“Masterful and amazing!” ~ Tampa Acoustic Music Exchange
Ken Whiteley is a Canadian roots music legend. His musical journey has taken him from jug band, folk and swing to blues, gospel and children’s music. Among numerous accolades, he’s been awarded a Canadian Folk Music Award, Genie Award for Best Original Song in a Canadian film, Lifetime Achievement recognition from Folk Music Ontario (Ontario Council of Folk Festivals) and Mariposa Folk Festival. He has also been nominated for 7 Juno awards and 16 Maple Blues Awards. Ken’s live performances showcase his outstanding musicianship on guitars and mandolin, award winning original songs and his powerful vocals, called “…a cross between Pete Seeger and Tony Bennett on 11!” Whether leading his own group, solo or collaborating with peers at blues, folk, children’s festivals and concerts of all sizes, his “…deep knowledge and infectious passion” guarantee good times for all. As a producer of over 160 recording projects, Ken’s productions have garnered 10 Canadian Gold and Platinum records, 4 American Gold records, 23 Juno and 2 Grammy nominations, and sold over 8 million copies.
The new song-of-the-month download is my bluesy take on Farewell To Nova Scotia, this month I performed two live stream concerts and the entire new album, Long Time Travelling is now available here on my website to purchase and download!
Farewell to Nova Scotia was based on a very old Scottish song, the Soldier’s Adieu. It became a folk classic after folklorist Helen Creighton collected a number of versions in the 1930’s in the Chezzetcook area of Nova Scotia. To get to that part of the province from Halifax you coincidentally drive through or past the African Nova Scotian communities of Cherry Brook and North and East Preston.
When I considered this song for my new album of old folk songs Long Time Travelling, I looked at the words and saw much darker lyrical content than a happy singalong might suggest. It was on that basis that I decided to perform it more as a blues song, featuring slide guitar on my old National metal resonator guitar. Once I’d taken that approach I decided to change the lyrics to reflect someone who instead of hearing the Captain’s call and obeying decides NOT to go to war. As I developed this character in my mind he transformed into an African Nova Scotian. I recalled a discussion I had at the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook talking about the tension of “the fiddle and the drum” – how the Celtic cultural heritage of Nova Scotia is rightly celebrated but the centuries old black culture of the province often doesn’t get its due.
This is my personal back story that I created in reinterpreting this song. In my video introduction to the song I share a bit about slide guitar, a map and a quick shot from a Mother’s Day service at St. Thomas Baptist Church in North Preston among other highlights. It’s also the first of my videos using two cameras at the same time!
You can arrange to download my recording of Farewell To Nova Scotia at the bottom of this page.
Live stream concert
On Wednesday, April 20 I performed a livestream concert featuring most of the songs from my new album, Long Time Travelling on my Ken Whiteley Music Facebook page. Playing with me was Ben Whiteley, just back from a month of touring in Europe with The Weather Station. I’m excited because Ben and I were the only musicians on the new recording and this will be a rare chance to perform some of the songs together. I played fretless banjo, slide guitar, sruti box, autoharp and mandocello while Ben played electric guitar, lap steel, percussion and sang harmonies.
This performance was sponsored by the Toronto Musicians Association through the Music Performance Trust Fund and the cooperation of the Toronto Blues Society. If you find it on the KenWhiteleyMusic page, fast forward past the opening screen shot to when the music actually begins around a dozen minutes in.