the spring equinox (Ostara) and the summer solstice. In any case, it certainly feels like the first day of summer here. The sun's streaming down on the snow-capped mountains, the rivers are rushing over the volcanic landscape, and in the streets, Reykjavikers are out in droves.

Being just below the Arctic Circle, they endure months of mostly darkness, so the arrival of longer days in the lead-up to the midnight sun is a pretty big deal for them. I haven't really suffered through a winter this year, and as a consequence I'm jet-lagged not only on sleep cycles but on seasons as well. I think there's something to be said for our connection to the Earth's yearly changes, being as we're creatures of that same Earth; like her, we go through periods of hibernation and withdrawal, when we can turn our focus inward, and pick up where we left off on all those projects that we had going, back before the months-long party started. All that quiet time, self-work, and woodshedding gets us ready to burst into bloom again when the warmer weather comes back around, doesn't it? Well, I've done nothing of the sort, thanks to this self-imposed yoke of troubadourhood and the miracle of human flight.

Last I wrote, I was in transit from Australia via China to Canada, and I felt like I was barely there long enough to recharge, with only my manager (aka no one but myself) to blame. But it was a great reunion, after all that time away, and the Second Chances and I even got to share four days of road time out to BC and back. The spring was already green out there, while Edmonton's was still grey and brown and road-salted. It was great to get a taste of E-town spring, though, strolling between the Saturday afternoon shows on Whyte Avenue, sitting on patios with the smell of melt in the air, and catching up with friends I've missed something fierce. My last weekend even held the first backyard campfire jam of the season, and a visit from the Party on High Street entourage, all the way from the coast. We brought my three-day bender to a fitting end with a rocking show at Wunderbar followed by a few too many beers and a stumble down the sidewalk. I resolved again the next day to try and edge myself at least a little closer to something resembling moderation in this life.

The pace of everything didn't leave room for me to finish the CD package, with all the inevitable last-minute delays, until just now. So unfortunately, for those kind folks who pre-ordered, they're not going to arrive in your mailbox with my signature on 'em. Sorry about that, but I figured you'd rather have them two months earlier than have them signed. If you'd like to wait for a signed copy, or you'd like a forged signature now, just let me know. Of course, you can always get 'em signed when I see you, which is hopefully sooner rather than later.

Thanks again to those folks who pre-ordered; it means a lot to me and it's helped immeasurably with this project. After a last-minute correction to the track order by Bram and Melissa, and a late-night proofreading session over the phone with Corin Raymond (who hasn't even heard many of the tunes yet, and was laughing as he read out the lyrics out loud), I'm incredibly happy with how it turned out. I hope you feel the same.

On the even more immediate horizon, I'm about to get my hands on a new live album we made on the last UK tour, a house concert with Jez Hellard, Nathan Ball, Alastair Caplin, and Nye Parsons, recorded inside St. Dunstan's House in Glastonbury Abbey by our friend and host Sam Welbourne. It's called Live on the Ley, and it features twelve songs including four of mine: "When We're Back Around", "Song for a Pilgrim", "New Grist", and Jez' stunning version of my old Anglers tune "The Real Revolution". I really admire all the musicians on the project, and I think we captured a bit of magic there. You can order it from me by direct email to grooverevival@gmail.com, download it from Bandcamp very soon, or just come get a copy at one of the upcoming shows in the UK and Europe. That's right, I'll be landing in London tonight and starting the tour with Jez Hellard tomorrow! Stoked for it. The first run of UK shows are as follows:

Fri Apr 24 - Cardiff - Full Moon Club
Sat Apr 25 - Priston - Priston Village Hall
Sun Apr 26 - Bristol - House Concert
Mon Apr 27 - Bath - The Bell
Tue Apr 28 - Bristol - Live in the Lion's Den, Golden Lion
Wed Apr 29 - St. Just - Star Inn
Thu Apr 30 - Penzance - The Acorn Arts Centre
Fri May 1 - Redruth - Melting Pot Cafe
Sat May 2 - Penryn - Miss Peapod's
Sun May 3 - Lizard - Henry's Campsite

After which I'll be taking a night boat across the English Channel to embark on a few European solo dates by train:

Tue May 5 - Duisburg, Germany - House Concert
Wed May 6 - Frankfurt, Germany - Cowhide House Concert
Fri May 8 - Zurich, Switzerland - Langstars Hostel
Sat May 9 - Stuttgart, Germany - Cafe Galão
Sun May 10 - Antwerp, Belgium - House Concert

And then four shows across Holland, by bicycle, in tulip season! Stoked for these:

Wed May 13 - Utrecht, Netherlands - Bakery Club #10 event
Sat May 16 - Spijkerboor, Netherlands - Cafe t' Keerpunkt
Sun May 17 - Haarlem, Netherlands - Taverne De Waag
Tue May 19 - Heerlen, Netherlands - Cultuurhuis Heerlen

Then it's back across the channel to rejoin Jez for another string of UK dates, including the official releases for Live on the Ley, and my first taste of the English festival season:

Thursday May 21st - Headcorn - Small World Festival
Friday 22nd - Headcorn - Small World Festival
Saturday 23rd - Huddersfield - Better Than Telly
Sunday 24th - Widnes - The Studio
Tuesday 26th - Glasgow - Star Folk Club
Thursday 28th - Dumfries - The Globe
Friday 29th - Penton - Nickelforest Village Hall
Saturday 30th - Fife - Letham Nights
Tuesday June 2nd - Leith - Leith Folk Club
Wednesday 3rd - Berwick-upon-Tweed - Barrels Ale House
Friday 5th - Gate to Southwell Folk Festival
Saturday 6th - East Acton - House Concert
Sunday 7th - Brighton - House Concert
Monday 8th - Limehouse - Jamboree
Tuesday 9th - London - Live on the Ley release at #14 Bacon St with Alastair Caplin, Nathan Ball, Nye Parsons & Carrie Tree
Wednesday 10th - Glastonbury - Live on the Ley release with Alastair Caplin, Nathan Ball, Nye Parsons, Carrie Tree & Gaz Austin
Thursday 11th - King's Cliffe - House Concert
Friday 12th - Cranford - The Sofa Sessions
Saturday 13th - Middleton - The Sofa Sessions
Sunday 14th - Kettering - The Sofa Sessions

For Faceburgers, the UK tour event's here, the European one's here, and we'd really appreciate you sharing, 'cause you're the only publicist we've got! As always, all the details about these shows are on my news page at www.scottcook.net/news.php. It bears repeating, because it seems many people have forgotten that there's an internet outside Facebook anymore, and often write to ask me "where's the show in Dumfries?" or whatever, rather than typing "Dumfries" and "Scott Cook" into the ol' search bar, like we used to do back in ancient times.

When this UK leg's wrapped up I'll be straight back to Canada and straight up to the North Country Fair, where the Long Weekends and I will be releasing Go Long, and what a sunny reunion that'll be. After that we'll have CD release events in Calgary, Lloydminster, Edmonton, Red Deer and Camrose with the whole, seven-piece band, and then I'll be hanging around home for a while, thanks to my manager, who's learning all the time, even if he is a slow learner. Before I sign off this Travelogue, I know some of you are probably curious about Iceland, 'cause I certainly was. I barely scratched the surface, but I'll give you my first impressions as a tourist, anyhow.

The landscape reminds me of Canada in many ways, but only just enough to impress upon me what a strange and alien land it is. Rather than the plains of home, there are vast lava flats of igneous rock, covered first with a resilient moss, and later by small birch trees called Björks, just like the singer, who, as I'm sure you imagine, is basically the Queen of Iceland.

The language is really bizarre, with long compound words and a bunch of additional letters in their alphabet, like the old runic character Þ, called a 'thorn' and pronounced like the 'th' in 'think'. But being a Germanic language (albeit an older one), it's also surprisingly similar to English.

The architecture reminded me of Germany in its modernity and practicality, but it's got its own charm, especially the older stuff. And there's a welcome lack of recognizable chain stores, with the exception of Subway. McDonald's has already come and gone, driven to extinction by the high price of importing their ingredients during the economic crisis. The 'last Big Mac sold in Iceland', bought on Oct 30, 1999, is on display at a hostel in downtown Reykjavik, and it looks like it was cooked yesterday. They actually had to put a lock on it after some customers ate some of the fries.

Oh, and speaking of the economic crisis, you may have heard that it hit Iceland bad. So bad, in fact, that rather than bail out the banks, they nationalized them, and even sent a bunch of bankers to jail. Funny enough, the country's doing fine. Crazy rich, actually. Go figure.

Maybe it has something to do with their old tradition of democracy. Iceland's parliament, the Alþingi (or 'Althing' in English), is the oldest sitting parliament in the world. It was started back in 930 or so, when the first Norse settlers (who started arriving in the 870s, and whose stories and genealogies are all recorded in their big Book of Settlements) met to set down laws for the new land. They chose a giant rift valley called þingvellir, because it was accessible by all the overland routes for people from all around the country, and holds Iceland's biggest lake. The valley runs along the Transatlantic rift, where the North American continental sheet is pulling apart from the Eurasian continental sheet, and you can see the gradually-forming chasms where the volcanic rock has torn apart. From a giant rock called the Law Rock, they would read out the law from memory, decide on new legislation, and settle disputes. But it was also the big yearly gathering for all of Iceland. People would set up camp for a couple weeks, traders would barter, craftsmen would do their thing, ale-makers would brew drinks, itinerant labourers would look for work, poor folks would beg, young people would court, and everybody would visit, play games, share news, and sing songs, just like when we kick it festival-styley today. It wasn't all idyllic, though; in later years, they livened up the event with some executions, as you would when a party's hundreds of years old.

Every country's got ugliness in its history, as we all know (except folks who kid themselves that their own doesn't), but Iceland today is a very modern, tolerant, secular humanist democracy. They had Europe's first female president, as well as the first openly gay head of government in the world. They maintain no standing army. Their quality of life is among the world's highest, and their laid-back attitude seems to help with that. Most shops don't open til 11am. They're also one of the greenest countries in the world, largely thanks to their geothermal resources, which are used to heat most all the houses and water. The hot water tap smells incredibly sulphurous as a result, but it's a small trade-off for doing it so cheaply and cleanly.

Despite all their modernness, though, a 1998 survey did find that a slim majority of Icelanders believe in elves. Huldufólk, they call them, hidden folk who live in homes under the rocks. They tend to keep to themselves, but they'll mess with you if you mess with them. To avoid that, some Icelandic roads are actually built to curve around traditionally recognized elf rocks.

This visit just whet my appetite, really, and I'd love to come back for the midnight sun in mid-summer. I'd especially like to do it when I'm filthy stinking rich and can afford it! If you're looking for a little appetite-whetting, or just curiosity-sating, I've put a few photos up here.

That's it for now, friends! Be well, hope to see you along the way,

s


April 3, 2015 - Farewell to Oz, a stopover in China, and a new video!

Hey friends,

I'm starting this Travelogue in a hotel pub in Nar Nar Goon, Victoria. I'm on my way back into Melbourne but I had to pull in for a pit stop, just because it's one of my favourite-named towns along this trip so far, and indeed, it's everything I imagined it'd be: they've got a special chicken parmigiana (probably the most popular pub meal in this country) called the Parma-goona, and a bunch of tattooed old blokes turning the local news mill at happy hour prices.

Man, I'm gonna miss this country. The names, for starters--how can you not be charmed by towns with names like Nar Nar Goon, Nug Nug, Mullumbimby, or Boomahnoomoonah? I actually had the brilliant idea, earlier in the trip, to re-write the Johnny Cash song "I've Been Everywhere", you know the one, where he riffs off a hundred or so place names in quick, rhyming succession? Well, turns out it's actually an Australian song in the first place, with the North American version written later by that Canadian cowboy, Hank Snow.

I'm sure gonna miss their way of talking, which I've picked up well enough now to do a bad impersonation by now. I love the way they shorten just about everything, unless its already short, in which case they lengthen it. I'm gonna miss talk of men's sheds, pies for tea, op shops, and ute musters.

I'm gonna miss the bush, the smell and sounds of it, the causuarina, the auraucaria (aka monkey puzzle trees), the banksia, and the eucalypts (red gum, scribbly gum, stringybark gum, and so many more), with their massive limbs and their fresh, camphorous smell.

I'm gonna miss the birds, the playful fairy wrens, the rainbow lorikeets, the crimson rosellas, the screams of the galahs and cockatoos, the laughter of the kookaburras, and the ululating songs of these southern magpies.

I'm gonna miss the big skies, the sunsets, and the southern stars, so clear on nights in the bush that you can make out the Great Rift and the Magellanic Clouds clearly.

I'm gonna miss the wide-openness of the land, too; the vast distances, the rolling hills, the long highways with no one on them. The bush campsites with nobody around, and the warm, relatively bug-free nights with the moon for company.

It's a safe country, for the most part, and a friendly one. They've got a self-effacing modesty, and a great love for all things down-to-earth. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke actually held the world record for skulling (for Canucks, chugging) a yard (that's 1.4 litres) of beer in 11 seconds. In 2012, at 83 years of age, somebody passed him a beer on camera at a cricket match, shouting "Mr. Hawke, do it for the country!" and he chuggingly obliged.

I'm gonna miss the folk festivals, and for lack of a better word, the folkiness of them; how thoroughly they're steeped in tradition, and not just the tradition of the British Isles, where Australia's white culture came from, but also the peculiar tradition of this country; the old songs about the shearers, the drovers (cattlemen), and the swagmen or 'swaggies': the Aussie equivalent of hobos, who carried swags, or bedrolls, on their backs as they wandered outback. This country's also got a real love for its bushrangers and outlaws, the most notorious of which is Ned Kelly, who famously made his final stand against the police in homemade iron armour. Have a read about him if you're curious. At Cobargo Folk Fest I crossed paths with our own Yukon boy Gordie Tentrees on his first trip down under, and tried to fill him in on the Kelly story as best I could. It's a morally complicated tale, for sure, and it's funny to see how even the Aussie establishment's embraced him as a historical figure, when they were doing everything they could to kill him, not so long ago. I suppose the attachment to the outlaws is fitting for a nation of outlaws; this was a penal colony to begin with after all.

Along this trip I played in Ballarat, site of the Eureka Rebellion in 1854, when the gold miners revolted against the British colonial authorities increasing the license fee without political representation for the miners. The rebellion was quickly crushed, but the Eureka flag, with the Southern Cross emblazoned across a blue background and no Union Jack in sight, has come to be a symbol of the struggle for Australian democracy.

Later in the trip, I got to open for fellow Canadian Ruth Moody at the Melbourne Folk Club, which is hed in the Victorian Trades Hall, a building from 1859 that's actually the oldest trade union hall in the world, and stands right across the street from a monument to the eight-hour day, commemorating the Victorian workers who won the world's first 8 hour working day back in 1856. It was an honour to sing in those hallowed halls, with a huge Eureka flag hanging from the ceiling, alongside the red flag (the flag of socialism), the Australian Aboriginal flag, and the Torres Strait Islander flag.

At Cobargo Folk Fest I made friends with three indigenous fellas from the area, and got a deeper insight into their hard upbringing here in their ancestral homeland. Their people have been here for at least 30,000 years, and probably much longer; a timescale that boggles the mind, especially for someone like me who once found the Ussher chronology (where the Earth's only ten thousand or so years old) plausible. They lived through those ages in a harmony with the land that's still nearly impossible for us to grasp, passing their knowledge down through oral tradition and a network of songlines, or dreaming tracks, that allowed them to find their way across vast distances through the words of a song. The songs live in the dreamtime, a way of thinking that sees the world past and present as existing together, with the ancestors among us, having laid down the patterns of life for survival on this land.

Like indigenous people everywhere, the black fellas (or Kooris, as they call themselves) got a real bad deal when the Europeans showed up with guns and written laws and all that stuff, and they still struggle with domestic violence, alcoholism, and drug abuse in their communities. They actually had no legal status at all for a long time, considered part of the flora and fauna of the land, rather than beings made in the image of the Divine and endowed with legal rights as the white citizens considered themselves to be. They only got the right to vote in 1962, as several white Australians have told me, ashamed at how long it took their culture to recognize the obvious. It seemed incredibly late to me, too, until I looked up when aboriginals got the right to vote in Canada, and found out it wasn't until 1961. While Australia's still a racist country (nowhere more evident than in the Abbott government's recent plans to shut down the services for plenty of remote Aboriginal communities, blaming their insolvency on unspecified "lifestyle choices"), I really do admire the steps some people have taken to recognize, understand, and in some way atone for their unjust historical privilege. We seem to be in deeper denial about all that in North America. Of course, we all prefer the version of the story we learned in school, the one where we're the good guys, but isn't it time we grew up?

I've crossed paths with some amazing songwriters over the last month, including Michael Waugh, Mike Martin, Kate Crowley, Broderick Smith, Les Thomas, Lucie Thorne, and Fred Smith; all writers telling true stories, both their own and others', helping to fill out my sense of place in this land I've come to know and love.

At Cobargo Folk Fest, and again at Candelo Village Festival, the last show of this tour, I had the opportunity to join in a bush dance, which is much like a square dance back home. I was awkward as could be, but thankfully my friend Maddie was along, and was a very forgiving partner for this foreigner with two left feet. My heart swelled something fierce on the Friday night at Candelo, to see the locals walking to the village hall for the bush dance, dressed in their Friday night best and greeting one another along the way.

God, I'm gonna miss this place. It's a crazy expensive country, to be sure, with a minimum wage of $17 an hour and prices to match it, but it's filled my heart with love and even put a little spare money in my wallet as well. And some things actually do come cheap here: the good wine, the trains in New South Wales, the bush camping, and the public showers. It's an easy place to be a hobo, and lots of that, it seems to me, has to do with the socialism that's still left. Like the rest of the western world, Australia's drifting ever-rightward over the last few years, and public media, public health care, government investment in science, the postal service and the like are all in line for cutting. But the remnants of the great society that they, like us, envisioned not too long ago are still visible between all the ads, and they're still worth fighting for.

So, it's been a quarter of a year, and I've gotta admit, it feels kind of bittersweet to be leaving. Thankfully, the change of seasons is making it easier. The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder, and the festival season's dying down, a time of year I always associate with leaving. I'll be getting home just in time for what we affectionately call dogshit season, when all the winter's hidden treasures are unveiled in their watery, smelly glory. The spring at home sure is beautiful, though, with all the feeling that comes with emerging from the long, deadening winter. I'll be spending my first Saturday home strolling between the afternoon shows on Whyte Avenue, with the winter's leftover gravel and road salt, the smell of melt, and the joy of reunion with old friends. The following weekend I'll be taking the Second Chances out to BC and back, with shows in Clearwater, Salmon Arm, Kelowna, and Canmore. And the following weekend I'll be back in Edmonton to share a show with my buddies in The Party on High Street and Chelsea D.E. Johnson, Sunday April 19th at Wunderbar, before I head out to the UK for two months of touring with my good buddy Jez Hellard plus a quick dash through Germany, Switzerland and Belgium and a bicycle trip through Holland in the middle. All my upcoming dates, as usual, are on my news page.

I'll be home again just in time for the North Country Fair, where the Long Weekends and I will be proudly releasing Scott Cook and the Long Weekends Go Long in the most appropriate place of all, Driftpile, Alberta. I'm almost finished the album cover and booklet (48 pages this time!), and it'll be going off to the printers' real soon. If you'd like to chip in before it's done, I'd be very grateful for your support over here.

--

If you're still reading, friends, my sincere thanks. I'm finishing this Travelogue on home soil in the Vancouver airport, where I'm waiting for my flight back to Edmonton. I left Australia Thursday night after spending the day with my good friend Miss Quincy, whom I picked up at the airport that morning. We had a ceremonial passing-of-the-torch with the keys to my van Skippy, and I'm sure she's gonna have a blast down there. My mind still staggers at all the kindness and love I've been shown by folks there, what good care they took of me, and how easily that land's become my third home.

On the way between Australia and here, I had a much-anticipated eight-hour stopover in Guangzhou, China, my first-ever visit to the mainland. After getting my passport stamped with a 48-hour landing visa, I left the airport via the subway, and didn't see another foreigner for a long time. When I finally did see one, it was a black man. Turns out there's been an African community there for a long time. The next foreigner I saw was a black man, too, followed by an Arab fella; it turns out (thanks Wikipedia!) that they've been there even longer, since 600 AD or so at least, with some of the oldest remaining mosques in the world dating to that time, and plenty of women (both Chinese and Middle Eastern) wearing the hijab as evidence of the long association between those cultures.

Guangzhou was a striking contrast from Australia, with the throngs of people in the transit system, and the heavy humidity in the air. It reminds me a lot of Taiwan, with its grimy-tiled apartment buildings, its bustling alleys, its tiny tree-shaded parks, its little stalls, the tea sellers, the hawkers with their recorded pitches playing over distorted speakers, an old lady carrying huge bags balanced on the ends of a stick next to signs advertising Hui Mei International Fashion City New People Idea Trend. But it reminded me of Taiwan a decade and a half ago, when the police and military presence was more palpable, and when it was dirtier; I saw people throwing their garbage onto the sidewalk without a thought, and even saw an old man pulling up his pants after shitting on the pavement along a busy street. One vast difference: there are no motorbikes in the city, since the government banned them, but there are plenty of bicycles and electric bikes; I even saw three adults riding on one, and fellas carrying big propane tanks on them too.

It was great to land in a foreign country already feeling like I knew it so well, and to be able to speak the language, much to the amusement of many folks I chatted with. Some words are different, though; no one understood me when I asked for the subway by its Taiwanese name (jie yun, 捷運), and I had to resort to calling it an underground railway (地下鐵道) to be understood. I was reminded of the differences between Australian and Canadian English, all the little peculiarities that our different places create.

It's a big old world, friends, and the story of how we got to where we are, and how this whole mess got to where it is, is more complicated than we can even imagine. Some folks, like the Chinese during the Cultural Revolution, would like to wipe the slate clean and build a new world from scratch. But I think I'd rather work with the best of what we've got. And it's in that spirit that I want to share this song for you, written last year in Canada but just filmed in a tiny church in Kameruka, right outside Candelo, New South Wales, on the Friday before the festival started. Bill Brown from ABC Southeast did the filming, and the sun timed its fall to the horizon just right.

There's a whole lot of crazy in the world today. But I'd like to think we've already got the way forward in our cultures, if we can just learn to draw it out.

If He Showed Up Now

Big love to you, friends, and I hope to see you somewhere soon. Be well,

s


February 19, 2015: news from the land down under, and a new song for the backers of Go Long!

Hey friends,

I promised I'd try to write more often, so here I am back in your inbox, sunburned and somewhat scattered, but at least something closer to punctual. As you may know, I'm on the opposite side of the Earth from when I last wrote; more specifically, parked at a caravan park in the Brisbane burbs, swimming in humidity and tingling with the ambient electricity that precedes a big storm. Cyclone Marcia, she's called, and the weathermen tell us she's gonna be a whopper, with rain, wind, and flooding of biblical proportions. The birds are going crazy, the dark grey's piled all the way up to heaven, and we're just waiting for this thing to break open. Tomorrow, assuming the world's still here, I'll be heading further north for a string of shows along Queensland's Sunshine Coast before turning my wheels southward again. Things have changed around a bit, and unfortunately New Zealand isn't happening this time around, but here's what's left of the tour:

Fri Feb 20 - Maleny, QLD - UpFront Club
Sat Feb 21 - Noosa, QLD - Crawdaddy's with Benjamin James Caldwell
Sun Feb 22 - Cooroy, QLD - Cooroy Originals
Wed Feb 25 - Newcastle, NSW - Sunset Studio
Thu Feb 26 - Katoomba, NSW - house concert
Fri-Sun Feb 27-Mar 1 - Cobargo, NSW - Cobargo Folk Festival
Mon Mar 2 - Canberra, ACT - Bootleg Sessions at the Phoenix Pub
Wed Mar 4 - Melbourne, VIC - Melbourne Folk Club with Ruth Moody and Nadia Reid
Fri-Mon Mar 6-9 - Mia Mia, VIC - Burke & Wills Folk Festival
Sat Mar 14 - Beechworth, VIC - Tanswells Commercial Hotel
Fri Mar 19 - Wagga Wagga, NSW - house concert
Fri-Sun Mar 20-22 - Yackandandah, VIC - Yackandandah Folk Festival
Wed Mar 25 - Thirroul, NSW - house concert
Thu-Sat Mar 26-28 - dates to be announced in NSW

Looking back as I always do when traveloguin', it's hard for me to believe that I'm almost at the halfway point of this trip. It's been an amazing ride so far, and a learning experience. There's a lot involved in settling into a new place, especially one you're planning to stay in for a while. The biggest step I made was joining the ranks of Australian homeowners, via that most accessible of real estate markets, the car market. After several days of searching the local buy-and-sell website Gumtree with the help of my wonderful Melbourne hostess Aurora Jane, we turned up a sweet deal: a '98 Toyota Townace with only 210,000kms on the clock, working air-con, and a bed already in the back for $2400.

It was a bit of a hassle actually closing the deal, though, because the van was up in a country town called Yea, and I could barely understand the seller over the phone. I've spent a lot of time with Aussies, and I can usually make out what they're saying just fine, but this fella's accent was really broad, and compounded by his way of pummelling me, rapid-fire, with extraneous information. Now, normally, when you're in a foreign country, it's fine to pass the phone to your local friend and have them translate for you. But in this case, since we're both speakers of English, that'd be kind of embarrassing, wouldn't it? I mulled it over a while and finally hit on a solution: "Hey Jason," I said, "I'm gonna pass you to my friend Jane here, she knows about cars." Not a total lie, but more to the point that she speaks 'Strayan. Even then, she said she could only make out about two thirds of what he was saying. Anyway, after borrowing a ride from Jess of Jungal to check it out, getting a whole lot of help from Jess and Leisha's parents (who happen to live near Yea), and navigating the foreign bureaucracy, I'm officially an Aussie householder.

So yeah, I guess I'm livin' the dream, or one dream anyway, the one I mentioned last time I wrote, about having a summer home and a summer home. There is one thing missing, though, and I hate to break the news to you dear readers so unceremoniously, but I must: Old Blue's gone off to the great campground in the sky. That's right, I'm Canadian-summer-homeless. I had so much to tell you last time that I neglected to mention the fender bender I was involved in while in Vancouver. Old Blue still drove afterward, but his side door wouldn't open, and the whole frame may have been whacked out of alignment. I thought I had nothing to lose by filing a collision claim, since the other guy had already filed one for his car. But it turns out when they assess your car for repairs that would cost more than the vehicle, and then write your vehicle off, the only way to keep it is to buy it back from them at a percentage of the price, and then go through the tests to prove its roadworthiness. Since it seemed unlikely Old Blue would even pass, I just took the money. But wow, it hurt. It actually felt kinda like disloyalty on my part, considering all the adventures we'd had together, to put him out to pasture while he was still ready to run. You know how they say you shouldn't name your animals if you're going to eat them? Well, maybe something similar applies to cars.

Nevertheless, I've crossed that line once again. The new van's called Skippy. Funny enough, I named him that before I even heard of Skippy the Kangaroo, an Aussie TV show that's kind of like The Littlest Hobo is to Canadians. He's a spunky little guy, with a whopping 1.6 litres of engine under the hood, and hopefully hundreds of thousands of kilometres of road ahead of him. He's a little tricky to drive, particularly since I'm not used to driving stick, let alone on the other side, but so far he's running like a dream. A tiny, kinda noisy little dream. So, yeah:

Rest in peace, Old Blue, you did all you could. And welcome to the family, Skippy, long may you run.

I had a great start into the gigs down here with Illawarra Folk Festival, up in Wollongong, New South Wales. I showed up early to teach songwriting at their folk school, which is something a lot more festivals should include. My second night on-site, I got corralled into helping move something down at the dog track, and got to witness the last greyhound race of the night, a first for me at a folk festival. I remarked on how surreal it was to the fellas I was with, but it turned out they actually own shares in racing dogs themselves, and didn't see much humour in it, instead setting down to put money on the race. Nobody won anything, but we got the track moved, and within a matter of hours, the inside of the oval was transformed into a folk festival field. We retreated up the hill for an RV-side session of jigs, reels, airs, sottishes, and hornpipes, with whistles, concertinas and autoharps, and I marvelled at the downright FOLKsiness of Aussie folk festivals compared to their Canadian counterparts. The older fellas there had an encyclopaedic knowledge of songs and tunes from the British Isles, Aussie bush music and poetry, and even American hobo songs. These Aussie blokes told me more about Utah Phillips than folk back home ever did. I crept off to my tent and dreamed of starlight on the rails.

The festival was chock-full of music, with a dozen stages, spanning everything from poetry to Balkan-gypsy-circus-music to Aussie folksinging legends like Eric Bogle. There were even some of my countrymen in the mix, including Jaron Freeman-Fox and his mind-boggling band The Opposite of Everything, new-to-me but killer PEI band the East Pointers, and my pal and mentor David Francey, ably accompanied by Mark Westberg and Chris Coole. It was all a bit overwhelming for my first gig in the country, but I had a great time, and met a whole lot of kind folks.

The following weekend I played Newstead Live Music Festival, the bigger of two festivals put on by my visa sponsor Andrew, and wow, it was a good one. I go to lots of these things, as you know, but rarely am I so thoroughly impressed by a festival. Like Artswells or the Tiny Lights Festival back home, it takes place in a tiny town, utilizing the churches, community centre, pub, cafe, old post office, swimming pool, and pre-school as venues, in addition to Andrew's big Troubadour tent, an Aussie festival institution for decades now. The programming was absolutely top-notch, with a great mix of young folks and seasoned masters, contemporary and traditional folk, comedy, bush poetry, and Martin Pearson's ridiculous Monday-morning quiz game. On the Saturday night they had a 'trad disco', with a DJ spinning fiddle tunes on records, a mirror ball and smoke machine, kilts and lycra aplenty, and a limbo contest. Thoroughly low-key and unpretentious, but bursting with talent. The jam on haybales outside the pub on the town's quiet crossroads lasted from afternoon well into the wee hours every night, and was probably my favourite part of the whole thing.

The next couple weeks were spent around Victoria and New South Wales, playing solo and sharing shows with my friends Jaron Freeman-Fox, Tom Richardson, and Candice McLeod. There were super-attentive folk club shows, and drunken, rowdy, play-something-we-know! bar shows, reminding me of the whole hilarious gamut of this business, and how similar our countries actually are. There were also plenty of nights off along the way, a welcome change of pace for me, and I spent almost all of them in the woods, playing guitar, reading and writing, and digging the southern stars. I've become acutely aware lately of how much all the socializing and self-revealing I do is sustained and counterbalanced by time alone in nature. And I've fallen in love with the Aussie bush, its sounds, its moonlit beauty, its nocturnal liveliness, and its sweet, camphorous smell.

My friend Maddie came along for the trip up the coast to Queensland from her home in the Blue Mountains, and I was grateful for her good company and local knowledge as the coastline unfolded northward, the vegetation got more tropical, and the bats got bigger. We managed to successfully avoid staying in town the whole time, preferring instead to just drive in for the shows and retreat back to the bush afterward, guerrilla-style. This caravan park in Brisbane is the biggest dose of civilization I've had in ages.

I've been taking some pictures along the way, because I know you faithful readers like that, so here they are if you want to have a look: Australia 2015 photos

The last bit of news I've got for you is that the new Long Weekends album's all mixed and mastered and officially in the can. There's only the package left to be made now, but that's no small feat. This one might actually end up with a longer booklet than the last (which ran to 36 pages), simply because the songs have so many words. And of course I've gotta include the rules for beersbie (the game we're playing in most of the pictures), for those who'd like to test their frisbee and drinking skills in sweet, hazy unison.

As a special thanks to the folks who've contributed, I've been emailing out an exclusive extra track from the recording session, a song from my time in Taiwan called "Scott and Shals Shrews Blues", that I'd been meaning to re-record for ages. It won't be on the record, but it's going out as a gift to anybody who signs up to support the making of the album. Those of you who pre-ordered in person rather than online are also welcome to it; just shoot me an email mentioning "shrews" and I'll send you the link.

Thanks, friends, as always, for reading, and for your support. It's what keeps the show rolling on, and I can't thank you enough for that. Let's meet up sometime soon, somewhere down the road.

Big love,

s


Dec 21, 2014: Solstice wishes, a new album in the works, and the view from home.

Good friends,

Happy Solstice! Here's hoping this turn of the seasons finds you flourishing, wherever you are. If you've been on this list for a while, you know it can sometimes be a while between updates. This just-broken silence, though, has been over six months in length, and best as I can tell, that's the longest you dear readers have gone without a word from me in the more than ten years I've been writing this thing.

It's not that I didn't try, mind you. I gave it a shot back at the end of September in Indiana Dunes State Park, on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, with the sun collapsed into the distant Chicago skyline, the woods alive with the thrumming of bugs, and a pot of soup on the Coleman stove. I wrote more in October, on the Cook family farm, sitting in a chair across from my Grandma. And I worked on it in a cheap motel room in Mancos, Colorado, where I was holed up for three days. But there was just too much to say, and the road just kept unwinding. Now, at long last, I'm parked at my parents' place outside Edmonton for six weeks, with the holidays on the horizon, and I figure there won't be a better time. If nothing else, I've gotta at least tell you folks I love ya this time of year. So happy Solstice, happy Christmas, happy Hanukah, and happy wintering, at least for those of you in the northern hemisphere.

I'm headed southward in early January, and back into the endless summer, but for now I'm savouring the cold weather, the relative lack of excitement or novelty in my life, and the wonderful feeling of waking up in the same place for weeks on end. If you've been stuck in one place for a while now, you might not share my sentiment, but you know what they say about the grass on the other side of the fence. Me, I've been loving it, catching up on long-unanswered email, working on the tours ahead, applying for festivals, and chipping away at three years of un-filed taxes. It feels great. I even got myself a gym pass, and have been observing the wondrous effects of regularly breaking a sweat on my energy level and work ethic.

I recorded an album the weekend before last, with some of my best friends in the world: Jesse Dee, Jacquie B, Matt Blackie, Moses Gregg, Dana Wylie, Bramwell Park, and Melissa Walker. It's gonna be called Scott Cook and the Long Weekends Go Long. It's a collection of ten mostly silly songs of mine (some new, some which have been waiting around for years until they had enough suitably-ridiculous companions to go on a record with) and three songs my friends wrote. It's a party record, without a doubt, pretty much the antithesis to One More Time Around. It's got cuss-words and irreverence aplenty. Also unlike One More Time Around, which I obsessed over for ages, this one was recorded pretty much live off the floor, immediately following a live road-test at Big Al's with the full band and a sweaty, dancing throng of friends. It was amazing to see something so good happen so fast. Before we even went into the studio I told the band: if we need to do any more than three takes, it's too many, it's not fun anymore. And we stuck to that. So admittedly, there are some mistakes on the record. But there's a whole lot of fun captured in there too.

Despite having put in a long year of work, I was broke as ever by the time I made it home, so I've started up a crowd-funding effort to make it happen, and thankfully it's already paid the studio bill. Now there's just the mixing, mastering and manufacturing to pay for, plus a few c-notes each to the players. If you want to help out, you can pre-order your own copy on my Kapipal page. There's also a newly-released video, filmed in Taiwan with Scotty Dunbar, on that page. The record's going to be released at the end of June, but you loyal folks who pre-order can expect it in your mailbox by the beginning of May. Thanks, as always, for your support on this tenuous venture of making a life out of art.

1. Where to next?

Well, there are plenty of roads in the rearview to tell you about, but I figure I should start with the roads ahead, because they're easiest to tell, inchoate and as-yet-storyless as they are.

On New Year's Eve, the Long Weekends and I will be joining the fun at Penny & Jim Malmberg's annual Food Bank benefit at McDougall United Church in Edmonton. Music runs 7:30-10:30, admission's by donation to the Food Bank, and I can guarantee you magic. The next day I'll be commiserating with my hung-over comrades at Wunderbar for the annual tribute to Townes Van Zandt and Hank Williams, two great songwriters who checked out on New Year's Day.

In January, I'll be heading to Australia , and will be staying through until early April, with a little jaunt over to New Zealand in the middle, in the company of my Kiwi buddy Benjamin James Caldwell. I'm planning to buy a van to live in, an Old Blue for the antipodes, and will be touring from Victoria up to Queensland and back, with five festivals along the way, and plenty of time carved out for camping and hiking and that sanity and balance I've been talking about for a while now. The confirmed dates so far are:

Wed-Sun Jan 14-18 - Wollongong, NSW - Illawarra Folk Fest
Thu Jan 22 - Echuca, VIC - house concert
Fri-Mon Jan 23-26 - Castlemaine, VIC - Newstead Live! Music Fest
Wed Jan 28 - Ararat, VIC - Ararat Live, opening for Jaron Freeman-Fox
Thu Jan 29 - Ballarat, VIC - Sutton's House of Music
Fri Jan 30 - Geelong, VIC - Cafe Go with Candice McLeod
Sat Jan 31 - Portarlington, VIC - Saints and Sailors with Candice McLeod
Sun Feb 1 - Bruthen, VIC - Bullant Brewery with Candice McLeod
Sat Feb 7 - VIC - w/ Tom Richardson, TBA
Fri Feb 13 - Sydney, NSW - Acoustic Picnic
Sun Feb 15 - Capalaba, QLD - Folk Redlands
Tue Feb 17 - Brisbane, QLD - Brisbane Unplugged
Wed Feb 18 - Brisbane, QLD - The Junk Bar
Fri Feb 20 - Maleny, QLD - UpFront Club
Wed Feb 25 - Newcastle, NSW - house concert
Thu Feb 26 - Sydney, NSW - Songwriters Live
Fri-Sun Feb 27-Mar 1 - Cobargo, NSW - Cobargo Folk Festival
Wed Mar 4 - Melbourne, VIC - Melbourne Folk Club with Ruth Moody
Sat-Mon Mar 7-9 - Mia Mia, VIC - Burke & Wills Folk Festival
Mar 10-? - NZ with Benjamin Caldwell
Sat Mar 28 - I can't tell you yet!

All the details, as always, are on my news page. Of course, if you have any ideas to fill in some gaps (especially friends who might want to host house concerts!), I'm all ears! Shoot a line to grooverevival@gmail.com and hopefully we can work it out!

I'll be home for a couple weeks in April, and then flying across the pond for another tour of the surprisingly-still-United Kingdom alongside my troubadouring comrade Jez Hellard, with a little solo run to Germany, the Netherlands, and maybe even Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg in the middle. If you've got friends over that way who might like to hear the tunes or host a house concert, by all means, please send 'em my way!

I'll be back here on Turtle Island in June, just in time for that friendliest of festivals, the North Country Fair. This year marks the eighth in a row that the Long Weekends and I will be hosting the North Country Fair Afterbender, but this year it's also going to be the hometown CD release for Scott Cook and the Long Weekends Go Long. I foresee a gong-show as usual, with music running all day, at an as-yet-unannounced location, Sunday June 28th. Mark your calendars, please!

2. The summer that wouldn't end

Now, for the roads behind... Last I wrote you, I was just about to re-enter Canada and meet up with old friends from far and wide at the Tiny Lights festival in Ymir, British Columbia. It's a tiny mountain town populated by a colourful mix of rednecks, bikers and hippies, with two historic hotels and the beautiful Salmo river running through it. Our friends Shawn and Carla Stephenson, who are deeply involved in the ArtsWells festival, decided their hometown would make a great setting for a sister fest, and they've brought that vision to life brilliantly. It's a lot like ArtsWells, with only one outdoor festival stage, and various buildings and businesses around town serving as the other venues. I played in the hotel pub on Sunday night with an amazing scratch band: Michael Rush and Tom Heuckendorff of the Broken Mirrors on upright bass and piano, Elise Boeur on fiddle, Craig Korth of Jerusalem Ridge on banjo, and Vancouver's Jody Peck (aka Miss Quincy) and Christie Rose absolutely killing it on backup vocals. My good friend Marin Patenaude also joined me for a duet. Bringing new songs to life in such good musical company for that packed, whisper-quiet room was one of the onstage highlights of my year.

From there I headed back to Edmonton for a long-awaited reunion with my hometown people. I blew a flat outside Longview, Alberta, and discovered that both rear tires had been worn through; the result of a bent axle that'd gone undiagnosed after my accident in New Orleans. I was amazed that Old Blue made it as far as he did! Not to be deterred, I put the spare on and limped the remaining hours home. After a heartwarming homecoming show at Wunderbar with the Second Chances and prodigal poet Scott Wicken, and two new tires for Old Blue (the axle could wait!), we were off to the North Country Fair. It almost burst my heart to pull into that field and be back among all those good people! By my best estimate, it was my eighteenth year up there, and as always, it felt like the best yet. The Party on High Street and Scotty Dunbar were in attendance, and kept our fire going with songs through the wee hours every night. Oh, and we fulfilled Jesse Dee's ridiculous vision from the year before: 32 of us dressed in white ninja suits, raiding campsites and dancing to Five Alarm Funk in front of main stage in a magnificent final flourish of absurdity.

Back in Edmonton, we hosted the seventh annual North Country Fair Afterbender, featuring some of the best new talent I heard that weekend (Mohsin Uz Zaman, Cayley Kathleen Thomas, and Scotty Dunbar's new project Apocalyptic Sex Folk) in addition to plenty of old stalwarts, 17 acts in total. The next day the Second Chances and I were off for two weeks around BC and Alberta, and it sure was sweet to be hanging with them again in some of the most beautiful country on Earth. We played Banff for Canada Day, and were eating on a sidewalk patio after the gig when we started to get texts from friends at home, saying they were missing us, and even sending pictures of themselves having fun just to rub it in! We had to play Calgary the next day, a mere hour's drive away, but after a bit of hemming and hawing, we decided to take a six-hour detour back to Edmonton just to see their faces. In the wee hours of the morning, around a campfire in our buddies Steve and Zach's backyard, I concluded that around a fire with my friends is indeed my favourite place in the universe.

The next day we made the bleary-eyed drive back down to Calgary to play with Jared Klok, a young songwriter I came across online and reached out to immediately after hearing his amazing, oblique, playful and profound songs. We'd never met him before, but we hit it off that night, and again the next night at a house concert at his place in Nanton. The Party on High Street/Apocalyptic Sex Folk boys came along, with their steadily accumulating, all strangely similarly-smelling entourage, and we had a proper prairie party around the campfire out back. The next night we were pulling back into Edmonton to end the band tour, and the very next day I was driving eastward to play Blissfest in Michigan, wondering what became of all my resolutions about carving out more downtime for myself and touring in a more balanced and sensible fashion. Turns out that making life changes actually requires making changes, not just talking about them! My body drove the point home, bringing down all snotty hell on me as soon as I had three days of gig-less driving ahead. It's amazing to me how well my immune system seems to time its breakdowns according to my work schedule. Thankfully, things were basically cleared up by the time I hit Michigan for my first gig.

Blissfest was great, mostly for the fun of hanging out with my Michigan family and their ever-growing clan of feral festival kids. It was all sword-fights and make-believe and costume changes and squealing in our neighbourhood, and early too, as if to exact sweet revenge on the grownups who stayed up partying after they put the runts to bed.

During my main stage set on Saturday, I had the profound pleasure of playing "Go On, Ray", a song I wrote for my Grandpa, just ten minutes' drive from his farm. After the set I was approached by lots of folks who knew him, and heard him brought to life again in their stories.

After Blissfest I high-tailed it back home to meet back up with the Second Chances and the whole regular festival crew at Wild Mountain Music Festival for another weekend of laughs, songs, and ridiculousness aplenty. Blue Rodeo and Gord Downie were among the headliners, and there was a kind of shared nostalgia in hearing bands from our teenage clock radios. Back in town, we played in an antique streetcar atop the High Level Bridge at sunset, and I got to play Harry Gregg's great weekly jam at Big Al's, in addition to hosting open stage at Duggan's Boundary (formerly Devaney's), a place where many of my local musical friendships were formed and solidified. Unfortunately, it would be my last time; after seven years of great times, the budget hawks won out in the end. It's their loss; the river of music meanders on.

Shortly thereafter I loaded up Old Blue and headed out to ArtsWells with a vanload of awesome: local singers Nadine Kellman and Cayley Thomas, Cayley's awesome friend Bonnie, and for the last part of the trip, my Aussie folksingin' buddy David Ross MacDonald. We made it to Prince George the first night to see Faye Blais, Genevieve Chadwick, Sarah Burton and Wax Mannequin at Nancy O's, and camped with a bunch of other new arrivals in Raghu Lokanathan's backyard. Raghu had pretty much been a Snuffleupagus to many of them, who knew his tunes but had never laid eyes on the man, so it was great for all of them to finally meet and confirm that he actually existed. The next day we convoyed out to Wells and into the bizarre temporal vortex that we'd inhabit for the next four days: a world where anything creative goes, a meeting of crazy minds from far and wide, a place where life is art and art is life.

Melissa was there, but Bramwell couldn't make it, so I assembled a couple scratch bands out of the plethora of talent on hand. On Saturday night in the little church known as the Tempest Stage, I was joined by The Capable Women: Elise Boeur on fiddle, Jenny Ritter on banjo, Edmonton's own Billie Zizi on guitar, Melissa on bass fiddle, and Cayley Thomas on percussion and backup vocals. They all sang, and it was pure magic. Here's a couple videos, if you'd like to have a peek:

"Goin' up to the Country"
"The Ramblin' Kind" (duet with Cayley Thomas)
"I Live Down Here"

The next day at the Bear's Paw, it was the cumbersomely-named Scott Cook and The Capable Men with Melissa Walker, featuring David Ross MacDonald on guitar and percussion, Benjamin James Caldwell on mandolin, and Michael Dunn on lead guitar. On Sunday night, I also had the pleasure of hosting a set of Corin Raymond songs in the Tempest Stage, with Scotty Dunbar, Samantha Scott, Tereza Tomek, Corwin Fox, David Ross MacDonald, David Newberry, and Raghu Lokanathan leading songs, and Brin Porter on bass. Corin had hosted a round of Raghu's songs in his absence the previous year, so it felt like poetic perfection to have Raghu with us returning the favour. The crowd was so full of Corin's fans that they sang along to most of the verses in addition to the choruses. The love was palpable in the air; another highlight of the year, and some of the most fun I've ever had on stage. On Sunday I had the honour of closing out the festival with a Scott Cook and Friends set, joined by Brin and T-Rav from the Party on High Street and Ben from Fish and Bird as the band, in addition to David Ross MacDonald, Scotty Dunbar, Blair Leamen, Joey Onley, Jessica Rampling (aka Apples), some others I've surely forgotten (sorry!), and that huggable bear of a man, Doug Koyama. Our friend Chloe (aka Ladybug the Rambler) had the great idea to hug-rush Doug, so we spread the idea around the crowd and then convinced him to go out and lead the crowd in an unplugged vocal jam, which ended with chants of "Hug a Doug!" and a big crush of giddy people.

     
Around the campfire post-sunrise at Patrick's house in Wells, photo by Jodie Ponto   Corin Raymond songs in the round, photo by Jodie Ponto   Hugging Doug, photo by Mary Matheson  

Back in town after Wells, we got everybody together to do a photo shoot for the cover and booklet of the new album, with all of us playing beersbie (a frisbee drinking game of possibly Albertan origin) in Mill Creek Ravine. With Folk Fest that weekend too, followed straightaway by more touring, the party seemed to have no end in sight, and I kinda hit a wall with the drinking. See, most people tend to like my drunken alter ego ("Jolly Roger", as Bram named him); he's a lot of fun, he stays up late singing songs, and he's generally good-natured. But sometimes he's downright sloppy, and stupid, and inconsiderate. He hits on girls he has no business hitting on, or he hits on girls that he probably should hit on, but more skillfully. And I just got tired of that guy. So I took ten days off the booze, and while that wouldn't and shouldn't be anything newsworthy for most folks, it was something of a revelation for me. Usually, when I take time off the sauce, I'm sequestered somewhere. But this came right in the middle of summer tour, through the weekend of Robson Valley Music Fest, and even my birthday. A couple things I realized: 1) I still stay up 'til sunrise at parties whether I'm drinking or not, 2) drunk people can be incredibly annoying, and 3) it's shocking how many less calories go in, and dollars go out, when I'm not drinking. Since then, I've just resolved to try and drink like a normal person, rather than like what seems normal, considering many of the folks I hang around with. And that's easier said than done sometimes, but I'm working on it. Helpfully, a bunch of folks I hang around with seem to be working on it too.

Our second-last fest of the summer was Music on the Mountain up in Fort St. James, and it was a great meeting of minds as usual. Corin Raymond and his gal Lara road-tripped across the country to be there, Steve Brockley came up from Vancouver, the Party on High Street dropped in from the never-ending road, and Cariboo dudes Scotty Dunbar, Joey Onley, and Raghu Lokanathan all made the trip as well. On the first day, I had the opportunity to help out with the kids' songwriting workshop that Barefoot Caravan, Tereza Tomek and Samantha Scott were facilitating, and what a great experience that was. I was assigned just one kid, a big, thoughtful ginger with post-pubescent awkwardness aplenty. He came up with a song called "Don't Be Afraid to Cry" that brought plenty of folks including his mom to tears, and hopefully opened up a productive avenue for his creative energies besides the usual small-town standbys of bad drugs and petty crime.

We had epic jams every night at the festival, and during one night's jam Corin and Lara spent hours counting out Canadian Tire money to pay me my royalties for his cover of "The Lord Giveth (and the Landlord Taketh Away)" on Paper Nickels; all $320 worth, an overstuffed lunch bag full. I'm eagerly awaiting the day when I get to go to the gas bar, slap down several bricks of cash, and say "fifty bucks on pump number one, please".

I got to sing backup vocals for Corin that weekend, as part of a scratch band with Scotty Dunbar, T-Rav, Brin, and Bramwell, and it was some kinda dream come true. I never get to be a sideman, and I love it, especially in that kinda company. By the last day, Raghu had lost his voice, so he did his set by playing his songs on guitar while we sang them. For the talking bits, he wrote on a big pad of paper and had Doug Koyama read it out to the crowd. The silent anticipation while he scribbled was the best. Yet another highlight of my onstage life, all in a single summer.

From Music on the Mountain we headed out to the islands, with stops on the big island, Hornby, Saltspring, Quadra, Cortes, and to visit our friends' sea-kayaking/adventure tourism/glamping operation on Maurelle Island for their end-of-the-season party. If any moneyed folks are reading this Travelogue (though I somehow doubt it), you can't beat their place for a week-long retreat; and you can find 'em here. We took the kayaks out in a light drizzle one morning, and were transfixed as a pod of harbour porpoises swam through our ranks.

     
Smelling the filthy lucre, photo by Julia Bassal   Backing up Corin Raymond at MoM, photo by Ingrid Gatin   The view from our friends' place on Maurelle Island  

On the way home, we got to play some really heart-warming house concerts in the Kootenays and up by Vernon, and get another dose of that sweet, back-country, righteous living inspiration and ingenuity. There's a farm in my future somewhere, I just know it.

3. Leaving my home again

Back at home, I got to open for the amazing Birds of Chicago at the Artery, and sang a set of songs about leaving, including Scotty Dunbar's classic ramblers' singalong, "Why Am I Leaving My Home Again?". I'd been asking myself that question plenty, having just barely touched down in town and wondering whether I was over-ambitious or just compulsively road-drawn. Thankfully, things started to make more sense once I was out again, singing songs for people, seeing hearts opened by music, and connecting with my people far and wide. In Scotty's words (or something like 'em):

"I've got other friends, they're in lower places, and I can't stand not to see their faces
So while my stay-put roots ain't strong , I got good boots and better songs
Come on and help me now, my fellow vagabonds..."

On the way eastward I got the unexpected news that I'd been nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award, a first for this guy. The most deliciously ironic part was the category, Best New/Emerging Artist. No matter that I've been playing shows for 24 years, pushing myself as a performing songwriter for a dozen years, and making my living at it for the last seven; it does actually feel like I'm only just now emerging, in terms of being anywhere near the national radar. Emerging seems to be a harder and harder thing to do, as time goes on, and more and more artists enter the game. I'm pretty sure there were more albums released last year than in the whole decade of the 60s, 70s or 80s. So it's understandably hard to get anyone to hear you. And with that being said, I'm eternally grateful that anyone does listen to what I have to say. So thanks to the folks at the CFMAs for the nod, and thanks to you loyal readers who've been with me years already for keeping me on the road.

I had a week of gigs in Michigan, cobbled together last-minute thanks to the kindness of my musical family down there, and another visit to the Cook family farm, before cutting into Ontario for a week of gigs. The first was a guest spot with Corin Raymond and the Sundowners at the Cameron House in Toronto, always a favourite of mine. I was running late as usual, had parked Old Blue a ways away, and was racing there by bicycle when disaster struck. Right in front of the Cameron House, I was crossing the street when a motorcyclist came up quick behind me, honking and swearing. I swerved to avoid him, dropped my front tire in the streetcar track, went right over the handlebars, and dislocated both shoulders in the fall. Two helpful Toronto citizens rushed to the rescue, stopped the oncoming traffic, and helped me get my stuff out of the road, moments before my hometown buddy Joe Nolan came wandering out of the Cameron House to find me leaned against a tree trying to catch my breath. We checked my guitar and were amazed to see that it had survived the crash, despite being in a flimsy gig bag. After medicating with a couple Advils and a couple shots of whiskey, saying a few breathless hellos, and laying down for a while in the back room, the adrenalin subsided and my hands stopped shaking enough that I decided to try a guitar. Gladly, I could still play it, so the show went on.

It was a couple months before my shoulders got better (and they're still not totally back to normal), but the pain on waking up every morning was immediately followed by gratitude, that I hadn't been run over, I hadn't hurt my hands or even my guitar, and that the show was still going on. Wake-ups like that remind a guy just how lucky and tenuous this whole thing is.

The next week was spent playing around the province and digging the fall colours, before winding things up at the always-overwhelming Folk Music Ontario conference. Folk conferences are a surreal scene that only us folkies get to know; a weekend of seminars, schmoozing, and singing songs in stairwells that's carefully engineered to push all involved to the brink of exhaustion. On the second night I had the pleasure of watching an impromptu Undesirables reunion in a hotel room, with Corin Raymond and Sean Cotton fumbling their way through the songs I'd first heard from them, and Corin doing a drunken version of the "hallucinogenic tai chi" that so amazed me that weekend all those years ago at Eaglewood Folk Festival. We had marathon song circles both nights in Tereza Tomek's Folkin' Genius Lounge, with some of my favourite songwriters assembled, and a packed room hanging on their every word. At 6:30am or so the last night, our buddy JD Edwards played a tune that nobody'd heard yet, in which he rapid-fire name-checked probably fifty Canadian small-time songwriters, many of whom were in the room. Everyone's minds melted. It was the moment we'd all stayed up for. And it was quite a while before anyone could muster the courage to step into the smoking crater he'd left and sing another song.

I cut straight back into Michigan for a house concert with Fauxgrass, Mark Lavengood, and Max Lockwood, and a barn concert that ended with drunken archery, firing arrows into a mattress that was leaned up against the side of the barn. When I finally staggered off to sleep in the van, they tried to cajole me back: "hey man, we're just about to start the axe throwing!"

From Michigan I headed to St. Louis for the Folk Alliance Regional Midwest conference (handily abbreviated FARM), where I'd been chosen to play an official showcase for the first time. It was a great hang, and marked the end of the season for me, with two unscheduled weeks until my next gig and a whole lotta country between me and there. I made my way to Tulsa, Oklahoma first, where I met a bunch of great songwriters at an open mic I'd heard about years ago, then up through the Oklahoma panhandle, into Colorado where I saw ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park, and into Utah where I spent a couple breathtaking days exploring Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. I took a bunch of pictures over the summer and fall, if you want to see 'em (Colorado and Utah are a ways down), right here.

From Utah I made my way to the coast to spend a couple weeks in and around Vancouver, something I'd been meaning to do for a while. There's a lot of people I love in Vancouver and on the islands, but my last several visits out there had all been the one-night-only kind. Touring and playing shows is a ridiculous way to try and make a living, as you may have already gathered, and it's even more precarious a proposition when you're traveling with a band you've got to pay every day. So I try my best to fill every night with a paying gig when I've got the Second Chances along, and usually succeed. People often remark on how great it is that we're so busy, and it is great in a way; a younger me would certainly be chuffed at how many good shows we're able to string together. But as much as we praise busy-ness, it's got its downside too. The part that stings the most is having to settle for a fifteen-minute conversation once a year with good friends. So I carved out a little time off the clock, with only one gig to speak of, joining Shari Ulrich, Chris Ronald, Elias Edlund and Jenny Ritter for Bluebird North at the Roundhouse. The rest of it was spent catching up with old friends, attending shows, and letting Vancouver sweetly bankrupt me as only a great city can. Thankfully, I had a string of house concerts for kind folks in Grand Forks, Millarville, and Canmore to get me home.

The short but sweet stay out on the coast, and the longer stay here around home, have got me thinking a lot about the advantages of being stationary. And while I'm certainly not ready to put down roots per se, I think I'm going to try a more stable way of life going forward, basing myself in different places for a month or two at a time rather than always being on the go. Vancouver's high on that list. So's Toronto. So's Austin. So's Michigan. So's an imaginary cabin in the woods somewhere. There's a lot to be said for the daily routine and practice that being in one place allows, and there's a lot to be said for spending extended time with people rather than just catching up all the time. Feels like a new leaf for me to say that. And even though it's completely arbitrary, the year's end makes a good time for the turning of leaves. Here's to all your new leaves, friends. And here's wishing, this holiday season and always, for peace and goodwill in our hearts, our families, and our troubled, slow-learning world. Be well, big love,

s


June 9, 2014: Winding my way back home, a new video, stories from Taiwan, the antipodes, and Turtle Island, and getting by with a little help from my friends

Hey there friends,

This update's been some time coming. It was begun aboard Air Canada Flight 16, high over the Pacific Ocean, where I finally had the captive hours and a handy airborne perspective from which to survey the previous three months of near-incessant touring. It was worked on in a late-night cafe in Brooklyn, while the regulars stumped one another with erudite trivia questions, and then again at Robert's Western World in Nashville, Tennessee, where an old fella was running through the country songbook, playing rickety guitar, and yelling out the best train whistle sound I've ever heard. It got further along in a motel room in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where I hid from the +40C heat and tried my best to put these many roads into a few pages. And it's finally getting done here at a roadside diner in the forested ranges of Washington's Cascades. Tomorrow, at long last, I'll be crossing the Canadian border, and landing among old friends aplenty at the Tiny Lights Festival in Ymir, BC.

From there it's back to Edmonton for a homecoming show with my long-lost bandmates the Second Chances and prodigal poet Scott Wicken, and then up to my first love of festivals, the North Country Fair. At last year's Fair I decided to take a trip around the world and get back in time for the Fair, and whaddayaknow, I've nearly made it.

After the Fair I'll be hosting the seventh annual Afterbender back in Edmonton, and then hitting the road again around BC and Alberta with the Second Chances. There really is no rest for the psychotically self-employed. But at least we'll be in familiar pastures. Here are the dates on the near horizon:

Wed June 18 - Edmonton, AB - Double e-town homecoming at Wunderbar with Scott Wicken and the Second Chances
Wed June 25 - Edmonton, AB - 7th annual Official Unofficial North Country Fair Afterbender at the Pawn Shop with the Long Weekends, Kim MacGregor, Cadence & Nathan, Myrol, the Tubsteppers, Jenie Thai, Jesse Dee & Jacquie B, Michael Dunn, MayDay and the Beat Creeps, Kemo Treats, Cayley Thomas, The Party on High Street, and many more TBA!
Thu June 26 - Canmore, AB - House concert with the Second Chances
Fri June 27 - Salmon Arm, BC - Garden Gathering with the Second Chances and Graham Playford
Sat June 28 - Penticton, BC - The Dream Cafe with the Second Chances
Sun June 29 - Kelowna, BC - House concert with the Second Chances
Mon June 30 - Revelstoke, BC - Revelstoke Streetfest with the Second Chances
Tue July 1 - Banff, AB - Banff Canada Day Celebrations with the Second Chances, 2pm
Wed July 2 - Calgary, AB - Wine Oh's with the Second Chances and Jared Klok
Thu July 3 - Nanton, AB - House concert with the Second Chances and Jared Klok
Fri July 4 - Springbrook, AB - Springbrook Multiplex Theatre with the Second Chances and Allen Christie
Sat July 5 - Lloydminster, AB - Afternoon show at the Root Community Emporium
Sun July 6 - Saskatoon, SK - TBA

As always, all the details for these and more upcoming shows can be found on my news page. And in case there's any doubt, all the house concerts are open to the public, so don't be shy! A house is actually the best place to watch a show, if you ask me. You get to hear the real thing, up close and unamplified, and meet some kind folks as well.

As you've probably guessed, there's a lot of story to tell since I wrote you last. But before we get into all that, and for those folks who won't be reading further, I want to share a video of "Pass It Along", shot in Melbourne by friend and fellow muso Benjamin James Caldwell, here. That's a song I hope you'll sing after I'm gone, friends.

If you're following me down past the break, you might wanna pour yourself a cup of something and put your feet up. In fact, you might wanna read it in instalments, and for the first time there are chapter breaks for just that. It's more personal than most fan mail gets, precisely because it's not exactly fan mail, but rather a letter to friends far and wide. I've always had a hard time drawing a line between fans and friends, and I figure if I'm gonna err, it might as well be on the side of friendship.

1. Taiwan

Last I wrote I was on the final dregs of my Southeast Asian vacation, and mere days later I landed on Taiwan, sunburned, broke, and amply ready to get back in the saddle after two months of idling. I put out the word on Facebook that I was looking for a place to stay in Taipei, a scooter, a sleeping bag, an air mattress and a tent, and friends came through with all the sleeping kit I'd need, two scooters, three places to stay in Taipei, and four tents. Sometimes I'm just left shaking my head at what good folks I know.

The tour kicked off with an unamplified show at Taipei Artist Village alongside my good friends David Chen, Conor Prunty and Mojo LaViolette, and proceeded around the island counter-clockwise. Partway through I was joined by my friend Amanda, who runs a wonderful, community-forging venue called The Root in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, taking her first trip to Asia on a last-minute lark. Travelling around a place I know so well with a fresh set of eyes really helped me see it anew, and even inspired me to play the tour guide. We visited Tainan's famous temples for the first time, something I'd always meant to do but always found myself short on time for. They're some of the oldest on the island, and they were all the more spectacular for the timing, right on the doorstep of Chinese New Year, when worshippers were out in droves to ask the gods' favour in the year to come. It's a special season, and a perfect time to travel around the country, with Taiwanese folks even friendlier and more generous than they always are, firecrackers and fireworks day and night, and elaborate parades carrying gods from temple to temple through the streets.

It was a heckuva ride around the island, and went off pretty much without a hitch, besides one fateful drizzly day in Taroko Gorge when Amanda grabbed the brake too fast and fell down. I was incredibly grateful that it was nothing serious, but it did remind me of the seriousness of the mission we'd embarked on, or I'd embarked us on. Sometimes a guy forgets a thing like that too after he's done something plenty of times.

If you wanna have a look, here's some photos from that trip.

Along the way, I got to play shows with my old friends Tyler Dakin, the Admissionaries, Mister Green, Mike Mudd, Russell Rodgers, and Landis Shook, and a new folky trio of gals called Tricolor Tree Leaf. The highlight of the tour, though, was the last show, a house concert at Lei Gallery in Taichung with Andy Goode and Mojo's new project The Vicious Cabaret. I drove most of the five hour mountain ride from Taipei in the cold and dark, and arrived to find the small show I'd been expecting had a crowd spilling out into the street. The Vicious Cabaret opened the show with a set so sharp it had me questioning my worthiness to follow it. But Thom and I tuned up and played, and the love and emotion pouring back from the room was palpable. A big strong fella I'd never met cried openly, standing right next to me, and all I could do was hug him. More than ever, I remembered why I do what I do, and what a gift it is that I get to carry.

Like I've been saying for a while, the lesson I'm trying to learn is to see it for what it is, accept it, feel worthy of it, be unashamed of it, and go about it in such a way that I can continue to carry this gift for a long time to come. And that's gotta involve some kind of balance of health and sanity with the late nights that you all know I love. In this case, despite my oft-stated intentions to keep up with my yoga practice and get to bed at a reasonable hour now and then, Taiwan's still a night-owl's paradise, with parks and 7-11 storefronts aplenty as ready 24-hour venues for debauchery, and friends aplenty as ready excuses to stay out and party. Let's just say there wasn't a lot of going to bed while the party's still going going on, and I caught my flight out in the usual scrambling, dementedly exhausted fashion.

2. Down Under

Thankfully, Melbourne held the finest welcome a tired rambler could receive, staying with the gals from Jungal, who graciously eased me in with a home-cooked meal, ice cream, and a melodramatic Aussie movie called Red Dog. They also hooked me up with a tent, an air mattress and a cooler, and Leisha's girlfriend Lucy even loaned me her car! Within a couple days, I was driving on the left side of the road across that strange new land.

It was my first time in the antipodes, and I was wide-eyed at the marvellous coastline, the Dr. Seuss-like landscape, and its bizarre flora and fauna. I also found myself wide-eared at the charming Australian English, the diversity of accents, and the lovely new additions to my lexicon, like "bogans" (Aussie rednecks), "grey nomads" (old RVers), "bloody oath" (possibly the best swear I've ever heard), and "budgie-smugglers" (speedos, which their douchebag president Tony Abbott, who apparently fancies himself such a ladies' man that he appointed himself Minister of Women, isn't shy about wearing for photo ops). I learned quite a lot about Aussie politics while I was there, thanks to Aussies' willingness to talk about such things in polite company, something I also loved in Britain but find sadly absent at home. Like Canada, Australia's drifting in a very fearful and mean-spirited direction at the moment, but I was relieved to hear plenty of embarrassment about it, and resolve to change it, from the folks I spoke to.

My first show in Australia was at the home of a lady I met back at the start of my Southeast Asian vacation, while drinking beer and watching the late-night chaos among the sea of plastic stools along Bien Thu, Saigon's backpacker strip. She struck up a conversation after noticing the FOLK sticker on my guitar case, and it turned out we had a mutual friend in Aussie folksinger Jordie Lane. When she heard I was heading to Australia, she offered to host a show at her house. Three months later I played in her Melbourne living room for a bunch of her friends, including a great Irish-Australian folksinger named Enda Kenny.

A week later, when my Brisbane show cancelled and I put out word on Facebook in hopes of finding something else to pay the gas up the coast and back, Enda somehow managed to wheedle my way into the Cobargo Folk Festival. So it was that I didn't make the trip up the coast, and instead got to play my first Aussie festival by happenstance. It also just so happened that my old friends David Ross MacDonald and Mal Webb would be there too! Pulling into the grounds and talking to the volunteers at the check-in gate was a sweet reminder of the big family that inspired me to embark on this precarious lifestyle in the first place; after driving through an alien land and struggling to understand people for weeks, I felt completely, naturally at home. And what a weekend, with loads of musical surprises, new friendships formed, and a song circle on the last night featuring (in addition to the usual suspects) an accordion, two concertinas, an autoharp, and a round of limericks. That weekend I started to think seriously about going back in January, buying a van to live in, staying for a few months, and leaving it with somebody there for when I come back. Kind of like having a summer home, AND a summer home.

It wasn't hard to fall in love with Australia's charming lingo, wide open country, and foreign starscape. I got to spend a few nights camping out on my own along the way, and thrilled at the thrumming of unknown creatures in the dark. I met kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, goannas, emus, kookaburras, cassowaries, galaws, possums, wombats, and bandicoots. Oh, and several species of bogans, of course.

In Sydney I stayed with a friend of my friend Gaelyn from the North Country Fair. Her building and all the others in the small block are owned by the same landlord, who'd allowed them to turn the back alley into a yard that all their yards joined onto, with a plush lawn, flowers, a composting toilet, clotheslines, and a movie screen. It felt surreal tent-camping in downtown Sydney, five minutes' walk from Central Station.

In Melbourne I got to hang out with loads of friends from the Canadian summer, including Aurora Jane, Benjamin James Caldwell, the Jungal gals, and even fellow Canadian and former Taiwan expat Faye Blais! We played together at an urban garden party called Graceland and it was exquisite.

In Beechworth I got to hang out with my Taiwanese friend Sabrina, her bass-playing Aussie husband Aaron, their two amazing kids, two more Taiwanese gals who came out for the occasion, and Mr. Jack Melbourne, who was Aaron's boss at Banjo's in Hsinchu, plays a mean dobro, and gave me my first paid solo gigs ever. It's hard to explain just how good it felt carrying on in Mandarin at a saloon in an Australian country town.

My last days in Australia were spent at my visa sponsor's own little soiree, the Burke and Wills Folk Festival, and I was amazed to find Taiwan connections even there. I met an older flatpicker and songwriter who'd been over there, a lady who'd been with the US Army there, and Andrew Clermont, the guy who'd actually hired Jack and Aaron to go over there in the first place, to play bluegrass at an amusement park called Leofoo Village. The whole weekend was pretty surreal, not to mention sleeping rough in a field strewn with sheep poo, under some of the clearest stars I've ever seen.

All in all, a very serendipitous and and auspicious visit to the land of the Southern Cross. There's photos (and they're pretty alright if I do say so myself), here.

3. Taiwan with Scotty Dunbar

The morning after the fest, Faye and Vic gave me a ride to the airport and there I was in the wind again, arriving back in Taiwan to a waiting Scotty Dunbar. For those readers who are unfamiliar with him, Scott's a killer songwriter and song-trafficker that I met around the campfire at Robson Valley Music Festival several years back. He made his living busking on the streets of Montreal for many years, and he's got the street chops and hollering volume to prove it. He's not afraid to speak his mind, yell his politics, and rile folks up. He even caused a stir on the ol' interweb with various Youtube clips taken by stunned passers-by, as was confirmed when Taiwanese friends started saying, "Scotty Dunbar's in Taiwan?!?", though he'd never been there before. Here's a little clip of the man in action to give you an idea of what I'm talking about:

My good friend Clyde had come to meet him on his arrival about two hours earlier, and we left in Clyde's car to hook Scotty up with his first bag of betel nuts, delivered to the car in traditional Taoyuan County style, by a young lady in her underwear.

We took a couple days getting ourselves sorted, and soon enough we were off around the island, stopping first at Fulong Beach to play our good friends Nick and Maxine's new little place called Plan B'stro. Scotty's mind was blown along the way, and the scenery was just getting started. We had a sweet reunion with my old Jungli crew that night, and I got to meet my good friends Crees and Jean's son Noa for the first time. Oh, and Scotty made me proud, rocking the dancefloor into the late hours, as he would continue to do every night along that tour.

Unfortunately, trouble struck the very next day, on our drive down to Yilan, when Scotty took a spill on the Suao-Hualien highway, and (as we found out later) broke a rib. Incredibly, he managed to play through the pain and rock the party that night in Leighton and Ivy Jones' backyard. Thankfully, we had the next two nights off, since I'd planned to take Scotty up through Taroko Gorge, one of the most breathtaking places I've ever seen. We stayed two nights at the Catholic hostel in Tianshiang (where I've written you faithful readers from once before), catching up on work online during the days, and spending the evenings with single malts and guitars in the mountaintop porchlight, swapping songs amid the pulsing of the frogs and crickets.

