Thursday, October 21, 2010

Francey's Summer Tour

David at the Kate Wolf Festival - by Craig Werth

We had quite a summer, Craig and I.

It took us to the West coast twice and on two tours of duty in the Maritimes, with many stops in between. A full festival card.

Our early trip west took us to Laytonville, California and the Kate Wolfe Festival - my first visit to the fabled event. Our welcome was as warm as the weather, and the serene nature of the festival, the adjusted pace, were welcomed by us. Wavy Gravy walked his fish through the crowd during the day and Steve Earle laid forth from the main stage at night. A return to a gentler time on the whole. Wonderful.

We returned to the east and touring - our next festival taking us to the end of the long road in Canso N.S. for the Stan Rogers Festival where the next port of call would be the Azores. Lots of friends at this festival, a nice reunion with the Good Lovlies, a brilliant rendition of “White Squall” by pal Dave Gunning, and a private song session with JP Cormier in his well traveled van. Went with Chuck Brodsky to a kitchen party with seemingly endless crab, heaped on a kitchen table covered in layers of newspaper. Heard tales of growing up in Canso from Jim and George, how you used to draw your curtains if you were having crab for dinner, crab being considered poor folks food. How things change! The songs followed the feast of course. A treat in every way.

We continued touring our way back to Orillia Ontario and the 50th anniversary of the Mariposa Folk Festival. It was great to be back and there were plenty of friends to visit with. Enjoyed workshops with Caitlin Hanford, Suzie Vinick, and others.

Craig and I joined Mike Ford to perform tunes from our Seaway CD. It is always a blast to play with Fordy, and the fact that we performed on the top deck of James Gordon’s houseboat made it all very special indeed. What a rare opportunity. That was followed by surprise guests Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor and a brilliant set of acoustic Blue Rodeo hits. Later on the main stage Ian and Sylvia shared some songs and a kiss and Gordon Lightfoot brought the three days to a sweet close.

Flew west once again for a split weekend between Mission Folk Festival and the Islands Folk Festival in Duncan BC. We arrived in Mission, grateful to be back. We Invaded the house of pals Bill Campbell and Anne Sennae along with Findley Napier and the Barroom Mountaineers. A splendid time was had by all. Findley’s show was a brilliant thing, the songwriting sharp and intriguing the playing equally so. On the workshop stages we were lucky enough to get a visit in and hear Murray McLaughlin perform a beautiful new song, hear Jill Barber live for the first time, and sing every word of Annie’s House with the crowd. Sat in the beer tent visiting with old friends as Tom Landa and the Paperboys rocked out from the main stage while the crowd danced. It was a great goodbye.

Our drive to the ferry next morning with pal Capt. Ian was enjoyable as always, the ferry ride was beautiful and we arrived at Islands Festival in time to do our main stage show. It had been a while since we played the festival and as always it was good to get caught up with friends. Another festival where the serenity is much appreciated and the pace of things allows you to step to the side of the road and take a breather. It never hurts to be surrounded by mountains and ocean. An altogether to brief a visit, made up for by a great set to a crowd that seemed like a gathering of friends.

All the way back to the east coast and the Lunenburg Harbour Folk Festival, Nova Scotia, a long time favorite. Once again we split the weekend, this time with the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in St. Johns NFLD. For this tour we were traveling with long time band mate and friend Geoff Somers on mandolin and fiddle. A good time was assured.

Oddly enough I met up with a few bands and friends in the Beer Store upon arrival. How appropriate. The Barra MacNeils closed the tent that night, an outstanding set of songs and tunes, woven into a compelling and mesmerizing set - brilliant. Our turn came the following evening. Shelagh Rogers hosted the evening, delighting everyone. I enjoyed her between set banter as much as I enjoyed the music, and hope we can work together at many festivals to come. We had a memorable evening of singing with the entire tent, the set geared to songs we could share. It is an opportunity not to be wasted, to hear all those voices singing your song back to you. It was such an honour to be back playing for the 25th anniversary of this special place. Connie Kaldor and James Keelaghan shone in the workshops we did, and on the main stage. James and I had co-written some songs at the Celtic Colours Song House the previous year, and I got to hear them live for the first time. He did them proud. We stayed up visiting at the after hours until we left on the early flight for St. Johns.

Arrived early in St. Johns but I stayed up and finished a song I started the night before. Went down to Bannerman Park and immediately ran in to good pal Jim Payne and the enjoyment commenced. Played a packed tent acoustic set with road pal Old Man Leudeke and got to hear Amelia Curran do her excellent songs live. It was great to take the main stage, familiar and welcoming, the crowd singing back from the darkness - a moving moment. Had a great visit with Archie Fisher - in, of all places, the beer tent. Getting to visit NFLD is one of the best things about this job and it is not time I like to waste. It is precious and passes all too quickly, as it did this time. Can’t wait to go back. More about our trip to Corner Brook later!

Our next festival took us to historic Portsmouth New Hampshire for a performance as part of the Prescott Park Arts Festival, for pal Ben Anderson. Craig lives just down the road and had a half hour drive for this one. It is the second year in a row we have been invited down, and the second year in a row we were rained out of the park. The previous year we played to a bulging green room tent in a truly memorable show. This year we played in a perfect little theatre to a great crowd. I welcomed everyone to “the Second Annual David Francey Rain Out at Prescott Park” and a splendid evening got underway. Making it very special for me was having my friend Annie Provanzano in the audience when we sang Annie’s House. Rain or no, it was still a wonderful time. We opened for Richard Thompson a couple of days later at the Prescott Park site itself beside the Piscataquis River and received a warm response. A beautiful stage to play, and of course, it didn’t rain on Richard Thompson. Then, some welcome time in the pubs of old Portsmouth, with friends old and new.

