Mabou and The Red Shoe

August 15, 2010 Mabou, Cape Breton, NS

The Highlands dip into the ocean on the Ceilidh Trail.

It was our first day without the Faires family. We were a bit sad and lonely, but consoled ourselves with some authentic Celtic music, Garrison Tall Ship Amber ale and a Pair of Shoes (Left shoe: bruschetta with goat cheese. Right shoe: hummus and pita) at the Red Shoe Pub. Members of The Rankin Family, a local multi-award winning musical family, own the pub and keep it lively with live music every day of the week.

A scene-stealing spoon player, two fiddlers (one left-handed), a pianist and (not pictured) several step dancers:

We made it back to the campground just in time for the sunset finale at the beach.

We had just one night in Mabou so set out first thing in the morning for a favourite hike along the bluffs of West Mabou Beach.

No bears or moose, just bunnies and blueberries.

Back on the beach we found a water-loving dog, ...

...a purply crab ...

... tide designs ...

... and these 'gems':

We highly recommend refueling with a great breakfast back in town at Shining Waters Bakery and, in the summer months, Tuesday Ceilidhs at the Community Hall across the street from the pub.


Fortress of Louisbourg

August 12, 2010 Lousibourg, Cape Breton, NS

Louisbourg RV Park on the waterfront:

From the wharves we can see the Fortress of Louisbourg looming over the sea.

Louisbourg is the largest reconstructed 18th-century French fortified town in North America.

The French came to Louisbourg in 1713 after loss of territory to the English in Newfoundland and Acadia (Nova Scotia) in the War of the Spanish Succession. Louisbourg soon became France's most important stronghold and seaport in the Atlantic on account of trade and the thriving fishing industry.

In addition to arms and imported goods, livestock and gardens were integral to the community's health and survival.

By 1760 the English ruled and the fortifications lay in ruin. The reconstruction and reenactments are based on life as it was in 1744.

Red Coat and Blue Coat interpreters march, pipe, drum and fire off a cannon.

Lloyd buys bread the size, and half the weight, of a cannonball. And about the equivalent in flavour.

Jay's workout for the day: cannonball presses.

The crier reads aloud from a scroll which states that the guy in white stole a bottle of wine. The French officers will parade him through the streets, drumming all the way, then fasten him to a pole with an iron collar where he will serve his time: 2 hours a day for several days. In fact, he served five minutes before the interpreters ignored the unsympathetic crowd and let him go.

Jay writes his name with a quill pen next to the recently freed thief.

Since we couldn't elect Eric for public punishment we ordered him into the lime kiln for a time out. ;)

Back at the campsites, the boys strum it up. It's difficult to see, but Jay and Eric each trade a hand to play: Jay's left hand plays Eric's fretboard and vice versa (their right hands strum their own guitars).

In the evening we attended a ceilidh next door at the Louisbourg Playhouse featuring Jason Kempt, Beverly MacLean, Erin Martell, Lyndon MacKenzie, and Troy Young. Celtic music is expected and oatcakes hoped for, but this ceilidh included a box drum called a cajón and comedic costumed sketches too.

In the morning we had time to enjoy the sun and cereal by the sea.


Waypoint Halifax

August 10, 2010 Halifax, NS

I hoped we could explore the Canadian School of Lutherie with George Ryzsani, builder of Voyageur, a Six String Nation guitar built from 63 pieces of  Canadian wood "representing many different cultures, communities and characters from all across the country", "including a piece of decking from the Bluenosoe II, a piece of Wayne Gretzky's hockey stick and wood from Pier 21". One of goals for the Six String Nation project is "to tell the story of a country from the roots to the trunk rather than the other way around; and to encourage us to tell that story to ourselves and the world through music".