The first night, while we were eating at a restaurant up there, the TV showed scenes of students protesting and jostling with cops in Taipei. Turned out they'd occupied the Legislative Yuan for the first time in the nation's history, in response to the government trying to ram through a secret trade deal with China. You know, the same as Canada's doing with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, except that, get this, the Taiwanese kids actually did something about it.

To provide a wee bit of background, Taiwan's current government is the Kuomintang (KMT), the party of Taiwan's old dictator Chiang Kai-Shek. They lost the Chinese Civil War to the Communists in 1945, retreated to Taiwan with whatever they could steal, forced the people to speak Mandarin, and ruled Taiwan under martial law until 1987. Once the sworn ideological enemies of the communists, they're now the party pushing reconciliation with the mainland, which just goes to show that neither side has any ideology to speak of except the almighty dollar.

It's a precious and precarious position Taiwan's in, as the first experiment in freedom and democracy in Chinese history, but their current leaders would happily squander it to make a buck. This most recent step in that direction, the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA), is a secret deal that President Ma was determined to pass without even a debate. It'd open up Taiwan to Chinese investment in real estate, media, and several other industries, and almost certainly erode Taiwan's freedom and independence.

As I mentioned, Canada and the US also happen to be in the midst of making a similar deal with China (the TPP), under which companies will have the right to sue governments when they pass any law contrary to their business interests. Not only that, the lawsuit itself will be secret. Very troubling, if you're of the belief that people, not companies, should rule the world. But aside from our usual clicktivism, the Canadian and American people really haven't risen up en masse. Maybe we're just too well fed and sedated, or maybe we've got too much on our minds, I don't know. What I do know is it made me incredibly proud to see the Taiwanese people, led by students, rising up and challenging the tyranny of profit in politics.

My good friend and fellow Peacefest organizer Lynn Miles first came to Taiwan as a journalist in the early seventies, while the country was still under martial law, and was deported from the country for helping opposition activists. He was allowed back in when the KMT lost power to the opposition, but was threatened with deportation again when he burned his passport outside the US trade office in Taipei during the early stages of the Iraq War. He's seen a lot come and go, and he has a deep love for the country and its people. A week into the protests, he called us from the streets of Taipei, where he'd been camping out with the students outside the Legislative Yuan, and asked if we'd come sing for them. Scotty was into it right away, true blue punk rocker that he is, but I took a little longer to make up my mind, being more heavily invested in returning to Taiwan, and knowing that what we were doing was doubly dangerous; not only is it illegal to perform on a tourist visa, but foreigners are also forbidden from taking part in political activities. But more than that, I knew I'd regret not joining the kids when we had the chance, so eventually I agreed, and we found ourselves bleary-eyed on a morning high-speed train ride to Taipei.

It was amazing to see the organization and discipline of the students, the crowd control that Lynn had to finesse our way through, and the tents full of donated blankets, tarps, food, and water. It truly looked like something that could actually grow into a mass movement, precisely because of its orderliness, and the simplicity and irrefutability of its demands. I think there's a lesson in that for us. Smashing up storefronts or camping out indefinitely without a clear demand aren't likely to get the mass of the people on our side, and that's what it's gonna take to win. And really, I'm no longer interested in blowing off steam, or being ideologically pure, I'm only interested in winning. We don't have long to turn this thing around.

If you're interested, here's a clip of us on Taiwanese TV. Thankfully, they seem to think my name's "Sky".

We had some amazing shows on the rest of the tour, including a few with my old band the Anglers. It sure was great to play with those guys again, and I think we actually got better, despite not playing together for two years. We played at Malinda & Steve Schultz' lovely Farm Jam venue among the hills and rice paddies of Hsinchu county, Boston Paul & Sandra's Dakeng Refuge for the third instalment of Hobo Happiness, and back at our longtime jam spot, home away from home, and dealer of many a well-earned hangover, the River in Jungli.

My friend Kathleen Nisbet of Viper Central also happened to have a three-day stopover in Taiwan while we were there, so we took her up into the central mountains for a little adventure, happened on the little aboriginal villages of Namaxia and Maya, and met some colourful and hilarious characters. On the last day, we chanced upon a huge parade along the road, complete with bobble-headed god costumes, the biggest pile of firecrackers I've ever seen exploding into a mushroom cloud, a young man possessed by the god tripping out, locals barraging us with beers and betel nuts, and three jeeps with monster sound systems and scantily-clad women pole dancing on top. I kid you not.

Here's a bunch of photos from that trip, including the aforementioned dancing girls as proof.

Our last weekend in Taiwan was spent at the Spring Scream festival, on Taiwan's southern tip. The fest was in its 20th year, and it was my ninth time playing it. It was great reconnecting with old friends, swimming in the azure ocean, and seeing my favourite Taiwan expat band Milk reunited again, foregoing their usual elaborate costumes for pajamas, slippers and canes, because, well, they're old. Sunday evening was the sweetest, with the party burned down to its embers, and organically unfolding chaos on the one stage left.

So there I was, bleary-eyed in another airport, bound for Toronto, when I checked the internet and got the sweetest news I could imagine: the students had won. Half a million people came out to support their cause in Taipei, and the government backed down. The fight's not over, of course; the fascists don't give up that easy. But for once, they had to bow to the people, and for that, Taiwan can be proud.

4. Back on Turtle Island!

I arrived back in Toronto and played the Cameron House the next day, happy to be reunited with so many good friends, and still somewhat staggered to be on the opposite side of the world. After the show we raced over to Hugh's Room to see Corin Raymond open for Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboys, and it was truly one of the best shows I've ever seen, anywhere. Only 200 or so lucky folks got to witness it, and I was very grateful to be one of them. That was troubadouring and picking at its absolute finest, and a huge helping of inspiration for this tired rambler.

The next week or so around Ontario was sweet, playing a few shows with musical wizards Brian MacMillan and Scott Galloway, and a bunch more on my own. Several days of that leg were spent with my Aussie friend Maddie, whose path just happened to line up with mine, and who inspired an eponymous song that you'll undoubtedly be hearing soon. I got to thinking a lot afterward about how great it is to have company along the road, how experiences are so much better when they're shared.

Days later I crossed the border from Quebec into Vermont, surprisingly without incident, for a bunch of dates in the northeastern States. Work-wise it was a very patchy month, with a lot of senseless driving involved, partly due to my poor grasp of geography, but mostly thanks to how busy I'd been for the previous three months, with little time to fill the gaps in my schedule. Financially disastrous as it was, I did enjoy the long drives through new places and the downtime to explore them. I saw the Atlantic coastline in New England, with its charming port towns and wind-blown gulls. I drove through the Catskills, where snow was still unmelted among the pines alongside the road; drove into Woodstock at night, just in time to catch the end of some old-timers' bluegrass set; and played the open mic at Caffe Lena, the longest-running folk venue in the United States. I crossed the Connecticut, the Hudson, the Delaware, the Susquehanna, and the Potomac, and rolled into Dixie to birdsong and the smell of flowers blooming.

I wondered at the sameness of everything along the freeways, the repetitive spacing of chain restaurants, and the hopelessness of the radio dial. Passed a highway rest area and fast food mall named after Walt Whitman, and almost wept for what this country's become. But off the interstates, I followed the blue highways through little towns with old churches and funny names, ate in roadside diners where the waitresses call you "hon", and felt like the country's soul was still showing.

I walked around the Civil War battlefields at Gettysburg and Manassas, where both Battles of Bull Run were fought. I read a lot about those battles and the war itself, and tried to feel my way back into those times, when boys from both sides were roused to fight their countrymen, cajoled by loyalty to their States and the wide-spread belief (on both sides) that the war would prove quick, easy, and glorious.

I saw Pittsburgh, where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio, and where captains of industry like Carnegie, Mellon, Schwab and Westinghouse built their fortunes. The boom left behind concert halls, stadiums, a symphony, hospitals, and endowments, an unbelievably rich legacy compared to what the auto industry left Detroit.

I saw Philadelphia for the first time, saw the hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution written, saw the First Bank of the United States, learned a lot about that not-so-distant bit of history called the American Revolution, and simultaneously felt the frustrating stubbornness and surprising malleability of the order of things.

I drove through suburban Washington, DC, and downtown Baltimore, MD. I saw black folks, white folks and Latinos living side by side in some places, and other places where one or the other was nowhere to be seen. I saw whole towns that looked like they'd been foreclosed on, and thought of Iris DeMent's song "The Wasteland of the Free".

I played live on WFMT in Chicago, in front of a studio audience, and felt more nervous about the "ON AIR" light than about the kind folks in attendance. After the show I made a straight line down to Nashville to be a honky-tonk tourist for a day, and then further south to play at Eddie's Attic in Atlanta and see my Grandma in Alabama. I crossed the Chatahoochee, drove through the Louisiana bayou, and saw where the Mississippi empties into Lake Ponchartrain. Having never seen New Orleans, I couldn't pass by without stopping, so I had a walk around the French Quarter, digging the bands in bars and a mind-blowing dance party in the street to the sounds of the Young Fellas Brass Band.

On my way out of New Orleans, a lady plowed into the side of Old Blue. Nothing serious, and nobody hurt, but still, my first real car accident. I don't really know who was at fault (I might've run a red, I honestly don't know), but being Canadian, I immediately apologized, which of course one should never do after an accident. Being in New Orleans, we waited for two hours before a cop finally showed up. I found a new tire and rim for Old Blue the next day and was back on the road, thanking my lucky stars that no one was hurt, and that this haphazard operation, hanging on by a thread at the best of times, was living to roll another day.

I drove on through 40C heat, across the Brazos and into Texas, past the glass towers of Houston and San Antonio, and finally onto the Quiet Valley Ranch for my first Kerrville Folk Festival. "Welcome home!" were the first words I heard as I pulled onto the Ranch, and they didn't lie. Now in its 43rd year, the Kerrville Folk Fest has got to be the deepest well of songs on the planet. They have shows in the theatre every night, but the real action's after-hours, sharing songs in circles at the many themed camps spread throughout the ranch. Hearing such amazing songs night after night gave me a similar feeling to the one I'd had visiting Nashville and Austin for the first time years ago; a wonder akin to looking at the night sky, amazed at how deep the river of music runs, and relieved at the thought of my insignificance beyond the here and now. The festival runs for 18 days, though I only stayed for a week, which was exhausting enough. The only thing putting me to bed every night was considering how soon the blazing Texas sun would make Old Blue unliveable. I did stay up for sunrise my last night, though, and still had a hard time tearing myself away the next day while my friends harmonized in the shade.

But the show must go on, and it did, crossing the Pecos, the Rio Grande, the Gila, and the Colorado rivers; through the desert of West Texas, into New Mexico and on to Arizona; gaping at the funnel clouds stirring dust off the plains, the wide mesas, and the sunset on red cliffs; seeing the vine cactus, agave and yucca giving way to barrel cacti and joshua trees. I stopped at Carlsbad Caverns, by far the biggest cave I've ever seen, and at White Sands National Monument, nearby the Trinity Site where the very first atomic bomb was detonated. Had a lovely concert in Tubac, right down by the Mexican border, before finally turning my wheels northward, driving through Joshua Tree National Park, over the Los Padres ranges and out to the California coast, relieved to be out of the desert heat, and elated to be heading homeward. The sight of alpine forests and snow-covered Mount Shasta the next day thrilled me like only the road home can. Strange how the way home after a long trip is almost as precious and freeing a feeling as the way outward.

There's a bunch of photos from the last month and a half, if you're so inclined, right here.

And here I am, one gig away from home, staggering at the scope of the journey behind me. My eyes, ears, and heart have been filled to overflowing. I feel like I've taken in more than I know what to do with. But I also feel like I've brought some lessons home, even if I'm still learning them. For one, I'm going to be choosier about the work I take, and carve out more time off the road, to spend with the people I care about, and to put in the necessary prep time to make my time on the road worthwhile. Like Lincoln said, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."

Over the last seven years, my eagerness to jump the myriad hoops that the music business presents has sometimes meant the neglect of friendships, self-care, and other things I'm passionate about but never seem to have time for. Writing's one of those, but aside from these Travelogues, it's been relegated to the back burner. At last I've made a small start in that direction with an article for BC Musician magazine, about the joys of living in a van, and you can expect more writing from me in the years ahead.

The bigger lessons have been personal ones. Realizing that life really comes down to practice, whether with my instruments, my body or my mind. Realizing that daily practice at yoga and sitting meditation is the best answer for the problem that is me. And trying to learn to live the life I want, to see myself as an actor rather than an observer, to choose what I want most rather than what I want now.

On a deeper level, I've been realizing how much of my self-sabotage is rooted in feelings of unworthiness and shame; how I've been afraid to own the choices I've made, and afraid to see and accept the power I have. There's a quote from Marianne Williamson (often mistakenly attributed to Nelson Mandela), that's been speaking to me again: "You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you... as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Knowing so many of you has freed me, friends. I'll do my best to pass it on. Here's to following our hearts, and dragging this old world with us. Your fan,

s


Monday, Jan 13: Rambles through Laos, Taiwan tour dates, a new year and a NEW VIDEO!

Hey friends,

I hope the new year finds you happy and inspired. I'm on Ko Lanta, an island on the Andaman coast (that's the Indian Ocean side) of Thailand's long skinny bit, the Isthmus of Kra. As my buddy Craig pointed out, the Isthmus of Kra has one of the best place names in the known universe. It also happens to be a pretty interesting place, where Thai beach culture shades into the south's muslim culture, and you can hear the call to prayer from the bamboo bar.

I've got a few days left around here before I head back to Bangkok for a flight to Taiwan that'll land me back squarely in the touring saddle. It's been an instructive stretch of time away from the stage for me, and it's nice to be winding it up in the sun and on the sand. The real measure of the trip, though, will be what I bring along from it, and what I leave behind.

More about all that soon, but for now, a little about Laos. Last I wrote, I was still marvelling at the dramatic change of pace from Vietnam, and getting easily used to the mellow pace of life in that landlocked little country. I almost forgot how much I loved it, and how different it is from anywhere else in this part of the world.

It's changed a lot with the influx of tourism, like everywhere else over here. Fifteen years ago they didn't have cellphones, and now most everybody's got one. And Luang Prabang's become a major tourist destination since UNESCO named it a world heritage site. But it's managed to stay relatively uncorrupted all the same. There are still only two movie theatres in the country (both in the capital), and McDonald's, Burger King and KFC are nowhere to be found. And they don't say "hello" to you in the street when they're trying to sell you something, they say "sabaidee." It carries more meaning than "hello" (more like "feeling relaxed"), but it also seems to me there's an inherent dignity in addressing visitors with the language of the place.

Laos has the sad distinction of being the most bombed country in the world per capita. Between 1964 and 1973, the US dropped over 2 million tons of cluster bombs and other heavy weapons on Laos. They spent $13.3 million a day on the secret bombing. By comparison, they now spend only $2.5 million a year on efforts to clear the leftover unexploded ordnance that still kills around 100 people a year. I saw old cluster bomb casings used for signs, building materials, and barbecues. Some folks melt down the aluminum to make jewelry and other souvenirs.

They've had a communist government (at least in theory) since two years after the US withdrew, but even the party ideologues long recognized the difficulty of bringing communism to a pre-industrialized country where the vast majority of citizens were farmers who owned their own land. In a way, the Lao way of life feels vastly older than and somewhat indifferent to the tides of politics.

Like in Thailand and Myanmar, you'll see some things dated from the Buddha's parinirvana (or complete enlightenment, at the death of his physical body). It's 2559 now, in case you're curious. The animism that predated Buddhism's arrival in Laos still survives as well. And for most Lao people, the cornerstone of life always has been, and still is still rice. Oh, and drinking.

Pretty much any group of Lao people sitting down will have a bottle in the middle of it, whether government-monopoly Beer Lao, or lao-lao (rice whiskey), which they make themselves. They share small glasses, usually just one or two for the table, drinking them down and refilling them for the next. The whole ritual of drinking moves slower and feels more meaningful for the sharing of glasses.

Oh, and Laos just might have the cutest kids in the world. They seem to spend their time out of school running around, hanging out with animals, and competing for a crumpled banknote by taking turns throwing their flip-flops at it.

As fortune had it, I arrived in Luang Prabang the night before the Pha Bang buddha, from which the town gets its name, was brought back to town after being hidden away by the government for 50 years. It was pretty much the biggest deal ever. The most thrilling part for me was the hill tribespeople bringing up the end of the parade with songs and dances; the deep style and red-blooded joy in it, and my total lack of context for what I was witnessing.

I went further north partway through my time in Luang Prabang, to Nong Khiaw, and from there by riverboat to Muang Ngoi, a tiny dirt-road town along the Nam Ou river, blissfully devoid of hurry, cars, ATMs, and the internet. They got hydro lines just last year; before that a generator provided electricity from 6-9pm. The market only comes to town once every ten days. There were chunks of buffalo hide weighed on an old hanging hand scale. There were piles of fresh-cut tobacco with little sheets of lined notebook paper for rolling. There was a dead squirrel and some rats that got bought up before the girl could even put them out on the table.

A chorus of roosters welcomes every morning in Muang Ngoi, and the people are up just as early, going about their fishing, farming, and weaving. My guesthouse owner didn't speak English, but she would always give me a smile as I passed her working at her loom. One morning I came out to find her squatting among the dogs, ducks, and chickens in the yard, eating little balls of sticky rice out of one palm, and felt like that image pretty much summed up Muang Ngoi.

One night I woke up and walked into my bungalow bathroom to find a rat in there. And a scorpion. I closed the door and let them sort it out.

I took a small longtail boat upriver with some other foreigners and a Lao boatman midway through my stay, having heard that there was some kind of new year celebration going on two villages upstream. We rode half an hour through staggering karst landscape before stopping in a little weaving town called Sop Chem, with a sand main street lined with poinsettias and a bunch of grubby feral kids playing with wooden string-thrown tops in the street. A little further upriver was Had Sa Phuey, a Khmu village that was indeed celebrating its new year. A government official had come from Nong Khiaw to give the yearly report on the rice harvest and changes for the new year, and folks seemed pretty bored but long-suffering as he laughed at his own jokes. Finally, after an eternity fixing the CD player, the elementary school kids did their dance routines and everybody clapped along. We drank lao-lao and beers with some Lao folks at a table of strewn with communal packs of smokes, hot dogs and chicken feet. One young guy had just returned from working in Thailand, and heroically bought a round of beers for his buddies. Another fella showed real attention to detail in sussing out the concept of vegetarianism with a foreign girl and me: "No... duck?" "No duck." "No... dog?" "No dog."

Just as things were starting to get a little sloppy, we adjourned to the town dining hall, where everybody was sitting at rows of tables drinking and eating from bags of sticky rice and bowls of water buffalo, both cooked and bloody and raw. It was multi-generational, noisy, and borderline unhinged in there. One guy threw a little ball of sticky rice at me to get my attention. We all felt pretty lucky to be there.

From Muang Ngoi it was back to civilization and down to the Thai border. The karst topography in Kasi province and Vang Vieng blew me away on my way through. I also passed a sign for Mr. Poovanh's Sundry Shop, and I thought it was pretty important that I tell you that.

If you want to have a look, there are photos from the whole trip here.

Though the Thais and Lao are close cultural neighbours, the differences were never more apparent to me than crossing the border this time. All the live music, the B-boys practicing in the street, the tattoos, a certain sort of cool, the pictures of the King everywhere, all the old foreign dudes with Thai ladies, and the stillness in the market when everyone stopped for the national anthem. Down here, it feels even further away from Laos, with Bob Marley playing everywhere, price-gouging aplenty, and a fella named Mong who swears that you can see the elephant in the moon if you eat one of his brownies.

This time next week, I'll be back in Taiwan and back on tour, and I'm more than a little excited. Here are the dates:

Thu Jan 23 - Taipei - Taipei Artist Village w/ David Chen & Mojo
Fri Jan 24 - Jungli - Hide Out w/ the Admissionaries & Tyler Dakin
Sat Jan 25 - Hsinchu - Titty Tea w/ Mike Mudd
Sun Jan 26 - Taichung - Retro w/ Russell Rodgers
Tue Jan 28 - Tainan - Tin Pan Alley
Wed Jan 29 - Kaohsiung - The Lighthouse w/ Landis Shook
Sat Feb 1 - Dulan - The Sugar Factory Cafe
Sun Feb 2 - Hualien - La Seine w/ Mister Green
Mon Feb 3 - Ilan - Rain City Grille
Thu Feb 6 - Taipei - Sit Down and Shut the F**k Up at Revolver
Fri Feb 7 - Taipei - Bobwundaye! w/ Tom Squires and Tricolor Tree Leaf
Sat Feb 8 - Taichung show TBC


All the details, as always, are on http://www.scottcook.net/news.php, along with plenty of dates in Australia, Ontario and the USA in the months to come. For citizens of Faceburg, the event page for the Taiwan tour's here, and I'd really appreciate you sharing it with friends on the island.

It's especially exciting to be heading back for Chinese New Year. I love the way normal life's suspended for days, the firecrackers in the streets around the clock, and the rituals of family visits, special food, decorations, and blessings. I love the custom of throwing out old things, cutting your hair and sweeping out the house to wipe the slate clean before the new year, and then refraining from those things while the luck of the new year accumulates. Rather than a ten-second countdown on December 31st, they spend weeks marking the change. It seems to me that the main purpose holidays serve is to mark the passage of time, and the new year's a particularly good time for that kind of reflection. However you feel about the potential or futility of making resolutions, the turning of the calendar is a good point to look back and forward from, to decide what to take onward with us, and what to leave behind.

My good friend Cat Brown passed along an article about Annie Dillard recently, and I feel like it's worth sharing two quotes:

"The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less."

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order--willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern."

Both of these thoughts have been ringing all kinds of true for me lately, as I'm looking at the road ahead, and resolving to move along it with more mindfulness, direction, discipline, and integrity. Anything worth striving for takes long effort and practice, and the deeper lesson is that the effort and practice are actually all there is. We never arrive, we just spend time on the trail. And the scenery of our lives isn't the promised land we imagine and aim at, it's just the trails we spend our days along.

In the spirit of recommitting to old work, embarking on new beginnings, carrying the best of the past forward, and missing my bandmates something fierce, I'm happy to share a new video with you, filmed back in the fall at our friends Penny & Jim's cabin outside Edmonton, but never feeling more appropriate to me than right now:

New Grist

Wherever this finds you, friends, I hope your days are filled with inspiration, laughs, close companions, and good eats. Here's to the amazing year ahead. It's all ours, to do whatever we want.

Big love,

s


December 22, 2013: Words from the Mekong and me

Friends,

I hope the season finds you cozy and smiling. I'm writing you from Luang Prabang, the erstwhile capital of this old kingdom, where the Nam Khan river meets the Mekong in central Laos. I've been here a week already, and am just now starting to feel motivated to move along. I heard about some villages upriver without roads or internet, and I'm thinking of taking a little boat trip soon.

It's great to be back in Laos. An overwhelming feeling of relief washed over me even as our little plane descended into the mountainous Mekong valley, at the sight of the muddy water, the thick jungle extending in all directions, and the little building they call an "International Airport".

I'd heard you needed American money for the visa on arrival, but was unable to buy any at the Hanoi airport. I explained to the visa official, who quoted me an outrageously inflated figure in Lao kip, and directed me to the bank machine outside the front door. The customs & immigration guys called out to me as I passed, but I told them I needed to use the ATM and they just waved me on. So there I was, loose in the country, without even having "arrived". That's the kind of casual they've got here.

It had been ten years since I last visited and spent a week partying my face off with my new buddy Raoul, the saner parts of which were retold in the title track of my first record. The reacquaintance came as a revelation (and a stark contrast from Vietnam) along the ride into town, with the unpaved side roads, the lush greenery everywhere, the sudden lack of constant honking from the drivers, the young saffron-robed monks strolling by, and the deep, easy smiles of the people. And while the town's certainly seen plenty of change for the busier, it's managed to retain its charm.

I've got a month left before I'm back on the clock and back on the stage, and I'm planning on taking it real easy. I think I might actually be the most boring backpacker in all of Southeast Asia at the moment, but that suits me fine. There are lots of things I want to work on, like bookings for the year ahead, banjo practice, writing, yoga, learning songs, and sitting meditation, and I'm grateful to have the time and mental space to dedicate to them.

I'll surely write you more about Laos when I'm done, but for now I'll say a little about the past month in Vietnam. I made my way through the country mighty slowly, staying around a week at each spot, and spending lots of time on all the aforementioned work and self-work that I came here to do, but I did see some beautiful sights along the way. After a week in the sweaty buzz of Saigon, staying right in the middle of the backpacker bacchanalia that is Bue Vien, I took a "sleeper" bus to Da Lat, a southern mountain town that the occupying French used as a summer retreat, and even as the capital of Indochina during WWII. There are beautiful alpine forests, a big lake in the middle of town, a miniature Eiffel Tower, fruit trees, pagodas, a big old church, greenhouses full of roses, and a lot of dudes on souped-up motorbikes offering "Easy Rider" tours of the countryside, with an uncanny ability to start up a conversation that leaves you no chance to politely end it.

From there I took a bus to Nha Trang, probably the most famous beach town in Vietnam, and hugely popular with Russian tourists (so much so that plenty of signs are in Russian rather than English), but really, not such a good spot to swim. I did a lot of cycling around there, dug the fishing boats on the river, the little shacks in the hills outside of town, the ruins from the Champa kingdom that preceded the Vietnamese, and the much nicer beach north of town, where I finally got in the ocean for the first time in far too long.

From Nha Trang I caught an overnight train to Da Nang, where I checked in with fellow Edmontonians and North Country Fairgoers Tigi, her boyfriend Phil, and their newly-arrived fried Tyler, all living there teaching English. I've been keeping to myself for the most part, so it was really nice to spend an evening hanging out with folks from home. From there I went south to Hoi An, via the staggering Marble Mountains, where the Viet Cong actually had a field hospital hidden inside the mountain, within sight of the American airfield and China Beach.

Hoi An's a beautiful riverfront town which was an important commercial port from the 1st to 18th centuries. Under Cham rule, it was the hub of the spice trade from the 7th to 10th centuries, and later, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian and Dutch merchants shipped goods from there as far away as Persia and Egypt. The port fell into insignificance in the 19th century, so the town escaped some of the ravages of modernization in Vietnam, and with its funky mix of Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese architecture, it's been designated a UNESCO world heritage site. Of course, this means loads of tourist traffic, but it's still incredibly charming, coming alight in the evenings with multicoloured lanterns along the storefronts and candle-lit paper boats floating in the river. I wiled away a few days there cycling and walking around, and one day rented a motorbike to drive out to My Son, the Champa ruins outside of town. The site was heavily bombed during the Vietnam War, and it's nothing on the scale of Angkor Wat, but it was still a beautiful reminder of the passing of time, and worth it for the ride alone, especially the part where I got lost and was reminded of how enlivening it feels to drive without a license, the relevant language skills, or a map.

From Hoi An I went back to Da Nang, rented another motorbike and drove up to Hue, which used to be the capital of the empire before Ho Chi Minh set up his government in 1945, and dug the scenery on the Hoi Van Pass.

My last stop was Hanoi, the capital, which has a very different feel from Saigon. One of the biggest things that struck me about Vietnam was that being such a long, skinny country, not only the climate but also the language and culture are vastly different between the north and south. Two common sights in Hanoi that I hadn't seen elsewhere were old men wearing berets, and guys taking monster hits of tobacco off giant bamboo or steel-chambered pipes. Oh, and "Goat Udders" advertised on a restaurant, yum.

From Hanoi I went out to Ha Long Bay along one of the most well-greased tourist conveyor belts in the world, ferrying some 5000 folks out onto the water every day to see the staggering karst topography, kayak the sea caves, visit the floating villages, hike on the islands, and of course drink on deck. All of which we did, but I must admit, by that time I was ready for a change of scenery.

I did take a bunch of photos along the trip, and annotated where I thought appropriate, so if you're curious, they're here.

It was funny looking back through them, though, because, besides thinking I'm not much of a photographer, I realized that most of the amazing things I'd seen aren't in there. Mostly because those things were so personal that I'd feel rude snapping a photo with an iPhone. Things like the traditional altars in their houses, decked out with flashing LED lights like a tiny disco for the spirits and ancestors. The old folks laying on the bare floor fanning themselves in the heat of the day. The impossibly cute kids, learning the world, playing in the ditches, and undoubtedly acquiring immunities my relatively sanitized upbringing never included. The weathered faces and stooped walk of the old folks still labouring. The ingenuity of the Vietnamese people, and their ability to make a living at anything. The guys who sit on street-corners all day with an air compressor, tire tubes, patches, and a tub of water, fixing flat tires. The sidewalk barbershops, and the countryside hair salons in corrugated tin shacks with faded glamour posters on the wall. The innumerable food carts with lights and a fan wired up to a car battery. The guy I saw fixing a laptop in the street, sitting on a plastic stool by a barbecue restaurant with the guts of the thing hanging out. The little mongrel dogs everywhere, and the rarity of hearing one bark. The dudes playing long-distance hacky sack with a shuttlecock in Hanoi. The old comrades in fatigues. The spotty knowledge of various cultures that the touts and hucksters pick up on the streets--nowhere near the level of the kids in Cambodia, mind you, but still amusing--like the way they'll say "Vancouver or Toronto?" when I tell them I'm from Canada, or "lovely jovely!" when they hear someone's from England.

There were nasty things there, too, like the ditches and rivers full of plastic trash. Or the cage I saw on the back of a motorbike, stuffed chock-full of live dogs, quite likely bound to be beaten, skinned and/or boiled alive before they land on someone's dinner plate, since it's believed that the more agony the animal endures and adrenaline it releases, the better it tastes, and the more potent its effects for male virility. I wish I was making this up. And of course, the history of government tyranny and its legacy of corruption in the country today.

Don't get me wrong, I'm 100% convinced that America was wrong to intervene in Vietnam, and 99% convinced that the decision was made for cynical rather than idealistic reasons. But I'm just as sure that "Uncle Ho" was no good guy, and his revolutionary government is corrupt, bloated and brutal to this day. As foreigners, the block on Facebook is likely all we run up against, but if Vietnamese people speak out against the government or in favour of freedom, whether online or out at a bar, there can be serious consequences. Someone will likely come talk to them about what they said. And if they remain unrepentant, they're likely to be imprisoned or even disappeared.

Again the words of Howard Zinn rang true: "We have to transcend these national boundaries in our thinking. Nixon and Brezhnev have much more in common with one another than we have with Nixon. J. Edgar Hoover has far more in common with the head of the Soviet secret police than he has with us. It's the international dedication to law and order that binds the leaders of all countries in a comradely bond. That's why we are always surprised when they get together--they smile, they shake hands, they smoke cigars, they really like one another no matter what they say. It's like the Republican and Democratic parties, who claim that it's going to make a terrible difference if one or the other wins, yet they are all the same. Basically, it is us against them."

At the risk of repeating a cliche, the more I see of the world and its differences, the more I see it's the same.

There's not much music news to report this month, since I haven't been performing (which is suiting me just fine), but nice news does trickle in every now and then. One More Time Around is in its twelfth week in the top ten of Roots Music Report's roots country chart, which is a big step for me, never having cracked that chart before. It even made it as high as number two.

The big music news for this month, though, is that Australia is officially on! I got the news that my visa was approved the day before yesterday. I'm flying out of Taiwan and into Melbourne February 10th, to spend a month in the summery Antipodes and meet up with plenty of good friends along the way. Tour dates are on my news page, please have a look and send your Aussie friends my way!

I land back in Taiwan March 11th for a second tour around the island, and am also mighty chuffed to announce that my good friend and fellow rambler Scotty Dunbar will be landing that same night! Taiwan friends, you're in for some gold, lemme tell ya.

Oh, and I finally updated my videos page, after Jez pointed out that there were only two videos on there, neither from bands I'm even playing with these days. So now there's a bunch of stuff there, in case you'd like to have a look and listen, here.

As Christmas letters begin to arrive in my inbox and "Best of 2013" lists begin to appear, I've naturally been looking back a little myself, on what has undoubtedly been one of the busiest and farthest-flung years of my life, recording One More Time Around in the early part of the year, traveling to the Yukon in the spring, releasing the album at home and playing the Winspear Centre in the same week, taking the Second Chances on the road for an epic five-week ramble, spending pretty much the whole summer in a field somewhere or biking around our fair city, touring out east in the fall and then making my way across Europe, and finally landing here in Asia with the time and space to take stock of it all, its glories and its fumbles and its excesses. If I could distil all the summer's lessons down to one word, it would be balance. More than ever, I'm committed to this road, but staying on it for the long haul means making time for reflection, sobriety, health, and sanity. I hope you're finding your own equilibrium wherever you are. And since this is the last you'll hear from me in 2013, here's wishing you a merry Christmas, a happy Hanukah, an adequate Festivus, a lovely Solstice, and all the best in the year to come.

Big love from a wide-eyed wanderer,

s


November 18, 2013: a TRAVELogue indeed! UK rambles, zombies vs. fairies, a personal turning point, Dutch rednecks, the never-ending fight against fascism, a review from Corin Raymond, and even some pictures!

Hey friends,

I feel like it's been forever. I'm writing you from the steamy streets of Saigon, where the constant hurry of honking scooters, the parade of smells, and the singsong of Vietnamese has been keeping me pleasant company for the past couple days. You may want to make yourself a cup of coffee or crack a big beer just now, cause a lot has happened in the last two months. I was tempted to split it in two, but I have a feeling the next month will hold a lot of stories too. For what it's worth, I think it's worth reading.

Last I wrote, I was fresh from an absurd wrestling match against my good friend Nadine Kellman (scroll down to the previous entry if you missed it) and heading into my favourite Michigan festival, Earthwork Harvest Gathering, which was amazing and grounding as always. The lovely couple at the centre of it all, Seth Bernard and May Erlewine, announced during their set on Friday that they're gonna have a baby, and I bawled at the happy news. I sang for a wonderful bunch of folks in the barn on Sunday, in the good musical company of three-quarters of the Fauxgrass Quartet and my banjo-playing cousin Dylan, and it warmed my heart.

Shortly thereafter I headed to Ontario for a week of shows, including the Toronto release for One More Time Around, with my good friends Brian MacMillan and Scott Galloway backing me up supernaturally well after only one rehearsal, and local rascal Corin Raymond opening the show with a bunch of new tunes. It was a real musical pleasure that I hope to soon revisit. Same goes for the song circle afterward in the street, the trip to Not My Dog for last call, and the late-night jam at QuiQue Escamilla's house that slid ever so stealthily into the wee hours.

Days later I was bound for London, with a belly full of excitement that turned quickly into nausea when I realized I'd lost my passport. I missed my flight and had to buy another ticket, but thankfully it was found on the train where it had fallen out of my pocket that morning, and the next day I was indeed on a plane to London, followed by a train bound for the north to meet up with my musical companion Jez Hellard, having only missed one show despite a very expensive mistake.

Our first show together was at a pub in the little town of Biggar, Scotland, where we'd played last fall. We came in and put our cases down and the girl behind the bar asked, "Will ye be havin' somethin' to eat, or joos' a drink?" to which I replied, "We're here to entertain you." "Is that so?" she said, and we knew the show had been forgotten. The owner arrived soon, looking slightly sheepish, and told us he'd printed our posters and put them around town, and neither of us called him on his lie, despite the obvious lack of posters anywhere in the bar. If it had happened later in the tour you can be sure we would've asked, "Which town, exactly?" But it was early, we were relatively rested and not so bristly yet.

Ah, but such is the nature of the biz, and the reason not everybody who wants to do this for a living would actually want to do this for a living if they knew what it entails. It's why my first piece of advice to young people wanting to tour is simply "Don't." No one needs encouraging to set out in this rocky road. On the other hand, if they're really gonna do it, no amount of discouraging is gonna stop them.

The next night we had a night off, thanks to a supposed double-booking at the Glasgow venue, which translated to us as the organizers forgetting to confirm it with the venue back when we booked the date last year. Again, such is the nature of the biz. Thankfully, our night off coincided with a Glasgow appearance by the John Langan Band, undoubtedly one of the finest bands in the country, who Jez had been raving about to me for years, and whose fiddler Alastair Caplin sometimes joins Jez in his Djukella Orchestra. It was a real pleasure to see such a fine band in top form rocking a room full of sweaty people, and to hang out with our buddy Bill Morris from Celtic Radio and be amusingly baffled by his Glaswegian brogue.

The next night we played Letham Nights, an amazing concert series held in an old community hall in a tiny town in Fife, Scotland. There was an army of enthusiastic volunteers running the show, a fella making pizza with a wood-fired oven in a horse trailer out back, and a specially-labelled Letham Nights Ale on sale at their well-stocked Clap and Tipple Bar (during the show, I couldn't resist saying that I'd rather have a tipple than the clap). Our opener Stella Reilly was a talented young gal, the crowd of kind folks were with us all the way, and the afterparty carried on with songs well into the night, a timely reminder of why we do what we do.

I loved being back in the UK, and though it's less of a foreign land to me than it was last year, there's an understated beauty to the landscape, a pervasive feeling of history in the stone steps worn by millions of footfalls, and of course a knack with place names that continues to delight, like Horton-cum-Studley, Wookey Hole, Straight Soley (right by Crooked Soley), Tuft's Clump, Toker's Green, Hell Corner, Gallowstree Common, World's End, Devil's Beef Tub, Blubberhouses, and my favourite from this time around, Thornton-le-Beans. And of course the brilliant way they have of talking, to say someone's well hard, or on the pull, or a right ned.

In Dumfries we were guests at a trad session at Robbie Burn's favourite pub, the Globe Inn, and I got to stay in the Burns bedroom, complete with poetry carved into the window pane by the Bard himself. Supposedly ghosts hang out there too, but alas, the hair-raising stories the locals told me weren't borne out by any ghostly visits.

Jez' van (and full-time home) Salima fell ill along the way, likely due to a botched fixing attempt by a friend, so we were limping from place to place and choosing our routes carefully. On a tiny back road en route to Berwick-upon-Tweed, a hill finally got the best of her, and Jez had to drive about a mile in reverse until he found a place to turn her around. We carried on, staying as close to the river Tweed as possible to avoid any steep hills, and finally arrived at its mouth on the English Channel in time for our gig at the Barrels Ale House. The next day we limped along the motorway to Milnesbridge, Salima doing zero to fifty in about fifteen minutes if the grade co-operated, and we knew she wasn't going much further.

That night we played anarchist songwriter James 'Bar' Bowen & his gal Jac's wonderfully intimate living room series, Better than Telly house concerts. Over dinner, Bar told us that recently a lady had emailed him asking what was up with all the anti-fascist shows he's putting on, aren't they kind of up themselves, and don't they do anything that isn't anti-fascist? We had a good laugh at the notion of putting on a monthly fascist show just to balance things out, but were hard pressed to think of enough fascist songs. "Come to think of it," Bar said, "every day's kind of an anti-fascist day, innit?"

The next day we got a lift to our gig in Widnes from our gracious hosts, socialist songwriter Stephen Goodall and his gal Louise, and were really happy to introduce these two great songwriters and organizers to each other. We were setting up for Stephen's monthly Earth-Hum event when my Victoria friends Dory & Jean-Paul and their kids walked in, making me do a double-take and wonder what country I was in for a second.

It was also that day that I came to face the reality that the epic cross-Asia journey I'd been dreaming of wasn't going to happen after all. As I mentioned in my last travelogue, I was coming off a summer of unparalleled responsibility, which by definition doesn't include a lot of planning for the future. Turns out there's a lot of paperwork involved in getting visas for the so-called communist and so-called former communist countries (I say so-called because the only places that could really be called communist are inhabited by punks or hippies). Very early on in the trip, it became clear to me that I wouldn't be able to get the visas for Belarus, Russia, Mongolia, China and Vietnam in time, because my passport could only be one place at a time. I settled on a flight from Prague to Beijing to cut out three of the five, and was actually relieved to be skipping out on a week through Siberia in November, beautiful as it may have been. But after completing the 15 or so pages of paperwork required for my Chinese visa, I was informed by the lady at DHL that it could take more than a week to get to Canada, and more than a week to get back, which meant that if even if everything went well, I'd get my passport the day I was due to leave England. Too close for comfort, I decided, and settled on a flight from Prague to Saigon.

There were two lessons in all of that for me. One was that, despite my amazing luck all summer, you don't always get away with it. Plans are important. Even when you cast them aside and wing it. In fact, having the plan is in part what gives you the freedom to cast it aside and wing it. The same applies to performing, in my opinion. While it may sound unromantic, nothing frees up the acrobat like a safety net.

Second, there was a lesson for me about the kinds of plans I tend to make, my distorted sense of how long things take, and my penchant for thinking that if I can, I should. As much as I wanted to fit everything into these two months, what I really need is some downtime, to reflect, get healthy, practice yoga and banjo, and write. It's like I constantly try to outdo myself. But there's real wisdom in restraint, and taking a step back. More about all that later.

The other noteworthy event that happened that night in Widnes was after the show, when we were drinking in the bar with the local-est of locals, the guys who tell you the show was great even though they only poked their heads in for a second, the guys who'll give you the real temperature of the town. At one point, the owner's son told us he had two "Jap's eyes", a phrase I'd never heard before and couldn't for the life of me understand. It turned out he meant urethrae, and he wasted no time showing us, right there in the bar. And then showing us again. And yes, he pees out of both. Turns out he also has a friend with two anuses who poops out of both. All the regulars swore they'd seen it with their own eyes. Right there in the bar, I imagine. I couldn't figure out if it was all the old chemical industry in the neighbourhood, or just inbreeding. When he fished it out to show me for a third time, I said "Really, it's okay, I've seen it twice," to which he assured me "Don't worry, there's nothing gay about it!" Wow, Widnes.

The next night we rolled up to Jez' hometown, King's Cliffe, for a show in the stone hall there with our good buddy Nye Parsons on the double bass and Ben Coulthard on harmonies and bodhran. Just like the last time, we ended up playing four sets for the gradually-diminishing crowd and the late-arriving reinforcements.

The following night was our first brush with London, opening for fellow Edmontonian Ben Sures at the legendary Green Note, with a small but lovely audience that included my Taiwan friend Sarah Fothergill Zittrer and Edmonton songbird Cayley Thomas. Thankfully, we had two nights off to follow, our first since the tour began. I went out to Brighton and hung out with my sweet Taiwan friend Jenny Mak, and it did my soul a whole lot of good.

We were back to London for an intimate show at the Vintage Emporium, and again I was surprised by a drop-in from my Edmonton peeps Chuck and Carly MacArthur's dad Bob and his girlfriend Darcey, in the middle of their trip around Europe, and my Taiwan Irish friends Niamh and Paul. It's amazing how much that sort of thing can compress this big ol' world.

The next night found us at the Magic Garden in Battersea, a lovely place with great people behind it and a whole bunch of talkative folks in it. It actually ended up being a pivotal moment for me. I thought of all the times I've been somewhere where the hosts have the right intentions but the crowd's loud, and how I usually don't even bother fighting for their attention if I know I can't get it, opting instead to be ignored and collect my money at the end of it all. And I thought of how awful it is when a friend from far away, or someone who actually came to see the show, drops in. I can spot them right away, even if I don't know them. And it feels kinda embarrassing, actually. Because I'm not playing a show, I'm just going through the motions and collecting my pay. And that night, I decided I never want to do that again as long as I can help it. I did it lots in the past, being ignored for three sets a night for pay and free practice, and it kept me on the road, and I'm not bitter about it. I'm just past it. From here on in, I'm resolving to turn down a lot more work. It may not seem like a big deal, but it's an important step for me, and it's high time.

The next day we were back out into the countryside, via an educational mushroom-picking excursion, for a show at a truly special re-purposed warehouse space in Lewes called Zu Studios. A bunch of kind folks live there, a bunch more live in caravans out back, there's art all over the place, and they serve up love potions and raw chocolate at the bar. We spent the afternoon rehearsing with the wonderful Carrie Tree and later our friend Nathan Ball, who we played and made a video with in Glastonbury last year. It was a chills-inducing delight sharing the stage with such talented folks. Jenny Mak and my long-lost Taiwan friends Laine Redpath-Cole and Mark Knight showed up for the show, and a lot of magic got made under that full moon.

The following night we were in Kettering for living-room show set up by the lovely Rachel Chadwick, who's a perfect example of the kind of person that can transform a town into a community. She cooked us a great dinner and then took us to the house, where they packed about 60 people into a living room that we could barely fit ourselves and instruments into. We passed the cases back out over the heads of the audience and felt incredibly grateful that there are still people in the world who want to listen to songs that bad.

After that brief brush with the countryside it was back to London for a spot at the Harrison All Day Folk Festival, a sweet event in the basement of the Harrison Pub with around a hundred folks paying rapt attention. Niamh dropped in again, as did my good Edmonton friend Caitlin Boyce, and we had big fun drinking outdoors and dancing to the bands downstairs. Two more nights in London followed, at the lovely Cable Street Studios and then at Theo Bard's unbelievable weekly folk night, Woodburner, all the while enjoying the living-room hospitality of palindromically-named soul singer Amadis Sidama, whose place is one of many in a courtyard of converted warehouse spaces that are zoned as studios but actually house a lot of artists and the like for very cheap. Same goes for the Woodburner venues. When we played last year, it was at a place called Stoke Newington International Airport (hilariously-named, since Stoke Newington doesn't even have a tube station), hidden down some back alleys where Jesse and Jacquie would never have found it had I not found them on the street. This time it was at a place called the Total Refreshment Centre, down another back alley and totally unsigned and unfindable without reading on Facebook that it was "the red door next to the Chocolate Factory". London has loads of such places, that manage to survive and house lots of cash-poor but idea-rich folks as long as they evade detection, and I felt very grateful to be introduced to the hidden web. The Woodburner night was amazing once again, with around a hundred listening folks crowded into an upstairs room with no amplification. Best of all, we got to share the show with the Reggae Elements Choir, who put on a thrilling performance that got everybody dancing. I shot an admittedly dark and tiny video that's good for a taste anyhow:

I must admit, though, that all the late nights, the rough sleeps on couches and floors, the leaflessness of the city, and a multitude of things began to wear us thin. It was a great sense of relief when we finally got to the Bristol home of Jess, Jess, and Rachel, three of the world's loveliest ladies, with a day off to spare. The show was poorly-attended but the folks who were there were there to listen, and really, that's all that counts for me anymore.

From Bristol we headed out to Glastonbury, the supposed ancient seat of King Arthur, the alleged isle of Avalon, and the undisputed modern Mecca of fairies and elves. You know, a place where asking someone "what planet are you from?" isn't taken as an insult, but rather answered in detail. I amused myself over lunch, reading the local weekly The Oracle, and marvelling at the plethora of events on offer every single night in that little town. Folks who swear they've been there in another life, for example, can "Receive the Attunement to the Azure Ray of Avalon Reiki," including "a manual and a certificate which enables you to pass this attunement to others", for a mere "Energy Exchange of £120". There are also workshops on The Hollow Earth, Guided Visualization to connect with Dryads, and my favourite, Your Egyptian Self. It got me kind of wondering if we needed something besides just playing music and singing songs to sell the show, like maybe offering deep cleansing colonic irrigation with crystal singing bowls for a sliding scale energy exchange of £55-77. In the end, we just sang songs, and it went just fine. A beautiful, free-spirited older lady even delivered a big, perfect, crimson maple leaf to the stage at my feet as I sang.

The next night we reunited with Nathan Ball, Nye Parsons and that dashing young fiddler and singer Alastair Caplin for a special house concert and live recording session at the home of Jez' engineer Sam Welbourne, an old place called St. Dunstan's house right alongside Glastonbury Abbey. It turned out to be another busy night in Glastonbury, with not only the Faerie Ball but also the annual Zombie Walk taking place right out front. Turns out the cops actually put up a barricade to keep the zombies away from the fairies. Only in Glastonbury. But thankfully we did get a sweet group of folks out, and magic got made, some of which you'll be able to hear when it gets mixed down. That's right, friends, new music coming soon to your ears!

Jez and I had one last show together, at the Full Moon Club in Cardiff with JC's Hopeless Sinners, and I was delighted to hear them belt out C.W. Stoneking's "Jailhouse Blues", a song I'd last heard Scotty Dunbar and Corin Raymond enthusiastically howling together after midnight on the school field bleachers at this year's ArtsWells festival.

The following afternoon I hopped on a train and then an overnight boat to Holland. My time in Amsterdam was mostly spent decompressing, wandering that beautiful, oddly-tilting, canal-lined city, and catching up on months of neglected online business, but I did have a nice visit from two Dutch friends who used to live in Canmore, Alberta partway through. My last night in the Netherlands was spent in a tiny little village in the north called Roswinkel, where I'd gone to play a show that ended up not being a show at all, more of a playing-songs-while-locals-drink-on-the-other-side-of-the-room sort of thing. But the hosts were nice, and it was a good reminder of the decision I'd made back in Battersea. And I got to meet real Dutch rednecks, a species I didn't know existed until then, with folks in the cities being the epitome of cosmopolite. One fella was actually wearing kloppen, the wooden shoes that they sell in tourist shops but no one actually wears. Well, somebody actually does. Apparently the farmers up there find they're still the best for walking on boggy ground, they keep your feet warm and dry in the winter, and cool and dry in the summer, and they don't even stink. I know, because he offered me to smell inside them, and like a good tourist, I did. He could also clog like the devil in them. Who woulda thunk it?

From Holland I rode the train through Germany and paid a visit to my friends Conny & Guido, hosts of one of the best house concert series in the world, Where the Birds Fly, and reminisced about all the Canadian musicians we miss. I stayed the next night in Berlin, and spent a rainy morning walking down and along the length of the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. I didn't go down there expecting to cry, but that's what happened. The most striking thing was how short and thin it is, about 12 feet high and half a foot thick. But it was backed by open space and barbed wire and guns in watch towers, of course. One of those guard towers is still there, transformed into a souvenir shop. And that stretch of the wall has been made into an art gallery. They've got a show up now called WallOnWall, "A photo exhibit about walls that separate people worldwide": in Baghdad, South Korea, Cyprus, Belfast, along the US-Mexican border, the Spain-Morocco border, and the border between Israel and the open-air prison known as the West Bank. The unflinching, everyday ordinariness of those photos, the indifference of not just the concrete and wire but the systems that put them there to people's suffering, and the thought of how easily modern civilization can turn to inhuman tyranny hit me in a way I don't have words for. I remembered the morning my parents woke me up early to tell me that people were dancing on the Berlin Wall that morning, news that I knew meant more to them than it did to me by the quaver in their voices. And I thought of how quickly that kind of news means nothing at all to people who haven't studied history, or haven't allowed themselves to feel it.

The next day I caught a train to Prague, and managed to find my E-town peeps Caitlin and Kristy on the street, to our shared amazement. We spent a couple days wandering the city, gaping at the amazingly ornate and detailed architecture, and loving on the mulled wine. We also got to spend a couple lovely days in the country in the company of my Taiwan friends Lisa and Christian Kohli and Xiao Ya Wong, and it sure was nice to see the town and country from a less touristy point of view.

My friend and Canadian songwriter Tereza Tomek has spent some time in Czech, so she introduced me to some of the local songwriters, including one Jan Repka, a very motivated young dude who's building a scene for new, original folk music in Czech with his wonderfully-produced Open Mic nights. I headlined his two year anniversary event in Brno, and his 68th monthly event in Prague, and both were spectacular.

I had no idea that Prague was such an important city through history, the capital of the kingdom of Bohemia, and for some time the seat of the Holy Roman Empire. In general, I felt at a loss for historical context for what I was looking at. But I did learn a lot while I was there. About Jan Hus, for example, an early church reformer who took the fight to the Catholic papacy long before Martin Luther and John Calvin did. Among other things, he spoke out against the system of indulgences (where you could buy forgiveness for yourself or even dead relatives), and the crusades, saying that no Pope had the right to call for war in the name of the Church, that we should pray for our enemies and bless those who curse us, and that forgiveness comes through repentance rather than money. He was summoned to a Church council to talk about his views, then thrown in jail, and after refusing to recant, burned at the stake. It turned out to be the worst thing the Church could do, since the people of Bohemia turned against them, defeated them in three subsequent crusades, and rejected Catholicism wholesale. The story got me thinking about all the reformers and revolutionaries who met brutal ends and never got to see the fruits of their labours, all working from within their own particular, flawed historical context, but all reaching beyond their time, toward a new world further down the line. And it got me thinking about heroism, and hoping we're still capable of enough to save ourselves.

One day we went to see an exhibit of artwork by Alfons Mucha, who's most famous for his Art Nouveau illustrations of beautiful women, but also spent eighteen years working on this series, an epic history of the Slavs portrayed in semi-mythological style on giant canvases up to six metres tall and eight metres wide. Here's the Wikipedia article if you want to have a read. I've honestly never seen anything like it. The staggering size of it, the incredibly telling details, the textures, and the sheer mastery involved in it, made all the artwork I saw outside that room look careless and amateurish. I wondered how many people would actually be willing to put eighteen years, after a lifetime of practice, into anything anymore.

Walking around Prague gave me similar feelings, seeing the work, care and attention put into every facade, every window-frame, every door of every building, and thinking of the slapdash way we put up houses now, not even building them to last, let alone to be things of beauty. It's like we've gone past celebrating our existence, into subsistence. Yet as societies, we're richer and more capable than we've ever been. Maybe I'm over-sensitive, but it feels downright tragic to me.

One day Caitlin and I walked into a cathedral in downtown Prague, the front of which was covered with a ghastly modern building, and were immediately struck with wonder by the vaulted ceilings and the grandeur of the place. There was an organist playing the massive pipe organ inside, and both of us stood entranced for minutes as shivers ran all over our bodies. I'm shivering just now writing about it. Granted, that's what those buildings were made to do, and the priests took a lot of poor people's money to do it, and used their religious experiences to sell them a bill of goods that included justification for all the indignities they suffered on earth with hopes of glories on high. But still, wow. The whole experience left me staggered by the heights of what humankind can do, and saddened by the bland TV dinner life we've been reduced to.

And now, somewhat unbelievably, I find myself here, mind-boggled in Saigon. I changed money on my way in, and found myself, for the first time in my life, a multi-millionaire. I came outside into the heavy, damp morning heat, to find the military was conducting some exercise, and watched a parade of armoured vehicles, soldiers with riot shields on motorbikes, fire trucks, and ambulances roll up to enact some kind of emergency situation, a great way to arrive for a North American kid whose first ideas about Vietnam all came from war stories.

It's absolutely nuts on the roads here (and this is coming from someone who spent six years in Taiwan), but there's a poetry to the way they drive. Crossing a street is mostly a matter of waiting for an ebb in the traffic and setting out steadily, without changing your speed, while the flow swirls around you. Thrilling.

I've spent the past couple days overwhelmed by the sights, smells and sounds of this place, the lovely slow pace and swampy heat of Southeast Asia, the old dudes with their shirts pulled up over their bellies and held in place by sweat, the old women squatting cutting up vegetables in the alleys, the amazing talent of sleeping while lying outstretched along a parked motorcycle, the roosters in little cages on the sidewalk or just strutting free, the amputees begging, the impossibly cute children learning the world barefoot, the tiny birds flitting along the sidewalks, the families piled on scooters, the folks collecting cardboard, the fella carrying an air conditioner on his motorbike, the dude selling LPs from a bike basket, the guy with a jingle stick trying to massage tourists in the street, the ladies with their great English, boards of sunglasses, stacks of books, fake Rolex watches, and offers of marijuana, and of course the constant reminder of the injustice of someone's work being worth so much less than mine. The old white men with much younger Vietnamese women, which might be an example of the same. The resilience of people in changing circumstances, the dignity that everyone deserves, and the indifference and hypocrisy of our leaders. The impossibility of finding words for all this.

Today I went to the War Remnants Museum. I'd learned about the Vietnam War (or "the American War", as they call it here) first from my parents (who lost classmates and relatives in it), then from movies, and then from Noam Chomsky. On the plane over, I decided to read the whole Wikipedia article on the war just to get a little of the distance and perspective the collaboratively-created encyclopedia so often provides. And I was grateful that I did. Because while Chomsky's criticism of US imperialism and anti-democratic intentions is certainly on point, it's one-sided. Same goes for the museum I walked through today. There are plenty of pictures of victims of Agent Orange (which, in case you didn't know, was made by Monsanto and Dow Chemical), grinning GIs with mutilated corpses, and undeniable evidence of war crimes committed by the United States, but of course no mention of the atrocities committed by the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong.

We're kind of simple-minded, us humans. If we vilify one side, we automatically valourize the other. It's like when the States was ramping up for war in Iraq; people who tried to paint the States as an aggressor were so often met with "are you saying Saddam Hussein is the good guy?" As if they couldn't both be bad.

Some sixties leftists who rightly objected to what the States was doing fell prey to the same simple-mindedness, valourizing Ho Chi Minh as a noble revolutionary despite his horrible record of torture and extrajudicial executions. Earlier on, some of the same folks fell for Stalin, until his abuses became impossible to ignore. And today, many folks still hold up Che Guevara as some kind of countercultural icon, despite the fact that he personally killed and oversaw the summary execution of so many people.

My point's twofold: first, the world isn't black and white. And second, our leaders are, and always have been, self-serving, hypocritical, lying, thieving, cunning fascist bastards who could care less about us. And we'll never have peace on Earth until we realize that none of them are the good guys.

Facebook's blocked by government censors here, but thankfully there are ways around the firewall, like the proxy tunnel I'm using right now, which those of you reading this in Faceburg can thank, and which gives me wider hope for the ability of the people to subvert our governments' control through their own smarts and determination. Civilization and democratization have won us unfathomable victories, but those advances are always in danger of being taken back, and now, as always, only ordinary people's diligence stands in the way.

That's probably enough ranting for now. If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. There are just a couple more bits of music news that I'd like to share with you before I say so long: first, lots of positive reviews have been coming in for One More Time Around, but none of them means more to me than the one written this past month by Corin Raymond, who's been a good friend and source of life-changing inspiration for me. If you'd like to have a read, it's here.

Secondly, if you haven't got a copy yet, I'd love to get it into your hands. The best way, of course, would be to order the physical copy from my website. My dad's taking care of the mailing while I'm away, so it won't arrive signed, but it does include a 36-page booklet with an essay, and words and chords for the songs, a page I took from Corin's new book and double album Paper Nickels, which is also a thing best held in your hands rather than dumped onto your mp3 player.

If you're dead-set on digital, though, I won't try to stop you. I haven't put the album on iTunes, Spotify, Napster, or any of the other usual digital channels, because I've become gradually convinced that these sorts of sites are just using us independent artists, rather than the other way round. But there are digital downloads available on CD Baby, at the nominal cost of 10 cents on the dollar rather than the 30 cents iTunes takes, or the payout of pennies I get from the other sites. So if you wanna download, download away.

Oh yeah, and last but not least, I've been doing my best to take some pictures along this ramble, and they're
here if you wanna have a look.

I'm off to the vine-tangled, thatch-hut countryside soon, in search of some peace of mind, some yoga and banjo practice, some healthy living, and hopefully some songs. I haven't got any plans for the next nine weeks besides meeting my bandmate Bramwell and his lovely gal Alia in Bangkok January 17th, and flying to Taiwan from there two days later. And I feel mighty good about that. As for you, I hope you're finding what your soul needs, wherever you are. With huge love as always, your fan,

s


September 19, 2013: a new chapter, Ontario and European dates, and a rare burst of pugilism!

Good friends,

It's been a while, hey? I trust you know it's not for lack of love, just lack of time. I blame it on the steady supply of fun that's been coming my way all summer long. I know I said it last year, but I'm saying it again: this has been the longest, and probably craziest, summer of my life. I'm writing you now from what feels like a juncture, as this chapter closes and another's about to begin. This is the first week of a nine-month trip that's going to take me all the way around the world, a prospect that's by turns exciting and terrifying. More about all that below!

I'm writing you now from a Mexican cantina in Cadillac, Michigan, where I'm finishing up my online business before heading into the last festival of the season, Earthwork Harvest Gathering. This'll be my fifth time at Harvest, and it always does my soul all kinds of good. Seth Bernard and May Erlewine have gathered such a supportive, creative, motivated and inspiring family around them, and it's an honour to be a part of it. It's the kind of thing that gives me hope for this country.

From there I'm off to Ontario for a week, playing Townsend on Tuesday with Jay Pollman, Toronto on Wednesday with my pals Brian MacMillan and Scott Galloway backing me up and local rascal Corin Raymond opening, St. Catharines on Thursday, Perth Friday, Kemptville Saturday, and London on Sunday with Allison Brown. All the details, as usual, are on my news page.

The following Tuesday I'm flying to that other London, the one across the ocean, for another month of rambling with my troubadouring comrade Jez Hellard. Here are the dates so far:

Wed Oct 2 - Bristol, England - The Canteen
Thu Oct 3 - Biggar, Scotland - The Crown Inn
Sat Oct 5 - Letham, Scotland - Letham Nights
Sun Oct 6 - Penton, England - Nicholforest Village Hall
Mon Oct 7 - Dumfries, Scotland - The Globe Inn
Tue Oct 8 - Edinburgh, Scotland - Leith Folk Club
Wed Oct 9 - Berwick-upon-Tweed, England - Barrels Ale House
Thu Oct 10 - Milnesbridge, England - Better Than Telly house concert
Fri Oct 11 - Widnes, England - Earth-Hum at the Ring O' Bells
Sat Oct 12 - King's Cliffe, England - King's Cliffe Active with the Djukella Orchestra
Sun Oct 13 - Camden, England - The Green Note with Ben Sures
Wed Oct 16 - London, England - The Vintage Emporium
Thu Oct 17 - Battersea, England - Magic Garden Pub
Fri Oct 18 - Lewes, England - Zu Studios with Carrie Tree and Nathan Ball
Sat Oct 19 - Kettering, England - The Sofa Sessions
Sun Oct 20 - London, England - The Harrison All Day Folk Festival
Mon Oct 21 - London, England - Cable Street Studios
Tue Oct 22 - London, England - Woodburner
Wed Oct 23 - Bristol, England - The Arts House in Stokes Croft
Fri Oct 25 - Glastonbury, England - The King Arthur
Sun Oct 27 - Cardiff, Wales - The Full Moon Club with JC's Hopeless Sinners

All the details for those shows can be found on my news page. And if you've got an idea to fill any of the holes in our schedule (house concerts, cafes, pubs, anything), we're all ears.

From there I'll be boarding a boat to Holland, and making my way across Europe to Prague. I've got a week to get there, and so far, nothing booked along the way. I'd very much like a few stops to pay for my train tickets, so if you can think of anything, please do drop me a line.

After a few shows in Czech I'll be making my way out to Moscow to catch a trans-Siberian train, spending a week in Mongolia along the way and ending up in Beijing. I'm not making any plans for the next couple months, opting instead to follow my nose and all the hints that inevitably come your way when you're wandering. It's been a long time since I traveled without a tight schedule to keep, and I'm really looking forward to it. Wandering was the source of my art in the first place, and I think it's high time for another dip in that stream.

Around Chinese New Year I'll be flying to Taiwan for a month, followed by a month in Australia and another month in Taiwan, perhaps with some musical company that I'm really excited about but can't name just yet.

From there I'll be flying back to Ontario to rejoin Old Blue, touring the eastern States, down to Texas for Kerrville (the biggest songwriters' hang on the planet), and up the west coast. I'll be home in time for the North Country Fair, and then I just might stay put for a while.

Friends, lots has happened since I wrote you last, more than I can cover in a single Travelogue, but I'll try and hit some of the high points. The tour with the Second Chances was filled with staggering scenery, wildlife, good friends, and appreciative audiences. Most importantly, we four (Bramwell Park, Melissa Walker, our merch angel Alia Teha, and yours truly) spent five weeks in the van together, and returned even more in love with one another than when we left, so I guess it was a success. We got to visit a lot of special places along the way, out-of-the-way oases run on the raw enthusiasm of their owners like the Packing House in Spences Bridge, BC; Ghostown Blues in Maple Creek, SK; the Happy Nun in Forget, SK; the Dream Cafe in Penticton, BC; and the Waterton Lakes Opera House in Waterton, AB. The visions behind all these spots are bigger than their little communities can support, but they survive because they're connecting points, places where folks can gather, music can be heard, and community can grow. Our deepest admiration goes out to the amazing folks who make that sort of thing happen.

We returned from tour just in time to get packed up and head to the North Country Fair, my first love of festivals and one of the biggest fields full of friendly people you'd find anywhere. I stayed a full week up there, and did some serious chilling out in the company of good friends from far and wide. Lots of them stayed around afterward, too, and for whatever reason, it seemed like the party just wouldn't stop. The Long Weekends and I hosted the sixth annual North Country Fair Afterbender at the Pawnshop, with Long Shen Dao, The Party on High Street, Tom Richardson, Faye Blais, Picture the Ocean, Jungal, Ember Swift, Sarah Burton, Scott Dunbar, Jill Pollock, Nadine Kellman, Mike Sadava, The McGowan Family Band, Joe Nolan, Cadence and Nathan, and Sean Brewer all serving up songs for the hungry folks. Things carried on in similar style for weeks, with friends playing every night, relentlessly sunny weather, and epic bicycle adventures around town. It actually came as a relief when Melissa and I hit the road again in July and I got some semblance of purpose back into my life.

We rolled out to Horsefly and Bella Coola for their festivals, both sweet hidden gems, and then out to Wells for the bestival of all, ArtsWells Festival of All Things Art. This was the best year yet, with music, theatre, poetry, clowning and visual arts bursting out all the seams of that tiny mountain town. I don't know if I've ever seen more beautiful, creative, uninhibited people together in one place. Thunderous sing-alongs in churches, wild dance parties in the hall and the street, that huggable bear Doug Koyama with his unwavering message of love, joy and self-expression, epic sunrise jams, plenty of tears, plenty of laughs, and plenty of inspiration.

After Wells there was a string of weddings around Alberta, including my former bandmate Megan Kemshead and her beau Adam Rachinsky, and my Long Weekends bandmates (and two thirds of Picture the Ocean) Jesse Dee and Jacquie B. There was so much love going around that I found myself crying even easier than usual.

In between two of the weddings I went out to Sorrento for a week of music camp, studying clawhammer banjo with Riley Baugus, an amazing North Carolinian time-warp of a man who regaled us with near-unbelievable stories of the South, spitting tobacco juice into an empty bottle all the while. The late-night jams were amazing, and as usual my plans to get a good night's sleep once in a while were carried away on a breeze of picked notes, sublime harmonies and scotch whisky.

As my time at home came to a close I found myself in a bit of a panic, trying to tie up the many loose ends left undone over a summer of unparalleled irresponsibility, get ready to leave home for nine months, and make time for the folks I'm going to miss so much over the months to come. Oh, and one more big thing lay ahead: fighting a girl. Some of you already know the story, but for those who don't, I'll try to sum it up. Nadine Kellman is a local songwriter and a good friend of mine with a penchant for wrestling both men and ladies when she's getting her party on. One night a bit of drunken trash talk escalated and finally gave rise to a formal challenge. We agreed on the date, and the next thing I knew Nadine had arranged the venue and booked the bands. There was no going back. Most frighteningly for me was how seriously she took the challenge, laying off the booze and hitting the gym regularly, while the only exercise I was getting was riding my bike and lifting pints. She even made a video about her training regime, the best birthday present I could imagine, right here!

The morning of the fight was the day after Jesse and Jacquie's wedding, and I woke up late and worse for wear, still lacking the crowning feature of my outfit. Figuring it was the place for kitsch, I walked into American Apparel and told the girl who came to help me, "I want gold booty shorts." It was the best news she'd gotten all day. They only had one pair, extra small. I tried them on, was aghast at the sight, and bought them. $36, the price tag said. Too late to go back now.

I put on boxers and shorts over the hideous gold hot pants, donned Nadine's band's shirt, an ancient fur coat I inherited from Kevin Flesher, and some ridiculous shades, and got ready for the big entrance with my entourage. Our sound lady Radar had lights, smoke, lasers and video cued up for the occasion, and we charged in to "Mama Said Knock You Out" like we meant it.

We both wrote trash-talking songs for each other, and performed them before the fight. Here's Nadine's.

And here's mine, a re-working of one of Nadine's favourite songs, John Borra's "Blues Mama".

Jason Williams was our referee, local songwriter Sean Brewer was our commentator, local heartthrob Joe Nolan was our timekeeper, and local honkytonker Michael Dunn was our ring boy, decked out in a cowboy hat, cowboy boots and teeny shorts. Here's the scene, courtesy of our photographer friend Gordon Scade.

When we weighed in, Sean pointed out that my shorts were probably adding a few pounds, so I dropped them and stood there in my underwear for a minute before looking Nadine right in the eyes and ripping them down to reveal the gold shorts. The look on her face was priceless. We should've had someone videoing the whole thing, but we were obviously too concerned with the fight itself to think of it. But there are a couple snippets of video, if you're the type to appreciate a little violence:

The first takedown
And third round, for the win!

So there you have it, friends. Absurdity knows no bounds. I hope I haven't alienated anyone by letting you in on the type of things we do to amuse ourselves in Edmonton.

Oh, and my friend Cindy Sparks bought the shorts off me for $50! Weird begets weirder.

I sure am gonna miss the folks around home, but I'm looking forward to seeing all of you out there. That's the mixed blessing of having friends all over the world, I guess.

In the midst of all the partying and irresponsibility this summer, I did manage to get the CDs mailed out to everybody who ordered them, as well as radio and print media, with some good help from my friends. And it seems to be getting good responses everywhere! The Dutch especially like it, though their reviews make for funny reading through Google Translate. Here in America, "Pass It Along" was the second-most played song on folk radio last month, tied with a tune by Jonathan Byrd & Chris Kokesh, who also took first place. And over in the UK, it won the folk & acoustic category in the UK Songwriting Contest.

If you haven't ordered a copy yet, there's a Paypal button on my website, or I can take cheques to Scott Cook, 3 Meredian Road, Sherwood Park, AB, T8A 0N5, Canada. I can also accept email money transfers to grooverevival (at) gmail (dot) com, $20 per disc or $35 for two. If you've ordered and haven't gotten your copy yet, please drop me a line and I'll look into it and mail you another.

Well, I oughtta wrap it up there, I guess. I feel like I've kinda raced through, but inevitably so, trying to tell four months in a few pages. I'll do my best to write more in the months to come. As always, thank you for reading and caring. I carry you all with me, and it gets me through. Be well, big love,

s


May 23, 2013: Words from the One More Time Around tour

Good friends,

Howdy from the backseat of Old Blue! The last two weeks have passed blissfully in the company of my new trio The Second Chances: Melissa Walker on upright bass and harmony vocals, and Bramwell Park on banjo, mandolin, guitar, percussion, harmonies and substitute driving duties. Right now is one such time, as Bramwell pilots this motley operation southward along Vancouver Island's east coast toward the Salt Spring Island ferry with his ladyfriend, our tour manager and merch angel Alia Teha riding shotgun. I'm plenty stoked to be keeping such good company on the road, and to have some time off in the back seat to write you.

