Hey there beauties,
As is often the case, this Hobo Travelogue's being written at cruising altitude, while Bram and I wing our way homeward to Edmonton. It's been a good run down under, and though it's gone by in a bit of a blur, it feels like loads has happened since we landed in Melbourne five weeks ago. I suppose that's the thing with this life; so much unravels in the course of a day, a week, and a month. Looking back over the time since I first moved into the van––coming up on a dozen years ago now––it feels like it's been forever. The flip side of all that is just how busy it keeps me, and now's no exception. We'll be back in the saddle shortly upon return, reuniting with our badass bass playing pal Shari Rae for a weekend of gigs in southern Alberta and then a run out to the coast, our only visit for the year:
Fri Apr 5 • Calgary, AB • Opening for Dala at the Calgary Folk Club (ALMOST SOLD OUT, get your tickets if you're in!)
Sat Apr 6 • High River, AB • Foothills Folk Club show with Carolyn Harley opening
Sun Apr 7 • Calgary, AB • house concert at Prairie Sky Co-Housing
Fri Apr 12 • Dunster, BC • Schoolhouse concert
Sat Apr 13 • Hope, BC • Secret Shop Show
Sun Apr 14 • Salt Spring Island, BC • afternoon house concert
Wed Apr 17 • Cumberland, BC • house concert
Thu Apr 18 • Brentwood Bay, BC • house concert at Brentwood Bay Village Empourium
Fri Apr 19 • Mayne Island, BC • opening for Jack Garton and the Demon Squadron at Groove Island Kitchen
Sat Apr 20 • Galiano Island, BC • opening for Jack Garton and the Demon Squadron at the Rod & Gun Club
Sun Apr 21 • Nanaimo, BC * Harbour City Concerts show
Mon Apr 22 • Victoria, BC • Victoria Events Centre
Wed Apr 24 • Vancouver, BC • East Van house concert
Thu Apr 25 • Kelowna, BC • Dunnenzies Pizza on Lakeshore (the old Minstrel Cafe)
Fri Apr 26 • Penticton, BC • The Dream Cafe
Sat Apr 27 • Revelstoke, BC • Revelstoke Coffee House
As I said, this'll be our only trip out that way this year. I'm planning to swing through the Kootenays in late August with Justin Farren, but I won't be back out west 'til May or June of 2020, so come see us if you want a dose to tide you over. And don't be shy about attending the house concerts, just be sure to book in! All the details, as always, are on my news page.
In May we've got a weekend of shows around Edmonton with Melissa (in Rossdale, Spruce Grove, and Sherwood Park) that are all nearly sold out, so book in now if you want to come. Then I've got a run of solo shows around Washington and Oregon, making stops in Seattle, Vashon Island, Portland, Eugene, Grants Pass, Union, Port Townsend, Salem, Portland again, Conway, Shaw Island, Lopez Island, and Orcas Island. At the end of June we're playing my home festival, the North Country Fair, and then Pamela and I are heading off on the long drive across Canada, including stops at Mariposa Folk Fest in Ontario, Woodyfest in Oklahoma (by plane), Rollo Bay Fiddle Fest in Prince Edward Island, and on my way back, stops at Falcon Ridge Folk Fest in New York and Trout Forest Folk Fest in Northern Ontario. Have a look on www.scottcook.net/news.php for deets and dates.
Yet again, Australia's been mighty good to us. Bram and I flew in on a Monday, coincidentally in time to have dinner with Corin Raymond and our Aussie pal Tamlyn Magee aka Anactoria before her show that night. Earlier that day we also reunited with our bassist Liz Frencham, and met our fiddler Esther Henderson for the first time, to have a first crack at the new songs I'd been writing by the woodstove in my friend Lisi's cabin. The next day we made a mission out to sleepy Corowa, Victoria in a rental car to pick up my Aussie home Skippy, who'd been convalescing at the home of my retired mechanic friend Tom, who volunteered to fix him when he blew his head gasket during my tour with Corin Raymond.
We got to Tom's place and discovered that he'd not only fixed the engine, but also done a bunch of other work I didn't even ask to have done. I used to have to roll down my window to open the driver's side door; he fixed that. The back door used to only open from the inside, by reaching into the paneling and pulling a catch. Tom Richardson and I had spent over an hour trying to figure it out back when I first bought Skippy, and even thought we had it twice––prematurely high-fiving the first time, and prematurely chest-bumping the second time––only to give up, stymied in the end. Tom fixed that too. Even the big dent in the side––the thing that first caught my eye when I found Skippy on the buy-and-sell website Gumtree, that made me think I might get a good deal on him––he fixed that too. "Only 'cause me missus is such a big fan of your music," he assured me. He rebuffed all my thanks by saying "it keeps me off the street," but his heart was shining out clear. And as he was telling us about his recent four-day motorbike journey through the high country with a pack of mates, a young fella's eyes were flashing out of his 73 year-old face. He and his lovely missus Alida came out to our first show, at North East Artisans in Benalla, and we presented him with Skippy's roof rack (he'd mentioned wanting one, so he could put his canoe on top of his van), tied up with a ribbon.
