I suggest you watch this video first. It’s my postcard to Canada and ALL OF YOU! THANK YOU!
I sincerely wish you all a HAPPY HOLIDAYS. For the million people I simply didn’t mention in this letter – please forgive me – it was all stream of conscious writing and I couldn’t deal with revising it over and over. It would never end. You’re in there – even if you’re not in there.
Watch it then come back read on…
“The Beaufort Sea (French: mer de Beaufort) is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean, located north of the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Alaska, west of Canada’s Arctic islands. The sea is named after hydrographer Sir Francis Beaufort. The major Mackenzie River empties into the Canadian part of the sea, west of Tuktoyaktuk, which is one of the few permanent settlements on the sea shores.
The sea, characterized by severe climate, is frozen over most of the year. Historically, only a narrow pass up to 100 km (62 mi) opened in August–September near its shores, but recently due to climate change in the Arctic the ice-free area in late summer has greatly enlarged.” Wikipedia
So what do the Beaufort Sea and this kid – Sebastian have to do with anything? Well, on my tour last year a lot of people tracked me down to perform house concerts and quite often, I’d oblige once we figure out our route and schedules etc… “Set it up like a theatre, tell everyone it’s a concert – not a party – try to get 60 people at $20 each and we’ll do it during the week!” (Kind of response). They represented about 20% of my touring shows last year (during weekdays) and they’re all artistically rewarding. A big part of the scene was that there were always kids at the concerts. Whether it be the hosts children or just people who wanted to expose their kids to this antiquated art form known as ‘trad music?” lol
So I decided I’d better have some Dollarama gifts in my trunk for the kids I was meeting and singing “Apple Pickin” to.
There I was, in Beausejour Manitoba, fresh off touring with Burton Cummings old pal, Donnie Zueff. Donnie, god bless him is a saint. Not only a premiere fiddle player but a guy that’ll pick you up the train station (after waiting four hours) then drive you to his home where his wife has prepared an amazing home cooked meal. That’s Donne. He lives in Beausejour (about 40 minutes north of Manitoba) with his family. I had a free day to wander the streets of this small town and hit their local Dollar Tree. (Which is misleading because most of the imported plastic junk was $1.25 or more). It took no more than two minutes for me to get that plastic resin headache that’s become all too familiar when shopping at these junk stores. “Excuse me miss, do you sell gas masks for a buck? No? Oh ok…I’ll try the lemon fresh spray in aisle 143!” As I wandered lonely as a cloud – through the card section I came across the toy isle. That’s when I saw it. A small cartoon-like puzzle of Canada with pictures of Cowgirls and Mounties and Whales. I knew within a split second that this would be the only gift I’d give to kids across Canada. The one that would have them looking at the places I’ve been to. Sharing with them the amazing greatness that is our country. It really IS that great – and yes – I’ve been around this globe.
So I loaded up on the same puzzle. I think they only had about twenty in stock but that would be perfect.
I came back to Donnie’s place and showed him my amazing score while we rehearsed my song Tune Out, Turn Off, Drop By on banjo.
Just before I crashed out that night I had a eureka moment. I’d make a game out of the puzzle for all the kids in Canada to play. I’d number the back of every single puzzle piece in order. Every kid got a puzzle with numbers on the back. I would take two puzzles and write the identical number on the backs of the same piece – while the others were random. I would not know who had the corresponding puzzle. As the tour wound down, I informed the parents that I was going to draw my puzzle piece. I pulled out from my hat, The Beaufort Sea – #19. The kid in the pic – Sebastion (they call him Seba) WON. What did he win? Well, I guess he’s been made the distinct guest of honour of this major annual Christmas card. (oh and he already has a Dollar Tree puzzle of Canada from Beausejour Manitoba. Not a bad haul Seba!
