Sunday, February 16, 1997
ECMA Song-writers Circle
by terry smith
A songwriters circle will usually be an eclectic mix of styles at the best of times, but at this year’s ECMA’s there were rock, pop, folk, country, as well as traditional Acadian, traditional Newfoundland, and traditional Cape Breton styles and influ-ences represented. Diversity was the flavour of the day and it was this diversity that made the circle special.
The circle contained some of the best songwriters on the east coast, as well as a few guest ringers from outside the region. In all there were twelve writers, so rather than write about some and not others, here are five highlights from each, as well as my own personal and totally subjective rating (out of five stars).
Debbie Adshade (???) – A powerful folk singer from New Brunswick, Debbie performed songs with gui-tar, piano, and a capella with a rain stick. The highlight was the song “Whisper To The Wind In A Hurri-cane”, about performing with no-body listening, which I’m sure all musicians could relate to.
Denis Richard (????) – A Moncton native, he is one of Acadie’s best known singer/songwriters. He told a story about having the oppor-tunity to collaborate with his idol, Zachary Richard, who gave him three chords and went for a nap. Denis turned the chords into a powerful song called “Cap Enrage”, about a guy who went out in his boat to get away from his girl, but went too far. Denis was also the court jester of the first cir-cle, with hilarious comments on everyone’s tunes.
Danny Boudreau (???) – Another Acadian singer/songwriter, Danny wrote some great ballads that got the point across pretty well despite the fact that I don’t understand very much French.
Alan Doyle (????) – Great Big Sea’s frontman writes a great big portion of their non-traditional tunes including “Fast As I Can”, for which he was nominated for SOCAN Songwriter of the Year. He performed “Fast As I Can”, but I was most impressed by a song to be included on their next album called “How Do We Get From Saying I Love You (To I’ll See You ‘Round Someday)”, about the nostalgia of running into an old girlfriend while visiting his hometown, Petty Harbour, Newfoundland.
Gordie Sampson (????) – After a spectacular showcase appearance, Gordie got to perform on the songwriter stage. I liked his first song best – “The Blood Is Strong”, a col-laborative effort with Duncan Wells that explores what our ancestors would think if they could see us now. Gordie & Duncan thought they’d think we were pretty cool.
Bruce Guthro (?????) – In my opinion, the East Coast Songwriter of the Year is at his best in a songwriters circle where the listener can pay close attention to every word. Whenever I’ve seen Bruce perform in this setting, I find myself hanging on every word. This time I was blown away by Bruce’s song that was inspired by “a good scrap with his wife” that I think was called “Fallen Angel”. He delivered the song in a soft voice that ironically gave it a lot of power.
Damhnait Doyle (??) – Unfortunately for Damhnait, I remember her more for her comedic talents and great voice than her songwriting abilities. To be fair though, I think her strength is performing not writing. She started every song with excuses that ranged from “I can’t play the guitar very well” to “This song has no bridge”. Her ex-cuses prompted Marc Jordan to say, “Every song comes with a disclaimer.”
Marc Jordan (?????) – Hearing this in-credible songwriter was the highlight of the whole event for me. He started off by playing “This”, a beautiful tune that was recorded by Rod Stewart, but my favourite was “Flowers For Jane”, the first release from his new CD. Be-fore playing “Flowers For Jane”, he took a page from Damhnait’s book in saying, “The next song I’m going to play is a terrible song. I play it badly. And this is my wife’s guitar.”
Dean McTaggart (????) – People might remember this guy from an 80’s band called The Arrows, but he’s been mak-ing his living at writing for other peo-ple these days. He performed his Juno nominated song, “Birmingham”, which was a hit for Amanda Marshall, but I was more impressed by his perfor-mance of Amanda’s latest hit, which he co-wrote with her and David Tyson, called “Dark Horse”.
Ron Bourgeois (???) – The Cheticamp native has been building a strong reputation in the Francophone music scene for a number of years and demonstrated why with a song about a man who was drinking himself to death after losing his wife.
Geoff Panting (???) – He’s one of the Panting brothers who do the bulk of the songwriting for Rawlins Cross. Although I didn’t think his performing with only an accordion did justice to his first two songs, he made up for it by switching to piano for “When My Ship Comes In”.
Melanie Doane (????) – I had the op-portunity to meet Melanie and was very impressed by her down-to-earth nature amidst a sea of swollen egos. She performed a great song about the trauma of being in the music industry, which no doubt had something to do with dealing with all those egos, called “Babe In The Woods”. Another bright spot was her song for her mother called “Good Gifts”.
All in all, this was one of the best circles I’ve ever seen and was defi-nitely one of the most entertaining events of the ECMA weekend. If you’ve never seen a circle, you can catch one the third Sunday of every month at the Lyceum.