Bully Boys. A Modern Folk Song

August 18th, 2017

This morning, we released another of the tunes from the upcoming album A Week at The Warehouse. Just pre-order on iTunes and you’ll get Bully Boys along with the first single, Summer Summer Night. For those of you who have already pre-ordered, not to worry, you’ll get both songs as well.

I thought I should tell the story of the Bully Boys tune as it is a bit of an unusual one, especially for the folk minded among us.

Late in the Fall of last year, I met with Producer Bob Rock in Vancouver to review the stack of songs I had written for the project he’d agreed to produce for me and the band. He and I picked the ones we liked the most and considered if we had enough variety to make a well rounded album for a fella like me with influences and history from so many genres of music. A big fan of Folk and Celtic music, he asked if I had anything he’d not heard that came from that world.

I thought about it a minute and remembered the song Bully Boys. “Man, I have this song I wrote for a movie awhile back, but honestly can’t remember it all,” I said and sang him the chorus which he liked quite a lot, and continued, “I’ll go back to the hotel and see if I can dig up my verses and the tune and stuff. I’ll sing you the whole deal tomorrow.”

Back at the hotel I sat to remind myself what I had written seven or eight years ago in my trailer on the set of Robin Hood. There was a scene in the film where Robin, played by Russell Crowe, was joined in the hull of a ship by his Merry Men, played by Scott Grimes, Kevin Durand, and myself. The script called for the gents to be singing a song to celebrate, at long last, their leaving the wars in France and returning to their home in England. I wanted to be the one to write it, and successfully pestered the director and composer enough to give me a shot at it.

I figured it should have a sea shanty vibe as the boys were on a ship. I’d learned a bunch of Sea Shanties primarily from Sean, Bob, and Darrell in GBS and from masters like Fergus O’Byrne in St. John’s. I always loved the rhythm and call-and-answer of the song and especially the nautical terminology. One of my fav terms is “Bully Boys”, which in sailor terms means the group of loveable rogues one might share a ship with (perhaps I’ve always likened a tour bus to a ship, and touring musicians to roving sailors, but that’s for another chat). So I wrote:

Row Me Bully Boys
We’re in a Hurry Boys
We’ve got a long way to go
We’ll sing and we’ll dance
And bid Farewell to France
And it’s Row Me Bully Boys Row

I sat in the hotel and smiled recalling how much fun we had recording the demo on set in my trailer. I tried to recall the verses I had written, but honestly could not. I knew I had them on a drive back in St. John’s, but wanted to remember them quickly. I figured I could at least remind myself what parts of it made the film. I opened YouTube and typed in Row me Bu… By the time I got this far in the search bar, I was surprised to see several options pop up in the suggestions below. Some of them read, Robin Hood Bully Boys, others read Robin Hood Shanty, still more were Row me Bully Boys. I was intrigued.

I clicked on the first one and the scene from the film popped up. But I was somewhat shocked to see dozens of other videos of performances of the song. There were versions from English folk clubs, Scottish folk festivals, Croatian concerts, Serbian Shanty fests, American Medieval days, and on and on and on. I was honestly dumbfounded. How could there be so many versions of this song in the universe, when I, the fella who wrote it, could not even remember the words? Not to mention the fact that I suspected and confirmed after a quick look, that only the chorus and a couple of lines from two of the four verses made the cut of the movie.

I can only surmise that folks heard the song snippet in the film and liked it enough to add it to their repertoire. Since they did not know the full song, they adapted it and wrote extra verses and made it their own. For a fella like me, this is very exciting, because that is exactly how folk songs become folk songs. For hundreds, if not thousands of years, a person would hear and remember bits of a song and when get travelled or got back home, they might re-sing what they could recall and add a bunch of their own stuff to finish it up. Amazing that in this day and age of connectivity that this process is still alive and well.

I couldn’t have been more chuffed. I eventually found the four verses I wrote for the original submission to the film and recorded them and a bridge for the A Week at The Warehouse project, which comes out on October 13. As noted above though, you can hear this piece of modern folk music right now by preordering the album on iTunes, or streaming it here.

As ever, I’m grateful for you checking it all out.

Cheers,
Alan

Winnipeg, Manitoba | Hotel Room

August 11th, 2017

I’ve had hotel rooms over looking the ocean, the lake, the city, the park, the mountains and the river. But I’m not sure I’ve ever had one over looking the gig.

I feel like I’ve had a private box to some great entertainment all day. I watched Cory Tetford light the place up with his amazing voice. I was as charmed as ever by The Fortunate Ones and their harmonies. I’m about to watch Meg Warren and Repartee heat the place even further with their pop wickedness. Feeling pretty lucky to have such a luxury to watch the gig before I walk over and play it myself.

But here’s a secret.

I don’t often spend this much time watching the gig and the concert grounds before I play my set. I do like to check out a few tunes if we have a new opening act or to wander the festival grounds to other stages, but sitting here all day watching the full sets of the other bands while the crowd slowly but surely grows, is not a thing I often do. Truth is, I find it kind of nerve wracking. I worry that the crowd is not growing quick enough and maybe there won’t be the audience we’d hoped for. I watch every cloud as it passes over the stage area and wonder if it will rain on the parade we’d been planning for months. I worry that the opening bands won’t be great and send casual wanderers away, or more likely today, that the opening acts will be so good that I won’t be able to live up to the build up of it all. That, I’ll be a let down after so much great stuff. I worry that I can’t sing as high as one fella, or play guitar as fast as another. And I worry that in a situation like this, on this beautiful day on a perfect stage with amazing sound and lights, in a perfect park where the audience gets in for free, that the one weak link will be me. And if it goes poorly, I won’t have a single thing to blame it on but me.

