My Old True Love:
The Songs that Bind

at Greenwood United Church, Baddeck, Cape Breton
(13 October 2011)

After taking a nice drive through the beauty of the autumn, I attended a concert at a beautiful little church in Baddeck. It was perfect for music with its high, peaked ceiling, and the place was packed and barely even had standing room. With four well-known, popular singers in the line-up, it was not a surprise.

To begin the show, emcee and festival director Joella Foulds introduced the performers. First she brought Appalachian singer Sheila Kay Adams to the stage. While her vocal style isn't really my thing, I could see why so many like her. She is a great storyteller and a humorous entertainer. She sang a long ballad about a lie, which impressed me, because it was a lot of words to remember, but there were a lot of laughs throughout.

Next, Scottish talent Karine Polwart shared a song. Her voice is beautiful, pure and clear. She, too, sang a ballad about how lying can be a good thing, rather than using harsh, truthful words, and it was from the point of view of a person who is longing to be a liar.

Following Polwart was Appalachian singer and instrumentalist Bruce Molsky. He sang a song called "Diamond Joe." It was a crooked tune, as the timing was one that was hard to tap your foot to, because it would change. He accompanied himself on fiddle and went into a crooked reel to finish.

Then, it was Scottish singer Emily Smith's turn. She sang a ballad she got from an American singer, Tim Erickson, about a gypsy. It was the liveliest song so far, and I loved her voice and the arrangement of the piece. She did a wonderful accompaniment on accordion, along with her guitarist.

Adams shared a ballad, this time a love song, where a man was in love with a lady, but she couldn't love him back. Then, Polwart shared a story about her first time to America, where she went to Carlsbad, and one of the first things she saw was a "convention of elks" and cowboys. She explained that they have a lot of cows in Scotland, but no cowboys, and horses are used for very different reasons than in America. She sang a song called the "Roving Plowboy," which the audience joined in on the chorus. It was lilting and had a catchy melody that was easy to follow.

Polwart's story prompted Molsky to sing a song about the life of a cowboy. He explained how he always loved the romantic notion of being a cowboy. The melody was a lovely waltz, which he accompanied beautifully on guitar. After a comment about how pretty Molsky's song was, Smith said she was aching to contrast it with one that was really dark. It was called "Lord Donald," which is about a hunter whose sweetheart feeds him a meal that makes him extremely ill. For such a gruesome song, it had a light, pretty melody.

While these singers are all wonderfully talented, I decided to leave the concert after intermission, because the format was driving me crazy. It might be good for someone with ADHD, because it was a song by one performer, and then a song by another performer, over and over again, but I like to hear one performer at a time, for more than five minutes, so I can really hear his/her style. This just wasn't for me, but I do hope to hear more of these singers in the future.

review by
Kaitlin Hahn

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