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There’s barely a leaf left on the trees on my street and the backyard is quickly going from flowery and green to branchy and brown.  There’s a snowstorm forecasted for tomorrow. My 9-year-old son is already planning our snow day activities. I’ve heard Christmas music playing in stores and restaurants for more than a week. Perhaps most telling, there is a wind shifting up form the harbor that announces, without question, Winter is Coming. Very soon we’ll have the dawning of a New Year and I’m hoping 2016 was every bit as adventurous and fun as 2015.

The SO LET’S GO tour has been the thrill of a lifetime, and the few weeks on the road with Barenaked Ladies was a dream come true. I got home in time to send off a hero of mine, and the Ron Hynes celebration at the Basilica was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever been a part of.  I’ll have more to say about that in the future, as I need more time to consider the whole deal.

I’ve just finished a few back and forth texts with my manager, Louis, talking about some exciting Summer 2016 gigs that are already on the books. Most notably, a main stage Saturday afternoon slot at the incredible Boots & Hearts Festival in August. So thrilled to be a part of this amazing lineup, which includes some of the biggest names in country and roots music. Many more in the works for the summer, so stay tuned.

Thankfully, I don’t have to wait till the snow melts to get back out there with the beloved Beautiful Gypsies. By afternoon on Friday, December 4th, a pile of new shows will be up for sale. They go from Ontario and Atlantic Canada all the way down to South Florida.  Me and the BGs will be playing tunes from my two albums, some Great Big Sea faves, traditional Newfoundland songs, and even a fun cover or two to make for the greatest kitchen party in history. Rolling into some really new places in the southern US, so please spread the word to some new faces who might come along for their first time. I’m totally happy to sign a CD or book, take a photo or just say Hi after any of these shows. Just hang around and we’ll get together.

All the dates and venues are noted here.

I’ve got to put away the leaf rake and get out the snow shovel.  Loves it.

Cheers,
Alan

YYT

Some sideways snow and a slightly delayed flight affords a quick moment here in St. John’s Airport.  I am hoping an airplane lands here shortly and ferries me back to Toronto to rejoin the Barenaked Ladies Tour in Hamilton tonight.  Me and The Beautiful Gypsies have been having a ball on the road with Ed, Jim, Kevin and Tyler and all the crew.  We’ve been treated like family since Day 1 and I’ll be forever grateful to them for this opportunity to play some old and new tunes for a bunch of new people.

I’ve been missing playing longer full shows and I have not done an honest to God opening tour since GBS opened for Runrig in Europe in 2002, I think.  But I have to say, I’ve enjoyed the chance to warm up the crowd and get it all done quickly.  Its also been very gracious of Ed and the boys to ask us back for a song or two in the BNL set, which I have described as follows…cool new tune, hit sing, hit song, hit song you forgot about, some charmingly honest improvised rap about the day we’ve had in the town, cool new tune, hit song, hit song, cool guest spots, hit song, hit song, really big international hit song, Canadian classic, Canadian classic, sing along, something funny, goodnight.  It is awesome.

When Ed asked me to sing Lovers in a Dangerous Time with them, he wondered if I knew it.  I answered honestly.   ‘Ed, I figure I’ve been singing that song about two weeks less than you.’  I started singing that song in pubs the moment I heard it first.  One of my fav covers of all time.

When GBS went into record our first blue cassette in 1993, we brought in the BNL Yellow tape as inspiration and guidance.  We figured if one of the biggest bands in Canada could make a living singing acoustic driven music, then maybe we could too.  It has been positively surreal some nights to stand on stage with them and be treated like and equal and a pal.  I am a Lucky Bastard.

The tour continues tonight in Hamilton.  Very happy to report a plane has emerged from the snow and we are boarding.

Love to see you at the last few shows this week.  All the info on the tour page.

