Friday, April 8, 2011

MUSICAL ROAD: Stan Rogers: songwriter of work, change, & sea

A journey across Canada by a modern day man in search of himself, a trip by an explorer centuries go seeking a northwest passage to the Orient, and a bringing together of the strands of hope, connection, and regret all that implies: those are things Stan Rogers gets at in his song Northwest Passage. It is not surprising then that though Canada has a very fine national anthem already, when the CBC asked a few years back what people would choose for an alternate. Northwest Passage was it. The fact that it has an anthemic chorus helps imagine in that way, as well.

see a video of Stan Rogers singing the chorus of Northwest passage

Rogers was a musician of the land, and of the working person. Though still in his early thirties when he died in an accident, he left a legacy of song which continue to touch people's hearts across the world. 
Sixteen of these are gathered on The Very Best of Stan Rogers.

Rogers shows his lively, jaunty side in Fogarty’s Cove, and handles sadness, the bittersweet nature of aging, and the lasting power of love in the reflective song Lies. Free in the Harbour weaves in whaling and changes in the work of seafaring.  stan rogers coverWork and change, in the sea and on the farm, are frames for the stories Rogers tells in Make and Break Harbour and The Field Behind the Plow. His deep baritone adds color to the stories he tells, and the time he spent in Nova Scotia, summers a a child and returning as an adult is likely one reason you hear elements of Scotland and Cape Breton often in melody and instrumentation on these tracks.

The collection closes with the song The Mary Ellen Carter. The raising of a sunken ship and finding courage and hope to face obstacles all come into play in this well loved song, but not quite in the way you might think. That’s something Rogers left as a legacy, too: stories and melodies that work well in a straightforward way, yet often contain layers of meaning beyond what is at first apparent as well. 

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