Our computer problems, as I more less expected, were so bad that the old girl finally breathed her last. We got ten years of faithful service, so I can’t complain. But now we have a brand new machine, built for the internet, and what a difference. So regular posting resumes now, with the weekly, (usually), theme set.
While I was out of commission, I missed a theme week on Star Maker Machine that I would really have liked to be a part of. So here are some songs I was thinking of for the O Canada theme. The theme is so rich that none of these artists was covered. But everyone did a fine job.
Gordon Lightfoot: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
I live in central New Jersey, and we had a winter panic yesterday. A storm came in, and 18 inches of snow were supposed to arrive, along with dangerous winds. It did get awfully windy, but the final accumulation where I am was four inches.
On the Canadian side of Lake Superior, storms like what we were supposed to get really do happen. One such storm featured heavy snow and hurricane force winds, and sank the freighter called the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975. Gordon Lightfoot first caught my attention with this haunting account of what happened.
James Keelaghan: Red-Winged Blackbird
Even given the lightness of our last storm, this has been the most severe winter I have seen in at least several years. So I am ready for spring. Red-Winged Blackbird is a beautifully expressed statement of faith that spring will indeed arrive. Posting it lets me share the talent of James Keelaghan with you. Keelaghan is perhaps best known for writing Cold Missouri Waters, which is a fine example of his storytelling talent. But this song does double duty, because it also allows me to honor another Canadian, David Francey, who wrote this one. Francey’s own performances are also well worth your time.
Stan Rogers: The Witch of the Westmoreland
Before we leave winter altogether, let me give a nod to an old English tradition that also made its way to Canada. Tales of ghosts and the supernatural are traditionally told at midwinter or Yule. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was one of a series of tales Dickens presented over several years. Similarly, the great Canadian author Robertson Davies wrote a collection of ghost stories which he had originally presented at an annual Christmas feast at the university where he was a professor.
So, to me, Stan Rogers’ song The Witch of the Westmoreland fits squarely into this tradition. The knight in the song is never identified, but this one feels to me like an Arthurian tale. And Rogers nails the mood perfectly.
Jane Siberry: Something About Trains
I don’t mean to leave out female performers and songwriters. Canada is a rich source of these as well, starting with Joni Mitchell. Jane Siberry is one of my favorites. Both her lyrics and her musical settings often have a dreamlike quality. I often wake from a dream with the question. “What was that about?”, and I don’t always find a definite answer. But the contemplation of it often takes me somewhere I didn’t know I needed to go, and Siberry’s songs affect me the same way. Something About Trains is actually one of her more accessible examples.
The Arrogant Worms: Canada‘s Really Big
Finally, I wanted to end on a light note, with one of the funniest acts in Canada. The Arrogant Worms here propose an alternate national anthem. This was a few years ago, and the proposal didn’t take. Enjoy it anyway.