If there was a Juno category for ‘longest song introductions,’ Dave Gunning would win hands down.
Thankfully, his introductions are as entertaining as the music.
Gunning was at The Crossing Pub in Sharbot Lake for the second time last Saturday.
He is a singer-songwriter in the tradition of Canada’s finest (think Lightfoot, Cockburn, McLauchlan). His tunes help define the Canadian experience, with a healthy helping of Nova Scotian perspective.
Probably his best-known song, A Game’s Goin’ On, from the No More Pennies album, was written with local songwriter David Francey, and it won the Great Canadian Song Quest, 2013 Hockey Night in Canada Song Quest.
Everybody was singing along (funny how that tends to happen when there are a lot of musicians in the audience).
“I met David in Denmark in 2003,” he said. “And we wrote that when he stayed at my house during the Celtic Colours Festival.
“We were both mad at hockey because of the strike at the time - millionaires fighting with billionaires - and we wanted to write something about the game that spoke to its roots.
“I wanted to have David sing on it and we produced it with that in mind, so his fans would be able to appreciate it.”
Gunning’s 12th album just came out “a couple of Fridays ago” and he has been touring relentlessly in support of it.
The album also features long-time collaborator J. P. Cormier.
“I’ve played with J. P. for 20 years,” he said. “He’s one of the best in the world.”
Even though his busy touring schedule takes him away from home a lot, he said he wouldn’t change it and it does have some advantages.
“You gotta do fool them again,” he said. “The secret is to keep moving, town to town.
“But even though I miss Sara and the boys, I enjoy the life and I feel very fortunate to be able to do it.”
And he tells you all about it, in song and song introductions.
Perhaps his most entertaining introduction featured his appearance on The Trailer Park Boys. It’s the episode with George Canyon, where the boys attempt to smuggle dope across the border and Gunning delivers the immortal line, “Shreddies?”.
“Yeah, it was one word but I got paid more because it was a speaking part,” he said.
Dave and Shawn McCullough both learned to play music in their parents’ kitchen growing up.
Now, many years later, they’re starting to appreciate playing with each other and are trying to find more time for just that.
Dave is 54 (“that’s 102 in dog years,” says Shawn) and Shawn is 47. It’s taken awhile for them to get back together as both have had other musical pursuits. (Dave plays bass with Red Rose Express; Shawn plays with everybody.) But they’ve joined with drummer Bill Parsons to become the house band on Wednesday Wing Night Open Mic at The Cove in Westport.
“Officially, we started playing together around ’92,” said Shawn. “We played together off and on but in the last couple of years, we’ve been playing more together.
“We have fun and laugh at each other when one of us makes a mistake.
“Probably nobody notices but us.”
“It’s just heaven now that he’s grown up,” said Dave. “There’s nothing like blood — the harmonies, the mistakes.”
As with many musicians, both grew up trying out many instruments. Dave started off with mandolin, guitar, banjo, before settling in on the bass.
Shawn found his instrument a littler earlier.
“When he was little, all you had to do was give him a guitar,” said Dave. “He wouldn’t bother you for hours.”
It’s a little bit of a different experience for the elder McCullough playing with his brother in a trio.
Well known as a solid bottom-ender, Dave said the pressure is off to a certain extent because Shawn does a lot of the singing.
“With Red Rose Express, we have three lead instruments but a lot more of the singing falls to me,” he said. “Now, most people may not know this but singing while you’re playing bass is tougher than singing while strumming a guitar.
“You have to think differently.
“Also, it’s easier to get tight in a three-piece.”
But there also seems to be one of those intangibles going on when the brothers play together.
They’re very different.
Shawn plays 200-300 dates a year. Dave has a day job (with Ontario Parks).
Shawn can be as flashy as it gets. Dave plays a more laid-back, rhythm-section style.
“I can get flashy, I just usually don’t,” Dave said. “And there’s no need to get flashy when you play with somebody like him.”
Sometimes, it all just works.
Such is the case with Jess Rae Ayre, Amber Rose and Michelle Anderson, aka Sweet Alibi, who brought their brand of harmonies to The Crossing Pub in Sharbot Lake last Saturday night.
Ayre and Anderson met in high school in Winnepeg. Rose is originally from small town Ontario near Collingwood but has lived in Winnipeg for 20 years.
“I met Jess and Michelle through music,” Rose said.
Specifically, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, she said.
“We all just loved harmonies.”
And harmonies is what this band is all about. Older fans will probably hear a lot of America going on there, but Rose was at a loss as to who those guys were.
“I grew up listening to Carole King, Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell,” she said. “But I think we all like Feist.”
She said a lot of their original material comes from experimenting around campfires and such.
“One of us will do something and then another will say ‘what were you doing there, I liked that,’” she said.
Ayre, who grew up with Neil Young (“Harvest was a big influence), Tina Turner and The Beatles, said things have just naturally come together for the band.
“You can’t overthink it,” she said.
And so they don’t.
They’re back on the road after taking “42 days off after six years of touring” with a western swing coming up and then a trip to Germany in January.
This was their first time in Sharbot Lake and highlights included their original I’ll Wait, a cover of Bob Dylan’s Serve Somebody and the revelation that Ayre has three boyfriends and 278 pairs of earrings.
Local rockers Reckless 4’s new single and EP album, Hell Bent, is set for digital release (iTunes, Spotify, etc) Oct. 1, following a ‘battle of the bands’ concert at Mavericks in Ottawa Sept. 30.
Local rock fans will recognize the faces as H. D. Supply but this is a new evolution said lead singer/guitarist Jordan Lowery.
“Jay Mills is still the drummer and Hailie Mills is back on bass,” Lowery said. “But Colin (Hamilton) decided to focus on his (diesel) apprenticeship so we added busker Curtis Nolan Escott, who brings a jazzy influence to our hard rock.”
Lowery said the band has hooked up with producer Glen Robinson, who’s worked with AC/DC, Steve Miller, April Wine, David Bowie, Tea Party, The Ramones who “has showed us some pretty cool stuff that has improved our newer music.
“But he’s also managed to capture our true live sound and he’s the one who suggested Night Train should be the last song on the album.”
Reckless 4’s single, Hell Bent, has been getting some airplay in the U.S. and Australia and Lowery hopes for some similar treatment here at home.
After all, this is where the band got its start and Lowery isn’t about to forget that.
“When I first heard that we were getting a world digital release, the first person I thought of was Miss Schall,” he said.
‘Miss Schall’ is Julia Schall, a fine musician in her own right but also the founder of a School of Rock when she taught at Hinchinbrooke Public School.
“I’d like to thank her for the opportunity she gave us,” he said. “She gave us the things we use today and I owe her.
“She can just jump in on any instrument and is the musician I want to be.”