I'd planned to write before we set out on this here One More Time Around Tour, but times have been incredibly busy of late. The initial 300 copies of One More Time Around were delivered by UPS at the absolute eleventh hour, and what a feeling of relief it was to have them in my hands before the release. I walked around letting out a perpetual sigh for the next couple days.

The hometown CD release was blessed with impossibly perfect sunny weather, and throngs of people hula-hooping, throwing frisbee, and carrying on in the way only summer brings out in E-town. It was an amazing day of music, from 3-11pm, with performances by the new trio, Trevor Tchir, Dana Wylie, Jake Ian, the A.W. Cardinal Duo, Bill Bourne, Joe Nolan, Allen Christie, Michael Dunn, Nadine Kellman, the Long Weekends and Third Branch. I had loads of help from good friends who kept things swimming along sweetly all day, and I didn't even have to talk to the cops when they showed up while things were winding down. I'm still carrying around a heartful of gratitude for all the friendly folks who showed up and all the volunteers who pitched in to make it happen.

A few hurried days later I hit the road with the new trio, and soon enough we settled on a name, the Second Chances, because as long as you live, there are always second chances, and because we all feel very, very lucky to be living this life.

The first stop was the Ironwood in Calgary, with our good buddy Joe Nolan opening the show and joining us on a few numbers. The following day we headed right back to Edmonton where I had a last-minute opportunity to open a sold-out show for Brandi Carlile in Edmonton's biggest concert hall, the Winspear Centre. I felt mighty chuffed to have my own dressing room with my name on the door and a piano inside, and exhilarated to walk out onto that giant stage. I've never played such a big room before, but managed to keep it real by thinking of my Mom out there in the crowd, and concentrating on doing a good job for her.

The next night we played to a sold-out crowd in a 127-year old church in Banff, and revelled in the acoustics. It's been a succession of special spots all along this tour so far: the funky bowling-alley charm of Lorenzo's in Enderby, the frontier feel of the Packing House in Spences Bridge, the unamplified acoustics of Hope Lutheran Church in Nanaimo, the lovely resonant chapel on Providence Farm in Duncan, the pickled-egg beerhall atmosphere of the King George Hotel in Cumberland, the fancy new Hub 101 Bistro in Powell River, the tiny Co-op Cafe on Cortes Island, and last night, a cozy living room on Denman Island. We even got to play for a bunch of treeplanters crowded into Room 107 of the Knights Inn motel in Merritt, BC, thanks to fellow songwriter and longtime planter Tereza Tomek. It was admittedly a little smelly, but fully awesome nonetheless.

We're all getting along sweetly so far, and excited for the shows to come:

Tonight! Thu May 23 - Saltspring Island, BC - Treehouse Cafe
Fri May 24 - Victoria, BC - Double CD release with Cam Penner at Solstice Cafe
Sat May 25 - Port Angeles, WA - Juan De Fuca Festival of the Arts, 12:30pm
Sun May 26 - Port Angeles, WA - Juan De Fuca Festival of the Arts, 3pm
Sun May 26 - Victoria, BC - Victoria Folk Club
Wed May 29 - Vancouver, BC - Vancouver CD release at the Art Bank with special guests David Newberry, Jenny Ritter, Elise Boeur and C.R. Avery
Thu May 30 - North Vancouver, BC - Old Crow House Concert
Fri May 31 - Penticton, BC - The Dream Cafe
Sat June 1 - Oliver, BC - Medici's Gelateria
Sun June 2 - Greenwood, BC - Deadwood Junction matinee, 1-2pm
Sun June 2 - Winlaw, BC - house concert at the Hubb
Mon June 3 - Crawford Bay, BC - Junction Creek Hub
Tue June 4 - Twin Butte, AB - Jeny's birthday at Twin Butte Store
Wed June 5 - Waterton, AB - Waterton Lakes Opera House
Thu June 6 - Lethbridge, AB - The Slice with Matt Robinson
Fri June 7 - Medicine Hat, AB - Ye Olde Jar Bar
Sat June 8 - Moose Jaw, SK - Kergano's Food for the Soul matinee, 1pm
Sat June 8 - Forget, SK - Happy Nun Cafe
Sun June 9 - Maple Creek, SK - Ghostown Blues matinee, 3pm
Mon June 10 - Edmonton, AB - Homecoming, Bram's birthday and open stage at Devaney's


All the details, as always, are on http://www.scottcook.net/news.php.

I'm mailing out copies to Canadian college and community radio along the way, and am also in the process of getting all the pre-orders mailed out, so if you're among the kind folks who pitched in to help get this record made, you can expect a package in the mail real soon! Thanks, friends, for your patience with this hyperbolic over-reacher. And here's hoping we'll see some of you along the way.

Last I wrote you, friends, I was on my way up to the Yukon for my first trip north of 60, and what a trip it was. The Arctic's the real heart of Canada, if you ask me. I played the wide-eyed southerner, learning about the ins and outs of mushing, traplines, ice roads, and moose meat wontons. Marvelling at how all the little towns know each other; how folks in Mayo, YT know Horsefly, BC while people in Vancouver have never heard of it. Hearing sentences like "in the Yukon, there's something called a shitsicle". Getting partied right under the table in Atlin by those hardy end-of-the-roaders. Digging the resourcefulness and resiliency that comes with long periods of isolation, extremes of weather, months of uninterrupted night, and not being able to just run to the store for something.

In Mendenhall I met a funny French Belgian musher named Gaetan who told me a story of losing his chainsaw, leaving notes on the windshields of hunters' cars, and eventually having it returned to him months later. In Mayo I met a French Canadian named Gaetan who told me he'd lost his chainsaw and had it returned to him months later. The coincidence was just too strange, and I had to interrupt him to tell him about the other Gaetan back in Mendenhall. "Oh, I know Gaetan!" he said, "He lost his chainsaw?"

Also in Mayo I had breakfast with a couple who had spent much of their lives together deep in the bush, running a trapline, homeschooling their kids, and living off the land. They'd come into town once a year to see their friends, get a year's worth of supplies and textbooks, and head back out to the bush. He said he'd put his wallet away when he got home, and the next year he wouldn't remember where he'd put it. This city-slicker could hardly imagine it.

The last stop along the Home Routes tour was Old Crow, which is way up past the Arctic Circle, and was what sealed the deal on the whole trip for me. I knew there are no roads to Old Crow, but for some reason it still came as a surprise when my ride showed up at the tiny airport and led me to his waiting snowmobile. I stayed three days there, and felt a world away from all I'd ever known of Canada. Amazingly, they have internet up there, though it didn't seem to be thawed out yet, and I was able to upload the graphic files for the CD like a slow Chinese water torture of data.

I put some photos from the trip up on Facebook here, if you wanna have a look.

Along the way homeward, I toured the beerhalls of Dawson City and Whitehorse, drove the gorgeous Stewart-Cassiar highway, and reunited with my songsmithing comrade Raghu Lokanathan for shows in Smithers, Fort St. James, Wells and Prince George. We even managed to pull a tune out of the ether somewhere between 2:30 and 4am at Lionel and Rosemarie's place in Fort St. James. I'll share it with you as soon as we get some video of the trio killing it, cause they do.

Well, I figure that's enough out of me for now, friends. As always, thanks for reading, and I look forward to the next time our paths cross. If you haven't already ordered a copy of the album, I've got a Paypal button on my website for just that, and can also take money via email transfer to grooverevival@gmail.com or the old fashioned way by cheque to Scott Cook, 3 Meredian Road, Sherwood Park, AB, T8A 0N5, Canaday-aye-oh.

Big love and happy trails to you, one more time around,

s


March 27, 2013: Tres Hombres reunite, heading to the Yukon, and the album on the home stretch!

Hey friends,

Spring has found us here in Edmonton with a trickle of melting snow and birdsong. Funny time to be driving northward and back into the jaws of winter, but nevertheless I'm ever so grateful for the chance to make my first foray into Canada's territories for a Home Routes tour of the Yukon. They're even gonna fly me into Old Crow, which is past the Arctic Circle and can only be reached by plane or dogsled. I'm beyond stoked.

I've got one last hometown show before I leave, tomorrow night (March 28) at Brittany's Lounge where I'll be reunited with Bill Bourne and Indio Saravanja for our ¡Tres Hombres! show. We had a great run of it back in December, singing songs in the round and jamming on each other's tunes, and I'm elated to bring it to Edmonton. The Facebook event's here.

I'm headed north the next day, with stops in Grande Prairie and Fort St. John along the way. All the dates, as always, are on my news page.

I'll be playing a few shows in northern BC with Raghu Lokanathan along the way back, and landing back in Edmonton with about a week to spare before my hometown CD release, Sunday May 5th at Pleasantview Hall. I'm not spilling the lineup yet, but rest assured it's gonna be a doozy, with bands playing all day, cheap drinks, and a huge potluck. My new trio (Bramwell Park, Melissa Walker and me) will kick things off with a mellow set around 3pm, and tunes will go til 10 or 11pm.

Shortly thereafter we'll be heading out for a CD release tour of Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan that's coming together nicely. There are still a few dates we're looking to fill, so if you have an idea, or would be willing to host a house concert, please do drop a line to grooverevival (at) gmail (dot) com.

Speaking of the new album, it's on the home stretch! Thanks so much to the kind folks who've already donated on my crowd-funding page, or just mailed me cheques the old-fashioned way. I'm just finishing up the booklet over the next few days, so there's still time to put your name among the sponsors.

As some of you may know, I've been going a little crazy trying to get everything done in addition to learning how to paint so I could design the cover. Well, here's a little sneak peek at what it's gonna look like, hope you dig it.

That's all for now, friends! Thanks for reading and as always, here's hoping to see you somewhere along the winding trail. Your fan,

s


March 8, 2013: New album brewing, alms-begging, Alberta gigging, and northern rambling!

Hey there good people,

This here's a short travelogue, and right on schedule for a change too, undoubtedly due to my comparative lack of traveling and the inevitable creep of dullness into my personality and affairs. That's right, this here is one boring, workaholic balladeer, with the notable exception of a few glorious days spent in the never-never-land that was this year's Folk Alliance International conference in Toronto, Ontario. For five epic (and somehow paradoxically also fleeting) days, we were all in summer form, staying up 'til well into the AM, swapping songs and stories with comrades, coining new one-liners, and being perpetually astonished by that particular flavour of profundity that only the wee hours can hold. If you're curious about what happens in these bizarre cluster-folks, my friend Julia Kalinina wrote at nice little article here: http://www.shedoesthecity.com/soul-nerves-and-free-beer-julias-weekend-losing-herself-in-the-folk-hotel, or for those of you who'd just prefer a visual experience, violin prodigy Jaron Freeman-Fox shot this little snippet of stairwell mayhem.

Other than that brief foray into the musical melee, it's been mostly the old grind around here, trying to get this album finished and out to the world. It's a labour of love, I assure you, but lately the emphasis has been on the labour. I always forget how much work one of these things is until I'm back in the thick of it.

Last month, I put out the call for financial help, which I'm in dire need of this time around, and plenty of you were kind enough to pitch in. It did occur to me that a Paypal link wasn't the most shareable, though, so a few days ago, I set up a Kapipal page toward that end.

I know I'm one among innumerable others doing the crowd-funding thing these days, and I understand if your patience has already been taxed by the parade of virtual donation jugs. But I do believe this is a collection of songs the world would benefit from hearing, and I'm very grateful for those of you who can help make that a reality. For those who aren't into online money stuff (and aren't into giving Paypal 3% of their contribution), I'm still accepting cheques the old-fashioned way, at 3 Meredian Road, Sherwood Park, Alberta, T8A 0N5.

In short, $20 gets you a signed copy before the official release, and $50 gets you the same with your name in the booklet. For super-fans, $100 gets you all four of my solo albums plus a rare copy of my Taiwan band The Anglers' 2003 album A Quarter Ounce of Prevention, and a burned copy of my first CD, an electronic album called called Lux: The Plot Thickens that I made in 1997, very much under the influence of LTJ Bukem (if any of you folk music listeners know who that is). For those with more money to throw around, $500 gets you the CD with your name in the booklet plus a private show at your place when my tour schedule allows. I've also set up a top tier, for the original canvas of the painting that's going to adorn the cover, but I don't expect anyone to want that until they see it. And perhaps not even then :)

After that, I promise not to add any more tiers. I won't sell Youtube song dedications, or Skype dates. I won't take you shopping, or let you give me a makeover. I have thought about crowd-funding for mundane things, though... Like, say, breakfast on the weekend. I want to go all in, you know? Coffee and juice. Maybe order a spicy gin caesar. Extra feta cheese, even. Chip in $20 and I'll email a picture of myself enjoying it. Chip in $200 and I'll Skype you from my dealer's house!

Only kidding, friends. For anyone who isn't scared of me yet, here's that link again, along with my undying gratitude for your support of my musical delinquency!

Please share, re-tweet, or whatever else floats your boat.

Amid all the gettin'er done, I do have a few live shows coming up:

Tomorrow, Saturday March 9, I'll be opening for one of the finest songwriters in this country, the incomparable Amelia Curran, at the Nickelodeon Folk Club in Calgary. Tickets are $25, doors open at 7pm, and I'm on at 7:30.

Next Friday, March 15, my comrade Steven Teeuwsen and I will be releasing volume III of our local compilation Great Northern Revival: Notes from the Edmonton Underground at New City Legion in Edmonton. It's a double disc this time, packed with local talent. The party will feature performances from yours truly, kicking things off 8pmish, plus the Canyon Rose Outfit, Mayday and the Beat Creeps, Alex Vissia, Ayla Brook, Bill Bourne, Joe Nolan, Justine Vandergrift, Michael Dunn, Cadence and Nathan, and Swear by the Moon. It's gonna be awesome, I assure you.

The following Thursday, March 21, I'll be playing some songs at Edmonton's Accent Lounge in the esteemed company of Miss Denise MacKay (of Edmonton favourites 100 mile house), 9:30-11:15.

And on Thursday March 28, I'll be reuniting with two of my favourite songwriters, Bill Bourne and Indio Saravanja, under the moniker of ¡Tres Hombres! We three first appeared on stage together two years ago in Edmonton, and took the show on the road for a really successful tour of the prairies back in December, but were unable to work out an Edmonton stop that time around, so I'm really excited to finally be able to reprise it here. We'll be at Brittany's Lounge, and it happens to be Bill's birthday! I promise magic or your money back.

The next day, I'm off northward, for a Home Routes tour of the Yukon (my first time up that way!) along with shows in northern Alberta and BC. All the dates, as they're added, are on my news page.

Well, that's it for this month, friends. As always, thanks for reading my ramblings, and I hope to see you along the way. Your fan,

Scott


Feb 6, 2013: The quiet(er) life, a new album for your ears, a new video for your eyes, Folk Alliance, Corin Raymond on the prairies, and more fun out west and up north. (If you're impatient, SCROLL DOWN TO THE PART WHERE I ASK YOU FOR MONEY!)

Hey good friends,

It's been a long time, eh? I hope you're well, and 2013's dealing you aces so far. I've been off the road for the most part since mid-December, which goes partway to explaining the lack of travelogues. Since tour ended (on a high note, I might add, in the good company of my mind-bogglingly talented comrades Bill Bourne & Indio Saravanja), I've been relishing the joys of domesticity: going to sleep in the same place I woke up, spending whole days in my slippers, cooking on a proper stove, reading books in bed... things some other folks might actually find boring, they tell me, but all suiting me just fine. By now, though, it's high time to break my long digital silence. Great plans are afoot!

For starters, a new record's in the works, and I'm actually glimpsing that proverbial light that's rumoured to exist at the end of every tunnel. I've still got one song to finish writing, but the recording's going well, and I've got some fine players helping me out. It's going to be a much more stripped-down affair this time around, and most of the songs will be duets. The working title's One More Time Around, and it's a tribute to the rambling life and the kind folks who make it all possible. I find I work best with a deadline, so the release date's set for May 5th. That's a Sunday, and what a lovely day it'll be here in Edmonton. As usual, I've decided to forgo the snazzy venues for the cozy environs of Pleasantview Community Hall, with potluck food and our friends behind the bar. There'll be a whole whack of bands playing all day, from 3pm til 10 or so, so I hope you folks within driving distance will mark the whole day on your calendars and come do it up old style with us.

I'll be releasing the album all over the place in the year to come, first around Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan with my trio in the spring, on the festival circuit in the summer, in the midwestern States and Ontario in September, in Europe in October, and hopefully in Taiwan and Australia in the new year. All the dates, as they're added, are on my news page, and as always, I'm all ears for places to play along the way.

But you needn't wait that long to get your hands on the new album! And in fact, I'm hoping you won't wait that long, because I'll need some funds to make this thing happen. These days it seems everybody's crowd-funding something or another, and while I just may jump on the Indiegogo bandwagon, for now I'm just gonna ask you one-to-one, without the extra digital middleman. $20 gets you a signed copy of the CD before it's even released into the wild.

I'm not really into the idea of selling phone calls from the road, used undershirts, or other trappings of fandom, but I do want to open up a few levels of support for people who are motivated to help out beyond just pre-purchasing the album. Those who'd like to make a donation at the $50 level or more will receive a copy of the CD, and will find their names listed inside the booklet as sponsors of this labour of love. Those lucky folks who have $500 to throw around and can think of nothing better to do with it than support a lifelong dreamer will not only get all my CDs, including my first record with The Anglers, and the newest with their name in the booklet as an Uber-Sponsor, but will also get a house concert at their place the next time my tour schedule brings me their way. I'm also open to whatever ideas interested contributors may want to pitch. I've done Skype appearances, and still would (weddings, parties, anything!), but really, I'd rather come to your place and hang out long enough to get to know how weird your friends are.

This past weekend I went to a fella's house for a songwriting session with him and three of his buddies, and spent the afternoon talking about the writing process, giving them some tips, playing tunes, listening to their tunes, workshopping them, and drinking beer. It was one of those "I get paid for this?" kind of moments, and I'm always up for more of those. So please, drop a line if you've got an idea, to grooverevival (at) gmail (dot) com.

I've always thought that I should be able to earn a living at this, and it does seem within reach after all these years of pounding the pavement. But I'm gonna need some serious help to cover the costs of recording, mixing, mastering, printing, shipping, and promoting this album. By pre-ordering, you can be among the first to receive it, and help out a foolhardy dreamer in the process.

That's the pitch, folks, and here's the Paypal link to make it happen!

Those with a distaste for online payment systems may also mail a cheque the old-fashioned way, to Scott Cook, 3 Meredian Road, Sherwood Park, AB, Canada, T8A 0N5.

Between now and the release, I've got some exciting things lined up out west. First on the list is a visit from that enthusiasm-volcano of a man, Corin Raymond, who's bringing his new album Paper Nickels to Alberta this week. Longtime readers of these travelogues are probably already acquainted with him, but for those who aren't, Corin has been a huge source of inspiration and encouragement for this humble balladeer ever since we crossed paths in a community hall in Pefferlaw, Ontario back in 2007. He stood up in the middle of the jam circle and sang his tune '3000 Miles', pouring sweat, tilting from the booze, staring his listeners in the eyes and pouring his heart into every word, and it came like a revelation to me, of something altogether new, and timeless at the same time. Since then we've shared stages, roads, and rotis, and he's introduced me to some of the greatest songwriters you've never heard of, folks like Jonathan Byrd, Rob Vaarmeyer, Doug Norquay, and many more. See, Corin's not one of those songwriters that just sings about his own personal heartbreaks. He's a man of the people, and he loves to sing the people's songs, and pass them along, you know, like that once-thought-extinct animal, the Folksinger.

In that spirit, he's just released a double live CD of his friends' songs, played by his killer band the Sundowners over two nights at Toronto's Tranzac Club last January. It's entitled Paper Nickels, and it's like nothing you've ever seen, perhaps like nothing in the history of CD manufacture. It's a hardcover, 144-page book with the lyrics and chords inside, handing you the keys, so to speak, to songs like Ridley Bent's 'Nine Inch Nails', Raghu Lokanathan's 'Sugar Candy Mountain', and my own tune 'The Lord Giveth (and the Landlord Taketh Away)'. One of the songs on the album is a co-write with Winnipeg songwriter Rob Vaarmeyer called 'Don't Spend it Honey', where the protagonist suspects his lady's fixing to leave:

"You been pricing out that brand new trailer hitch
You wanna throw it on the Boler and roll away
I don't need to tell you that we're not rich
But what about the love we squirrelled away? We saved it so long
Don't spend it honey, not the Canadian Tire money, we saved it so long..."

For foreign friends unfamiliar with our country's unofficial second currency, there's a national chain of hardware (and automotive, and outdoor, and sports, and kitchen, and pretty much everything) stores that gives you back a percentage of your purchase in their own colourful bills, with denominations from five cents up to two dollars. Pretty much every Canadian has a stash of it hiding in a sock drawer or glove box somewhere. When Corin started playing the tune around Canada, people started giving him their Canadian Tire money, throwing it on the stage at shows, even stuffing it in his clothes stripper-style. More people heard about it along the way and he started to collect a pretty good chunk of paper change. And then he heard that Rogue Studios, where he gets his mixing done, has always accepted Canadian Tire money, and that's where the plot began to thicken. Like the crazy dreamer that he is, he wondered if it'd be possible to pay the whole studio bill with Canadian Tire money. He wondered what that much Canadian Tire money would even look like. And then he just threw it out there, like you do with crazy dreams if you're bold enough.

Since a little over a year ago, when the caper began, he's been on As It Happens, Definitely Not the Opera, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the Toronto Star, and many more. His loveable mug even made the cover of the Wall Street Journal. Last week he was on The National, which probably doesn't ring any bells for our foreign readers, but as our Canadian readers know, when Peter Mansbridge says your name, it's a pretty big deal.

The total studio bill he's looking to pay is $7333.75. At last count (from his website, www.dontspendithoney.com) he's collected $6,518.30. In paper change. Really, you've gotta see the pictures. Go on over there are have a look, and while you're at it, see if you don't have a little Canadian Tire scratch lying around. If you mail it to 39 Oxford Street, Toronto, ON, M5T 1N8, he promises to transmute it into pure love.

Corin's out west these two weeks for a few shows. At the risk of redundancy, let me declare that these shows have my highest endorsement:

Thu Feb 7 - Calgary, AB - Ironwood Stage & Grill (I'm opening this one!)
Fri Feb 8 - Medicine Hat, AB - Ye Olde Jar Bar
Sat Feb 9 - Camrose, AB - Scalliwag's
Sun Feb 10 - Edmonton, AB - the ARTery with Carrie Day & Bramwell Park
Wed Feb 13 - Kamloops, BC - House concert
Thu Feb 14 - Sunnybrae, BC - House concert
Fri Feb 15 - Vancouver, BC - Bookworm/Music at Celtic Traditions - SOLD OUT
Sat Feb 16 - Squamish, BC - Bookworm/Music at Quest University Library
Sun Feb 17 - Vancouver, BC - Bookworm/Music at Celtic Traditions - 2nd SHOW ADDED

My next hometown show will be February 16th, when I'm playing the Northern Lights Folk Club in the round with Braden Gates and Jessica Heine, two mighty fine songwriters who you'll be sure to enjoy. The night before that, February 15th, I'll be playing the Hideout in Red Deer with Moses Gregg and Bramwell Park.

Shortly thereafter I'm flying to Toronto for the biggest hotel-room booze-and-schmooze and jam-athon on them all, Folk Alliance International. I've been chosen for an official showcase this year, which feels like a pretty big deal to me.

Back on the homefront in March, I'll be opening for the Living Daylights March 2 in Edmonton, opening for Amelia Curran in Calgary March 9, releasing the third volume of our Edmonton compilation Great Northern Revival with my buddy Steve Teeuwsen March 16, and sharing a show at Accent Lounge in Edmonton March 21 with Denise MacKay of 100 Mile House. Shortly thereafter, I'm headed way north for a Home Routes tour of the Yukon, and some dates in northern BC. Folks up north are strongly encouraged to get in touch with suggestions of places to play, house concerts included.

Well, that just about takes us up to the release of One More Time Around. You'll undoubtedly be hearing from me again sometime between now and then, if not with road stories, at the very least to bug you again about pre-ordering the album. Why not stave off the looming sense of obligation and be among the first to place your order?

Help me out please!

Well friends, if you've made it this far, here's something absolutely free as thanks for putting up with my shameless commercial pleas. Last year while I was in Taiwan, I had the opportunity to shoot a couple videos, pro bono, with a real professional video crew. The first, for 'High and Lonesome Again', was released last spring, but the second has just come out, and I'm excited to share it with you. Especially for those of you who love our four-legged furry friends, here's a new version of a tune only released on my very first demo album, entitled "Scott and Shal's Shrew's Blues".

Hope you dig. Big love to you, friends, wherever you are,

s


Nov 29, 2012: Homeward bound! Prairie shows with Bill Bourne and Indio Saravanja! Picture the Reunion! And a new album in the works!

Hey good folks,

I'm writing you from the snowy plains of North Dakota, en route to Winnipeg, where I'll be opening for hometown girl Romi Mayes tonight at Winnipeg's hallowed hole-in-the-wall of roots music, the Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club. My buddies the two Jakes, Bell and Stead, will be joining me on cajon and bass, respectively (and disrespectfully, no doubt), and it's sure to be a blast. Tomorrow I'll be pointing Ol' Blue straight westward, playing Kergano's in Moose Jaw that night, and then meeting up with my compadres Bill Bourne and Indio Saravanja for a string of prairie shows under the moniker 'Tres Hombres'.

We've only done this particular configuration once before, a couple years ago at the ARTery in Edmonton, and we decided right then and there that it was worth repeating. Bill has been a huge inspiration and mentor to me through the years, and it's always an honour to share the stage with him. He's a musical magician of the highest order, channelling the wide river of tradition into the present moment in a way only thirty plus years of experience can enable. And for those not familiar with Indio, he's a songwriter from Argentina via the Yukon and now Lethbridge, who writes potent songs about real life, and picks and sings 'em with conviction. We'll be swapping songs and stories in the round, joining in on each other's tunes, and playing it off the cuff. Those in search of auditory redemption can find us at:

Sat Dec 1 - Swift Current, SK - Art Gallery of Swift Current
Sun Dec 2 - Regina, SK - The Exchange
Mon Dec 3 - Medicine Hat, AB - Ye Olde Jar Bar
Tue Dec 4 - Calgary, AB - The Ironwood
Thu Dec 6 - Edmonton, AB - The ARTery (just Bill & I, with Moses Gregg & Bramwell Park)
Sat Dec 8 - Black Diamond, AB - The Stop (just Bill & I)
Sun Dec 9 - Lethbridge, AB - The Geomatic Attic

The Edmonton and Black Diamond shows are CD release events for Bill's new disc 'Songs from a Gypsy Caravan', which is already getting rave reviews from the Globe and Mail, among others. For those shows, I'll be playing an opening set followed by a set from Bill, and for the Edmonton show, we'll have Moses Gregg and Bramwell Park along for musical company. With help like that, I'm prepared to offer my usual guarantee: magic or your money back! As always, all the details are on my news page.

Once that's wrapped up I'll be hanging around Edmonton for a few weeks, and I can't tell you how happy I am about that. As much as I love rambling around, I haven't had a real break from it since the end of April, which I figure makes me long overdue. I'll still be keeping busy, though; I'm going to start work on recording a new album, a project I'm already getting wound up about. I'll let you know more, and start accepting pre-orders, real soon.

While I'm around home I'll also be playing my usual holiday run at the International Airport, and a very special Christmas show at Wunderbar Tuesday Dec 18, opening for fellow weary road dogs Picture The Ocean with the help of Moses Gregg and Bramwell Park, aka The Rainbow Connection.

Getting closer to home has me looking back over what an epic trip this has been, and thinking of all the kind folks who arranged shows, put me up, fed me, bought me beers, bought CDs, and spoke words of encouragement along the way. You're the wind that keeps these sails billowed, friends. So thank you.

I'm going to spare you the detailed recap this month, in a rare attempt at brevity. Suffice it to say it was a great ramble across Ontario, out to Nova Scotia, down to New York for the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance, and back through Michigan for some lovely house concerts and other shows, many of them in company of that smiling, farming troubadour, Seth Bernard. As always, the best part of it is all the reunions along the way, checking in with old friends, and getting a feel for the vast network of threads tying us all together, the REAL social network, the Big Ol' Family. Thanks, as always, for welcoming me into yours. With love, your fan,

s


Oct 18, 2012: More European rambles, trails eastward, pictures! and a new song!

Hey good friends,

I'm writing you from Canadian soil once again, the concrete-covered soil of Toronto to be exact. It's only been two weeks or so since I last wrote, but so much has happened in that short time that I feel an update's in order.

Last I wrote I was on my way to Venice to meet up with Raoul, an inspiring soul I'd crossed paths with almost ten years ago in Laos. We'd only spent four days together, on a slow boat down the Mekong, and in the beautiful riverside town of Luang Prabang, but he made a big impression on me, so much so that I wrote him in as the hero of my song 'Long Way to Wander' years later. Needless to say, our reunion in his hometown after all these years was a long-awaited day.

I arrived late, and spent some time wandering around the train station, searching the faces for his, before walking outside. A whistle from the water got my attention, and there he was, of course, waving from his boat! He pulled in alongside the sidewalk and I climbed in, amazed at how little he'd changed, and shaking my head at the surreality of it all. He swung the boat, appropriately named Le Vagabond, into a pier nearby, where he bought us a couple beers and we caught up on the last decade of our lives. There was a lot to cover, since he's never been much for email, nor written English.

The last I'd heard from him, he wrote:

"I have not made an proply appointment with anyone not to preclude any possibility
there are many possibilities to play
Venice is a small place, and we all know together
to play there will be no problem"

So I wasn't really expecting to do anything formally, but he handed me the paper and there I was, described as a singer of Scottish ballads, but there nonetheless.

The first order of the day was picking up his buddy Ronnie, a Sri Lankan rasta who works at the gas station. Once aboard, Ronnie insisted on going back into the store, to get more beers and "something for the guru". He came back with a bag of beers and a bag of dog food, and I realized who his guru was. Next we picked up his friend Kristof, who had come down from his home in the Dolomite Mountains, and we rode to another island called Murano, where the famous glass of the same name is made, to pick up his girlfriend Gabriela. I was slacked-jawed with wonder the whole way, digging the impossibly blue sky, the turquoise water, and the sight of this ancient city of sailors. Raoul blasted 'So Lonesome' out of Le Vagabond's stereo, dancing as he sped us across the open water, and my mind boggled.

We had some running around to do, to pick up the PA and get things ready for the show, and I fell quickly in love with Venice along the way. There are no cars in town, as you likely know, just cobblestone walking streets and canals, which makes it feel almost timeless. I'm struggling to find words for the beauty of it, the maze-like alleyways strung with clotheslines, the little Catholic shrines peeking out of nooks in the brickwork, the lovely women's musical laughter, the outdoor cafes, the boats loaded with fruit and vegetables for sale, and the exquisite decay, the visible layers of history, the centuries gone by echoing down the streets. Along the way it seemed like Raoul knew almost everyone we passed, waving and calling out to them, and stopping to talk with most of them, almost all of whom knew of me from the song. "More Beer Lao! More chapatis!" they'd shout, or "I'm a Venetian!", and my mind boggled further at the surreal hilarity of it all. Raoul told me he couldn't even begin to explain what it was like for him to be immortalized in a song. Nor could I explain to him what it was like to have a song take on a life of its own on the other side of the world.

We set up for the show in a lovely courtyard inside an old brick building run by a non-profit arts foundation, and Raoul beautifully arranged the stage with a backdrop of umbrellas and vines, candles in the brickwork, and a little table holding a bottle of wine and a globe lit from within. A great crowd trickled in, and I sang songs for them until it started to rain, then we moved everything to a beautifully resonant room inside and continued the show. It felt like a new thing in my hands, playing for an audience that spoke very little English, in such an otherworldly setting. I played 'Long Way to Wander' and there it was, another arc that had started so long ago, come round to form a circle.

After the show we drank strong grappa and I struggled to understand what I could of the conversation with my weak grasp of Spanish. When things wound down we went cruising and partying in the boat again, all around the neighbouring islands and past the city's ancient graveyard, and it was breathtaking and unearthly under the moonlight. I was reminded of the thrill I tasted on my first travels overseas, that wild feeling of freedom and possibility that I've lost touch with somewhat by traveling for a living. That taste right there was worth the whole trip.

The next day he borrowed a smaller boat, to take us through the smaller canals of the city, showing me the sights and visiting friends along the way. We even swung by the gas station for a fill up and a visit with Ronnie and Guru. That night Raoul showed me pictures from that trip in Laos years ago, and I marvelled at how much younger we did actually look. He also gave me a piece of centuries-old pottery that he'd taken from a dive in the sunken outer edges of the city. Time is the biggest mystery, isn't it friends? Not sure what else to say about that.

The following day I caught a train to Zurich and gaped at the staggering views of the Alps, peaks jaggedly crammed together, waterfalls and castles dotting the misty landscape. The show was at a hostel, and was set up by a Canadian, Greg Jagassar, who'd shared a show with my old band The Anglers in Canmore years ago and was now living in Venice. My friend Fabs from Taiwan was also there, amazingly, and brought a crew along as well. It was a wonderful show, and the hat netted 170 Swiss Francs on one pass, which made it clear to me how touring in such a costly place could actually be beneficial.

The next day I made it to the airport with two hours to spare before my flight, and was feeling mighty proud of myself until the lady behind the check-in counter informed me that my ticket was booked for the day before. I'd done the bookings in a hurry, with people talking to me while I was struggling through them, and I'd messed things up royally. With a show in Glastonbury that night, I had to buy another ticket, priced at a merciless 350 euros. Landing in London, I was further shocked to find that I'd also booked my bus ticket for the wrong day, and had to buy another. My booking early to save money had actually ended up costing me more. The thing that burned most wasn't the money, it was the thought of all the people who'd given it to me, ten euros at a time. Well, some lessons you get easy, and some you pay for in full.

Back in England I reunited with Jez Hellard, and actually felt like I was back home, to be back in his company, in a place I knew better already, and among native speakers of English. Our first show was in Glastonbury, which lived up to its reputation as soon as I got off the bus and was greeted by an older woman clothed in a silver-blue mermaid dress with a lotus flower tattooed on her forehead. We shared the show with a fantastic songwriter and guitar player named Nathan Ball and a great band called the 32-20s, led by a legendary character named Horse-drawn Gaz. The show was sublime, but the magic hat yielded nothing but small change. Hippies are the same everywhere, but you gotta love 'em anyhow.

The next day we shot a couple low-tech videos at Nathan's house outside of town, which I'll be sharing with you shortly, and then headed to Cardiff, Wales, where we shared a show with a great band called JC's Hopeless Sinners. The next night we made our way to Jez' hometown, King's Cliffe, where we played in the capable musical company of his friends Julie Rands Allen on fiddle, Ray Duffy on banjo and mandolin, Ben Coulthard on harmony vocals, and our good friend and musical genius Nye Parsons on double bass. It was an amazing night of music in a warmly reverberant brick building, and all of us were feeling the flow of that old river, the one we first tasted years ago, that set us all on this path in the first place. After two sets most of the crowd didn't want to go home, and neither did we, so we played another set. And then another. Things got downright telepathic in there, and reminded me of the whole reason behind all the miles, every nearly empty hat we've stared at, every floor we've slept on, and every indignity we've powered through.

I left town the next day with a full cup of gratitude, for a gig in Brixton where I got paid ten pounds and had to buy my own beer. That's the way the wheel goes round.

The next couple days in England included reunions with Jesse Dee, Jacquie B and Aurora Jane, over there on their own tour, and my old Taiwan friends Jenny Mak and Wide-eyed Paul. The last show of the tour was a sleepy but sweet night in Battersea, but the real wrap-up was the night before in Stoke Newington, northern London, where I played alongside Jez, Nye, Ben, Jesse and Jacquie, an amazing fiddler named Ali Caplin, a hilarious accordion-wielding songstress named Beth Stratford, and songwriter and organizer Theo Bard, at a sweet underground folk night called Woodburner. Around 150 people gathered in a dingy squat to listen to totally unamplified folk music with rapt attention. We closed out the night with a version of Corin Raymond's 'That's Life (Loving You Right Back)', and the circle was complete. Corin was banned from the UK for ten years for playing there without a visa, but his songs are running loose around the English countryside as we speak.

Now I'm here in Toronto, about to sign off and head toward the Cameron House, where I'll be playing as a guest of that very same Mr. Raymond, at that very same bar mentioned in his song 'There Will Always Be a Small Time', where the sign says "This is Paradise". The show runs from 6pm until 8pm, the last call for day prices, just as the song says, and I'll be on somewhere in the middle.

From there I'm headed eastward, playing shows in Peterborough, Perth, Kingston, hopefully Montreal (still looking for something!), Halifax, Berwick, and Hubbards, Nova Scotia, before I head down to New York for the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance, and begin making my frosty way back westward. As always, all the details are on my news page.

Well, I've gotta wrap this up now, but I want to offer you two gifts as my sincere thanks for reading these ramblings. First of all, some pictures from the trip, viewable here.

If you aren't on Facebook, don't worry; you don't need to be a member to view them, and they won't infect you with the Facebug while you're there.

Secondly, as promised, a new song for you, loyal readers! One of two that we recorded at Nathan Ball's house outside Glastonbury, featuring the magic that is Jez Hellard:

'When We're Back Around'

Thanks again, friends. Wishing you good luck, big dreams, and blessings aplenty,

s


Oct 1, 2012: European ramblin'

Goedendag, guten tag, and buongiorno, friends,

I'm writing you from a train whizzing through German countryside, en route to Villach, Austria to bed down for the night. This European ramble's been a wild ride so far, and I've only just now found the time to write you.

Last you heard from me, I was heading back into Canada for two shows before flying over this way. The first stop, at Oakville's Moonshine Cafe, was blessed by drop-ins from my E-town buddy Sandy, a long-haul truck driver whose schedule managed to overlap mine, and Dave Schulte, who dropped in along his route from Prince George to St. John's by bicycle. For folks who live on the road, it's these kind of meetings that keep the sails billowed, winking our lights as we pass in that great starlit river.

I've been running hard for a while now, as you know, with scarce time to think, so it was only the next day, as I parked my van in Guelph and packed my backpack, that the journey ahead of me finally hit home. I was reminded of how weird, weak and alien a hermit crab looks when it leaves its shell as I struggled hurriedly in search of a bus to take me to Toronto. Several small-scale transit disasters later, I landed on the curb in front of the Cameron House to the sounds of Picture The Ocean already rocking out inside. It was absolutely surreal walking in to see them, along with loads of Toronto peeps, and even most of Fish & Bird, who also happened to be in town. There was time only to sing a few songs, drink a few beers, and hug a lot of dear friends before hurrying off to the airport, grateful for a ride from my friend Caitlynn, and laughing about the horseshoe that must've gotten stuck up my bum somehow; always narrowly avoiding disaster, and somehow making it every time.

Eight hours later I was clearing customs at Gatwick Airport. There was apparently some problem with my visa, which had me sitting in the bad boy bin for about an hour with Corin Raymond's "let me into your country, Mr. Immigration Man, which part of 'paid to party' do you fail to understand?" running around in my brain. Waiting for me as I finally cleared the gates was Jez Hellard, a brother from another mother that I'd met over ten years before on the island of Taiwan, and the man who made this whole trip a real possibility. The three years we had to catch up on shrank into the distance as we set off through the countryside in his new van, Salima the Special Bus. Not an hour into the drive, we came over a ridge and Jez pointed to a bunch of rocks in the distance. Stonehenge, already. I giggled. He pulled into the parking lot so we could go have a look. They've built a fence around the whole thing, and now tourists need to approach via an underground walkway where they charge admission, a pretty concise picture of the distance between the pagans who propped up those monoliths and the modern world that commodified them. Jez, who's always been one to lean more toward the former point of view, hopped the fence and began walking casually toward the stones. I had no respectable choice but to follow along, and so it was that within two hours of landing on England's shores, I was already on the wrong side of the law. We were promptly approached by a uniformed woman who told us that we needed to enter the other way. Jez greeted her cheerfully, and asked if that was so they could charge us money. Yeah, I guess so, she said, as if she hadn't thought of it that way before. "Well, that's against my religion," said Jez, smiling. "Hey, I'm just making a living here," she answered. There's a book to be written about that historic answer, but we let it go at that, hopping over the fence and back the way we came.

That night we played the Canteen in Bristol, a really lovely place, and I actually found myself feeling kind of nervous, connecting with an English crowd for the first time. Another first that night, the bartender pumped my beer by hand. When I told her I'd never seen that done before, she explained that it's real beer, still alive and pumped without gas. News to me. Turns out that's pretty much how you can tell good English pubs from bad.

My accommodations for that night fell through, so I made my bed on the floor of Jez' van. Still half-asleep that morning and not yet aware of where I was, I heard a kid run up alongside van and ask, "'Ave you changed your mind, Simon? 'Ave you changed your mind?" in an awesome Bristol accent, and then run away. No idea who Simon was, whether he'd changed his mind, or about what, but for some reason, in my half-conscious state, it struck me as one of the funniest things I'd ever heard.

We played for a tiny crowd in a cafe in Stroud the next night, and were visited by Sarana Verlin, an American musician living in England, who'd played the set right before me at Thumbfest in Michigan just two weeks before, and was tipped off to the show by Suzie Keat, who'd hosted me at Crazy Wisdom in Ann Arbor the following weekend. It's those kind of meetings that make the road seem like a small pond.

The next night's show was a monthly folk night in Widnes, hosted by a great socialist songwriter named Stephen Goodall. His regular venue had fallen through, so the show had been moved to a Liverpool supporters' football hooligan pub down the road. No real ale there, just Carling and Coors Lite. Stephen and the other singer on the bill, Antony Swift, were obviously worried about how things might go for us, and kept apologizing for the crowd, and assuring us that we'd still get paid even if it was the worst show of tour. Jez and I assured them we'd played for rowdier and worse. It took a lot of quiet talking and a little good-natured mockery, but we actually did manage to calm down the shouters, and had a lovely show. We called Stephen up for the encore, and he dedicated a song to the 96 who'd died in the Hillsborough football stadium disaster in 1989, the truth of which had only just come out days before, exonerating Liverpool fans (who the police had blamed), and placing the blame for the incident and the subsequent cover-up squarely on the police.

Unbeknownst to us, the song he played is associated with a rival team, a daring move in a staunchly Liverpool-supporting pub. We had no idea how ballsy and ecumenical a gesture it was until he filled us in afterward. They also waited 'til afterward to tell us that the last time they'd played there, a fight got out of control and they ended up having to retreat into the kitchen with their instruments to hide until it died down.

Driving through the English countryside, I feasted my eyes on the rolling, sun-dappled green hills crisscrossed with piled stone walls and dotted with sheep, and marvelled at the names of the places. Eyton Upon the Weald Moors. Weston-under-Lizard. Reddish. Gee Cross. Ley Hey Park. Ramsbottom. Clitheroe. Dinckley. Besses o' th' Barns. Mere Brow. Much Hoole. Meikle Poo Craig. Thankerton. Ecclefechan. Scronkey. Newton with Scales. Nether Wallop. Great Plumpton, right there by Little Plumpton. And Giggleswick, which happens to be near Wigglesworth.

The unfathomable age of the place was what struck me most, passing through little villages along tiny roads built for oxcarts, where skylines are dominated by cathedrals and castles, where houses have names that predate their owners, where different towns have discernibly different accents, where different eras of brick and mortar can be seen in the construction, where the Roman Emperor Hadrian built a wall to keep out the Scots back in the year of 122.

Against all that history, it was bizarre to occasionally emerge into areas that had been rebuilt along a North American model, with walled subdivisions of identical houses, big parking lots and clusters of giant, shiny stores. "Look," said Jez, "we're in Canada!", and our homegrown brand of development seemed even more crass to me than it already had.

There were, of course, plenty of mundane differences to get used to. Most people wear shoes in their houses. They serve coffee with milk rather than cream. Tipping isn't expected. It's called the toilet, not the bathroom. The light in there comes on by pulling a string dangling from the ceiling. The shower has one dial for temperature and another for pressure. And you need to pump the toilet to flush it. But there were also plenty of more subtle differences, that I'm still coming to know.

For one, it seems to me that there's more class consciousness among working people in Britain than in North America. In part, I suppose it has to do with the fact that we're only just now seeing the twilight of the American dream; we still hold on to the idea of ourselves as potentially rich, even if we're not. Canadians have fared even better, at least so far, in this new Depression, and consequently we're still pretty content with the status quo. Britain, on the other hand, saw its economic prosperity collapse during the 80s under Thatcher, not long after the dream of empire fell apart.

Also, compared to my Albertan home, where the first white people to arrive were the company and the police, England's a much older society, with older bonds of civil association, and a longer tradition of dissent to rich men's rule. It was way back in 1381, before the New World was even discovered, when the Revered John Ball preached his famous sermon, credited with inspiring the Peasants' Revolt, asking the common folk what God-given right the noblemen had to rule over them:

"When Adam delved [dug] and Eve span [spun wool], Who was then the gentleman? From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men. For if God would have had any bondmen from the beginning, he would have appointed who should be bond, and who free. And therefore I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may (if ye will) cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty."

John Ball was hung, drawn and quartered for those words, and his head was stuck on a pike at London Bridge, but his vision nonetheless lived on in the Diggers, the Ranters, the Luddites, and other groups through the ages who dared to question the classism inherent in the received order of things, and it seems that consciousness is still alive in Britain today. Whatever the reason, my tune 'The Lord Giveth (and the Landlord Taketh Away)' seemed to light up every room we played it in, that Widnes football hooligan bar included.

We spent the next few days along the Scots borders, and I was impressed to see it was much as I'd imagined it, smelling of peat bog and sheep shit. We stayed two days with a lovely couple who have a yurt for rent that they gave me the run of. They set up a little BYOB show for us in the village hall for about 20 local folks, and it was really charming. Maddy Pryor of the legendary English folk group Steeleye Span came out, and I was mightily humbled when she bought all my CDs. We dragged our hosts to the neighbours' house afterward for fine scotch and hilarious conversation, at least what I could follow of it through their thick Scots brogue.

 

Being an ignoramus, up til then I had no idea that the Union Jack is actually made up of the flags of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. It was interesting to get a taste for the differences between Scotland and England, cultural and otherwise. Particularly surprising for me was that they have different money in Scotland, which is also accepted throughout the UK. Here's a picture () of five different ten pound notes that I gathered in Scotland: one issued by the bank of England, another by the Bank of Scotland, another by the Royal Bank of Scotland, and two more by the Clydesdale Bank. Having several competing but basically equivalent currencies really brings home what money actually is, written right on it: this or that bank promises to pay the bearer ten pounds sterling on demand, nothing more than that.

We played two pub shows totally unamplified, in Berwick-upon-Tweed and Biggar, something I'd never try at home, and I was amazed that we were actually able to hold the room with just our instruments and voices. Folks are just a little more cultured there, I guess. It also helps that the Scots love the harmonica, or "moothy", as they say, and Jez was blowing minds everywhere we went.

I was all wide-eyed going around the lovely cities of Edinburgh (the first in the world to have high-rise housing) and Glasgow, driving along the waters of the Firth of Forth (another name I love), and digging the views from an old fishing and smuggling harbour called Cove. More pictures are coming soon, but here's one for now:



One particularly thrilling fact for this hobo to learn was that in Scotland, people actually have a right to roam; that is, you're allowed to hop a fence on your way overland, and unlike in the US, the property owner has no right to shoot you for trespassing. Several other European countries have similar laws, and England also has laws granting certain freedoms to travellers and gypsies, who've been living on land they don't own for generations. Here's a wikipedia article if you're interested. It put me in mind of my favourite verse of Woody's 'This Land is Your Land': "The other day, when I went walking / I saw a sing there, said 'no trespassing' / but on the other side, it didn't say nothing / that side was made for you and me!"

After one last show in England at Better Than Telly House Concerts, another trail among many that Miss Quincy and crew had already blazed, I left England aboard a giant Stena Line boat from Harwich to the Hook of Holland, feeling incredibly rich with my own private stateroom, a bargain at 30 euros. I just wished the ride was longer so I could sleep in. A short train ride landed me in Amsterdam, where I was immediately awestruck at the beauty of the city. I played a restaurant near the train station that night, and spent the rest of my time getting delightfully lost after visiting the famous coffee shops, digging the ornate cathedrals, the swan-filled canals ringing the city, the building facades leaning precariously forward over the cobblestone streets, rivers of gorgeous, smartly-dressed women and men riding by on bicycles, a shop window full of wheels of cheese, another shop full of grand pianos, an incomprehensible streetside flash mob play, buskers playing sublime clarinet and accordion in the public squares, and the songs of clock towers that have been ringing longer than anyone has been alive.

After two days in Amsterdam I was off to Den Bosch, and already feeling like I'd made too many plans for such a short time. The different sense of distance has been a surprise for me, both in the UK, where a 200-km trip would take up most of the day, and here on the continent, where I've realized I should've been a little less ambitious with my travel plans. A German friend helpfully summed up the difference between our continents last night: for a European, 100 kilometers is a long way, while for an American, 100 years is a long time.

In Den Bosch I played for a small room of kind folks, and realized how incredibly wordy most of my songs are. I thought back to something Bill Bourne had said, about music and dance crossing national and language barriers, and looked anew for that universal language in what I do as a musician, for what's there when the words get lost.

After the show I got a lift to a house in Eindhoven that serves as a kind of hotel for musicians traveling through. The fella who lives there is the son of a Dutch folk artist called The Watchman, and a musician himself. There was a picture of Townes Van Zandt on the door to the room I stayed in, but I didn't think anything of it at the time. I only learned two days later that he'd stayed in that very room on his way through. It's stories like that one that make the road seem like one river rolling on forever, with all our boats in various states of repair, some taking in water, some already sunk, but all inexorably bound for the same watery bed.

In Utrecht I played a house concert set up by a couple Dutch girls I met at a house concert in Canmore, Alberta, where they'd both been living. It was really surreal and wonderful to meet up in their town, and sweet of them to introduce the concept of a house concert to their friends.

In Mörsfeld I played a tiny house concert hosted by my Taiwanese friend Annabelle and her German boyfriend. We hung out til late, laughing and carrying on in a mix of three languages.

The night before last, in Dusseldorf, I played a wonderful house concert hosted by Guido & Conny, a German couple I met at ArtsWells a couple years back. They have a great group of regulars, and a sublime vibe to what they do. My Albertan buddy Ben Rix dropped in too, having flown in yesterday morning from England, where he'll be taking a brewing course. Guido and Conny have hosted several of my Canadian musician friends through the years, and will be hosting a triple bill with my good friends Scarlett Jane, Picture The Ocean, and Aurora Jane next month. Conny told me stories of the various folks who've come through, and we missed them together. It's times like that when the road seems timeless.

I'm finishing this letter from Villach, where I stayed the night and dug the old streets and the big beers. Today I'll be riding the train into Venice, glimpsing Italy for the first time, and meeting up with Raoul, the hero of 'Long Way to Wander', who I haven't seen in nearly ten years. It's times like this when the road feels like the same one I set out on so many years ago.

Well friends, that's a wrap for this travelogue. If you live or know people in Zurich, the UK, eastern Canada, or the eastern States, please have a look at my news page for upcoming shows. As always, I hope to see you along the way!

Here's hoping this note finds you flourishing, and exactly where you need to be. Big vagabond love from here to there,

s


Sept 9, 2012: European tour, and road stories from the summer that never ends

Hey there friends,

It's been awhile, hey? Over three months, in fact, which is a long time to wait for a purportedly monthly update. With any luck, though, you haven't been waiting at all, too busy having fun and soaking up the summer to even think of Hobo Travelogues or the absence thereof. That's where I've been at, in any case. At least until the last few days, when I've found myself hanging around Michigan in possession of those rarest of birds, hours of free time, which provided the opportunity to fire off a long-overdue electronic missive to you dear readers.

This has been, without a doubt, the longest summer of my life, and the pace has been pretty relentless throughout. I've sometimes wondered if I'm riding this road or it's riding me. But it's been full of good things, and if I've bitten off too much of those aforementioned good things, it's all my own doing. It doesn't look to be letting up anytime soon, either. I've got two shows left on this side of the world: the Moonshine Cafe in Oakville Monday evening, and a few tunes as a guest of Picture The Ocean at the Cameron House around 6pm Tuesday, immediately after which I'll be heading to the airport for my first ever tour of Europe! There's more about that below for you scroll-down types. After Europe, I'll be making a run across Eastern Canada, down the eastern seaboard to New York, and back across the midwest and the prairies, landing back in Alberta in December for a little holiday season ramble with Bill Bourne and Indio Saravanja. Late December through January will finally see me taking some much-needed time off the road, and hopefully emerging with a new album for your ears.

That's my news in a nutshell, friends, and if you've got barbecuing to do, or frisbee to play, or a gloriously autumn-scented walk to take, I'll suggest you go do that, perhaps glancing in passing at my news page for the details on whatever shows might be in your area. But if you've got the time for a read, a little recap's in order, and I'd be grateful for your company as the yarn unwinds.

I wrapped up my spring tour out west with three shows alongside Dave Newberry and his fantastic band, and we had a blast. The last night of our mini-tour, we afterpartied around the campfire with my good friends Kevin and Yaya, who entertained us by extemporizing ridiculous songs (Kevin), throwing a lighter into the fire without warning (Yaya), lighting up the whole yard like day with a giant waxed cardboard seedling box (Kevin), and peeing onto the fire from a great distance (you guessed it, Miss Yaya). At some point during the revelry Kevin informed us that we would be accompanying him to the Fish and Game Club's Spring Fair the next day, where he was to act as the town crier, and we were to eat pancake breakfast, drink beer, and then shoot guns, to which we all enthusiastically agreed.

 

He neglected to inform us that we'd be doing it in costume. Morning came early, replete with hangovers and old-west outfits all around. Apparently no one else dresses up in costume to go to the Spring Fair, a surprised Dave Newberry gathered from the looks he was getting in his frontier railroad tycoon getup. We just missed the end of the pancake breakfast, but made do with the lunch menu, which included such unique entrees as the Combo Burger (a burger with a hotdog on it). I said "watch this," and told the lady I was a vegetarian, a word she may well have never heard before. "Well, you could just have the bun and the vegetables," she offered helpfully, before suggesting I check the cafe downstairs for sandwiches. After lunch we moseyed over to the beer garden to lube up for our fun with firearms.

A pleasantly inebriated, horse-drawn hayride took us to the shooting range, where we signed the necessary waivers and got a quick primer in the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting. We shot .22s, .38s, .45s and double-barrelled 12-gauge shotguns, while Kevin cajoled passers-by with robust cries of "step right up and try the double-barrelled shotgun shooting experience! What could possibly go wrong?!?"

Though we could think of a few things, thankfully nothing did, and I made it back to Alberta to reunite with the Long Weekends for Open Sky Music Festival. Shortly thereafter we made our various ways up to Driftpile for the North Country Fair, where we all stayed a week or so, enjoying the balmy weather, amazing performances, ultra-competitive beersbee (rules below for the unitiated), killer food, and that feeling of timelessness that comes from visiting the same place with many of the same folks year after year. I'm not sure if it was my 16th or 17th Fair, but they all kind of blend together anyway. One thing I do know is that the Fair set me on this road in the first place, and I feel an overwhelming gratitude to all the folks who put in the time and commitment to make it happen all these years. In contrast to Fairs gone by, I managed to keep it pretty tidy all week, except one night when all the ancillary drinking that goes with beersbee must have pushed me over the edge, only to wake up confused in the van, still completely dressed, with pretzels in the bed. I guess there were worse situations I could've woken up in; at least I knew the pretzels.

For those who don't know how to play beersbee and are curious, there are plenty of variants, but here is the closest version of the rules I could find online to what we consider official, with two amendments: no blocks (players must remain behind the pole, as far as we're concerned), and doubles games (obviously, the best kind of game) are still only scored to 3 points. It's a long road to universal acceptance, I guess.

The Long Weekends and I hosted our fifth annual North Country Fair Afterbender at the Pawnshop in Edmonton the following Wednesday, with performances from Swear By The Moon, Australia's Tom Richardson, George Ireland & friends, the Low Flying Planes, Mayday & the Beat Creeps, Joe Nolan & friends, Mike Dunn & the Moanin' After, The Living Daylights, Sean Brewer, the McGowan Family Band, Faye Blais, Neko Rei, The Party on High Street and Picture The Ocean; another marathon of music and a night to remember, for those who can. As one of the lucky ones who can remember it all, I've gotta say again what a wonderful family we have in E-town, and how lucky I feel to be a part of it.

I was off on the road eastward the very next day, stopping in Moose Jaw for Freedom Fest, which was a good time for the few folks who braved the first year, and then racing out to St. Catharines for Roger Marin's Cicada Fest, a small but beautiful fest with a bunch of killer songwriters on the shores of Lake Ontario. I had a few house concerts along the way there and back that filled up the gas and enthusiasm tanks alike, and it was a nice ramble despite the long drives. I've never been through Northern Ontario at that time of year before. It was really beautiful, and boiling hot with Old Blue's nonexistent AC, but I made up for it by swimming in lots of lakes along the way.

On my way back west, I had the opportunity to play the Times Change(d) in Winnipeg for my first time, opening for my friends in Sweet Alibi and the Steve Brockley Band. It happened to be Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday, and we all commemorated the occasion with songs from his vast catalogue. I crossed paths with the Brockley boys quite a lot this summer, including three days later back in Moose Jaw, and I've gotta say, those are some top calibre gentlemen, and a fine band as well. Go give 'em a listen here, you'll be glad you did.

I pulled back into Alberta for the South Country Fair, a little slice of riverside heaven that I'd been too long away from, and was happily reunited with the Picture The Ocean crew, now rolling full-time together with Aurora Jane and doubling as her band. The band's been putting in long hours learning Jane's tunes, and they're doing an amazing job. Jesse's learned to play the bass, and he's laying it down in the baddest way. I've always been in awe of his guitar face, and I'm pleased to inform you that his bass face meets the same high standard, though being a different instrument, it's a very different face. We'd only been a month apart, but it felt like forever since I'd seen them; spending two months in a van together last summer before probably had something to do with that. The whole Fair was awesome, reconnecting with old friends, cooling off in the river, having my brain rewired by Shakura S'Aida and C.R. Avery among others, and being reminded again just how incredibly lucky we are to be living this life.


happy campers at South Country Fair, photo by Aurora Jane

From South Country I headed back to Edmonton for a few precious days around town, including the first show with my new trio, Moses Gregg and Bramwell Park, in a restored antique streetcar atop the High Level Bridge at sunset. Tad Hargrave, a local marketing guru, magician, musician and connector of people, has been promoting a series of 'Secret Streetcar Concerts', and they're really special. Look him up on Facebook if you wanna be in the loop.

I spent the next couple days scrambling to get everything squared away before heading out to the seventeenth annual Sasquatch Gathering, another sweet event that I've been too long away from. Sunday night I headed back to town for some much-needed sleep before the early-morning wakeup to take the new trio on the road. It was a great fit with the boys, both musically and as traveling companions. We put the word out on Facebook that we were looking for a name, and found (as Picture The Ocean did) that while it tends to yield a lot of fruit, it's not necessarily the choicest kind. Thanks to all who contributed anyway. I think our favourite suggestion was "Monkey Pee, Monkey Poo". We ended up settling on Scott Cook and the Rainbow Connection, quite likely less on account of us covering that song, than on account of the whole tour being in that rainbowest of places, Super, Natural British Columbia.

The tour was a run out to Wells and back, and we kicked it off with return visits to Revelstoke and Kamloops, before making our way to the Yalakom Valley to reunite with Picture The Ocean and Aurora Jane for another backyard concert, and a chance to see the progress our friends are making with their farm and a massive strawbale mansion they're building. From there we made our way up to Quesnel for a little ArtsWells pre-party at Miss Quincy's aunt & uncle's place. Well, at least that was the plan; it ended up feeling like half of the festival performers were there. Among other things, the night found me in the middle of a misty lake in a rowboat with David Ross MacDonald attempting to captain the boat while Corin Raymond yelled lines from the Mighty Boosh. Less awesomely, the morning found me enthusiastically joining in a yoga session, on barely two hours' sleep and still half-cut, with predictably disastrous results. Friends, if I take any lesson away from this summer, let it be this: don't do yoga when you're drunk.

ArtsWells was flat-out amazing, and once again confirmed its standing as the Bestival. Art was busting out everywhere, as always, with mind-blowing performances in the pub, the two churches, the community hall, the theatre, the legion, the cafe, the school field, and the street... I missed way more amazing music than I saw, and that's just the kind of weekend it is. My campsite neighbour Blair made me cry on two successive mornings, reciting his poetry and stories over Irish coffees brewed on a campstove in the dirt road. Epic jams happened everywhere. Ramshackle marching bands rolled through town. I left with myriad magical moments and two amazing sunrises forever burned into my brain. I could go on and on about the weekend, but words fail me, so I'll borrow someone else's. As Corin Raymond said after this, his second year there, "ArtsWells is a dimensional crossroads, a portal-world, a gateway to the life of the heart you gambled on. ArtsWells is where dreams go to discover that they were right all along, and that every broke-ass, exhausted road you've chosen was worth it." That pretty well sums it up. Something changed in me that weekend, too, and though I can't really put it into words, let's just say that I feel freer, and lighter, and more in love with life ever since.

We had a little ArtsWells after-party at Nancy O's in Prince George on the Tuesday with help from Wax Mannequin and David Simard, and then made our bone-tired way back to Edmonton to get ready for the Edmonton Folk Fest, by far the biggest gig I've ever played, and one I've dreamed of playing for years. I've never been more rehearsed for a show before; in addition to having just gotten off the road with the boys, we did four more runs through of the set for good measure. And I think we did pretty good. Thanks to the kind folks who showed up to cheer us on at 11am, I'm glad we could share that moment.

The following week I made a quick rip out to Saskatoon for a gig I'd booked ages before, not realizing how thin I'd be stretched by then, and then back to Edmonton for one sweet day that managed to include a PA drop-off, a yoga class, birthday dinner with my folks, TJ Dawe's stunningly good play Medicine, and Miss Quincy and the Showdown with the Party on High Street at Wunderbar. It was a bittersweet visit, rushed as it was, and I resolved to make more time to hang around home next summer.

The next day I rushed around tying up loose ends and then raced to the Come By the Hills fest near Wainwright, arriving with five minutes to spare before showtime. We partied late that night (I blame Jeff Stuart and the Hearts) and I woke up at noon, having slept through my alarm, and almost certain I was going to miss my show at Central Music Fest in Red Deer. The roads were open and fortune was kind, though, and I arrived there with five minutes to spare as well, my band already set up on stage. From there we raced to Calgary, and thanks to a mid-trip traffic jam warning from Sean Brewer, arrived with twenty minutes to spare... three close calls in a row. The stroke of midnight that night, during the afterparty at the Palomino, marked the end of my early thirties. Hopefully I'll learn to manage my time better, now that I'm a grownup.

The following day I played a lovely matinee at Gallery House Concerts before heading southeast out of town. I had four days to get to Chicago, with no gigs in between, and my body apparently saw its window of opportunity, reducing me to a sniffling, sneezing mess for the ride down. I guess I'd been outrunning it for a while there.

On the way across the country, I entertained myself as I often do on long drives, by practicing my homespun version of Tuvan throat singing, playing harmonica (don't worry, I play it on the brace, and therefore handsfree), and listening to AM radio. I know, some people say you just shouldn't do that, but I can't help myself. And I actually do find it kinda instructive. It's interesting to see how public opinion is shaped, and how people like Michael Savage and Sean Hannity frame their arguments in such a way as to make them sound reasonable. It's also interesting to listen to people like Norman Goldman on the occasional "progressive talk" station, and notice just how closely they resemble the right-wing hosts, in their one-sidedness, and their ridicule and contempt for the other side. It makes me wonder how things will ever change in this country, when we're so far apart that we can't even talk nice to one another.

Things are particularly scary on the AM dial these days, with a presidential election looming in November, and everyone anxious to out-flank one another, especially to the right. I shouldn't actually say 'right', though, because those who would sell off all of the public wealth to corporations aren't actually conservative at all; they have a very different, radical vision for America's future. The real rub of it is that their only real competition is a supposedly liberal, even "socialist" president who has enthroned the very architects of the financial crisis at the top of his administration, supported the notion that corporations are people, passed a law requiring people to buy private health insurance under the guise of public healthcare for all, appointed a former Monsanto VP to the top position at the Food and Drug Administration, censured and even tortured brave whistleblowers like Bradley Manning, and written his right to assassinate whomever he chooses, American citizen or not, anywhere into the world, into law, something not even George W. and his Patriot Act could accomplish.

I only mention all this to ask you the question that's always on my mind: how do we turn this ship around? How do we challenge public ignorance and the continuing corporate takeover that very ignorance makes possible?

One bright spark of late came from an anonymous collective of Russian punk rockers called Pussy Riot, who sang a satirical prayer asking the Virgin Mary to become a feminist and drive out President Putin in an Orthodox cathedral whose Patriarch has publicly endorsed Putin as a "gift from God". Three of the ladies (two of whom are mothers) were sentenced to two years in jail. How is that a bright spark, you may ask? Well, as hard a price as it was for those women to pay, their act of defiance and their refusal to apologize for it reverberated around the world. It exposed the brutality of the machine for what it is, and it reminded us all of what punk rock can be. If enough of us could be stirred to similar acts of defiance, the whole edifice would come crumbling down, here, there and everywhere.

The long days of driving were broken up by lovely night-time stops in Chicago, Illinois; Bloomington, Indiana; Columbus, Ohio; and East Lansing, Michigan, and visits with fellow troubadours Eric Nassau, Heather Styka and Emily Hurd. The next stop was Ann Arbor, the town where my parents met, when they were both students at University of Michigan, where I got to sing a few songs and afterparty with Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys, who are truly amazing.

The next day I headed up to the Earthwork farm to help out with their work bee, and soak up a dose of what I'll be missing the weekend of Earthwork Harvest Gathering, when I'll be on the other side of the Big Pond. It's great work they're doing there, growing real food, working towards sensible and sustainable solutions for local needs, connecting faith communities and non-profits, and broadening the vast musical and artistic family that we're all a part of. As anyone who's been involved in things like this knows, it's not always glamorous, there are constant problems inherent in working closely with people, and it's very easy to feel isolated, weak, and inconsequential. But from time to time we also get inklings of our own power to change the world, one little buying decision, one act of solidarity, and one friendship at a time.

The next day I visited Kalamazoo to sing a few songs with my besties Picture The Ocean, on their first trip through Michigan, and what a surreally blessed time that was. The following night I played Charlevoix with the head farmers at Earthwork farm, Seth Bernard and May Erlewine. It was a real honour for me, one of those moments when an arc that started years ago joins to form a circle. We after-partied back at the farm and I woke bleary-eyed and early to drive out to Thumbfest in Lexington, Michigan, my record-breaking thirteenth festival of the summer.

After a few days visiting my grandma on the Cook family farm, I was back on the road for shows in Benzonia and Bellaire with my friends from the Fauxgrass Quartet, a truly awesome Michigan band, another show with Seth & May in Traverse City, and a lovely stop at Crazy Wisdom Tea Room in Ann Arbor. This has been the best tour I've had so far in the States, just on account of playing with so many folks I admire, and connecting with so many good people, but it also doesn't hurt that I've actually made money for once!

Tomorrow I'll be playing the Moonshine Cafe in Oakville, and Tuesday I'll be reuniting with Picture The Ocean for their Tuesday residency at the Cameron House in Toronto before I head to the airport. I know, I like to cut it close. I'm a glutton for amusement. I honestly tried to change, but I just can't. I've gotta pay my Toronto peeps a visit before I ship out. If you're around and wanna say hi, we'll be there from 5 o'clock on. Come down and have a pre-drink, cause I've got no time for a post-drink. Their show runs 6-8pm; I'll be on around 6:30 and on a bus (or hopefully, in a nice friend's car) by 7 or so.

The very next night, Sept 12th, I'll be on stage in Bristol, UK with my longtime compadre Jez Hellard, with four weeks of rambling to follow through England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. All the details, as usual, are on my news page. For residents of Faceburg, the event page is here, and I'd really appreciate you passing it on. If you see a hole in the schedule and can think of something to fill it, whether venue, house concert, or jam in the woods, drop me a line! I've never been to Europe before, and I'm beyond stoked to be finally making the trip.

Well friends, if you've made it this far with me, I salute you. It's hard to sum up such a long ramble in such a short space, and it leaves me feeling like I've omitted so much detail, like I haven't done justice to so many people and places along the way. Every stop had gracious hosts, interesting conversations with new friends, natural beauty, true stories, and inspiration. That's partly what I love about this life, the chance to check in with so many different people and places, and the feeling that in some way they're all connected. And as much as the surface of things, that you see from the interstate, watch on the TV, or hear on the radio, can seem terribly bleak, I have it on firsthand knowledge that there are networks of inspired and inspiring people everywhere, working in their own small ways toward a more humane and sensible world. There's a lesson to be found in building a house with straw, in little buying decisions swaying entire economies, and in the Liliputians tying up the giant Gulliver with thread: even the weakest thing, the thinnest thing, when you have thousands of them, can be the strongest thing.

Keep working, friends! With all my love, til we meet next,

s


May 9, 2012: Lessons from two wheels, Van Isle shows tonight & tomorrow, Open Sky Music Fest, and the summer ahead



Howdy friends,

This here's a rare mid-month update, written from a beautiful spot among the tall trees of Vancouver Island. I'm only three weeks into the road, but it already feels like lots has happened, and a travelogue's in order.

The forbiddingly-named Wrong Way to Wander? 2012 Bicycle Tour was a learning experience, to be sure. I loaded up the bike and set out from Balfour on a beautiful sunny day, with four hours to get to Kaslo and lots of hills in between. I walked the bike up the big ones, pouring sweat, for the payoff of whizzing down the other side. Dug the views of Kootenay lake, the breaths of fresh cool air from every waterfall and rivulet along the roadside, the spring smells of soil, pine, and sage on the breeze, and the deer watching quizzically but unflinching as I rode by. It took me about four hours to reach Kaslo, and I felt amazing sailing down the hill into town, surprisingly energized to play for the good folks at Bluebelle Bistro.

The next day was a stiffer climb, pretty much all uphill to Retallack, and my body felt like lead. I'd been warned in Kaslo about the following day's ride to Silverton, and was actually contemplating taking a lift at least partway there, when a car drove past with the word "COMMIT" in big letters across the bumper. I laughed at myself for giving up so easily, and decided to soldier on. Had another laugh at myself for taking synchronistic sage advice from bumper stickers. I reached Retallack around supper-time, to find a group of folks drinking beers in the parking lot, gathering for the hike up the hill to the cabin. After an hour's walk we reached it, a beautiful place my friends built themselves over the last couple years. Folks set to cooking and amazing smells filled the cabin as more friends trickled in. There was supposed to be an opening act by the name of Andre, but we got word from some recent arrivals who had seen him and his bicycle in Kaslo, meaning he was still hours out, so I opened the show for him. It was an hour or two longer before he arrived, triumphantly exhausted, announcing "they say a man should know his limitations, but you have to reach them to know them!" as he came in the door. He'd heard that I was from Edmonton, and on a bicycle tour, and assumed that I had ridden all the way from Edmonton, apparently mistaking me for someone way more hardcore than I am. Inspired, he set out to ride from Nelson, and though he was only carrying an accordion, it was more than twice the ride I'd done that day. He wasn't even carrying a light, and wouldn't have made it up the hill at all had he not found my headlight, stashed in our friends' car at the bottom of the hill. I laid down in the loft and listened as he told the story of his journey and the animals he saw along the way, angular melodies lilting from the accordion and weaving a delicate spell in the room.

