Listen Local - Braden Gates

Braden Gates is often referred to as a 'troubadour' or 'raconteur'. These are old words chosen to distill what makes Gates special. Something to do with time and timelessness. With lineage and dipping one's feet in the ancient stream of song. With Gates, I get the impression he soaks in that stream, while I'm lucky if I know where to find it off in the woods.

If you are a fan of folk music in its truest sense – music that tells the tale of common folks – then you owe it to yourself to hear Braden Gates.

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Feature Wall Feature Featuring Von Bieker

I recently got to visit local videographer, drummer and music-enthusiast Daryl Payne in his beautiful downtown apartment. We looked over the Brewery District, peppermint tea in hand. The sun shone in and cast a golden glow across his barn wood Feature Wall. 

While folk songstress Maddie Storvold waited — mouse-quiet in the wings — I grabbed my guitar, cleared my throat, and did this ...

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My Good Neighbour in the Bowtie

Monday night I’m sitting in the Princess Theatre holding back tears until I finally give in. The battle starts with the opening scenes and is lost long before the closing credits. Nearly all of us watching are hesitant to leave when the movie ends. We don’t want to break the spell. We don’t want to lose what we’ve been given. We’ve just watched “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

The story of Fred Rogers’ unlikely rise to stardom is a well-crafted homage to simple goodness. Filled with beautifully animated cut-scenes and brilliant editing, this is the best of what a documentary can be. Here is a story about art that becomes its own masterpiece. 

As I’ve reflected on why this story is impacting so many people – why it has left a mark on me – I come back to one word. Goodness.

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Sing me something I can feel, Dan Mangan

Monday night I find myself in the basement of El Cortez, a grotto-turned-speakeasy packed with fifty sweaty fans of Dan Mangan. We've all been tipped off to a secret show, starting at midnight, in one of the most intimate concert spaces I've been in. 

Mangan plays tune after tune that take me back to specific moments. The first time I heard 'Basket' and got a little teary and hit repeat. The times I've played 'Road Regrets' load to kick off a long vacation drive. There's barely room for Dan Mangan and a drummer with a stripped-down kit, and the sound shrieks feedback every so often, but we don't care. We surprise Mangan by turning his so-sad ode to senility into a rousing sing-along.  He says its the first time Basket has become a singalong and I believe him. 

When Mangan gets to 'Robots', his early hit and crowd favourite, he announces this one will be 'campfire style' and unplugs his guitar so he can walk into the centre of the crowd. Then he sings for us, and we sing for him.

"Robots need love too. They want to be loved by you. They want to be loved ..." 

"I've spent half of my life in the customer service line. Flaws in the design ..."

The words are sometimes silly, but something is happening beneath them that is deeply meaningful. Music is magic in times like these. 

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Jammin' in the Jungle with Joel Kleine

Joel is one of the founding members of the band I've recently joined, Soft March. We've been playing together for a couple of months now, and had our first gig together just last week. I've been cramming a whole lot of new material in a brain that's already frazzled by some big life changes, including buying and selling a house. I'm thankful for the grace these bandmates have shown as I try – and fail – to perfect these new tunes.

Joel and I performed a cover of Van Morrison's Into the Mystic, followed by my song Haunted, and finally the Soft March tune This Day's Not Done. You can hear it all right here ...

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Drawn Into Bizarre Love Triangle

I likely came to this song via the stripped-bare cover by exclamation-pointed folk-singer Frente! It was the mid-nineties, alongside Criss Cross and OPP. Frente!’s cover may have played at my grade 9 dance, while I held a girl by the hips at arm's length and sweat through my red crushed velvet jacket.

Today I’m loyal to New Order’s original. Those layered synths! That soft escalation of heavenly arpeggios before each chorus! 

As soon as this song played I thanked the CBC or CKUA and knew I had to cover it. 

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On Being Rejected

Ah … rejection letters. I imagine every artist will read these terrible few words one day in their career; “we regret to inform you …”

I got a matching set of rejection letters last week. 

I applied for two grants to record an album this year and just found out I received neither the city grant or the provincial grant. I felt my application was strong. My demos were killer. My plan was solid. I was ready. But still … 

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Brand new song from the railroad tracks

A couple of weekends back I found myself listening to the bits of beauty friends had gathered during their time at an art and faith retreat in Calgary. I was retreating, too, so when I heard poet Stephen T Berg mention the "exquisite sorrow" of a "tritone train whistle", I recognized a song trying to be born. 

I played that song in my weekly Facebook Live set today - you can hear it at the 13:06 mark in the video below. I hope you like it, and more importantly, get a taste of that "exquisite sorrow".

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What I Do When I Don't Want to Work

Creativity is the constant remix of component parts. We pay attention to our word, then we capture the good and rearrange it in our own image. We are beauty filters. All creation is collage, and collage needs a constant stream of raw materials. So we must inhale. 

This is more than consumption. This is harvest.

We all have our favourite fields to glean. I thought I’d share a few sources I have found inspiring in the past, and hope you can point me toward some new sources in the comments below. 

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Song Story: Wherever You Are

I wrote Wherever You Are (the first version, at least) around 2007 in the early days of a church I was helping plant. We were a group of hip zealous young people and world-wizened elders wanting to change the world. Or at least the Church. Or at least our selves. I think we succeeded in that last part.

I was confused, coming unmoored from the constraints of my fundamentalist evangelical upbringing. It felt like a drift and I wondered if I would be OK. How far could I wander and still come home? But then I thought heard a Voice call from somewhere out in the fog. 

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