You see, that’s the kind of life it turns into when you’re playing this much. A million and one stories all crammed into a week. Too many fall by the wayside (into the potholes on memory lane – as Randy Newman so eloquently puts it). Seba’s parents have been hosting my dog and pony show in their home for four years now. Every single year it’s an honour, a laugh, a swim, a feast – all of that. And to think I met Seba’s mother in another lifetime while at Carleton University. She was a gem then and is only getting more polished and precious over the years. Her husband Steve just happens to be a volleyball coach for the Kelowna Heat (and a national champ!). He’s likely one of the best volleyball coaches in the country! Imagine that…a coaster makes good. Anyway, Sebastian buddy, I hope you have a great Christmas, and I just wanted to take this time to thank everyone across the country with this little video tribute to Canada.
We recorded my song Overtime in my brother-in-laws amazing basement bar (how Canadian is the basement bar?) and this goes out to everyone who’s helped keep that Voyageur trail tended. The organizers of the shows, the roots radio folks, the musicians, the AD’s, the reviewers, the volunteers, the cooks, sound crew, the friends we made. By the time I’d hit Calgary, I’d had reunited with my Toronto-based fiddle player Sahra Featherstone. She flew out to tour with me for three weeks and was then going to meet her boyfriend Dale Sood (amazing videographer Arts and Rec) to rock clime Big Chief in Squamish, BC, She would play the harp and violin with me for the rest of the tour which brought us all the way to Cortes Island. And when I thought I couldn’t possibly laugh any harder than I had with Zueff, Sahra came along and had my stomach muscles in need of therapy after the first 48 hours. Another story for another day. The day we left Cortes I started this song based on a couple we’d met who just moved there to reinvent themselves:
“Oh my love, all we need
is a little bit of dirt and a single seed
Natural light, H2O we’ll plant our love and watch it grow – oh –oh……..
There’s evidence of life here”
but again…I digress.
So to compliment this video here is my long (stamp saving) Christmas card to all of you amazing souls out there who’ve supported my live music over these past years and I want you to know that there’s never possibly enough gratitude in the world to show you for this. Let’s just say, you keep the tending the trail, and we’ll keep walking it – portaging it with our canoe full of songs.
So in no particular order:
Mom and Dad in the Soo. 88 and 93. Still going strong. I’ll be home for Boxing Day. The first year I’ve ever missed Christmas Day. The countdown begins. I love you more than life itself.
My brother Bob, Nicolene, Steve and Sarah (Liv), Matt, Phil, I want you to know I found Chuck Norris’s MIA 3 and we’ll be having a marathon in 2015. Count on it. Thank you for the critical insights on my work Bob. That’s all a brother could ever ask for. Honesty. You’re the best in the business.
Jeanne and Tom, Steph, Kato, Ali , Mary and Tom, Beck , Kel and Jack (charity starts at home and wow aint’ that the truth – my home away from home off the road and so close there’s nothing I can really say here), My brother Dave (only Dave and I know this – but we are the unheralded Canadian comic duo. No one can make the other person laugh harder! Period. McLean and Mclean? Maybe! Close. Bowser and Blue? Lightweight. Cheech and Chong? Beyond our reach. The Smothers Brothers? Mom always liked you best man.) Tom and Sharon, Jamie, Brendan, Mark and John (strength and wisdom and pure kindness and a lot of fried chicken – that is the answer. And Tom, you’re Colonel Parker and Saunders rolled into one. The best motivator, critic and coach a songwriter could have. I wish every songwriter had you in their corner man!) , Bill Aymar (work hard, party hard, a great Toronto host to out of towners, a great friend and best chef I know – your herbs are mind blowing), Phil Aymar (we’re one in the same – except you’re just better– my conscience, my confidant and proof that being humble is a virtue), all of my cousins (Theriaultville) who are the biggest best family I know. To Tom and Mary-Lou the wedding of Mary-Anne and the Professor and my first myspace friend. To my cousin Jeff – for the brightness you brought to the world. To Lynne and Kip for the spare room and Jeff and Hannah for the late night hangs…to Lorrie and Joe and Matt and Steve for the concerts and laughs. To Mike – thanks for cleaning my teeth after losing my dentist…Oh shit… to Leo’s Auto on Doncaster in Thorhill (Leo is the best, most honest mechanic in the universe – he doesn’t’ need your business but go there anyway!) To Dr. Sam Leitenberg you are going to be missed! You were more than a doctor. You were a friend. (Anyone know of a good doctor in the GTA out there?) I can’t begin to go down this rabbit hole – we’d be here until New Year’s Eve. lol
To my original buddies and all of the crew of Monterey Gardens. The long lasting friendship that’s about a tight and good as any guys have ever had it. It’s unbreakable. To Mel, Andy, Ters, Humphry, Greengras, Burnsy, Deli 1 and 2, Saints..the memory of our buddy Bo and the Bolan family….oh hell the list goes on and on. See you in a few weeks.