I woke up with the dawn and stole out of the house, trying not to rouse the sleepers. It was an amazing ride along the creek that follows the road that morning, passing two lakes with ice still floating on them, no traffic yet, just that lovely alpine stillness and the occasional bird whizzing by. Felt awesome coasting down the long hill into New Denver, where I ate and stocked up before heading to Silverton and beginning the long climb I'd been warned about. I think it took about two hours to walk the bike up that one hill, stopping every little while to hide, panting, in the shade. Finally at the summit, sweat-soaked, sunburned and aching, I realized that the worst was over, and I could probably make it to Winlaw in time for the gig. Amazing. Friends and strangers passed me along the way with honks and waves and words of encouragement through the day, and all throughout the trip as a matter of fact; a nice contrast to Alberta, where a honk more likely means "get off the road, hippie!" Running a little late, along the back road into Winlaw, two dudes in a car yelled out "Scott Cook!", and offered to take my guitar to the show, with word that I was en route. I arrived at Sleep is for Sissies to a hero's welcome from a lovely crowd, with friends from far and wide among them, and rolled out of town the next day with a heartful.

I was feeling my left knee, though, and had no less of a long day's ride ahead of me. I did manage to make it back to Nelson that night, and wow did it ever look beautiful in the fading light as I rode up the West Arm. The following day I headed back out toward Balfour, where Old Blue was parked, and that's where the real struggle began, between the urge to finish the mission, and the obviously more important priority of not hurting myself. It was interesting to watch the way my mind worked, the way I resisted giving up, even though I'd be risking only my pride, rather than my health, by doing so. I was reminded of a passage from Miguel Ruiz' book The Four Agreements, which I'd seen in a friend's bathroom years ago, and saw again in my new friend Ricardo's bathroom in Winlaw just days before: "Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret." I thought of my yoga teachers' constant reminders that as soon as you go beyond your ability or use your body to do something it's not ready to do, the yoga ceases to exist. On the other hand were the decades of cinematic machismo I've absorbed along the way in life. Thankfully I chose the wiser option, and took the van to Sirdar that night rather than attempting the impossible, or at least very stupid. The next I drove back to Balfour & did the short ride to Crawford Bay, where I had a lovely reception at the newly-re-envisioned Junction Creek Hub (the old CCR Pub for those who know the East Shore). My knee wasn't better, though, and I had to give up on the triumphant arrival in Nelson, the dream of breaking the tape with my hands held aloft amid a cloud of confetti, bevies of beautiful onlookers, and frothing champagne... I accepted two rides from friends, and took the van back to Nelson. It was actually a pretty slim turnout for the last show, but folks were kind, and I left the Kootenays feeling grateful, soul-fed and mellowed as always.

The trip had lessons to teach me, lessons that I'd heard told countless times, and sound incredibly banal when written out, but acquired weight through the hours of struggle. First, slow and steady wins the race. And second, it's about the journey, not the destination. Every endeavour, relationship, study or practice involves work, but it's gotta be done for the process itself, not the payoff; gotta love it now or not at all, because now is all we get. I resolved to look anew at all I hope to accomplish--and there's a lot ahead, friends!--through those twin lenses, and save myself unnecessary pain along the way.

I carried on further west by van, making a stop in Penticton along the way for a show at the Dream Cafe, a gig I'd been trying to land for years, and one that exceeded even my expectations. Humbled, honoured, and grateful to play for that room full of kind folks, and to see those years of persistence bear fruit. In Vancouver, I got to meet up with my buddy Eric Nassau and his girlfriend Courtney, who were traveling all the way from Columbus, Ohio, and were timely enough that Eric could share a show with David Newberry, Jenny Ritter and me; a fine introduction to BC for our American guests. I had lovely visits to Gabriola and Salt Spring islands for a couple shows, and then took the bicycle to Port Angeles, Washington last weekend for the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts, where I got to hang with fellow Canadians Fish & Bird and Maria in the Shower. I played to a packed room of kind folks, got standing ovations and two encores (first time from a sober crowd!), and sold out all the CDs I'd brought. Oh, and earlier that day, I dropped my front bike tire off the edge of a sidewalk and flew right over the handlebars, landing in front of a dude mowing the lawn who couldn't help but burst out laughing.

Back in Canada, I played a house concert in Powell River, and the first music night at my dear friend Jen's restaurant, Sassy's Place. Tonight, I'm teaming back up with David Newberry, who's releasing his excellent new album No One Will Remember You with his band, Friday June 1st at Solstice in Victoria, Saturday afternoon at the Duncan Garage, and Saturday evening at Joe's Garage in Courtenay. If you can't catch the shows, at least introduce yourself to Dave's work on http://davidnewberry.ca. The new album's excellent, showcasing some fine playing and production, Dave's killer voice, and songs that feel current and urgent in a way not much does anymore, to these ears at least.

After the weekend I'm headed back to Alberta, playing a charity showcase in Vancouver Tuesday June 5, Serenity Music in Birch Island Wednesday June 6, and the Whistle Stop in Jasper Thursday June 7, getting back to Edmonton in time for Picture The Ocean's CD release Friday June 8th at Bonnie Doon Hall. Head on over to my news page for the deets.

The rest of next weekend, I'll be hanging out at the Open Sky Music Festival in Hawrelak Park, watching the Wailers, Mishka, Souljah Fyah, Third Branch, Tatam Reeves, Wool on Wolves, Darryl Matthews, Current Swell, Del Barber, Five Alarm Funk and a whole lot more. The Long Weekends and I are playing Sunday, June 10 at 1pm. It's early, I know, but we're gonna do our best to get you dancing anyhow. Get your tickets here and let's kick off the summer right.

After the fest I'm playing a house show in Edson June 14, and doing the hosting duties at Devaney's June 18, and then summer's pretty well kicking into gear. On the calendar are North Country Fair, Freedom Fest in Moose Jaw, Cicada Fest in Niagara Falls, South Country Fair, Sasquatch Gathering in Evansburg, ArtsWells, Come By The Hills Music Festival near Wainwright, Central Music Fest in Red Deer, the Spaghetti Western Festival in Calgary, Thumbfest in Michigan, and of course a bunch of gigs in between, all listed on the news page.

One gig that I've been itching to announce, but only just added to that list the day before yesterday, is the big show: Edmonton Folk Fest, August 9-12 on Gallagher Hill. I can't even tell you how happy I am to be on this bill. I've been dreaming of playing since my first visit; have applied for ten years straight, since Tyler and I were recording demos with a minidisc player around my kitchen table in Taiwan, and finally got the good word while I was in Taiwan this last time. Incredibly grateful to see another dream coming true. Tickets apparently sold out in five minutes this morning, but if you didn't get yours and want to come, there's always some to be found by hanging around the gate.

Well, friends, that's all the news for now. Summer's upon us, and it's looking wonderful. Old Blue is homey as ever, kitted out with a plug-in cooler, a re-stocked bar, and a sprouter! That's right, I'm trying my hand at mini-van mini-gardening, sprouting lentil, mung bean, garbanzo bean and alfalfa in the back as we speak. Drop by at a fest sometime; we can hang out in the back porch, munch on sprouts and mix interesting drinks by the glow of the hatchback light.

Don't forget to pack your rubber boots! Happy trails, and big love,

s


May 9, 2012

Hey there friends,

I'm writing you from the doorstep of a great adventure, or maybe misadventure... only time'll tell. I'm about to embark on a seven-day, six-show bicycle tour of the Kootenays, my second tour by bike after 2010's ill-fated Wrong Way to Wander? Tour, and I'm hoping for clearer, hail-free skies and better luck. I've abandoned the trailer in favour of a gig bag on my back for the guitar, gotten myself into much better shape than I was in two years ago, and abandoned the windy wheatfields of Southern Alberta for the sheltered rainbow valleys of the central Kootenays... all good decisions, I reckon. The schedule's as follows:

Fri May 11 - Kaslo - Bluebelle Bistro
Sat May 12 - Retallack - Cabin concert at the Eastern Sun Hut
Sun May 13 - Winlaw - Sleep is for Sissies, 6-8pm
Tue May 15 - Sirdar - open stage feature at Sirdar Pub
Wed May 16 - Crawford Bay - Junction Creek Hub
Thu May 17 - Nelson - Tour finale at John Ward Fine Coffee, 8-10pm

All the deets, as usual, are on my site, and of course if you have friends lucky enough to live in the beautiful Kootenays, I'd really appreciate you sending them my way. Once the bike tour's wrapped up, I'm headed further west by van for more dates:

Fri May 18 - Greenwood, BC - Deadwood Junction, 5-7pm
Sat May 19 - Penticton - Dream Cafe
Sun May 20 - Vancouver - Songwriters in the round with David Newberry, Jenny Ritter and Eric Nassau at Little Mountain Gallery
Wed May 23 - Gabriola Island - Degnen Bay House Concerts
Thu May 24 - Salt Spring Island - Tree House Cafe
Fri-Mon May 25-28 - Port Angeles, WA - Juan De Fuca Festival of the Arts
Wed May 30 - Powell River - House concert at Higgins Inn
Thu May 31 - Brentwood Bay - Sassy's Place, 7-9pm
Fri June 1 - Victoria - Solstice Cafe, opening for David Newberry
Sat June 2 - Duncan - Garage Showroom, opening for David Newberry, 2pm
Sat June 2 - Courtenay - Joe's Garage, opening for David Newberry, 8pm
Tue June 5 - Vancouver - Just Singin' Round charity showcase at Vancouver Rowing Club in Stanley Park
Wed June 6 - Birch Island, BC - Serenity Music, 6pm
Thu June 7 - Jasper, AB - Whistle Stop Pub


This will be my only visit to most of these places this year, so I hope to see you if you're around! I'll be returning to Edmonton in time for my good friends Picture The Ocean's CD release June 8th at Bonnie Doon Hall, and the Open Sky Music Festival in Hawrelak Park, June 8-10. They had about 4000 through the doors last year and expect more this year, so get your tickets now if you're coming. The Long Weekends and I are playing Sunday at 1:30pm. Also on the bill are The Wailers, Mishka, Five Alarm Funk, and Edmonton favourites Souljah Fyah, The Collective West, Wool On Wolves, Third Branch, Tatam Reeves and many, many more. Check it out here.

The summer's looking mighty full already, with thirteen festivals (a new personal record!) and plenty of other gigs across Canada and Stateside, before I head to Europe in the fall. Lots of doors seem to be opening for me this year, and horizons widening. I'm incredibly grateful for your support along the way, friends; I wouldn't have stayed in the game this long without it.

I had a nice month around Edmonton catching up with friends, playing a few shows, and pouring myself into daily yoga practice, which has really done wonders for my health and my outlook. I even got a big surprise in the form of an Edmonton Music Award for male artist of the year. I've never won anything like that, and while the whole idea of contests in art is kind of funny, it was nice to be noticed. Leaving the after-party, I was unlocking my bike when a young dude asked, "hey, didn't you win male artist of the year tonight? What are you doing going home by bike?" Perhaps he was under the impression that local award winners travel home by limo, or helicopter. I assured him that I was only riding my bicycle because I'd had a couple beers, and not to worry, I have a van. Which I'm living in. Hope I didn't shatter any illusions for aspiring folk stars.

This last month also brought the opportunity to make a surprise appearance to the Spring Scream festival in Kenting, Taiwan, via a Skype call. The organizers of Spring Scream set up a giant projection screen, and put out the call to artists around the world to Skype themselves into the festivities. I called from a house in Calgary, the morning after a house concert with Montreal's Gabrielle Papillon and Corinna Rose. It was around noon there, and around 3am Friday night at the festival. I could barely make out the faces of friends among the crowd, and of course had a crazy time lag to make things even more interesting. Friends came up to the camera, cracked beers and cheers'd us. Someone pointed the camera back so I could see myself towering over them on the 30-foot screen. I toured them around the house we were staying at, introduced them to our hosts, and showed them the breakfast we were about to eat. One of the roommates juggled eggs, followed by delayed cheers from the crowd, and broke one, followed by delayed "ooooh"s... We sang a few songs, and I even led them in a little call-and-response, made even more hilarious by the absurdly long time-lag. It was definitely one of the most surreal experiences technology has served up for me yet.

A couple weeks later, I had the opportunity to sing to the bride's side of a wedding party in Mexico, putting the information highway to bizarre use once again. They showed me the waves curling in on the beach, I showed them the snow falling on the street outside Mike Dunn's house, and we had a cheers across the miles. I'm thinking I should start hiring myself out as a Skype singer... weddings, parties, anything! Drop a line if you're interested. Seriously.

On a sober note, this past month saw the deaths of Levon Helm, who brought us so many great songs; MCA, who helped introduce me and so many other white kids to hip-hop; and Kristina Romanyshyn, a friend, an activist, a dancer and a much-loved member of Edmonton's community. Losing these bright lights, especially the one I knew and loved, has given me pause to think about how fragile and miraculous this life is. And sad as it is, you reading this are very much alive, and aflame. Shine on, and hold on. This world's a better place with you in it.

With love and admiration,

s


March 24, 2012

Hi friends,

I'm writing you from that monument of sterile modernity, Hong Kong International Airport, as I wait to board a plane for the brown, brown grass of home. I'm just wrapping up an almost three-month visit to Taiwan, capped off with one night in Hong Kong, including my first ever show there, thanks to a hookup via The Bollands, a great Kiwi folk duo I met during my first swing around Taiwan in January. I pulled in last night without much time to spare and soon realized that the Hong Kong Sevens (a huge international rugby tournament, for those like me who have no idea what that is) is happening this weekend, and consequently the whole place is crawling with burly English dudes in athletic wear. Perhaps most among the sports, rugby fans look like rugby players. I hopped a shuttle and eventually wound my way to Wan Chai, where even more rugby fans mingled with bankers, brokers and businessmen in tailored suits, elegantly dressed Chinese ladies, and working girls from every nation in the pervasive rowdy din and neon glow. I was mighty tired, lugging two big bags and feeling the effects of a predictably epic last night in Taipei, but the thought of a hotel to drop my stuff at was quickly abandoned when the incomprehensibly quoted HK$ price was helpfully recalculated into an easily understood 487 USD. Nevertheless, there was fun to be found in the boom town, even for a poor boy like me. I played at a storied old bar called The Wanch alongside three high-energy local rock bands, sold CDs at name-your-price since I had no idea what the going rate was, met some kind folks, and felt that familiar kind of new and alive that goes with being in a totally unfamiliar place.

It's been an epic ramble on this side of the world, friends, but my mind's already wandering Turtle Island. I'm actually kinda homesick for friends, family, and Old Blue, the Dodge Caravan I like to call home.

The summer ahead's looking great so far, with lots of exciting news that I'll tell you about soon. In the immediate future, there are a couple things I want to mention: Wednesday March 28, the Long Weekends and I are playing a show in Calgary's big, beautiful Engineered Air Theatre, as part of the Transcanada Alberta Music Series. The whole series is going to be incredible, with a different theme for each of the four nights. Joining us for the Folk/Roots Session are Picture the Ocean (the band that used to be known as Jesse Dee and Jacquie B), Hollow Brethren & John Wort Hannam. Tickets are priced affordably at $15 for the night or $53 for a pass for the whole series. This is by far the biggest show we've ever played in Calgary, and we really hope to see some familiar faces. Get your tickets here.

The other thing coming up soon that I'm really excited about is Corin Raymond and the Sundowners' appearance at Festival Place in Sherwood Park, Sunday March 25. This is another big, beautiful room and I sure hope us fans of real music can pack it for what will undoubtedly be an unforgettable evening. Corin's band is truly incredible, and they've got fistfuls of accolades between them to prove it. His killer sidewoman Treasa Levasseur will be opening the show with some of her own soul, blues and funk-inflected tunes. Do not miss this night if you're anywhere in the vicinity, it's gonna be flat-out amazing. There's a link to tickets here.

Other dates on the horizon include: Thu - March 29 - Rosebud, AB - CANCELLED, sorry! Fri - March 30 - Twin Butte, AB - Twin Butte General Store, 8pm. Fri - April 6 - Canmore - The Communitea with Gabrielle Papillon and Corinna Rose! Sat - April 7 - Edmonton - Black Dog Freehouse with Gabrielle Papillon and Corinna Rose, 4-6pm. Sat - April 7 - Edmonton - Waldorf School fundraiser at Bonnie Doon Hall, details TBA. Thu - April 19 - St. Albert - LB's Pub Tue - April 24 - Edmonton - with Jake Ian, Ayla Brook and Sean Brewer at New City Legion

Shortly after that, I'll be headed out to the Kootenays for another bicycle tour, forbiddingly named the Wrong Way to Wander? 2012 Tour. Wish me luck, and snowless roads!

Looking back on this Taiwan ramble, I want to extend my deepest thanks to all the friends who put me up, put up with me, and otherwise made my stay an amazing one. I was especially thrilled at the reprise of Hobo Happiness in Taichung, the two Taichung house concerts, our triumphantly rowdy return to the River in Jungli, and the grande finale at Taipei Artist Village, with talented special guests aplenty. That was one for the ages, I tell ya.

Alita Rickards did a great writeup in the Taipei Times about the last show, linked here.

While here, I also had the opportunity to make two music videos with a very professional production outfit down in Taichung known as The Silent Film. The second has yet to be released, but the first is viewable
here. Hope you enjoy.

And while I'm at it, one more link to add to this salvo. I mentioned that I'd written some songs out in Fulong, and I'd like to share one of them with you loyal readers. Russell Rodgers helped me record it in his home studio in Taichung last week. It's a tune inspired by an after-sunrise conversation on the veranda outside David Ross MacDonald's hotel room at the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals in Niagara Falls last year. David plays an eighty-something-year-old guitar, and makes it sound uncannily beautiful. He was telling me that he'd just had some work done on it, though, and it was like it lost some of its age and funky charm in the process. I offered my condolences, but he shrugged it off, and said he's just borrowing it from the next guy anyhow. That brilliantly stated thought was the seed that grew this song. Hope you dig.

As always, there's some bittersweetness in leaving this side of the world, the familiar sights and smells, the thick-carpeted jungles, the human sea of the cities, and all the people that I care about here, living, struggling on, flourishing, watching their kids grow up. Life goes on everywhere all at once, a truism that becomes clearer and heavier the more places and people we grow to love. In a way, learning to live is learning to let go, and take here and now for what it is, for all that is. Here's to you now, friends, wherever you are. Be well, big love,

s


February 27, 2012

Hi there friend,

If you're reading this on Facebuck, wouldn't it be nice to take this conversation off somewhere a little more private and homey, like your email inbox? Drop a line to grooverevival (at) gmail (dot) com and you'll get my Travelogues live and direct, simple as that. On the other hand, if you're tiring of the sound of my disembodied voice, just reply with 'unsubscribe' and I'll let you off this ship of fools at the very next port.

This particular Travelogue has a novel claim to fame, in that it's the very first Travelogue not to include any travel. I've been parked for a month, and now that it's coming to a close I suppose I can tell you all where I've been hiding. I'm in Fulong, a sleepy little beach town on the northeast coast, where I've rented a place above a Taiwanese gambling den (no word of a lie) for the month. It's been raining nearly constantly, which has been good for my work ethic, but it has shown me a few splendid sunny days as well, including this beautiful sight. I've gotten caught up on plenty of things, emptied both my email inboxes, and even written three songs. But the time here's been good for more than work; it's been good for my soul. As I said last time, I haven't had a break like this since I started this full-time rambling almost five years ago, and as it turns out, I needed it even more than I knew.

Besides work, I've been filling my hours with exercise, yoga, bike rides, and eating healthy, mostly raw. I've haven't had a drink in three weeks, which was a milestone and a learning experience in itself. It's been a drastic change of pace from the road, slowing down, listening to and learning to inhabit my body rather than just driving it around like I do, paying attention to my breath, and watching as thoughts and emotions come up and drift by. Along with all that has come plenty of reflection on this life I've chosen, the enduring reasons for doing it, and the precedence of real human connections over work. I'm very grateful to have had this chance, and all it took was saying no, something I'll hopefully learn to do more often.

The real trick will be remembering all these lessons once I'm back on the road, which is fast approaching. If you're a Farcebook friend of mine, you likely already know that I've got a very physical reminder of a new leaf having been turned... I am shorn, and reborn. If you're still quaintly reading this from the comfort of your own email, here's photo proof. After wearing the same hairstyle (if you can call it that) for twenty years, a change really does feel good. For those who fear I'm sliding perilously close to getting a real job, or joining the Conservative Party, rest assured, my haircut may be respectable, but if so it's alone in that regard.

I've got ten shows coming up around the island in the next three weeks, including visits to Taoyuan, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and the ol' stomping grounds in Jungli, and I'm excited about them all. I'll happily direct you to my website for the details on those, or here if you'd rather stay in Faceburg than dirty your feet in my digital den. But while we're all gathered around here, there are four in particular I'd like to talk more about.

This coming Saturday, March 3rd, my old band The Anglers will be reuniting to rock out at Bobwundaye, alongside our good buddies in High Tide. I'm so looking forward to playing with these guys again. There will be smiles, and hugs, and dancing, probably followed by drunken folly. The Facenbuchen event's here.

Next Friday, March 9th, I'll be playing another house concert in Taichung, in a bigger space this time, with a couple awesome musical guests who will remain unnamed for now. The last Taichung house concert, at Cat Brown's place, was my favourite show of tour so far, and if you were there I think you'll know what I'm talking about. People cried. It meant something.

Music plays all sorts of different roles in our lives, and far be it from me to pick favourites. I like going to a party & carrying on & dancing to a band as much as anyone; in fact, maybe more than most short-haired folks do. But actually sitting down, listening to songs and letting yourself be moved by them isn't what we go to bars for. A listening crowd is a rare thing among the folks I run with here, and I'm very grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to share songs in that kind of setting. Songs can do a lot for you if you hear the words all the way through. They can show you things. They can open your heart. If that kind of thing sounds like your speed, I hope you'll join us on March 9th at Eric Ganassin's house, which also happens to be a great place to go learn yoga, and the very same place I'll be sweating out booze in downward dog two days later. The details are here.

The next day, Saturday March 10th, will indeed be a party. It's been almost two years since I last played the Dakeng Refuge, on a sunny afternoon in May, for a little fest Paul named Hobo Happiness. The Refuge now has new digs, which are amazing, in case you haven't already seen 'em, and Paul's been kind enough to host an even bigger bash this time. It's called Hobo Happiness II; a celebration of the rambling life and a group hug of a day that will include sets from the Anglers, Three Day Bender, Andy Goode & Chris Bailey, Nick Fothergill, Pat Reid, Pauline Edwards, Carrion Crow, Nathan Javens, Kevin MacCash, Tyler Dakin & the Long Naked Bottles, and Taichung's prodigal son Mike Mudd, as well as yummy food, drinks aplenty, good friends, games (oh yes, a party's gotta have games), and as a bonus, no po-po to party-poop. Lordy, it'll be great to see all you good folks. I've been working on a couple old hobo tunes for the occasion that I'm very excited to show you. Doors open at 2pm, music starts at 3pm, and I'm on at 5:15. And I should specify that when I tell you those times, I don't mean Boston Paul time, I mean the time on your watch. I hope you can make it out early, but rest assured, we'll be jamming til late, and when I say late, I mean Boston Paul time. All the info you need is right here.

My last show on the island will be the following Saturday, March 17th, at Taipei Artist Village. This here Freemosan Farewell will feature another boatload of talent, some of whom may be entirely new to you, and some of whom may be all too familiar (you decide). Paul Lawrence, Mister Green, Neil Surkan, Arman Torus, Nathan Javens, Mike Mudd, Tyler Dakin & the Long Naked Bottles, and David Chen & Conor Prunty will all be playing short sets, and of course those ever-lovin' Anglers will close out the evening. Doors open at 3pm and I'm playing at 4pm sharp. It'll all be done by 11 so we can go afterparty wherever's suitable. The deets are right here, and I must say, the poster tickles me somethin' fierce.

Shortly afterward, I'll be packing my bags and boarding a plane for home, with a stop along the way in the Evil Empire, playing the Wanch in Hong Kong March 22nd. If you happen to know anyone there, please send 'em my way. My next big show will be March 28th at the Engineered Air Theatre in Calgary for the Transcanada Alberta Music Series, which is gonna be awesome, and my next hometown show'll be Saturday April 7th at the Black Dog in Edmonton with Gabrielle Papillon and Corinna Rose. Plenty more dates are written on the wall of my humble internet abode over at www.scottcook.net, and you're welcome to stop by any time.

I hope you're all living well, and finding what you need. Like Woody sez, take it easy, but take it. Big love,

Scott


January 31, 2012

Hey friends,

I'm writing you from Tianshang, atop Taroko Gorge near Taiwan's east coast, where I've been bunkered down for a couple days at the Catholic Hostel, chilling out and digging the dizzying mountain views. I wrapped up this leg of my Taiwan tour on Saturday, with a lovely house concert alongside my old friend Mister Green at the St. Onge house in Hualien, and I am now the proud new owner of a month off. I don't think I could be more excited about anything. Some of you may know that I was planning to head to Vietnam for a month of backpacking, but I'm learning, as I trust you are, to listen to that oft-ignored inner voice, and that voice has been whispering for quite some time now that all it really wants is some time in one place, off the road, off the sauce, and out of the scene. I can't tell you where I'll be, because I don't want visitors, but I can say that I'm really looking forward to a disciplined daily routine of exercise, healthy eating and practice.

My sincerest thanks go out to the good people who put me up along this tour; this road-weary hobo is incredibly grateful for your warm welcomes. I also want to thank the venue owners along the way, and especially the hosts of my first three Taiwan house concerts, who helped me introduce a new idea to this island sweetly and painlessly. Thanks also to all the kind folks who came out to say hi, took in the shows, and let themselves be moved by music. It can be a cold, unfeeling world out there, and I'm sure glad folks like you are in it. Thanks lastly to the people of this island, for their unfailing kindness, helpfulness, and generosity toward strangers, reminding me why I love this place so much.

It was an amazing ride around the island on two sets of borrowed wheels (thanks Alita & Steve), and I even covered some completely new territory along the way, thanks to a golden page of directions from a veteran explorer of this island known as Tea Andy. Cha Shan was the town I dug most, and I'd recommend it to any Freemosans reading this and thinking about a road trip.

Spending a lot of time alone on my old stomping grounds has given me plenty of occasion for reflection, on old times here and on how much my life has changed in the almost five years since I left the classroom to embark on a full-time career in the financial bonanza that is original roots music. Each visit back to Taiwan shows reminders of the years passing, new grey in friends' beards and hair, new wrinkles, a new measured pace to some of our lives, new acceptance of time's lessons, new gardens, new babies joining our families, and forever new plans and schemes growing and hatching. One thing I've been continually reminded of along the way is how grateful I am for old friends who know you and are on your side come what may, and how wonderful a gift it is to go through this life in such good company.

Lots of fun stuff is coming up in March, and I'll be in touch about all that closer to the time. For now, all I really want to say is Xin Nian Quai Le, or for those who don't read that, here's wishing you a happy (lunar) new year. It's the year of the Dragon, which happens to be my year, for whatever that's worth.

If you're in the mood for more reading after this amazingly succinct Travelogue, here's a poem for the new year that a much younger me wrote around this time eleven years ago, closing out the last Dragon year, the words of which have been coming back to me along this trip.

Be well, keep pushing,

Scott

PS: I had to add one little item of interest on here, and see no more fitting place than a postscript, as it's about the king of postscripts himself, Corin Raymond. As loyal readers of this Travelogue already know, he's one of my favourite songwriters ever. He's written so many killer songs that it's kind of ironic that a little novelty tune about Canadian Tire Money that he co-wrote with Rob Vaarmeyer is getting him more media traction than anything else he's done, but so it goes. His band The Sundowners made a live recording of two shows last week, consisting of songs by friends of his (including, to my great delight, my tune 'The Lord Giveth'), and his campy new campfire classic Canadian Tire tune. He's going to release a live album compiled from the two nights, and he's hoping to pay for the whole thing with Canadian Tire Money. This uniquely Canadian effort has landed him spots on The National, As It Happens, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Global TV, the Toronto Star, and who knows where else... even fan videos like this wonderful little serving of Vancouver love. If you're curious, you can read all about the ongoing campaign at www.dontspendithoney.com. The short of it is, he still needs a lot of Sandy McTyre's to make this crazy dream happen, so please, if you've got some of the stuff lying around, send it on to Corin Raymond, 39 Oxford Street, Toronto, ON, M5T 1N8. Nothing would make 'the enthusiasm that walks like a man' happier.

That's all for now, friends. Here's to new chapters that we write ourselves. Big love,

s


December 7, 2011

Hey friends,

I'm writing you from my prairie home, where I've been laying lower than usual for three weeks already, really appreciating the chance to get off the frosty road, slow down, and catch up on life. There's still lots to be done before I fly out to Asia January 3rd, including years of back taxes to file, which I'm naturally elated about.

I played my one proper hometown show of the season on Saturday, opening for Bill Bourne and the Free Radio Band, and was sure glad to be a part of that magic night. I've got a few more things coming up around the province in the next while:

Fri Dec 9 - Calgary - house concert in Northwest Calgary with Trina Nestibo
Sat Dec 10 - Calgary - house concert in Southeast Calgary
Mon Dec 12 - Edmonton - hosting open stage at Devaney's
Fri Dec 16 - Edmonton - playing a few tunes with the help of the Hobo Hifi to raise funds for Occupy Edmonton at the ARTery
Sun Dec 18 - Edmonton - playing a few tunes to help raise money for the Bissell Centre at On The Rocks
Wed Dec 21 - Edmonton - singing at the International Airport, 2-5pm
Thu Dec 22 - Canmore - joining Jesse Dee & Jacquie B at the Canmore Hotel
Fri Dec 23 - Golden - Winston Lodge

All the details, as usual, are on my site. I'll be spending Christmas with my family and shortly thereafter I'll be boarding a plane for Taiwan. I sure do miss Ihla Freemosa, and am really looking forward to spending time with the good folks there. Shows are being added as we speak, and the whole calendar will be viewable on my site as it comes together.

Speaking of all that, there's an idea I'd like to float out to the good folks reading this, and especially those in Taichung City, and that's the idea of hosting a house concert. I don't think I can overstate what a big difference the recent revival of the house concert idea has made to my career here over the last four years. Frankly, house concerts are what's kept me on the road.

A bit of explanation's evidently in order, because plenty of people keep asking me what they're all about. First off, it's important to distinguish a house concert from a house party, because I've run into that confusion firsthand, and while I love house parties, I don't schedule shows at them, usually just preferring to get inebriated and make a fool of myself. A house concert, on the other hand, is a concert in a house. Like a concert in a theatre, the audience doesn't carry on conversations during the show. But unlike a concert in a theatre, there's no stage and no amplification, which makes for an intimacy you can never get in a big venue. The host invites their friends, who bring their own booze and food to share if they like. They show up, hang out for a bit, then sit down and watch the first set, followed by a break to stretch legs, refill drinks, meet folks, and (hopefully!) buy lots of CDs, followed by another set of music. Things are usually done before late, and it costs way less than a night out at the bar. Tickets are sometimes sold in advance, or the money can just be collected at the door or during the show. House concerts here usually draw 25-50 people (some rare ones seat up to a hundred), and charge $10-$20. Lots of established artists in North America and elsewhere are going this route, finding that they make more money, connect on a deeper level with audiences, and get to avoid spending their lives in bars and dealing with sleazy promoters.

As far as I know, this idea hasn't really caught on in Taiwan yet. But a city like Taichung, where all the small venues have been shut down by an overblown licensing issue, seems ripe for trying it out. So I'm floating this out to you, dear readers. I've already scheduled an appearance at Boston Paul's Refuge in March, but I'd really like to do an intimate, unamplified show in Taichung City on Saturday January 14 or Sunday January 15. I'm also open to shows elsewhere on the island, and anywhere in the world for that matter. If you can reasonably expect to get 25 or more friends together (at 200nt apiece, for those in Taiwan) I would love to hear from you. Drop me a line at grooverevival (at) gmail (dot) com and we'll get the ball rolling.

If you'll bear with me, there are two more orders of business I should mention in this uncharacteristically brief travelogue. First, it's the time of year when performer lineups get decided for Canadian festivals. I'm applying to a bunch of them, but not much usually happens on the basis of a presskit alone. If you'd like to see me at your favourite festival, please, say so to the booker. It couldn't hurt, and it could very well help. Secondly, it's also that time of year when you might be trying to think of Christmas presents, so I'll take this opportunity to suggest (not without ulterior motives, of course) that CDs make great gifts. If you order in the next few days, it'll have plenty of time to get there. I'll even sign it for the intended recipient; just add a note to the order or shoot me an email so I make it out to the right person.

And that, friends, is a wrap. Wasn't that quick and painless? Thanks, as always, for reading, and for your gracious support. Here's wishing you a blessed Christmas, Hanukah, Solstice, Festivus, and whatever else floats your holiday boat. Sending big love your way, and hoping our paths cross soon,

Scott


November 2, 2011


Hey friends,

I'm writing you from the upstairs of the Apollo, that most stalwart of stopovers along Lake Superior's north shore, where nearly every musician in Canada has laid their head at one time or another, and many have left their empties as proof. Sheila and Tina (and Alex, their sound guy) are a bulwark of hospitality in this somewhat desolate, sketchy town, and have long been one of few stops along this sparsely populated stretch of road. Last night I played another, Serendipity Gardens in Rossport, for four customers and two staff. Tonight there was TWICE that many, a good night in T-Bay. The night before last, I played at a new Northern Ontario stopover, The Auld Kirk in Thessalon, where I thankfully had some family to round up a crowd that broke ten. Friday night I'll be visiting another such place, Pappy's Cafe at Green Achers (sic) in lovely little Wabigoon, where I expect similar numbers.

First-time travellers would find it hard to believe this is the middle of Canada. It's a whole lot of rock, dotted with trees, lakes, birds, roadkill, and tiny little towns with obscure but loudly-trumpeted claims to fame. Home of Roberta Bondar, Canada's first female astronaut and the first neurologist in space! Home of this one-time Olympic pairs figure skating medalist or that two-time champion curler. Home of Winnie the Pooh; or rather, the town where the bear cub was sold to the guy who wrote the story. In every direction, the wilderness stretching out huge and as yet untamed, and the crackle of the CBC (which incidentally turned 75 today) bringing news of the wider world through the static.

The last time I wrote you, friends, I had just arrived in Toronto, which is a different sort of place, at the beginning of a month in Ontario. The big town treated us kindly, on four consecutive Tuesdays in the front room of the Cameron House with Jesse Dee, Jacquie B, and other musical friends. It actually felt like we built something over the month, which culminated in a joyous sendoff last Tuesday. Thank you, Torontonian friends, for the warm welcome.

The rest of the weeks were spent out of town, together or apart. We had a sweet visit to the Pie Bird Guesthouse in Nipissing, where we hung out with our hilarious hosts Sherry & Yan and the lovely Jenny Ritter, and attempted to make a music video with a camera strapped to their adorable but wilful goat, Mighty Pepe. We also played Grumpy's Bar in Montreal, the Corktown in Hamilton, and a couple really heartwarming house concerts in Ottawa and Sudbury. On my own, I visited the Acoustic Grill in beautiful Prince Edward County, O'Reilly's Pub in Perth, and a co-operative living space called Terra Firma in Ottawa for a show with my old Taiwan chum Eric Mandala. And for one amazing weekend it seemed all of us roustabouts were together again, in Niagara Falls for the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals, where we schmoozed, boozed, and jammed until the wee hours of the morning. The after-hours scene in David Ross MacDonald's Tunesmiths Room was singularly enthralling, with tunesmith after tunesmith blowing minds, one song at a time, while the rest of us sat enraptured. Somehow I managed to find myself gaping in amazement at the sunrise over the falls two mornings in a row, with Jimmy from the F-Holes blowing the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey both times. Passing tourists en route to my van in such a state, I was reminded of many wide-eyed Taiwan sunrises gone by.

Along the way this month, C.R. Avery got two big tears rolling down my cheek with a song called "One of Those Faces", and Tannis Slimmon made me weep with a song called "Edmonton". Both instances reminded me of what songs can do, and why I set out on this path in the first place.

Speaking of this path, it's leading me homeward for the time being, with some new songs to sing for you along the way. As I said, I'm in Wabigoon tomorrow, then Kenora on Sunday, Winnipeg on Tuesday, Regina Wednesday, Lethbridge Thursday, and then opening for Winnipeg's incredible Scott Nolan as he releases his new disc Montgomery Eldorado at the Ironwood in Calgary, Friday November 11th. If you're in or around Calgary, don't miss this show, it's gonna be magic. It'll also be my last before I head back to Edmonton for six weeks of (mostly) downtime.

The new year will find me back on the green isle of Taiwan, aka Freemosa, and that's something I'm mightily anticipating. I even bought a book with CDs to brush up on my Chinese. For those of you who are already on the island, this year's Peace Fest is coming up next weekend, Nov 11-13, by the pristine mountain streams of San Jhan, Hualien County.

Peace Fest is nine years old this year. It's been through many manifestations, with all kinds of tangles along the way, but at its root, Like the Occupy movements currently catching fire around the globe, it's an exercise in community-building, non-violent political advocacy, non-hierarchical and consensus-based decision making, elucidation of our current political problems, and scheming toward solutions. I hope you can join the good folks there. They're likely still looking for volunteers, and might even have room for more bands, speakers and vendors. Get in touch with them here. Circle up!

That about does it for me, friends. It's going on four in the morning and I best be getting into bed. The pigeons are still roosting outside the window here at the Apollo, and the good songs are still being sung somewhere. Big love and admiration, your friend,

Scott


October 4, 2011

Hey friends,

It's been a while, hasn't it? No excuse but the usual; roads have been keeping me very busy.

I arrived back in Canada yesterday after 3 weeks south of the border, mostly in Michigan. I've had a great time singing songs, camping out, catching up on things, and watching the colours change. This was my fourth year at the Earthwork Harvest Gathering, and it was wonderful as always. This year I was lucky enough to have a band, consisting of my cousin Dylan Cook on banjo and mandolin, head farmer Seth Bernard on guitar, "Huggy Bear" Mark Lavengood on dobro, fine cobbler and all-around great dude Tim McKay on bass, and my friend, Kalamazoo's singing bartender Alison Cole, singing backups on a couple tunes. We played in the barn, site of much Earthwork magic, at 9pm Saturday night. We'd just gotten everything plugged in when the lights went out. Turned out a transformer had blown up, then melted, and both lower stages were out of power. Thankfully, we were all playing acoustic instruments, so we just stepped forward and played in the dark, lit by flashlights from the crowd. It was like time had stopped for the set, pure magic. In the last song, Seth was taking a solo when the christmas lights flickered & then came on, to reveal a roomful of beautiful, beaming people. I walked out of that barn elated at our good fortune. Sometimes life just chooses you. Here's a clip of it, for those of you who couldn't be there.

The following weekend I attended the Folk Alliance Regional Midwest (FARM for short) gathering in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Fellow Earthworkers Red Tail Ring, Trevor McSpadden, and Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys were there. The Flatbellys even backed me up on Saturday night, as Scott Cook and His Very Own Bellies. The whole weekend was fabulous, and a marked contrast to the national event, where I felt more overwhelmed than anything; it was small, unpretentious and just oozing midwestern charm. I also made a lot of connections over the weekend, which explains why I plan to spend more time in the midwest next summer.

I just arrived in Toronto and am digging the sunshine on Queen Street West, despite a little lingering fogginess from the huge Taiwan reunion last night at the Moonshine Cafe in Oakville. Jesse Dee and Jacquie B will be pulling in soon; they're in the midst of the CD release tour for their excellent new album, Our Ghosts Will Fill These Walls, and I feel like I haven't seen them in forever. We're playing the front room of Toronto's storied home of roots music, The Cameron House, this and every Tuesday evening this month, 6 to 8pm. And we'll be releasing both our albums tomorrow, October 5th, in the Cameron House's beautiful, candlelit back room, with our buddy Corin Raymond opening the show. It was actually meant to be David Ross MacDonald's release for his new album Thorns to Sleep, but an unfortunate whittling accident left him with an injured hand, unable to play, so we're taking over. Be careful with knives, kids. Apologies for the short notice, but that's how it happened.

Other dates booked so far are:

Sat Oct 8 - Nipissing - Piebird Bed & Breakfast, with Jesse Dee & Jacquie B
Tues Oct 11 - Toronto - Cameron House, 6-8pm, with Jesse Dee & Jacquie B
Thurs-Sat Oct 13-16 - Niagara Falls - Ontario Council of Folk Festivals
Tues Oct 18 - Toronto - Cameron House, 6-8pm, with Jesse Dee & Jacquie B
Wed Oct 19 - Picton - Acoustic Grill
Sat Oct 22 - Montreal - Grumpy's Bar, with Jesse Dee & Jacquie B
Tues Oct 25 - Toronto - Cameron House, 6-8pm, with Jesse Dee & Jacquie B
Sat Oct 29 - Sudbury - House Concert
Wed Nov 2 - Thunder Bay - The Apollo
Fri Nov 4 - Wabigoon - Pappy's Cafe
Sat Nov 5 - Fort Frances - Little Beaver Cultural Centre

As you may notice, there are still plenty of gaps in there, which I'm open to any and all suggestions to fill. House concerts would be particularly welcome. Feel free to drop a line to grooverevival@gmail.com or call me at 780 695 3474.

There were a lot of roads between now and when we last spoke; so many roads, in fact, that a thorough summer recap would surely bore even you loyal readers to tears, so I'll cut a few corners.

I had a blast showing Steve Gates around our fair province a little bit in July, then reunited with the band for Wild Mountain Music Fest in Hinton, which was a blast as usual. From there we drove out over the Chilcotin plateau, a truly otherworldly stretch of BC road, and down the harrowing switchbacks to Bella Coola, a tiny town tucked into an inlet on BC's wild western coast, for their Discovery Coast Music Festival. We had a great time at the fest, got to know the locals, and were treated to plenty of 'shluk' (salted fish).

After Bella Coola we drove back to Kamloops to meet up with Toronto's own King of the Small Time, Corin Raymond. After a lovely little house concert there we toured our way up the Fraser Valley together to land at the ArtsWells Festival of All Things Art, aka The Bestival. If you ask me, this year was even better than the last. Everybody brought their A game. It was off the hook. I could say more but really, you kind of had to be there. Go next year if you can, you won't be disappointed. Corin got a huge welcome, with a couple standing ovations, and his song 'There Will Always Be a Small Time' became the unofficial theme song of this year's festival. Our grande finale super-band Pooley Street (Corin, Jesse Dee, Jacquie B, Raghu Lokanathan, Karyn Ellis, Taylor Ashton, Sarah Hart, Matt Blackie, Zoe Guigeno, Dave Newberry and yours truly) closed down the fest proper with a big singalong on it, smiles all around.

After ArtsWells I actually had a weekend off, and took in the Edmonton Folk Fest, which was lots of fun despite all the standing in line. I came up with a brilliant idea for a hip-hop version of Four Strong Winds, which I'm told is a shoo-in for next year's finale.

I spent the end of August in Northern BC again this year, playing Robson Valley, Music on the Mountain, and Sweetwater 905 festivals, which were all awesome. I also managed to get some solo camping time in, which was really good for the soul. My summer basically started at the end of April, and continued without a break until then, and I must confess I was starting to get a little tired of partying and meeting people, which is a rare state of affairs, as my friends well know.

Balance is a lifelong lesson, and a lesson for long life. Speaking of which, it's been four and a half years since I left the classroom to play music full-time, and I'm about due for a little vacation. If all goes according to plan, the new year will find me back over in Asia for some downtime, some Chinese study, and hopefully some re-connection with the reasons I set out on this road in the first place. If any of my Freemosan friends know of an available motorbike, I'd be glad to hear about it. I'm looking forward to spending lots of time in the mountains, walking in the jungle and swimming in the streams.

I suppose there's time for one last bit of news in this here travelogue... If you're like me, you may have found occasion for hope in the Occupy Wall Street protests that are currently spreading to various cities across the US and around the world. If you get your news from the TV, you wouldn't have heard much but the oft-repeated claim that they're unclear on what their goals are. If you get your news from the good folks at Democracy Now, you'll likely have a better idea of what's going on. In short, people all over the world are rallying behind the realization that politics as it stands is so completely dominated by corporate, big-money interests as to offer no meaningful choice to voters. If any more evidence is needed in the US, we need look no further than the Democrats' and Republicans' unanimity in support of bailing out the banks and reappointing the very folks who caused the financial crash in the first place, in support of torture at secret sites around the world and here at home in the case of Bradley Manning, in support of environmental destruction for the sake of profit, and in support of the wars that Bush took us into and Obama has escalated. Thankfully, some people in the US are finally refusing to take it lying down. For them, and for you, here's another tune from Moonlit Rambles, inspired after watching the excellent documentary 'Inside Job'. Here ya go, hope you enjoy!

That's all for now, friends. Thanks so much for reading, and you'll hear from me again before long. Bless ya, big love,

Scott


July 1, 2011


Dear friends,

it's taken me three sittings to put this travelogue together, so here they are, in the order I wrote 'em. Thanks for reading & I hope to see you real soon!

-----

Good friends, I'm writing you from the road again, the Trans-Canada this time, as Moses pilots us steadily toward Revelstoke. I managed to catch a couple hours of sleep en route, which was sorely needed after last night's North Country Fair Afterbender, the fourth annual party by that name. We had help from musical friends aplenty: Michael Dunn & the Moanin' After, Robbie Taylor, Haley Myrol, Britt Pernille Froholm, Sean Brewer, onepercentyellow, Johnnie 99, CPTN THNDRPNTZ!, Miss Quincy, The Party on High Street, Aurora Jane, Yuji Ihara, Paul McGowan, and of course Jesse Dee, Jacquie B, and those Long, Long Weekends, living up to their name as usual. With the huge turnout of smiling, dancing folks, I'd say it was the best one yet, an afterparty of homeric proportions to cap off a party as colossal as this year's Fair.

We arrived at the Fair on Wednesday night to rain, mud, and the thought that the van might not make it back out on Monday. Thankfully, there were also friends aplenty, and Myles' big trapper tent with a woodstove inside to keep us toasty. We had two grey days of hanging out, snuggled in the ol' Pilsner blanket, to make us really appreciate the sun rolling around on Friday to open the festivities. We played main stage Friday night & I was so overwhelmed to see all the beautiful people grooving in the sunshine that I even forgot the words in the chorus of Fish Jumpin'. Go figure. Our other band set was late Saturday night, 3ish in the AM Sunday morning to be exact, and it went on til the beautiful pink sunrise, our brains all lit up like Christmas trees. We had a special guest on stage with us that night, all the way from Toronto for his first Fair, none other than Mr. Corin Raymond. He sang his song "That's Life (Loving You Right Back)", which we've been singing to close every show on this band tour, and it was one of those moments when you feel an arc that started years ago join to form a circle. What a pleasure to hang out in the muddy Driftpile pasture with that fella. He'll be back out west at the end of July for the ArtsWells festival, stealing more hearts away.

On Sunday afternoon, Mary Rankin closed down the Fair proper with her song "Love", the chorus to which goes "Love love love love love love love love love!", and which might be about the catchiest thing I've ever heard. The folks were holding hands and dancing around in a circle, and all was bliss. Love, that's what it is. It's what keeps us coming back; it's what makes it all worth our while. It's the answer to the Buddha saying life is suffering. It's also the answer to Stephen Harper & Barack Obama and all the other warmongers in this world. It's the answer to why we're born, and it's made real because we die. I feel incredibly grateful to have known it in this life, and to have the chance to pass it on.

-----

The road keeping me busy as it tends to do, I'm continuing this letter from the passenger seat with legendary drunken cowboy Allen Christie at the wheel, as we roll across the soggy Saskatchewan prairie toward Manitoba. We're out on a week-long ramble appropriately dubbed the Acoustic Mayhem Tour, with Allen, Joanne & Haley Myrol, their cousin from Norway Britt Pernille Froholm (who plays the 9-string Hardanger fiddle), and our shared rhythm section consisting of Moses Gregg on bass and familiar CKUA personality Grant Stovel on the drums and the purdy talking. Sure is nice to have a radio voice introducing the show & putting the folks at ease. We've been crowding all seven of us onto the stage each night & backing each other up, which has been a real pleasure and learning experience for me. Joanne & Haley are breathtaking singers whose voices blend like only family can, and Allen's a real honkytonk veteran, an amazing picker and a master of his craft. He's played just about every guest ranch, rodeo, roundup and roadhouse across this land, and it shows in the confidence with which he approaches his instruments and his audience. I'm learning a lot from keeping such good company.

They're making their way out for the Dauphin Country Fest this weekend, and I'll be heading back west to meet up with some other good company, my good friends Shali & Steve Gates, en route from Halifax to play the Dawson City Music Fest. We'll be sharing shows in Calgary, Cochrane, Banff, Canmore and Edmonton before they head further north, and I'm really looking forward to introducing him to some Albertan audiences. Steve writes great songs, and delivers them with smooth-voiced perfection. Come see him if you're around, or check him out on his Myspace if you aren't. All the show info, as usual, is on my news page.

-----

Friends, it's taken me three instalments to finish this letter, which must mean I've been busy. I'm writing you now from a campground in MacGregor, Manitoba, where you can still camp for $8 a night, a sweet reminder of a free world gone mostly by. We finished up the Acoustic Mayhem tour on Wednesday night, at Falcon Trails Resort in beautiful Falcon Lake, Manitoba, where Winnipeg folk trio The Crooked Brothers (a great band, and great guys to boot) organize a concert series in the Ski Lodge. The audience was warm and it was a great ending to this little ramble. We capped it off with a midnight sauna & swim under a blanket of stars, digging the meteors and fireflies, and feeling very lucky to be alive.

I parted ways with the rest of the group yesterday, and am now making my way to Mortlach, Saskatchewan, to play their Saskatoon Berry Festival. With two days to make the trip, I've pulled out my bluegrass banjo and African guitar books, and am digging into them for the first time in a long while. Very happy for that.

I feel like I've already had a whole summer, with 7 weeks of Long Weekends tour in my rearview, and what an epic tour it was. Last I checked in with you, faithful readers, we were heading west from the Kootenays, bound for the islands. In Victoria we met up with Brin of Party on High Street, who you may already know from the Hobo Song, and who would be filling Moses' bassman shoes for two weeks. We had loads of material to teach him but thankfully he's a quick learner. He's also one of the easygoingest people I've ever met. He's got plenty of experience getting around by his thumbs, and he's got a sleeping setup that consists of a hammock & a camouflage tarp that he can string up anywhere. A bona fide hobo, that Brin Porter.

We had great fun rambling around the islands for two weeks, and visiting a lot of places the band had never been. The kind folks on Denman, Cortes and Saltspring Islands were especially hospitable. We had a weird run of luck out there, though, which some of you have likely already caught wind of: first, someone broke into the van in Nanaimo (which by the way is no town to leave stuff lying around in) and stole two cameras and a GPS. The next night on Saltspring Island we somehow lost the suitcase that held ALL of Jesse and Jacquie's clothes; we imagine it must have fallen out of the trailer & been picked up by somebody, presumably a well-dressed somebody by now. The following day, Jacquie got word that her cat was deathly ill, and she had to go back to Williams Lake. A strange run of misfortune, but in the end it strengthened our resolve that the show must go on. Losing things is like shedding skin in a way; you feel lighter as you let them go.

Our friend Danielle set us up a show in Ucluelet (she even baked cookies for the occasion), which provided a wonderful excuse to get out to the wild side of the island again. We spent the next day hiking forest trails and beachcombing in Pacific Rim National Park before heading up to Tofino. After the Tofino show, Brin wandered off as usual and set up camp down by the water, stringing his hammock up to two pilings at the end of the dock. All was well until morning came, when he went to roll out of his bed and found himself dangling 12 feet in the air! The tide had gone out overnight, and taken the dock down with it. After managing to get himself out without falling into the ocean, he couldn't even reach his hammock. He ended up tying his knife to the end of a boat paddle and hacking at the rope til it gave way, nearly sending all his stuff into the ocean as well. He showed up at the van on time for load-out, with a big grin on his face. Can you see why we love this man?

Jesse & Jacquie made four more videoblogs of the tour, which we think are pretty hilarious, and the final one even includes Brin telling the story himself.

Episode IV
Episode V
Episode VI
Episode VII


We were reunited with Jacquie B and our good friends Kevin & Yaya in Cumberland, where we drank homemade wine, made up songs around the campfire til the wee hours of the morning, and finally bid the islands a fond farewell. In Vancouver, we played a songwriters-in-the-round charity showcase at the rowing club with none other than Tatam Reeves, our good buddy (& hella guitar player) from Edmonton, who just happened to be on the bill with us after returning from a long ramble down the west coast of the States. It felt surreally like Monday night at Devaney's. The next night we released the CD at Cafe Deux Soleils, with help from special guest C.R. Avery, who lit the stage on fire as always. It was another one of those moments where things come full circle, to be playing the Hobo Song with Brin at the very place we'd tied one on years ago, the night I loaned him a tarp in McSpadden park, just a block away.

From Vancouver we headed up on a friend's invitation to play a house party in the Yalakom Valley, a little-known piece of heaven north of Lillooet. We really had no idea what to expect as we wound our way further and further from civilization along sheer cliff-hugging gravel roads, but we reckoned it would be good. It ended up being the best stop of the trip. We were blown away by the hospitality and the ingenuity that greeted us there. These folks live completely off the grid, with their own hydroelectric system powering five houses, and their own gardens providing their food. They fed us an amazing spread, and showed us to the little creek where they'd put beer & wine to chill for us. When the water jug ran out, we were directed back to the same creek to fill up our glasses. Drinking straight from the stream is a rare pleasure I've only had a few times in life, and it strengthened the conviction in my mind that we had somehow wandered into heaven. They sent us on our way with jars of food and a lingering feeling of magic that followed us up north to Wells and across to the North Country Fair. Thank you, good people.

There's plenty more summer to come, including lots of fests: Wild Mountain in Hinton, Discovery Coast in Bella Coola, ArtsWells in lovely Wells, Central Music Fest in Red Deer, Robson Valley in Dunster, and Music on the Mountain in Fort St. James. Shortly thereafter I'll be heading east again for the Fall, spending September in the midwestern States and October in Ontario.

Some of you write me now & then to ask if I ever take a break, and I'm pleased to announce that I'm planning to take one in the new year, not entirely a vacation, but a break from this particular pasture... I'll be heading to Taiwan, and hopefully making a journey to Australia from there, before returning to play Spring Scream and reunite with the Anglers. I really miss Ihla Freemosa, and am planning to do a lot of chilling out, hiking in the mountains and studying Chinese. Should be good for the soul.

Speaking of finding rest around the bend, here's another free song from Moonlit Rambles for you loyal readers, a song about laying down your burden and finding your way, with help from Jacquie B and Miss Emily Brown on harmony vocals, here.

I mailed a shipment of CDs to Taiwan a few days back, thanks to the initiative of Mr. Bradley Tindall of Rising Hedons fame, so some folks there should be getting them soon. I also mailed out all the North American pre-orders a while back, so those who've ordered should be getting them soon if they haven't already. Moonlit Rambles is up on CD Baby now and should be on iTunes soon, although of course I'd prefer it if you ordered from me, as there's no middle man to pay, and I can even sign it for you. There's a Paypal button on my website, or you can mail a cheque ($20 for one CD, $35 for two, or $45 for three) to Scott Cook, 3 Meridian Road, Sherwood Park, AB, T8A 0N5.

The record has made it out to most college & community radio by now, and is gradually being sent out to folk DJs everywhere. I would really appreciate it if you'd request it on your local station, it helps out a lot.

Lastly, I would be remiss on this Canada Day not to mention that we're also coming up on the ten year anniversary of our invasion of Afghanistan. This is the longest war we've been involved in as a nation, and I hope we can take time today to consider whether it's a just one. Lest anyone accuse me of overlooking the sacrifices our troops have made, I should stress that I'm very grateful for the freedoms we enjoy here in Canada, and for those who struggled to defend those freedoms again the threat of Fascism. Furthermore, I should also be clear that I believe many of our enlisted men and women went to Afghanistan motivated by the belief that they were doing the right thing. But I certainly don't extend the same confidence to the politicians who sent them to fight. They sold this war as a quest to find Bin Laden, then as a crusade to free the people of Afghanistan. The politricksters' talk about humanitarian motives was, as always, just talk. There are people in bondage everywhere, but we only care enough to get involved when those people happen to have oil under their land, or otherwise occupy an area of geopolitical importance. We're now involved in a bombing campaign in Libya which NONE of the political parties save the Green Party (that's right, not even the NDP) took exception to. They all signed off on an additional $100 million worth of bombs without batting an eye. And yet, we're told, these are lean times, and we all need to tighten our belts. I implore my fellow Canadians not to follow our southern neighbours into increasing corporatism and militarism, and not to believe the news. The media are complicit in all our wars by their acquiescence, and they give us no reason for hope, not a word about the resistance that is mounting world-wide against tyranny. Thankfully, we have the good folks over at Democracy Now! doing that. If you don't already know them (and even if you do), I strongly suggest tuning in.

Well, that's all the news that is news for now. If you made it this far, thanks aplenty for reading. Bless ya, see you along the way,

Scott


May 19, 2011

Friends,

I'm writing you from the road. From the back seat of the van, to be exact, as Jacquie B pilots us over the Bugaboo Summit and down toward the Okanagan. We left Nelson town today, only to return after playing the Hitching Post in Hedley, a gig booked long ago that made less routing sense as time went on. We'll be back in Nelson on Saturday afternoon to play Ellison's Market (the best--nay, only--gig I've played in a supermarket) before heading up to Kaslo to entertain the good folks at the Bluebelle Bistro amidst the general May Days festivities. Saturday also happens to be the day that billboards all over the US have been predicting Christ's return, but needless to say we don't expect much eschatological fallout. I'm only hoping, likely in vain, that this non-event, like next year's cataclysmic no-show, will give us all another occasion to stop wishing and start working.

From Kaslo we're off to the Slocan Valley for a gig at Sleep is for Sissies, and from there to the island to meet up with our substitute bassman Brin (of orange tarp fame) and spend two weeks touring that lovely corner of the world. All the shows to come are listed, as usual, on www.scottcook.net.

The tour's been great so far, as you can imagine it would be, rolling through beautiful country with four of my favourite people in the world. The hometown CD release was especially amazing, with performances from The Proper Charlies, Trevor Tchir, The Low Flying Planes, Dana Wylie, Nadine Kellman and the Black Wonders, Terry Morrison and John Gorham, Michael Dunn and the Ramblin' Kind, Myrol, Jesse Dee and Jacquie B, and Sean Brewer and the Switchmen. Steve Schraeder of Clear Sound Productions put in an epic day of work and had everyone sounding wonderful, even when Mikey and Nadine both pushed the limits of sense with stages full of smiling, sardined musicians.

We've had plenty of days with one to two-hour drives, which is a style of touring I really enjoy. Jesse and Jacquie have been documenting the trip as usual with their video blogs, which make for some entertaining watching. Here are links to the first three instalments:

Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3

On Saturday, we stopped in at Calgary's Ship & Anchor to compete in the Pros & Prose category of the Calgary Folk Music Festival's Songwriting Competition. We managed to take home $500 for Best Performance, which sure made the drive worthwhile. Top honours went to by far the most deserving competitor, Edmonton's 100 Mile House.

My winning song is a track from Moonlit Rambles entitled 'High and Lonesome Again'. Here it is for you, loyal readers, in handy downloadable form.

The album's just trickling out to radio, and has already made it into CKUA's top 30. You can help out by requesting it on your local campus or community radio station. I'll be mailing it out to the US soon, and to print and online reviewers as well. If you know of a magazine or blog that could use a copy, feel free to suggest it.

The first review has arrived, by Edmonton's own maverick freelancer Fish Griwkowsky, and he was very kind to it, likening it to "a conversational bottle of Jack passed around a dawn fire, everything burning just right."

I've had vinyl stickers printed and will be picking them up Saturday, at which point I'll begin mailing out the orders. My sincere thanks to those who ordered for their support, and my apologies for the wait; I just wanted to make sure you got your super cool sticker as promised.

If you haven't ordered yet, I would be very grateful for the gas in my ever-thirsty tank. The album comes signed, with a 24-page booklet of my words and photographs, and the aforementioned super cool sticker. Orders can be made with credit card via the Paypal button on my page, or by mailing a cheque to me at 3 Meridian Road, Sherwood Park, AB, T8A 0N5. Please specify which album(s) you want and who I should make it out to. It's $20 for one album, $35 for two, or $45 for three.

I suppose that's all the business for now. Thanks again for reading, and for believing. I hope you're drinking up the lovely days. Your friend,

Scott


April 27, 2011

Friends,

I hope this finds you smiling. I'm grinning as I type, elated by the sun on my face, the trickle of birdsong, and the adventure we're about to set out on.

Moonlit Rambles has arrived, and a great ramble is about to begin. The Long Weekends, Shawna and I are off on the road together for the next two months, visiting most every nook and cranny of Alberta and British Columbia, and I couldn't be happier about it. I haven't taken a band on the road in any serious way since the last Anglers tour in 2004. It's a good call not to repeat something so financially suicidal, but I think we can actually make a go of it this time around.

The hometown release is this coming Sunday, May 1st, at Pleasantview Community Hall, 10860 57 ave in Edmonton. It's gonna be a giant all- day love-in, running from 3-11pm, with loads of my musical friends around to entertain us. I'm starting things off at 3pm with the Long Weekends and some special guests, then we'll have sets from The Proper Charlies, Trevor Tchir, The Low Flying Planes, Maurice Jones, Dana Wylie, Nadine Kellman and the Black Wonders, Terry Morrison and John Gorham, Michael Dunn and the Ramblin' Kind, Myrol, and Jesse Dee and Jacquie B, in that order.

I'll be getting back up around 9pm for another set with the Long Weekends and guests, and Sean Brewer and the Switchmen will close out the night with a set of dancing tunes to take us to 11 o'clock. We'll be pouring drinks and potluckin' all day long. Our good friend Sahana of There's More to Life Than Butter Chicken will be serving up some delicious Indian food, I'm going to make some hummus, and you're encouraged to bring whatever you like to add to the spread. Tickets are $10 at the door, and advance tickets ($10 with a free drink) are available at Blackbird & Permanent Records. Kids are free. Pleasantview is a beautiful old-timey hall with a recessed proscenium stage like you'd imagine at an old high school dance, and a little park we can kick the hack in. Environment Canada's predicting sun all day. It's gonna be wonderful.

Besides Edmonton, we're playing the following dates:

fri April 29 Red Deer, The Hideout
sat April 30 Camrose, Rose City Roots show at Scalliwag's
thu May 5 Calgary, Ironwood with Cam Penner
fri May 6 Scott opening for Steve Dawson at Ironwood
sat May 7 Red Deer, house concert
sun May 8 Golden, Bacchus Books
mon May 9 Field, Truffle Pigs
tue May 10 Banff, Bruno's
wed May 11 Canmore, The Glue Factory
thu May 12 Olds, Tracks Pub
fri May 13 Nanton, the Auditorium
sat May 14 Lethbridge, Tongue n' Groove
sun May 15 Calgary Folk Fest songwriting finals at the Ship, then Coleman, Blackbird Coffeehouse
tue May 17 Nelson, house concert
wed May 18 ???
thu May 19 Ymir Schoolhouse
fri May 20 Hedley, the Hitching Post
sat May 21 Nelson, Ellison's Market, then Kaslo, Bluebelle Bistro
sun May 22 Winlaw, Sleep is for Sissies
thu May 26 Denman Island Backhall
fri May 27 ???
sat May 28 Chemainus, the Dancing Bean
sun May 29 Nanaimo, Queens Hotel
mon May 30 Saltspring Island, the Treehouse
tue May 31 Victoria, Fort Cafe
wed June 1 ???
thu June 2 Ucluelet, Army & Navy
fri June 3 Tofino, the Maquinna
sat June 4 Cortes Island, Gorge Hall
sun June 5 TBA
tue June 7 Vancouver, Just Singin' Round charity showcase
wed June 8 Vancouver CD release at Cafe Deux Soleils with C.R. Avery
thu June 9 ???
fri June 10 Kamloops, The Art We Are
sat June 11 Prince George, Nancy O's
sun June 12 Wells, Wells Hotel
wed June 15 ???
thu-sun June 16-19 North Country Fair

As you can see from the ???s, there are still a few gaps in the schedule, which we'd be glad to fill with a house concert or whatever you might suggest. Details for all those shows and more to come are on http://www.scottcook.net/news.php.

I'm taking CD orders through the website, and stuff will be up on iTunes & such real soon. For those of you on Taiwan, I know it's a while to wait, but I'll be bringing the CDs myself in March. For all of you on this list, thank you for reading my ramblings. As a token of my gratitude, here's a free download for you from the album, a song I wrote in tribute to the North Country Fair called "Goin Up to the Country", featuring Seth Bernard of Michigan's Earthwork Music on lead guitar, Adam Iredale-Gray of Fish & Bird on violin, Thom Golub on the upright bass, Matt Blackie on the drums, and Jacquie B on backup vocals. Just right-click on the file (or command-click for those clever folks using Macs) to download it. Hope you enjoy.

Goin Up to the Country

Big love, hope to see you along the way,

Scott


March 7, 2011

Family,

Let me begin with a warning, that I have vastly outdone my reputation for loquaciousness this time around. If you're in a hurry and want to skip to the Real News, you might want to scroll down a bit. Actually, a long way, til you hit the asterisks. Those feeling more leisurely are welcome to amble down there with me.

I'm writing you from Robert's Western World in Nashville, Tennessee, with fiddle, steel guitar and high lonesome harmonies pouring off the stage, the fryer at a rolling boil, rows of cowboy boots lining the walls, crowds of old-timers getting their afternoon drunk on, and southern waitresses who call you 'darlin' singing along to the tunes... 'The Wild Side of Life', 'I Met a Friend of Yours Today', 'Honkytonk Amnesia' and various other yodeling, hurting, and drinking songs from times gone by. The sign behind the bar advertises their 'Recession Special' (a fried bologna sandwich, a bag of chips, a goo goo cluster, and a tall boy of Pabst Blue Ribbon for $5) and their new crowd-pleaser, the 'Stimulus Package' (an all beef hotdog, a bag of chips, a moon pie, and a Miller High Life tall boy for $5).

Needless to say the South is not the ideal place to be a vegetarian. In fact, it might be more accurate to say it's a tough place for anyone who wants to eat vegetables at all, save the iceberg on your burger or the okra in your gumbo. I went to the supermarket (bizarrely named 'Piggly Wiggly') and found it long on the processed & packaged and direly short on the fruity and fresh. What fruits and veggies they did have were old and limp, which might explain why no one eats them. They don't recycle down here either, just throw everything in the trash. It feels really strange, but I had to remind myself that it wasn't long ago that we started recycling up in Canada. They told us about it in school, and then we did it, kind of like happened with the metric system (another bit of civilization that hasn't made it down this way yet). It set me to wondering if the real reason the South rebelled was because the North told them to clean up after themselves and eat their vegetables.

Only kidding, Southern friends, only kidding. Northern friends, don't be discouraged from visiting; it really does have its charm, and there's even something admirable in their resistance. I saw a sign in a shop window today: think globally, act hillbilly. Gotta love 'em.

I decided to walk down the street to another place and continue this letter, but I didn't get far. Right next door, at Layla's Bluegrass Hillbilly & Country Inn, the sound of a young stringband ripping time to shreds grabbed me by the ears and pulled me in. An older fella's clogging like the devil himself in the middle of the dancefloor, stomping his bootheels with such authority and conviction that he's eliciting frantic screams from the ladies. 5pmish. Amazing. 'There's another gambling song for ya' says the bassman. 'Stay tuned for prison & murder songs.' Pretty well every bar on the strip has a country band playing every hour, for tips, and when they're done, they duck across the street or down to the block to play at another bar.

Friends, I've gotten such an earful of music on this trip that I can hardly put it into words. I don't think there were any bad players at Folk Alliance just now; none that I saw at least. There were showcases going on simultaneously, changing over every half hour, in the ten or so downstairs rooms, and then more of the same in every room on three full floors of the Memphis Marriott until 3 in the morning. Everybody was good, and plenty of them were great.

Now here in Nashville, the numbers of hungry songwriters lining up to sing, and all the talented folks playing for tips in the bars, give me that same profound sense of my insignificance; in good way, mind you. It's kind of like that feeling you might have when you get out way beyond the city lights and look up at that sky full of stars and think of all the worlds and lives likely going on out there; the smallness of your troubles, your fears, of even the waves of human history, sinks in. And you get a feeling like whatever happens here is not of crucial importance except right here and now, and that in some big inexplicable way, it'll all be okay.

The bass player just played a slide solo on the string bass with a beer bottle. Or tried. As he said afterward, there's a good reason you've never seen anybody do that.

----

Friends, I'm now continuing this travelogue from the home of great songwriter and beard cultivator Eric Nassau in Columbus, Ohio. Sorry for the sudden change of scene, but life does get busy out here on the road, and time waits for no travelogue.

I shared a show with Eric & the Salty Caramels in Athens, Ohio last night, and we're playing together again tomorrow at Eric's sixth annual Townes Van Zandt tribute night, to mark Townes' birthday and raise funds for Ohio Public Radio. It seems like an especially worthy cause at the moment, as Congress' new budget just eliminated all funding for public radio & television. It has yet to pass the Senate, but it does seem like the fight is on to save one of the last bastions of sanity across this land, usually the only channel on the dial that isn't yelling at you. In fact, it seems like the fight to preserve sanity is on in a lot of places these days.

In between Nashville and here I've been down to see my grandma in Alabama, where I think I heard "Ahh tayl you whaaat!" more than I've heard it in my whole life combined. When telling people I was going, I was amazed how many asked me, "you have a grandma from Alabama?" Didn't they hear the song? Maybe they thought I just said so because it rhymed.

This trip has held not only an earful of music but an eyeful of new scenery. Almost all of this has been new territory for me, and I've been slack-jawed in wonder many a place along the way.

The trip across northern BC was snowy and wonderful, with good shows in Valemount, Prince George, and Quesnel, and a week cozied up in Ory No'man's house in Wells, finishing up the tracking for my new album by the woodstove in the basement. From there I did a quick swing through the Kootenays for a show in Silverton and a house concert in Nelson with Aspen Switzer. That part of the world always seems to hold reminders of important things for me, as it did this time around. I managed to cross paths with Miss Quincy & co. there, en route to Europe.