George ran luthier workshops at the Canadian School of Lutherie, a centre for studying guitar building that specializes in building hand-made, custom guitars. He has made guitars for James Taylor, Keith Richards, Sting, Peter Gabriel and more. However, George is on his last guitar building project for the centre and will retire from his line of guitars. I believe his last is the only with a built in vile of ashes--the ashes of a beloved friend and musician. The upright guitar on the far right:

George put me in touch with Jeremy. Jeremy et al were fine hosts, happy to explain their projects and processes, answer all of our questions, and allow Jay to try out their wares.

Project central:

The Faireses left feeling like they could finally tackle the guitar kit they have back home.

We left the school for waterfront Halifax and found a Buskers Festival we didn't expect. Normally, the waterfront makes for nice strolling grounds peppered with the occasional musician or painter, but festival goers crowded the wharfs.

We watched boats cruise by in the harbour and wandered the wharf for a bit.

We found some local music, but, tired of crowds, we broke away for a seat and a drink ...

at The Old Triangle, one of several great pubs in Halifax.

Jay had another chance to say goodbye to Carmel Mikol; she was just outside on the pub patio.

We had been working up to dinner since morning, when we decided we wanted good Indian food for supper. The private circle room was a perfect fit at Taj Mahal, open just two days following a six-month closure due to fire:

We feasted and waddled away.

Of course, we could spend a week or more in the city, but with just one night's stay we had time for just a few highlights.

We also highly recommend the maritime museum, Neptune Theatre, Paper Chase cafe, The Wooden Monkey restaurant, Opa! restaurant, Maxwell's Plum English pub, Pogue Fado pub, Split Crow pub, The Economy Shoe Shop cafe/bar and any live music you can find.


Folk Fest Sunday Finale

Lloyd and I skipped out on the last session of the afternoon for a recharge at The Knot. Keith's ale, caesar salad, potato skins, mussels, and peanut butter pie. That ought'a do it. The boys outside the tent: Scott, Nik, Eric and Lloyd.

Scott made us beautiful rings for my birthday, despite "no gifts" allowed. Yes, we lashed him. ;) Well, I think he got kisses and hugs from me... Anyway, we love our rings; they're carved from wood with gorgeous grains. Just our style. We've looked for rings for a while now and never did we find rings we liked so much as the ones our own friend made for us as a surprise. Thank you, Scott!

All of us seated in the wind tunnel/exit row (note the extra layers, extra blankets and extra tongue sticking out of Scott):

One more time, the Mainstage Evening Concert lineup (I guess I was too cold to take photos):

Carmel Mikol - glad for another performance. We like everything about her musically.

Tom Chapin & The Chapin Sisters - a family with local ties. Tom is a Grammy-award winner, but is probably best known as Harry Chapin's brother. He often sings Harry's "Cat's in the Cradle" in tribute.

Maria Dunn from Edmonton sang a haunting song called "We Were Good People" about a 1932 Hunger March in Edmonton where peaceful protesters were met by police wielding clubs and running even women and children off to scatter the march. View the lyrics and learn more here. Maria has a clear and commanding singing voice and award-winning songwriting talents.

Artisan - a zany a cappella trio from England.

Suzie Vinnick & Rick Fines. Suzie and songwriting partner Dan Kershaw won the International Songwriting Competition - Blues Category this year. She's said to have a "crystalline voice", even a voice "spun of gold". We like it, however you describe it.

Matt Andersen won this year's International Blues Challenge in Memphis. He makes a fitting finale, especially when joined by a variety of the festival's top performers.

As always, the festival evening ends with the singing of Nova Scotia Song.

Our dear friend, Deb, stops by for a post-festival visit and a photo opp with Jay. We miss you already, Deb!

Another Folk Harbour Festival done, another reservation at the Blockhouse Hill Campground (Lunenburg Board of Trade Campground) for next August. If you want to join us, please make your reservations soon!


Folk Fest Sunday: Jay Faires Edition

August 8, 2010 Lunenburg, NS

This one's all about Jay. :)

Surrounded by Grass Mountain Hobos.

I don't know if you can see the smiles on their faces, but they're lovin' Jay!