Cheers,
Alan

YYT-YYZ-YVR-YXS

Canada is a big country. I have said this before, I know, but today I hope you don’t mind if I repeat it. Today I will spend about 11 hours in airplanes and when I land I’ll still be in the same country. There are very few domestic routes that can boast such duration, but when you start in St. John’s and fly West to Toronto, then to Vancouver and North to Prince George, you understand the mass of land that is Canada.

Perhaps this will help illustrate the size of this Nation, and how far to the East of it I am starting my journey. When I stand on the street in Prince George later today, I will be further away from my house than if I was standing on a street in Berlin. About 200 kilometers closer, as the crow flies. And that would be some kind of crow.

But I’m not complaining. Quite to the contrary. Super excited to head West today to start a tour with The Beautiful Gypsies and sharing the stage with Barenaked Ladies. It been a while since I did an opening gig. Back in 2002, I think, GBS opened for Runrig in Scotland, England, Denmark and Germany. What a time we had. I’ve known Ed and the BNL guys for over two decades and they have always ben great supporters of me and other Canadians. So grateful to them for the invite to join up with them on this run. Looking forward to it all.

And it all is laid out on the website. Love to see you at the gigs. I’m happy to sign CDs, Books, or whatever at the Intermission so come on down. Full tour Info is here.

You might notice I’ve release a Deluxe Tour Edition of SO LET’S GO. It includes a studio version of I am a Sailor featuring Beautiful Gypsy Paul Kinsman on Piano and the most awesome string arraignment of Keith Power. There’s also a live version of a previously unreleased track ‘Dream of Home’ recorded at the Rebecca Cohn Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. And, you’ll get the 1,2,3,4 remix with Ed Robertson from BNL and the wicked video for the same.

In other news, the Paperback and Audiobook versions of Where I Belong are available. So you can hear me reading me. Could be great or awful, depending on if you can stand to listen to my voice for 7 hours. All that stuff is available here.

Alright. Flight #1 awaits. SO LET’S GO

Cheers,
Alan

Home

Had an amazing weekend in Halifax, or I suppose I should say, yet another amazing weekend in Halifax. The CCMA (Canadian Country Music Assoc.) had an awards weekend and I had a blast at the show and at a few parties, but the biggest thrill was a wonderful return to the best music pub in the world, The Lower Deck. Beautiful Gypsy, Cory Tetford hosts a regular happy hour there and was nice enough to let me and Kendel Carson crash the gig. We played some of my tunes, some of Cory’s tunes, some fun covers and even brought some old Great Big Sea songs back home to where they were first played on that Holy Stage. What a time. Thanks to all for joining.

Just a quick note here about next week as me and The Beautiful Gypsies are about to play a few places for the first time. We roll to

Albany, NY, September 23
Fall River, Mass, September 24
Hartfort, CT, September 25
Barre, VT, September 26
Concord, NH, September 27

All the details are on the tour page.

As it will be our first visit, I just wanted to give folks a heads up as to what to expect. The band is made up of me, and some of my serious gun slinging friends.

Kris MacFarlane-many folks know him as GBS drummer for over a decade
Shehab Illyas-mighty Nova Scotia bass player
Todd Lumley-the famous Mr. Lonely from Hawksley Workman’s troupe on accordion, and other keys
Cory Tetford-monstreous guitar and mando player, and quite possibly the most gifted singer ever from Newfoundland (and yes, it hurts a little to say that)
Kendel Carson-fiddle Goddess who tours with us, and sometimes John Prine and Spirit of The West. She’s otherworldly on the fiddle and sings and plays guitar and uke almost as good.

We’ll be doing two sets in most or all of the shows. You’ll hear tunes from my solo CD’s, the mighty GBS catalogue, some Newfoundland traditional tunes and usually a fun cover or two. All of this designed to make the greatest kitchen party in the history of Planet Earth.

So if that sound appealing and you can make it to one of the gigs next week, I’d love to see you. I’m happy to sign a CD or book or take a pic, or whatever you might want after the show.

Spin down and Spread the Word.

Cheers,
Alan

YYZ-Home

A three-hour layover in Toronto Pearson Airport allows a moment to reflect on the past 10 days or so and the incredible experience it has been.

