For the third time this season the New Moon Folk Club was packed for Tom Russell with opener Lucas Chaisson. But before they took to the stage the #yegfolkies at New Moon took a few minutes to remember Leonard Cohen with an ingenuous rendition of the Bard of Montreal’s Hallelujah. There was a therapeutic sense of musical healing granted by singing in an audience chorus.
From the first strum of his intricate guitar playing Lucas Chaisson‘s set zapped the stress of the week right out of the audience. His mellow vocals created a meditative atmosphere that continued through the rest of the night. The repeated phrase within Ashes : “We are all born from the ashes of another” also provided an organic transition to Russell’s act.
Beginning with Chaisson and continuing through Russell’s two sets each song that rang through St. Basil’s Culture Centre on Friday night told a story. Russell’s stories weren’t chronological (don’t think about it like a Facebook timeline where everything is organized by date & time) and they weren’t always related by topic. It was more like sitting down with a family photo album and paging through it. Sometimes you flip forward, and sometimes a story from one photo forces you back through earlier pages. Russell’s vocals, have matured with years of life experience, compelling the audience to listen closely to his words. Some of the messages may not be apparent upon the first telling; however, there is the sense that the understanding of his poetic lines will be complete later within the appropriate context. Each song, like each photo in an album, was accompanied by a story. For Blue Wing Russell told us about playing a gig at the Edmonton penitentiary and about a game reserve near Edmonton that had five wolverines; for East of Woodstock, West of Vietnam he transported us to Nigeria and a career switch from criminologist to singer; and with Jesus Met the Woman at the Well we got one of many glimpses into Russell’s on-going friendship with Ian Tyson. Russell also revealed that he was going to be meeting up with Tyson when his tour heads towards Calgary. It was just enough of a teaser to tempt Edmonton audiences to consider a trip down south for a continued encore.
Touring with Russell right now is Max De Bernardi on guitar and Veronica Sbergia as tour manager. Sbergia and De Bernardi are also known as The Red Wine Serenaders and both joined Russell for a tune in the second set. Veronica’s clear and gentle vocals provided a refreshing new vocal texture as they harmonized with Lay Down My Old Guitar.
The audience was craving a sing-along throughout the performance as he surveyed the audience for what they wanted to hear next. He joked that the audience needed to listen to some of his newer records to replace the requests for his classics. Russell’s prophetic Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall was the final song of the night, and was met with a standing ovation and cheering. This response brought Russell back out on stage for Navajo Rug as the encore. Navajo Rug sung in unison with the entire audience, ended with a gradual decrescendo, settling like a gentle hum in the hearts of audience members to conclude the evening.
Ay, ay, ay Katie
Shades of red and blue
Ay, ay, ay Katie
Whatever became of that Navajo rug and you, Katie?
Danny Michel on December 2nd is sold out! If you want to attend and don’t have your ticket, your best bet is to make friends with a season pass holder who can’t come that evening. The season pass holder can lend you their card or you can give their card number at the door.
This review is co-written by Sable and Twila.