Huge grins all around for Jay's second performance:

A little bit closer now (look at them jam!):

I wasn't the only one taking photos. The lady in red is a journalist for PEI's (home of the Hobos) major newspaper.

Red Molly, Ken Whitelely and Ben Whiteley, The Grass Mountain Hobos, and the centre of attention: Jay Faires! Whoohoo! :D

Jay, just part of the gang.

These are just a few of the 250-300 pairs of feet standing and hands clapping for a true musical talent.

Not one, but three standing ovations for Jay! And some hollerin' and hootin'.


But it's not over.

Jay and the Hobos are ushered outside for photos.

Jay's a natural.

PEI journalist requests some fun pose with Jay front and centre:

Just the first of many photo shoots, we presume.

One more chat before the Hobos leave for home.

The topper: a new fan tracks Jay down to buy a CD. Jay wasn't selling CDs, but we think the man insisted. He wanted to be the first to buy Jay's first CD, but someone beat him to it. Still, he can say he's the second to buy Hunstville City Limit.

Jay didn't stop there. Remember, there's an After Hours Party every night of the festival. After his first "in" he was in. He was welcome and he was having a great time. We're sure jamming with some of Canada's best folk, blues and roots musicians and singer songwriters was the highlight of Jay's Nova Scotia trip and we were honoured and thrilled to witness it, and we're hoping for a repeat. What do you think, Jay?


P.S. - Jay, we miss your (live) music and your smiling happy ways. We had sooo much fun with you! Great memories. And now we wish you the best of luck at your new school. See you at camp!

No Rest on Folk Fest Sunday

August 8, 2010 Lunenburg, NS

Folk Harbour Festival Sunday begins with a rocking Gospel Concert on the Main Stage.

Here's Ken Whiteley et al with Red Molly:

Sunday's featured musicians, including Jay! You can just see Jay's jeans and black jacket (far left).

Though we were a movin' and a shakin' and a singin', we were chillier inside than those outside of the tent in the sun. We chose to sit in the "wind tunnel", the exit row, every night because it had more room, open flaps to outside and, uh hum, fresh air. We were pretty chilly at night.

Matt and his Mom sing a lovely gospel song together.

By noon things are back to normal and everyone makes for the various venues to catch final performances.

We catch the Capo Connection at the beautiful St. John's Anglican Church with Suzie Vinnick, Matt Andersen, Rick Fines and Kat Danser:

Then I zip back to the wharf for more of Connie Kaldor in the whipping wind ...

... and race back to the church for the Bountiful Bluegrass session featuring ... Jay!

Here's a sneak peek, but I'm posting other pics in a separate post. Check it out: all eyes on Jay.

Stay tuned!


More Folk Fest, Folks

August 7, 2010 Lunenburg, NS

We crammed the day with music, from 10am 'til after 4am at the After Hours Party.

Saturday's Mainstage Evening Concert lineup:

Gordon Stobbe & Greg Simm - an always comedic hosting musical duo accompanied by rubber chickens and witticisms.

The Graham Wells Group from Newfoundland.

Kat Danser, Queen of the Swamp Blues. She's Edmonton-based but just back from ethnomusicology research in Ghana. Her soulful voice can fill a room, and we love her bawdy humour too.

Ken Whiteley and band:

James Keelaghan - multi-award winning (including a Juno) Canadian singer-songwriter.

Connie Kaldor - a three time Juno award winning singer-songwriter with a fantastic sense of humour and storytelling talents.

The After Hours Party (please excuse the photo quality; I'm not the photographer in the family):

Hint: Jay's in the ball cap below Ben Whiteley on upright bass.

Rick Fines far left. One of my favourites. He has a truly unique voice (much like Louis Armstrong's), loves slide guitar, and recorded his Solar Power CD in his off-the-grid cabin in the woods.

Jay played with the man himself, Ken Whiteley. Also pictured below: Ben Whiteley on bass, Mike Goodfellow on harmonica (behind Jay), Abbie from Red Molly (right of Jay) on dobro, and some I can't make out:

Jay's dad squeezed in for a view.