On Wednesday, June 24th I brought the Prince to his last day of Grade 3. After a hug I told him I had to go on a plane for a while, but would be back to sing Happy Birthday at his party. Deal made. I boarded a plane for Toronto to take part in the Luminato Festival. A festival of art and creativity where myself and a few other musicians and music journalists discussed our recent foray into writing novels. Got to meet some new friends, Eric Siblin and Lynn Crosbie, who’s books are both inspiring in their own unique way. I highly recommend Studio Grace and Where did you Sleep Last Night respectively.

I also got reacquainted with an old friend David Usher. David, as many of you may know, was and is the lead singer of the band Moist who had huge success in the early 90’s in Canada and abroad. GBS caught a break and got to open for Moist on Toronto Island in 1994 (I think) at an afternoon bash for Ryerson University (I think). They were a big band at the time and we were just starting out on the College circuit. David and the gents were quite nice and encouraging to us and after the gig David politely turned down a trip to the pub as they had to drive to Cleveland for a gig that same night. (I think)

‘You can drive to Cleveland?’ I asked.

‘Yeah, its about 6 hours and we gotta hop to it.’

I remember it being the first time I ever you could actually drive to more than one major North American city in a day. Until that point I’d only travelled in Newfoundland and a little in the Maritimes and with St. John’s as a starting point, it is really two full travel days by car to get to the next big hub of Halifax. The thoughts of playing a daytime gig in Toronto and a late night gig in Cleveland was other-worldy to me. It was great to chat and compare war stories with David and a social gathering to follow with the amazing with the moderator Denise Donlan was a real treat for sure.

On Thursday I had a lunch with my literary agent.

Wow. Just taking a moment to realize I just typed, ‘On Thursday I had a lunch with my literary agent.’, in a sentence. Certainly never saw that coming, but such is my lucky life these days. We chatted about plans for the paperback and audio book of Where I Belong, due out in the Fall of 2015 and the follow up book to come out in 2017. Now I just have to write it.

I nipped across downtown to the Toronto Island Airport and got a short flight to Montreal. Departing flights from this gem of an airport get an amazing view of the ever-expanding skyline of Toronto. The very downtown the city has been condo-ized in recent years and I, for one, think it has made the city all the better for it. I love the fact that the waterfront has become more walking friendly and inhabited. I love that the very heart of downtown is filled with people who live their and enjoy the bustle of the city, not unlike New York or London. I just think it makes for a much more vibrant and welcoming downtown.

After a quick dash across Montreal airport I got a flight to Frankfurt, Germany where I met some of the band and crew and we were driven to a lovely little town about an hour South called Bad Wimpen. Myself and The Beautiful Gypsies were to play the BalckSheep Festival, a gig that would mark my first time playing in Germany in over a decade. I was thrilled with the hospitality we received from Barb, our lovely tour guide and translator who was as eager to show off her town as we were to see it.

We even got a special tour of the town’s tower and the most charming apartment it held aloft. The Tower mistress welcomed us with champagne and tales of the centuries, and as there was a old but amazing piano up there, we offered a song as thanks. You should have heard Todd play while Cory sang Amazing Grace. Every note hanging in heights. Pretty special, I must say.

The Festival was great, as most of them are in that part of the world. Great staging, sound and lighting. Incredible hospitality backstage and an awesome variety of acts from all over the world. I hung in a bit on Friday night and watched a bit of Bob Geldof, but surrendered to the jet lag before midnight as I wanted to have a great set ourselves on Saturday. And have a great set, we did. A huge crowd and ovation took us on and off the stage and I was reminded how gracious German audiences can be.

I ran from our set to the other stage to watch The Hooters, one of my fav bands as a kid. They were one of the first acts I saw on TV that used folk instruments in Rock and Roll and I loved them for it. The melodica and mandolin hook in “So We Danced” remains one of my fav bits of music ever. I even got to meet the gents back stage. 14 year old me would not have believed it. Thanks BlackSheep Festival. Ask us back, please.

