It has been my great fortune to have wonderful luck in having the opportunity to review some of the country’s finest live recordings. There’s something about a well-done sampling of a true artist’s performance onstage that captures the true passion behind both the lyrics and the love of being before the crowd. My current good fortune in this area is listening, over and over again to Pictou County singer-songwriter Dave Gunning’s latest and third release.
I have been in many an audience that found Gunning in a mostly supportive role, notably with long time collaborator JP Cormier, so of course I was familiar with his style, but this album gives the wonderful experience of concentrating on one of the most creative minds in the field of both writing and arranging. His name is becoming a permanent addition to the very elite in song-circles on the east coast and I’m sure beyond.
Beginning with “Leaving of Liverpool”, the listener straight away learns the art of how to make a song your own, as Gunning shows his extensive ability to play with both the words and the intricate way in which they are presented. A simply lovely rendition, perfectly situated to make you want to hear much more.
It’s not much further into the collection when I find not only my favourite song but others who shared my opinion, as co-listeners of varying ages were instantly captured by the innovative “Barnyards of Delgaty”. The song is unique in the use of not only a bit of dual language but a positively hypnotic rhythm and rhyme, in lyric and percussion, and outstanding guitar arrangement.
“Time Slips Away” is likely one of Gunnings’ most recognizable compositions, an ode to love lost, while “Taxi Phone” delves into a more sombre tone with the true to life inspired tale, complete with an accompanying sound of a wailing guitar.
“House Painted Green” starts out with a funk induced retro beat that follows throughout this dream of a number. Superb!
Go ahead and try to defy tapping a toe and better yet singing along to “When Will We Be Married”, another traditional favourite for any audience. And the fun continues with a little taste of whimsy as we are treated in tribute to Stompin’ Tom Connors, with a little “Gumboot Cloggeroo”, a typically Newfoundland party song! “Caribou Way” gives just a nice touch of a more pop/rock styling to a familiar topic to any east coast listener.
“Nancy Whiskey” serves as a fine example of the traditional folk sound that has coloured Gunnings’ line up over the years. “Carefree Highway” pays tribute to one of the many Canadian icons who have influenced his career path from the start.
It’s a definite trip down memory lane, at least for those of us who recall the Littlest Hobo program from which theme song “Maybe Tomorrow” is borrowed, followed by another bit of TV trivia music, “WKRP in Cincinnati”. True Celtic flair comes through with “Here She Comes A Running”, in a light-hearted rollicking love song.
I love this album. It has it all, and shows the versatility of a performer who has definitely earned the respect of peers and fans alike, through years of striving to make his mark. Dave Gunning Live is an obvious labour of love, for the art of entertaining and preserving the musical traditions of the east coast, while stretching boundaries just enough to put a personal imprint, which adds character to all of his carefully crafted arrangements.
Dave Gunning will bring his award winning work to the Savoy Theatre on May 22, as he is joined by Charlie A’Court for what should be a fabulous night, pairing two of Nova Scotia’s brightest lights on one stage! Don’t miss it!