I’m happy to share my family’s immigration story “The Incredible Journey”… from Klein-Zundert, Netherlands to Middleton, Nova Scotia, Canada. Read all about it in today’s Chronicle Herald newspaper > Incredible Journey
Story and Photography: Andrew Herygers
Publisher: Saltscapes, Canada's East Coast Magazine
A bright orange sun rises over the Bay of Chaleur and harbour shores. Sunbeams illuminate Indian Island and the city of Bathurst in the distance. In these peaceful, early morning hours, cormorants hurriedly fly by, heading towards the island and downtown peninsula.
Welcome to Daly Point Nature Reserve, a protected, natural oasis within Bathurst’s city limits, in Northeastern New Brunswick. Despite the relatively small size of the reserve – 100 acres – it features diverse habitats, and hundreds of plant, bird and animal species. Six kilometres of trails wind through pristine salt marsh, wild fields, and mixed Acadian forests. There are six designated trails – Field, Salt Marsh, Warbler, Woodland, White Pine, and Coastal.
On the Field Trail, lined with white birch, you might get a glimpse of a rabbit munching on grass or, if you’re lucky, a white-tailed deer grazing. The fields were farmland 300 years ago, and are slowly reverting to woodlands. In summer they’re awash with yellow hawkweeds, oxeye daisies, and pink wild roses. The warblers, sparrows and robins that nest here bustle from shrub to shrub; the ruffed grouse prefers fallen apples and Hawthorn berries. Hazelnuts, bunchberries and blackberries are found in abundance. This trail leads to an observation tower that provides a panoramic view of the salt marsh and surrounding harbour. From here, the trail breaks off into a variety of directions, all leading on a slope towards the salt marsh.
The marsh resembles a grassy prairie, entwined with streams and small ponds. It was once used for grazing dairy cattle – its golden hay was harvested by Acadian settlers up until the 1930s. The twice-daily tidal fluctuations cleanse the salt marsh, leaving the mud flats exposed and open for feeding by plovers, greater yellowlegs, gulls, herons and snipes. Salt marshes are extremely productive habitats that filter pollutants, stabilize coastal banks and reduce flooding. Plants such as beach grass and sea-lyme grass help to prevent erosion, protecting the shore. A boardwalk takes you alongside the marsh and over a bridge – watch for the small, tan-coloured Maritime ringlet butterfly, exclusive to the Bay of Chaleur region, feeding on the nectar of sea lavender.
An initiative to protect Daly Point's habitats began in the late 1980s as a unique stewardship between industry – Brunswick Mining and Smelting Corporation and the Department of Natural Resources. Local forest ranger Ron Gauthier had a vision to preserve the area and, with the help of volunteers, was instrumental in the reserve’s early development. Daly Point Nature Reserve officially opened in September 1989. The secluded, dense warbler trail is dedicated in memory of Gauthier and his lasting conservation efforts. Today, partners include Ducks Unlimited Canada, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and the New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund.
The reserve is open year-round; organized activities include full moon walks, tours, and educational games for all ages. “We are currently working on an outreach program that involves talks in schools," says Janet Doucet, program coordinator at the interpretive centre.
Down on the shore, a painter sits with his easel, observing the exposed mud flats and capturing the birds in watercolor paint. Feeding at the mud flats of Ronald’s Cove, a great blue heron stands still, focused. With slow strides, he stalks his lunch in the muck. Shellfish remnants along the beach may have been left by muskrats traversing the inner ponds and waterways. You can hear the sounds of birds overhead; snipes and black-bellied plovers scramble along the grassy shore to find their last bit of grub before the tide fills in. The atmosphere changes quickly as a thick cool fog enters the harbour via the bay channel, and the tide begins to rise. Shrouded in fog, small islands and sandbars appear lively with the activity of gulls and terns. Rustling in the nearby cord grass reveals a small red fox hunting for mice. It hurriedly makes its way onto the boardwalk, stopping to give a glance before hightailing it into the woods.