After a grand night of carousing and a whisky stand discovery that took us far too late into the late night I got back to our hotel in time for a three hour power nap. The 5:30 am alarm hurt. I’m not going to lie.

I was up so early to catch a ride to Manheim, Germany where I caught a train to Paris. I confess I slept a fair bit of the journey, but as we rolled out of Manheim and into Paris, I pinched myself a few times. Nipping across Europe from gig to gig. How lucky am, at all?

I had about an hour in Paris and caught a train North to Amiens, France, a beautiful town on the Sommes River. I was there to join Allan Hawco and Mark Critch as they were making a film about the triumphant and tragic journey of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment in WW1. I am to write some music for their documentary and they were kind enough to ask me along for some of the locations and to help with the commentary and give an interview. After a stroll around the town, (which is spectacular and has a cathedral that would humbly many in larger Eurpoean centers) I met the gents after they finished their day of filming in various locations.

Hard to quickly describe the pilgrimage that followed over the next three days. I think of myself as a student of Newfoundland history and I thought I had an understanding of our country’s involvement in the Great War, and the ripple effects of our victories and losses there. But until I walked in the trenches at Beaumont Hamel, knelt at the gravestones of hundreds of Newfoundlanders buried in a foreign country, and received a grateful handshake from the descendants of a century held Belgian family farm that was saved from occupation and destruction by a single Newfoundlander, I really had no understanding at all.

We were a proud and determined country at the time of WW1, eager to contribute and make our mark no matter how small our numbers compared to the larger allied forces. But we were also very vulnerable as a nation with a tiny population, and the loss of hundreds of our finest changed the course of history for us forever. I look forward to a time when I have thought about this trip more, so I can better relate to you mix strange mix of emotions about it all. Reverence. Anger. Frustration. Pride. All culminating in the singing of the Ode to Newfoundland on Wednesday, July 1st at a ceremony on the very ground where the promise of the country my parents were born in, was killed in a matter of minutes.

I’ll be forever grateful to Allan, and Mark and all the documentary film crew for having me along. I’ll never forget it.
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Mark Critch, Allan Hawco, and me at dawn over the Valley of the Sommes.

An early rise on Thursday and I was headed back to Paris and Charles de Gaulle Airport. I caught a flight London, Heathrow and met up with Fiddle Goddess and most Beautiful Gypsy Kendel. We both jumped a plane to Nova Scotia, and just like that, were back on Canadian soil enjoying Thai food in Halifax. As with a week previous in Germany I succumbed to the time changes and got in bed embarrassingly early. The Alan from the GBS days at the Lower Deck in the early 90’s would be ashamed of me, but I had to crash as we had two big gigs to come.

An early rise on Friday found me on a bus with all the Gypsies rolling up to Canso, Nova Scotia for a do-over appearance at StanFest. You see, I’d been offered a slot there a year go and was delighted because I’d heard nothing but glowing reports of this festival. Like everyone else involved in 2014, I was so disappointed when a storm forced the organizers to cancel the festival for safety reasons. It was a total drag so I was doubly excited to finally get to play. StanFest did not disappoint. What cool place and eclectic mix of local, regional and international players. We had a great set there and I wanted to stay for the whole weekend, but as this crazy week of travel so often dictated, we had to bolt.

We bolted back to Halifax airport and caught the first flight Toronto and then onto Thunder Bay for the big blues festival. Readers of this blog might recall a tale of when GBS played there a couple of summers ago and I got to sing with another hero of mine, Kim Mitchell. This festival is awesome all around and the me and the Beautiful Gypsies had a wicked set. There was even a cool caricature artist on site. What a time. Please ask this fella back to the festival any time.

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An early flight found me back at the gates at YYZ. Six countries and more kilometers than I can count later, I am catching my last flight of this grand adventure of music, history and song.

Back to Home and to sing my end of a bargain.

Happy Birthday to The Prince.

Cheers,
Alan