Here’s a few of us “Catching Rainbows in the Falls” before the Batchewana sauna.
My musical acquaintances in Toronto over the years. Those I’ve played with and toured with and as a friend once said “They’re all the most creative, honest and talented people you’ll ever meet.” That’s true!
Some know this story – some don’t. I was contacted by Ian Tyson six years ago. He wanted to record my song. Great honour indeed. I was selling wine and grossly unhappy. I was a ‘lazy bastard living in a suit” to quote Cohen. I left the girl. The apartment. My belongings.
The first call I received after meeting Tyson was from SOCAN. “Jay, Richard Flohil wants to know if he can contact you?” “Who’s that?” I said.
“You’re in the Toronto music scene and you don’t know who Richard Flohil is?”
“Well I said, I’m not IN the Toronto music scene. I’ve been out of music for fifteen years. I’m quitting real life and getting back into the music scene!”
“Well, can we give Richard your number and have him call you?”
“Of course” I responded with great anticipation.
One day later a superb British accent snuck through my phone “Hello, is this Jay Aymar?”
“Yes…this must be Richard!”
“Yes mate. Listen, I’ve just heard a song you’ve written about Don Cherry covered by Ian Tyson. I’m just wondering – WHO ARE YOU?”
Flash forward six years later and FLO (as we all referred to him) has graciously introduced me to many of the great souls inhabiting this list. There’s not enough hours in a day to cover his story, but if you’re at all interested, just head out to any roots music haunt on any given night in TO and look for the guy with a bevy of beauties flanking him. He’ll be wearing a long white scarf and sometimes closing his eyes to get a cat-nap mid rock n roll show. Don’t take offense. It’s just how he rolls.
So who are you? Well, you range from all of the musicians who’ve played in my CD’s over the years to the engineers and creative designers. Like my first and most loyal engineer Chris Hess. He worked for so many years without asking for a dime. I don’t even know how one could start to thank someone for that. He’s the biggest Kris Kringle of them all folks.
David Baxter for consistently offering up warm, rootsy gems for this world to hear. (He’s a helluva writer and performer in his own right – and you should RUN to the Cameron House in Toronto if you ever have the chance to catch him.) He plays often with another songwriter named Corin Raymond who is also a cool talent on the scene. Oh and the Cameron House gang of constants – like Peter Barnard. Thanks for always promoting my blogs. Thanks to Heather Hase, Dave Reigate and his dad and the Antonacci’s for coming to so many shows this year too.
There’s no way to thank the insanely talented girls on the scene that I’ve been privileged to meet. The easiest way to is have you look up the collective known as the Ladies in Waiting and you’ll see them all right there (Oh and if you live in Toronto or know of anyone in Toronto they should go to their Christmas show Thursday Dec. 18th at the Hugh’s Room.
Google these names and check them out. All of this outstanding creative energy will be in one room. Andrea Ramolo, Faye Blaise (sounds so nice you want to say it twice), Melanie Brulee, Sarah Burton, Cindy Doire (all the way in from the Maple Leaf Tavern!), Sahra Featherstone (my trusty sidekick from this year’s tour and an inspiring human being!), Kristin Sweetland (check out her photography), Tricia Foster (check out her pipes) , Anique Granger, Treasa Levasseur (find her song “Let Me Sleep on It”), Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar (opening for the Blind Boys of Alabama at Massey – yes that’s happening) , Sophia Perlman, PerlHaze, Karyn Ellis (amazingly, off-beat funky folk songs and one who’s gonna help me organize the annual Roots Music Bowlerama for charity) and Marina Marina. Oh and Jen Squires (photographer) for these pics and my last album cover. You’re incredible. And Chung Wong – for being the biggest music fan this scene has ever met (minus Flohil).
