In addition to cafés and bars, Royal Canadian Legion branches are common places to find people gathering for music (read about the weekly bluegrass jam at the Galt Legion) and this week I dropped in on a monthly jam at the Drayton Legion.
Hosted by Art for the past 5 or 6 years, this jam is structured like an open mic, with a sign-up list and each performer getting two songs. If the song you are playing is relatively easy to follow you will also have the pleasure of some back-up musicians: bass, guitar, mandolin and maybe even a banjo. While there is no hard rule about the type of music to be played the genre here definitely leans towards country.
There is a PA system set up for the singer and the musicians are generous in lending you a cord to plug in an instrument. But if you don’t want to make one person unplug to allow you to play you might want to bring along your own small amp and patch cord.
Although this jam only happens once a month, nearby branches have some other weekends covered. The Fergus Legion hosts a jam on the first Sunday of the month from 1-5 pm ($15 cover/$5 for musicians includes a roast beef dinner); Harriston hosts the third Sunday (also with dinner) and Guelph on the fourth Saturday (2-5).
The folks are very friendly and welcoming. There is no cover but refreshments are available by donation which helps cover the cost of the event.
[Royal Canadian Legion, 15 Elm Street, Drayton; third Saturday 2-5 pm; no cover, refreshments by donation]
Write a country song for a young man – no mention of wife, kids, or “bro country”- yet another character stretch for my writing mind. I tried to stay away from the moonlight-trucks-drinking-sugar shaker themes but I do have one reference to a country road. The hero of my song knows he’s more than the brand he drives or drinks. I’d kind of like to meet him…
This week the pressure of the songwriting challenge got to me. How can I possibly create a new song, in a genre new to me, polish it enough so that it is performance ready and somehow record a decent version fit for public consumption in one week? My answer for this week: apparently I can’t. I got the song written by Saturday night, practised and recorded a rough version on Sunday. But a rough version is all I can do this time around. A full workday coupled with technology stumbling blocks means there is no time left to improve on it. So – I offer it for feedback from my fellow songwriters, shelve it for later consideration, take a deep breath and get ready for Monday’s new challenge.
While my musical home is folk I enjoy a lot of different kinds of music. But as broadly as one can interpret the term “folk” and as varied as my musical tastes are, one genre I don’t spend a lot of time exploring to is country music. This week I ventured outside my usual tendencies to visit an old-fashioned country & western venue.
The “Open Stage with Paul and Sue” is held every Thursday at the Commercial Tavern in Maryhill, a little hamlet tucked between Waterloo and Guelph. Our host, Paul Weber was multi-tasking all night. When we arrived he was performing on his own, entertaining the predominantly over-60 crowd with country songs and saucy jokes, all the while greeting people by name as they entered or left the tavern, all without missing a strum.
There was no sign up sheet or instructions for performers – not really necessary when the host knows every person and talent in the room. So I wondered how or whether we (as newcomers) would figure into the open stage at all. To my surprise, at one point in the evening Paul spoke into the mic, saying “Pete, you’re up after this.” Apparently, one of the many friendly people we had spoken with had relayed the information to the host. My fellow open mic adventurer, who had come prepared with guitar and cowboy hat, fit right in.
Paul provided whatever back-up was necessary for the performers as they came up to the stage, switching from guitar to bass to vocal harmonies. We heard some great songs and the best yodelling I have ever heard! As the music played couples waltzed and two-stepped around the dance floor, clapping at the beginning of a song as well as at the end.
In its 16th year of business, The Commerical Tavern has an interesting history and mission to provide authentic country music entertainment: http://www.commercialtavern.ca/
[Open Stage with Paul & Sue, The Commercial Tavern, corner of St. Charles St & Maryhill Rd, every Thursday night, no cover]