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:
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 track from Scott Cook and the Long Weekends Go Long, the band's theme song!
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,