The festival season ended in upstate New York, at the Turtle Hill Folk Festival in Rush NY. Presented by the Golden Link Folk Singing Society, there is always a ready choir at workshop and main stage performances. It was a festival where you had the time to visit with fans and performers alike. I finally met Cliff Eberhart and got to hear why he has garnered so many accolades over the years. A brilliant and insightful songwriter if ever there was one, blessed with a gift of a voice. Great stories in the green room as well - hilarious. I have played more than a few festivals with Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart over the years, but it has been a long time since I got the chance to sit and catch a whole set. It was exceptional, and while watching I realized that I would like to play guitar like Stacey does, rock steady, solid and subtle. I’m currently working on it having been inspired. An enjoyable finale with all on stage wrapped up a peaceful and intimate festival, with all the audience singing with all of us.

So there you have it. That was a short synopsis of David and Craig's Excellent Festival Tour. If there are two luckier men rattling around the continent, I have yet to meet them.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A bit of Roofing for Francey

The weekend of October 2nd found me up on a roof again in Lindsay, Ontario.

My mother-in-law, Janet had organized a work party to re shingle her roof, so I strapped on my belt and up I went. I worked alongside a great crew - headed by my daughter's man, Dave, and his buddy Markus (thanks guys!)
Also running up the ladders were Beth's brothers, Andie, Mark and Bruce.

Beth, her sister Dee and Janet picked up old shingles, cooked fantastic food, drove around looking for 1 1/2 inch nails and generally provided great support.
It was great to connect with my carpentry roots...but I am looking forward to getting back on the road in a few weeks.

all the best, David

Thursday, April 9, 2009

On the Moon in Australia

Hullo all! Craig and I are seeing the most amazing things here in Australia! We went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. It was magic. There were 145 koalas, all about an arm length away, scratching their ears, and ribs and bums, blinking and munching gum leaves. Acute cuteness. Fantastic! All that and a hairy nosed wombat too. I also petted a kangaroo and a wallabee. I was on the moon, more soon. David

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

David Francey in Australia - a word from down under

David in front of Melbourne Court House - photo by Craig Werth

Its been just over a week and I am fully in the thrall of the place. The people, the architecture the weather and the pace of life have one me over yet again. It helps to be among friends. It helps to have the welcome we received at Port Fairy Folk Festival. It's been three years since my last visit yet we had people come out to see us based on those performances. And many more besides them. Such a warm welcome on our return.

We arrived after 29 hours of travel, a good 21 of those hours in the air. It was worth every minute of waiting, every hour spent buffeting across the vast Pacific.
Met by my close friend Annabel Hawkins at the airport in Melbourne, our arrival was as warm as the weather. It was such a joy to be back in this vibrant land. Memories flooded back, building on the anticipation I already felt. All the memories were good.

A quick visit with our quintessentially Australian friend and we flew on to Adelaide and did a couple of gigs in the area, the first in Noralunga at the South Coast FC and then at the Trinity Sessions in Adelaide proper. As expected, they were utterly enjoyable, from the performances to the people, and we look forward to meeting up with our hosts again at the National Folk Festival in Canberra at Easter.

Of all the benefits that this wonderful life brings you, it is the people you meet that are always the highlight. Our welcome could not have been more appreciated.
Port Fairy saw us meeting up with old friends Kieran Kane, Kevin Welsh, Fats Kaplin and Lucas Kane. They were brilliant in show, adored by audiences and other musos alike. Rightly so. Their sets were nothing short of thrilling.

Old Man Leudke and the April Verch band were representing Canada as well, and we all met up at some point in the festival. Canadian bands are greatly appreciated here, our commonality shining through. Does you good to see it. Our own crowds were large and friendly and the after shows, signings stretched past an hour each time, with friends old and new. It inspires your performances, it is like playing for friends each time out. It is such a joy to be invited to Port Fairy, to get to experience such a large festival with such an intimate atmosphere.

Our time since has been split between Melbourne and Terip Terip, a country town to the north. Melbourne is a dazzling city, vibrant, vivacious and alive. A myriad number of districts define it, and each offers an array of beauty for the eye and the spirit. Our Concerts here have ranged from the Victoria FC, celebrating its 50th anniversary, an outdoor festival on the beach at Mordialloc, to a special appearance at the old Court House, in the very courtroom and cells where Ned Kelly, Australia's most infamous outlaw was tried and sentenced to hang. We walked in his footsteps, stood in the same cell and dock. His courtroom was our stage, and his presence is still felt within its walls. Annabel Hawkins knew of my interest in Ned's exploits and organized this most unique event, the likes of which will likely never be seen again. Only in Australia.

Our trip up country to Terip Terip was magical, replete with kangaroos, emus, koalas, bush tailed possums, echidnas, eagles and a fantastical landscape. Otherworldly would describe it best. This area came very close to being consumed by the brush fires which ran rampant in Victoria, claiming many lives and thousands of acres of forests.

The evidence of the devastation was rife, but the resilience of these people outweighed the effects of the tragedy. They are born survivors, determined and united in the face of it all. We did a benefit in Ruffy for the fire relief and were glad to help out. I watched the fires from Canada, and had such a feeling that I was watching my brothers and sisters in peril. That feeling remained as we met the people of the area and heard their stories.

We have many days ahead of us on this tour. I will miss home and family, that is certain, but I will not feel alone or lost in this country. I will feel that, but for my father and mother choosing Canada as our promised land, I could just as easily have been adopted by this splendid country. It truly is a blessed land.

I'll write you from down the road,

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Heading North to Iqaluit

Tomorow I leave home at 6 am to meet Craig and fly north to Iqaluit on the shores of Frobisher Bay. I see on the Environment Canada web site that they are expecting a high of minus 27 with a wind chill of minus 43. Sounds like the weather we just had here in Elphin!