While we’re speaking of female artists this year: To Roxanne Potvin for being a brave, beautiful artist (and gracing my Hugh’s Room show with her presence and amazing band!) Alejandra Ribera for knocking me out with La Boca (wow), Shakura S’Aida for bidding on my sorry ass at a charity auction a few years ago and to our pending coffee date at Targette (and for your earth shattering performances), to Jadea Kelly for answering the call to lend your vocals to my old timey duets and for creating Clover. To Allen Wells who’s brilliantly executed your vision. To Laura, Bonita, Patricia, Joe and Paula, Dave and Kerry for keeping the eastern Ontario fires burning, to John and Lia and Jennifer – may we party soon and have a Cuban feast! And to the great Cullen crew who’ve thrown us some amazing concerts and keeping the London fires burning bright. And of course Frank Loreto for his amazing site “Ears to the Ground” and his great house concert hosting skills!
To David Farrell, Kerry Doole, Bob Mersereau, Eric Thom, Mike Regenstrief (to name a very small few) for writing about it all. And to Gail Comfort, Steve Fruitman, Julie Miller, Jan Vanderhorst, Allison Brock, Tom Power, Jim Marino, Brenda Tacik, Fish Grikowski, Peter North, Gerry Goodfriend (I wish I was born with that handle) Andy Frank, Jeff Robson, Jan Hall, Daryl Sterdan, Jeanna Khan, Marc Campbell, Eden Monro, Roddy Campbell of Penguin Eggs (top notch magazine!), Barry Hammond, Shelagh Rogers, Danny Gaisin, Brian Kelly,Tom Murray, Heath McCoy, Stuart McLean, Jerome Clarke (Rambles Magazine – You want to read in depth reviews – check out Jerome Clarke – he goes deep!) Brian Johnson, Doug Swanson, John Apice of No Depression, Larry Leblanc, Tom Coxworth, and Steve Clark (rest his perfect soul) Oh hell….I’m leaving out a million more. It’s gonna get ugly by the omissions. That’s it. Well save, Twisty, Shelley Marshall, John Scoles and your door crasher specials, to Mitch, Tim, Ava, Selena for keeping Pete’s dream intact, JD Edwards (finally caught a full show in Brandon) and band, Sean Burns, Tim Hus, Dave Gunning, Tamara Kater (introducing me to super writers: Sam Baker, Jordie Lane, and Del Barber) To the Canada Gold suite in Kansas for introducing me to Stephanie Nilles. I want to say that again – thank you for introducing me to Stephanie Nilles. Singularly the very best performance that has resonated with me – maybe ever. To the heirs of her throne, Arianna Gillis, Jenie Thai, David Newberry, and Ann Vriend. To Jodie Peck for being a badass butcher, northern girl and stone cold rock and roll! To Peterbuilt Pete for settling down and having a baby (and loving Hogans Heroes). To Kaia Kater, Craig (just say Currie) Cairns, Emma Jane, Sarah Erickson and your awesome parents for pointing out Steak and Lube (an actual restaurant in bumble-fuck USA) , to Chip Taylor for imparting so much wisdom into my songwriter soul and a big thank you for singing FUCK ALL THE PERFECT PEOPLE to me at ten paces away, Newland and Frank (the comedy team behind RMC), The Folk Music Ontario crew perfect cultivation , to Alex Sinclair and the Borealis crew for so much of the fabric – Fiddlers Green, Grit Laskin, Paul Mills, Bill Garrett, every living soul connected to Stan Rogers, Linda Truro, Derek Andrews, Jennifer Drysdale (amazing artist) Joanne Crabtree, Laura Smith and Tannis Slimmon for bringing such pure beauty into this world, Nicole Colbeck, Jennifer Ellis, Scott Merrifield, The CFMA’s…oh gosh… and Gadke for teaching me about centre earth, Thor, metal and general merriment. To Steve and Sue Tenant for just about everything Folk and goodwill. To their awesome ‘sound-guy’ son! To Aengus Finnan and Dayna Manning (who I met through my part-time fiddler Laura – laugh-a minute-Bates) as people I barely know you given me hope that true love is always just around the corner – amazing really. To Fitzy and Scott for having a baby. To Greg Cockerill and Kurt Nielson for learning my stuff on the fly and nailing the Hugh’s show (go Blue Jays) , to Jane