The lush Warbler Trail is alive with the sounds and movements of black-capped chickadees—at least 18 variations of warblers are known to reside there. The looped Coastal path takes you along the bay’s edge with refreshing breezes and wonderful glimpses of the harbour, cove and estuary. The gulch is a natural phenomenon, worn down by fresh water springs rising through the ground; its steeply sloped banks provide shelter for critters such as porcupines. (The gulch area was once dammed during the winter months; the frozen water cut to supply ice for local residents). There's movement in the distance as a spry white-tailed deer pops its head over the tall marsh grass, its neck fully extended and ears pointed. The deer are plentiful and very much at home, but keep a watchful eye on visitors. As the sun sets and night slowly settles in, cormorants begin to make their exit through the narrow channel, and off into the open bay.
For more information about Saltscapes Magazine visit: http://www.saltscapes.com/
Story & Photography: Andrew Herygers
Publisher: Muzik Etc. Magazine
This issue we are on the east coast visiting multi-talented singer-songwriter Jenn Grant, who has just returned home from the Middle East, Cairo, Egypt. I am curious to discover what else has been happening with Jenn in the year or so since the release of her darker and more reflective album Echoes.
On a spring afternoon, Jenn greets me from behind a bright yellow door and is quickly followed by Charlie, her rambunctious Australian Labradoodle puppy. Grant is happy to be back at home in Halifax. Judging from Charlie’s excited demeanour, he’s pleased she’s home as well. “There is nothing as good as coming home to Nova Scotia,” Jenn says, “and going for a quiet walk where I can look at painterly houses and breathe in the salty air. There is a sense of peace that comes with being home, heightened because of all the time I spend away from it.”
Indoors, she drops a CD into the player, Rose Cousins’ album The Send Off. Ms. Grant makes a great avocado sandwich and we chat about her Egyptian adventure, riding camels, and what’s next musically. “Egypt was a chance to see how other people live and to understand their culture better,” Jenn says. “And the chance to be a foreigner is important: I have become accustomed to being a part of the majority and this was a chance for me to get a new perspective.”
Currently, she is in the early phases of writing material for her third album and she’s already developed melodies and basic song structures. Soon, her fellow band-mates will add their musical expertise and creative take. “I love my band,” she enthuses. “I am so lucky to play with such talented, interesting, gorgeous people. We are a little family. Kinley Dowling plays violin, viola, sings, and adds percussion. David Christensen plays keys, flute, and sings. Sean MacGillivray plays bass and lends vocal harmonies. He’s also a full-time member of Classified. Sean can fix anything and prevent disasters that I cause whenever we are in front of people or otherwise. Mike Belyea is our newest member. He is a dynamic drummer and he tried to hide his beautiful voice. But I heard it and so I try to get him to sing more. I can’t wait to play new songs with him.”
Originally from Prince Edward Island, Jenn Grant’s earliest creative interests included drawing and writing. Then came music. “I used to play piano when I was seven,” she tells me. “I wasn’t interested in the way it sounded, though, but in the way I looked when I was playing it! Now I am trying to focus on learning about the notes that are on the piano. I started playing guitar when I was 12. I got it in a plaid case. As soon as I touched it I was changed forever.”
Jenn Grant’s quick rise to popularity stemmed from Jenn Grant and Goodbye Twentieth Century, which she recorded in 2005 with Glen Meisner at CBC Halifax’s Studio H. Musical collaborators included Jason MacIsaac and Dave Christensen of the Halifax pop-orchestral group The Heavy Blinkers, Jill Barber, Ron Sexsmith, Matt Mays, Rose Cousins, and Dale Murray.
In 2006, Jenn Grant won Best New Artist and Best Female Artist at the Nova Scotia Music Awards. Her success magnified with the release of her “official” debut album Orchestra for the Moon, which included the attention-grabbing single “Dreamer”.