From the Koots I made my way to the west coast and out to the bird-chirping greenness of Vancouver Island, where I stayed with Scotty & Jena, recorded Adam from Fish & Bird, and played shows at Providence Farm in Duncan, on friendly Saltspring Island, and in Victoria with O'Mally. Vancouver treated me well this time too, recording Dave Newberry and Miss Emily Brown, and sharing a show in the round at the Prophouse with the aforementioned Mr. Newberry and Corbin Murdoch. We called substitutions for one round, and were relieved by Rodney Decroo, Meg O'Mally and Wyckham Porteous, star-studded help to be sure.

I crossed the border the next night, and encountered a previously-unknown level of rigamarole this time around. My CDs, they rightly said, were commercial merchandise. That had never been an issue before, but this time it meant searching the van and sending me back into Canada to cross at a different crossing that handled commercial traffic. At the Canadian border the guard asked me how long I'd been in the States; about 20 minutes, I said. I drove to the other border and went into the commercial lineup as instructed, immediately realizing how absurdly misguided I was, my minivan dwarfed amid a lineup of semi-trailers. I pulled up to the guard's window and it was way up high, level with a big truck's door; he yelled down to me "what are you doing here?!?" and I had no good answer but "they told me to!" They x-rayed the van and brought me inside again, where the officer taking care of me looked over a CD and noticed that there's no indication on it of where it was made. He went back to look in a big book of the law--truly the biggest book I've ever seen, this thing was enormous--and after a lengthy search, determined that I would need to label them. I got a sheet of mailing labels from the car, wrote "made in Taiwan" on 89 of them, and affixed one to each CD. It kinda felt like writing lines, something I did a lot of in school. I filled out a customs manifest, paid a $10.75 processing fee, and was on my way, baffled by the needless bureaucracy; incidentally a word which quite literally, and tellingly, means rule by the desk.

Once across, the trip down the west coast was amazing. I will definitely be spending more time in those green pastures. I soaked up the beauty of the Oregon coastline, walked in the sand dunes, and shared a sweet house show in Portland with South African minstrel Dawid Vorster, recently relocated from Taipei. Saw old friends from Taiwan in California, marvelled at the majesty of the redwoods, and dug the vistas of San Francisco. Stopped in Desert Center, California, and gaped at the starry night sky, the dark sandy distance, & all the big trucks sleeping silently. Then drove across Arizona, played in lovely Tubac along the way, and dug the big skies, the joshua trees and yucca plants... Through El Paso, where the shantytowns of Ciudad Juarez are visible from the highway, just across the Rio Grande. And finally to the tiny town of Ravenna, Texas, to see Corin Raymond & Jonathan Byrd working their magic in a living room full of kind folks.

For those who like to look at pictures, my photos of the trip are up on Facebook here.

I played a house concert of my own the following night at Cuervo Acres in Princeton, then down to Austin, which I can now first-handedly attest is one flat-out awesome town. I followed Warren Hood's amazing band on a Sunday night at Momo's, and after the show Warren dragged the party to the Continental Club to see a country super-group called Heybale! (made up of former sidemen of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and the Fabulous Thunderbirds) doing their weekly gig, dialling it in with workmanlike precision, and wrapping up their cables before the crowd even got around to yelling "Encore!". Truly awe-inspiring, those old players. You've probably heard someone say, after watching a master do their thing, that it made them want to quit. But I feel more like it would be a disservice to their example, were I not to shoulder on after them.

From Texas I headed north for a wonderful house concert in Oklahoma City, and east for the Folk Alliance conference in Memphis, Tennessee. Loads of Canadians were down there, and we got up to our usual late-night 'networking' sessions as could be expected. The boys from Deep Dark Woods & our man J-Ski brought out the old Saskatchewan tradition of 'Meat Shoulder', where you toss a slice of cold cut on someone's shoulder and see how long it takes them to notice... wildly inappropriate at such a schmoozefest, but hilarious all the same, at least to my juvenile sense of humour.

Fish & Bird, Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra and New Country Rehab all made quite a stir, and deservedly so. New discoveries for me were Abigail Washburn, Danny Schmidt, the 23 String Band, Cliff Eberhardt, Diana Jones and Raina Rose. I was blown away as usual by Treasa Levasseur, Mary Gauthier, and Corin Raymond, and utterly and completely slain by Jonathan Byrd, backed by some of the band that played on his new record 'Cackalack' (Treasa, John Showman, & Brian Kobayakawa). It was pure, unadulterated brilliance.

Corin & Jonathan are on tour in BC right now (see http://www.jonathanbyrd.com for tour dates), but we'll be meeting up very soon in Alberta for my first shows back in the province, which brings us to:

*****the REAL NEWS!*****

For those who've just re-joined us, rest assured, we haven't been talking about you while you've been gone. Nor are we judging you for skipping out on the real work and just tuning in for the highlights; oh no, we are not judging you at all, far be it from people as thorough and conscientious as us.

The Real News of which I speak is that I'll be meeting up with Corin Raymond & Jonathan Byrd in Alberta for my first shows back, three shows that I'm very excited to be a part of, because I love introducing people to singers of life-changing songs such as these. I've been raving about these two songwriters for a while now to whoever will listen, and I hope that those in the area will avail themselves of the opportunity to see what I've been making such a fuss about.

Jonathan Byrd is a Kerrville New Folk Winner and master of his craft whose newest album 'Cackalack' has been riding high on the US Folk and Americana charts for months now. And Corin Raymond is the guy who single-handedly sang me out of a deep funk and into a more joyous and willingly-embraced life a few years back. To make a long story short, these two are the real deal. Nuff said. Get yourselves down to one of three shows:

Thursday, March 24 - Calgary - a Shop Concert at 3815 Manchester Rd. SE. Doors 6pm, show 7pm, $20 at the door, for those who like an intimate show.

Friday, March 25 - Edmonton - The Artery, 9535 Jasper Ave, showtime 8pm, $10 at the door. Facebook ad's here, here, for those of you who are into that.

Sun, March 27 - Calgary - Ironwood Stage, 1229 9th Avenue SE, 8pm showtime, $10 at the door. Facebook ad's here, pass it on please!

The other item of Real News is that at long last I've finished my work on my newest love letter to the world, entitled Moonlit Rambles. Mr. Brad Smith is currently working on the mixes, and I'm starting on the cover art. I'm really excited about this newest album, and I think you'll like it too. It features musical contributions from Seth Bernard, Matt Blackie, Jacquie Boisvert, Miss Emily Brown, Tyler Dakin, Jesse Dee, Shawna Donovan, Gavin Dunn, Thom Golub, Adam Iredale-Grey, Jason Kodie, Dave Newberry, and Dana Wylie. It has a lot to say about what community means, some to say about where we're at, and hopefully a little to say about the way forward.

I'm taking pre-orders, for anyone who'd like to be among the first to get their hands on the album. It's $20 and it'll come signed with a snazzy new sticker as soon as it comes off the presses! There's now a Paypal button on my website all set up for that purpose. As always, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generosity; it really does keep this show on the road.

The album will be released in Edmonton on May 1st, with another big day of music, food, drink & friends, hall party styley, featuring tunes from Brian Gregg & Nadine Kellman, The Proper Charlies, The Low Flying Planes, Dana Wylie, Joe Nolan, Maurice Jones, Myrol, Jesse Dee & Jacquie B, Sean Brewer, Trevor Tchir, and of course those ever-lovin' Long Weekends. Jesse and Jacquie and I will be hitting the road for all of May and June around Alberta & BC, ending up in Driftpile, Alberta for the mother of all good times, the North Country Fair. I'll bug you more about all that later.

In the near future, there are shows coming up in Kalamazoo and Pontiac, MI; Chicago, IL; Viroqua and La Crosse, WI; Scobey, MT; and Vermilion, High River, Golden and Canmore, AB; details as always can be found on my website.

My wheels are turned northward at last. I woke up this morning to snow covering the van, and realized I've got some serious cold ahead of me... But my heart is light and spring is in my sights.

I realize that I haven't said anything in this travelogue about all the big things happening in the world right now, in the middle east and closer to home in the American midwest, but I think I've been long-winded enough already. I guess I'll just say that it feels like an exciting time to be alive. Check out Amy Goodman's steadfast newscasting on Democracy Now if you're at all hungry for real news; that is, real news other than the Real News about a daffy folksinger who lives in his van... That news, as always, can be found right here.

If for whatever reason you've grown tired of my torrential verbiage, I don't blame you; just let me know and I'll let you off. For those still on board, I applaud your determination, and thank you for your support. As always, at your service,

Scott


January 2, 2011

Good friends,

The new year is here and I hope it's found you flourishing. We sang out the old one at McDougall United Church for the second year in a row, with an amazing cast of musical friends and a massive crowd. Huge thanks to Penny, Reverend John Henry, and all involved for making it happen, it warmed hearts. The next day found me at the Black Dog in the company of Jesse Dee, Jacquie B, Moses Gregg, and a whole bunch of fine folks, singing in the new year. I've got a good feeling about this one.

The last while has been insanely busy, which explains the long silence from me. I've been in Edmonton for about two months now, at least attempting to lay low, but it does seem like I have more irons in the fire than ever.

The Ontario tour was loads of fun, and even lucrative (a first for me in those parts). Standouts included three shows and plenty of harmonizing with the wonderful Allison Brown; a night at the Acoustic Grill in Picton, Prince Edward County (which felt a lot like Prince Edward Island); two friendly Tuesdays at Brock Zeman's regular gig at O'Reilly's Pub in Perth; a raucous Toronto meetup with Jesse Dee & Jacquie B (fresh off VIA rail), Faye Blais, O'Mally, and Fish & Bird; a show in Waterloo with Mr. Scott Wicken (poet of long-ago Edmonton fame and an early inspiration of mine); a wonderful introduction to the Moonshine Cafe in Oakville; another wonderful introduction to the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield with Fish & Bird and Dan Frechette; house concerts in Kitchener, Dundas and Mount Pleasant; back-to-back shows in Hamilton and Toronto with my comrades-in-song Corin Raymond and Raghu Lokanathan (lawd, I love those guys); and of course the hilarious hotel-room booze- and schmooze- and jam-o-rama that is the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals. All in all, a good ramble, a lot of laughs, and a trunkload of memories.

On the way home I got the news that my grandpa had passed away, so I canceled the last three Ontario shows and went back down through the States for the funeral. There sure were a lot of people there, from all over the place. He lived his 88 years well, and I'm a better person for having known him. If anybody I know deserved a song, he did, so I wrote one. It'll be on my next album.

As you may know, I'm in the process of penning another love letter to the world, tentatively titled Moonlit Rambles. I expect to have the whole thing completed by the end of January, and will be releasing it with a western full-band tour in May and June. I did the beds at Sound Extractor in Edmonton with Brad Smith at the helm, Matt Blackie on the drums, and Thom Golub on the bass. Doing the other parts mobile-studio-style this month, and I'm very excited about that. Steve Teeuwsen and I also released Volume 2 of our Great Northern Revival series a couple weeks back. This edition features 18 tracks from Edmonton bands (100 Mile House, Boogie Patrol, Brian Gregg, Daniel Moir, Doug Hoyer, Electricity For Everybody, Greg Amundson, Ky Babyn, Manraygun, Myrol, The Pale Moon Lights, Sean Brewer, Souljah Fyah, Straight up Gypsies, Tatam Reeves, Trevor Tchir, and Wool on Wolves), and beautiful, autumn-feeling photos by local photographer Erin Prout. There's so much talent in this town, and we hope this compilation series can be of some help in putting Edmonton on the national musical radar. The release party was at Hydeaway and featured performances by 11 of the acts on the compilation--a marathon night of music even by my over-eager standards. If you're interested, you can order the album from me, pick it up at Permanent Records or Blackbyrd in Edmonton, or just buy it from your favorite band on the compilation.

I have one more show left in Edmonton, tomorrow (that's Monday) night, hosting open stage at Devaney's Irish Pub, from 8pm to midnight. It's doubling as my Nashville or Bust! tour sendoff. You read that right, friends, I'm finally headed to Nashville. And California. And the heart of Texas. I'm still booking tour dates, but so far the trip includes:

Thu Jan 6 - Valemount, BC - The United/Anglican Church
Fri Jan 7 - Prince George, BC - Nancy O's
Sat Jan 8 - Quesnel, BC - Gold Pan Dance Studios
Fri Jan 14 - Silverton, BC - Silverton Art Gallery
Sat Jan 15 - Nelson, BC - house concert
Thu Jan 20 - Victoria, BC - Fort Cafe with O'Mally
Fri Jan 21 - Duncan, BC - Cowichan Folk Guild concert
Thu Jan 27 - Vancouver, BC - The Prophouse Cafe with Dave Newberry and Corbin Murdoch
Sat Jan 29 - Tacoma, WA - The Mandolin Cafe, 6-8pm
Sun Jan 30 - Astoria, OR - Fort George Brewery
Thu Feb 3 - Arcata, CA - Six Rivers Brewery
Fri Feb 11 - Bryan, TX - House concert
Sat Feb 12 - Princeton, TX - House concert at Cuervo Acres
Sun Feb 13 - Austin, TX - Momo's
Tue Feb 15 - Oklahoma City, OK - House concert
Wed-Sun Feb 16-20 - Memphis, TN - hanging out at Folk Alliance!

From there I'll be down to Nashville and then winding my way back home, with stops in Ohio, Michigan and Winnipeg along the way. I'll be back in Alberta at the end of March for three shows with Corin Raymond & the mighty Jonathan Byrd. I'll bug you more about that later.

For now, as I'm sure you can see, I still have a lot of holes to plug in my schedule. Any suggestions of venues to play, or offers to host a house concert, would of course be hugely appreciated. I hope to see some of you along the way on this next ramble. And I hope that all of you, wherever you are, are finding time to take care of yourselves, and to spend with the people you care about. Big love and blessings aplenty to ya, keep shining,

Scott


September 22, 2010

Hey friends,

I'm writing you from my grandparents' farm in Michigan, where I'm enjoying a few days' downtime before heading into Ontario for a month or so, and then back west across Canada. Read on for tour dates, or just skip to the bottom. But I promise you won't have to scroll far--this here is a short little travelogue, for once!

I was on the Earthwork farm last weekend, and got a heart full of warmth and hope from Seth & May and the good folks there. Check 'em out on www.earthworkmusic.com if you're so inclined. It was a wonderful close to a full festival season (14 in all for me this year!), and a welcome drink from the deep well of inspiration that is bubbling up right now in Michigan. I'm not exaggerating to say that my experiences with that community have given me new hope for the United States--the country of my birth, and a country that's brought out its fair share of paranoia and despair in me. It's uplifting to see people taking back ownership of their communities, organizing to take stands on local issues, linking up regionally, building an alternative economy, and living on this earth like it's their birthright. Not to mention making yummy food, and really, really excellent beer.

I saw some of the same great things just weeks ago on a trip through northern BC, enjoying Seth & Shara's wonderful hospitality at the amazing Robson Valley Music Festival in Dunster, attending the first year of Lionel & Rosemary's Music on the Mountain festival in Fort St. James, and finishing it off with a visit to the Mattson Farm in Rolla for the Sweetwater 905 festival. Not only was the music world-class, and the good times plentiful with friends from far & wide, the whole trip was very hopeful. Northern BC's economy was largely built on primary resource extraction, and a lot of those jobs have dried up in recent years, so it's heartening to see family growing in these communities, connections being forged, and local art, music, and culture developing. Fort St. John in particular was a wonderful little piece of the world, with Whole Wheat n' Honey, Tim & Tyc's, and local bookstore the Rabbit Hole all valuable assets to that community. We also really dug the Rolla Pub, the house concert at Miss Quincy's Mom's place, and the house concert at the first Rabbit Hole in Grande Prairie.

Oh, and while I'm on the subject of northern BC, I've got to mention the lovely town of Wells, where as Jesse Dee says, we are in the process of building us our very own Woodstock. The festival this year was so much fun that in a moment of exuberance I re-christened it The Bestival. For those who missed it, Jesse & Jacquie put together a very entertaining video blog of the weekend, which can be viewed here. I'm actually in the process of filing an application for a little lot of my own up there. For real, you gotta come experience it yourself to know what I'm talking about. Check it out on www.artswells.com & put it in your calendar for next year!

Now, on to the immediate future... I'm coming back into Ontario this weekend, and will be tooling around the province for over a month, so I do hope to see all you Ontareans somewhere along the way. Tour dates so far include:

Fri Sept 24 - London, ON - London Music Club w/ Allison Brown & Simple Joy
Sun Sept 26 - Bronte - CJ's Cafe, noon-2pm
Sun Sept 26 - Toronto - Mitzi's Sister w/ Allison Brown
Mon Sept 27 - Oakville - Moonshine Cafe w/ BBQ!
Tue Sept 28 - Waterloo - Princess Cafe w/ Scott Wicken
Wed Sept 29 - Windsor - Phog Lounge w/ Allison Brown
Thu Sept 30 - Toronto - Cameron House as a guest of Corin Raymond & the Sundowners, 6-8pm
Fri Oct 1 - Hamilton - The Pearl Company w/ Corin Raymond & Raghu Lokanathan
Sat Oct 2 - Mount Pleasant - afternoon house concert w/ Joe Forster
Sat Oct 2 - Toronto - Cameron House w/ Corin Raymond & Raghu Lokanathan
Tue Oct 5 - Perth - O'Reilly's Pub
Wed Oct 6 - Picton - The Acoustic Grill
Thu Oct 7 - Cambridge - The Groove Kitchen
Fri Oct 8 - Bracebridge - The Griffin
Sat Oct 9 - South River - Renee's Cafe
Sun Oct 10 - Toronto - SPEAK Music Presents at the Tranzac, 5-7pm
Tues Oct 12 - Perth - O'Reilly's Pub
Wed Oct 13 - Montreal - TBA
Thurs Oct 14 - Wakefield, PQ - The Black Sheep Inn w/ Fish & Bird and Dan Frechette
Fri-Sun Oct 15-17 - Ottawa - Ontario Council of Folk Festivals
Mon Oct 18 - Ottawa - Rainbow Bistro
Thurs Oct 28 - Sault Ste. Marie - Loplop Lounge & Gallery
Fri Oct 29 - Rossport - Serendipity Gardens


All the details for those shows, and new dates as they're added, can be found on my news page. As you can see, there are still some free dates in there, and I would of course love to stop in your neighborhood, so feel free to drop a line if you have an idea. Maybe we can set something up in your living room, or at your fave local haunt.

For those back in Edmonton, I want to mention that I miss you all, and will be back in early November to hug you, and record a new album.

For the Taiwan family, a reminder that the Peacefest has been moved to the 10/10 weekend on account of a typhoon, which thankfully gives everyone more time to prepare, and more time for you to talk your friends into widening the circle. This year's festival is in the mountains of Taoshan, Hsinchu County, and it looks to be amazing. I'll be dropping in with a little video greeting sometime during the weekend to tell you all how much I love you.

I'll close this travelogue by expressing my huge gratitude and admiration to all the people everywhere who are working to build family in their neighborhoods, to try out new ways of living, and to make a new world worthy of the best in us. I'm proud to know ya.

Big love, happy trails,

Scott


July 29, 2010

Friends,

I hope you've missed me in your inbox. Or enjoyed the break from my ceaseless self-promotion. In any case, I'm back, and loaded with reams of words to unroll.

Where to begin? It's been a wild four months, I can tell you that. And consquently, impossible to sum up in a few paragraphs. But I'll try my best.

For now, let's start with now. I'm presently coming into the home stretch of what has already been a crazy summer. Nine festivals down, with five more to go. Makin' that hay while the sun shines. I'm writing you now from Cortes Island, where I've been enjoying a few days of hanging with friends and swimming in the lake, and which is pretty much Heaven right here on earth.

Tonight I'll be in Victoria for a set at Spiral Cafe, sometime between 8 and 10pm, and then begin the long trek up to Wells, BC for one of my favorite festivals anytime, anywhere: the ArtsWells Festival of All Things Art. From there, Jesse Dee & Jacquie B and I will be rolling back through southern BC, for shows in Revelstoke, Osoyoos, Enderby, Riondel & Field, before returning to Edmonton for a little show at the Carrot Cafe & Jacquie B's birthday at the Haven. Late August I'll be up in northern BC for three weeks, playing Robson Valley, Music on the Mountain, and Sweetwater 905, before heading through the States to Ontario for another marathon ramble. All the dates, as always, are on my news page.

Well, friends, that was the easy part. Now comes the tough part, the recap. I'm warning you in advance that it could be long. Actually, who am I kidding, it's gonna be positively Homeric. In case you're wondering, that's my new word for 'epic', a word that's suffered from overuse of late. Not to worry, it just means that it'll be long, not that it'll be in dactylic hexameter.

But I digress, and there's no time for that, what with all this story to tell! The last time I wrote I was getting ready for the 'Beggars Would Ride' tour with Corin Raymond & Raghu Lokanathan, who are two of my favorite songwriters in the whole world. It was a resounding success, especially the packed living room show in Calgary, and the lovely show at Upper Crust Cafe in Edmonton, overseen by the very capable team of Jordanna & Pearl Rachinsky. A thick snow fell outside as the show burned steady and candle-like inside. This city wants more of Corin & Raghu, and what do you know, I think they want more of us too. Watch this travelogue for more developments of that kind in the not-too-distant future.

Shawna and I had one final night of revelry and song at Devaney's followed by a very early morning trip to the airport--the first of a few days of running on near-empty. On our one-night stopover in Korea we saw our old friend Michelle & new friend Matthew, and got a little taste of the Seoul nightlife. Later on, in a drunken haze of wishful thinking, I made the executive decision to set the alarm a half hour later, which resulted in us sprinting through the subway and the airport, and only catching our flight because the staff were kind enough to let us cut in line. Not in Canada, let me tell you.

That evening we arrived in Taipei for a show at Sappho with our friend and gracious host Dawid Vorster, who some of you may know from fests out west last summer. The night ended late, with Anglers trombonist Andy Francis and I chasing my old boss (who shall remain nameless) through the streets as we struggled to find his house. For a guy who could barely walk, he was amazingly agile once he clued in that someone was after him.

The next day Shawna & I rented scooters in Taipei and got ready for our trip around the island. Shawna had never ridden one before, so I assured her we'd take it easy... you know, find a quiet alley to practice in for starters. I must've forgotten that Taiwan's alleys can be crazier than the streets. Bicycles, scooters, dogs, old ladies with fruit carts, and cars driving the wrong way all appeared on cue to welcome our first-time driver with a spectacle of pandemonium and confusion. Amazingly, she survived, and soon was more daring than me on her little 125CCs of trouble.

Our first night out we headed to Fulong to reconvene with my old peeps in the Jungli family, who have seemingly all gotten married & are now adopting an ever-widening herd of street dogs. We played horseshoes by the ocean, caught up on two years of history, & felt absolutely wonderful. From there, we took our scooters a ways down the east coast before heading up into the high mountains, through mist so thick it was literally spilling up over the side of the road, past ancient trees, and through little villages where grubby kids stared wide-eyed from corrugated tin shacks.

We rolled out through Taroko Gorge and down the east coast to Hualien for two shows with Mister Green, and from there down to Spring Scream, Taiwan's oldest independent music festival, for a big family reunion that lasted til the wee hours every night. I think Shawna might have gotten a little worried about my total lack of good sense by this point, but we survived, and continued our journey up the west coast, playing in cities all along the way.

We were very grateful for the warm and generous reception everywhere. Taichung in particular was fabulous, with sweet old friends, our gracious hostess Cat, and a packed, pin-drop-quiet house at Retro Coffee.

No sooner did we get our sore bums back to Taipei than we were off to Thailand & Cambodia. It happened to be a particularly interesting time to visit, what with the Red Shirts fighting the government, and Songkran (Thai New Year) falling right in the middle of it. While we did see a lot of police and military along the highways, our experience of the standoff was mostly as an excuse for taxi drivers to overcharge you. Songkran, on the other hand, was right up close and personal. For those who haven't seen it, words can't do it justice. Let me just say it is the biggest waterfight this world has to offer, with everyone weilding supersoakers and buckets of ice-cold water, and smearing each other with liberal amounts of talcum powder. Foreigners, apparently, make especially appealing targets.

From Bangkok we headed to Ko Chang for a blissful week on the beach. It had been ten years since I last visited there, and the rampant development in the intervening time was a stark reminder of what some have called the traveler's paradox--the way our desire to get off the beaten path ends up beating the path, and destroying the very thing we came to find. But we did have a wonderful time on the island, and even came across a King Cobra, at least six feet long, curling out into the road. I had to slow & swerve to avoid hitting it with the motorbike, and Shawna was looking back as it stood up & flared its hood. She vetoed my suggestion of going back for a picture.

From Ko Chang we headed to Cambodia, and ran the gauntlet of scams at the border. A visa, we were told, would cost 1200 baht (about $40 US), rather than the $20 price we were told on the government website. We insisted that the visa cost $20 and they took turns making up improbable excuses before finally just shutting the window on us. We waited for 15 or 20 minutes before they asked us to come inside, and continued trying to negotiate their cut, this time in French. After a lot of scowling, posturing, and deliberate slowness, they finally stamped our passports & let us in for $20 each. We might have been the only ones that day who didn't get taken.

Cambodia is a land rife with creative ways to separate you from your money. But that being said, it's also a beautiful country, with very resilient people. I won't get into their recent history because it would take far too long to explain; I'll merely refer those interested to John Pilger's informative documentary Cambodia: Year Zero, which you can watch for free on FreeDocumentaries.Org.

We had time to spend a few days in the sleepy seaside town of Khrong Ko Kong, take a boat through the mangroves, snorkel off the uninhabited island of Ko Kong, visit the crowded markets and genocide museum in Pnomh Penh, and explore the astounding ruins of Angkor Wat before we had to bus back to Bangkok for our flight to Taipei.

Back on Taiwan, I reunited with my old band The Anglers for three shows, including a visit to my old watering hole, Jungli's River Bar, which kept us out til sunrise as usual. In fact, sunrises and 7-11 beers in the park or street pretty much summed up the last week on Taiwan. There were also some really heartwarming visits with old friends and a few great shows, including a mini-festival up at Boston Paul's place called "Hobo Happiness at the Refuge". It was hard to leave all those wonderful folks.

If you're the type who likes to look at other people's vacation pictures, there are a bunch in my newest photo album here.

Once back in Canada, & back to work on this tenuous business of making a living singing songs, I had just enough time to start to feel overwhelmed before I headed out again. The open roads and prairie skies of Canada were a gorgeous sight. I played my first show back in the homeland for an audience of six in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. They were six awesome people, though, and I was glad to meet them. The following night I played the wee town of Forget, Saskatchewan, at the invitation of the kind folks at Ananda Art House, and was reminded of why I keep doing this. Songs, we often forget, can change lives. They've changed mine. I'm very lucky to be able to play a small part in all that.

I returned to Edmonton for the first fest of the Canadian summer, Springtime in Alberta, and was reunited with the Long Weekends and the hometown crowd for a show at Blues on Whyte the next night, before I set off on my appropriately-named "Wrong Way to Wander?" bicycle tour of southern Alberta.

Now friends, if you're ever considering a hare-brained idea like that, at least train a bit beforehand, for heaven's sake. Let me tell you, many a curse passed these lips as I struggled against torrential winds, long hills, the weight of my trailer, rain, and even hail for good measure. On my way into Nanton, feeling like a big sail in that killer crosswind, I passed a farmer sitting in his truck at the edge of his field. I was struggling by, barely getting up to 10km/h, when he opened his door to say something. Go ahead, I wanted to say, the laugh's on me, when he yelled "you better pedal faster, you got a gig to play!" It was Lance Loree, otherwise known as Uncle Thirsty. He said he was curious to see what had been spooking his cattle.

In Nanton, Larry of the Auditorium Hotel had me bring my bike & trailer inside and park it in front of the stage while I played the show. They welcomed me as some combination of fool and hero. More fool than hero, to be sure, I set out back toward Calgary the next day and made it only as far as High River. Miss Quincy & her sidekick, photographer Jodie Ponto pulled me over on the highway and we drowned my sorrows together with beers at Gitters' Pub. It took me two more days to make it back to Calgary, at which point I decided to listen to my aching knees and load the bike into the van. Down, but not out, friends, I will return to finish the job someday.

Shortly thereafter I drove out to BC to meet up with Jesse Dee & Jacquie B for five great shows along the Crowsnest Highway. Thankfully, I'm spared the task of recapping those, because Jesse & Jacquie have already done so in their typically entertaining video blog form. Maybe someday this Luddite will get into the game. But for now here's a link to their vastly superior reportage. It even includes some inter-species miscegenation, if that helps tempt you into watching.

After returning to Edmonton, I headed to Rangeton Farmers Fest, then up to the North Country Fair for five incredible days that left me with nothing but love in my heart. Despite the near-total lack of sleep, I was reinvigorated, realigned, and most importantly, reminded of what it's all about. Huge gratitude to all the good folks who keep the Fair on track. We'll be seeing you all next year.

For those who missed the Fair or those who just couldn't get enough, we had our 3rd annual Two-Day Bender of an Afterparty at O'Byrne's, with help from The Proper Charlies, Allen Christie, Jesse Dee & Jacquie B, the McGowan Family Band, Bob Cook & the Mucho Nada Band, The Blue Bones, Miss Quincy & the Sideshow, Daniel Moir, Tatam Reeves, Michael Dunn, Joe Nolan, Ariane Lemire, and a big German dude named Roman. Hope I haven't forgotten anyone.

Regrettably, it all had to happen in one night instead of two, thanks to the last-minute news that our Wednesday night was double-booked with a U2 tribute band. This despite it being booked precisely 364 days in advance. I was again reminded that it takes a lot of love and a robust sense of humor (in addition, perhaps, to a contract or two) to survive in this business.

The point was further driven home when we were informed the following night that the U2 tribute show had fallen through, and they had a karaoke night instead. Not to disappoint the legions of crestfallen U2 fans, we busted out a messy ad hoc version of "With or Without You" in the last set. Except in this case, we weren't talking about whatever Bono was going on about in that song; rather, we were vowing to continue our afterbender elsewhere, and bidding adieu to a venue that jerked us around one too many times in our six year relationship. It felt wonderful to walk away, as anyone who's quit on a lousy boss knows.

That weekend I played the Haven's great 3rd anniversary party, on an acreage by Spruce Grove. The following week held a fun set playing for the rowdy drunks in Churchill Square on Canada Day, a sweet back yard concert in Didsbury, and the Wild Oats & Notes Festival in Tofield, which only happens every two years but is well worth the wait. The next weekend I headed up to Fort St. James for Cottonwood Music Festival, a great little fest that got me really excited about Music on the Mountain, in the same town at the end of August.

Briefly back in Edmonton, I had the honor of sharing the stage with Bill Bourne & Indio Saravanja, two huge talents, for two rounds, folkfest-style, at the Artery. Very grateful to the folks who made it out & made it magic.

That weekend we headed out to Hinton for Wild Mountain Music Fest, a young (one might even say spry) little festival that got a whole lot bigger this year. From there I made my way to Calgary to play with my good friend Radar and an amazing duo called Morlove, which combines the talents of Corwin Fox & Miss Emily Brown. Daring instrumentation, killer songwriting, hushed harmonies... truly breathtaking, I can tell you. From there, a beautiful drive across BC took me to Vancouver, where I shared a show with Johnnie Ninety-Nine, and then to the charming Islands Folk Festival on Providence Farm in Duncan.

Incredibly, that brings me up to the present date. If you've read this far, you must be a really close friend of mine, a stalker, or just someone with too much time on your hands. All the same, I thank you for your perserverance. And I promise I won't leave so long between travelogues next time. I have no shortage of things to rant about 9the G20, folkfest nazis & self-important rockstars come to mind immediately), nor things to rave about (like Mmmberta, wild berries, and the ever-expanding grey market), but it looks like I'll have to save the rants & raves for next time.

Summer has reared its beery head, friends, and it doesn't show much sign of relenting. As the song says, party legs, don't fail me now! Keep love in your heart, remember what a gift life on this earth is, and enjoy summer to the last drop. See you around the bend,

Scott


March 10, 2010

Hey there kind folks,

It's been a while, hasn't it? I hope this finds you flourishing. Edmonton's musical pot has been bubbling as always, and I've been keeping plenty busy, hosting open stages at Devaney's and in Camrose, and playing here & there in & out of town.

Among the highlights, New Years at the church was pure magic, as those of you who made it out well know. Despite my head full of ache the next morning, I have a heart full of hope for this new year. In January we took the whole band down Calgary to play the Palomino, and release "This One's on the House" at the Ironwood. I decided to go down early and soak up what I could of the local music scene, and I was really blown away by all the good stuff I got to hear while I was there: Brooke Wylie, Scott MacLeod, Deon Blyan, Steve Coffey, Erin Ross, and the open stagers at the Ship & Anchor all rocked. I also had the opportunity to meet and play a couple tunes for David Ward at CKUA, and I don't think I've had a better time on the radio. The CD release at the Ironwood was sold out and heartwarming. Best show I've ever had in Calgary, hands down. Thanks to the lovely folks who made it so. Also had great shows in Medicine Hat, High River, St. Albert and Mayerthorpe, a fantastic show in Whitecourt, and my first gig in Sherwood Park since high school, 16 years ago to be exact, when I was slinging bass for Super Dooper in the Battle of the Bands at Festival Place.

In other local news, the Greenhouse had its final shaker in January, and we all said a misty-eyed goodbye to the place that's pretty well come to symbolize this town for me (and many a weary troubadour as well) over the past two years. Jesse Dee moved to Wells with Ory No'man, and Jacquie B headed off on tour down the west coast with Faye Blais and Sarah Burton on their Cherry Pickin' Tour, so things are a little quieter around here.

Mostly I've just been trying to save up money for our trip to Taiwan in two weeks. Yes indeed, at long last, a return to Freemosa, my home away from home. I couldn't be happier about the prospect. We're also going to squeeze in a stopover in Korea and a little trip to Thailand and Cambodia while we're at it. Especially exciting since it will be Shawna's inaugural overseas ramble. I've got a few gigs coming up around town before I leave, all listed on my news page, but there's one really special little run around Alberta I want to tell you about:

Next week, two of my all-time favorite songsmiths are riding the VIA rails out this way for a little ramble around which we've entitled "Beggars Would Ride". Toronto's Corin Raymond, who must be well known by now to readers of this travelogue, and Raghu Lokanathan, who I first met out on Haida Gwaii in 2003, and whose songs have also brought many a tear to these eyes, will be joining yours truly for a few Alberta shows:

Thurs Mar 18 - Camrose - Scalliwag's, 9pm. $10 at the door.
Fri Mar 19 - Red Deer - The Velvet Olive, 9pm, by donation.
Sat Mar 20 - Calgary - House Concert, email me for reservations.
and Sun Mar 21, my last show in Canada for the season, at Upper Crust Cafe here in Edmonton. Tickets are $15 at the door or $12 in advance at BlackByrd Myoozik.

All the details for those shows are here. I really hope you can make it out to see these two huge talents while they're here.

We'll have one last hang the next night at Devaney's before Shawna & I head off to Asia. Thursday, March 25, we'll be landing on Taiwan's soil, renting scooters, visiting my old students (who I haven't seen in two years), and playing Sappho in Taipei with Dawid Vorster that night. The following day we're off on a road trip around the east coast of the island, stopping over to see the good folks in Fulong, playing with Mister Green in Hualien, and winding our way down to Spring Scream. After the festival I'll be touring my way back up the west coast, with stops in Kaohsiung, Tainan, Changhua, and Taichung. The show schedule is posted on my news page and shows are still being added.

A heartfelt thanks goes out to those of you who've already voted for me to play at Spring Scream. It seems, however, that they've changed the rules a bit during the course of the game... They are now apparently only counting votes from those who have bought tickets to the festival. If you are planning on going, the tickets are cheaper online than at the door, so you may as well get 'em now. Once you've bought your tickets, you can not only log "VIP votes", you can also rank the bands you've voted for in order. I will smother you with affection for your clicks. http://www.springscream.com is the place to do it all, and the button to get English is up in the top left corner next the "Spring Scream". Ahh, those online popularity contests, you gotta love 'em. Or not. In any case, your help is hugely appreciated.

In late April we're taking a little trip to Thailand & Cambodia. If we manage to survive the heat, we'll be back on Taiwan at the beginning of May to reunite with the Anglers for a few shows around the island before heading back to Canada for what's shaping up to be an epic summer.

Well, I gotta sign off for now, but I want to wish you the solidest and best of times wherever you are, until we meet again. Big love, and happy trails,

Scott


December 15, 2009

Hey friends,

I'm writing you from a sweet chalet overlooking Kicking Horse mountain in Golden, BC, where we Long Weekends have been happily curled up by the glow of the artificial fire. Ahh, the hospitality of strangers. We played Rockwater the last two nights. Moses & Pascal left after Saturday night's show, just in time to miss the flare-up of testosterone that inevitably results from an abundance of X chromosomes paired with an abundance of alcohol. Golden joins Manmore and Manff on the list of mountain towns turned sausage parties for the winter. Jesse, Jacquie and I ventured back down the hill last night for a couple mellower sets, which was really nice. The sun's shining on the mountains now as we get ready to head back to our prairie home.

It's great to be back out west, and the musical pot is bubbling as usual in E-town. My first show back was a lovely house concert at Myles, Tara and Tila's place, with two true masters of troubadourism, Toronto's Corin Raymond (who readers of this travelogue can't help but be familiar with) and the mighty Jonathan Byrd, from North Carolina. Now that was a show. Jonathan grabbed us and wouldn't let go. If you missed him this time around, don't repeat your mistake.

Last week saw the winter edition of our Two-Day Bender of a Homecoming at O'Byrne's, with guests aplenty including The Proper Charlies, Dana Wylie, Tippy Agogo, Bill Bourne, Wool on Wolves, and Stacy Lloyd Brown, newly migrated to our town from Halifax. Despite the cold outside, folks actually stripped down & got sweaty on the dancefloor. Seems we all had some steam to blow off. Two nights later we went out to Camrose for what was probably the best Long Weekends show ever, thanks to our gracious hosts in Rose City Roots and the great crowd of open-hearted people. That kind of thing makes it all worthwhile. When we were about done, Mike, the boss and captain of Scalliwag's Rum Bar, came to the stage with a handful of cash and asked us to carry on. Mose requested a tune that couldn't have been more apropos, Corin Raymond's "Paid to Party":

"I always liked the dark time, I don't like the night to end When I was a kid at bedtime, I didn't want to go to bed My dad used to open up my door and say it's time to settle down I couldn't wait to grow up, so I could live right downtown Cause I just knew that out in the world there were people like me And all of us freaks would find each other eventually, you see Now I get paid to party, cause it's the life I chose Every night about sundown I put on my party clothes So let me into your country, Mr. Immigration Man Which part of 'paid to party' do you fail to understand? And my down time / is comin' down time..."

Well, it's a hard life, but a good one.

When last I wrote, I was seriously considering throwing it in for now and working for the man. Fear not, loyal readers--fortune has been kind to me, and gigs aplenty have come in, enough to keep me afloat in fact. Among other strokes of providence, I will be singing Christmas carols to greet the arriving travelers at Edmonton's International Airport three days in the coming weeks! I am humbled to be chosen as Edmonton's cultural ambassador of goodwill and yuletide joy. Hopefully I'll be singing close to the guy whose job it is to single people like me out for random searches of my invariably overstuffed luggage.

In addition to that, we have a few other upcoming gigs:

Our good friend Penny of Backporch Swing has cooked up a stellar evening of music at McDougall United Church for New Year's Eve, featuring us Long Weekends, the Bix Mix Boys, The Low Flying Planes, Back Porch Swing, Laurel Maclure, Marshall Lawrence, Brian Gregg, The Proper Charlies, Erin Kushniruk, Jesse Dee & Jacquie B, and Willie James & Crawdad. Admission is a non-perishable food item or cash donation to Edmonton's Food Bank. The show runs 7:30-10:30pm so it's a perfect kickoff to whatever else you're doing that night. And the acoustics in the church are truly incredible. It's gonna be magic.

Saturday, January 16, the Long Weekends and I are headed down to Calgary, at long last, to release This One's on the House at the Ironwood's new location in the historic Garry Theatre, with special guests Jesse Dee & Jacquie B and Scott MacLeod. I'm hugely looking forward to this.

And I'll be hosting open stage at Devaney's more regularly in the near future, including Dec 21, Jan 11, Jan 25, Feb 8, and Feb 22. It's always good fun, we're set up for jamming, & we quite often have time for more than three tunes. Oh, and you get a pint of Big Rock brew for playing. Hope you can make it out. Info for those and all other shows is on www.scottcook.net.

For those of you with time and a computer on your hands, I've uploaded 'Carving Stone' and 'People, Please' to bigrockuntapped.com and would be very grateful if you could spare a moment to tap them.

Even more importantly, it's the time of year when summer festivals make their programming decisions, and I'm sending out my packages this week. It looks like I'm going to be sticking to western Canada this summer, although plans could still change. If there's a festival you'd like to see me at, kindly nag your favorite artistic director for me please. Especially if you happen to know Terry, who books Edmonton Folk Fest.

I'd also like to let you all know that Jez Hellard, who played harmonica on my album, has recently parted ways with the Dana Wylie Band and set out on his own. Find him and befriend him over at www.jezhellard.com.

Lastly, I want to mention that I have been very good at answering orders promptly of late, and vow to continue. The upshot of this is that you can still get copies of This One's on the House in time for Christmas. And I'd be glad to sign them for whomever the intended recipient may be. If you have a credit card, you can order with the Paypal button at the top of the page here.

Well, I suppose that's all the news that's fit to print. Here's hoping that this winter season holds warmth, fellowship and inspiration aplenty for you. Be well, big love,

Scott


November 5, 2009

Beloved,

It sure is good to be back home. Roads were lovely, but getting colder, money was flowing out rather than coming in, and I think I've had just about enough partying for the time being (really), so it sure is a welcome feeling to be out of the van and back among my loved ones. I'll be hanging around most of the winter (save a few little trips here & there), working further on releasing my new album, catching up on things, and perhaps reluctantly re-entering the labor force. Folksinging is just not paying the bills these days, not even close. I'm going to give busking the metro a shot but if that doesn't work out I may be riding that 8am train once again. (You're right Rob, there is a song in there somewhere...)

A thought just occured to me, though: I've noticed a lot of my friends are involved in 'mentorship programs', and having toured cross-country three times now, I reckon I've got plenty of experience in how to lose money. Any emerging bands or artists looking for advice on utterly impoverishing themselves are welcome to apply. Or just hop in a car and drive across the country, you'll get the same lesson.

But seriously though, I have thought about giving lessons of other kinds. I've developed a very specialized skill set over the past few years that seems to qualify me for little else but work in music, and I would love to share what I've learned. If you or someone you know is looking for help with writing bios, establishing a web presence, booking tours, doing publicity, or any aspect of performance including guitar playing (which I'm no expert at but I can certainly teach), feel free to contact me at grooverevival@gmail and we'll sort something out. I will work for cheap. If you need some leaves raked I'll do that too.

But let's get on to the good news, shall we? My new album, This One's on the House, is starting to chart on a few college & community radio stations across Canada, and has even hit #21 on CKUA here in Alberta. I would greatly appreciate it if you could find the time to call up your friendly neighborhood DJ and ask for a track off the album. I'd love to see this record make a blip on the national radar.

The other really exciting bit of good news is that my personal fave songwriter, Corin Raymond, is coming to Alberta! Not only that, but he's bringing along master tunesmith Johnathan Byrd from North Carolina. I know many of you folks have already heard me wax eloquent about Corin's songs, play them in my sets, or croak them around the campfire. Well, now you get to experience the genuine article. Corin & Johnathan are coming to Edmonton next Thursday, November 12th, for a house concert at our friend Myles' place, 11106 62 ave. Doors are at 7:30pm and I'll be opening the show with a set of my own at 8. There's only room for about 30 seats in Myles' living room, so I highly suggest you make reservations while you can. Feel free to ring me at 780 695 3474 or even better, drop a line to grooverevival at gmail dot com & I'll save you a seat. The Facebook ad's here.

For those outside of Edmonton, perhaps you can catch them elsewhere (like Montreal, Ottawa, Port Dover, Calgary, Nanton, or Black Diamond). This show just might change your life. Here's the link to Corin's writeup for the tour.

I had a great time playing with Corin in Toronto, for a surprisingly-stilled Thursday evening crowd at the Cameron House, as well as the night before at the Central with Faye and Diana Catherine & the Thrusty Tweeters, and the night before that at Mitzi's Sister with Faye and Janine Stoll. We also had our own apartment for 4 days courtesy of Mr. Jimi Maze. I think it just might've been my best-ever stop in the big smoke. Nice to know such good folks in town.

We had sweet stops along the way back, too. In Sudbury I played the biggest show of tour, in St. Andrew's Church with fellow Taiwan expat & hometown girl made good Faye Blais, and then two sets in the round at the Townehouse the following night with Faye & James Lamb, who is a mighty talent as well. In Thunder Bay we had easily twice as many people out as last time (when it was just the staff, Mr. Rob Grabowski, two drunk youngsters and a guy who lived in a tent outside of town), and were warmed again by Sheila, Tina & Alex's wonderful hospitality. In Winnipeg I played the Edge Gallery with the Sweet Alibi and was wowed by their flawless harmonies. Afterward we scooted over to the Times Change(d) to catch Del Barber and JD Edwards, who were both fantastic, and then to a raucous house party til the wee hours of the morning. We stopped in Bradon to catch the Ladies Who Like to Folk (Kaley Bird, Sidney York & Amy Thiessen) at Lady of the Lake, and play a wee tweener, then headed to the SK for a smalltown stomper of a Halloween gig at the Nokomis Hotel with my Saskatoon faves, The Heartstrings. After the show we enjoyed the hospitality of Nokomis' own Little Miss Higgins & Foy Taylor, who are delightful musicians in addition to being fabulous hosts. Jolene was ambitious enough to make up a batch of biscuits at 3 in the morning. Biscuits & borscht after the bar--I thought I'd gone to heaven, and perhaps I had.

I've got a few things coming up around town in the next while:

Saturday, Nov 14 - Notebook Magazine Fundraising Gala & Silent Auction
Planet Ze Design Centre (10055 80 Ave), 8pm-1am
Music from Scott Cook, ido (www.myspace.com/idovanderlaan),
The Low Flying Planes (www.myspace.com/thelowflyingplanes),
and The Dana Wylie Band (www.myspace.com/danawylieband)
Notebook Magazine is a vital part of Edmonton's arts community and needs your support to stay afloat. Bid on over 75 pieces of work created by 50 different visual artists from Notebook's pages. Enjoy food by Cafe Leva and a cash bar featuring Alley Kat beers. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. They are available now at Delta Art Supply, the Paint Spot and all Colours Art Supply stores.

Tuesday, Nov 17 - Triple Bill
Brixx Bar and Grill, 10030 - 102 Street
Scott Cook - http://www.scottcook.net
Doug Hoyer - http://www.myspace.com/doughoyer
Mark Feduk - http://www.myspace.com/redram11
Doors 9pm, $8 @ door ...it's gonna be a gooder!

Friday, Nov 20 - Fresh Start Bistro in Riverbend, 7-10pm, $5 cover

Monday, Nov 23 - Hosting open stage at Devaney's, 9013 88 Ave, 8pm- midnight

For shows further down the road, please check out http://www.scottcook.net.

Folks in Taiwan, I sure wish I was with you this weekend. The annual Hoping for Hoping Peace Festival has moved to November this year, and has also moved to a new location, San Jhan Village in Hualien County. I visited this spot the last time I was on the island and I must say it is amazing! Just outside an aboriginal village at the confluence of two river valleys, with a rich jungle backdrop, it's a perfect spot for the fest, especially for this year's, where the theme is "Return to Innocence". The band lineup looks great, including folk legend Kimbo, Mister Green & Highway 9, Tyler Dakin & the Long Naked Bottles, High Tide, the Admissionaries, Dakanow, New Hong Kong Hair City, Kou Chou Ching, Skaraoke, Divebomb, THC, Kyobashi & Furai from Japan and much more. As always, it's an all-volunteer endeavor, with all proceeds going to charity. This year some of that money will go to help communities in the South that were hurt by Typhoon Morakat.

This is a truly inspiring festival, with a wonderful group of people behind it, and I really do believe that it has the potential to change the world, because I know firsthand that it has changed me. This year we're deliberately going with a more back-to-basics approach, stopping the bands at a reasonable hour to let people get some rest (or jam out all night, whichever you prefer), and encouraging the ongoing conversation on the subject of peace.

One thing that may be worrying to Taipei people is the Central Weather Bureau's forecast, which was showing rain clouds last I looked. Please keep in mind that their forecast applies to all of Hualien County, which is huge, and mostly in the mountains. It rains somewhere in Hualien County on pretty much any given day. But along the coast it's been clear weather for the past week and we see no reason to expect any different this weekend. Don't let the forecast scare you. Bring an umbrella, but bring your swimwear too, and get ready for a beautiful, transformative weekend.

www.hopingforhoping.com

Lastly, as the holidays are coming, I'd be remiss not to remind you that This One's on the House makes a wonderful gift, and you can even get it signed for the lucky recipient. Use the Paypal button on my site or mail a checque ($20 for the new album, $35 for both) to Scott Cook, 3 Meredian Road, Sherwood Park, AB, T8A 0N5 and I'll mail it off to you right away.

Sending big love to you all, and warmth through the winter months,

Scott


October 20, 2009

hey friends,

Just a wee update from the ever-winding road... We've just been at the OCFF and had a fabulous weekend, not least on account of so many of my peeps being there. Jesse Dee and Jacquie B are on their first- ever cross-country tour with Ory Noman, and they stopped in and played, as did our friends Sarah Burton, Andrea Ramolo, James Lamb, Miss Emily Brown, Ben Spencer, David Ross MacDonald, Ben Sures, James Murdoch... the list goes on. Corin Raymond & Sean Cotton of the Undesirables did an official showcase Friday night that put the "show" back in showcase and reminded us what it was all about. Each night was taken up with unofficial showcases in hotel rooms, which I did three of Friday night and one of on Saturday, in between going room to room to check out all the outstanding folks playing. Brian MacMillan & co. really stood out for me; they had the sweetest, softest vibe going in their jam. Johnathan Byrd was great as usual. New surprises were songwriter Jon Brooks, Oliver Johnson & Layah Jane, and Alejandra Ribera. I'm gonna stop listing people now for fear of leaving somebody out.

Jesse, Jacquie, Ory, Shawna and I decided to shore up our hobo cred (and protect our dwindling cash reserves) by sleeping in our vans in the parking lot, and you know what, it actually felt righteous, after all the money we spent to play at this conference, to save another chunk on accommodations.

I met a lot of people over the weekend, and even had one of those mythical 'urinal moments', you know, where you've been trying to get someone's ear, but can't get past his handlers, and then one day, you happen to be taking a piss next to the very fellow you're trying to reach! Sweet fortune.

Last time I wrote I was in Toronto, and funny enough, we're headed back there today. I'm playing tonight at Mitzi's Sister with great songwriter Janine Stoll and fellow Freemosan Outlaw Faye Blais, and tomorrow (Wed) at The Central with Diana Catherine & Faye Blais. Then on Thursday I'm at the Cameron House from 6-8pm to open for the outstanding Corin Raymond.

This weekend convinced me again that Corin is not only my favorite songwriter (yeah, I said it), but also one of the most electrifying performers I've seen in a long time. The Undesirables lit up the tiny Tunesmiths Room at 1:30am Saturday night, and Corin & his Sundowners cast an even deeper spell in another room upstairs at 3:30am, truly magic. If you haven't seen this man in action, you owe it to yourself to get over to the Cameron House for sunset on Thursday.

From Toronto we're off West, winding our way gradually home, with stops in Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Nokomis, and more to be added. Keep an eye on www.scottcook.net for updates as usual. It's been an epic tour already and it's still a ways from done. We had a great time in Montreal as usual, and I had loads of fun playing with Sarah Burton, Diana Catherine & the infamous Matt Blackie. From there we shipped out to the maritimes and hit up a beautiful house concert spot called the Dunk in Breadalbane, PEI. Huge thanks to Hal for his gracious hospitality, and to Scott MacLeod for coming out to open the show. Halifax was lovely, and was the place we stayed longest along this tour, spending six days with Shali & Steve Gates, who also shared two shows with me while I was in town. It rained pretty well the entire time we were there, but we did find the chance to experience torrential winds at Peggy's Cove, and to get hilariously, but perilously, lost deep in the dark, thorn-ridden forests by Cape Split. After an hour of desperation in the darkness we finally found the Rockpod & patted ourselves on the back for our soldierlike composure.

We spent Thanksgiving day in Fredericton, playing a matinee show at Crumbs Cafe, a sweet new spot in town, with Taiwan buddy Geoff North sitting in on the bass. The following day we dug Quebec City and later hooked up with Joe Splane (who will be familiar to longtime readers of this travelogue), his lady Catherine & their new son Nova. There's an awful lot more to be recounted but it's best done in person, over a campfire or a couple pints somewhere. Hope to catch up with a y'all soon.

In other news, the first couple reviews have come in for my record, from Fish Griwkowsky at SEE (http://www.seemagazine.com/article/music/ music-feature/listen0924/) and Eden Munro over at Vue Weekly (http:// www.vueweekly.com/article.php?id=13262), and I must say they were both very kind to it. The album's gone out to all the college & community radio stations in Canada, and should hopefully be added to their playlists by now. Feel free to call & request it, I sure wouldn't mind the help. Our Edmonton compilation, Great Northern Revival, has also gone out & should be requestable by now too. I know CKUA's already playing my record, for one, and would really appreciate if you'd let them know that you like it. While you're at it you could also do the same over at bigrockuntapped.com.

Huge thanks to all of you for your support through the years, it means the world to me. I'm running home with an empty wallet but a full heart, and a very good feeling about things. Big love, see you round the bend,

Scott


September 26, 2009

Hey good friends,

Just a quick update from the road... We're in the lovely city of Toronto right now, enjoying the hospitality of miss Jessi J. I'm playing here tonight as part of the Songwriters Unite showcase at Grafitti's in Kensington Market, and then we're headed east tomorrow.

Winding up the summer, Jesse Dee, Jacquie B, our merch angel Shawna & yours truly had a killer time out west on our "From Our House to Yours" tour, which I have insufficient time to recap, so I'll just direct those interested to Jesse & Jacquie's video blogs on Youtube:

Robson Valley Music Fest
From Our House to Yours tour blog part 1
From Our House to Yours tour blog part 2

We closed off the tour back in Edmonton for my hometown CD release at Pleasantview Community Hall, with those ever-lovin' Long Weekends, Jesse Dee & Jacquie B, Bop Ensemble, the Low Flying Planes, Dana Wylie, Maurice Jones, and Winnipeg's Dusty Roads Band. It was truly a historic evening of music & community, with such fine folks in attendance, it warmed my heart & filled me up with love. We stayed around til the wee hours and drank the bar dry, with the Dusty Roads Band representing the Peg to the bitter end.

We had a couple days to get our things together before heading off again, this time East with just Shawna & I in the van. The trip so far has been fabulous, although mighty lean on cash... In fact, I think I broke a new record, playing in Superior, Wisconsin for an audience of about six people at the show's peak, and walking away with $7 cold hard cash in hand. But the roads have been lovely, and Shawna's been stoked to see all the new sights along the way. It was her first trip to the United States, and not suprisingly, they held us up for an hour and a half while they asked us the same questions over & over and took a drug-sniffing dog on an extensive tour of the fully-packed Rockpod.

But it was all worth it to return to the Earthwork Harvest Gathering, on the beautiful Bernard family farm outside Lake City, Michigan-- truly the coolest thing I've ever been to in the States, and I was hugely glad to return for another year. Its mama & papa, Seth & May, run both the record label and the farm, and fed us all weekend with vegetables fresh from the ground. Truly inspiring. They're on www.earthworkmusic.com.

Now we're headed out to the east coast, and back through this way for the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals in Ottawa in October. I'm still patching together the schedule, but dates confirmed so far are:

Sep 26 - Toronto - Songwriters Unite Showcase at Grafitti's
Sep 27 - Cobourg - Matinee show at the Human Bean, 2-4pm
Sep 29 - Montreal - Barfly, with Diana Catherine & Sarah Burton, yay!
Sep 30 - Montreal - Kicking off the jam at the House of Reggae, 10pm
Oct 02 - Breadalbane, PEI - House concert at The Dunk
Oct 03 - Maritimes TBA
Oct 04 - Halifax - Matinee show at Company House with Steve Gates, 3pm
Oct 05 - Halifax - Just Us Coffee with Steve Gates, 7pm
Oct 10 - Halifax - Sing For Your Supper songwriters showcase at the Carleton, 2-5pm
Oct 14 - Ottawa - Rainbow Bistro, with The Release Jam Band from Whistler
Oct 15 - Ottawa - House Concert
Oct 16 - Ottawa - OCFF showcases: Tunesmiths Room 12am, Songwriters Unite Room 1:30am, Alberta Room 2am
Oct 17 - Ottawa - OCFF showcase, Tunesmiths Room 2am
Oct 20 - Toronto - Mitzi's Sister with Janine Stoll & Faye Blais, yay!
Oct 21 - Toronto - The Central with Diana Catherine & Faye Blais
Oct 22 - Toronto - Cameron House, opening for Corin Raymond, 6-8pm
Oct 24 - Sudbury - St. Andrew's Place with Faye Blais

All the info for those shows is on www.scottcook.net/news.php. More dates are coming in as we speak, so please keep an eye out for them as they're added. And feel free to write if you have any leads for plugging holes in this admittedly porous schedule.

Those of you who've pre-ordered "This One's on the House" will be glad to know that I put them in the mail yesterday. Orders are still being taken on www.scottcook.net, via cheque or paypal.

Oh, & though I got shut out last time, I'm not giving up on getting onto that Big Rock Untapped CD... I've just uploaded two songs from the new album onto their site & would really appreciate it if you'd go by & 'tap' them so they can move up the charts--the site's www.bigrockuntapped.com and the songs are "Carving Stone" and "People, Please".

Sending huge thanks, love & blessings aplenty your way, happy trails,

Scott


Aug 28, 2009

Hey friends, At long last my new album "This One's on the House" is finished! I just sent the last artwork corrections in today, and I should have the CDs (& their snazzy little booklets) in my hands within a week. I can't wait to get them into yours. I've already gotten some pre-orders for it from across Canada, which I'll be mailing out as soon as the CDs arrive. Which is likely to be in Vancouver, already a couple shows into the tour. That's just how I roll. At least I have vowed to never again make an album in the summertime, it's just plain masochistic.

Anyhow, I just set up a Paypal account, and will be accepting pre-orders through that or by checque. You can pay by Paypal from the front page of my website. Just look for the orange "buy now" button near the top. Or you can mail checques to Scott Cook, 3 Meredian Road, Sherwood Park, AB, T8A 0N5. Please enclose $20 for a signed copy of the new album, or $35 for two signed copies, or signed copies of both the new album and Long Way to Wander. Please indicate which albums you want & who you'd like them signed to (if not you), & make sure you don't forget your return address!

Jesse Dee & Jacquie B are also releasing a new EP this Saturday at the Black Dog, and we'll be doing a two-week double CD release tour out west together. If you can't make it at least watch Jesse & Jacquie's ever-entertaining video blogs! Here are the dates:

Sun Aug 30 - Golden - Rockwater Bar & Grill
Mon Aug 31 - Come find us in the woods
Tue Sept 1 - Penticton - Voodoo's
Wed Sept 2 - Vancouver - Cafe Deux Soleils
Thu Sept 3 - Vancouver - The Main on Main
Fri Sept 4 - Victoria - Solstice Cafe
Sat Sept 5 - Courtenay - Joe's Garage
Sun Sept 6 - Cumberland - Tarbell's Cafe
Mon Sept 7 - Kelowna - Streaming Cafe
Tue Sept 8 - Golden - Rockwater Bar & Grill
Wed Sept 9 - Lethbridge - The Slice
Thu Sept 10 - Nanton - The Auditorium
Fri Sept 11 - Canmore - Zona's
Sat Sept 12 - Red Deer - Triple CD release with Bop Ensemble at Matchbox Theatre

And then the main event for me, the hometown release of "This One's on the House", Sunday September 13 at Pleasantview Community Hall in Edmonton. Doors open at 6pm with food (I'll cook, but potluck items are also MOST WELCOME!) and of course the bar will be flowing. I'll start things off with a short solo set at 7pm, followed by music from those lovely Low-Flying Planes and some other surprise special guests. The Long Weekends and I will get up around 9:30 or 10 for a set of more danceable tunes, followed by the Dusty Roads Band from Winnipeg, who'll take the night out with a set of rocking blues.

For those of you on Facebook, I'd appreciate it if you'd pass on the invite, thanks!

After the release party, it's off across Canada again, touring the album down into the States and all the way to the Maritimes. In a rare burst of brevity, I'm going to tell you about that another time. But I can tell you that bookings are still very patchy for that trip, so any help with venues and/or shows to share would be much appreciated.

And a last note to my Taiwan peoples: Coming your way in the spring. Soooo looking forward to it.

I trust you've all been enjoying the summer, and I hope to see you out there along the way. Big love, happy trails,

Scott


July 22, 2009

Hey friends,

It's been such a long time since I wrote last, in fact, it's probably the longest break you've had from my blather, and I can't think of anything to blame besides the incessant pace of partying that inevitably follows on the heels of warmer weather in this wintry nation of ours. I hope this note finds you happy and healthy. I've got lots to recap but I'll start out with the news for those of you who only read so far (I can't blame ya, I'm a long-winded rambler, and this promises to be the longest-winded ramble yet).

The first big thing on the horizon is that I'm closing in on finishing my next solo album, tentatively titled "This One's on the House", a paean to hobo living and the good folks who make it all possible. I laid the beds at Edmontone Studios with Mr. Doug Organ on the controls (as well as the piano and Hammond organ), steady Thom Golub on the standup bass, and Dwayne Hrynkiw on drums. Moses, Pascal and I took another crack at the title track with Steve McGonigle at Black Box Studios, and it's sounding sweet. I've taken over the overdubs myself, and have so far captured performances from Jez Hellard & Matthew Ord of the Dana Wylie Band on harmonica and guitar, Jesse Dee on electric guitar, Darrek Anderson on pedal steel, Mike Sadava on mandolin, Bill Bourne on guitar and vocals, Jason Kodie on accordion, Cam Neufeld on violin, and Dana Wylie, Haley Myrol, and those lovely Hotplates on vocals. Brad Smith is doing the mixing in his home studio. I'm getting really excited to see the whole thing taking shape, and to have the help of so many talented folks.

The CD release is planned for Sunday, Sept 13th in Edmonton. Venue and lineup information is coming soon. Right now I'm just sweating the work that still needs to be done to get this thing out, and the cash that needs to materialize before the presses fire up.

Here's where you come in. If you share my excitement about this record, you can certainly help out to make sure it sees the light of day sooner rather than later. I'm accepting advance orders for signed copies of the new album, for either $20 including shipping & handling (I'll be handling them myself, in case you're wondering), or $30 for BOTH the new album & a signed copy of Long Way to Wander, which just went into its third pressing. Bulk orders are also possible for a discounted rate of 7 CDs for $100. You can pay by check, addressed to me, mailed to Scott Cook, 3 Meredian Road, Sherwood Park, AB, T8A 0N5. I'm working on getting a paypal account set up too, to make things easier.

While we're on the subject of new records, I want to let you know that Corin Raymond has just let one drop that is nothing short of a masterpiece. Entitled "There Will Always Be a Small Time", it's a beautiful, enchanting album, thoroughly modern and nostalgic at the same time, with heartbreaking ballads, doo-wop love songs, and the title track, a sort of "Times They Are A-Changin'" wake-up call to the 21st century music industry. The playing is incredible and the sound is crisp and intimate--actually, downright friendly. And the liner notes are fabulous. In an age of throwaway bands whose appeal seems to be based more on their outfits than their songs, here is a wordsmith with the kind of honesty, craftsmanship, and commitment that we can only hope is coming around again. I can't say enough good things about this album. Check him out on corinraymond.com or just head straight to CD Baby and order it now, you won't be disappointed.

As for live shows, there are a few coming up:

Tonight, Wednesday July 22, I'll be at the Empress in Edmonton, with Andrea Ramolo from Toronto our friend Jay Skiendziel on the upright bass. We played in Calgary last night & had a blast. Tonight I've got help from my South Country Fair lineup--Moses Gregg on bass & Haley Myrol on vocals--and it's sounding sweet.

This weekend we're out at Sasquatch Festival in Easyford, Alberta (near Drayton Valley) for what looks to be the best one yet, and unfortunately the last on the current land, a beautiful spot along the Pembina River. This will be the 14th year for this fest (and my fifth time playing) and it is truly a gem. Around 400 people, two stages, a (decidely non-traditional) sweat hut by the river, a big potluck on Saturday, and music from the likes of Aroot's Bazaar, Paul Bromley, Sarah Burton, Garner Butler, Cockatoo, Kevin Cook Quartet, our Long Weekends, Jesse Dee & Jacquie B, Barb Dwyer, Steven Johnson, Monica Lee Band, the Low Flying Planes, Nineca, Of Breath, Ory No'Man, Eddie Patterson & friends, Jill Pollock, Jan Randall, Random Order, the Time Flies, Stephanie Bosch, Sophie Fairweather, Daniel Moir, Joe Nolan, Rhea March, Andrea Ramolo, Vibe Tribe, and the Waijo Drummers. Need I say more? Info's here.

After that I'm off to Wells, BC for what is looking to be one of the best fests of the summer, ArtsWells, and a 4-day songwriting workshop before the fest with David Francey. Info's here.

Further on in the summer, I have gig at Redstone Grill in Red Deer August 15, Blues on Whyte August 16, Robson Valley Music Fest August 21-23, and the release party for our upcoming Edmonton compilation CD, Great Northern Revival, at the Artery August 28th. Info for all my shows is on www.scottcook.net.

Well, that's all the news that is news. The rest is just recap, and a whole lot of recapping at that. Read on at your own peril. For those of you of the so-called 'MTV generation', you can satisfy yourself with a little taste of the Long Weekends' summer antics via Jesse & Jacquie's mid-June video blog. For those of you with more patience & a compulsion for trivia, read on:

The last time I wrote you, over 3 months ago(!), I was out in Vancouver, getting ready to turn my wheels eastward. I played shows in Grand Forks, Winlaw, Kaslo and Canmore on my way back, and reunited with plenty of good folks along the way. I joined up with Jesse Dee & Jacquie B, Moses, Pascal, and our friend Paul Stewart in Red Deer for a triple bill at the Vat including our first Long Weekends set in months. It was a bit rusty but it made me so happy to be playing with the band again.

Later that month I drove down to Lethbridge to compete in the South Country Fair's songwriting competition at the Slice. It was the first time I'd done anything like that, and I must admit that the row of judges in the front actually made me kinda nervous. I sang "The Ramblin' Kind" and managed to take 2nd place, which was really nice.

The following weekend I played the Slice again with Rozalind MacPhail, and then headed to Twin Butte for another show at the General Store, which is one of my favorite venues ever, anywhere. It was another great night, and some folks even came from out of town to party in the mountains.

In early May I got my bicycle going and rode out to the first fest of the summer, Springtime in Alberta, at Hayloft Acres near Ardrossan. Uwe puts on this fest every year and he did a stellar job. The Low-Flying Planes had no trouble wowing and wooing the folks there with their songs and enourmous charm. We sat around a little pond afterward and sang songs in the sun & felt glad to be alive.

Also in May, I went out to Thorsby to play with Tim Harwill, who just might be the realest country singer in the province. This vegetarian cowboy has played nearly every saloon and honky tonk in Alberta, and has never compromised. He's coming out with a new album which I hope you'll keep your eye out for.

Around town, I played Blues on Whyte with Nerkelwerks (Bill Bourne & Tippy Agogo), and as usual it veered wildly from musical brilliance to outright chicanery, including a roll on the dancefloor for Mr. Agogo. During set break, I was sitting with some friends and another gentleman who'd joined their table. He evidently didn't realize I was playing with the band, because he told me he hoped they wouldn't go on much longer. "You know what that reminds me of?", he said, "back when I was in the pen, they threw me in solitary one time, 48 hours in this little room with nothing in it but a metal piss-pot. And I was just banging on that pot and screaming out made-up songs for hours, you know, to annoy the guards, and keep myself sane... Anyway, that guy, on the floor over there? That reminded me of that." I thought it might make a good quote for Tip's presskit, actually.

May also saw the Show for Joe at the Black Dog, which had an impressive lineup of local bands who knew & loved our hometown soundman, songman & funny man, Joe Bird. Everybody brought their A game. I was especially impressed by Sherry -Lee & her Handsome Fellas, and Jeff Stuart & the Hearts. We all got drunk, as I imagine Joe would've wanted it. It still feels like there's a big part of the heart of our city missing, but we're stepping up the hugs to make up for his absence.

Toward the end of the month, Jesse & Jacquie returned from tour and we played a house concert in our friend Monica's back yard, along with local legend Bill Bourne. For those of you who missed that beautiful afternoon, there's a little video here.

At the end of the month I went down to Calgary for the 4th Street Lilac Festival, had a wonderful time, and was happily reunited with my Cowtown friends, whom I love more & more every time.

June saw the Long Weekends loading into one van & hitting the road for the first time--only three shows, but it was a tour nonetheless, and it even acquired an official moniker: the "Working on a Legend" Tour. I instructed the younger members of the band in the fine art of legend-making and late-night PR or 'networking' sessions, which of course are code words for staying up partying all night long with 'good people to know'. The first night's big PR session was inside & later outside the Whistlers Motel in Jasper, with Brian MacMillan's band (who are amazing), master songwriter Raghu Lokanathan (who just moved to the neighborhood, and surprised me by dropping in for the show), Chrisely Larson, and our good friend Scott Crabbe of the Jasper Folk & Blues Society, who set up the show.

The next day we sped to Evansburg for the Rangeton Farmers Fest, also known as the 'dry run' for the North Country Fair, a basically accurate description, except that the fest is far from dry, and no one runs. From there we went out to Camp Man Boy (our friend's cabin) for an evening of jams, hilarity and BMX feats. Moses took over the late-night PR shift there, and I must say, he made me proud.

The following day we cruised up to Grande Cache for their first-ever music festival and back home, all of us tired and sunburnt, but laughed right out, and a whole $106 richer to boot! I suppose that's what you call a successful tour. Jesse & Jacquie made a great little film of the weekend, including some thrilling BMX wipeouts, which you can see here.

The following Wednesday we loaded up and made the annual pilgirmage north for my first love of festivals, and still the nicest thing anywhere, the North Country Fair. It's very hard to put all the craziness that went down up there into a single page, let alone a paragraph. Suffice it to say that it was the friendliest, sunrisingest, goofingest, jammingest, and bugbitingest Fair ever. If you live anywhere nearby and you missed it, please don't repeat that unfortunate mistake next year.