A brief break. David looking a little ... scary.

Jay played every instrument on his CD. Here he beats a drum next to David (in dreadlocks and bare feet and shirtless on a cold night) from House of Doc. Also, two or more musicians from Jay's favourite at the festival, The Green Mountain Hobos. Jay jammed with the Hobos late into the night on Friday (Saturday morning technically) and they became fast fans of Jay's musical abilities. More on that later.

The five of us arrived back at our respective busses at 4:18am so you know we had a grrreat time!


P.S. - A celtic jam session takes place in another room, strategically located by the beer tap and food, and sometimes a third group moves the music outside.

Folk Harbour Fest: Friday

August 6, 2010 Lunenburg, NS

Decision making. Who to see?

We started with a "Preserving Foklore" workshop, another worthwhile edutainment event.

Next decision: easy. Cape Breton-based Carmel Mikol, whom we met at 30A Songwriters Festival in Seaside, Florida, and larger than life Matt Andersen, a festival favourite, at the Opera House.

The wharf is one of my favourite music venues, especially on a beautiful weather day.

First up: soulful, bluesy, Canadian roots music legend Ken Whiteley and band, including Ken's son Ben on upright bass.

Matt Anderson again. We just follow him around sometimes.

A sailboat settled in at the wharf during a song. Hard to beat the flow of music and sail together on a gorgeous day in Lunenburg.

Evening concerts take place on the Main Stage in the big white tent just a few paces from the campground. Friday's lineup: A Celebration of Traditional Music with folklorist-singer-songwriter Clary Droft and Jeff Davis et al, Red Molly's bluegrass and gospel harmonies, Shane Philip and his one-man band didgeridoos and drums, the return of the very funny and super-talented Mennonite family of folkies House of Doc, and also very funny David Francey. Folk Harbour is often blessed with a heavy dose of humour which keeps us laughing, even moreso on the night's CBC broadcaster Shelagh Rogers hosts the main stage, even when she's so hot she's "growing mushrooms in (her) shorts".

The most exciting event of the day happened after hours at the After Hours Party. A special, dear friend (Thank you again, D! xox) gifted us with two passes to the musician's and volunteer's party on the waterfront. Lloyd and I attended before and can tell you it's a blast. Not only can you expect phenomenal non-stop jam sessions, but free beer, great eats and fast friends too.

Friday, though, was Jay's opportunity to get in on the action. We assure you he made an admirable impression on other musicians and various festival coordinators and volunteers. Luckily, Jay (a.k.a. had a few copies of his CD on hand to share. Check Jay out (recorded in the Faires's Prevost):


That was the first of three After Hours Parties. Photos to come!


Pre-Fest Events

August 5, 2010 Lunenburg, NS

(Dupe photos)

Not to be missed: the Lunenburg Farmers Market every Thursday.

Front and centre: my lobster béchamel crêpe (WOW!) and Laughing Whale coffee. Jay and Lloyd munched blueberry-stuffed waffles:

Moving on to the cookies:

An abundance of local and organic produce to choose from:

Art too. We left with a long cherry wood tray built by our friend Jamie. It sits on our table, for my stray papers and such, and I love it. Beauty and function.

Not pictured: This year, the 25th year of Folk Harbour Festival, included a Traditional Music Conference in addition to the usual schedule of workshops and performances. A panel of musicians discussed local music history, song writing and research involved with preserving traditional music and demonstrated a variety of music like Mi'kmaq drumming, maritime sea shanties, gaelic songs and reels, sea-inspired storytellers, etc. A bagpiper and his stepdancing daughter closed out the day. Did you know you don't blow into all bagpipes? Instead of inflating the bag with breath, a player inflates uilleann pipes via a bellow pumped under the right arm. A fun and informative event that may become a permanent event in the festival lineup.