“The Heavy Blinkers taught me how to tour,” says Jenn, “but they tricked me because they took me to Europe and we lived in a haunted castle. Then there was the cold green room at The Casbah in Hamilton, Ontario... There is something special about all of these venues, like they are holding the ghosts of songs past. Like when I play the Rebecca Cohn (ed: Halifax auditorium), Jill Barber is there somewhere.” (www.jillbarber.com).
Grant continues her tale and we come to the story of her latest release Echoes. In this she had a considerable help from producer Jonathan Goldsmith (Bruce Cockburn, Jane Siberry, Bourbon Tabernacle Choir). “Jonathan is a secret force of the universe,” Jenn states. “I hope we will make another record someday. He is an exceptional person and producer.” Indeed, Echoes is a rich blend of musical styles, soulful melodies, and captivating sounds. The natural acoustics of the instruments are beautifully captured and a warm analog vibe. Jenn’s voice seems effortless and pristine amid a dream-like ambiance. The highly emotive Echoes is a particular treat with headphones.
A recent performance with Symphony Nova Scotia stands as a career highlight.“The SNS show was amazing,” Jenn exclaims. “I was lucky to be able to work with David Christensen... I was a little nervous when heading off to meet the symphony for rehearsals, but the more we practised the less scary they were. Eventually, it was like playing with a big, expensive, amazing band. It was great to be able to just sing and feel as if I was floating away on the sounds of the orchestra. The songs were taken to a new and exciting level, giving them a new life—for me and for the audience.”
The concert was memorable for another reason. The CBC commissioned Jenn, David Christensen, and Rich Terfry, aka Buck 65, to write a six-minute piece entitled “One Million Years”. Jenn tells me she is grateful to Rich, who currently hosts a prime time weekly radio spot. “Rich is a very dear friend,” she says. “I am a huge fan of his work and his contribution to supporting Canadian music on Radio 2. It was an honour to share the stage with him and it was a very special night that will remain one of the most heart-warming experiences of my life.”
As ambassador for the Halifax institution, the Izaak Walton Killam Hospital for Children, Jenn Grant has written a song supporting the IWK mission and she appears on a television awareness campaign. “I was a camp counsellor for children with special needs for five summers,” Jenn says, “so the children’s hospital is something I care deeply about. Whatever I can do to give back to them is good for everyone. (The presence of) a song and a campaign, which kids can see, will make them feel more at ease about going there... make the hospital a safe and joyful place.”
Earlier I referred to Jenn Grant’s artistic inclination. She’s sustained it through the years. In 2006, she graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She intimates, “I like to paint dark places and light places—somewhere magical I can get to only by letting go. I like to paint because it gives me the same feeling as singing. It’s like I am flying and no one can touch me.”
Talk turns to her upcoming album. “I have twelve songs right now that I’m excited to record,” she reveals. “They are a lot different from each other. Some of them are joyful, some sad. Some of them are quiet, some of them are rock and roll. It will be a diverse collection of secret stories. “When I write a song and sing it, in those first stages especially, it is the closest I will ever come to being free. It is the most powerful and strangest feeling and I wouldn’t change it for all the money in the world.”
Story & Photography: Andrew Herygers
Publisher: Muzik Etc. Magazine
A quick catch-up with Slowcoaster front man Steven MacDougall reveals that things are far from slow-moving for the Nova Scotian power trio. The proudly Cape Breton based band, now in its tenth year, continues to evolve in its assimilation of ska, funk, pop, hip-hop, disco, jazz, and blues. Slowcoaster is comprised of founder Steven MacDougall on guitar and vocals, Mike LeLievre on bass, and Brian Talbot (formerly of the band Slainte Mhath) on drums. Talbot,who has been a part of the Slowco beat for as far back as 2002, officially became a charter member in 2006.
I managed to track them down in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, home of the Evolve Festival (evolvefestival.com), their first stop on a mini Atlantic Canadian tour before jet-setting back out west. At the time of interview they hadn’t seen each other since a performance weeks back in Calgary. Talbot rolls in from an all-night DJ gig in Halifax. He’s also been busy with the Rankins and doing sessions for Cape Breton heavyweights Gord Sampson and Jimmy Rankin. MacDougall joined us, replenished from a songwriting retreat in Nashville, while LeLievre emerged from the family island homestead.