We followed it up with our second annual Two-Day Afterbender at O'Byrne's, and it was even better than last year. So many good folks came down to play and drag out the lovey Fair vibe, including the Low-Flying Planes, Miss Quincy and the Ramblers, Ange Healy & Fiona Fieldwalker, Jill Pollock, Maurice Jones, Jesse Dee & Jacquie B, The Dana Wylie Band, Cam Neufeld, Boogie Patrol's Rotten Dan, Bob Cook, sailboat troubadour Anselmo, Sean Brewer, Pascal Lecours, Zoe Francis, Jeff Stuart & half of the Hearts, Aroots Bazaar, Daniel Moir, and of course those ever-lovin' Long Weekends. Booker T's band, the Sticky Wickets, also dropped in Tuesday night, and while they've never been to the Fair, we figured that seeing as they played Rexall Place Tuesday night it would only be right for them to play our party too. Everybody rocked out BIG TIME.

The following Saturday I played with Miss Quincy and the Ramblers at the Empress Ale House, and managed to finagle their way onstage at Blues on Whyte too. They rocked out. What a show! Come back soon, ya Ramblers.

Shortly afterward I drove out to Saskatoon for another show with fellow Taiwan expats Shayne Lazarowich and the Dana Wylie Band (the heroes of this year's North Country Fair, in my opinion). It was a sweet reunion and an astounding show as well, with a great solo set from Dana's guitarist, Matthew Ord, who is truly one of the best players I've ever heard. We're still having a hard time getting a crowd together in Saskatoon but it's improving. Steve George & Muogai from Taiwan even dropped in. After the show we retired to Dana's family's cabin on Blackstrap Lake and contemplated the sublime slopes of Mount Blackstrap, a 45-metre high ski hill built of garbage. Only in Saskatchewan.

The following night I played in the tiny town of Bruno, Saskatchewan for a crowd of four people--four very attentive, very nice people, mind you--and decided I'd way rather do that than play for forty or even four hundred yahoos. The venue is a very cool little store called All Citizens, run by an artistic couple from Vancouver who bought the property (including a house & yard, on Main Street) for $6300. That price tag, together with the beauty of the drive, actually got me thinking about moving to the grain fields and open spaces of SK for a break. I heard about the venue from Geoff Berner, who was actually given the key to the city by the mayor when he & Bob Wiseman played there. My host Tyler graciously gave me an engraved plate dubbed the "Canadian Cross-Country Touring Award", an honor that I apparently share with Julie Doiron.

Afterward I cruised down to Mortlach where the Saskatoon Berry Festival was already in full swing. My friends Andrea Ramolo and Jason Skiendziel, Canary Mine, and the Heartstrings were all there and it was sweet to be reunited & to hear them play again. I'd heard about the fest from Jimi Maze last year & decided to make the trip. Mortlach's mayor, Ron Locke, booked the bands, made the schedule, and generally kept the whole thing running. Afterward he set us up at his place with a glowing fire & a cooler full of beer, and this morning his wife Linda cooked us breakfast. Wonderful people, and a wonderful little town; it warmed my heart and got me thinking further about a move to one of the many funny-named towns dotting the prairies of Saskatchewan.

The following weekend we hit up the Pembina River Nights festival, a truly wonderful fest with probably the best lineup yet this year. All the bands rocked out huge, but truly, the Weber Brothers blew everyone away. Particularly for any musicians in the crowd, that's what the bar looks like when it gets raised way up. Amazing. Pascal also continued the Long Weekends' string of good luck by winning the guitar. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, is all I could say for myself.

We got up way too early Sunday morning to drive up to Hinton for the Wild Mountain Music Festival, another excellently-organized festival with another killer lineup. I know I got up too early because I left my guitar and ukulele beside the stage at Pembina River Nights. Thankfully Laura vinson was kind enough to lend me hers & we drove back to Rangeton to get the guitar and the compulsory laughs that went with it, a round for everybody on me.

I barely had time to get back & get a little bit more recording done before we headed off to the South Country Fair for another weekend of musicality, hilarity and debauchery. I've been going to this fest on and off for over ten years now & I think this may have been the best. I was especially grateful for a tweener on Saturday that turned into half a set; it was nice to have a chance to stretch my legs on main stage & talk to the good people for awhile.

That made fest number 9 so far this summer, and I've still got 3 more to go. I do hope you'll join me in drinking the summer down to the last drop. I've been chugging so fast it spilled all over me.

If you made it all this way, you are not only a fast reader, but you may also share with me a certain compulsive obsession with completeness. Don't let it get out of control, I forewarn you! Just look at what can happen!

I promise next month's Hobo Travelogue will be shorter. Really.

Big love to you all, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support,

Scott



April 4, 2009

Beloved,

I miss ya all like crazy.

I'm writing you from the meteorologically-fickle city of Vancouver, where our hopes have been repeatedly fluffed and dampened over the past few days. Make no mistake, though, the warmer weather is well on its way, dragging the good times with it. I'm staying at Ange Ella Healy's place this time, taking it pretty easy, working on new songs, and hitting up open stages most nights. All set for a big reunion tonight with my old housemate Shali, the lovely and inimitable Jenny Mak, Scotty Rabel & Jena, & more.

Tour's been sweet so far. Our tour kickoff at the Blue Chair was wonderful. The place was sold out full of friendly folks and Trevor & Jesse wowed 'em. Thanks so much to those who came. Jesse left for Thailand the next day, inspiring feelings in envy in all of us still enduring the bitter conditions in E-town.

I got deathly sick the following week and was actually contemplating cancelling shows on account of illness, which I haven't yet had to do. But phonecalls to Miss Quincy in Nelson and Steve Teeuwsen, who wanted to catch a ride to the Koots, along with a (mostly imaginary) improvement in my condition, convinced me to go for it. We rode off Sirdar-bound with me sneezing and hacking up all variety of nasal and pulmonary flora. Sick as I was, though, it felt like a weight lifting to be back on the move, and life began to make sense again.

My throat was still so bad that I couldn't really sing that night at the Sirdar Pub, but I figured the four or five folks who'd paid cover deserved a proper show(!), so I did my darndest. Gave up after two short sets and settled down to drinks with the locals, who are a very funny lot. We liked them and the owners Rob & Brenda so much that we resolved to come back for their Tuesday night jam.

The next day we crossed Kootenay lake and were sweetly received by Miss Quincy and the ladies of the Sugar Shack. A wonderful group of old and new friends trickled in through the door, the ladies lit an army of candles, and the house filled up with love. Everybody sat for storytime in the first set and got up and grooved for the second set with the Hobo Hifi. I had help from Nate and some other folks on drums and Gabe on a sweet dancehall toast. Surely one of the best shows in my span of years.

Moreover, I finally got to play Brin the song he stars in, inspired by our meeting around this time last year in Vancouver. For you, my loyal readers, here's a rough recording of that very tune, finished just before I left Edmonton, with help from those lovely Hotplates, Megan Kemshead & Lynett McKell--This One's on the House.

Steve & I stuck around the Kootenays awhile, embarking on a beer tour of sorts around the lake. The first stop was Sirdar. Funny enough, no one in Nelson has any idea where that is. I found myself enlightening locals about local geography surprisingly often. Nelson, like anywhere, or perhaps even more than most places, can be a bit of a bubble. But what a wonderful, nappy-headed, oddly-scented bubble it is! Steve and I bestowed a formal letter of thanks in the classifieds at Laura's paper, the Daily News, and chuckled to ourselves about that.

From the Koots I drove to Osoyoos to visit Lady J & Kent of Taiwan fame, and meet their newest addition to the family, Nadie. The crowd at the Sage Pub was amply ready to party & promptly got jiggy to the Hobo Hifi beats. In fact, it seemed they would get jiggy to just about anything. Everyone there was complaining about the cold except me, stoked as I was to be out of frosty etown.

From there I headed to Penticton, saw my good friend V, and spent a few nights camping out by Lake Okanagan, working on scales and songs. I've really been appreciating the looseness of the schedule so far on this trip; it may be a testament to my laziness in booking, but it's allowed me to get caught up on some things.

The provincial parks board was kind enough to leave Okanagan Lake campground open, with black garbage bags over the pay stations... remarkably there were only three or four hardy campers taking advantage of it. I was just happy to be lakeside and not freezing. During my stay there I played to a tiny crowd at Fibonacci's, and to a bigger crowd the following night at their open stage. It's good to see that's thriving, thanks in part to Maiya Robbie, who's an excellent host. The next stop was Vancouver, for a spring fair in McLean Park. Just a few people there but they were kind folks, including two of the gents who run Soundwave out in Ucluelet.

Wednesday's show at Cafe Deux Soleils was much better-attended; it felt like a big reunion, actually. I'm not gonna start naming guests from afar for fear of leaving others out. Suffice it to say everyone was there and if you weren't, well, sigh, your loss. Anyway, a huge thanks to all who made it out for that, and to Ange Ella Healy and Renee Layla for sharing the show.

Over the weekend I skipped the Juno craziness and headed up to Powell River for a show at McKinney's Pub. It was my first trip up the Sunshine Coast and I was very grateful for all the friendly folks dancing. Our old etown pal Vince Sanregret joined me on didj and it was groovy.

I'm back in Vancouver now but will be headed to the island tomorrow to stay awhile with Scotty & Jena, two of my favorite people in the world. A couple shows out there before I roll back east again:

Fri April 10 - Nanaimo - The Vault, w/ DJ Rebel Selector
Sat April 11 - Duncan - gonna hit the folk guild's open stage
Sun April 12 - Victoria - Matinee show, 2-4pm at Spiral Cafe
Sun April 12 - Vancouver - House Concert, 9-12 at Tzvi's place
Wed April 15 - Grand Forks - Joga's Cafe
Fri April 17 - Winlaw - Cedar Creek Cafe
Sat April 18 - Kaslo - Bluebelle Bistro
Sun April 19 - Canmore - Zona's
Tue April 21 - Red Deer - The Vat, w/ Jesse Dee & Jacquie B
Sat April 25 - Edmonton - Gazebo Park, 10am-3pm for Edmonton Food Security Network

As always, details for all these shows are on scottcook.net.

I just found out I've been selected as a finalist in South Country Fair's songwriting contest, so I'll be speeding away from the Gazebo party & leaving you in Jesse Dee & Jacquie B's capable hands. I'm gonna squeeze in a few more shows around Southern Alberta along the way. So far:

Sat April 25 - Lethbridge - South Country Fair Songwriting Contest Finals at the Slice
Tue April 28 - Lethbridge - hitting open stage at the Slice
Friday May 1 - Twin Butte - Twin Butte Store

More dates are coming soon, so please stay tuned to scottcook.net for those. While I'm back around Edmonton in May I'll be going back into the studio to get started on a new album of folksongs, which I'm hoping to release in August or September. Stay tuned for more info on that too.

A couple more items of business before I sign off... The first has to do with those house concerts you're hearing so much about lately. I've only played a couple of these, one just last month, but they were truly among the best shows I've ever played. Things seem to be moving more & more in this direction lately, and I think it's a welcome change. The hosts get music in their home (not to mention the esteem of their peers) for free, the performers get an attentive crowd who came to see the show, and good money for their time, and the audience gets to hear the songs and connect with the performer in a way that just doesn't happen in bars or venues in general. Even better, you don't have to buy overpriced food & drinks--most house concerts are BYOB and/or potluck.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because I want to play more of these things. I've registered on Concerts in Your Home and applied to Homeroutes.ca, but it appears that the sudden surge of interest in house concerts has thinned out the opportunities already... So I'm asking you to consider whether you'd be into putting on a house concert in your place. Big town, small town, I don't care. You don't even need a PA. All you need is a living room & 20 or more people who want to see a show at $10 each. Contact me if it sounds like something you might be interested in. Perhaps we can even build our own network, like Homeroutes has done, who knows? Cause I know a lot of great singers who'd be happy to come to your house.

I close this month's Hobo Travelogue on a sober note: as many of you have likely already heard, Edmonton lost a legend this week. Joe Bird, 41 years young, died of too big a heart at home on Wednesday. He will be sorely missed. His songs, his 'man hugs', his irrepressible flirting... He was an inspiration and a constant source of hilarity to so many of us. He lived life like he meant it. Those of us left behind gotta spread a lot more hugs around just to make up for his share. And live every day we get to the full, properly, daringly, with our ears, eyes, and hearts wide open. Thank you, Joe.

Sending big love out to all of you, thanks for reading, and keeping me in your thoughts. I hope to see you all along the twisty road of summertime. Be well, happy trails,

Scott


Feb 20, 2009

hey friends,

well, it may not feel quite like spring, but it's coming around to that time of year again, and the road's calling me back. I've got tour kickoff parties next week in Edmonton and Calgary, and a whole bunch more shows across the west, which I'll get to in a second. First off, though, big love to everyone who made it out to the Long Weekends show at Blues on Whyte, it was a stomper. It was great to play out three sets and dig out some dusty jams including Bob Dylan's Isis and our Bob Marley supermedley, which I've put up online for your listening pleasure... You can hear your ever-lovin' Long Weekends in action here.

I've got a few more shows coming up around Alberta in the next couple weeks before I head west:

-Tonight, Feb 20, I'm back at the ever-friendly Gitter's Pub in High River.

-Tomorrow, Saturday Feb 21, I'm gonna drop by the afternoon jam at the Ship in Calgary, then up to Red Deer for a return visit to The Velvet Olive, with special guest and hometown girl made good Megan Kemshead!

-Sunday Feb 22 The Hobo Hifi & I are opening for Souljah Fyah at the Haven Social Club in Edmonton. Souljah Fyah was recently nominated for the Juno for best reggae recording, and I think they're gonna take it. They are truly amazing. I'm on at 9:30 and it'll only cost ya $5 for a blast of tropical heat. Bring your dancing shoes.

-Monday Feb 23 I'm hosting open stage at Devaney's in Edmonton. I've done two of these nights already and so far the calibre of musical guests dropping in has been amazing. Swing by and give us a few songs, it's always a lot of fun. 8-midnight.

-Tuesday Feb 24 is my Calgary tour kickoff. Jesse Dee and I are joining local songbird Trina Nestibo for an intimate show at Calgary's premiere roots venue, Ironwood Stage & Grill. I played with Trina a month back and I'm thinking this is gonna be magic.

-Thursday Feb 26 is my Edmonton tour kickoff. Jesse Dee, Trevor Tchir and I will be collaborating live in the round for a unique listening show that will surely contain some musical surprises. I really admire the work of both these songwriters and this show will be a great chance to hear the songs in a listening environment. Jesse Dee's leaving for Thailand the next day!

Friday Feb 27 Steve's releasing issue 6 of Notebook Magazine at the Artery, with music by the Whitsundays. I won't be playing, but I'll be hanging around.

Then I'm off! Tour dates so far include:

March 6 - Sirdar, BC - Sirdar Pub
March 7 - Nelson - House Concert at the Sugar Shack
March 13 - Osoyoos - Sage Pub
March 25 - Vancouver - Cafe Deux Soleils with Renee Layla, Ange Ella Healy & Magpie Ulysses
March 27 - Vancouver - Trees Coffee House, just a half-hour set, by donation
April 4 - Vancouver - House Concert
April 10 - Nanaimo - The Vault


There are still a whole lot of holes in there, which I'll be attempting to fill as soon as possible, so keep tuned to http://www.scottcook.net for more shows as they come in.

Unfortunately I won't be making Taiwan this spring, although I'm gonna try for the fall, when I've got a new record (fingers crossed).

Lastly, while musicians today often complain that they keep getting replaced by DJs, karaoke, or video games which allow you to pretend to be a musician, this quote from Woody Guthrie talking about "nickel phonographs" (juke boxes) struck me as highly appropriate:

"Nickel phonographs has really throwed lots of musicians out on their ass and I don't mean perhaps. Almost every little old saloon use to have 3 or 4 or 30 musicians and nowadays you put a damn nickel in a bastardly slot and a whore house light turns on and you got your music--but have you got as much real old red blooded fun? I doubt it. I like real people better. Put them back to work. The world would be a lot happier."

So hey, if you like what the McPubs are doing, or like what Wal-mart's doing, or what Tim Hortons is doing, throw your money at them. And if you like buskers, local small businesses, live music and the places that support it, throw your money at them. That's one vote where you have a real choice. And use those votes wisely--there aren't so many of them around these days.

Big love to all of you, and thanks for your continued support. I hope to meet eyes again somewhere around the bend. Peace,

Scott



Jan 11, 2009

Hey friends,

I hate to bore those of you far away with endless updates about gigs around Alberta, so I thought I'd sweeten the pot a little this time with a new song for ya, just written this week and as yet unperformed. But first, the shows:

THIS WEEK:

Tomorrow, Monday Jan 12, I'll be hosting the open stage at Devaney's Irish Pub (the old O'Connors, 9013 88 Ave). It runs 8-12pm and I would be very happy to hear you sing and play.

Wed Jan 14, Jesse & Jacquie are opening for Ottawa songwriter and one-man band Marc Charron at the Empress, 8ish-12. This'll be a great show and I urge you to come see Marc while he's in town. Oh yeah, & it's free.

Thurs Jan 15, Moses & I will be playing the Nest at NAIT, one set at 4:30, and then I'll be heading to Hulbert's (7601 115 Street) to open for Chanda Cooper at 8pm. That show's $10 at the door.

NEXT WEEK:

Tues Jan 20 I'll be playing two sets with the help of my Hobo Hifi at Brixx Bar & Grill, which is the new name for the newly-renovated Velvet Underground. It opens early for dinner and the show starts at 9:30 sharp. There's no cover before 9 or it's $5 afterward.

Thurs Jan 22 I'll be down in Calgary to play the Thursday Sessions with Trina Nestibo at Mikey's Juke Joint (1901 ñ 10th Avenue SW). Trina's a really great singer and plays a mean squeezebox too. I'll probably come down the night before to get in on Trina and Dawn's Pussy Willow Jam at the same place.

Fri Jan 23 I'll be in Okotoks for the first-ever live music show at Original Joe's, 9-12, no cover.

LATER ON:

We Long Weekends have only two shows left before I leave on tour:

Fri Jan 30 the Long Weekends and I will be playing Breezy Brian Gregg's Creative Commons release party for his new Pastafarian anthem, 'Flying Spaghetti Monster'. For those of you who don't know, Pastafarianism is a new religion that I converted to about a year back, and I take a certain zealous pride in having brought Brian and Moses into the fold as well. The curious can read more about it here. For the party we'll be dressing as pirates and eating spaghetti (as is Pastafarian custom) while turning our thoughts upward to Our Noodly Overlord (may the sauce be upon him, now & forevermore, Ramen). Brian's family band, the Greggs (Brian, Moses and Harry, with Dale Ladoceur on Chapman Stick and Bill Hobson on drums) will be playing a set as well. Things kick off with the video shoot at 8pm and it's $12 in advance or $15 at the door. It all goes down in the comfortable confines of Fiddler's Roost (8906 99 Street), with our main man Bernie on the bar serving up the $2.50 beers, opened with a spoon. Pirate regalia is encouraged but not required. Yarrr!

Sun Feb 8 will be the Long Weekends' last show til the summer, at the legendary Blues on Whyte. Total, utter mayhem is to be expected.

Shortly after that, I'm off on tour of Alberta and BC. I had planned to fly to Taiwan from Vancouver but things are really up in the air now, with cash being very slim... I regret to inform you that the life of a working musician isn't quite as carefree as one might like. One silver lining, though, is that I might actually get out a new album before the end of the year! I'll keep you posted on what happens with all that.

Tour dates, as they get booked, will be going up on scottcook.net.

Having heard of some surprise account deletions on Facebook, I'm in the process of moving my Facebook mailing list over to email to be on the safe side. If your current email address is on your profile, I'll do the work for you, but if not, please do send it to me and I'll add you to the list and remove you from the Facebook list. If you're currently getting this to both Facebook and your email account, please accept my apologies for that, it'll be fixed soon.

Lastly, I just joined a very cool site called The Sixty One where you can hear loads of independent music for free, and bump stuff to move it up in the rankings. Feel free to sign up and bump me here.

Alright, enough talk, more rock. Here, for your listening pleasure, is a new tune, tentatively titled "The World's Got its Secrets to Keep".

I hope this finds you all flourishing. Be well, live large,

Scott



December 16, 2008

Hey friends,

This is possibly the shortest Hobo Travelogue I've ever sent out, mostly just because this hobo hasn't been doing much traveling lately. Edmonton has been wonderful to me, and I'm very happy to be stationary for the time being. Getting lots done in the way of catching up, feathering my nest, learning scales (finally!), studying music, and working on new tunes. Also booking my spring tour, which will be starting in mid-February, taking me out to the west coast & hopefully to Taiwan from there, for a couple months of R&R and work on our Peace Festival.

Things have been quite busy in town musically, and this week's no exception. Edmonton peoples can catch me at any of three shows this week:

Tomorrow, Wed Dec 17, I'll be playing a short set at F&M's Christmas fundraiser, to help raise money for the REE*start program, which works with troubled youth in town. Salinger, Daniel Moir, Ariane Mahryke Lemire, Jesse Dee and Jacquie B, and of course F&M (http:// www.fandmtheband.com) will all be doing sets as well, with the emceeing duties handled by local funny man Trent Wilkie from Mostly Water Theatre. Things start around 7 & I'm likely on around 8ish. Oh, & it's absolutely free, thanks to the generosity of the hosts, O'Byrne's Irish Pub, at 10616-82Ave. It's going to be a great night of music.

Friday Dec 19 I'll be opening for the incredibly talented and irresistibly groovy Aroots Bazaar at Wunderbar, 8120 101 Street. I start 9ish and it's $5 at the door for a long night of Romanian/ Flamenco/Cuban grooves. I'll be bringing the Hobo Hifi along with some new sounds.

The next day, Sat Dec 20, I'm playing an afternoon solo show (with a little help from my friends & the Hobo Hifi of course) at my favorite bar in town, the Empress Ale House, at 9912 82 Ave. The show runs from about 4 to 6:30 and there's no cover for all you pobrecitos. I couldn't think of a better place to get your afternoon drink on. I've cooked up some special numbers for this show and I'm really looking forward to it.

That'll be it for this year. In the new year we've lined up dates at Devaney's Irish Pub, the Nest at NAIT, Brixx Bar & Grill, Blues on Whyte, Fresh Start Bistro, and in Calgary with Trina Nestibo. I also want to give you a little preliminary heads-up about Brian Gregg's release party for his new Pastafarian anthem, "Flying Spaghetti Monster". It's gonna be a blast, I assure you. Mark January 30th on your calendar and get your pirate getup ready! Details for all those shows are on http://www.scottcook.net.

In closing I want to wish you all a happy solstice and the best of the holiday season. Here's to another spin around the sun! Be well, much love,

Scott


October 15, 2008

Good people,

I'm writing you from sunny, leaf-crunchingly lovely Edmonton. It sure is nice to be home once in a while.

First off, two big shows coming up this week: tomorrow, Oct 16, I'll be playing a solo set to open for Lynn Miles at the Haven. Chloe Albert's also on the bill, and well worth checking out. It's $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Doors open at 6 with happy hour prices, music starts at 9:30. I reckon I'm on first, so if you're coming, don't be late. You can check out Lynn on www.myspace.com/lynnmilesmusic

Then on Friday, Oct 17, the Long Weekends and I will be showcasing for the Western Canadian Music Awards, at Jekyll & Hyde Pub, 10209 100 Avenue. There are 5 bands playing downstairs that night & another 4 upstairs. Our slot is 10pm downstairs and it's only a 45-minute set so come early! It's $10 at the door or $20 for a wristband that'll get you into all the venues over the weekend. There are over 130 bands playing in 17 venues all around town, and it's gonna be a blast. The full schedule's on www.wcmw.ca/festival

We've been cooking up some reggae jams, and a couple new tunes I wrote on the road, and we're really excited for the chance to play them for you. Hope you can make it out, we really appreciate your support.

Speaking of how invaluable your support is, my huge thanks go out to everybody who tapped my songs for inclusion on Big Rock's upcoming compilation CD. Looks like about 60 of you did it; you know who you are. Thanks so very much. If anybody else wants to, there's still time, just go by www.bigrockuntapped.com and sign in.

From New York, where I last wrote, I headed out to Connecticut to play out there & visit my cousin John, then back through to Michigan for a stay on my grandparents' farm. I wrote a new song on the last leg of the drive, the fastest I think I've ever come up with one; it's linked at the end of this email. My cousin Dylan and I managed to get some jamming in while watching his almost-2-year-old son Ivan attempt feats of physical daring that would've terrified your average mother. I needn't regale you with the details; suffice to say he's gonna be one tough kid. From there I rolled down-state to the Earthwork Harvest Gathering, on the Earthwork farm outside Lake City. It was one of those weekends that give the Long Weekends their name--epic, blissful, and filled with beautiful folks, homegrown food, and far-out sounds. The head farmer Seth Bernard and his lady Daisy May Erlewine have gathered an amazing community of musicians around their homegrown label, Earthwork Music; it actually reminded me of Taiwan with all the bands sharing members with each other. Dylan got up & played some mandolin with me, handling his first time on stage with aplomb, and my Taiwanese hip-hop compatriot Dr. Dan even got up to drop a verse. Over the weekend my ears were opened to new musical vistas and my heart even found some new hope for the weary old States. Oh, & in case you're wondering, the new hope isn't Obama, it's us. Look up Seth & May on www.earthworkmusic.com for wonderful tunes & inspiration.

I stuck around to help with tear-down the next day & then headed to Grand Rapids for a visit with Ken Stead and family in his new digs, then across to Wisconsin for a visit with my oldtime singing pal Emma Hood & her new family. The show was pretty well empty, but the Democratic HQ across the street was full of people watching the debate, which I guess can't be too bad. From there I hit my last show in Duluth, Minnesota, playing for my pal Jason at Beaners Central, as part of his yearly One Week Live recording. The crowd was wonderful and the other bands all rocked; there couldn't have been a better ending to the tour. A possible date in Winnipeg fell through & I was elated to turn my wheels westward for the long run home.

It sure was a great feeling to pull back into my folks' driveway and settle down to eat at the family table again. The next night I went into town to see the Ory No'man & Sarah Burton bands (which are really one band), and my bandmates Jesse Dee & Jacquie B, who set up the show for our traveling friends. I sang a couple tunes and was humbled by the warm reception. A few days of laughs followed, lounging around the Greenhouse, eating big breakfasts, following big strong coffees with frosty pints, and of course jamming. The Hotplates' new band, the Low-Flying Planes (aka the B Section), is sounding stellar. These four wonderful women sang my tune "Worried Blues" to me as I lay on the sofa and I decided that I can die happy now, having known life at its sweetest.

I'm really looking forward to a few months of downtime, to catch up on things, write, practice, and begin work on a new recording. But hey, there'll be plenty of time for that when the snow falls. For now, Edmonton is looking about as pretty as a city could. Hope to see you local yokels this weekend. Freemosans, I'm considering a return visit in the spring, will keep you posted. Much love to everybody, have faith and aim for the best. Peace,

Scott

PS as promised, here's a little recording of my newest tune, "The Ramblin' Kind", just recorded today at Chris Quesnel's house, for you, my ever-loyal readers: The Ramblin' Kind

Be forewarned, it's a sad one. You can download it with a right- click, or ctrl-click on Mac. much love.


Sept 11, 2008

good friends,

I'm writing you from a late-night falafel shop in New York City's storied East Village. There's a salsa band rocking down the street and I've just been to see some excellent roots music at the Living Room. This city truly never sleeps, which is nice for a night-owl like me... I spent the day wandering around and digging the mighty throng of people from all over the world, awestruck. But all good things must come to an end, especially expensive good things like visiting New York--I'll be hopping a late train back to Cold Spring tonight. I'm up there staying with a good friend of mine, filmmaker Andrea Sadler, who I met way back when I was just starting all this wandering in search of songs eight years ago. It was on her invitation that I came down to play the Hoot on the Hudson last Sunday, a wonderful little fest in honor of Mr. Pete Seeger, who's about as living legend as it gets in this here folksinging game.

It was wonderful to see Pete in action. At 89 years old he's still sharp, and in surprisingly good shape for all the roads he's been down and all the floors he's undoubtedly slept on. Years of high & lonesome wailing have taken their toll on his vocal cords, though, so these days he tends to just say the lyrics and leave the singing to the crowd. Everybody knows his hits, and we joined in with gusto on "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "Turn, Turn, Turn," "If I Had a Hammer," and other classics. And yes, Pete wrote those songs.

For those who don't know him (or confuse him with Bob Seeger, ha), a little history: this man has been singing since before Bob Dylan was born, and long before he named himself Bob Dylan. Pete traveled and sang with Woody Guthrie, and Alan Lomax (legendary chronicler of American folk music on the Folkways label) pointed to their meeting as the birth of modern American folk music. He released 3 or 4 albums a year at his peak, and his discography totals over a hundred albums, a feat not even Dylan has pulled off. He worked tirelessly as an activist for peace, civil rights, and the environment, including spearheading the building of the Sloop Clearwater, which sailed on the Hudson River and educated generations of kids on the need to clean it up. The "Dirty Old Stream" is looking beautiful today, thanks in large part to him.

When I crossed the border the day before, the guard asked (as they usually do), "what kind of music do you play?" When I told him I played folk music, he said he liked it, but didn't know any names, besides of course Bob Dylan. I mentioned Pete & his face lit up; he said Pete had played at his camp back in the day, and he also knew that Pete had been behind the movement to clean up the Hudson. Waved me through with a smile. I never would've thought that a former enemy of the state would carry such good weight at the border crossing.

Pete was blacklisted for 19 years during the whole communist paranoia in the States. Most of the defendants who were called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities pleaded the Fifth Amendment, refusing to incriminate themselves, but Pete (as well as the "Hollywood Ten") took the unusual tack of appealing to the First Amendment, arguing that it was none of the government's business what they had said or who they had associated with. For that valiant defence of the Constitution he was sentenced to a year in jail on the charge of contempt of Congress, a sentence which was thankfully overturned later.

Many of you have probably seen pictures of Woody's guitar, with the slogan "This Machine Kills Fascists" scrawled across it. Pete, being a gentler sort of fellow, wrote "This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces it to Surrender" in beautiful script around the outside of his banjo head, and he's still playing it today, the head worn and browned with age.

Here's a pic Andrea took of me & the man himself.

He left the party early, but I did get to meet him and we spoke for awhile as I helped him carry his guitar back to his car (not that he wasn't perfectly capable of doing it on his own). Along the way, he stopped and stooped down to get something from the grass. I thought it was some wild flower or mushroom that he was pointing out, but it turned out to be a piece of black plastic garbage bag. "It's my religion," he said as he pocketed it.

Tonight I saw a great duo called Gillen and Turk, who gave props to Pete and Woody during their set... What they liked about both these men, they said, was that they sang what they thought was the truth. What more can a singer aspire to? Pete quit his old group The Weavers because they did a jingle for a cigarette commercial and he just didn't figure he needed the money that bad. He got cut from TV programs by pissed-off sponsors and networks for singing songs critical of the establishment and the Vietnam war, including "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy", a song that applies just as well to George W's war in Iraq as it did to LBJ's war in Vietnam. He struggled and sang for peace his whole life long, often at great expense to himself. And he's still spreading the same message today. Truly a shining example.

Well, I can already tell that this month's Hobo Travelogue is gonna go on longer than usual. Thankfully I'm a monster typer and hopefully some of you are monster readers. I should recap a little as to how I got to New York from Halifax...

Steve, Zac and I had a wonderful matinee show at Gus' Pub before I left, and such a fine group of people came out to spend the sunny afternoon with us. We followed it up with a swim in Long Lake and beers on the balcony. The next day I headed off to Liverpool to meet up with fellow Edmontonians James Murdoch and Nick Perrault for a gig at the Mersey House. Not much crowd out but it's a great venue & I really enjoyed James & Nick's set. The next day was my birthday and I set out feeling wonderful, tunes playing, sun shining on the road. It all came to a halt when my car went haywire and died along highway 3, not far from Hubbards. I got a tow into town & checked into a hotel, uncertain what the next day would bring and whether the show was off the road. I curled up with a six of Keith's and the Olympics on the TV; saw Usain Bolt, crazyass 25- year old dancehall kid from Jamaica, break the world records in 100m and 200m, heard the athletes talking about all the work it takes to make that 0.1 second difference, and strengthened my resolve.

The next day it turned out the alternator was to blame for my troubles, the same used alternator that I'd installed myself about a year before that, when I broke down in the mountains outside Fernie. It was a great relief to be back on the road with only a $140 repair bill, although it also meant I had to haul ass now. I stopped in Fredericton for dinner with Geoff North (of Militant Hippi) and Lindsay, before heading on... Reached Montreal the next day and was reunited with Alia, my old hound Xiao Ai, Smoking Cones drummer Pierre, and fellow Taiwan vets Caroline, Francois and Lisa Kohli. Missed Steve Teeuwsen by a day.

From there I raced back to Collingwood, Ontario, for a gig that turned out to be cancelled at the last minute to make way for hometown boy & Canadian Idol finalist Drew Wright's VIP party... ahh, the life of a musician. The next day I made it to Kimbercote Farm for their Sonic Orchard Festival. Had a lot of fun, met a lot of kind folks, ran into some I knew from the other end of the country, and partied in a big barn. Really dug Romney Getty from the grass on Sunday. Oh, and for those of you who've met my traveling companion, Pussaramas, you'll be glad to know that he was welcomed back home to rapturous applause.

I left there for Hamilton and arrived just in time to help another Taiwan vet, Tiff, bring her stuff down to the truck before she sped off to the airport for her flight back to Asia. Played the Pepper Jack Cafe that night to a small crowd that included my good friend Suzy Miller, who you'll surely be hearing more about in coming Travelogues, as she & I have decided to work together and make lots of money. This came as wonderful news to me, overburdened with bizness as I am.

That weekend I went up to the Frontier Ghost Town in Durham, Ontario for Mark Wilson's Come Together Festival, which is a bit of a drunken gongshow, but in the best way possible. I was feeling a little shaky for my Saturday-morning set but it went great anyway. All the bands were outstanding, especially Mark Wilson and the Way It Is. It was kinda funny because it was the exact opposite of the festival the weekend before, where they had to track how far people had driven to in turn compensate for their carbon emissions so the fest could be "carbon-neutral". Come Together removed any doubt about their carbon neutrality by setting fire to the biggest bonfires I've ever seen, both nights. A dump truck came and dropped a load of timbers, literally whole trees stripped of their limbs... Apparently it was a relatively small fire, as this year's fest was a smaller gathering, but wow, the sounds coming from inside of it! We were tripping out in the treehouse nearby imagining that the fire was normal size and the people dancing around it were all munchkins, hilarious. In contrast to Kimbercote's great organic spread, Come Together had a limited menu, consisting of hot dogs, burgers, and french fries. Some people seemed to survive on beer alone. People kept giving me incredulous looks whenever I was eating stuff I'd made out of my van... "Wow, is that really a tuna sandwich???" or "Are you honestly eating a bowl of cereal???", like they'd never seen such a thing.

From there I went up to Wasaga Beach to meet up with Joe Splane & his lady Catherine, and then back to his place in Barrie for late-night singing and reminiscing with them. From there it was off to Toronto, where I stayed with my fave acoustic-guitar-wielding MC, Jimi Maze, and hit up several open stages around town. On Thursday I went to the Cameron House for Corin Raymond's sundown set, which had me full-up with joy by two or three songs in. I was glad that some friends (Amberley, Mike Goede, Seb) came out to see him too, because he is seriously one of the best songwriters in Canada, and he gathers great musicians around himself. Sweet to finally hear "Small Time" (which I've been playing a lot) in its birthplace, right there with the sign that says "Paradise" on the wall, and the bartender yelling out "last call for day prices!" at the end of their set. The show was followed by rotis and a late-night song swap on Corin's porch that filled me up with words and poetry and lit a new fire in my belly. Thank you, Corin. Do yourself a favor and check him out!

The next day I played the Songwriters Unite Showcase at Graffiti's in Kensington Market, and loads of folks (Jordan, Amberley, Amanda, Sarah Calvert, Natalie, Jean, am I forgetting someone?) came out from far & wide to see me, which was really wonderful. The other songwriters were all very talented and the night felt really special. I managed to get to bed before sunrise (the first time since I darkened Jimi Maze's doorstep), and left the next day for New York.

Which brings me here! I'm actually finishing this post from Cold Spring, where I'll be playing tonight as part of a songwriters' showcase. From here I'm off to Connecticut for a show and a visit with my cousin John (yes, that cousin John), then back to Michigan for some down-time on my grandparents' farm before heading down to the Earthworks Harvest Gathering, the ninth(!) and final festival of the summer for this rover. From there I'll head to Wisconsin to play a show with my good friend Emma Hood & see her new baby, then to Minnesota for my third visit to Beaner's Central. The show will be recorded live for inclusion on an annual compilation CD they put out called "One Week Live". From there I'll be making my way home, at last, via Winnipeg and Saskatoon. I must admit that I'll be very glad to hang up these traveling shoes for awhile. I'm thinking of spending the winter around Edmonton, and starting work on a new reggae album.

I'll bring this to a close here before you all nod off at your keyboards... One last thing: if you have time, you could do me a huge favor by going by www.bigrockuntapped.com and registering as a user so you can "tap" my songs for inclusion on a compilation CD that will be distributed to venues all over Canada. I saw this thing everywhere & I'd really love to get on it, but to be considered for it, you need to be "tapped" by listeners. Yaknow, a sorta popularity contest sorta thing. Stupid, but I'd really like to get on this CD, and would be very grateful for your help in doing that.

Anyway, that concludes this month's Hobo Travelogue, and for those of you who made it this far, I have a kiss for every one of you! Feel free to collect whenever you see me. Cheers, big love, keep pushing,

Scott


Aug 16, 2008

hey friends,

I'm writing you from a little cottage on the beachfront in Hubbards, Nova Scotia, where my old Taiwan housemate, the ever-more-lovely Shali Manuel, exchanged vows with her man, local singing celebrity Steve Gates, on the lawn over the weekend. It couldn't have been any more beautiful. We danced the night away in a big old barn & greeted the sunrise on the beach. Huge congrats to the lovely couple. As Mister Green says, may the best days stay ahead of us!

The trip has been great so far. Huge thanks to the good good folks who came out to my tour kickoff party in Edmonton, it warmed my heart to see all of you grooving. I left town feeling full-up with love, which is actually more important than gas, in my experience.

South Country Fair was magic as usual. The last time I visited in 2003 seemed like ages ago, with all that's happened in between, but there were familiar faces all around, the Oldman River still runs strong & cold, and Geoff Berner was there again in all his white- suited, wise-cracking glory. Kevan & Jodi (who once lived in the house on the cover of the Anglers' disc) appeared from Guelph. Me & Miss Ange Quincy had a beautiful moonlight song swap. It was Souljah Fyah's first time out to the Fair, and they rocked out. And Five Star Homeless got that Southern Alberta crowd wrapped around their little fingers with their tales of whiskey and fast times. Greatest thing overheard that weekend, said by a little girl: "When I grow up, I want to be Jesus! No, wait... a bee!"

From South Country I made my way out to Saskatoon for another stop at the Freehouse, and a wonderful day spent drinking on sunny patios with Shayne Lazarowich & Kamila from the Cracker Cats. Ah, Saskatoon. From there to Brandon for a show at Lady of the Lake, a sweet spot, which was graced by the arrival of Sarah Burton and the Ory Noman Band, friends from afar. They were in town to play the Brandon Folk, Music & Art Festival, along with our friends Eliza Doyle, the Deep Dark Woods, C.R. Avery and a whole bunch of great folks we just met. I'd managed to get into the fest at the eleventh hour, again proving that while there's always something to be said for doing things well in advance, there's also something to be said for the last minute. Huge thanks to Matt & Ory for making that happen. I played a Sunday- afternoon set for a wonderful little crowd and got lots of hugs.

I bypassed Winnipeg altogether, on their unreasonably large- circumferenced perimeter highway, and into the wilds of northern Ontario. Anyone who's done the ride will tell you it's hella long, and full of critters. Thankfully, I spaced it out this time, with shows in Wabigoon, Thunder Bay and Rossport, with small but attentive crowds at each spot. Moose, deer, and even a fox with a dead rabbit in his mouth made appearances along the way. In Thunder Bay I rejoined Five Star Homeless for more late-night antics. It seems all Saskatchewan bands finish the night with Wrestlemania matches in the hotel. If you get the chance, ask Garth & Harley to show you their finishing tag team move, the Death Drop. Just so you know, it involves a whole lot of belly.

Further into the absolute hinterlands of Northern Ontario, I was caught by Mr. Steve Teeuwsen of Notebook Magazine fame, who was making bat-outta-hell time across Canada on his way to the wedding. I put a stop to that quickly, & we spent a couple nights out in the middle of nowhere with beers around a campfire.

In Ottawa we were surprised by the arrival of a long-lost friend from Taiwan, Alexi, who got a call from a mutual friend in California letting him know I was in his town. He took us on a slightly misguided pilgrimage to Meech Lake, site of the famously failed Accord and apparently a longstanding bush party spot as well. Alex expounded informatively, albeit drunkenly, on the importance of Pierre Eliot Trudeau, Lester B. Pearson, and yea, even Brian Mulroney to Canadian history, and topped it off by teaching us a Senegalese song & dance. Go figure.

From Ottawa it was off to Montreal for a night of revelry at the Kalmunity jam and the reggae night at Maison du Reggae. In between we did a little drinking in the street while talking philosophy with Alex' dad. This can actually be done without fear of getting busted in Montreal, civilized city that it is. Steve Teeuwsen, in a rush of patriotism, announced that he too could get used to the French & their curious ways, if it meant living in this beatific city.

From there it was through the beautiful rolling hills of the maritimes to Hubbards, where we had a week of reuniting with friends from afar and partying in beachfront paradise. Shalifest, we called it. It hasn't exactly ended, either, although it was punctuated by a trip to Berwick last night to play at Union Street Cafe, the same spot where, three years back, I came up with the guitar part to Long Way to Wander in their hospitality suite, sitting on the unmade bed that none other than Mr. Bob Snider had crashed in the night before. It was a real pleasure to bring that song back to its birthplace after all this time, and to have Heather hop up on accordion too.

I'm finishing this post from Halifax, where we're decompressing after the weddingfestravanganza. I'll be playing here tomorrow afternoon with the groom, Mr. Steve Gates, and his very funny bandmate Zac Crouse. They play in a great band called Caledonia (http:// www.caledoniatheband.com) as well as doing solo stuff. Steve & I have been working out some tunes together & I'm really looking forward to this show. From there it's off to Liverpool for a couple shared dates with James Murdoch & Nick Perrault, friends from Edmonton, on their maritime tour. And then it's back through Montreal, and to Ontario for a good while. Fellow Taiwan veterans Jimi Maze and the Black Lung Choir are reported to be lurking in those parts, as is Mr. Corin Raymond. Jams await. Dates to come:

Fri Aug 22 I'm playing the VIP party for a local Canadian Idol contestant at the Huron House in Collingwood, Ontario. The mayor's gonna be there & everything.

Sat & Sun Aug 23-24 I'll be at the Sonic Orchard festival on Kimbercote Farm near Collingwood. Should be loads of fun & good eats too. http://www.sonicorchard.com

Mon Aug 25 I'll be doing the feature spot before the open mic at Pepper Jack Cafe, 7:30 pm.

Fri-Sun Aug 28-31 I'll be at the Come Together Festival in Durham, ON (http://www.cometogethermusicfest.ca). It's gonna be a blast.

From there I'm unbooked until Sept 19th in Lake City, Michigan for Earthworks Harvest Gathering. I imagine I'll be spending a good chunk of time on the old Cook family farm in Michigan, but I'm also game for shows around Ontario between those dates, if you can think of anything (wink wink, nudge nudge).

Two more bits of news for those intrepid souls who have ventured this far into my verbage: first off, I just got the welcome news that the Long Weekends and I have been chosen to showcase at the Western Canadian Music Awards in Edmonton, Oct 17-19. I couldn't be happier about that. Scheduling announcements will be made soon.

Lastly, tonight in Vancouver, the Dana Wylie Band will be rocking Cafe Deux Soleils. If you're around & free, make sure to go check out this band, they are outstanding. They're on http://www.danawylie.net & they sound even sweeter live.

Well, it's about time to bring this rambling rant to a close... If you made it this far, I salute you. Watch out for a new & improved Hobo Travelogue next issue, with pictures (gasp!) and maybe even more fancy multi-media stuff.

Someone said to me the other day that they couldn't believe how quickly the summer had gone by, and I couldn't agree; on the contrary, I'm having a hard time believing that it's still summer. It has been an epic one for sure. And though I haven't been making a fat living, it's a living in any case. My only advice to all of you is to do exactly what you want, thereby avoiding the would-have-beens.

Much love to you all, be well,

s


July 7, 2008

hey friends,

it's hard to believe, but my time in Edmonton is coming to an end, and I'll be off on the road again. Town has been wonderful to me this past month, really wonderful. Lots happening musically and creatively in general. Lots of good people being introduced to other good people. Lots of love flowing.

We've been very busy with gigs in and around town, the highlight of which has to be the North Country Fair. Amply-lit, fungi-tinted boreal perfection, it was. If you missed it, well, there's always next year. Our afterparties at O'Byrne's on Wednesday & Thursday were full of the same sweet vibe--huge thanks to Jill Pollock, Laurelle Young, Ido Van der Laan, Paul McGowan, Haley Myrol, Samantha King, Tonona, Bob Cook, and the B Section (along with anyone I may have forgotten) for contributing their sweet songs to the festivities, and huge thanks to all the lovely people who made it out to party with us.

Our last party in town for the summer will be happening this coming Sunday at Riverdale Hall, 4-11pm. We'll be out at the Pembina River Nights festival in Evansburg on Friday & Saturday (we play Friday night at 9:30), and heading back to the city on Sunday for an all-day afterparty featuring the Long Weekends, the Dana Wylie Band, Jesse Dee, Lynett McKell, and the fabulous B Section. We'll also have plenty more special guests including Maurice Jones and Mike Sadava, & perhaps even the very talented and too-long-away Rae Spoon (fingers crossed). Riverdale Hall has a playground for the kids, a sweet park and plenty of shady trees, and the river is right close by... a perfect place to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon. It's $10 at the door & we'll have cheap Alleykat beers, wine & vegetarian eats. This will also serve as a tour kickoff for the Dana Wylie Band... if you haven't heard them, this is your chance to catch a truly amazing act before they ship out (www.danawylie.net). I'll also be leaving shortly after the show, headed to South Country Fair & then all the way east to Nova Scotia. It's a long trip, especially for a slow-mo hobo like me... I won't be back until October. Dates booked so far:

Fri-Sun, July 18-20, Ft. McLeod, AB - South Country Fair
Wed, July 23, Saskatoon - Spadina Freehouse
Fri, July 25, Brandon - Lady of the Lake
Tues, July 29, Wabigoon, ON - Pappy's
Wed, July 30, Thunder Bay - The Apollo w/ Five Star Homeless
Thurs, July 31, Rossport, ON - Serendipity Gardens
Mon, Aug 4, Ottawa, Rainbow Bistro, opening for Scribbler
Fri, Aug 15, Berwick, NS - Union Street Cafe
Mon, Aug 18, Liverpool, NS - Mersey House
Fri, Aug 22, Collingwood, ON - The Huron House
Sat-Sun, Aug 23-24, Heathecote, ON - Sonic Orchard festival, Kimbercote Farm
Mon, Aug 25, Hamilton - Pepper Jack Cafe
Fri-Sun, Sept 19-21, Lake City, MI - Earthworks Harvest Gathering
Fri, Sept 26, Viroqua, WI - Greenman Music Hall
Sat, Sept 27, Duluth, MN - Beaner's Central


As always, all the info's on www.scottcook.net. I'm actually running a little behind on bookings, as life's been pretty hectic, so if you do think of any place in between that might be good to play at, or know someone who might like to share a show along the way, please do get in touch, it would be a big help.

There are some great shows in and around town before our party: tonight (Monday July 7), Jesse Dee & Jacquie B will grace the Black Dog stage, starting at 9pm, no cover. Tuesday night at 8pm Jesse, the Dana Wylie Band & many more talented folks will be at the Transalta Arts Barns for Phil Alain's 8 Concert for Peace (www. 8minutesofpeace.com). Wednesday night Carolyn Mark will be at the Empress, and Thursday night Doug Andrew & the Circus in Flames will be at the Early Stage Saloon in Stony Plain. Friday night we're playing Pembina River Nights in Rangeton Park, and Saturday has lots more musical treats in store there including the Dana Wylie Band, Come On In My Kitchen, Myrol, Rae Spoon & Mr. Fred Eaglesmith! All the info's on www.asmallshieldmusic.ca. Hope to see you out there or at our party Sunday evening before I take off.

Lots of love to you, Edmonton people! Those across Canada, see you soon! & Taiwan people, thanks for thinking of me at Peacefest, I felt it. Big love, see you along the way,

Scott


April 29, 2008

Hey friends,

Just a little note to let you know that I'm turning my sails eastward again & heading back to Turtle Island. The time here on Taiwan Freemosa has been lovely, and all too short, which makes leaving bittersweet.

It's been busy for sure... I managed to fit 15 shows into 30 days, in addition to all the running around & reconnecting that goes with a return visit to a place you love... The reception has been wonderful, CDs are selling well, and the trip has almost paid for itself. Wow. I even found a few crowds with the patience (or was it sobriety?) to sit & listen to the words of the songs. Double wow.

We had loads of fun down at Spring Scream despite fleeing the stage mid-song like criminals during the Anglers set... It was great to see so many smiling, familiar faces at both shows. Over the next couple weeks I rounded the island by motorbike, hauling the Hobo Hifi, a guitar and a uke, and relying on couches. Played in Chungli, Donghai, Taichung, Tainan, Kaohisung, Pingtung, Hualien, and back in Taipei, for a rocking party at Bliss and an intimate night at Bobwundaye... Along the way I drove the Southern Cross-Island Highway alone & gaped at the dizzying views. Alita Rickards wrote a sweet little article (with a Bon Jovi-inspired title!) about the tour for the Taipei Times. You can check it out here.
Last weekend it was out to Fulong by bike to visit some of the old crew... Had a sweet time out there but the bike didn't make it back. In fact it barely made it limping back to Fulong after I realized it wasn't going to get anywhere near Taipei. So I parked Symba by the Fulong train station, said a sad & uncertain farewell & thanks for all the rides, & hopped on a train. Got down to Taichung that night for a couple shows, the second of which was the Anglers only proper gig this time around, at the new & much-improved 89K. The people of Taichung rock our world. Thanks so much to everyone who came out, & to the intrepid few who made the trip from far away (Laura, The Doolittles & Changhua posse, Tom Leeming, Mark & Georgina, & all the Hsinchu kids). We played late into the night & the dancers still weren't ready to leave. Got up groggy the next morning for our bassman Roger's wedding, early o'clock at the Courthouse. He looked surprisingly vibrant and coherent considering the circumstances. Big ol' gongxi gongxis to Anita & Roger. Then it was up the hill to Boston Paul's Dakeng Refuge for a sunny Sunday afternoon chilling on the grass and digging Reniculous Lipz. I'm carrying a ball of warmth around inside me from this weekend. Thank you all.

Particular thanks are also in order to Paul Chen, my old boss, & the only one I still call "boss", for all his help with everything, the lovely Anna for her tireless promotion & hat-carrying, Kimmy for always having a place for us (nevermind a tequila shot), Paddy for all his help in Taichung, Laura for all her help and encouragement, the boys in High Tide & Public Radio for their support up here, and everybody who came out to the shows. Here's to the grapevine! May it always grow strong!

Tonight, Wed April 30, will be our last show, back at Bliss, 10pm-12:30 or so. Last Wednesday was a great party and I expect more of the same. I'll be starting things off with a quiet set of special tunes at 10pm, & the local family will jam to take the night out. Sure hope you northerners can make it.

I'm off on the plane the next day, back to Vancouver Island and the west coast for a month, and then across Canada from there. Plans are already in the works for a return visit to Taiwan next spring... kinda hard to leave this place, and even harder to stay away. Viva Freemosa! & keep it free! Much love, talk soon,

Scott


March 31, 2008

good friends,

the road has a funny way of turning when you least expect it.

at the eleventh hour, the Taipei trade office inexplicably decided to look kindly upon my second visa application. Having already become comfortable with the idea of sticking around, I twisted in the wind for a moment before pointing my sails again westward. I'm flying out late tonight and arriving bright and early Wednesday. I can feel the humidity's warm embrace already. I can smell the cabbie's betelnut already. ahh, Freemosa, it's been too long!

A quick stop to jam with the boys (River Wednesday night, methinks) & then it's off to Spring Scream! I figure I'll dust Symba off and drive down early Thursday morning. The performance permit for the band isn't finalized yet but it looks like all our ducks are in a row. I'll be playing a solo set to promote the new album at 4:50 Friday on the Rock Stage, and then we'll be up with the band on Saturday at 7:50 on the Grass Stage, right between Militant Hippi & Red-I. Hard to express just how excited I am about all of that.

I'll be on the island for a month, and I'm hoping to play wherever I can, with the band or alone, with help from the Hobo Hifi, which just barely fits into a backpack. So far, not much is booked besides 89K with the Anglers on April 26th. Please do get in touch soon if you'd like to bring us to your town.

It's been a storied month on the road, although I haven't been so good about sending stories your way... All the shows have been sweet so far, and I've been running into people in the funniest places. A well- dressed older lady approached me at the show in Kelowna and asked "do you know this man?" before handing over a picture of Taichung's ubiquitous bassman Darren Jorde, decked out in a dress. Don't worry Darren, it wasn't the cops, it was your mom. Loads of fun in Vancouver, reconnecting with old friends and niceing up Cafe Deux Soleils with Jess Hill & Ghosts of the Highway. I finished up the tour with a wonderful show at Solstice Cafe in Victoria Saturday night with Meg O'Mally, and am now writing you from Granville Street, where I'm wiling away the time before the flight.

Saturday night's show will actually be hearable online very soon, as Jeremiah from Bullfrog Music was kind enough to record the show... it'll be on http://www.bullfrogmusic.com/podcasts.htm soon enough.

Speaking of kind folks, Kindah from Toronto entertainment mag AnE Vibe just wrote a glowing review of Long Way to Wander: http://www.anevibe.com/music-reviews/scott-cook-long-way-to-wander.html

I have one more thing to mention for you Edmonton folks, who I miss loads already: Terry Morrison, one of the best and best-loved folksingers in our fair city, will be releasing her new record, Riches & Grace, this coming Sunday. I've had the record for awhile now & I can tell you it's really beautiful. The party's at the lovely old Freemasons Hall downtown at 10318 100 Ave. CBC radio will be recording the event for broadcast on 'Canada Live'. Performing with Terry will be some of e-town's best, including Mike Lent (bass), Mo Lefever (guitar), Graham Guest (piano), Bob Tildesley (trumpet), and Dwayne Hrynkiw (percussion). Terry will be doing a second set featuring some of her tunes from past and yet to come recordings which will feature John Gorham on bass, Chris Smith on guitar and Paul 'Duke' Paetz on percussion. Doors are 7pm, music 8pm. Tickets are $12, available at Blackbyrd Myoozik, Myhres Music or at the door. Please come out and celebrate with her. There will be a cash bar and snacks, & children are welcome too.

And for those in Toronto, Trevor Mills is putting on a fundraiser for the Eaglewood Folk Festival the same night (Sunday the 6th) at Hugh's Room in Toronto. It's sure to be great. Details (and downloads of his music, including that great tune about the kid with the comic book) are on http://www.trevormills.com

Freemosan massive, we'll be seeing you soon! Rock Stage 4:50 Friday, Grass Stage 7:50 Saturday. Or somewhere around the island, we'll root you out. Canadian peoples, see you in the summer!

Big love, be well,

Scott


March 21, 2008

Friends,

Visa Denied. Thus came the ill tidings of Tuesday past.

"According to international custom, we don't need to tell you the reason" was all the response she could muster to my questions. I couldn't help thinking of Geoff Berner's song "Traveler's Curse":

"I regret now to inform you Who refuse to aid my plight, Bad luck will come to those who deny The travelers their rights. All of my pity upon you, All of my pity upon you, My luck can only get better, Yours is bound to be worse, Now I see it upon you: The Traveler's Curse. Who can deny your moral right To prosperity and order? You fell out of your mother's cunt On the correct side of the border. And your cuntfall gives you all of this And power over me today, But there are forces in this world That can take all of that away..."

But gradually the bitter feelings subsided and I got around to looking for the silver lining in this particular dark cloud. On the bright side, I guess I'll be getting to know the west coast better, which can't be all that bad.

I'm still going to make another try at re-applying in person in Vancouver, but I'm not holding my breath. Taiwan may just have to wait for next year, alas.

Anyway, before you get bored & start scanning, I want to tell you about some shows coming up here in BC, & then a couple things coming up in Edmonton. First, the BC shows:

-Saturday, March 22nd at Del Pollo in Aldergrove
-Tuesday, March 25th at Cafe Deux Soleils in Vancouver
-Friday, March 28th at the Dancing Bean in Chemainus
-Saturday, March 29th at Solstice Cafe in Victoria

I really hope you can help me spread word about those, particularly the Vancouver show. I'll be playing with Shayne Avec I Grec & Jeff "Shade Tree" Andrew, who are just beginning a cross-Canada hitch- hiking tour called "Ghosts of the Highway", and local opener Jess Hill. It's only $5 & it starts at 8pm.

As for you Edmonton folks, there are two KILLER shows coming up that I really hope you can make it out for:

This Saturday, March 22nd, our guitar player in the Long Weekends, Jesse Dee, is releasing his debut CD at the Velvet Underground. I've had the CD for awhile now and I must say it gets a lot of play in my van. It's really beautiful, a labor of love, and the radio has been liking it lately too. Two of the Hotplates (aka the shoo-wop girls), Megan Kemshead & Jacquie Boisvert, will be there to lend their dulcet harmonies, along with Jesse's star-studded band. Local boys Lovertine are opening the night & it's gonna be great. Get out & show Jesse some love!

Next Saturday, March 29th, your presence is requested back at the Velvet Underground for another CD release, this time by my good friends & Taiwan compadres Jez & Dana of the Dana Wylie Band. This is going to be another amazing night. Joining them will be local musicians Cam Neufeld on fiddle, Mike Sadava on mandolin & Jason Kodie on accordion. These guys are all top-shelf players. Also flying in from England for the occasion will be their upright bass player, Nye Parsons, who's a wizard on the thing, & their friend Matthew Ord, who just happens to be one of the best guitar players in the world. You may think I'm exaggerating but I'm not, this guy is insane. Don't miss this show.

As for me, life's been good. The shows so far have been wonderful & I'm happy to be back on the move. Our tour kickoff party at the Empress in Edmonton was a rager--the place was packed all night & everybody put in killer performances. Shayne Lazarowich, in particular, was on fire. Thank you, E-town peoples.

I had a rough ride of it at Tippy Agogo's CD release a couple days later (equipment troubles) but the jam with Tip, Bill Bourne, Madagascar Slim, John Armstrong, Michelle Josef & Laurelle felt like sweet redemption... And Tip's record sounds great. From there it was off to Red Deer for Jesse's hometown CD release, which was sweet, and on to Twin Butte, where I rocked late into the night with the locals, taking a break mid-set to stand slack-jawed gazing at the Northern Lights... Then to Calgary for another show with Shayne at the Bar Named Sue, which is history after this weekend. It's a crying shame because it was really one of the most charming venues around, & probably the only real country bar in that faux-cowboy town. Then on to Lethbridge, where Jesse hosted me impeccably at the Slice, to Nanton for a wonderfully intimate show at the Main Street Cafe, and to Cochrane for my first folk club gig, opening for Come On In My Kitchen. The next night found me in Canmore sharing a show with my old school-mate Jon-Rae Fletcher, who is truly an amazing singer, oozing sincerity and nailing those high lonesome bluegrass harmonies with conviction. After that I had a couple days off in the Kootenays, mostly spent by the woodstove in Laura's little cabin on the hillside, lovely. Then to Penticton for a sweet and intimate show at Fibonacci's, and to Kelowna last night to play the Minstrel Cafe, which happens to be the first venue I played after setting out on my own in the van for the first time back in 2005.

Lots has been learned since then. The most obvious difference is that money seems to be coming in rather than bleeding out these days, which is a welcome change, and bodes well for more visits from me to you in the future. So I guess things are on the up & up, visa troubles notwithstanding.

In closing I want to say huge thanks to all of you for your support, and all the kind words that have shored up my belief in the music through the years. You don't even know how much it means to me.

Hope all's well wherever you are. Be well, much love,

Scott


February 25, 2008

Good people,

After a wonderful winter here in Edmonton, I find myself on the doorstep of the open road once again.

My tour kickoff party will be this Sunday, March 2nd, at the Empress Ale House on Whyte & 99th, where I'll be joined by The Long Weekends, fellow Freemosan Outlaw Shayne Lazarowich from Saskatoon, local ukulele maestro Maurice Jones, funky beatnik Jesse Dee and of course the shoo-wop girls everyone's talking about these days, Jacqueline Boisvert, Megan Kemshead & Lynett McKell. Mark my words, these lovely ladies will not only "doo-wop shoo -wop shoo-waaah", but also "ooo-waa-ooo" and even "scooby dooby, scooby doo-wop shoo-wah" their way into your hearts. Oh yes, even the scooby doo-wop shoo-wah, I kid you not.

The party's free but I suggest you come early so you don't have to stand in line. I'll start things off with a solo set at 8:30pm (really), followed by a few songs each from our special guests, and a solo set from Shayne. Then we'll get back up there with the band & kick it into high gear to take the night out. There's no cover charge, the beer's delicious, the lines are clean, and the servers are charming... what more could you ask for? (besides Monday off, of course.)

Also around town this week: tonight (Monday) at the Empress, the Wheat Pool, James Murdoch & more are playing a fundraiser to buy new jerseys for the GPHL team's run at the Exclaim Cup in Toronto. It's free, donations in the helmet. Oh yeah, and it's Brent Oliver's 33rd birthday.

This Tuesday night at the Druid, I'll play a 40-min set as the featured guest before Chris Wynters' open stage, around 9pm. Some lucky punter will walk away with 20 free pints.

Thursday night I'll be playing a solo set at King's College with local songwriter Ken Stead, and Simon Hoskyn from Vancouver, both very talented guys. All the details for those or any shows are on www.scottcook.net.

Then Sunday night's our big party at the Empress. I know I already told you; this is a reminder :)

The day after our party, Monday March 3rd, I hope all of you Albertans will find the time to vote.

My last show before I leave will be Wednesday, March 5th, for Tippy Agogo's CD release at New City. Bill Bourne, Madagascar Slim, John Armstrong, Michelle Josef, and Tim Folkmann are also on the bill. You can be assured some wonderful and unfamiliar sonic territory will be charted. It's $12 at the door and it starts around 8:30pm. My Hobo Hifi & I will be opening the night with a special solo set around 9.

The next day, Shayne & I are off on the road for a few shows in Alberta:

Thu Mar 6 - Red Deer - The Vat (Shayne & Jesse Dee)
Fri Mar 7 - Red Deer - Redstone Grill
Sat Mar 8 - Twin Butte General Store
Mon Mar 10 - Calgary - A Bar Named Sue

Then Shayne's headed back to Saskatchewan & I'm carrying on:

Thu Mar 13 - Lethbridge - The Slice
Fri Mar 14 - Nanton - Main Street Cafe
Sat Mar 15 - Cochrane - Cochrane Valley Folk Club, w/ Come On In My Kitchen
Sun Mar 16 - Canmore - The Communitea, with Jon-Rae Fletcher
Wed Mar 19 - Penticton - Fibonacci Cafe
Thu Mar 20 - Kelowna - Minstrel Cafe
Fri Mar 21 - (a glaring opening that I'd love to fill)
Sat Mar 22 - Aldergrove - Del Pollo
Tues Mar 25 - Vancouver - Cafe Deux Soleils w/ Ghosts of the Highway & Jess Hill
Fri Mar 28 - Chemainus - The Dancing Bean
Sat Mar 29 - Victoria - Solstice Cafe, supporting acts TBA

If you live or have friends in any of these towns, I would really appreciate your help with spreading the word. And of course requests to your local radio station are always appreciated.

At the end of March I'll hopefully be on the wing, headed to Taiwan. There are just the small matters of a plane ticket & a visa to sort out first. I'm planning to spend two months there & be back in Vancouver by the beginning of June. Our next Edmonton-area shows will be June 14th at the Black Dog, June 20-22 at the North Country Fair, and June 25 & 26 at O'Byrne's, then I'll be leaving in July for the east coast.

Although I must admit to a little cabin fever over the past few months, it really has been a wonderful winter here in town, with only a half-assed freeze, and plenty of human warmth to make up for it. This city is positively bursting with music right now, as a trip by any of the great open stages around town (i.e. Little Flower, Hulbert's, Newcastle, O'Byrne's, the Druid, the Rose Bowl, etc.) will make abundantly clear. Friday's masquerade ball at Don's was historic--it's not often you get to see that level of talent in somebody's house. What's particularly nice for me is that I only got to know many of these people this year, and we've become fast friends and collaborateurs. Truly, these are great days, and I'm hugely grateful.

There are two more things coming up in Edmonton that I'm going to miss, but want to tell you local folks about in hopes that you'll be able to attend:

Jesse Dee will be releasing his debut CD March 22 at Velvet Underground. The disc sounds brilliant and this is sure to be an amazing show with his band and many more musical friends. If you haven't caught Jesse yet, take my word for it, he's the real deal. Funky, innovative, and oodles of talent.

http://www.myspace.com/jessedeethree

The next Saturday, March 29, my good friends in the Dana Wylie Band will be releasing their newest CD, also at the Velvet Underground, with all-star help from local musical giants Cam Neufeld on fiddle, Mike Sadava on mandolin and Jason Kodie on accordion, as well as their friends all the way from England, standup bass wiz Nye Parsons, and one of the finest guitarists in England or the world (seriously), Matthew Ord. If you like roots music, DO NOT miss this show. Really, it's gonna be amazing.

http://www.myspace.com/danawylieband

Hope you can mark both of those on your calendar.

The last thing I'd like to share (for those still reading, I love you) is a picture I received by email recently. It may be good for a laugh for those of you who've given a good listen to track 10, the title track on Long Way to Wander. Raoul took it on our way to the bus station, right around the time I shot the picture that graces the cover of the album. Not only does it feature a very scruffy Raoul & me, but also several other things mentioned in the song: his handlebar moustache, the canopy of that little cage-like, sidecar-like contraption we were riding in, and the guitar I'd picked up in Chiang Mai, complete with the plastic Nike swoosh. Just so you know that every word on that record is true, here's proof.

Alright, that brings this rambling rant to a close. Edmonton people, thank you so much for the warm welcome through the winter. Hope to see you this Sunday for my party before I ship out. People elsewhere, hope to see you along the way. All the best to you in all you do. Peace, big love,

Scott

(780) 695-3474
http://www.scottcook.net


January 31, 2008

Hey good people,


I've been slaving over a hot computer altogether too much over the past month or two, but all the work is starting to pay off, I guess. Strangers are even calling me out of the blue, which I suppose must be a good sign. As an apparent consequence of all that desk-work, I have way too much news this month, & I sincerely hope I don't bore you with it. The first bunch of news is for Alberta folks. Taiwan peoples can scroll down until they see the name of their little island. Elsewhere peoples can scroll on past that. I'll try to make it shorter next month.

ALBERTA NEWS:

For those in Alberta, plenty of shows coming up in February:

-This Friday & Saturday, February 1 & 2, I'll be filling in for a last- minute cancellation at the Early Stage Saloon in Stony Plain. It's a great spot, with an appreciative audience, & I'm really looking forward to it. Moses Gregg will be joining me on the bass for Saturday's show. No cover, music 8-12.

-Next Thursday, February 7th, the inimitable Mr. C. R. Avery will grace the stage at the Rose Bowl on Jasper and 117th, and I hope, for your sake, that you don't miss it. He's a slam poet, keytar player, & general wierdo who can beatbox through a harmonica like no one else. He's on http://www.myspace.com/cravery

-Friday, Feb 8 I'm at Fresh Start Bakery in Riverbend. It's mellow, & free; come on down.

-Sunday, Feb 10, Souljah Fyah will drop their new CD, Truth Will Reveal, at On the Rocks in Edmonton, & your ever-lovin' Long Weekends are honored to be opening the show for them! The Calgary release party will be the night before, with openers Five Star Affair. I can't say enough good things about this band, really. If you love reggae music, don't miss it. Now here comes the *important* part: it costs $5 at the door, but you can get in for free if you bring an invite from me, or add your name to our guest list. In fact, that's the only way we Long Weekends are going to get paid at all, so please, if you're going, drop me an email & I'll put your name on our guest list. We have unlimited room on the list, so it's fine if you want to sign up friends, and even if you don't make it after all. If you think you'll go, email me at grooverevi...@gmail.com & I'll put you on the list. Then you just tell them that you're on our list at the door. You get in free & we get paid. Win-win, right? Otherwise, you pay the club $5 at the door, and we don't get none of it.

-Saturday, Feb 16, I'll be playing in the garage(!) at a very small family-and-friends film festival in Armena, Alberta. It isn't far from town & it's open to the public. Details are on my site.

-Friday, Feb 22 we're gonna have a crrrazy bush party at Don's place featuring The Red Deers, Boot Pony, & yours truly. Details coming soon on my page.

-Tuesday, Feb 26, I'll be the featured guest before Chris Wynters' open stage at the Druid, which is always a good time.

-Thursday, Feb 28, I'll be playing at King's College with Ken Stead & Simon Hoskyn. Show starts at 7pm & there's a $5 cover.

At the end of the month, my good friend and fellow Freemosan Outlaw Shayne Lazarowich is coming out here from Saskatoon. This guy is a huge talent & I hope you all get a chance to see him. Our tour kickoff party is Sunday, March 2nd at the Empress Ale House, & it's gonna be historic.

I'll be sticking around a couple more days, to open for Tippy Agogo's CD release on March 5, & then Shayne & I will be off for a few shows in southern Alberta. After that, I'm headed west to the coast, & from there (hopefully) to Taiwan for a couple months. If you think you can be of any help with booking or suggesting performance opportunities anywhere along the way, please have a look at my schedule so far & let me know what you're thinking.

TAIWAN NEWS:

For those on Taiwan, I want to let you know that my good buddy Shamik, beatboxer extraordinaire & all-around wonderful human being, will be landing in Taiwan mid-February, & will be rocking Beth's party at The Zoo in Taichung on Feb 16th. Check him out on http://www.myspace.com/teamshamik or just take my word for it that he is the bomb.

Oh yeah, & my CDs are available at Mojo Coffee in aichung, the River in Jungli, & Bobwundaye in Taipei. Email me if you need directions to any of those places.

I'm planning a trip for April-May, but the cash factor is still looking problematic. If anybody happens to have an extra $500 or so laying around, please do send it my way, I could really use it. More likely, if you know of someplace I should play while I'm in Taiwan, please do let me know.

NEWS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY:

Things have gone really well for the CD, which even hung around the national college & community radio charts for over a month... It's dropped off now but your requests are always appreciated, particularly when I'm coming to your town. Some nice things that have happened lately include:

I was honored to have a song included in a little video that Bill Bourne, Aysha Wills, Tippy Agogo & John Armstrong made for their Vaudeville New Years party at the Roxy Theatre in Edmonton. If you're curious, you can check it out here.