Joined by Jim and Nancy and Doug just in time for a little jam before the evening concerts:

Spoiled by fresh local scallops and dear friends:

Thursday's concert lineup: Bill Plaskett & Friends, Acadian musicians Gadelle, local banjo-songwriter fave Old Man Luedecke (looking younger than last we saw him), The Grass Mountain Hobos (Jay's favourite) from PEI, the amazing harmonies of The Good Lovelies, and The Barra MacNeils from Cape Breton.


Preparing for Folk Harbour Festival

After a few days of getting things done locally, like vehicle inspections, doctor's visits, and moving a few more books into storage, we settle it to get prepared for the first day of the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival. First thing was to hit the Farmers market early to get fresh crapes to sustain us through out the day. We then stocked up on last minute food items.

Too many choices at the recycling area.

Then Jim and Nancy Smith arrived from Halifax and the music stated again.

Finally before heading to the big tent for the evening entertainment we had a great meal of fresh scollops (Debbie stood in line at the fish store with the local earlier in the morning) and pasta with salad.

We are suffering through as best we can. -L

Happy Birthday Pamela

Monday, August 2, 2010 - Lunenburg, NS

We celebrated Pamela's birthday with an all day party at the buses. We invited all our friends to come for noon to whenever and they did. John Carroll from Kingsburg was the first to arrive at the decorated buses.

Music was needed and Nik came and played with Jay and Eric.

Friends came and went throughout the day and into the evening.

WE enjoyed good music, good conversations, drinks, snacks, and cake. Debbie and Pamela gave tours of the buses and the party ended just before midnight. Happy Birthday Pamela. -L

Anna Ludlow at the Bandstand

Sunday, August 1, 2010 - Lunenburg, NS

After our busy day on Saturday, we relaxed and walked to the bandstand to sit in the grass and listen to Anna Ludlow play Celtic Fiddle. Afterward we rewarded ourselves with an ice cream cone and strolled back to the campground. -L


July 29, 2010 Lunenburg, NS

Glimpses, presented by AllsWell Productions, is back for a third season at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. Glimpses offers a great introduction to Lunenburg, or a refresher, on the local history and characters in a script, song and slides format. It's one of the better edutainment performances we've seen, and one of the funniest. Good times!

"All the songs are original from the pens of Hank Middleton, Vince Morash, Sherry Dean, Dave Brumwell, and (our friend) Jon Allen. Admission has been by donation with a portion of the proceeds going to local historical societies."

Jay didn't waste any time finding a jam session. Hank Middleton, the feature musician for the night's performance, jams with Jay while some of the cast grooves along in the background after the show.


Arrival in Lunenburg

Arrived in Lunenburg and Cheryl Corkum from the Visitor's Center was helpful in getting us sites together (13 & 14) in the corner overlooking the back harbour. We went to Salt Shaker for lunch and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine over looking the harbour.

After touring around town, we drove out to Blue Rocks to enjoy the sun setting over the fish shacks.

Later we dropped by the Ice House to listen to Paul, Eilidh, and Anne play Celtic music on guitar and fiddles. Jay had to eat slow since he was only allowed to stay as long as he was eating, because he was underage.

We look forward to seeing Paul and Eilidh playing again next week as a part of the Folk Harbour Music Festival. -L

Winter's Tale and Gibson Custom Les Paul

Saturday, June 26, 2010 - Stratford, ON

Last day in Stratford. We saw Winter's Tale earlier in the week to finish out our theatre time in Stratford. Today we enjoyed Stratford Blues Festival. They raffled a Gibson Les Paul Black Beauty and though we bought a large number of tickets we unfortunately did not win, but still had a great day of music.

Eric Clapton and Guitar Center

Friday - 2 April 2010 - Miami, FL - 30,801 miles We listened to Eric Clapton's autobiography from on our last few drives. It includes a behind-the-scenes history of music world of the past several decades. Clapton's life is a series of peaks and valleys. Recommended.