Harbury, Suzie Vinnick, Emily Mitchell, The Mills, The Tivoli and Auerbach Houses, to Taylor Mitchell for remaining my guardian angel (I know this to be true), to the guy who fixed my Camry and the eagle that followed me on the highway, to the deceased deer, to Rocky the native artist who made me the Buffalo tooth after hearing the song Crow. To my buddy Chief and the loss of his old man Simon this year. To all of the folks at the Happy Horsheshoe Campground, The family of Gordie (who passed away too young and taught me about truck driving, being High and Lonesome with Bill Munroe and just how big Bluegrass is in Japan), to the original boys from the Cashing in on Peace CD years – Kevin Quain, Tom Parker, Tony Benattar and your amazing Liberty Boots ( I still remember that one day recording session). The Folks at the Sandy Lake Hotel – Judy and the gang “Al MacDonald had a farm…ei ei o”) To finally hearing Kim Begg’s stuff and realizing how awesome she is. To Meg Lederrer for being a cool camper and booking me every year. To Shawna Caspi for writing great tunes and slaying them in Richard Landing; Sarah Jane Scouten for making me howl two weeks ago; Alanna Martineau for finally making the pilgrimage to TO (good on ya!) to Kev Corbett for always telling me the most interesting stories at every conference then slaying me with his sweet sounds, to Jon Brooks for doing the hard honest work, to Longevity John for inviting us to your festival and kind words and unique form of payment, to Diggin Roots – what a great show!, to Sue and Dwight constantly making me laugh every morning with your street level insights, Paul Corby and your excellent Orbital sounds. To Sheila in Thunder Bay (get well soon), to Hanna Hunzinger at Fables (we’re all missing Chuck and feeling for ya!) To my east coast relatives Marie, Neil, Gus and Rose, Ruth and Harold and all the kids…to James and George Aymar and the Acadian village of Saulnierville (the documentary they’re making of James!) to his son Marcel Aymar (my cousin) of the incredible band CANO – to the south shore and the Twins, and all my friends at the Sea Dog Saloon: Allen and Tim and the kitchen kaleigh crew that mind scarred me and Manitoba Hal who imparted sober wisdom to me one night, and to Dave and Dianne from Burlington who have become friends – not fans – and true believers. Merry Christmas to you too!
Wrycraft and Bronwin Parks for creating amazing designs for everyone, Fancy Pants Lance Lorree and The Alien Rebels, Carolyn Marks and NQ and your gang of misfits, for Jeni and Phil and all of the folks at the Theatre in the park and of South Country Fair – , Scott Cook (the reincarnation of Woody) and on and on and on.
If I read this list and realized I was not on it – I’d feel hurt, then pissed off then likely laugh because there’d be no way the dude could remember everyone! Forgive me – but thank me for trying. Oh and Ian Tyson and his daughter for hosting Sahra and I on his ranch and then mailing me money! I love ya man and NO I don’t ride fucking horses. Only once when I was drunk – and I fell off immediately.
Ina and Piet and Ye Old Jar Bar. Jay and Tracey – two great individual Medicine Hat artists who put me up for four days (you rock) for Clint and crew who continue to support me and teach me things about the Law I just never new, to CKUA, the CBC, PBS, Vinyl Café. Ewen and Jane MacKenxzie and kids (for housing 5000 albums, getting married, introducing me to scotch!) For Stew Crookes and Michael Timmins and Josh Finlayson for dissecting my songs and advising me on production. For Joe Ernewein for finding my songs and wanting to produce them. To my Cameron family residents of this past while – Vivienne Wilder who continues to amaze me with her prodigiousness and Kesley McNulty for your tasteful playing every time I see and hear you, to Justin for stealing my records (lol) and all of the Boxcar Boys, Ozere, Slocan Ramblers….oh man….I’m rambling again. I guess you’re the next generation. I explode with happiness when I hear your talent.
