Corin Raymond brings his Bookworm monologue to Snow Road Station and performs songs from his latest album
Corin Raymond is a Toronto based singer-songwriter who has performed locally on occasion over the last ten years, most recently at the Blue Skies Music Festival last summer. He has recorded four albums since 2001, including the double album Paper Nickels which was funded entirely with Canadian Tire Money. His most recent recording, Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams, was released in the spring of 2016 and was nominated for a Juno award in the contemporary roots music category. The award went to Earthly Days by William Prince.
Raymond has always been a literary kind of songwriter, often making songs that have both a narrative and a poetic bent.
In 2011 he wrote and staged a spoken word piece called Bookworm at Fringe Festivals around the country. Bookworm is a very personal account of Raymond’s own history with books and storytelling, a journey that is inextricably linked to his relationship to his father, whose personal 10,000 plus book collection was not stored in boxes throughout the family home, but was stacked on shelves throughout the house as if it were a bookstore or library.
With financial assistance from Blue Skies in the Community, Joanne Cumberbirch brought Raymond and his hour long Bookworm to the Snow Road Community Centre last Friday (October 6). Cumberbirch, who brings in a variety of musical acts to house concerts, decided to produce this event at the hall, calling it the first of a potential series of occasional Coffee Houses at the hall. The hall was sold out, even though many in the audience had no idea what the show was going to be about.
They were not disappointed.
The show starts with the first line of the Ray Bradbury novel Something Wicked This Way Comes.
“First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren’t rare. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say,”. Before going any further Raymond began a series of digressions and anecdotes about his relationship to that book, Ray Bradbury, his father, and many other stories.
Raymond spent a number of years living with his father in a small town in the far western corner of Ontario. They would drive to Ottawa to visit family, leaving a lot of time for his father to tell stories. His father was the kind of High School history teacher who dressed up like a Roman Centurian to teach the history of the Roman Empire, and the kind of father who read to his son every night and on 18 hour road trips. He was so enthused about, and idiosyncratic in the way he described books that he sent his son off on reading adventures that have never ceased. Corin never did like school very much, however.
Bookworm covers the great love Raymond has for books and certain writers and characters in particular. This enthusiasm for stories and story-telling informs all his own writing and music, and it came from his father’s determination to share his own love of books, stories, and knowledge.
Bookworm is also a wild narrative ride through Sherlock Homes, all of Ray Bradbury, Philip Pullman, the Twilight Zone, Homeric myth, Spiderman, Raymond’s own family history, and more. Although it retains the feel of a spontaneous yarn, you can hear the writer’s, editors and director’s hand as the story progresses.
The impact of the show is to catch some of Raymond’s love for story and books and life as well. It is also a great advertisement for some of the books and writers he loves, particularly Ray Bradbury. If he had copies of Bradbury’s books available he would certainly sell some after the show.
(He said that when he did the show for a week in Winnipeg, he visited some of the local used book stores on his down time, and the booksellers said they had all had an unexpected run on Bradbury’s catalogue.)
Bookworm is a 6 year old piece, but it still felt fresh and interesting last week.
Finally, he did get to the second line of Something Wicked This Way Comes, a line that captures the attitude of boys and girls back in 1962 when the book was written just as completely as it does today.
“Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn’t begun yet. July, well, July’s really fine: there’s no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June’s best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September’s a billion years away.”
After an intermission of coffee and treats, Raymond performed a set that was mostly devoted to the songs in his Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams recording.
Over the years, Raymond has experimented with different ways of telling a story using words and music. A good example of the facility he has developed, is the song “Hard on Things”. It is basically a list of things the singer is hard on: from clutches to tools to people he knows to his body to his own well-being. The narrative trick is to make the song more than a list, to create a story, which it does. Other highlights included a new song, written by the Australian songwriter David Ross MacDonald, about the recent end of Raymond’s relationship with his girlfriend, describing the day they were packing up her stuff. It has the line – and I am paraphrasing, “it is too late to say its ok, and too early to be sad. I’m so sad.” Heartache makes for good song lyrics.
Corin Raymond performs most Thursday evenings at the Cameron House in Toronto from 6-8pm, and uses the Cameron House as a character in some of his banter. No doubt Snow Road Station will be used in the banter at the Cameron House some time in the future.
He said during his show that if he were a novelist and came up with a town name such as Snow Road Station, he would consider that “a good day’s work”. And the fact that he was the performer at the first ever occasional coffee house in Snow Road Station, pleased him even more.