We spent several hours today playing Taylor, Martin, and Gibson acoustic guitars at the local Guitar Center. Earlier we compared Gibson Les Paul Custom, Paul Reed Smith, and Taylor T5 electric guitars. Each was a beautiful work of art with unique tone. I liked the Gibson Les Paul Custom electric and the Taylor 814 acoustic.

[caption id="attachment_4378" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Les Paul Custom"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4380" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Taylor 814ce"][/caption]

Both are wonderful guitars. -L

Braille Blues Daddy

Sat, March 13, 2010 - Key West, FL Bryan Lee, a blind blues player from New Orleans called the "Braille Blues Daddy" played his 95 Gibson Les Paul Special and rocked the house at the Green Parrot Bar with his band . We stayed through two sets from 10 pm to 1 am. Brent Johnson played two custom-made Telecasters and slide on a Gibson SG. We danced and watched them play through a history of blues.

He has played the last fourteen years as a regular at the Old Absinthe Bar in the French Quarter, New Orleans, LA. -L

Fave Key West Haunts

Hog's Breath Saloon where the bartenders where thick rubber gloves and shuck oysters behind the bar, rather "The Pig Pen". Oysters and live music ...

... are mainstays at Hog's Breath. Above: The Massacoustics, the lead cut out his telecaster guitar to accommodate his mandolin. So, you can eat, drink, listen, dance and ...

make a pig of yourself too.

HogFish Bar & Grille is a five minute walk from Boyd's Key West Campground, by the waterside on Stock Island. It's famous for its hogfish dishes and live music lineup. I especially liked the baja style fish tacos and we always like the yeungling (amber) ale.

Raven is a local favourite, a solo female guitarist with a smoky voice. She comes by it honestly-- smokes a lot. She can even pass off Johnny Cash's voice. She did both his part and June Carter's part in "Jackson"--a duet with herself. It was oddly impressive. We won't forget it.

Toko Irie, originally from Grenada, played the kettle drums and reggae and never stopped dancing during the entire set.

Schooner Wharf. Don't go for the food, go for the drinks and music. Michael mans the stage most days, along with his dog (sleeping in the guitar case behind him).

No live music, but awesome coffee and free wifi at Cuban Coffee Queen.

Conch Republic is another waterfront bar and restaurant, but it's right downtown. The 80-foot bar features old rum kegs (they serve over 80 kinds!) and a 1200 pound antique copper still.

There really is a Conch Republic. "The Conch Republic was born on April 23rd of 1982 in response to a United States Border blockade of the Florida Keys. Since the United States Government insisted on treating the Keys like a foreign country; Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow seceded from the Union, declared war, surrendered, and demanded foreign aid. During the intervening years the U.S. never reacted to the secession, thereby establishing sovereignty for the Conch Republic under InteRnational Law Governing 'adverse possession between sovereign nations'.

The Conch Republic has it's own passports, and has had citizens and Diplomats received by thirteen Caribbean countries, Mexico, Sweden, Russia, France, Spain, Ireland and Germany. The Conch Republic has Conch-sulates in Switzerland, Havana, Maine and New Orleans.

The Conch Republic has as its stated Foreign Policy, 'The Mitigation of World Tension through the Exercise of Humor'."

Green Parrot Bar wins a few mentions throughout our Key West posts. We could count on first-rate musicians every time. Plus, they have free popcorn and they have Kevin, a wild yet impressive dancer in a red and yellow felt hat who attracts his own audience.

We really enjoyed J.C.'s Lonesome Soul Revue "sound check" at Green Parrot, loved that "old fashioned r&b rock'n'roll".

You can check out the music yourself. The Green Parrot has a live webcam.

A poor wee picture, but not to be missed is The Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant on Southard.

One of my favourite dishes is the falafel with feta and labanese salad in a pita served with sweet potato fries and lime curry dip followed by sage tea, or you could have the thai curry, or kung pao, or Lloyd's absolute favourite, the super rich Vegetable Stuffed Portobello Mushroom with goat cheese cream sauce. Everything comes in huge and de-lec-ta-ble! Soooooo good!