Ron Wilson had me in to CBC to take the "Edpod Challenge", where I implore local listeners to find room on their mp3 player for one of my songs. That can be heard here.

And lastly, although I thought I was much too late in the year to make any 'best of' lists, Long Way to Wander did manage to sneak into Fish Griwkowsky's Best of '07 list, which made me feel all warm & kinda fuzzy inside... have a look here for more info.

I also want to put in a little plug for two US presidential candidates who have been largely ignored by the mainstream media but have plenty of grassroots support... Despite their huge differences on domestic politics, they are good friends, and seem to me to be the only candidates championing the cause of peace & speaking the truth on TV. Which I guess is the reason they try to keep them off TV as much as possible. The two politicians I'm thinking of are Dennis Kucinich (my personal fave, a Democrat) & Ron Paul (a Republican). Look them up on Youtube & see what I mean.

If you find yourself getting into the hang of watching movies on your computer, don't spend all your time plumbing the depths of inanity on Youtube. I've come across a site that has lots of great documentaries for free in streaming video: http://www.freedocumentaries.org

And because politics is terribly depressing, a little something to bring joy to your life: Claire Jenkins, who I met out at the Eaglewood festival last summer, has put up a wonderful little video from the recording sessions for her newest album, Nid De Pie (crow's nest). They recorded all the songs live off the floor, in order, in a single day. It is truly magical. Check it out here.

At last I'll bring this rambling rant to a close with a huge thanks to all of you, for your continued support, and for being the inspiring people that you are.

Don't forget, Etown reggae heads get fed Sunday February 10th! Email me your full name & you're in, easy as that.

Here's wishing you all the best in this untramelled new year. Be well, big love,

Scott


January 2, 2008

Good people,

Welcome to 2008. I hope it brings you the highest & best. Ask for it, exactly it, & you just might get it.

I'm just glad to be here for another trip around the sun. Enjoy!

love, always,

s


December 25, 2007

Hey friends,

Here's wishing you all a happy belated Solstice and a Merry Christmas, wherever you are. Huge thanks for all your support, especially to those who've requested my songs on whatever station they listen to. Long Way to Wander has just entered !earshot's national folk charts, which is really amazing to me.

Every request helps, thanks.

I just got back from a wonderful trip out to the SK, complete with lots of late-night jams with my Taiwan compadres Shayne Lazarowich & the Dana Wylie Band. They rule.

A few shows coming up in Alberta this week:

-Wed Jan 26 (that's tomorrow) I'll be guest hosting Little Flower Open Stage, 8-12. $2 cover, $2.50 beers.

-Thurs Jan 27 I'll be jamming with the inimitable Tippy Agogo & Maigan van Giessen from Eshod Ibn Wyza at Wunderbar. $5 cover.

-Sat Jan 29 at Gitter's Pub in High River. Yeehaw! No cover.

-Sun Jan 30 at the Hose & Hound in Calgary, with surprise special guests. No cover for this one either. Hope to see all you Cowtowners out in force.

As always, all the info for those shows is on www.scottcook.net.

I'm in the process of booking a tour out to the coast in March. Stay tuned for details on that. Bring on 2008! Much love,

Scott


December 11, 2007

Good friends,

Thank you so much to all you wonderful people that made it out to the party on Saturday. I'm still riding high from the wonderful feeling. For those who weren't there, it was a full house, over 200 people, and all the performers did a stellar job. We videotaped some of it so hopefully I'll be posting something from that soon. The main thing, anyway, is thanks. It was a beautiful gathering thanks to all of you. I hope you all got to know each other a bit better.

As much as I'd like to lay back on my laurels for now, it's time to redouble my efforts at getting this record out to the world. The CD's been getting airplay on CBC, CKUA, and CJSR, and should be playing on CJSW shortly. It's also in the hands of Magic 99 here in Edmonton. If you'd like to help out, you can! Call up the station you tune in to & request it. Tell them if you were at the CD release on Saturday. They want to hear from people in town about the music they're excited about.

Amazingly enough, I looked at the Earshot charts today & saw that the record's charting on CJSR! It's in the #6 spot on their Folk/ Roots/Blues chart. A first for me, that actually has me feeling a little giddy. Let's push it on up there!

For those around town, there are a few things coming up well worth checking out:

Tomorrow, Wednesday Dec 12, Little Flower Open Stage will be hosting their annual Christmas Party at Fiddler's Roost. It's sure to be a lovely evening with lots of talent coming out of the woodwork. It runs 8-12, it's only $2 cover and beer is $2.50 as usual.

Thursday, Dec 13, Travis Boa returns to host Mellow Gold at Leva Cappuccino Bar, 11053 86 Ave, 8-11 pm, no cover.

Friday, Dec 14, the amazing David Ross MacDonald from Australia plays his fingerstyle compositions at Hulbert's, 7601-115 Street. It starts at 8pm and it's $7 at the door.

Also Friday Dec 14, Backporch Swing is playing the Carrot, at 9351-118 ave. It starts at 8pm and it's $5 cover. They'll also be at the Early Stage Saloon in St. Albert on the 22nd.

The Wheat Pool returns to O'Byrne's on Monday the 17th, and that same night, John Guliak will be playing his final farewell show at the Empress, Sue's new bar on Whyte and 99th. I'm gonna try to make both these shows because they're both great bands.

Shortly thereafter, I'm off to the S.K. for four shows: the Freehouse on the 19th, Lyd's on the 20th, Biggar Majestic Theatre on the 21st & Borden Hotel on the 22nd. Then back home for Christmas, & hosting Little Flower on Boxing Day. Then down south for a show in High River Dec 29th, and at a new venue, the Hose & Hound in Calgary, on Dec 30th. All the details are on my news page. It'll be nice to get back on the road.

Much love to you all, and again, huge gratitude for the heartwarming reception on Saturday night. Peace,

Scott


December 5, 2007

Friends,

I think all my ducks are finally in a row. Long Way to Wander is now available online, through Bullfrog Music in Canada or CD Baby in the States. CD Baby's temporarily sold out but more CDs are en route to them; if you type in your email address they'll notify you when it comes in. It's also available on iTunes if you're into that. They make great Christmas/Solstice/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus presents too. If you'd like to buy in bulk, you can order them directly from me for a lot less money. 4 for $40 or 8 for $70, & I'll pay the postage too. Send a check or money order to Scott Cook, 3 Meredian Road, Sherwood Park, AB, Canada T8A 0N5.

For those on Taiwan, the CD will be available at a few out-of-the-way places that don't get visited enough: Bobwundaye in Taipei, Mojo Coffee in Taichung (230 Da Yeh Road), and the River in Jungli (18 Da Tong Road). Only 300 bones, my friends, because I love you. You can also get copies from my roving distributor Calvin aka MC Insatiable, just give him a call, 0916214401. If you need help finding any of those places, feel free to send me an email and ask.

For those of you in Edmonton, don't go ordering one, just come on down to the Fiddler's Roost on Saturday and get one there, it'll be cheaper. Only $10 in fact, because I love all of you too.

Reviews are starting to come in, and they've been very positive so far.

Fish Griwkowsky, whose writing I've long admired but who I only met this past weekend, just wrote a nice review in Saturday's Edmonton Sun, which you can read here.

And Francois Marchand wrote a great article in the Edmonton Journal's Ed Magazine, including a podcast with a couple songs on it, which you can check out here.

Also watch for Eden Munro's interview with me in this week's Vue Weekly, which comes out in print tomorrow and on the web shortly thereafter.

My CD is in the hands of CJSR, CBC and CKUA already, so feel free to call those stations any time and request it, I'd really appreciate it.

I did an interview on Monday with Kristina on CJSR (thanks Kristina!), and will be doing another with Jay Hannley on Friday at 1pm, 88.5 on your FM dial. The wheels are turning.

The party's looking to be a stomper. I want to remind everybody that the music really does start at 8pm, and it's going to go by quickly because each performer's only singing 3 songs. These are truly some of Edmonton's best performers, not to be missed. You know I never steer you wrong. Fellow Angler Tyler Dakin and I will be taking the first set at 8pm. Doors will open at 7 so there's some time to get settled in, have some eats and drinks, and talk a bit before the show starts. I'll get back up with the Long Weekends (Ty, Ian Stults and Moses Gregg, with help from our I-Threes Jacqueline Boisvert, Megan Kemshead and Laurelle Young) around 10:30 or so. Backporch Swing is up after us to take the night out with an old-time dance party. Oh, & for those who asked, Bernie said yes, kids ARE allowed at this event, as long as they're hanging with their folks & under control. I think he may need to extend the same proviso to cover some of the adults there too, ya rowdy bunch.

I've recently added shows around Saskatchewan and Alberta toward the end of December. Have a look at the gig calendar on my main page for those.

Well, that's all the news that is news for now. Hope to see all in the neighborhood at the party on Saturday. Bring your smiles and your dancing shoes. Peace,

s


November 16, 2007

Friends,

I'm finally letting it go. And like an anxious mother putting her kids on the school bus for the first time, I must admit to a little apprehension. But it's outweighed by an overwhelming feeling of relief at getting it off my hands, and into yours.

It's been a long journey over roads & oceans from writing these songs (the oldest comes from way back in 2000) to finally releasing them to the world. Along the way, the greatest encouragement I've found has been in the various musical & creative communities I've encountered along the way, and the power that songs can have in our lives. My friends have written songs that have broken my heart, & remade it. So it's in that spirit that I've invited many of them to sing a few tunes each, open stage style--John Gorham & Terry Morrison, Patsy Amico & Brian Gregg, Jesse Dee, Travis Boa of the Red Deers, Trevor Tchir, local ukulele maestro Maurice Jones, Sall Gibson, and more to come.

Around 10:30, my band the Long Weekends & I will take the stage to play my own tunes, including a couple new ones. I'm also going to play a few by songwriters I know who have been great inspirations to me, but just live too far away, including Steve Gates, Rae Spoon, & Corin Raymond, a lyric of whose inspired the name of the party.

(As an aside, if you haven't already heard Corin, the man knows how to turn a phrase. Check him out.) After our set one of my favorite bands in town, Backporch Swing, will take the night out with an old-time dance party.

The venue, Fiddler's Roost, couldn't be more right. A spacious room with old-fashioned decor, comfy booths & a dance floor, it once housed the City Media Club & now houses the Little Flower Open Stage on Wednesdays. Incidentally, it was also the venue for the Anglers' CD release back in 2003, & wasn't that a party? There will be free vegetarian eats and $2.50 beer and mixed drinks to help with the mingling.

Please help out by forwarding this message to your friends, & posting it wherever possible. Even if you can't make it, I'm sure you know some people in Edmonton. Your support is invaluable.

To rehash what's already a rambling rant: come on out, hear some great music, get to know some new friends, & dance the night away. I'd love to see you all. Oh yeah, & please remember to bring an extra $10 for a copy of the CD. It's only cheap because I want every one of you to have one. Many of the guest performers also have CDs available, so you might want to bring some extra dough along.

Taiwan people, I'm arranging distribution there as we speak. I'll keep you posted.

much love,

s


October 18, 2007

Hey good people,

I hope this finds you all flourishing.

I'm currently in hiding in my suburban prairie fortress, working day in & day out at getting my album out, avoiding human contact and all the needless laughter and good times that go with it. That and jealously guarding my candy stash from the hordes of painted munchkins scouring the neighborhood. Nevertheless, I will be venturing out for two gigs in the near future:

This Friday, Nov 2nd, I'll be emceeing, performing & running sound (ooh la la!) at the Global Visions Film Festival's kickoff party at Naked Cyber Cafe, 10354 Jasper Ave. The show runs 11pm-1am & I'll be jamming with the Hobo Hifi at midnight. Should be fun.

Next Saturday, Nov 10th, I'll be playing 3 sets, 6-9pm, at Fresh Start Bakery, 484 Riverbend Square. It's a nice spot, with fine food, imported beers, and good fresh bread for sale. I will be digging deep in the songbook & it would be lovely to see any of you there.

I also want to let you Edmonton folks know about a couple other shows coming up:

this Saturday, Nov 3rd, Geoff Berner & Kris Demeanor will be at McDougall United, 8-10pm. If you haven't seen these guys yet, go check them out. You will not be disappointed, especially if you appreciate deadpan witty banter.

This Sunday, Nov 4th Homefest is on at the Arts Barns, 2-7pm. A load of great performers local & otherwise are playing to raise funds for housing for the homeless as the weather cools down in town. www.homefest.ca

& even more importantly, because you're less likely to have heard of it, next Friday, Nov 9th, the Dana Wylie Band will be playing at 7 street lofts. I had the opportunity to see the Red Deers there a couple weeks back and it is truly a perfect place to watch a show... A beautiful downtown loft apartment with a high ceiling and a great view, a big balcony for chilling on, a nice sound system, and a wonderful group of people in attendance. Everyone's quiet during the show so you can actually hear the words. Stephen & Zoe are very gracious hosts, and they even fix up a tasty spread. I really can't say enough good things about this place. As for the band, Dana & her boyfriend Jez are good friends of mine from Taiwan who play roots music with folk and jazz influences, on a variety of instruments. On this trip, they'll have their standup bass player from the UK along as well. They're finishing up a western tour & returning to Saskatchewan to cut a new album. Come on out & show them some love while they're in town!

Dana writes very intricate, brilliant songs, and the band is great. You can hear a sample on their myspace, & you can see the loft on their myspace.

If you want to come, you need to write to Stephen & reserve a place, because it can fill up quickly (it is, after all, only their living room)... His email is loftconcert at gmail. The show costs $15 & I assure you it's well worth it. Oh yeah, & bring along some wine too.

While we're on the subject of things to check out online, there are a few more things I wanted to pass on to you...

First, I finally put up my photos from North Country Fair. Never having been one to run around cheekily snapping photos, I finally decided to change my ways this year for the sake of all those good people in Taiwan who wished they could be at the Fair. I was going to put them into a page on my website, but the sheer idiot-proof ease of adding photos to Facebook convinced me otherwise. Maybe later. For now, they're on Facebook, & you can see them without joining, just click here.

I also put up a bunch of new pictures from the rest of my ramblings this summer, that you can see here.

There's one last thing I'd like to share with you... One of the groups that really blew me away at North Country this year (but for some reason escaped my camera lens) was Tons of Fun University (TOFU for acronym lovers) out of Vancouver: CR Avery, Shane Koyczan and Mike McGee. Each one's a powerhouse poet & performer in his own right, and together they are dynamite. Here's a video of Shane from a few years back at the Vancouver Poetry Festival. I love this poem.

That's all for now, friends. I will be announcing the date for the CD release as soon as it's set. Much love to those on Ihla Freemosa, & elsewhere. Peace,

Scott


September 18, 2007

hey good people,

Well, it's been a storied couple of months on the road, all the way to Montreal & back, and I was amply glad to pull back into good old E-ville again last night. It looks like I'll be hanging around here for awhile, too. I look forward to slow walks in the crisp air, yellow leaves crunching underfoot. & to hanging out with all the good friends I haven't seen in ages.

Three shows this week:

-tonight, Tuesday Sept 18th, before Chris Wynters' open stage at the Druid. It starts around 9pm & there's no cover. As a special treat, the inimitable Mr. Tyler Dakin will be joining me on leads, & playing some of his own tunes. Come say hi to the guy, he's been so long away.

-tomorrow, Wednesday the 19th, I'll be swapping songs with Chris Wynters at O'Byrne's on Whyte, 10-midnight.

-and on Friday some special guests & I will be at Leva Cappuccino Bar, near the University, for an EARLY show, from 7:30-10pm.

There's no cover for any of those shows, so even you pobrecitos can come. All the details are on my home page.

I haven't been keeping up with my travelogue these past couple months, as the demands of driving and gigging (not to mention plentiful socializing & raising of glasses) have kept me off the computer. I'm in the process of catching up on things, though. Pictures & stories from this summer are coming soon, I promise. There's just so much to tell.

I'm in the process of lining up a CD release for sometime in the next month or so, & will let you know when I have a date for that. I'm not going to spill any beans but I will say that it's going to be something really special. In the meantime, for those of you on this list, my CDs will be surreptitiously available to you in person, just cause I can't say no to you. But please, keep it on the down-low, alright?

& for those far away, it'll be available worldwide very soon. In the meantime, I've put up an mp3 of 'fish jumpin' for you, absolutely free. Just right-click to download & save.

Hope you enjoy. Many thanks for your support and interest in the ramblings of this rover, it keeps me going. Big love to you all, talk soon,

Scott


July 20, 2007

hey good friends,

Hope this finds you flourishing.

After a pleasant month of hanging around town, busking for change, playing open stages, wiling away sunny evenings on the Black Dog's rooftop, and sweating over bookings in the mornings, the time has finally come to hit the road. Just a little trip, mind you, but on the road nonetheless.

Tonight (Friday), for those of you in e-ville, & particularly those Freemosan expats among you, there will be something of a reunion... The lovely and talented Dana Wylie & her beau, the mythical Jez Hellard, onetime King of Taipei city (you know, before they had a mayor), and erstwhile guitar-slinger for now-defunct Taipei bluegrass revue Ass9, will be returning to Edmonton for a show at the Fresh Start Bakery, 484 Riverbend Square. The show starts at 6:30pm and it's free. I may even be able to give you a lift. After the show we'll likely be found carousing on the Southside. Gimme a ring if you wanna hang out.

Tomorrow, I'm off to the Little Flower Open Stage's second annual "micro-festival", called Flower Fest, out by Seba Beach. It's only an hour west of town & tickets are only $25 for the weekend or $10 for a day. There are scheduled performances and also plenty of time for open stage. So if you're coming, get your three songs ready. First up on Saturday is the CONCERT AT THE END OF THE WORLD, or rather, at the end of a fifteen-minute hike in the woods, sometime around noon. Brian's low-key promo says it all: "In the event of rain, we will hold a tarp over the performers." I'll be playing 10pm Saturday night, backed by a fabulous scratch band, the first incarnation of the Long Weekends, consisting of Pascal on drums, Brian Gregg on guitar, and Scot Morgan on the bass. It's gonna be a howling good time. Info's on littleflower.ca.

From Flower Fest I'm headed to the mountains. Looking forward to breathing the crisp air. I'll be playing the Downstream in Jasper Monday night and the Communitea in Canmore Thursday night. Probably hit the open stage at Zona's in Canmore on Wednesday night too.

Then up through Nordegg to the Sasquatch Festival, July 27-29 (that's ALREADY next weekend!) in Easyford, near Drayton Valley. This fest is gonna be amazing. It will likely sell out so if you're coming, get your tickets now (a bargain at $40). It'll be my fourth time playing this humble festival, and take my word for it, it's wonderful. Thoroughly unpretentious, friendly, and fun, with three or four hundred of your closest friends. They even have a big potluck on Saturday. I'll be the singin' emcee Friday night. All the info's on brassmonkeyproductions.com.

After that it's back to the city for a couple days, and a "soft release" for my CD, at a time & location to be announced. Finally! Just as it was beginning to look like a Sisyphean task, the CD is going to press at long last. If all goes well it should be in my hands (& yours) by Sasquatch. I'll let you know when I set up the release party. After that, a couple days around town & I'll be off on the road again, going farther this time. Here's the schedule in good ol' point form. As you'll notice, there are still lotsa gaping holes in it, which I'd appreciate any help with filling.

21 Jul Seba Beach Flower Fest
23 Jul Jasper Downstream Bar
26 Jul Canmore Communitea
27 Jul Easyford Sasquatch Gathering
31 Jul Edmonton Long Way to Wander "soft release", TBA
2 Aug Calgary A Bar Named Sue
4 Aug High River Gitter's Pub
5 Aug Creston, BC The Snoring Sasquatch
6-12 Aug Salmo, BC Shambles! not playin, just workin & hanging out...
14 Aug Saskatoon, SK Spadina Freehouse, w/ fellow Outlaw Shayne Lazarowich
17 Aug Aylmer, ON Fred Eaglesmith's Charity Picnic, w/ the Long Weekends
23 Aug Guelph, ON Jimmy Jazz w/ Jimi Maze aka Mr. James Lanbro!

........ Ontario, Montreal, Michigan, back across the prairies.... any help with bookings would be wonderful.

18 Sep Edmonton The Druid
19 Sep Edmonton O'Byrnes (w/ Chris Wynters)
21 Sep Edmonton Leva Cappuccino Bar

... and after that I'll be off to BC for a month or so. It's VERY good to be getting back on the road.

Those of you around town that I haven't called, please forgive me. I lost everybody's numbers & I've just been running into people when I do. If I haven't run into you, you must just not be coming out enough. Heck, I run into Irish Mick nearly every day! Seriously, though, please do call if you wanna hang out either tonight or in a week & a half, when I'm back in town for a few days.

To those swimming through the Taiwan summer, you are missed. Much love from this side of the big marble. Be kind to each other, & your crazy selves,

Scott

780 695-3474
http://www.scottcook.net

April 12, 2007

hey friends,

I hope this finds you well. It's been a long time since you heard from me last, and it isn't for lack of news, just for lack of time to tell you about it. I have been getting steadily busier, against my efforts & better judgement, & I sincerely apologize if you have written & I haven't responded. Write again, please, & I'll try to get back to you more promptly. The record is well underway (tho taking longer than expected to nail down at the end) and I have one track, "my grandma" up on the website for your listening pleasure. The whole album will likely be out here by mid-May, and in Canada come June.

For those on the good isle of Taiwan, recently rechristened 'Freemosa', there is a lot of music coming up. We just had Spring Scream last weekend, & it was perhaps the best one so far. This year they moved to Shiaokenting, a sprawling resort with plenty of cabins including one known as 'Radio 3038' or 'Stage Roger', that was rocking all weekend long, night & day, with international musical mayhem. The quality of the acts was higher this year & there were more bands from out of country as well. As usual very little sleeping went on.

This weekend begins our FREEMOSAN OUTLAWS HIGH N' LONESOME COWPOKE ROADSHOW, which is supposed to be a CD release but lacks a CD so far... Kinda reminds me of the last time we "released" a record. Some of the finest singer-songwriters on this rock have agreed to play: Ty, Shayne Lazarowich, Faye Blais, Mister Green, & Pat Reid & Nick Fothergill of the Black Lung Choir. We will be hitting nearly everywhere that's anywhere:

Fri April 13 - the Calgary, Chiayi
Sat April 14 - the Grooveyard, Taichung
Fri April 27 - the River, Jungli
Sat April 28 - Cocomo Pub, Hualien
Sun April 29 - Ilan?
Fri May 4 - The Black Dog, Kaohsiung
Sat May 5 - Hud La Voos, Tainan
Sun May 6 - May Jam, An Ping, Tainan (Anglers & Outlaws to be confirmed)
Sun May 6 - the Armory, Tainan
Sat May 12 - tba, Taipei
Sun May 13 - tba, Taipei

The weekend after that, May 19th, we Anglers, Militant Hippi, Faye & the Slacks, & loads more will be up in the mountains of Miaoli County at Yariv & Janet's place, Moonshine Hill, for an all-day benefit party to help out Jess & Dan's school & free clinic for street kids in Varanasi. Geoff, who had a big hand in setting this up, has recently been to visit the school & assures us both that they are doing great work and that they really need the money. Come on out & support a good cause.

Jess & Dan's school will also likely be on the charity list for the Peacefest this year, which will be happening June 1st to 3rd at the same sweet spot in the Longtan mountains... Lots of bands have applied already and it looks like we'll have to make some tough decisions this year. Surely the music & vibes will be sublime as always. Circle up!

Shortly afterwards I will be getting on a plane bound for Canada. It's been a year & a half already this time around & I sure do miss it. So far I'm booked at two of my favourite festivals anywhere, the North Country Fair & the Sasquatch Gathering, as a singin' emcee for both. I'm in the process of lining up more dates these days, & I may just make it all the way out east again this time around, we'll see.

Well, gotta get some sleep, so I'm signing off. Wishing you all the best, & look forward to seeing you along the way. Peace,

Scott


September 28, 2006

hey friends,

I sure don't annoy you with a lot of mail, do I?

First off, for those here on jungly Naruwan, some Anglers gigs coming up: this Saturday, September 30th, we’re playing Daniel Pearl Day at Treasure Hill. This is a worldwide day of music in honour of reporter Daniel Pearl, who was taken hostage & killed in Pakistan in 2002. If you haven’t been to Treasure Hill yet, this is a good opportunity to check it out; a very cool, quiet little spot, originally squatted by vets from Chiang's army, that's about to be demolished in the name of old Progress. Loads of other bands are making the trip as well. Things kick off at 2pm and we're on stage at 4. Tunes go all evening & it's absolutely free.

The next day, Sunday October 1st, we'll be playing by the pond in downtown Longtan, 6pm-8. This is a well-loved old spot for those of us who've lived in Longtan, and it will be our pleasure to grace it with music for a couple hours. Oh yeah, & there'll be a wee Peacefest meeting afterwards, somewhere conveniently pondside.

The following weekend is a 3-day weekend for some and a 5-day weekend for others, which makes it a fortuitous occasion for a rock festival. The ìWild Screamî fest is happening all weekend, Oct 6th-10th, in Bei Bin & Nan Bin parks in Hualien. The fest starts around 5 each day so you have plenty of time to hit the beach while the sun shines. Loads of good bands are gonna be there. We're on stage 3, Sunday at 9pm, followed by the Sound Clashes at 10.

The next Saturday, Oct 14th, will find us back in Taipei at Bliss for the launch party for Pressed Volume 5. This is a magazine of expat writing and art that's been going for a while now... The party will be bumping with lots of well-educated, good-looking folks, and you get a free copy of the book with 200 bones cover. Also appearing are Faye and the Slacks from Taichung. They play groovy folk and you should definitely come check them out while they're in town.

In the more distant future, Sunday October 29th we're reportedly sharing the Huashan stage with the incredible Dirty Three from Australia. I'm having a hard time believing this one myself... Saturday November 4th we're opening Blues Bash 3 at the Dream Community in Xizhi, and Saturday November 18th we'll be back at our favourite spot, the Grooveyard in Taichung.

As always, all the info's on our website. More shows are being added regularly.

For those of you back on Turtle Island or elsewhere around the globe, a hearty "ni hao!" from sunny Taipei. I recently realized that the last some of you heard, I was still planning on touring this summer... Well, events have turned, as they do, and I will be staying here till summer of 2007. I was especially bummed about missing Sasquatch, but for the first time, I decided to give Canada a pass & concentrate on the tasks at hand. Quite adult of me, innit? Foremost in my reckonings is a feeling that I just got here, and have lots to do, and chief among those tasks is getting my financial house in order. Besides, I'm not coming back to Canada without a new record, and that's gonna take awhile. I've already started work with Rob Jonkman of Wise Maneuvers, really one of the most technically-savvy dudes I know, & things are sounding promising.

Last summer & fall's coast-to-coast vagrancy was very good for me personally, if not commercially. It was a longtime dream of mine to roam the land in a big ol' pirate ship & it was wonderful to be living it out in such good company. Now I just gotta work on giving that dream real legs.

I'm working at a new kindergarten in Taipei, and it's requiring a lot of me but it's worth it. For the first time, I actually feel good about my boss & the whole operation. I've got only one class with ten kids in it, and no co-teacher. My boss grew up in the States & he's even younger than me; a forward-thinking dude who really cares about the kids & gives his teachers a lot of leeway. Such a change from the usual huge class sizes, emphasis on memorization and repetition, money-mindedness, authoritarianism, dishonesty, ostentatiousness and outright idiocy that characterizes the kindergarten racket here. Anyone who's taught in Taiwan will know what I mean. Here's a pic of my school, with snowman atop (& yes, since you asked, that is the world's tallest building in the background), & a pic of my kids, strange little monkeys that they are.


I began my fourth decade last month, celebrated in proper style with hao duo peng yo by a mountain stream in the middle of nowhere Thanks to Captain Lynn, the longest-running Taiwan vet I know, for the locale & the xiaomijio. The last pic above is the spot, near Shuewunao (yeah, I know, where's that?) We've been spending a lot of time swimming in the mountain streams lately.

Things are building here. The Peacefest went off sweetly, despite perhaps being a little too epic in scope... It was like a big ol' Anglers reunion with Crees back up on djembe & Mr. Adam Goring, fresh from Canada via Australia, joining us on congas. Some flicks are up already on the hopingforhoping site. I've also put up some new pics of what we've been up to lately here. Anglers be rockin' as always, a little older & tighter, maybe a bit soberer, but makin' up for it with sweatier... My new reggae project (still unnamed) has got me all excited too. There'll be even more gear in the van next time you see it.

Well, that's the news. Many thanks for your support & belief; it's got us this far. And back atcha! Keep doing what you do best, and do it even better. Much love from the family here to the family there. Peace, courage, guidance,

Scott


Thursday, July 17

hey friends,

Wow, Peacefest was magic, if perhaps a little too epic. Huge thanks to all you beautiful people who made the trip out to savor freedom, good tunes, good food & good company with us. And a big "your loss!" to all those who didn't. You'll have a chance to right your wrong next year.

This year's performances were truly amazing, despite stretching past sunrise both mornings (my bad). In fact, I think if there was any complaint it might've just been too much good music, cheap drinks, and good friends... I saw a stream of people fleeing Sunday morning, looking like they'd just remembered their weekday lives and resolved to get out before anyone passed them a beer. We'll try to keep things a little tighter and not rub everybody's faces in it so much next time around.

But yeah, an amazing weekend of music, with loads of magic moments (many of which will be on the upcoming CD), and a fruitful meeting of minds from all over the island. Sunday afternoon had a perfect conclusion, with a short but mind-blowing set by our friends Round Midnight from Taichung, followed by a Dream Community samba drumdown in the rain... Jimmy (the teacher) had just arrived by plane only hours before. What folks were left danced hard & celebrated. The rain let off just long enough for people to get their wheels out before it really came down. The sound company's truck slipped off the road on the way out & we marched out en masse to push it back on. I narrowly escaped death or at least heavy damages when the hillside I was standing on gave way, landing me right square in the path of the sliding truck. Nice rush of adrenalin to follow of course. We spent the night in the temple, jamming, warm on the weekend's embers.

It's all of our hope that this festival and movement will carry on here in Taiwan, even though many of us will inevitably leave... There's more to it than the music, & the money (100000nt this time, not bad)... it's a chance to educate each other about what's going on in our world and on our little island, an experiment in collective, consensus-based decision-making, and a chance for all of us who have so much to give something back. The ball is already rolling for next year & I'd encourage anyone who wants to be involved to get in touch now through the website. And again, thanks everybody, it means a lot.

The following Saturday a bunch of us met up again at Da An Park in Taipei for Canada D'eh. I'd always wanted to play on that stage, so it was nice to finally do it, though I had a steady stream of sweat running off my nose the whole time. I started things off solo & acoustic, followed by Mister Green, Public Radio, the Muddy Basin Ramblers & Milk, who were dressed in a suitably patriotic mishmash of flags and hockey pads, cranking out rusty old Canadiana like "Takin Care of Business," "Everybody's Workin for the Weekend," even Rush's "Tom Sawyer"... Sitting barefoot on the hillside digging "New Orleans is Sinking," I was almost there for a second... but of course it was a lot hotter and there were a lot more Chinese people around.

We zipped over to the Living Room afterward to open things up for Milk's CD release. The disc (their third, titled 3:0) is great but of course the drunken late-night antics were even better. All kinds of old chestnuts (some of which one might reckon better-left-un-dusted) were given the falsetto treatment to great effect. Only true fans remained by the end of the night. Even some of the band had left. Ahh, Milk, still the best band in Taiwan, though often misunderstood...

Jubba's playing was a little subdued to say the least, as a recent bicycle accident has deprived him of the use of his right hand for the time being. We're going to take it easy for the next little while & get back into it once he's healed up. I'll be spending a lot of time around the house, working on tunes on the computer, & doing pre-production work for my upcoming solo album, which I should have out by the time I hit Canada next summer. Feels a little strange to be here now rather than there but hey, we've got good times aplenty here, & it goes without saying that the river of funds runs way deeper here in Taipaid. Those of you who are there, raise a toast for me when you feel so inclined, and breathe deep. Oh yeah, and check out our friends on pushforthecure.com and throw a couple bucks their way, or at least get out and ride with them when they come through your town. Big love everybody,

s


Thursday, June 1

Hey good people,

Long time no talk. Hope you're all flourishing.

Happy dragon boat festival! I hope you all got your zhongze.

First off, news for those of you in Taiwan... For starters, our huge thanks to the good people of Taichung who came out to our show on Saturday at the Grooveyard... You are lovely people & it was good food for our old souls to see all your smiling faces on the dancefloor. Much love! Huge thanks also to Roger & Patrick for hosting us sweetly.

This Friday, June 2nd, we'll be opening up for Taipei's ska providers the Sound Clashes at Velvet Underground, B1, #50, Zhongxiao W Rd, Sec 1. We start around 10pm. 400 bones at the door gets you 2 free drinks. The Sound Clashes will also be hosting a regular wednesday night reggae jam at Bliss from this week on. Go out & support!

The show we're really excited about is coming next weekend... Peacefest 2006 looks to be bigger & better than ever. It runs sunset Friday to sunset Sunday this year, so I hope you'll all bring your tents (or rent rooms if you like) & hang out all weekend in the mountains with us. The Anglers are playing Friday night at midnight, & Long Gone Sound will be rocking Sunday around noon. We'll also be participating in a workshop or two throughout the weekend... That's right, bona fide workshops, like you know from folk festivals at home. It's gonna be great. Ask anybody who was there last year.

Peacefest veterans Milk will be making the trip again, along with loads more bands, including the Muddy Basin Ramblers (oldtime jug band), the Sound Clashes (9-piece ska band), Fluent (live hip hop) & loads more... Check the website for the whole list & all the info you may need to get up there. All the money goes to charitible peace work.

For those at home, sorry for the long silence. Been busy, as usual. Some news:

The new & improved scottcook.net is up & running... A little thin on content at the moment but more is coming soon. I've also set up a couple pages on myspace for me & the band, for those of you who are into that. I've just discovered it this year, & since then decided I better stay well clear of it for the most part, lest I waste ALL my time online... me & that wikipedia are bad enough together.

I'm settled in back in Taiwan & enjoying a slower pace of life... found a good kindergarten here in Hsin Dian (a Taipei suburb) & surprised myself by signing a one-year contract. The original plan was only 6 months but hey, plans change. I've decided it's finally time to pay off my debt, which was what I came here to do in the first place. So 8:50 every morning finds me dancing to techno songs with 3-year olds. My personal favorites are "tidy up my life" & "choco-late!". Actually, considering what a good time I've had, doing whatever I wanted without a thought about money for the past 5 years, it seems a small price to pay.

The only downside of all that is that this summer's tour will be much shorter than expected, but I'll be sure to take a spin around Alberta & perhaps out to the Kootenays (maybe with a band along), & stop in to hang with the good people at the Sasquatch Festival. My heart swells thinking about it. Summer in Canada is IT.

I've been playing solo a bit around here, including a couple at Bliss in Taipei with ex-Incriminator Jason Grenier, also known as Mister Green... Ty & I also played as a duo for Valentine's & St. Patrick's at the new bar in Longtan, in front of Bai Nian Da Jeng, called Azul... real nice place, on 3 round floors. And we've made some noise around River of course, including a raging party to celebrate the bar's 7th birthday & the opening of a swanky new restaurant upstairs.

We've also started jamming with a new bass player, Kinya, from Japan, & he's laying it down real good. He plays with a lot of other bands including Red-I & the Riddim Outlaws... we met when he sat in on bass for us at the Bob Marley Day party in Taipei last year. Jubba is back on the drums for us & it's sounding sweet.

We had our first proper gig with the new combo down in Chiayi, at the wedding party of our new friends, Mark & Georgina... The party was at the enigmatically-named Calgary Bar, which is an old sawmill, where the Japanese would cut up the old growth trees they brought down from Ali Mountain, back when they occupied Taiwan. Some of the pulleys and works are still in the roof & the tables are halves of huge trees. The neighborhood around it's also old wooden houses, which I haven't seen much of in Taiwan; it looked like another country. We reckon that every single foreigner in Chiayi county was there, & the party was raging. Big love to all the dancers! We even tagged along to the after-party at the pagoda, & dug the local family sing-along. We'll be back sometime.

In April we headed back down to Spring Scream... it was a blast & a great reunion. The last time I left there I was in pain & on my way to the grave; felt a little funny to be back. Ty won the perserverance award for making it down there despite his broken leg. (You guessed it, scooter crash.)

A few weeks after that we were out to XiZhi (Ty's old stomping grounds) for a great party at the Dream Community, called the Global Rhythm Festival. David Chen & the Muddy Basin Ramblers, Fireflower, & the Sound Clashes all rocked, as did Ayaco's circus show... There was a big crowd of good people out, who lingered and jammed well past shut-down... a beautiful night.

And last Friday we were back out at Azul in Longtan for the Peacefest pre-party. We decided to shake things up & drew names from a hat to come up & jam with whoever happened to be up there. It went til the wee hours & reminded me just how much I love Jungli people.

Good people, there's one last thing that's been occupying a fair bit of my attention for the last few years & I hope you'll spend a little time looking into it too... I hate to mention politics in such pleasant company but this is important. There's a video & an essay that I think everyone should make time to check out, regardless of your political beliefs. I've spent countless hours reading on- & off-line & these are the clearest presentations I've found of the reasons why we ought to reconsider what happened on September 11th. Please click here to go to my politics page & have a look for yourself. Please write & tell me what you think about all this, because I'd love to know... & of course any criticisms or questions are most welcome.

Ok, enough of that heavy stuff for now. Wishing for sunny skies over all of us. Strength, courage, & guidance. Keep love in your hearts,

s


sunday january 22, 2006

hello from rainy taiwan!

I had a couple beautiful warm days on arrival, & walked around a lot, rode around on the bike too, & dug the thick air, the tangled jungle, the familiar smells & words... but since then we've been bunkered in by constant rain. looks like my planned motorbike trip is gonna take some determination.

yesterday I hooked up with tyler & crees by the pond, & caught up & jammed. paid papa's lover a visit for the delicious zha dofu & kong pao ji ding & bamboo shoots & all that good stuff... & then to River bar, where a happy reunion awaited. emma, emma & niamh are bidding us all adieu, & wow, has it ever been a slice! the bar was packed with old & new faces & the girls were sent off in style. we were joined by jubba, john, rob & nick from wise manoueuvers in a rocking jam. people getting rowdy. beautiful to see you all again.

we'll be laying fairly low around here for awhile as we get things going again... will let you know when we're back at it. meantime I've gotta find some young minds to shape. or at least astound with new heights of absurdity & slapstick. laters,

scott

sunday, january 8th, 2006!

Edmonton,

thanks for the love.

last night's reggae party was a raging good time, & a sweet sendoff for me, as I'm headed back to Taiwan this coming saturday. it was really wonderful to see all your smiling faces & feel the love coming back from all of you. we had great musical help from brian gregg on guitar, original spangler liz estioko on vocals, our old homeboy vizion with an impromptu flow, jay carscadden on hand percussion, & sista j as the voice of the talking bear--"lively up yourselves!"

souljah fyah & auresia & the constellation-ites both rocked out big time. nice to be in their musical company. sista j is playing the bass now too, & holds it down sweetly. mick sleeper was on the decks all night with a mix of old & new selections that kept the people dancing... where there was room to do so, of course--it was sold out, a packed house. glad to see there's so much support for reggae in this country town. maybe one day we can have a reggae fest of our own...

back around the new year, we made a run down to the southern part of alberta for a few days... rejoined adam goring for a great show in banff, & partied with mike b, lynda & friends from calgary there... then to calgary for a couple days hanging around drinking with our taiwan friends there (B, Kid, you know who you are), a visit with alia & xiao ai (still her ridiculous self), and a friday night show at jackdaw's that was packed out & rowdy. huge thanks to everybody who came out, it was a really special night & it's great to see everybody getting to know each other.

I spent new years dancing the night away with a horde of young & old albertans at tom & anne-marie's wedding in okotoks. the bird dance got a rewind. big steve & diane were even out; we went out for fireworks under the stars after the clock struck twelve. Another year coming round; sure it'll be bigger, hairier, better, deeper & stranger than the last.

anyway, that's it for us here for now. I'll be back in july & we'll get things fired up again then. We've been very, very grateful for all the help & support & lovely dancing people we've seen here in Canada this time around. look forward to hanging out with all of you again. happy trails,

s


wednesday, december 7, 2005

well hello there!

first off, a huge thanks to all you lovely people who came out to the party at o'byrne's on thrusday. we had a great time & it was sweet to see so many familiar faces. red magic (shamik & crystal) & laurelle really warmed things up between sets, jay helped us out on hand drums, & lotsa beautiful people helped us out by getting down... more of a testament to our wonderful hometown crowd than to the songs; they're the same songs every time, but people don't always dance... glad we know such a funky bunch around here.

We're enjoying the springtime weather around town... We'd been steeling ourselves for some real Farley Mowat-like conditions which never really materialized, although I sure whined like it. For awhile there I was wearing 10+ layers, shocked at the hardiness of the locals...

Darryl & I are gainfully & glamorously employed, taking photos of kids on Santa's lap in the malls around Edmonton, every day til Christmas. I'm squeezing in a show at the Druid tomorrow night, with a little help from my friends... then putting my shoulder to the wheel for the real santa rush. once finished, darryl & I are celebrating our freedom with a little spin around alberta. calgary people, get ready!

Hope you're all doing well, wherever you are... & hope those of you in Taiwan who may be wishing for a little dose of Christmas hoopla can take comfort in knowing that we're overdosing... & besides, your memories of the season are selective, & may be sweeter than the real thing anyway. Christmas is always whiter on the other side of the world, right? or something like that.

peace on earth, goodwill to men & women,

s


monday, oct 31

well, that's it. four months on the road has finally drawn to a close. got to my folks' place last night & slept til noon. revelling in the luxury of having a warm bed, shower, toilet, power outlet, internet, all that. and, considering the cold, glad to be inside rather than out.

a couple weeks to recap:

had a great time in lethbridge... corrie from tongue n' groove hosted me fabulously & dragged me around town partying afterward, which I really appreciated, tho I protested at first. & katherine & chris fed me wonderful spaghetti the following night, thanks friends.

from there I was off towards the kootenays... took a couple days getting there; spent some time around the crowsnest pass, laying low & playing, & wrote a new song, 'long way to wander'... then to the kootenays for about a week, walking in the woods, digging the fall colours, playing guitar, & catching some music in town... Saw Katana at the CCR pub over on the east shore, & they were cooking. great to see all the good people out there too. Played at Estevan's royal jelly jam, & met some kind folks there. Tuesday night I was doubly ticketed, with two friends' having shows on the same night: Ityen of Koots Roots was presenting Sugar Minott & his entourage at Fluid, while Rae Spoon & Geoff Berner were playing a double-bill over at the Royal. Both shows were excellent, tho it had me wishing I could be in two places at once... Sugar got the place rocking with a grand tour of every reggae style under the sun. In the not-so-sweaty Royal, Geoff got us laughing with his new tune, 'don't play cards for money with corby lund'...

from there to banff, where I rejoined the band for a weekend stint at the elk & oarsman. huge thanks to them for hosting. It was lots of fun to be playing with daz & adam again, & to revisit the heavier tunes. the crowd was really nice both nights... thanks to mike for bringing a crew from cowtown, & to joe splane, scott cranston, jane & janelle for making the trip from canmore. it was great to see all of you. & especially sweet to jam with joe on guitar & hear his new sanyang motorbike tribute.

great to see those big ol' mountains too.

saturday night we played to the visual accompaniment of fluffy snowflakes floating down outside... darryl reckons it was the kind of snowfall you see at the end of a mcauley caulkin movie. alas, summer's over, I've come to admit. hanging up the sandals for now.

around here, we'll be playing a bit, & I'll be doing some recording for my solo record, which I hope to have out by the new year. decided to make a whole album to replace the goin up the river EP, rather than get another run made, now that it's sold out. those of you who have a copy, you now own a collector's item.

so anyhow, I want to say huge thanks again to everybody who came out, wandered in, told their friends, listened, danced, bought records, bought beers, gave me something to laugh about, gave me directions, gave me advice, fed me, housed me, or supported the whole thing in any way this summer... it's been an epic journey & it was sweet to meet you all along the way. I'll be back around before long.

also, a huge thanks to my folks, without whose help none of this would've happened.

best wishes to you all through the winter. take care,

s


monday, october 17

hey there good people,

still on the road! I'm in cowcow, about to head outta town into the wide-open spaces of southern alberta... been here a couple days, hanging out with my sister, & seeing old friends...

had a great show in nanton on friday... a small, but enthusiatic crowd, really wonderful people. big thanks to pamela of the main street cafe for hosting, & big thanks to all who came out.

wild times in town here over the weekend... saw a horde of zombies dragging their decaying bodies down 17th ave as I drove into town on saturday--calgary's first ever zombie walk, hilarious. later that night they were supplanted by an even bigger horde of red-shirted guys, all a little excited, to say the least, that the flames put the oil down, 3-nothing. hooked up with taiwan compadres aj, the b, the kid, the dros, robin too... the daz bear & ang made it down from edmonton for the night too. dug the big full moon shining through the frosty air. partied in a 100 year old building scheduled for demolition this week... lotsa fun here in the big city.

playing tonight in lethbridge, then making my way gradually towards the koots... I'd actually contemplated going home, as some shows fell through, & it is getting wintry, but the sight of those mountains & thoughts of the folks on the other side reminded me this road's not over yet, still got a few more turns left in it.

hope you're all doing well & enjoying the season. big love,

s


wednesday, october 12

hey friends,

hope you are enjoying the season.

beautiful sunny day in saskatoon... got up a little late this afternoon, after a rowdy night partying with those inimitable cracker cats & friends. played open stage at lydia's last night & had a lot of fun, the people were into it. will be playing tonight at the freehouse & expect more rowdy good times.

finally getting around to winding my way home. it's been sweet to pass by the places I first found on my way out east back in august... stayed alongside lake of the woods again, in ontario, with a foot of snow on the ground this time around... & night before last, stayed out at the same sweet little campground in dundurn, SK, & dug the big sky, falling stars.

had a good night at the freehouse in winnipeg, thanksgiving sunday... played for nobody but the sound man & the bartender in regina the following night; blame it on the holiday & the bitter cold. I sure didn't mind the paid practice anyway.

looks like there'll be some new music coming from our way soon... might even have a new single out by this winter. I'll be sure to let you all know.

make sure to have a slice of pumpkin pie. or two. talk soon,

s


thursday, october 6th

hey friends,

long time no write. I'm in chilly northern minnesota, & headed further north, back to canada this afternoon... finally having to admit to myself that this long summer dream is coming to an end. this morning the van was frosty, the grass outside carpeted with leaves... still rocking the sandals, carrying them like a torch, but they've got thick wollen socks underneath now...

played a feature spot at the open stage in duluth, MN, last night, at a sweet coffeeshop called beaners central... a very lively scene in duluth, tho maybe like edmonton, more musicians than fans... many thanks to Jason for inviting me. Great to meet so many kind folks & hear some good tunes.

been getting an eyeful for the past couple days, driving through michigan, wisconsin & minnesota... the hillsides all painted with yellows, oranges, & deep reds, the skies fierce & ever-changing... I haven't seen the fall here in four years & it's truly a beautiful sight.

had a good time in fredericton with the kind folks there... thanks to ashley, lori, ronnie & steven for the nice welcome, & to matt & the 3 amigos for the enthusiasm. from there I bade a fond farewell to the maritimes & cut back into the states... across maine, beautiful southern vermont, & upstate new york, digging the scenery & sampling the wide variety of opinions represented on talk radio, from limbaugh on the one extreme to national public radio (thank god for it!) on the other... crossed back into southern ontario for a show at JT's in st. thomas. nice people there. thanks joan & kim for the warm welcome, & go well, uncle herb. It was great to be back in that part of the world, to smell the forests & farmland along the #3, & dig the sunset over lake erie... then back across the border to detroit, where I had to empty my pockets & endure some inane questioning, & up through michigan to the sweet solace of my grandparents' farm. seven generations of our family there; amazing place. stayed a few days with them & then overnighted with my cousin (of "out there in the evening" fame) in northern michigan before making my way west.

now headed back to the prairies, dreading the weather to come. feeling very grateful for all the kindness & welcome that's been extended to me all along this long rambling road. hope you're all settling into fall gracefully. take good care,

s

ps well, whaddayaknow! there it is! just sitting here about to send this & I saw it! snow, falling in the sunshine... you folks in taiwan, count your blessings. peace.


thursday, sept 22nd

hey friends,

my sincere thanks to anyone who's reading this... I sometimes feel like the late-night cjsr djs ("is there anybody out there?") when writing this, but some people assure me they're reading faithfully, so I'll keep posting.

I'm in moncton, just stopping over on the way towards st. john... gonna camp in the woods outside town tonight, play guitar... one good thing that's come out of this trip is lots of that. practice, rinse, repeat. making strides, I think, inch by painful inch. like everything, the beautiful, effortless-looking play you see is the result of countless hours of grinding it out. david ross mcdonald, whose guitar playing strikes me as superhuman, affirmed the same: he'd spent a lot of time in his bedroom, crafting, practicing, screwing up over & over again. so keep at it, everybody, whatever it is.

halifax was great. got to hang around one place long enough that I kinda felt at home. very good to see shali, of course, & hang with her roomates (I know I already mentioned it below, but I'll say so again: they're longboarding across canada next summer for breast cancer, & they need all the help they can get with raising money. they're on eastcoastlongboarding.com)... got to check out a couple shows, too. especially dug BA Johnston, who's really funny, & the perfect musical accompaniment to a night out in that oh-so young & drunken town...

& one day had the fortune of walking into the harvest festival on spring garden road... Verbal Warning was laying down some sweet grooves & we were dancing on the grass in the middle of town, sweet.

played a short-notice farewell show (I'm sentimental, I guess; staying in a place a week seems to merit a farewell show) at the economy shoe shop, & had fun. thanks very much to the folks who came out for that one, & to shal for her tireless organizing. Also to Rick & Kelly, who made a point of coming out to the second show on account of the first, despite getting the date wrong... :)

since halifax I spent a night drinking with Johnny Eden in Moncton, a night on the coast at parlee beach, & last night in Sackville, visiting Danica & then hanging around after I blew a tire on the trusty rockpod. got it fixed up this morning & back on the road. shows in st. john & fredericton & then cutting down through the states; will probably write next from there.

peace & blessings to you all. take care,

s


friday september 16

hey friends,

I'm writing from the library in wolfville, nova scotia... there's an indoor folk festival on here this weekend, deep roots music fest, which looks great... unfortunately I got limited funds, & a birthday party to attend anyway, so I won't be going... but did make it here to hear a talk just now, bob snider speaking about songwriting...

funny enough, last night I slept in the bed that bob had slept in the night before... the hospitality room above the union street cafe in berwick. I even wrote the beginnings of a song, sitting by the open window, looking over the street below, 1am. musta been some muses' scent lingering in the room...

the crowd at union street was wonderfully attentive & packed with talent. I almost wished they would start ignoring me or something; all the perked-up ears were making me nervous... vince, caleb, sally, heather & kate (sorry, dunno anybody's last names) were all amazing. It was truly a pleasure to share the evening with so many wonderful musicians, & to be so well hosted. this is the kind of venue that songwriters dream about, & who woulda thunk it'd be found in tiny berwick? thanks meagan for the invite, kate for the warm introductions, & brian for the impeccable sound.

today I drove to harborville, on the bay of fundy, & dug the mist hanging over the water... yesterday I was on the opposite coast of nova scotia, where I finally sat down by the atlantic ocean, finally got a feeling for what a long way I've come... gonna be a long trip back too. just landed my first gig in the states; duluth, minnesota.

been hanging a couple days in halifax with shali & co., & enjoying carlos' wicked cooking. really digging the city too. full of students & young, sometimes stupid, energy. & here, too, they like their drink. met some funny people wandering around. liane also happens to be out here, by a stroke of good luck. played ginger's night before last, to a small but really wonderful crowd. thanks amanda & mandy for driving into town, & to everybody else who came out. finally got to meet local singer rose cousins, whose work I've admired, & who you should all check out...

three of the guys I'm staying with in town are going to skate across canada next summer, to raise money for breast cancer. they're on eastcoastlongboarding.com for now; anybody who can help with the fundraising, get in touch!

hope you're all doing well. keep the home fires burnin, alright?

s


sunday sept 11

an unhappy anniversary... Yesterday on the radio I hear Bush still trying to get mileage out of it by comparing the heroes of hurricane relief to the heroes of 9-11. Which heroes, the firefighters who died when they brought the building down? Those people were murdered & their killers have the audacity to beat their memory for PR. If you still haven't heard the news (you must be getting your news from television), it was an inside job. the wikipedia's a good place to start, & it's got loads of links at the bottom...

I'm in fredericton, sitting in front of the old customs house building... my first time in the maritimes, & loving it so far. fredericton is a town with free wireless internet, provided by the city. it's also a town where a dude (not this dude) can plug in his amp & rock out ALL the hits, & I mean ALL the hits, on electric guitar from the steps of a historic building on queen st. til three in the morning & still not draw the heat! It's also a town quite fond of its drink, as I saw last night. played at the bugaboo creek pub & the crowd was cool, if a little liquored... walked down to the banks of the st. john river afterward & saw the sky overhead flickering with ghostly green flame... the northern lights again, huge this time, filling the sky. & the wind blowing dry & cold.

the season is definitely changing; feeling it for a couple days now. guess I'll finally have to break down & buy some shoes; my slippers are getting a little impractical to say the least.

had a sweet visit in montreal & even got to hang with pierre, our long-lost drummeur, up to his old tricks... He gave me some footage from spring scream monkey that I'll be putting up soon; watch for it.

slept out by drummondville & woke up to find my phone missing... On a slim chance, drove back to where I'd gassed up, just outside of montreal, & asked... found! (that's twice on this trip; the last time was in toronto when it got picked up by a jamaican reggae producer & his beautiful friend... good people around, everywhere)

but had to haul ass back down the road toward fredericton; cutting it mighty close on account of my detour... spun through quebec city & dug the old buildings. had to give les plains d'abraham a miss. then along the st. lawrence, north to new brunswick... passed by the wonderfully-named town of St. Louis-du-Ha!-Ha!... for an explanation of the name, or anything under the sun, see the wikipedia.

& speaking of the wikipedia, it's even bigger than I thought... For instance, it has an article on the tiny town of Tumbler Ridge, BC, where my family lived awhile, & articles on singers like Corb Lund, Kinnie Starr, even k'naan... where's the anglers article, you ask? just waiting for one of you to write it... there's a scott cook page, but only for that rich scott cook, who founded Intuit. Methinks they need a disambiguation page to cut through all the confusion.

headed towards halifax today. loving these little square white houses out here, & these friendly folks. hope your skies are sunny. peace,

s


wednesday, sept 7

writing from alia's place in montreal... lovely city, lovely place, lovely dogs & lovely roomate michelle... good to see she found a good spot. I got here yesterday & was reunited with my canine love, xiao ai, who wriggled her backside in a show of enthusiasm... later met up with stephan (aka mc sputnik) & he wiggled his bum about the same...

really nice to be in quebec, this other country within our own, it makes me love this country even more. I crossed over yesterday from ottawa, where I saw Pascal & Kate, & the parliament buildings, & on my way out, the falun gong practicioners in mock cells & torture scenes, preparing to welcome Hu when he comes on saturday... undoubtedly mr. martin will be a lot more polite & neglect to mention human rights while they're dining on xuei jiao together... actually Hu probably eats filet mignon these days, good proletarian that he is...

I had a nice week in eastern ontario... met up with yoav at the tranzac club & we went for a few drinks, then wiled away the hours from our perch high up on a fire escape... the next day I was back to cherry beach for a picnic with katie & then out... slept by the lake in port perry, then to uxbridge the next day. nice crowd at sixty-six... swanky place, fine food. many thanks to ann & eric for hosting, & to the coffee shop manager for the jumpstart in the morning.

then to peterborough to get a new battery, & to see mike & ann goede & their two kids, who I hadn't met yet... roan is a brilliant little guy; lots of fun hanging with him, & it reminded me how much I miss hanging out with my students. he drew me a map to halifax so I can't get lost. Played at the spill & had a great time. James is an excellent host & the PA is great. Went for beers at the Montreal House afterward... It used to be a men-only establishment up til a few years ago; real smalltown beer-hall charm & the same familiar glasses that you find at the Strat & Blues on whyte back home. Saw Lotus Wight & the ways of the world, local oldtime string band, awesome, & danced with the folks there. nice people in peterborough.

the next night I was down in cobourg--beautiful town on the shores of lake erie--for a show at the human bean. Nice crowd & a nice place. Thanks to Dave for hosting & buying me a beer afterward. Spent a lot of time there on the beach; it looks like the ocean... Heard that the shelter valley folk festival was going on just down the road, & that raghu lokanathan was there... Hadn't seen him in a couple years so I endeavoured to find him. Barely got to talk with him before I had to head to Millbrook, a VERY small town outside peterborough... So small, in fact, that the bar & the video store are in the same building. Scotty Rabel called while I was setting up & filled me in on all the Taiwan news. Crazy to be talking to him from there. I played the Eagles that night, as I suspected I might; twice in fact. Quite a change of pace for me as a show but I had a lot of fun. Thanks to Don & Margaret for coming out from peterborough.

the next morning I drove back to shelter valley to see raghu, & managed to catch the festival producer, Aengus Finnan, singing some heartbreaking songs... Good to see Raghu & John Wort Hannam, who was also there... It's a sweet little festival, only in its infancy, in a beautiful setting on a hillside overlooking lake erie... looks like it'll be around for a long time.

sure liked eastern ontario; the rolling hills, the fields & forests, & the lakeshore. now digging the vibe here & regretting all the goofing off I did in french class. soon enough I'll be on the coast. hope you're all doing well, wherever you are. see ya,

s


monday august 29

in toronto, writing from the bar of clinton's on bloor... gonna play the tranzac club tonight & then I'm off east.

got to town on friday & was shocked to see parking for $25, flat rate... Of course that was as bad as it got, & the prices fell as I got further from front st... Was feeling a little overwhelmed though at the whole bustling hustle.

Played the free times cafe, sharing the bill with donna ferra & samantha jones, and caught up with my old friend katie. the show went well & I was very thankful to peter for getting me in on it with such short notice.

I spent all day saturday down at cherry beach, by the docks... I'd been getting mail from the Promise mailing list for years; I guess somebody took my address down when I was out in Toronto years back to play my drum n bass at a truly unforgettable party that my friends in why so ltd. organized on the bruce trail... I've often thought I should just unsubscribe from their list, being in taiwan & all, but reckoned that someday fortune might find me in montreal when they're throwing a party. I pulled into town yesterday & got online only to find mail from them, about a party on cherry beach, on the only free day I have here... figured that's what I stayed on that list for all these years. In the morning when I got down the park was full of ravers, come down there after the clubs let out, to chill & get back to normal... well, some of them never made it back to normal, cause by 3 or so there were two sound systems on the beach, both free parties... Reggae, soul, & african drumming at the one on the beach; house, breaks & dub at the other, which was the promise party, tucked away in the woods... They've been doing sundays there for years, which I found truly amazing... you sure wouldn't get away with anything like this out west. No permit, big beats, people drinking beer... a sure heat score in Alberta at least. Maybe the cops have more important things to do here. Anyway, it was wonderful to take it in, & meet the kind folks there... A little slice of eden. Sunlight slanting through the trees, kids running around, people juggling, standing on their heads, all that good stuff... great dub from the Reverend & breaks from Rollin Cash.

unfortunately the other party (which was also rocking but maybe a little too close to the parking lot) drew the heat & they both got shut down by 11 or so... Only the 2nd or 3rd time it's been busted, which in itself is amazing... Amazing that such a cool thing could go on in the city, & amazing that it isn't bigger & rowdier than it is... maybe 200 people there tops. Thanks so much david & irving for doing something for free, building community, bringing people out to the woods. peace to nova & chris & all the kind folks I met--hope you aren't too hurting at work today.

just got mail from alia in montreal, stoked to see her & my canine love xiao ai... Decided in the last couple days that I'm gonna go all the way east, gigs or no gigs... this is where the faith comes in. Hope you are all doing well, talk soon,

s


friday august 26

a new record for this tour, set last night at the circus room in kitchener... played the whole night for $10 & change. my fault, I shoulda known crackheads got no money to spare. I wasn't too broken up about it or anything, just remembered how lucky I am, that I can wake up & leave here. which I'm doing right now. adios, crack alley. oh yeah, & rick, keep your head up, amigo, it's a hurting jungle out there.

s


thursday august 25...

hey friends,

hope you're well. I haven't written in awhile, eh? been busy.

I'm in steeltown, hamilton... first time here. Had a great show to open & close the open mic at pepper jack cafe last night. It's a lot of the old crowd from the Staircase Cafe (closed now), carried over to the other place... A really sweet venue, with a big wooden stage by the open windows & a big shady patio outside, walled in with brickwork--a garden oasis in the middle of downtown... & a really sweet scene there too. Most of the folks know each other & there was a nice family vibe, plenty of collaboration going on, lots of talent. big thanks to ken for inviting me, doug for the impeccable sound, & rob for hosting the stage & kindly hosting the after-party too. good people.

yesterday morning I saw niagara falls for the first time with my good friend Cristina, dug the heavy mist raining up on us, & hypothesized about rainbows.

before that I spent the weekend at Fred Eaglesmith's charity picnic, had a sweet time. Pascal came down from Ottawa (without a bass player, at the last minute) & we managed to finagle the services of one Mark "Worm" Sinkowski, who works at Fred's Hobo Store in Port Dover... Lots of fun laying the reggae on the country crowd, & they dug it too... House got up on harp & Durrie helped us out with congas. The weekend was excellent. I had little idea just how big a name Fred is around those parts, or around Texas, for that matter. People came from far & wide. With very little help from folk festivals, radio, etc., Fred has built up his own grassroots following, huge, like a Canadian country version of the Dead cult... A big family of wonderful people, most of them musicians themselves... There were amazing jams running late every night.

the friday night was my 29th birthday, and a full moon too... I slipped away for awhile to sit on the banks of the creek & stare at it. A beautiful setting for the picnic, Springwater conservation area, with lily pads covering the water, big trees shading the people, moonlit nights...

The music was consistently great. Standing out for me were Washboard Hank, funny as always, Carolyn Mark, absolutely hilarious, Slaid Cleaves from Texas, fellow Albertan Matt Masters (who's on a mission to play 100 gigs in Alberta this summer to mark the centennial), House Milner, & Gurf Morlix, who's a big-name producer and no less of a talent himself; he closed his set with an inspired & timely rendering of dylan's 'god on our side,' which I'd been digging on the way here... Of course Fred was awesome; funny ad lib from him & some beautiful textures going from the band. The lineup is stellar & includes Willie P. Bennett, who amazed us all on harp & slide mandolin & timeworn vocals... They travel around in a big old bus with 10 beds, support crew, a big circus pulling into town. When they're off the road, the bus is parked in front of Fred's house down by the water in Port Dover...

On the thursday before the picnic I played in port dover, got introduced to some of the kind folks there (hey Pat, April, House, Liz, all!) & dug the little town on the shore of big lake Erie... Fred is well known & loved in Dover, & has his own store, the Hobo store, where they sell off old guitars, mandolins, accordians, used LPs, single guitar strings, cheap harmonicas, amps, and whatever else they pick up in junk shops along the way on their travels. Truly a hobo's delight.

Setting up for the show at the Norfolk, I was a little distressed at first... Before I even got the PA set up, a young fellow sprayed the floor with projectile vomit, & another got thrown out for trying to start a fight... It wasn't even 9 o'clock, & I thought ah ha, this is going to be one of those nights... But truly it was a great night, & the crowd got into it... Some even listening, others compensating with rowdy enthusiasm... The climax was a hair-raising rendition of 'brown-eyed girl' with a drunken dutch sojourner... Also had some funny jams with the local kids on spoons, bells, harmonica & whatever else out of my tickle trunk...

The night before that I was at the Rock Bottom in Windsor... Good times, nice place. I got there just in time; thankfully, the border people were very nice to me & declined to search my van. I guess they probably figure a longhair like me knows he's a heat score; wouldn't be stupid enough to try bringing anything across... I wowed at the lit skyline of detroit as I crossed the bridge.

My time in the states was no more than a cruise through... Checked out the scene in Duluth, pretty town, & stayed overnight in Marquette, Michigan... Before that I came down from the western end of Ontario; drove through Kenora & down to Sioux Narrows, alongside Lake of the Woods... stayed out by a little bay on the lake & dug the loons & the ghostly mist on the lake, the low yellow moon, starry sky... thought I heard gitchee manitou in the breezes.

...which takes us almost back to where I wrote last... After the night in saskatoon I drove a short way out of town to sleepy little Dundurn, SK, where I found a sweet, cheap campground, with nobody around... Stayed a couple nights & played the banjo & got my computer worked out (using Ableton Live for the late-night sets), & dug the big, ever-changing sky... On the first day, a tight double rainbow right in front of me, both ends cutting sharp to the ground, big golden thunderheads piled up behind it... And on the second night, northern lights (special for the japanese dudes there who'd never seen it), & the perseids, which I hope you all saw, raining down brilliantly overhead. Thanked God for the wonders in the sky & the rest & set out on my way a couple days later, bound for brandon. Met some nice folks in Brandon at Second Troy, a very cool space... Checked out some venues in Winnipeg & then out to Ontario.

Now off to kitchener for a show at the circus room; hope to run into some of Canary Mine's old posse... then to the big smoke, hog town, T-dot itself... wish me luck. big love to you all, speak soon,

s


thursday, august 11

hey friends,

thanks for checking in. I'm in saskatoon, enjoying the free wireless that seems to just be filling the air around this town... Drove 6 hours across near-featureless prairie & got here in time for a beautiful sunset last night, sky full aglow orange & purple... played kind of a sleepy show at spadina freehouse, where the staff were real nice... trouble was they were the only ones left by the second set. well, them & dylan, who filled me in a bit on all things sk'toon. started on a song, or a verse of a song, about this poetogenic little town, standing by the south saskatchewan river after the show, surprised by a beaver right in front of me...

headed now to regina to have a look around, & brandon on friday, to meet the folks at second troy, who were kind enough to offer me a supper that I don't even have to sing for... then thru the states to southern ontario.

the folk fest was sweet as always. john prine in particular had me in his grip. vusi masahela from south africa blew me away with his complicated phrasing, precise lyrics, and huge vocabulary of vocal sound... Also dug alpha yaya diallo, the bills, the men of steel (don ross & co), johnny clegg, abstract minimal bluegrass from bill frisell, portugese/african rhythms from waldemar bastos, deep slow reggae grooves by alpha blondy & the solar system... nice to dig the beautiful candle-specked hillside & sunset thru the skyline again. & to see all the good folks from town. we got a good thing going.

a huge thanks to all the friends, old & new, who came out for my farewell at o'byrne's... we were all tired after the folk fest but you guys were still up for more, good on ya. the city's not dead! the good people were dancing on a monday night. musically, it was a train wreck--I felt like it was my first show or something--but the feeling is what counts, & you folks had feeling aplenty. Extra special thanks to Paul McGowan for saving the day with a g-string, & to Maurice Jones for the excellent tunes, warming up the place & getting the dancers out on the floor. wonderful. we'll see you all again in october.

wish me luck at the border. cheers,

s


tuesday, august 2

hey friends,

back in edmonton, getting some rest in at my folks' place & gonna take in the folk festival this weekend. A fine time to be an edmontonian.

the western leg of tour's done now, & it's gone sweetly... visited some magic places & reconnected with old friends. almost broke even, too, which is an accomplishment. had a hard time turning around & heading back east... on the ferry off the island, I had a sudden vision of myself on the 401, stuck in a sea of cars & exhaust, & wondered why I was leaving...

but it's all in your mind, isn't it? the birds got their own way of hanging out in the city...

cortes was fabulous. I stayed a few days & soaked up the love. Blue Quarter came to the island & rocked manson's hall under a big full moon. a beautiful circle closed at milan's art festival, singing to my old friends. I swam in hague lake every day & finally got some sun on my white ass.

gabriola was wonderful too... a friend from taiwan, andre nobels, lined up the show for me... The crowd was great--very attentive, & sweet people. Peter at the surf pub was very kind & even sat in on bass for a couple numbers, along with another local named Dave on djembe. The jams cooked. Little Jen & Xiao Go were out, too, to add fuel to the party fire. We hung around the next day & dug the beautiful land. I'll definitely be back.

stopped in vancouver on my way back & saw my old friend elese at the backstage lounge... dropped in on pete & alex from taiwan the next evening, then off on the road under a big moon to Hope... Played an impromptu gig in Penticton at Fibonacci's the next night, & met some kind folks there, including Jeff Greene, who plays stellar guitar, & Aaron Goodwin, who plays six-string & harp. Great people.

then to canmore to hang with friends & to banff the next day to reunite with the daz bear, who I'd been missing. Adam Goring was back on the drums for us & we had a great time at Johnny Ray's. Thanks loads to Lynda, Mike, Joe, Scott Cranston, Beth & all the other kind folks who came out & partied. The next day found us in Cowcow with more old friends... Huge love to Lynda for help spreadin word, & to Kev & Jody for driving up from Lethbridge... And of course to Adam for making the trip out. He & Daz are in the pocket. Also great to see Thom, Anne-Marie, Amanda, & my old friend Nate, who are all doing well... We escaped without a parking ticket this time, congratulated ourselves.

next time you hear from me I should be on my way east. Hope you are all flourishing. blessings,

s


Tuesday, July 19

I'm on the island now, & sweet to be back. had a good night on friday at the minstrel cafe in kelowna, slept by kalamalka lake. through kamloops the next day, where my family lived for a few years... spent the afternoon checking out childhood haunts & even the playground where I was first told the distressing news known as the 'facts of life'... Then west on the 99, through staggering mountain scenery to whistler early the next day for a show at BBK's in the upper village... Lots of fun chilling on the patio in the shade with the good folks there. Later on I took it inside & tried out the new & improved lux sound system for its maiden voyage... Wouldn't say it was smooth sailing, exactly, but it was lots of fun anyhow. Great folks hanging out there, & Josh was a great host, I'll certainly be back. $35 parking ticket the next day though for being in a parking lot longer than 2 hours... Which is funny, cause I'd actually left & come back! Rest assured those sticky-fingered creeps won't get a cent out of me. They can take their cutesy-ass fake boutique town & shove it up... Oh, but thankfully I was back on the road & among the trees soon, they're much kinder before they turn them into signs... Does distress me every time I come to Canada though, things just always seem to be getting tighter, never looser. chill out, people!

Came down the gorgeous sea-to-sky highway (in this case, sky to sea) from whistler right to horseshoe bay, & in doing so managed to avoid vancouver altogether, & thought myself very clever for it. There's folks I love in Van, I know, but I'm just too fresh off the boat, can't take the city & its parking laws... Guess I'll stop by on my way back through, play the backstage lounge's open mic--incidentally, the scene of two notorious happenings of last summer: the face of james lanbro (of canary mine) colliding with the pavement at the hands of our drunken bass-playing bear, & the rockpod colliding with a pole at the hands of the only one who wasn't drunk, old slowhand himself...

