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Archive for the ‘Lucy Maud Montgomery’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON (December 11 1996).

This is the final show on Rheostatics Live in which the band is opening for The Tragically Hip.

For this show, the intro music is also from The Wizard of Oz, but this time it’s Judy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  It’s just one verse before fading out and then guitars fading in for Martin to play “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”

Turns out that this setlist is similar to the one from Buffalo with a lot of new songs.  Although there are a few older/more popular songs in places.

The new songs include “Fat” which sounds great of course.  I gather they are maybe sharing a microphone because at the end Dave says “See you in the next song, Martin.”  “Okay, Dave.”  This leads into a perfect version of “All the Same Eyes.”

Martin says “We are the Rheostatics.”  Dave says “We are the Rheostatics, not to be confused with The Howell Brothers (?).  They couldn’t make it but we got their jackets.  It’s nice of you to come out early.  We’re playing selections from our new record. Get it before it’s reduced to clear.”  (You can hear someone laugh on tape).

This is a segue into the single “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  It’s followed by another Tim song, “Claire” with the acoustic guitar opening in place.  There’s another lengthy guitar solo, although it’s not quiet as exciting as some of the other ones.  But Martin was saving up for a spirited version of “California Dreamline.”

They end their set with a rough rocking “Feed Yourself.”  During the spoken part, they slow things down to just a bass and washes of guitar.  It’s a pretty intense ending and a good preparation for The Tragically Hip.

[READ: June 25, 2017] The Story of Canada in 150 Objects

In celebration of Canada’s 150th year, Canadian Geographic and The Walrus created this special issue–a fun way to describe many elements of Canadian culture through “objects.”

The objects are grouped in vague categories.  Some have just a few words written about them while others get a few pages.  Some are humorous, some are more serious.  Most are happy or amusing, some not so much.  And all of it together paints a diverse and complex portrait of the country–as well as teaching this person from South of the border a number of things I did not know.

It’s with comic pride and humility that the first object is politeness (which is not an object at all, of course).  The amusing thing about this article about “politeness” is that while the author of it is very pleased to be so polite, he also can’t wait for his fellow Canucks to forget to be polite so he can rub it in with a extra smarmy “You’re Welcome.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOW-Tiny Desk Concert #129 (May 22, 2011).

In March, I reviewed (and loved) Low’s new single, “Try to Sleep.”  That song and two others are presented here in this Tiny Desk concert.

The band for this gig is just Alan Sparhawk on guitar and vocals and his wife Mimi Parker on backing vocals (and thigh slaps).  It’s a very stripped down sound, but it really suits these songs (I don’t know the originals of the other two–“Nightingale” and “Something’s Turning Over”) which all come from their new album C’mon.

Their harmonies are wonderful (they are quite striking on “Something’s Turning Over” where I thought she was playing a keyboard, but it is her voice!) and the melodies are pretty terrific too.   As I said last time, I’ve never really listened to Low very much (I’ve been sort of turned off at the idea of their being spare and depressing).  Strangely, this session which is just the two of them is the opposite of spare.  I don’t know if this is a good introduction to the band, but it’s a wonderful introduction to this album.   And it’s a surprisingly catchy collection of songs from a bunch of ol’ mopesters.

Although, perhaps the biggest surprise comes at the end of the show when, before leaving, Sparhawk starts playing “Sweet Home Alabama” and Parker even gets the “turn it up” part right.

I wasn’t expecting to listen to this more than once or twice, but I’m really entranced by this session.

[READ: May 10, 2011] Emily of New Moon

Sarah loves the Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon book series.  She still has the books from when she was a kid (the copy I read has her signature and phone number (several area code changes ago) written on the inside front cover).  After reading the L.M. Montgomery biography, I figured it was time to look into these books. I was going to start with Anne, but we watched the movie not too long ago so I decided that I’d start fresh with an unknown subject.

Emily is a 12-year-old girl whose mother has died and whose father is deathly ill.  Indeed, within a chapter or two, Emily finds herself an orphan.  I don’t know a thing about 100 year old adoption laws in Canada, but the upshot is that someone from Emily’ mother’s family, the Murrays, will take care of her until she is old enough to do so on her own.  However Emily’s mother ran off with a boy when she was very young (which was a disgrace to the family name), and Emily herself is a willful and strong child.  Frankly, no one wants her.  So, with Emily eavesdropping, the Murray clan discusses her future and decides to make her draw straws for her fate. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SARAH HARMER-Oh Little Fire (2010).