Slowco has become a banner waver for the next generation of Cape Breton bands, not necessarily traditional or Celtic, but brimming with energy and spirit. I witnessed their magnetism on their first tour outing: The crowd begins buzzing like bees around a hive the moment they hear the first chord. They hang in for a crazy ride, up and down in tempo, meter, dynamics, and they’re captivated by the carnival of on stage antics. Fans know all the lyrics and sing along with MacDougall, pulsate to Talbot’s compelling beats, and groove to LeLievre’s cool melodic bass lines. The repertoire draws from current past favourites, from funk to pop with the Celtic kitchen sink thrown in for good measure. It’s like this, and it’s different, each Slowco show. Audiences experience a mix of songs and styles. “We think of music as much as a twisted sport as we do music,” says MacDougall. “Every night is different. Crowds seem to respond very well to our new songs.” LeLievre adds, “When we write those songs, Steve is the wordsmith and I’m the melody weirdo. Brian’s the backbeat. It’s about three intricate human beings being ourselves, producing sounds that people can dance to, and it’s about fun. When that stops, so does the world!”
Slowcoaster finds ample inspiration and time to write new material. “We write in the van, with other people, and by ourselves. Sometimes we’ll jam on stage in front of people because inspiration is one of those things that can come at any time from anywhere. We create the song as it happens. The idea dictates the style and we embrace whatever genre the song happens to fall into at the time. Sometimes we’ll mess with it a bit, such as taking a country song and trying it out as a reggae song, or maybe getting into disco — whatever cheeky little idea we’re feeling that day. Usually, though, a song flows from the get go and stays in the same genre.”
Currently signed to Cape Breton based Company House Records, Slowcoaster works well at the customary island pace. Explains LeLievre, “Company House is a label formed by percussionist Darren Gallop and New York producer Warren Bruleigh and it employs all Cape Breton staff in promotional, distribution, and recording positions. In Cape Breton you have to do things for yourself and often by yourself. People who grow up together and work together fuel the music community in Cape Breton. This helps us export our artists and import other great bands to our little island, building lasting relationships around the world.”
Last October, Slowcoaster commenced work on a self-funded and self-produced album. They’re recording under the attentive gaze of engineer Mike Shepherd at Lakewind Sound studio in Point Aconi on the beautiful and inspiring Bras D’Or Lakes. (Ed: Muzik Etc readers will recognize Lakewind from our interview with Juno Award winner Gordie Sampson, who is part-owner of the acclaimed Lakewood studio). The album will feature the usual mix of styles and the dance factor. Adds Talbot, “The lyrics will make you want to sing out loud! So far, the process is moving swiftly. We’re having a really easy time hammering it out and putting our arrangements together. We’re tracking mostly live off-the-floor so there’s a nice, authentic feel. There are sections where we let the music wander freely and others where the arrangements are sharp and to the point. Since Mike Shepherd has worked with the band in many different scenarios over the years and is a great friend, he knows what we like to hear and how we like to work."
The band’s discography includes Jody’s Garden (2000), Volume II (2001), Leaves (2002), Accidents & Excuses (2003), Where Are They Going? (2004), and Future Radio (2007). Slowcoaster’s repertoire is all over the map. “We have always straddled the line between what is mainstream and what is totally insane,” MacDougall quips. “Our plan of world domination seems to be working out.” You may succumb to their grand designs. Give their album a listen one i-Tunes, then wait for their tour to hit your town or nearby urban center.