For now, headed to Cortes to see the folks there... Milan's throwing a music festival this friday & saturday & I just may squeeze my way on stage at some point... The Tak has changed hands & Squirrel Cove's changed format but I may get a show in at one of those places too, we'll see. Then on Saturday to Gabriola for a show with Andre Nobels, who we met while he lived in Taiwan.

watched a heron fishing this morning. wishing you all sunny skies,

s


Tuesday, July 12

I'm in the Kootenays now, enjoying the ample hospitality & greenery... the shows so far have gone sweetly, particularly starbelly. I bade Darryl adieu yesterday; it was sure great travelling with him but I'm going on alone for now.

Left the city in a rush, as always... We were still drummerless up til the 11th hour but Brian Gregg told Gary Bowman about our predicament & Gary recommended Adam Goring in Banff--a funny coincidence cause we knew Adam from last year, when he interviewed us for an article in the Crag & Canyon, though we had no idea he was a drummer. Adam saved the day for us in a big way. Tuesday night at Johnny Ray's turned into a jumping party with the help of Lynda, Leah, Adrian & friends from Calgary, & Vanessa, Chris, Paul, & Joe Splane (with his folks) from Canmore. Joe even jumped up on lead for a few tunes.

Wednesday night was ghostly quiet in Golden but some enthusiastic folks made it out & partied anyhow—thanks to Sasha for bringing some friends by. Thursday night was similarly quiet in Nelson—everybody we knew was out potlucking—but we managed to round up some crowd, who danced & dug the tunes. Papa Roots (our buddy Neil) was on the decks & kept the reggae cuts coming.

Neil was with us again the next night in Kaslo where we played to a packed house at the Crooked Cafe. Chris, Serge & the rest of the staff were very kind to us & we'd gladly go back anytime. The good people of Kaslo, young & old, came out to listen & dance, & warmed our hearts. Beautiful perfect community right on the shore of kootenay lake. On drums we had help from Jay, who Daz met by sweet coincidence while searching around town. Jay plays with hometown reggae favorites Sound Foundation, & he cut it up sweetly for us.

We made our way to Starbelly the next day, & were blessed with a full day of music & only a little rain. Particularly inspiring were H'Sao, from Chad via Montreal, who we also saw up at the fair, the Twisters, who we played with on Haida Gwaii two years ago, Jose 'Pepe' Danza, local drum & dance troupe Afrique! & the local Samba band, both of whom were in Ymir last year...

We played to a happy crowd early Sunday, with help from Jay on drums, Gisto of Wassabi Collective on guitar, & and Ted on harmonica. Even had a little trumpet solo from the Twisters' bassman James, & some funny sounds from our edmonton friend Tippy Agogo. Lots of fun, & nice to see all the beautiful people moving. Big kootenay love all around here.

I'm just laying low for a few days now, sitting by the water & sorting myself out... Even got my home (the van) cleaned up some. Headed to Kelowna in a couple days. Talk soon,

scott

 

Anglers' news May 05: a look back

     It's been a year since we saw many of you last, so here's the news...

     Last summer was great. We had such a sweet time that it was hard to leave... A tenuous endeavor: five broke guys in a van, rock-n-rolling, sleeping in tents, fighting with luggage & gear & the smell of each other's feet... but you all made us feel very welcome along the way. Some shows that stand out for us are the party on the deck at Squirrel Cove on Cortes, a saturday afternoon at the Black Dog (my old watering hole), the reggae festival in Ymir, of course North Country Fair, especially sunday night, Waynefest, Starbaby in Crawford Bay, the merlot in Cowtown, just for the crowd that came out, not for the parking ticket, the Ho' in Canmore, the ultra-casual Sasquatch Festival, sweet as always, good parties at Johnny Ray's in Banff, the Tofino legion with Canary Mine, a few stops in at little flower open stage, sharing the stage at the Druid with the rowdy Cracker Cats & the unbelievable David Ross Macdonald, and a particularly sweet night at the Royal in Nelson. Oh yeah, & of course the sweetest show of all was the northern lights, laying out in the field on Mike's farm outside Black Diamond, AB.

     We want to say big heap thanks again to everybody who helped us out along the way... & to all our old friends who put up with us rushing in, rushing out, & all that. An extra thanks to anyone whose floor or couch we ended up on. It was truly a pleasure to meet all of you new friends, & of course to touch base with you old homiez. Some of us are coming back shortly to wear out our welcome.

some pics: click on the thumbs to see the full-size picture... more summer `04 photos here, lots more coming soon.

the good folks partying in canmore the cracker cats at starbaby, east koots by kootenay lake, where we spent some time. why we left.

     The Anglers are currently scattered across three different continents--with any luck, there's at least one on your continent right now!--but the three of us here in Asia (ty, crees & I) have been doing our thing together, for the moment, and having a good time. We had the Daz bear here for two weeks in the fall, rubbed his tummy & sent him on his way. He was without a visa to stay in Taiwan & his new fiancee back in Canada was without a man, so he was inextricably hinterland-bound. Glad to hear he's having fun in Edmonton through the winter, & good to know that it's even possible... It's been so long we can't even remember. Dunc stayed on in Canada & flew to Africa from there, leaving us a much mellower band, with a rhythm section of one. But we started out here, just the three of us, so we've been enjoying doing that again. Playing lots more country & folk, learning a lot of old bob marley, & covering 'boxcar' by our friend Rae Spoon.

     We haven't pounded the pavement for gigs this time around, but plenty of good opportunities have come our way... So far we've been happy to play at the big Resistance party up on the hill in Donghai, Taichung, which was probably the first big gathering of the tribe this season, for solar new year's at the golden plaza in Taichung, & for Bob Marley day (it woulda been his 60th birthday) at the Wall in Taipei... Over the lunar new year (the big holiday here) we had to forgo the customary quick adventures around SE asia, with lots to do, & not a lot of cash on hand. Scotty Rabel, Ty & I took a bike trip down south... we tested our beat-up 125cc rides with 1300 km of winding mountain roads & they came through fine. For lunar new year's eve we were down in the mountains, Nan Tou county, camping at Xi Tou, hearing the fireworks crackle down below... We spent two sunny days camping on the beach in Kenting, & then went around the corner to Dulan, near Taidong, for a sweet weekend festival, hosted by the aboriginal arts group there - the adolan museum of arts & brown sugar... Got to know some of the Amis & Taiwanese folks who live down there & dug the local vibe--a huge contrast from the north, where there's loads of English speakers, loads of handsfree phones, loads of money flying around... It actually rekindled my hopes for this funny, undecided little island.

     Around home, our shows at Wonderbar turned into a bona fide concert series ('groove revival presents'), and we were able to bring up Boogie Chillin', Schlumpy & DJ Shebie from Taichung, and show off new local bands Orenda (two girls from Florida who play great latin jazz & folk) & Wise Maneouvers (oldtime Jungli jammers at it again), before mismanagement finally sunk that bar. We all shed a tear; they (& old manager A-Ban in particular) did a lot of good for Jungli, bringing a lot of good bands to town by hosting shows with no cover charge for the last three years.

     one big show was in Kenting, on the southern tip of the island, for our fourth Spring Scream. A couple of foreigners started the festival over ten years ago & it's grown huge--this year over 100 bands played on 4 stages over 5 days. We played twice: on Saturday as the Anglers, & Sunday with my new project as mc long gone & his Lux Sound System. It's homemade dub, reggae & dancehall beats that I toast over live, with friends jamming along. You can hear a poorly-recorded demo here. The set went sweetly. Ty asked for a dance partner & ladies poured onto the stage. Patrick (our sax player) got so carried away that he asked his girlfriend to marry him on the mic. Big love going around.

     The next day, though, I woke up in serious pain. Thinking it was food poisoning, I just tried to get through it. By Tuesday it hadn't gotten any better & I bussed home. Still thinking it was nothing serious, I went by the hospital Wednesday morning & didn't come back out for 19 days. Ruptured appendix. A word to you men out there: we know you're tough, & self-reliant, & can take the pain, & all that, but really, when you have a sharp pain inside you, go get it checked out! A couple days earlier & this could've been quick & easy; a couple days later & I could've been dead. A little lesson. The whole thing slowed me down a bit, & left me feeling very thankful.

some pics: click on the thumbs for a full-size image... lots more taiwan photos here
our impromptu tuesday-night party at River to send Daz off. Jungli rocks hard. We are very lucky people. at GiLaVaSai in Dulan, Taidong, with help from Peace Dave & Precious on djembes, Mike on tablas, Patrick on sax & Roger on bass. Spring Scream Chicken, Kenting, Pingtung County, April 4th... That's Kev from Milk in the white shirt. My doctor let me take a few hours' field trip out of hospital for our old friend lady J's earth day party up on Yang Ming mt., overlooking Taipei. Nice pajamas.

     I've just gotten back to all the work I'd left lying undone (which goes partway to explaining how this lunar new year greeting turned into a spring thing)... Lining up this summer's tour now, & it's already late. Tyler & Crees won't be making it; we're still crossing our fingers for Duncan. But I'm going ahead & booking things anyway--a small act of faith. So far we're confirmed on North Country Fair, Starbelly Jam in the kootenays, and Fred Eaglesmith's Charity Picnic in Ontario. We'll be out west for the beginning of the summer & then I'll be heading east alone in mid-August... Going all the way to the east coast & back up thru the states in the fall. I'm stoked--never even seen the Atlantic. I'm in the process of booking the bar shows now; if you know a great place we oughtta play, or know somebody who can get us a show, especially out east, it'd be much appreciated.

     I'll sure have a hard time leaving this place. We just had the second Peace Festival this month & it was truly peace-full... The first one, two years ago, was a beautiful event, in the mountains by our house at Kunlun Herb Garden (or Herbal Drug Touring Garden, or Herbal Drug Recreation Centre, as some signs call it). They had Kimbo (famous aboriginal bluesman here), Biung, Da Hai, Takanow & a who's who of foreign bands in taiwan... We circled up at sunset & hoped for the world. Sweet standing silent, everybody smiling, the frogs & birds & crickets thrumming... At nightfall they got the fire dance going & eventually it evolved (somewhat predictably) into a drunken gong show, with Milk playing from 6:30 to 8:30 in the morning.

     The second time round, loads of people pitched in & we put on a two-day festival, with camping, same place. It was amazing to see it happen. It would've been unbelievable just a few years ago, particularly in our neighborhood. But here it was, grown bigger & wilder & with even more flavors in the stew. Like last time, we circled up at sunset... I've been to lots of festivals & nowhere else have I seen this--a huge group of adults in a circle, focussing, totally silent... beautiful. There were whirling dervishes and a buddhist nun & folks from the way of grace all on hand to give talks & balance out the rock & roll. We managed to make around 4000 canadian for charity too. This time the proceeds are going to oxfam, amnesty international, doctors without borders & the taiwan association for human rights. You can read all about it on www.hopingforhoping.com, or read an article from the taipei times here. Read Chomsky too while you're at it.

peacefest: click on the thumbs for a full-size image... more pics by lynn here.
the start of the circle turned into a dance peace dave, stoked after chicken rice the smoking cones' swan song the folks digging it, early saturday
us anglers, playing for the local crowd & some true fans who made it from hua lien, sat at one chicken rice rocking it saturday night erin & anthony from milk, up to their old tricks... still one of the coolest bands around patrick chen, otherwise known as Red-I, taiwan's roots radical, reggae uncle

     For those of you reading this who happen to be in Taiwan, we'll be playing our last show around here for the forseeable future, at River in Jungli, Friday June 3rd. The 4th & 5th we've got shows out on Penghu, & I'm out the next day. Hope to see you all before we go.

     That's about it for music news. Oh yeah, we've finally got a quarter ounce of prevention available online now, through bullfrog music... Somebody ordered one, & I got a check in the mail, so I guess it works. They seem like really nice people, & were prompt & flexible whenever I asked them anything; if you've got a CD to hawk you might want to get in touch with them.

     Oh yeah, & I'm starting a new blog, cause who doesn't have one these days? Trouble is, I haven't learned how to set it up yet, so it's just a plain-text thing for now. For a rambling, possibly boring story about our pond & the life therein, click here.

     I've also been hard at work on web design, when I have the time, & put together new sites for this year's Blues & Bar-B-Q Bash in Taichung (www.bsot-bluesbash.info), and for my photographer friends Alia (www.shutterlove.com) & Clyde (www.snappedreality.com). Check them out (Alia's isn't quite done, but you can have a look). Anybody want a website? I work VERY cheap. I'm hoping web work can buy me time on the beach in Costa Rica this winter, so why not pitch in for a good cause? Please. I really hate cold.

     On a personal note, Xiao Ai has learned to sit, lie down, go, come, & most of the time, to be good. Tyler & Crees are handsome as always. We all miss the road, but are loving it here in the meantime. It'll be great to see you all again this summer.


around lunar new year, february 2005, year of the chicken

     the holiday season came to an end under a big full moon last night, with an interminable barrage of fireworks & lanterns floating heavenward. The fireworks have been rattling our little love Xiao Ai's composure for the last two weeks or more. Even more persistent than the fireworks, though, has been the rain. We took the only opportunity we had--a rare few days' break--to ride our bikes to kenting, but otherwise it's been coming down pretty well non-stop for the past while, & the pond's filled back up.

     Some of you may already know that we live in front of a little pond... Me & Crees (& Darryl & Dunc too, at different times) three doors down from each other & Ty just up the hill. This fall, the owner drained it off, presumably to catch the fish. Apparently there were just too many. We'd see them swarming in huge schools all over the pond, & Ty & others had even spotted something huge surfacing briefly now & then, like some kind of scaly sea monster--huge! Well, for weeks the pond was a big sandbar, while the owner & his buddies dragged their nets through the remaining water... Word came through the neighborhood grapevine that it had taken 3 men to pull the biggest fish(?) out of there, & he weighed in at 60 kilos. We all know what they say about fish stories but even if it was an exaggeration I'm still amazed.

     After the netting & scooping was done the pond was left to gradually refill from rain & runoff. But it took its time. In the meantime we were treated to a view of all the trash that we'd only been able to imagine before, accumulated below the waterline. It was now debris on the newly-exposed beach. On our beach, a car battery, pot shards, shoes, rubber netting, fish traps, a CD-R, rebar, lord knows what else. There was even the charred & rusted body of an old scooter dropped in there. I cleaned it up in front of my house & sat down with a beer, enjoying my newly-accquired real estate. We were going to send you a picture of all three of us sitting on the beach saluting you, our less-fortunate wintry compatriots, but our tropical dreams got soggy under a fairly steady 3 weeks of rain that finally filled the pond back up, & returned all that trash to underwater secrecy. Now today for the first time in a while we've got sun shining on our pond and everything has a chance to dry out, including our tin shack upstairs. Maybe that funky smell will even go away.

     A funny aside to that story: back before we lost the beach to the rising pond, I'd stuck a piece of bamboo into the mud at the water's edge, so as to mark the waterline, I guess. And birds would even come swooping in and land in it & chill for a while & flit off, & I dug it. Later on, though, my neighbor told me that it wasn't the custom here, older people on the block don't like it... Just like you should always lay your chopsticks down across your bowl, not stick them up in the rice. It's an ill omen, means death. Exactly why is the subject of some debate; some people say it looks like sticks of incense at a tomb or funeral, maybe just a piece of wood sticking up out of the ground has an ancient association with a grave marker... who knows?

     Anyway, it was a little late, because by this time the water had risen up to fill the pond & the bamboo was sticking out of the water far from the edge of my overgrown garden. Not wanting to strike daily fear into the hearts of the little old ladies on the block, I tried to lasso it, flinging a rope lamely at the bristling bamboo top, with no success. Scotty Rabel came by & we got a bunch of roots tied to the stick, Scotty snagged it on there & tangled the rope around it while I bent the bamboo down with another piece of that infinitely useful reed. Smooth, just like that, except after twenty or so tries, and after Scotty almost took a filthy swim. A funny spectacle.

 

from the Anglers' 2004 canadian summer tour:

NAME ty
DATE Tuesday, September 14th 2004 - 10:49:02 AM

Well the last week here has sure been interesting. About two days before Waynefest, it snowed! ...left us wondering what the conditions would be like at Wayne. We headed on down and were treated to the James Murdoch band and an open stage on Friday night. Saturday saw us playing a chilly set at 10:00 am. Once the fingers warmed, we soon had people dancing, and the day was kicked off. Next up was excellent rockibilly band The Swifty's. Some other personal favorites were the AA Sound System, The Wailin' Jennys', and Carolyn Marks. Thanks to Brock Skywalker and all the others for such a great time! After a great Thai/Chinese dinner with Talia, Laura, Adrienne, and Linda (hi!) it was back to Sherwood Park and to play O'Byrne's the next day. It was a great show and great to see some faces that we haven't seen enough of (John, Terry, Andy, Henry, Kristine, Vanessa, Lance, etc...) thanks for your support! Anyways, just one more and that's tonight at the Druid! Lots of love everyone - Ty

 

NAME scotty paycheck
DATE Thursday, September 9th 2004 - 10:37:57 AM

hey all... A last few words before we adjourn. Woke up this morning to a carpet of white snow on the lawn & knew it was time to cut out. Speaking for all of us, we've had the most amazing (& enlightening) time in Canada, but really, we can't stay, what with winter on its way & the little monsters already rioting in our classrooms... We left Crees in Vancouver to wrangle another visa out of the trade office; he should be on the plane today. Taiwan people, please buy him a drink when he gets there--he's broke. We'll be following close on his heels, broke as well...

The last few weeks have been great, although it's all starting to blend together a bit by now... Where are we again?? From the Koots we went out to Penticton for a show at Mozzie's, a classy joint on Front St., & Mohziar treated us very well. From there we cruised back to Calgary for another show over there, this time at the Merlot, & it was packed & jumping... Two parking tickets, a lot of faux-zootiness & some honk-happy drivers soured us for good on the city, though. Cowtowners, if you have to live there, try to keep your head up... If you don't have to, get OUT while you can!! But thanks anyhow, friends, for the hospitality; it can warm even the coldest places.

From there we rode to Lethbridge for a reunion with the sweet folks we know down there from last year... Played at the TOngue n' Groove & had a sweet night. The prairie wind was howling outside but it was warm in there. Wondered about the strange turn-of-the-century goings-on in the old chinese freemason's hall upstairs, & the whorehouse(?) downstairs... Stayed another night at the farmhouse, the one you can see on the cover of our album (thanks Jodi). Darryl's thoughts turned again to fields, & plows, & cowboy hats... He says he could live in Nobleford. & Nelson. & even our old E-town. One way or another, this country is going to have him.

From Lethbridge it was a long drive back to Nelson for a little acoustic set after Estevan's open stage at the Royal... (sorry about the confusion about Charlotte's, everybody) Not too many folks out but we had a good time, & bade that sweet little town a fond farewell... Thanks Happi & Pam for all the film work. Thanks everybody else for the warm welcome. See you all next year.

From Nelson it was back to the coast for more farewells... The island was green, the berries were ripe, the people we happy... We stayed two days on Cortes & were so sweetly welcomed... Felt like home. We played a mellow evening set at the Tak & a stomping show the next night at Squirrel Cove, out on the deck by the ocean, under a big yellow moon. We were truly touched to see all the people who came out to party; thank you so much everyone. Big love. We'll be back.

Friday night we rocked the Cambie in Nanaimo; met some good people & had a good one... The next night we were to be at the Anise on Saltspring but instead got a whole line of bullshit from Rob, the manager... long sordid story not worth repeating, except to say any bands reading this who are thinking about Saltspring maybe oughtta try the Treehouse instead. Daz & I took the opportunity to boat back to Vancouver for Toots & the Maytals & Burning Spear in Stanley Park... Heavy hitters. Great to run into so many people there from elsewhere along the way.

The next day we were back to Nanaimo to meet the band & off to our show in Duncan. Guess we picked the wrong weekend... This ended up being our most unattended show EVER. It was us, Long John, this girl Meg who came from Hornby to see us, & one funny drunk who wandered in towards the end... The sound was good, anyway, & it sure was good to see John & the canine 9 (now 12)...

Back through Vancouver, a little van trouble, & finally to Banff for our last stop at Johnny Ray's. Big thanks to everybody who came out, especially the folks from Canmore & Lake Agnes... We'll see you next year.

Back in Edmonton now for a couple days, hoping it warms up before Waynefest... It's supposed to be summer's last gasp but it might be a death rattle. Two more shows in town after that & we're done. It has been truly amazing. Huge thanks to all the people who helped us out along the way, & to the almighty for steering us right. See you soon, little island. Love,

s

 


NAME scott
DATE Sunday, August 22nd 2004 - 09:38:36 PM

Friends,

Many sorries for the long silence… if anyone’s still checking. It’s been a busy couple of weeks…

Our time in Edmonton was great. Lots of old friends from there & afar were around, & everyone wanted to party, as is the summertime custom in our city… the climax of it all was the rocking Saturday afternoon show at the Black Dog. We were joined by Emma Hood & Rachel Martens on vocals, & Patrick from Taichung’s funk heroes, Schlumpy, on sweet sax. He came from Vancouver by motorbike for the show. Emma played a beautiful set in between ours. Spanglers represented. Love & beers flowed on the rooftop patio afterward. Was actually a little overwhelming to finally play at my old watering hole & to see all the beautiful people there. Thanks friends.

We stayed a few more days in town, & caught the Cracker Cats’ show at the Druid… David Ross McDonald & many more talented folks were out & it was another great night of music. Patrick jammed with us one more time before he left for BC on his bike.

That Thursday we went to Jasper for a repeat engagement at the Downstream, & had a great time as usual. Many thanks to Tony & the staff for the warm hospitality as always. We slept up at Snaring River & showed the boys the icefield on the way to Ymir the next day.

The reggae festival was a great time—great tunes by the Cracker Cats, Wassabi Collective, Selassie I Power, The Ibo Reggae Band, the Kootenay All-Stars, and many more… good people in Ymir who threw the party & good folks from the area with the feeling. We saw some hipshaking drumming & dance from Nelson’s own Afrique & from the Samba marching band that roused us out of bed each morning. Shared a few funny hours waiting around for Lucky Dube to come on stage too.

We had a week off after the festival so we finally drifted out on Monday… Ty & Daz rode back to etown in the back of Steve’s truck, & Dunc got a ride out to the coast with the Cracker Cats. Crees & I went to our good friend Jen’s place on the east shore of kootenay lake & slaved for days over our papier-mache costumes for Shambhala…

Unfortunately, there probably won’t be any pictures from the weekend posted on here… The photographers in the band were all off with their ladyfriends so Crees & I were off the record for once. Those who want to see the human circus that unfolds by the Salmo river every august will just have to take our word on it & see for themselves.

Four days of dancing, swimming, lounging & nonstop beats did plenty of good for my state of mind but nothing for my recuperation… We went to Jen’s & slept it off before heading back to cowtown to meet the boys.

Despite our growing feelings of ambivalence toward the city, we had a great time down there. Met up with AJ, Robin, Karla, The B, The Kid, The Dros, & lots more good folks from Taiwan & elsewhere. We hung around the day after the show & then went to Canmore for a show at the Hotel. There was a great crowd out, including a large contingent from Taiwan, & the night went sweetly. Happened to be my birthday too. Joe Splane jammed out with us at the end. The kids from Wasabi pulled in just as we got off stage. We would’ve loved to stick around for their show the next night—they were the musical highlight of Shambhala for Crees & I—but we had one of our own in Banff… Joe & Vanessa took us up to Grassi Lakes before we cut out—beautiful.

It was another good show in Banff, & a pleasure working for the good folks at Johnny Ray’s… The parks people were on strike so Tunnel Mountain campground had turned into a drunken free-for-all… we slept through the din for a few hours & rose early for the ride back to the koots.

We pulled into Crawford Bay yesterday afternoon & met the good people who organize Starbelly Jam… That festival, two years ago, was actually my first introduction to the Kootenays. This year they couldn’t work it out but decided to throw a one-day party (“Starbaby”) just to keep the vibe alive. The evening started with a sweet set by those prairie damsels of rowdy bluegrass, the Cracker Cats. Was great to cross paths with them yet again this summer. We sang for the smiling people as the sun set, & were followed by two great east shore bands, the Funkdamentalists & Katana, who got the party raging & kept it raging even through the thunderstorm. Fled back here to Jen’s eventually and dozed to the rain on the roof.

Tomorrow night we’ll be in Nelson for a show at the Royal, and then off for another loop around… I promise we’ll be better about the updates. Not much time left. Hope the sun is shining for all of you,

s

 

NAME: crees
DATE: Thursday, July 29th 2004 - 04:48:12 PM

family, friends,clan - hail!

my apologies for being incommunicado. i have, for the past six weeks, been in a state of agape. sensory overload and the need for a bit of time to cogitate on the state of things my only excuse. people ask me all the time, "what do you think of canada?". i can only answer superficially since the sheer wealth of experience far outweighs my paltry descriptions. besides, the adventure is not just canada. it is also this magical madcap tour we're embarked upon. i wish i could convey to you the singular pleasure of touring with these four marvelous hooligans.

our promotional materials proclaim our "rootsiness" but i had only a tenuous connection to the concept until we hit the road. being a pale-skinned variety of african, and un-proud of the rape and pillaging of my colonial forebears, i have never given much importance to the bloodlines of the past. dunc and cookie and i are sitting in the backgarden at the cook's in edmonton. guitar and green tea stylie. trying to work out when nomadism first emerged. when apes first climbed down from the trees? the first time an animal had to walk far to find food and water? perhaps i'm trying to reach too far back. what really interests me is not when but who were first to move? and more explicitly, with music? it is to them that i pledge my tribal allegiance. the roots i've always known to be there but never quite touched.

five men, the rock pod, a list of safe havens, our deity (music) and the long road ahead. is this not the gypsy way?

we play for food, drink and the means to travel on. practical concerns which fade into insignificance when seen in the glow of shining eyes and the shoof-shoof shuffling of beating hearts and dancing feet. we sleep beneath the stars outside the towns we play in, but, unlike our gypsy ancestors, who were hated and hounded and even exterminated, we are welcomed like long lost family by the fine folk we are privileged to meet. blessings abound on the road. hand delivered by beautiful people. thank you for the love and support.

well....now that i've romanticized this whole affair, let me tell you some other truths of the road. it's gruelling. long periods of travel and waiting in the smallest of places (we practise backseat zen to attain satori), interspersed with frenetic energy when we hit a town to play. up and down. up and down. up and down. sometimes we journey for days through crazy beautiful topography, only to play for two people. and man, do we love those two people. a lot of the energy and love we access when we play comes from the people we play for. ya dig? batteries become depleted and the illusions of an easier life niggle at our sleep.

ever travelled in an overloaded van with five men? thank god for the near-mythical appearance of beautiful women at different times along the road. gail, janine, rachel, angela and liz, thank you for mitigating the effect of too many penises in too small a space.

music has the power to encompass so much diversity but it has yet to describe how five unique and headstrong indivuduals can live and travel harmoniously. we have learned. the hard way. the road burns away the chaff. truth cuts both ways. what remains are compassion, understanding and forgiveness. and, perhaps, better humans.

would i trade this and my brothers for something different? better? hah! not a chance. for who would carry me when i fall down?

alright, alright. enough of this sentimental oratory. when last the chief cookie did post to this journal, we were in p-town. much has happened since. marvels. wonders. even portents in the sky. though we've yet to find ten thousand dancing bears in a moonlit glade, we have played that mainstay of north american movies, the strip joint. the roadhouse tavern featured a triple bill of the anglers, an acrobatic young lady and a well-polished pole. as ty would say, when presented with such a spectacle: "wow, she's a good swimmer!".

the first set was quite interesting as we felt the need to cater to the "zz-top-look-alike-club-of-golden" who were holding their daily evening meeting at the time. the second set was immeasurably improved by a bevy of nubiles who danced for fun, humankind and the solace of aging rockers (us). thank you ladies. our lawyer prevents me from speculating, in this esteemed journal, on your average age.

next, through the rockies to calgary where we played a quiet gig at jackdaw's and reconnected with those pillars of riotous living, aj and the b. alas! for both have been snaffled by local ladies and real work and their wild ways have been tamed. i heard the daz bear, while in his cups, muttering of how the mighty have fallen. i never thought to hear "aj" and "meek as a lamb" in the same sentence. just kidding boys, or rather, just poking you in the ribs. with a stick. we ended the night by inviting the last remaining audience member to come up and jam with us. joe splane. you rock.

on saturday we played black diamond at a place called the stop. mike, the owner, treated us like kings and put us up on his farm. i suspect that mike has a hotline to the heavens since his front lawn was the prime viewing site for the northern lights which graced us with their presence that night. falling asleep to their sublime corruscations is pure magic. especially the first time, which it was for dunc and i. thank you, mike, and please tell rhett that the soccer/waterfight championships will continue when next we return.

which brings us almost up to date. we're in edmonton right now, catching our collective breath. dunc and i lurk in the trailer behind the venerable cook's house while the other boys spend some quality time with their girls. in steamy seclusion, i suspect.

on tuesday night we played at the druid. an orgy of lovin' where practically the entire honky population of lung tan merged with clan edmonton. a grand sight. and a grand night. who can believe how many special people we know?

anyway. enough. thanks for the love and and support, our family. your tendrils entwine the world. over and out.

 

NAME scotty paycheck
DATE Thursday, July 22nd 2004 - 01:27:58 PM

from hippies to houseboats, from yurts to yuppies... the anglers have left the beloved, storied islands, & pulled into p-town... that's pentictown for those who don't know. Aye, from communism & composting toilets to can collectors, cheap cherries, & chicks on canals... we floated on tubes down the channel & drank beers in the sun, beautiful. Stayed with Daz' old school friend Mark & off to Golden tonight. Almost done the first leg. Cowtown people get ready.

James: we're sorry daz dropped you on your face on the concrete. He really didn't mean to. But he did whup your ass as promised. You big-city Miners better watch what you say to rowdy Asian pirates like us.

 

NAME The Daz Bear
DATE Tuesday, July 20th 2004 - 01:35:57 PM

We played a gentle show at the Spiral Cafe in Victoria on Saturday, a good time was had by all and many thanks to Mike for having us and feeding us smoothies and chai lattes. The gig ended early so we headed downtown to catch up with our new friends, Canary Mine who were playing at Steamers. We walked in about halfway during their set and after the gig, beer was consumed, more stories were told and when we parted ways there were many promises of catching up again in the future. We didn't have to wait that long, 2 days later we saw them again on the ferry over to Vancouver so there was only one thing to do...hook up later in the evening at the Backstage Lounge on Granville Island for the open stage, get horribly drunk and then as has become our custom with myself and James...fall on the floor and wrestle (as you remember this occured before after our show in Tofino)...weird strange primal behaviour at 1am on a Monday night outside a bar...fun... even though we probably look like complete idiots...anyways I'm signing off now... so just to recap here...
The Anglers 2 Canary Mine 0

all love
Daz

 

NAME The Daz Bear
DATE Sunday, July 18th 2004 - 10:35:12 PM
E-MAIL selecta@ekno.com

well there's been so much crazyness in the 4 weeks of being in Canada that I haven't even had the chance to sit down and write a little something...not a spare moment to pen a little nugget of all the crazyness, weirdness and general mayhem that has been going on for the last little while.

Indeed, ever since Scott Cook's manly hands guided us out of Edmonton in the Rock Pod, it's been one good time after another.

Before I get into the hows and the whys, I have to say that Canada welcomed me back not unlike that father welcoming back his lost and wayward son in that old tale from the Good Book. I had no sooner dropped my bags down at the front desk of The Best Westin Hotel in Vancouver when a rather plump middle aged lady looked up and said..."Well how're youuuuu doin"...music to these ears and after that I promptly headed to the bar for a pint of honey brown and a salmon burger...hell it was good to be back.

But anyways I'm diverging friom the real task at hand, which is penning a little something about the goings on of the last few weeks.

North Country Fair. Well it was somewhere around 4:30am on the last day of the festival when I turned to Scott and said I'd be damned if this wasn't the best day I could remember in my 26 years, he just smiled, which made me wonder if he'd heard me cause as I recall all Scott did was smile the whole time we were there, especially at night. It was hard not to smile though, there we were in Northern Alberta, listening to great music, being reunited with friends from the summer before, it was a beautiful scene with everyone just full of good vibes . The only untoward incident of the whole festival happened on the Saturday when storm blew in and rattled every thing around for a while including felling a tree that almost killed our good buddy and bass player extraordinaire, Mike Liston-Owen from the Rae Spoon Trio, who happened to standing about 2 feet away from where it fell, and heavens if it had hit Mike it sure would've hit CR Avery, who was in the outhouse at the time...and what kind of rock death would that be people?
But that storm just kept on moving almost like the elements where just reminding us how blessed we where with the good weather we had had all weekend. So we all went back to Edmonton with huge banana shaped smiles on our faces and high spirits.

We hit the road proper about a week later, Sasquatch Fest bound and what a good time was had there. Great performances by Tippy Agogo, Bill Bourne, SMAC, Anselmo, Patsy and Brian the list just goes on. There's such a special feeling at Sasquatch and I always dig the family atmosphere that it has.

Then it was Banff where we saw our old friends, the lovely Miss Vanessa, Chris and Ladies and Gentlemen... the man with the biggest Hose in town... Joe Splane - call him if you need any pressure washing down in the Canmore - Banff area.

Then it was Nelson where in one fortuitous stop we met the right people, lined up a Reggae Fest in August with Lucky Dube and played a kick ass gig at the Royal.

We made a brief stop in Salmon Arm and spent one drunk night with the Doctor... the evening was going well until he tried to tip a canoe, containing myself and Crees, over in the middle of the lake at 2am in the morning.

The Railway Club in Vancouver was great and its a big thank you to Meegan from Cheworx and Melissa from Come and See Entertainment for helping us on that one.

...and then...

the island and specifically, Cortes Island, where we played 3 great shows, got adopted by the locals and had the pleasure of watching Crees throw himself off an 80 foot cliff into a lake. Big ups to Big Jay, Damien, both Luke Jr and Snr and all others that we met and made us feel instantly part of their community.

The days since we left Cortes are all starting to merge into a hazy blur...one memory is of James from Canary Mine (a great band we had the pleasure of playing with) wrestling me onto the pool table and then onto the floor at the Legion in Tofino..."hell!" I thought "I'm back at the River Bar...we could use a man like this over there..." but then thats what happens when its $2 for a pint of Sleemans...things get loose and then if you're somebody like Scott Cook...things get weird, next time you see him ask him to do his little dance that he entertained us with later that evening, well when I say 'us' I should really probably say 'me' because I think it was for my... benefit...or...whatever...who knows exactly.
Now of course I predict he'll dispute this which is why my friends have with me a vast array of photographic equipment from stills cameras to digital video so this can all be captured on film and undisputable evidence can be obtained and I can once again be the Grand Purveyor of Truth as you have all come to know me.

That is all for now my friends, until next time...I bid you all farewell.

Yours with graciousness
Daz


NAME scott
E-MAIL grooverevival@fastmail.fm
URL http://www.scottcook.net
DATE Tuesday, July 13th 2004 - 01:07:34 PM

hey friends... thanks for checking in. Sorry we aren't writing in here as often as we should.

anyway, no need to worry, we are doing sweetly... been on Cortes for awhile now & been very warmly welcomed... well fed too.

our stay in Nelson was awesome... Made some good music connections & ran into some old friends too. We played at the Royal on Sunday & a good crowd came out to dance & lift our spirits... thanks so much to Kiki & Chris for the chance to play, & to Estevan for being so accomodating--we'll definitely be back there soon. Much love koots people.

from there we trucked to Salmon Arm to see our friend, professor & sometime pilot (or rather pirate?) of the good ship River, Dr. Dave. He set us up & even took Daz & Crees on a harrowing moonlit canoe ride. Would've loved to stay, but Van city was calling... Got in on Thursday & were stoked to see our old friends pulling in, including plenty of Taiwan folks... Gail happened on us by chance. Kev, Ang & the Kid all showed... King Raph came too & put some of us up for a few days. The Fairview was a little empty (being a tuesday) but we had fun & the regulars were into it. Hung around Vancouver for the next couple days & dug the city & the young hustlers on granville & the boats out in English Bay... Caught up with some long-lost people too.

thursday's show at the Railway Club was great. Infinitism (from Duncan) & Arborescent (from Vancouver) were cool. We also met Melissa, the agent who booked the show, & had some laughs... looks like we will be working together more in future. Thanks to all the people for coming out & dancing.

we met up with Duncan's lovely Canadian ladyfriend Janine in Van & she's been with us ever since... adding some much-needed class to the contingent in the van & doing well at filling Rachel's old shoes as chief morale officer.

took the ferry out to the island, swooned on deck & inhaled the fresh sea air... Made it to Comox the first night for a stay at Miracle Beach & then cruised up here, happy... these islands are really a world apart. OId growth trees, more deer than people, minds & front doors alike unlocked...

We got in on Saturday to the news that I had been expected to call & re-confirm the gig... Well, I forgot about it long ago (hard being the singer & agent & road manager at the same time, in my defense), & so Damien at Squirrel Cove had figured we weren't coming after all... Nice guy that he is, though, he got on it right away & rounded up a PA, & we drove around & rounded up a crowd. Thanks so much to everybody who came out & partied with us that night; it was great. & a huge thanks to the people who kept coming back, the next day for our sunday brunch show, looking out over the ocean, & that night for our show in the sweet garden outside the Tak... Great feeling. Saw some old crew & met lots of beautiful people. Big ups in particular to Luke, young tunesmith of Cortes--you write great tunes & tell a great story too.

Yesterday we swam in Hague Lake & then over to Big Jay's for a fat Cortes sendoff; ate barbecued salmon & jammed... the sky was milky atwinkle with a million stars over our heads. Can't say enough good things about the wonderful people we met out here--we're full-up with gratitude. See you in September.

tonight we're off to Quadra to camp out in the bush at Morte Lake--a little mental-health break before we head off for the next run of shows. looking forward to seeing you all along the way, much love,

s

 

NAME Duncan
DATE Thursday, July 1st 2004 - 04:44:03 PM

Canada Day, 2004...

We rode out of Edmonton almost a week ago...the green van packed to the roof for our first month on the road...we managed to find a drumkit (Big Love to Newbie for the generous loan), a guitar amp (likewise to Emma for that one) and an adventure seeking girl who we picked up at the North Country Fair and managed to cram between the guitars and the beers...(she has subsequently been traded for more beer)...but seriously, lovely Rachel joined us for the trip to Nordegg and the Sasquatch Festival and we in fact liked her so much that we managed to take her with us to Banff (where she escaped but thankfully after doing all the laundry)...we will surely miss that lady.

Sasquatch was awesome. The Anglers were supposed to close the night on Friday but the lineup was were running ridiculously late and by the time we were supposed to be on stage, most of the band were asleep and the sun was beginning to warm the chilly campsite ( nestled alonside a pretty creek and shadowed beneath the incredible rocky mountains). Negotiations by the boss resulted in us being billed first on Saturday night (after the Potluck...which was epic) and this decision went down well with the rhythm section who were not looking forward to leaving the comfort of the sleeping bag...earlier in the evening (still in the sleeping bags) SMAC had provided some incredible dream soundtrack material...a truly inspiring set which I absorbed in a very meditative half sleep, and included a killer rendetion of Zep's 'Going to California'...Saturday - Chris and Dunc threw together a wicked fusion-cuisine cous-cous salad thing for the potluck (i want to say potlatch but that's different...although there sure was alot of food!) and then we hit the stage for an early evening set which was well received by the chilled folks and the fest...Tippy Agogo was loose at the festival as well, his energy contagious, his sales pitches for the African fabrics flawless (Chris and Dunc sold 10), and his closing set on Saturday wicked...'Along the Black Banks'...another chant that has been seeping into my dreams...Tippy was joined by Bill Bourne and later Kelly from SMAC on Drums and our own Crees on Djembe...they blew minds and eardrums until early morn...

And then it was to Banff with a night at some completely Majestic scenic lake spot, with freezing River swims and another wicked campfire feast...

And then really to Banff, where we unquestionably rocked the little venue of Johnny Ray (now Johnny Reggae's) with a searing three set show that got better and better...lots of pretty ladies (Daz and Chris had only one objective when handing out fliers that afternoon) and appearances from old friends (Joe, AJ, Kate) which encouraged a stunning performance from the band (OK exaggeration...it was good) and there was a request from management to return in August which we shall do...

And now we're kicking around Nelson BC...hoping to get booked somewhere (preferably as support for Burning Spear who play here sometime soon) but we'll settle for the Royal...we keep on.


NAME Duncan
DATE Wednesday, June 23rd 2004 - 12:29:43 PM

Our extended weekend up at the North Country Fair was an unbelievable way to kick off the 2004 Summer tour...sunshine, good vibes, cold beer, awesome music, new friends, 3 great gigs and some incredible late night/ early morning jams...thanks to Rae Spoon and the band for tuning me in to the country vibe and inspiring the purchase of the cowboy hat, to David Ross MacDonald and his '36 Gibson for blowing my mind with his amazing music at the fireside, to Emma Hood for contributing her sweet voice and great presence on Saturday, as well as the many introductions to her cool group of friends... Y'all made North Country truly incredible. Yee-Hah.

 

NAME scotty paycheck
E-MAIL grooverevival@fastmail.fm
URL http://www.scottcook.net
DATE Tuesday, June 22nd 2004 - 01:42:34 PM

hey people... this journal's back on again. we just got back from the sweetest of weekends at the north country fair... hooked up with long-lost friends & dug the big sky & balmy weather.

went up thursday after a few days of mad rushing around town (managed to get our gear together & get a couple jams in anyway)... whooping & bouncing the van at the first sight of that big lake. thursday night's party rocked & the people were all happy. played again saturday night with help from our friend emma hood, & sunday night for the volunteer party, with help from tippy agogo on beats, SMAC's vince sanregret on didj, & east van hooligan cr avery beatboxing thru the harmonica & freestyling verses... all 3 sets were at the wait & see cafe, that cute little wood box of a stage under a big twilit prairie sky... smiles & good feeling all around. thank you so much people.

big thanks as well to the musicians who filled my head with such beautiful music all weekend... & huge thanks to the organizers & volunteers; this is truly the best festival I've been to, whichever side of the green room fence you're on. great help with everything (especially the sound & lockup guys) & fat hospitality as well.

we're off to the sasquatch festival this weekend & then out west from there... pray the rock pod holds up & the sun shines. much love everybody, see you along the way...

s


from Taiwan, 2004

january, 2004

hey good people...
thanks for stopping by.

First off a huge thanks to everybody who came out for A Family Affair in Jungli... We had over 400 people in the door & it was truly a kicking party. Everybody rocked hard. It was the last (forseeable) show in Taiwan for the Smoking Cones & Spliffabyss--Crees & B are outta here! If you missed it, I guess you can always buy a CD. Sad to see the boys go but hey, such is life... B will take the money to Dros' folks in Canada himself. Thanks to Blaine & Monica of Underbits for all their work getting the whole
thing going. Jungli family, we love ya.

The Anglers are taking a month or so off for Chinese New Year & will be back mid-February. Jams may happen at River but there's no schedule. If you're in Kenting, look for the Milkmen at magic studio; they'll tell you where the party's at. Hope everybody has a killer time & gets rested up.

I've finally updated the website with all kinds of good stuff... There are lots more photos, lyrics (by popular demand!), and even some of my old writing, including a poem for the new year 2001... You can also check the journal & see if the pictures to go with the story are up yet, or if I've put it off for yet another day...


from the Anglers' 2003 "starter" tour:

NAME: ty
DATE: Friday, September 19th 2003 - 04:53:44 AM

Well, I made it back to Taiwan safe and sound and my is it hot! Leaving Edmonton, it was about +2 degrees, so I packed all my sweaters. Currently it's 7 pm and it's 29 degrees out. And the humidity ... I's one sweaty boy. Have to say to everyone out there who I met this summer or all you old friends - you know who you are - you made a big difference to this weary traveller. I look forward to seeing all of you again real soon. I trust all is well - Ty

 

NAME: mc wranglo
DATE Saturday, September 13th 2003 - 02:41:15 AM

oh daz you're so sentimental I could puke... yeah, yeah, we'll see you all next year.

I'm back in the land of hello kitty & exhaust fumes once again, & back into it... Been wrangling with the little monkeys already... Playing a hip hop set with my boy MC insatiable tonight down in Taichung. Busy busy as usual.

Anyway I wanted to say a big thanks to all the fine people who came out to our CD "release" party... (that is, we didn't have the CDs--or our guitars--but we let go of it all anyway.) It was so heartwarming to dance & get sweaty with you people. We love ya.

Those of you who filled out an envelope, you'll get your quarter ounce of prevention soon. For those who didn't, we'll find another way to get it to you--after all you need something to shoo the blues away thru those bitter winter months, don't you? Sorry for rushing away like I always do. I actually feel like I left part of me back in Canada, not ready to leave... If you see him wandering around give him a parka. big love,

s

 

NAME: Daz
E-MAIL: selecta@ekno.com
DATE: Tuesday, September 9th 2003 - 01:10:05 PM

Scott Cook left on Sunday...only the faint smell of smoke lingered in the places that he had been and before he saddled his motorbike he looked up at us, kissed his index and his middle finger together and lifted them to the sky and with that he roared off...we all knew what he meant..."Yannies" indeed...

Overnight the weather changed for the worse and by morning folks were walking the Edmonton streets bundled up in jackets and scarves and two facts appeared imminent...winter and my departure. Indeed sadly I will be leaving this fair land shortly.
I head back east on Sunday, Taiwan-bound but not before an appointment to see the mighty Burning Spear in Vancouver this Saturday night.

Ty will follow within days of my departure...we all have found comfort in the fact that if the rumours flying around recently are to be believed - Scott Rabel that Rebel Marauder will be joining us come November and there are at present a whole host of good folk that have made their ways over to the island recently and good times are there awaiting.

But the most comforting thought is the prospect of returning with the warmth of next summer and reuniting with all the amazing people I've had to the good fortune to cross paths with on my journey through this vast land...it's that that brings a smile to this old bear's face.
Until then...

 

 

NAME: mc wranglo
DATE: Thursday, August 28th 2003 - 09:38:56 AM

Hey, it's scott here... Been on the road to Shambles & back; had a sweet time in the Kootenays... Now just hanging around the city & gearing up for our CD release party. So here's the scoop: the party goes on September 6th, at Fiddler's Roost in Edmonton (8906 99 St.) ...our good friend (& fabulous singer-songwriter) Emma Hood, & local oldtime countrified band the George Bushes will be joining us on the bill. We may even sneak some special surprises in there too... Look forward to an evening of sweet song & dance. It'll be $5 at the door; drinks are $2.50; doors open at 8pm & the tunes start at 9. We should only have 50 copies of the CD for sale (the duplication's taking too long), so come early to be sure you can get one! For those of you who miss the party, we'll see you next year--I leave the next day for Taiwan & the boys will follow soon after me. Hard to believe this magical summer is winding down...

I leave in a couple hours for a repeat engagement at the Downstream Bar in Jasper, then for a wedding (of our friends from Taiwan, Dave & Gloria) in Calgary... Will be back next week; you can catch us live at the Little Flower Open Stage, Rossdale Community Hall (right next to Telus Field) on Wednesday the 3rd, at Seedy's (10314 104 St.) Thursday the 4th, and at our party on Saturday... Bring your dancing shoes.

 

NAME: ty
E-MAIL: tyler_dakin@yahoo.ca
DATE: Sunday, August 10th 2003 - 02:23:12 PM

No news is good news, or so they say, and that's exactly what we have for you . . . no news . . .

We have been working over at Bob Cook's studio (located in his basement . . . Bob's a really nice guy! He is also in a band called Bob Cook and the Unherd - of. We saw him play at the Little Flower open stage - it was really good. I guess he has over 300 songs. Some are supposed to be downright silly, anyways . . .) for a week now and we are getting close to our elusive finished product. It has definitely been a learning experience, and we're already looking forward to making the next album. Currently we are working on the mix and should be finished in the next few days. After that, "the gang" will head down to Shum - bala (don't how to spell that!) festival. It's a four day outdoor rave extravaganza located somewhere in the Koots. If you are headin' there and plan on sleeping, earplugs might be a good idea. Or, if you think sleep is for quitters like me . . . don't forget your water! You'll thank me as you grind your teeth away . . . anyhoo, I hope life on the road continues to bless! Cheers everyone!

 

 

NAME: scott
E-MAIL: sicook1@yahoo.com
DATE: Thursday, July 31st 2003 - 11:12:25 AM

well well... Back in town now for a couple days & enjoying the feed & facilities at my folks' house... Showing Darryl around the old hood & pinting it up on the roof of the black dog... I reckon he likes Edmonton as much as our fair city likes him.

Felt a bit let down to leave the road... Much as I love it here there's nothing like moving to keep you clear-headed. Could go on doing this for a long time if we could make it pay for itself.

Wanted to say another big thanks to everyone behind Sasquatch--what a beautiful, perfect festival! Huge thanks in particular to John & Anna for welcoming us, & to Bob & June for having us on their land. Those lucky enough to be out there were blessed by the sunshine, northern lights, & beautiful people... Good tunes too. Local jam-rock kings Knee Deep in Grass, songwriter Kevin Cook & his band, & Mike McDonald's band tore it up Friday night. Big ups also to Kenneth Brown, John Gorham, Terry Morrison, Brian Gregg & Patsy Amico, Steven Johnson, and everybody else, for that matter, who brought us sweet tunes throughout the daylight hours... Our set Saturday night happened an hour & a half late (or rather right on sasquatch time), which was fine with us--night fell & people were ready to dance. Thank you so much to everyone grooving--you're the reason we keep going, honestly.

SMAC (the Stone Merchants & the Ancestors, doing their thing together now) followed us on & rocked the show. The rumbling didj & laidback grooves had everyone tripping, seeing shadowy sasquatches in the woods & eerie lights in the sky... Wendy McNeill came out with her accordion mid-set & enthralled us all, unamplified... Greyhound Tragedy closed out the night with some hard rockers & reminded me of days gone by. Sunday came hot & early but we cooled down with bags of ice & dug the sweet, simple ceremony for Babe Lloyd & his partner, Lisa. Wishing you both the best of life.

To those of you who didn't make it out, don't miss it next year--this festival is friendly, funky, & litigation-free (which means you can drink your beer in front of the stage all you like but you can't sue Bob & June if you fall in the river later on). Really like a sweet party on your friends' acreage...

So I guess that's it... We'll be in Bob Cook's studio next week to record our album... Tentative date for our CD release/kegger is September 6th. If you haven't already signed the guestbook, please do & we'll keep you posted about when & where we'll be playing around town. Cheers,

s

 

NAME: tyler
E-MAIL: tyler_dakin@yahoo.ca
DATE: Tuesday, July 29th 2003 - 09:02:14 AM

well, it seems our time on the road has drawn to a close and we've really had such a great time. We're already looking forward to the next trip! Next up is the CD and release party! So keep in touch all you funky people! Thanks so much for making our first tour so memorable! Keep in touch! Ty

 

NAME: well... ain't that the road for you boys...
E-MAIL: Daz
DATE: Tuesday, July 29th 2003 - 01:29:25 AM

...good times were had by all at the Sasquatch Festival hell I even got to see the Northern Lights on both nights and a funny looking creature I believe to be the sasquatch itself on one of them. We saw some great acts there with Wendy McNeill and the boys from SMAC really stealing the show. So it was all clear starlit skies and northen lights and tings really feeling supernatural there at the Sasquatch festival. We stopped and camped at Elk Island for the last night on our tour and made our way slowly back to Edmonton the next day.

Reflecting back an awesome time was had by all...a dizzying combination of beautiful landscape and even more beautiful people whose paths we crossed...BIG UPS to all that we met along the way!

On a personal note I've slowly whittled down my "Great-Canadian-Must-See" list...got my black bear, my elk, northern lights, plenty of deer, sure got my buffalo...hell even got that elusive Canadian beaver...a sighting in that mighty North Saskatchewan river of course...(get that mind out of the trash can Nubie) didn't get my moose but 6 out 7 isn't bad.

So studio time looms this week and we should be able to have an album ready soon followed by a release party of some sort in Edmonton sometime in August.

So a new phase of my time here in Canada but though our time on the road has ended Lord knows I'm just not ready to give up my good ol' rambling days and my rough and rowdy ways just yet...

 

NAME: Daz gonna give you a whippin boy
DATE: Friday, July 25th 2003 - 12:09:48 PM

well folks since I last wrote the landscape gradually made the transition from snow capped peaks and hues of lush green to the wide open spaces and hot dusty plains of the Albertan south...with steady hands guiding that 'Rock Pod' Scottie 'Paycheck' finally steered it into Edmonton...and it wasn't long before we met up with that Marauder of motorways, that King of a thousand truckstop toilets, that great highway poet and all round gentleman...Scottie Rabel...many a song had been sung about the legend how he "rode out west" and " gambled with death" how he had once ridden 16 hours straight from Smithers to Edmonton without so much as batting a eyelid only pausing to "shoot dice and men that stood in his way"...and after a few beers at the Black Dog it wasn't long before the booze had loosened our tongues and the stories started to flow thick and fast and only began to ebb when the hour was late. There where was much to talk about and reflect on...the good people we'd met, amazing musicians we'd heard, the crazy situations we'd gotten ourselves into...indeed it has been an awesome three weeks and it feels strange that its beginning to wind down, one more festival lies ahead and then theres an album to record...but alas the 'Rock Pod' must go back to its rightful owners and I'm sure I can speak on behalf of all the boys in expressing our eternal gratitude to the Cooks for loaning it to us on such short notice! Well thats all for now... I guess later on I'll go and see Earl...y'all remember Earl now? And we'll sit out on that porch in the wan light telling stories about Arkansas and listening to ol' Timmy Horton play that wicked bottleneck guitar as the night slowly moves in...

 

NAME: scotty paycheck
E-MAIL: sicook1@yahoo.com
URL: http://www.scottcook.net
DATE: Friday, July 25th 2003 - 02:09:18 AM

from Scotty's place (ah, reunited with our badass motorbike hero at last!):

wow it's a been a sweet trip thus far... We pulled up in e-town tonight for a few pints at the black dog & my head is spinning from the voyage. People are SO good.

Jasper was great. Cheers to everybody there for listening, Tony for the hospitality, & the Venook brudders for the laughs. Sorry to the guy we woke up stumbling thru Wapiti campground in the dark.
Next day we had a sweet ride down the icefields parkway... dug the glaciers, deep blue Bow Lake, mountain goats, elk, deer, & a bear cub... It was getting on by now (us, as usual, not knowing when to call it a night in Jasper the night before) & we knew the music was starting already down at South Country. I got really excited around Bragg Creek & started bouncing the rock pod (my folks' trusty van) up & down. Going to the fair!!! We pulled in & found Pascal... ran into some old crew as well. Enjoyed the swank hospitality, the free eats & drink, & the friendly campfire. Blackfire & the Deuce (?) Blues Band rocked. The big yellow moon too.

Next day we played at noon--it was hot but folks danced nonetheless... Was very happy to play fish jumpin because I wrote it at the fair two years before. Swam in the river after the set & dug the music... It's all been sweet. In particular, though, the biggest of ups to Rae Spoon & his band, Wendy McNeill, the Rembetika Hipsters, Darren Johnson, & Lester Quitzau & Mae Moore, who put in a surprise appearance on Sunday. Ran into old friends, Darren & Anders, Shana, & Steve (aka eat lard fudge, cowtown poet laureate), all of whom I met at my first SCF 3 years ago when I hitched down alone. Heard Mica Stone kicking it in the poetry stage (first time I saw somebody flexing styles like that after a poem, so funny man) & met lots more inspiring people. Many thanks to the fair folks for the warm hospitality, and to Morris for the good sound work--wishing you good health. Cheers John, Maureen & Stasha too. Open-aired feeling... like-minded people... starlit jams sunday night.

On invite from Jenika & Evan we headed to Waterton on Monday, thinking we might escape the heat up higher... the mountains rise up huge out of the prairie there... beautiful. Turned out that the town parties too. Thanks to all the folks sweating it up at the Thirsty Bear. Went out for a trail ride at Jenika's family's place the next day--picked berries from the saddle & bounced around while my ride, Lady, off-roaded... Whether she was trying to be independent or just trying to get closer to Jenna's horse, Hawk, whom she fancied, is hard to say... Such a sweet ride & swim anyway, altho I pulled a muscle I didn't even know I had along the way... besides as Daz says the horse riding's good for the roots cred. Many thanks guys.

Thanks also to Katherine for the warm welcome & great breakfasts at the farmhouse at Lethbridge, & to the folks in town for getting funky just when we might've been feeling a little tired. Love. We will definitely come see you all again if you hang around... Melanie--jio yue, wo yao kan dao ni tsai hsin chu.

3:12 now and time for zzzz. Heap big time so far. Will be hard to go back to a real job when this is done.

 

NAME: ty
DATE: Friday, July 25th 2003 - 12:33:46 AM

We had an excellent time at the the Downstream pub. Thank you Tony for the food and the nice venue. Thanks so much to the Venook brothers for making jasper so memorable. and special thanks to Chuck for the sitting in on the keys and for the tequila. We hope you enjoyed your vacation and hopefully we will see down south next time. From Jasper we moved on to enjoy the dry heat of the South Country Fair. This was my first SCF and it was great! Being able to cool off in the old man river was a definate bonus. We played at 12:00PM on Saturday during the 35 degree dry heat. Needless to say plenty of sunscreen was applied. We were joined by Pascal as an extra kit player so the percussion was huge! Thanks so much to the people who danced. During this festival we also heard plenty of great music. . . Rae Spoon, Wendy MacNeil, Mae Moore and Lester Quitzau (wow!) and many more great musicians. The best part of the festival was definately the people we met. The first night we met Katherine who later turned out to be friends with Steve Janz' cousin Kevan (a friend from Taiwan) and also sister to one of our old friends from Etown - Joel Scruton!. (She would also set us up with a place to stay when we were in Lethbridge but we will come to that later . . . ) Also we met Jenika and Evan (hi guys)! and their daughters Aisly and Brenna. Jenika and Evan live in Waterton Park (but will soon move to Edmonton) and work at a horses stable. On their suggestion we headed down to Waterton Park. And we were so glad we did. It was beautiful. Thanks to the people who danced and got rowdy at our impromptu set at the Thirsty Bear pub in Waterton. Shouts out to Jenna, Kyle, Charles, Jameal and Shamir! The next day we headed on down to the ol' stables and Evan and Jenika rustled us up some horses and we trail rided down to the ol' watering hole which was the Waterton Lake and swum in its brisk glacial waters. My horse was a pinto named Oreo. The ride was fun. . . one person even fell off his horse and Scott's horse kept riding off by itself. Thank you Evan and Jenika for the hospitality. It was a pleasure meeting you and we look forward to seeing you in Edmonton! The next two nights we stayed at Katherine's nearby Lethbridge. Thanks so much for the hospitality, K! We really appreciate it . . . and we played at the Starlight Lounge where the people got downright funky. It was a great time. We also met a nice welcome addition to our taiwan family - Melanie! Also thanks to Chris for the radio interview, Kevan, Erika, Julie, Treena, Meagan, and all those others who came down and Krysten at the Starlight. Today we are back in good ol' Etown visiting with some old friends and tomorrow we are heading for the Sasquatch Festival near smoky lake via the Elk Island Park. Hopefully we can show Darryl some buffalo! If you live near Etown come to the Sasquatch festival. Other than us there will be Knee Deep in Grass, Wendy MacNeil, The Ancestors, and more. It will be a great time. Anyways . . . time to sign off thanks so much to all the people we have met so far and have made our time in Canada so much fun! Keep in touch and soon we may all fish together!

 

NAME: tyler
E-MAIL: tyler_dakin@yahoo.ca
DATE: Thursday, July 17th 2003 - 06:40:22 PM

Hello everybody! Life on the road goes on and things are great. The Queen Charlotte Islands are incredible! If you ever get a chance, head out there and really get away from it all. The festival was also fantastic. Mose Scarlett with his smooth ragtime, hip-folkster Glenn Garinther, the beautiful (and inspiring) song writing of Raghu Lokhanthan, Roly Thompson, as well as Rae Spoon, powerful Yael Wand, swing blues from the Twisters, and the Painting Daisies rocking us all. It was fantastic. Shouts out to all the people we met (Anna, Duane, Amy, Scott, Cristina, Kim, Danica, Lorry etc , etc. The list goes on. .. ) Thanks so much for making the time so special.

After that we headed over to Smithers and played Tuesday night to an extremely warm crowd of friends at the Mountainside. Next we moved on to Prince George where we played at the Artspace and were hosted afterwards by Bas . . . thanks so much. Tonight we are in Jasper at playing at the Downstream pub. Cheers everyone!

 

NAME: LOCK DOWN
DATE: Thursday, July 17th 2003 - 06:29:19 PM

Nice starter journal.

 

NAME: scott
E-MAIL: sicook1@yahoo.com
URL: http://www.scottcook.net
DATE: Tuesday, July 15th 2003 - 06:51:25 PM

hey people... In Smithers now & things are sailing... Had a huge & perfect weekend out on Haida Gwaii...

The boat ride up the inside passage was sweet... Saw dolphins & eagles from the deck; wound our way between huge uninhabited islands... We wowed at the misty forested slopes & the sprawling gold sunset at the end of the ride...

Next day we took the ferry to Skidegate; met up with a lot of great musicians on the boat & got a kicking jam going on deck in the sunshine. Vern the bus driver loaded us all up & drove us to the site--a big field along a beautiful stretch of coastline near Tlell--& even made a beer run for us.

We were fabulously hosted all weekend & must repeat big thanks to Frank Wall for inviting us, Elizabeth Inkster for having all of us on her land, & Ruth for the heart-warming cooking.

We had the oppurtunity to jam with so many talented musicians this weekend that I don't know where to begin... Danny from Switzerland plays a mean harp & backed us up on a few songs onstage. Scott Fox from the Koots & Roi Yalte from Haida Gwaii also backed us up on hand drums--many thanks, guys.

I'm short on time now so I'll have to wait til later to sing the praises of all the gifted folks at the festival... All the music was fabulous anyway, & the people were friendly.

Left Haida Gwaii yesterday... Pulled into Smithers last night just in time to miss Yael Wand, Rae Spoon & Glenn Garinther, who were all playing at the Alpenhorn here in town... Went back to our friend Lori's house instead to have a few drinks & swap songs. Heard some great tunes from Glenn & Adam Nation, also from Vancouver. Tonight we play Mountainside Cafe here in town. Very much appreciating the hospitality here--big thanks to Danica, Lori, and Amy for the warm welcome (Amy even gave us a jumpstart), & to Anna for coming along for the party. Will be hard to leave all these wide open spaces & smiling faces behind. More soon. Cheers

 

NAME: scott
E-MAIL: sicook1@yahoo.com
URL: http://www.scottcook.net
DATE: Tuesday, July 8th 2003 - 12:07:37 PM

Hey folks, long silence from us, sorry... Having a sweet time on the island... We were all glad to get out of the city as quickly as we did. Camped in the Comox valley for a couple days... Jammed at the Edgewater Pub in Comox Wednesday night... The blues jam there's hosted by Doug Cox, Todd Butler & Sam Hurrie, three kickass guitar players, with Hans & Pat holding down the bass & drums. Pat sat in with us & got the folks dancing for a few songs. The next night we jammed at the Waverly in Cumberland. Sam Hurrie was kind enough to let us play for a long time & the locals kicked up their heels. Thanks to our friend Allison for the word on all things Cumberland.

Left there & went to Quadra Island... Hiked in to Morte Lake & slept out in the open there, happy... Then to Cortes, where I'd hoped to find some old friends... Turns out alot of them had moved on but we were sweetly welcomed anyway... Jammed with Jer, Kim & Luke at the Tak restaurant's outdoor stage... Decided to come back & play the next day for free burgers & beers. Big Al took our tip jar around & we got almost a tank of gas--thanks, people.
Had a couple beautiful sunset jams with the friendly folks at Smelt Bay & a couple sweet nights under the stars at Hague Lake. Someone said to me, to be poor here is to be unbelievably rich... thanks Cortes. Off to Port Hardy tonight & up early for the long ferry ride to Prince Rupert... One more thing: I can't add news anywhere but here while we're on the road, so here are some more dates:

July 15 Mountainside Cafe, Smithers
July 16 Art Space, Prince George
July 17 Downstream Bar, Jasper
July 23 Starlight Lounge, Lethbridge

see ya along the way... cheers

 

NAME: Scott
E-MAIL: sicook1@yahoo.com
DATE: Tuesday, July 1st 2003 - 11:58:26 PM

@ Arnel & Ed's house:
...enjoying the fat hospitality.

Like Ty says, a sweet time at the Fair... Everyone's rainy resilience was inspiring. Stayed til the sun shone on Tuesday. That was all the riding the bike got for now tho--we're in my folks' van now & drumerless at the moment... For now Scotty is our hero in the lead on the bike. Meeting our buddy Mike in Prince Rupert to go play Haida Gwaii...

But for now happy on the road & singing... Came through the mountains, camped by streams, were fed upon by mosquitos, jammed on the drums... Jammed drums again in the park today (backside of the Art gallery, robson & howe) where a lazy afternoon scene watching kids pull skateboard tricks & spectacular falls turned into a hemp rally (which admittedly it was never far from in the first place) & sunny jam... A nice Canabis day weeelcome to our spacious land for our brother from the Southern Savanna.

Well tonight we decided to move on--itchy feet all around. I lamented people we couldn't see in Van city & promised visits next year. Gotta go. Should be on the island tomorrow. Cheers,

 

NAME: ty
E-MAIL: tyler_dakin@yahoo.ca
DATE: Tuesday, July 1st 2003 - 10:47:29 PM

well, hey folks! been back in the land of the beaver for a few weeks now ... although the little furry guys have eluded me so far, i have managed to track down my folks (located in their little hut over in Ft Sask) for some good eats and good times. Next it was off to North Country Fair where the cold and rainy temps made me wish for my home and friends in asia. the music was fantastic and cold and the rain only made the event a true testament to the human spirit.

We've been on the road for a few days now. going slowly down through jasper, free campin' (and mosquitos!) at Little Hell's Gate, Scotty's uncle Arvid in Abbottsford and the absurdity of the Cannibas Day rally downtown Vancouver. ahhh it's good to be back - Ty

 

NAME: Daz
DATE: Tuesday, July 1st 2003 - 10:25:36 PM

The shores of British Columbia having finally been reached it wasn't long before I was reunited with Scott and Ty ad had met the other Scott...just in time of course because I was bound to get myself into trouble sooner or later... sure the aquarium was great (I visited it while I was waiting for the boys) but theres only so much a Beluga whale and a poison dart frog can keep you off the streets and soon true to form my thoughts had begun to drift...having been told about Hastings street and all the goings on there and having been blessed with a pocketful of spending money but cursed with a mind prone to deviance all this could have added up to spectacular disaster at such an early stage. Luckily though I have been saved (though not rehabilitated) just in time and the tour is under way.

 


NAME: Daz
E-MAIL: selecta@ekno.com
DATE: Friday, June 13th 2003 - 06:03:47 AM

...well... having wrangled a visa out of the Canadian embassy in Taipei I'm all set to head off into the unknown...I keep wondering what awaits me over there in Canada...will there really be one of those mounties with a big hat waiting at immigration saying things like "howdy pardner" and "well I'm co-operating with you here pardner honest" when the interrogation turns rough?

Did they know South Africans weren't supposed to be let into any place (they certainly didn't in Taipei)? But these are peripheral questions...the ones that are really pressing are more like how long will it take before the pressure of intense touring takes its toll on the young Cook... perhaps the first sign of cracks will appear when he appears on stage wearing nothing but a purple leotard...yes yes funny at the time but when he starts to insist that we all give up our worldly posessions things will take a nastier turn...and when he eventually snaps and joins the children of God cult in Brazil or heaven forbid becomes a mormon in Taiwan who will be the glue holding the Anglers together?

Was Ty Dakin really hung like a rogue moose as rumour had it? Was he really "loose" with his hands and "wild" in his ways?

Well readers I'm sure these questions as well as others will be answered in the months to come and I will do my utmost to provide you with a clear and objective account of all that goes on. Remember you can always count on Daz for the truth. Until then...



NAME: scott
E-MAIL: sicook1@yahoo.com
DATE: Thursday, June 12th 2003 - 01:09:34 PM

Well, here I am... Hanging around Edmonton for the time being trying to get my life in order, our tour lined up, & my bike fixed. Ty should be in soon... We'll probably play a few open stages around town & then up to the Fair. If you don't know of it, North Country Fair is probably the best party this province has to offer, held every year on the weekend closest to the summer solstice. The music is always great, the vibes friendly, & the women barefoot & beautiful. If you're in town you'd be a fool not to come.

There were great tunes at the Little Flower Stage last night in Rossdale Hall, by Telus Field... A little jew's harp number by Tippy Agogo, who later collaborated sweetly with Backstreet Rob, and a couple reggae jams by Bob Cook later on really stood out for me. See http://home.ecn.ab.ca/~bgbg/flower.html for info...

Check back in a week or so for more news... Cheers.


from Taiwan, 2003

NAME: scott
E-MAIL: sicook1@yahoo.com
URL: http:\\www.scottcook.net
DATE: Tuesday, May 27th 2003 - 04:39:25 AM

Been busy... the peace festival in Longtan was awesome... it was a testament to the bands' talents that they managed to play despite the show running well past sunrise and the sheer volume of beer consumed... Everybody rocked out huge but some really stood out for me: Mandala's bamboo gamelan with a reggae swing, Biung's powerful voice & cool repartee, & the Mooks managing to keep their funk tighter than tight despite the late hour. Milk played last & kicked it out like only they can at 6:30 am... Half the band went down for the count & Robbie Bobbie showed everybody what real rock n roll dedication is all about: pissing yourself on stage! Truly a spectacle to behold, for those who can remember.

The following weekend saw Milk back in the neighborhood; they played with the Cones, the Anglers & Aquablam! at the enigmatically-named Shiner Age New Life bar... Cheers to SiMi & Blaine for putting it together & to the people for coming out to support. Hats off to Aquablam & Milk for rocking like always...

Last weekend we were out in Luodong, partying at Soulstice with our friends (& gracious hosts) Barry & Chad... Aquablam came along too & gave the east coast crowd something to shout about. Many thanks to everybody out there for the warm reception.

This Friday, May 30th, we'll be playing with Milk at Hangar 18 in Taichung (corner of shiang xiang lu & min chuan lu--map on www.taiwanmilk.com)... The next day, Saturday May 31st, we'll be down in Tainan for a gig with the Mooks at the Western 2 Bar... This'll be our last show in Taiwan for awhile--Canada calls! Watch this site during the summer for info on our Canadian tour & words from the road... See you in September!

Music will carry on at River in Jungli (18 Da Tong Rd)... Aquablam usually jams Wednesdays... while you're there make sure to congratulate Dave & Kim on the birth of Sonia, the littlest newcomer... Cheers friends.

 

 

 

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Martin Luther King on Vietnam, as relevant today as it was back in '67.

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