I found Sarah Harmer when she had a left field hit (“Basement Apt”) in the states.  I went back and discovered her band Weeping Tile (who are quite good and recorded a version of the song on their EP Eepee) and have been following her continued solo career.

Since that first record, she released a killer second disc, followed by a re-release of an intimate 1999 record she made for her dad which let her revel in her country roots.  She followed this up with I’m a Mountain, a very country, but very catchy album.  Finally, four years later, she put out Oh Little Fire.

Although she hasn’t lost her country roots, this album returns to more of the rock sound that first attracted me to her.  It’s not hard or heavy by any stretch, but it’s moved beyond the country of I’m a Mountain.

Sarah and I listened to this album a lot at night when it first came out, and it slowly seeped into my system.  I had kind of forgotten about it for a while, and upon rediscovering it I was delighted to hear that the melodies were fresh and still with me.  The album seems like a simple indie folk or the work of an adult alternative singer songwriter, but the thing with Harmer is that she has that wonderful background with Weeping Tile, a band that was always slightly off-center.  So, she writes beautiful melodies but puts little grace notes into them to keep them from being disposable.  And yet they are still super catchy.

The only hard thing about this disc is wondering which song will be stuck in your head after listening to it.

[READ: January 7, 2011] L. M. Montgomery

I’ve never read any L. M. Montgomery (although I’ve seen the miniseries of Anne of Green Gables) and I’ve never read any Jane Urquhart (but I love her name!).

This biography is so radically different from the other three I’ve read so far.  I wondered immediately if it was because Montgomery (and Urquhart) are women.  It deals with subjects that the other books didn’t at all: lost loves, mental incapacitation, family crises.  But it becomes clear through the book that these issues were THE issues that a woman at Montgomery’s time would have dealt with.  Unlike the men in the other books, Montgomery did not have a professional life (outside of being an author, which she did at home).  She was hardly a public figure, and since she was a woman, she was always in danger of losing what she had.

This biography is also vastly different from the others in the way it is constructed.  You can tell by some of the chapter headings: Her Death (the first chapter), Orphan, Sorrow, Madness.  You can also tell by these chapter titles that Montgomery did not have a happy life.

Indeed, between a husband who believed he was destined for Hell (he was a preacher!) and children whose life choices she disapproved of, not to mention terrible insomnia coupled with nightmares, her late adult life was nothing but torment.  But, sadly for her, her early life was nothing but torment either.  Her mother died when she was two, she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle (which was never a happy place).  But the most depressing of all of these events is when she lost her dearest friend at a terribly young age, a death she never really recovered from.

So how is it possible that Montgomery wrote such charming stories?

The answer to that (and the basis for most of this biography) is in her diaries.  Montgomery kept meticulous diaries (which she wrote and rewrote and then rewrote with posterity in mind).  She wrote about her childhood and her life as (sort of) an orphan.  She wrote about the places where she lived and the beautiful outdoors which impressed her.  She wrote about the sadness and the happiness.  Nothing was lost on her, and she saved it all (she also took photos of everything she loved, which are a beautiful and sometimes contradictory records of her diaries), and there are many published volumes that we can read to learn even more about her.

To me, the most fascinating (and horrible) part of the story was when she finally had Anne of Green Gables published.  The publishers took complete advantage of her.  They forced her to write sequels that she didn’t want to (although they are still quite good) and even compiled a final book from castoffs of the previous books (Return to Avonlea) that they published in her name.  Eventually the case was settled in her favor, phew, and she was able to write new characters that inspired her.

Montgomery had a rough life, and as her diaries come to an end, she stopped writing about things.   It’s hard to know exactly what she went through towards the end, but it doesn’t seem very positive.  And yet for all of her disappointments in life, she left us with some engaging and memorable stories.

The last chapter is a fascinating personal account of how Montgomery’s stories impacted Urquhart’s family.  It was incredibly touching and convinced me that Urquhart’s fiction would be enjoyable too.  Some day, some day.

This was a really enjoyable (but major downer) biography.  And, more than anything it has really inspired me to read Montgomery’s stories (and even one or two or Urquhart’s).

And, here’s a shameless plug to the folks at Penguin Canada–I will absolutely post about all of the books in this series if you want to send me the rest of them.  I don’t know how much attention these titles will get outside of Canada, but I am quite interested in a number of the subjects, and will happily read all of the books if you want to send them to me.  Just contact me here!

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