Slow Co Gear
LeLievre plays a Fender Precision bass, the four-string unadulterated standard of stage and recording worlds. MacDougall’s arsenal includes a doubleneck Gibson SG, Fender Strats and Jaguars, and a prized Vox AC30 amplifier, a retro/classic stalwart amp back in the spot lights. Talbot plays live gigs and sessions on Yamaha Absolute series drums, choosing the maple shell version (as opposed to birch or beech). He says, “You can’t beat the tone and consistency of Yamaha drums. And for cymbals I prefer Sabian HH and HHX lines. I’ve always liked big, dark, and colorful cymbals."
Story & Photography: Andrew Herygers
Publisher: Muzik Etc. Magazine
Steadily on the rise in Eastern Canada is quintessential slide blues guitarist, John Campbell (aka: Campbelljohn), who has an impressive thirty-year career under his belt. The veteran musician Campbelljohn is armed with acoustic, electric slide, pedal steel, lap steel, and Dobro style resonator guitars and is receiving loads of industry recognition across Canada and Europe. His new album, Weight of the World, slated for Canadian release in September, is flavoured with diverse blues, rock, country, and roots sounds.
Upon his return from playing a couple of shows in Alberta, I catch up with John at his home studio in Colby Village, Nova Scotia. John recollects about his early days growing up in Sydney River, Cape Breton Island and pinpoints what hooked him onto the blues. “The shuffle groove just simply turned me on,” he admits. “I remember hearing The Allman Brothers ‘Statesboro Blues’, which was probably one of the first times I really heard a pure and traditional shuffle”. Around the age of fourteen, Campbelljohn picked up his dad’s acoustic. “My first experience with the blues was through the rock bands of the time, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles”, he recalls. George Harrison playing a sunburst Gibson hollow body influenced John to save up enough money to buy a guitar of his own. “I think it was called an Emperador,” he reflects, “but I later realized that it was a copy of a Gibson 335”. When John was employed at the Sydney Steel Plant he took it up a notch and bought a Gibson Les Paul. “Then I thought I was really important”, he chuckles.
Campbelljohn began to gig the local scene and borrowed licks from his early influences BB King, the Rolling Stones, and Deep Purple. At the age of twenty he had the burning passion to play the guitar and hit the road. He notes, “At a certain stage of touring I realized I had to make records; after all, it was what I always wanted to do”. By the late 1980’s he met his wife to be, Carrie, and moved to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where he made his first record How Does It Feel? With the successful follow-up, Hook, Slide, and Sinker in the fall of 1998, Campbelljohn approached labels far and wide. Persistence paid off and he eventually received a positive response from Taxim Herman’s of Hamburg, Germany. The pieces of the puzzle slid nicely into place with an introduction to Lennart Krogoll, who was beginning a business of exporting Canadian talent to Europe. From that pivotal point forward Campbelljohn has been successfully releasing records overseas.
His recent release, Weight of the World has been a labour of love. Campbelljohn learned the newest software and equipment while at the same time writing and arranging the music. By mid-summer of 2005, the bed tracks were recorded with Campbelljohn playing along to help the feel of a live performance. The rhythm tracks were then taken back to his home studio where he layed down polished guitar tracks and vocals. As his first self-produced and mixed album, it has more than passed the technical test: Taxim/Hermans accepted thirteen of the fourteen mixes.
With the overseas release of Weight of the World this past spring, a one month tour of engaging performances in Europe followed. Says Campbelljohn: “Europe is a niche market but an important one for me. The European fans are very supportive and real connoisseurs of the blues. They focus on your performance, watch every move you make; it’s a warm thing and they’re genuinely interested”.
Campbelljohn thrives on the experience of performing live, “Deliver a great performance and the audience will reward you,” he enthuses. “It certainly inspires me to continue to play better”. His core trio is Neil Robertson (drums) and Grant Leslie (bass) who once backed the influential Matt Minglewood. Additional musicians include Bruce Aitken on drums and Ed Woods on bass.