Michael Louderoute for holding that umbrella over my head during the downpour and offering me some shelter from the storm. To Todd Snider, John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker, Carol King, Dylan, Guthrie, Sachmo, Beethoven , Shel Silverstein, Cash, Kinky Friedman, and Lucille Ball, and anything that Neil Simon ever created. And I’ll even give a Merry Christmas shout out to the not one Artistic Director of any folk festival who’s never come out to see any of my shows after being apprised of their whereabouts well in advance – that’s over 700 shows in six years and counting – I’ll even wish YOU a Merry Christmas because that’s the kind of guy I am.
And speaking of “That’s the kind of guy I am” I’ll wish Pat, and Donna and Andy Garreau a happy holidays. And in the memory of Mikey and Wes and all that’s holy and good in this world. And to Donald P. Bertrand where you may roam. To the entire town of Bruno! (Can you start my tomato for me?) And to Jess (a beautiful muse and artist) and Nikky and Frank and new friends and old friends and all that’s to come and everything under the sun isn’t real…but the sun is eclipsed by the Super Moon in Revelstoke.
To Up North Terry and Val and your old pal Tom Wilson who told me your nickname – who also told me Paul Reddick’s nickname (The High Priest – another one of my complete favourites. A full-fledged artist in his prime!) Thank you Terry and Val for the place to crash and write last winter. Thanks to Bob and Cathy Hodgeson for buying a bunch of my merch and bringing huge crews to my shows! Thanks to Shawn McGuire for supporting me with buying t-shirts and mailing an old fashioned letter, thanks to Andrew Charles for shoveling me out of the snow last year and filming so many of my shows without asking for anything, (humbling man), for Nick the Greek and your awesome family, and Nathalie the super cool sales dynamo, and the other Nathalie, the super cool sales dynamo aka Daisy wherever the hell you are; to Nathalie in BC for traveling to Europe and inspiring Rock On (a song that’s requested all the time), for Chloe Charles who is going to win a Polaris Prize someday – for being my friend, an inspiration, using a bit of my song ‘Rock On’ in her song ‘Business’ and opening for Sixto Rodriguez! Are you kidding me? To Donna Callison who’s bar got wiped out in the rising tides two years ago: I hope you live to rebuild your High River dreams.
To Spider for introducing me to a great bar with Lance in Cowtown. To the Dummer in Red Rear. Thanks for hosting us a great party. To Doug and Liz Champagne and friends for one of my favourite concerts of the entire year! You guys amaze me – you’re now family along with Gary and Anne Holmes and the entire set of Vancouver Islands. To Valdy for having me open for you (something I’ll never do again! Talk about a master of the solo set).
Finally to the late great John Lennon who taught me to NEVER EVER IDOLIZE people. He said so in his song GOD. That’s why I idolize him. He also said in that song “I just believe in me…Yoko and me….and that’s reality!” So I thought, hmmm….he at least believes in one other person outside of himself – YOKO! That’s quite a revelation. I’ve steadfastly refused to settle for anything less than my version of YOKO ONO. (For whatever that’s worth). The real deal. So I’ve been close a few times. Recently, I believe I held her but I screwed it up. Sometimes that happens. There’s an entire new batch of songs written and inspired by her though. That’s the cool thing. Guess it’s back to eating Swanson’s TV Turkey Dinners in front of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special again. Can you give me a collective ‘awwwww’…..thank you! It really does help!
What else can I say? You may think this crazy letter to you was a gigantic ass-kiss of tremendous proportions and some of that might just be true. It’s also been a letter I’ve been meaning to write for a few years. It came back to me after watching Neil Young’s Prairie Wind concert and he sings the song ‘One of These Days”. “One of these days, I’m gonna sit down a write a long letter to all the good friends I’ve known!” I thought, yeah….me too. Then I went to buy stamps and cards and thought I’d buy few pints of Guinness and do this instead.
Feliz Navidad! Happy Hannukah! Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays? Happy Festivus!
See you on the trail amigos.