We spent our first weekend at Cobargo Folk Festival, on the south coast of New South Wales. Cobargo was the first Australian festival I ever played, back in 2014. Enda Kenny (who I'd just met) managed to talk them into giving me an unamplified write-in spot in a little shed venue, and the welcome was so warm that by the end of the weekend I was already making plans to return the following January and buy a van. This year was my fourth time at the fest, and it felt pretty triumphant to play the biggest tent, with a crowd spilling out the sides, on the Sunday. Here's a video of the band playing "Use Your Imagination" early in that set, shot by audience member James Polmeer.
After Cobargo we headed up the coast as far as Bellingen, where Esther's from, and had an extra day to hang out in her mom's wonderful country oasis. It felt good to do Esther proud in her hometown, and I was grateful for her help in rounding up a crowd, having played for only a handful of folks our last time there. On the way back down the coast, though, Skippy fell ill again––bizarrely, en route to the very same gig he'd died on the way to last time. I left him with another tow truck driver, and we piled into Liz' car, making it to Kempsey in time to be received by the kind folks at the Odd Fellows Hall, and carry on down the coast the next day in a rental. As it turned out, it wasn't even going to be a big job to fix Skip, but we had gigs to play and lots of miles to cover, ending up at my old visa sponsor's festival in Mia Mia, Victoria by the Monday, three shows and some 1400 kms later.
Tom, legend that he is, took over the repair from there, "as part of the unconditional guarantee" on his workmanship. He didn't tell me the details 'til afterward, but he actually got up at 2 in the morning, drove 3 hours to Melbourne with Alida, caught a plane to Coffs Harbour, took a taxi to the shop, and drove Skippy all the way home to Corowa, arriving back home at 2 in the morning. What a legend.
Our third weekend was spent at The River Folk Festival, a new festival in Warburton on the Yarra (the big muddy flow that enters the ocean at Melbourne), up where it's just a gorgeous little river winding through the mountains. My Canadian songwriter pal Dana Sipos was there, as were the incredible old-timey duo Red Tail Ring; pals from Kalamazoo, Michigan that I met through the Earthwork Harvest Gathering. It was wonderful to see those worlds weave together. We played an amplified set in the hall, a barely-amplified set in a little church, and a mellow Sunday afternoon set out back of a cafe. Our buddy Josh and his crew at Pegleg Productions shot some sweet video of our sets, which you'll get to see as the new album rolls out. And on the Sunday night we had a jam out back of the pub with Rich Davies, Nigel Wearne, Khristian Mizzi, Mandy Connell, and many more, and I was reminded again of what a wonderful family this life has introduced me to.
After the fest, we finally got started on the real work of this tour, which was making a new album. Recording's always a difficult and revealing process, subjecting your songs to a new level of scrutiny that you never feel until you put them under the microscope. You can play things live for years, but as soon as you take them into the studio, you notice things you never noticed before. You may end up wondering how they even go. It's always a challenge, and it always feels new, because we aim higher every time. This time was particularly challenging, mostly thanks to the newness of the songs, the difficulty of the parts (especially my vocal parts), the strain that weekends of gigs were putting on my voice, and my commitment to an earlier idea about our recording technique (for those who speak that language, I had it in my mind that we'd use a mid/side setup for everything) that wasn't flexible enough for what we needed to do. We ended up changing our approach, and changing a lot of the arrangements as well. One consequence of those changes is that we aren't coming home with an album in the can. But I'm confident that we made the right decision, and we're going to be happier with the finished product. One thing I'm particularly grateful for is more time to settle on the lyrics for a few of the newest songs. It does ramp up the challenge of getting everything (including the hardcover book it's going to be packaged in) done in time to release it in Australia this October, and the rest of the world next March. But those of you who've been with me for a while know that's par for the course.
Our last weekend of shows was extra heartwarming, with a packed house show at Lianne and Paul's in Healesville (which has gotta be the house concert capital of Australia) where the audience sang along heartily––even to the verses of some songs––and the love in the air was thick as it gets, a hall show with the hilarious choir Men In Suits, and our finale at the Spotted Mallard in Melbourne, where I finally got to enjoy a full set from Liz, who was on fire with her longtime sideman Robbie Melville on electric guitar. And then there were hugs, loose ends both tied and untied, and see-you-soons aplenty.
I did remember to take some pictures along the way, if you wanna have a look, here. My summary feels woefully incomplete, with so much missed (seeing koalas along the Great Ocean Road, watching the great Rory McLeod in a pizza joint in Kyneton, playing a backyard concert at our friends' place in Echuca with the best kind of country folks and a "Real Australians Say Welcome" tapestry on the wall, and as always, countless coincidences and connections tying this big world together), but that's how it goes with this life. So much happens in a day, a week, and a month; there's too much to tell. I'm just grateful to be in the flow of it, with my eyes open, and in such good company.
Thanks, as always, for your generosity, and here's hoping our paths cross again before too long. Shine on,