Another Nova Scotian hero was Canada’s “Prime Minister of the Blues”, Dutch Mason. “Sonny Langeth was also a huge influence on me,” John says. “To my knowledge, he almost single handedly developed this new technique of slide guitar known as ‘Behind the Slide’. I remember hearing it on his records and thinking what the hell is he doing?" Campbelljohn adapted Langeth’s technique to his own playing and it is the musical inspiration behind the hometown tune “Sydney Steel”, which lyrically harkens back to his early days at the Steel Plant.
With the financial challenges of touring with a full band, Campbelljohn has chosen to adapt. He explains: “In the old days you would have a core band and travel the country. I try to keep a core band but it depends on the venue and location. I’ve also come to find that playing solo is a lot fun and brings a whole different perspective”. Acoustic dynamics and the intricate sounds of his picking technique keep the rhythm while also playing melody. At the heart of his solo shows are his square neck and round neck resonator guitars modified with Quarterman cones & Humbucker pickups.
His workhorse guitar when touring with the trio is his mid eighties Fender American Standard Strat with a Hipshot Trilogy bridge for changing tunings on the fly. “Except for some selected tours,” he says, “I stick with a mid eighties Mesa Boogie Mark 3 combo amp that I send MIDI program changes for channel switching to different modes.”
Campbelljohn’s latest obsession is the pedal steel. For the past six years he has been hard at work developing his technique, only recently introducing it to his live shows. “The Pedal steel is really sweet for melodies and lush chord changes”, he says. He is also equipped with a sixty-nine Fender Tele with a Brent Mason type of mod, a solid mahogany body lap steel, Godin acoustic, Gibson 335 Dot Neck, Japanese Squire Strat, 10-string non-pedal steel, Supro 6-string lap steel, and Laracey 6-string lap steel... all for when the mood strikes or a song calls for it.
Campbelljohn explains, “It’s a thrill to make records and at the same time it is a necessary tool to get to the audience. In Canada, I’ve just signed with blues artist manager Brian Slack out of Montreal. He is especially excited about the new album becoming available to Canadian audiences.”
The new thirteen-track CD, Weight of the World is a treat to the ears. Filled with precise and fluid playing, Campbell demonstrates a commanding mastery of his tools of the trade. Weight of the World was mastered by Peter Harenberg (Hamburg) and kicks off with “Autobahn John” a gritty riff blues rock tune. Twisting with tasteful solos, the tune “Weight of the World” really drives it home, while fans will appreciate an acoustic covers of “Mississippi Queen” and a dreamy steel version of “Little Wing”. His fine picking is complimented with tasteful brushwork by Bruce Aitken driving the beat on “That’s Just Fine”, while bassist Bruce Moore brings a reggae feel to the resurrected favourite, “How Does It Feel?” Soulful harmonies on “Maybe I’m Just Old Fashioned” are complemented by Campbelljohn’s lyrical licks. And there’s more.
Campbelljohn offers advice: “Basically, you really gotta work hard and sometimes with a little luck you’ll get a break in climbing the ladder”. The real secret to his success is perseverance, dedication, and commitment to re-invent himself. Campbelljohn, the Road Warrior, has what it takes and is in it for the long-haul.
For more information about John Campbelljohn visit: www.campbelljohn.ca.
Author: Clive Doucet
Illustrator: Andrew Herygers
Lost and Found in Acadie contains many threads of history, woven together to create a complex tapestry depicting the history of Acadia and the people that belong to it. Clive Doucet delivers a personal story, and the stories of many others, as he passes through the hundreds of years of Acadian history. The pillars of Acadian society are contrasted sharply with those upholding our society today, and the comparisons are both enlightening and saddening. We come to know the many ways of life that fall into the Acadian experience, and the many Acadians who followed those ways. Within this book, we rove from the initial settling of Acadia, on through the friendship developed with the Mi'kmaq, into the civil war that helped to tear Acadia apart, to the horrors of the deportation and the subsequent attempts to rebuild and relocate history, family, and truth amidst a shattered people.
Clive Doucet is an Ottawa politician and writer with Acadian roots in Cape Breton. For more information about Nimbus Publishing visit: https://www.nimbus.ca/