But somewhere, deep down, I know that these are just nerves. Butterflies that I should be able to turn into energy if I banish them to the right place. I remind myself that admitting it could go poorly is often the biggest reason it does not. In somewhat joking ramp up pre gig speeches to the band, I often say, “It will only be good if we make it good. It won’t be good because we are often good or because we were good last night or might be tomorrow night. It won’t be good if we expect it to get good by itself. It will only be good if we make it good. So let’s go make it good. For us and especially for everyone out there who gave us their night and trusted us to give a good one back to them.’

The crowd is growing beyond thousands now and Repartee are about to hit it hard, as they should. I’m gonna put on my boots and walk to the back stage area and enjoy their tunes as I try to turn these butterflies into something useful.

They say over 10,000 people will give us their night tonight. I say lets give them 10,000 great nights right back to them. And thank them for letting us do so.

It’s the magic hour in the middle of the park. When it’s not quite daylight and not quite dark.

Show time.

Cheers,
Alan

London, UK – Hotel Lobby

June 22nd, 2017

Sitting in the lobby of the hotel awaiting a car to Heathrow Airport, still buzzing about last night’s triumph at Bush Hall. There is something special about playing in London, a city that has been the hub of the music world for centuries. There is something very special about the intoxicating feeling of momentum that comes with returning to a city to a bigger venue that is sold out to the doors with excited people eager for your return. There is something very, very special about getting a chance to sing songs for folks in a city that has had a few rough weeks. Not that a night out with me and the band is a cure all, but it feels good to offer even the most modest breath of levity and light when folks are hungry for it.

All of these things happened last night, I figure. And I am grateful for it all.

Exciting times as the first single from the new CD drops tomorrow. As of Friday, you can request the song on your fav radio station, stream it on your fav streaming service, and download it from your fav digital platform. I’d be super thankful if you did one, two, or all three of these things and spread the word about it all. A big rush and show of interest in the single drives a whole bunch of activity for the album release and tour to come later this Fall and into 2018. So, thank you all in advance for all the support.

Stay tuned for a fun video for Summer Summer Night as well. Me and the band and a crew of wonderful young actors recreated an 80s Summer Camp movie. I hope the guy gets the girl, don’t you?

Off to LHR and onto Frankfurt en route to the Blacksheep Festival! Danke!

Cheers,
Alan

Glen Allen Virginia Hotel Room

March 20th, 2017

Any frequent readers of this blog know I am not usually a fan of a day off in a lonely hotel room. Most often I find it kind of isolating and depressing. It is the very time when you count how many hours and days you spend away from your family. It is the time you are neither Home nor on the bus with your pals prepping for a concert. You are just, alone. And normally it is, by far, my least favorite of days.

But I am enjoying this day off in the hotel room more than usual. I have sang a concert 9 of the last 10 nights, so I really need to rest body, voice and mind. Also, I have a major book deadline looming and am grateful for these 24 hours or so with almost no distractions so I can catch up on it all.

Very briefly here, a note of thanks to everyone who’s joined us on this trip so far. Great shows all around with Sell Outs in Ann Arbor, Pawling, and Sellersville. A look ahead sees a few more Sold Out shows in Brownfield, Lindsay, and Parry Sound. I know that Belleville, Kitchener, Northampton, and Derry have very few tix left, so grab them quick if you want to join us. Love to see you.

Have to say, my day in NYC was one of the best of my adult life. Got to see Come From Away, the now Broadway smash about Newfoundland’s hospitality during the 9/11 crisis. It is as heartwarming as it gets and a reminder that even on the darkest of days, there is a light to show the way. So proud of GBS’s Bob Hallet for placing the traditional music of Newfoundland in the show and of our own Petrina and Romano and all the cast for telling such a true and much needed story. Made me proud to be a human being, a Canadian, and especially a Newfoundlander.

Thankfully, all of the above joined us at BB Kings for a great concert and jam. It’s tough to make a splash of any kind in the big city. There is so much happening and making big waves, it would be easy to go unnoticed in the wash of it all. But I really feel like Newfoundland had a big slice of the Big Apple on Thursday, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.

Go see Come From Away. And go see it in NYC. The lovely story of a small town and how it shone on such a dark day being told and staged in the very city that suffered it the worst is quite honestly the chance of a lifetime.

More touring news to come as the Summer shows roll out soon.

In album News, the mastering date is Thursday. The single has been picked and should be released soon as the days get longer.

I am working away on the last brush stroke of the new book. It should be out of my hands before the tour is over. Fun stuff.

The sun is shining on some very tall deciduous trees just outside this hotel room. Through the window I can see the light catch on brown branches pushing tiny green needles and cones through the fading husk used to ward off winter.

Though I dare to say it, I think Spring has Sprung.

Cheers,
Alan