First up is a Whiteley Family show with brother Chris, son Ben and nephew Jesse at the Acoustic Harvest in Scarborough. Here’s where you can get tickets. This will be a wonderful and rare chance for the four of us to perform together. Chris Whiteley, master songwriter, guitarist, trumpet and harmonica player is mostly busy performing in the blues duo with his wife, Diana Braithwaite. Jesse Whiteley is busy playing piano with all kinds of projects including Raoul Bhaneja, Kristin Lindell and his own gigs around town. Bassist Ben Whiteley’s efforts this fall are on a brand new The Weather Station recording as well as other projects with Georgia Harmer and Emma Worley among others. Acoustic Harvest is a great concert venue.
At the brand new Hugh’s Room Live I’ll be premiering my new album “So Glad I’m Here” on Sunday, Nov. 12 @ 2 p.m. The new location at 296 Broadview Ave. is a great spot. The concert will run on the format of my long standing gospel shows that I have done with Hugh’s Room since 2002. I hope to be joined on stage by none other than the visionary world music ensemble Jaffa Road.
I have played around with different titles for my new album but have decided on “So Glad I’m Here”. That was the first, very well received single from the album and it seemed to encapsulate the moment. I will have more information soon on it’s release.
I’ve just released a new single, “So Glad I’m Here” which is a track from my forthcoming album “Bigger Than That” to be released in the fall of 2023. The album features the brilliant Sufi musician Davod Azad as well as contributions from many others. “So Glad I’m Here” is based in a wonderful traditional Georgia Sea Island song that I learned initially from Bessie Jones. Like other tracks on the album it started as a jam session with Davod on the Iranian stringed instrument the tar and George Koller on string bass. I’m playing my custom Laskin 6 string. Later I added harmony vocals, accordion, percussion and harmonica. The single and the album it is from are expressions of being in the present and celebrating connection. It is now available on all the normal digital outlets!
I will be performing a concert and workshop at the Sivananda Yoga Ashram Ranch in Woodbourne, N.Y. as part of a celebration that straddles the Canada Day weekend and the 4th of July. This is the ashram where I did my yoga teacher training in 2011 and the song “Bigger Than That” came to me at the end of that process. There will be a number of wonderful teachers and presenters there over that time, great food, yoga classes, meditation, group chanting, other concerts and it is a beautiful spot.
On July 20 at 2162 Gordon Street Guelph N1L 1G6 I will performing at “Gather”, in concert at an old fashioned barn party in historic Beattie-Blair Barn (circa 1870) from 6:30-9:30pm. Other artists include the incredible guitarist Donna Grantis (Prince, etc.) and the wonderful duo Tragedy Ann. This fundraising event will also feature complimentary food & drink, speakers and a participatory art installation. Doug Ford’s decision to open the Greenbelt to developers is a betrayal of the will of the people of Ontario and our precious environment. Please gather with us to help us continue our fight. Ticket info is here
It’s just me and my National guitar recorded live off the floor. It’s interesting that despite Easter being considered such a seminal event in Christianity there are so few songs that actually tell the story of that first Easter. As I reflect on the story now, I’m struck by the fact that so often the way stones in our lives roll away is not the way we hope or expect. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, it is a great story.
For many years I’ve done Easter performances at the Sivananda Yoga Ashram in Val Morin, Quebec and I would have been there this year except my wife came down with COVID somewhere coming back from the CFMA‘s last weekend. It didn’t seem like a good idea to be leading an indoor singing workshop, etc. if I might be spreading germs. Instead I stayed home and made this video. I hope some of you enjoy it.
I am delighted that my album “Long Time Travelling” has been nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Traditional Album! All of the award activities are happening in Vancouver this year. On Friday, March 31 at 6 p.m. I will be performing in The Traditional Music Nominee Showcase Concert at Mel Lehan Hall. The award ceremonies take place Saturday, April 1 and Sunday, April 2 at 6 p.m, also at Mel Lehan Hall. The traditional album award (as well Children’s Album for which Hannah Shira Naiman is nominated for an album I produced) happen on Sunday and both award nights will be live streamed at www.folkawards.ca You can check out that site for ticket information as well if you are going to be in the Vancouver area.
In 2002 I began another longstanding tradition of giving Easter performances at the Sivananda Yoga Ashram in Val Morin, Quebec. For the last three years I have had to do them virtually but this year I will be returning in person, April 7 – 9. I will give a concert on Saturday evening and again on Sunday morning as part of their 6 a.m. Easter satsang as well as a participatory workshop during the day. It is a great place to go with daily yoga classes, sauna, great hiking trails and 2 delicious vegetarian meals a day.
I had a great time working on a new Kathy Reid Naiman children’s album, “Spring Is Coming” and I’m looking forward to starting a project with a great Canadian blues singer, Garnetta Cromwell. Stay tuned!
A big thanks to everyone who came out to the Revival on Sunday, March 19 for our first Hugh’s Room Live Gospel Matinee in 3 years. It was by all accounts a wonderful show with marvelous four part harmony singing (David Wall, Ciceal Levy, Pat Patrick and myself) and fantastic rhythm section of Gord Mowat and Gary Craig.
Thanks so much and hope to see you soon!
The free Song of the Month is the title track from the new album “Long Time Travelling.
My family album, Join The Band was recorded in 2004 and it went on to win a Canadian Folk Music Award, a Parent’s Choice Award and a Juno nomination. The recording of mostly original songs explores a wide range of musical instruments and was released on Kathy Reid Naiman’s Merriweather Records. I’m currently in the studio with Kathy, producing a new children’s album of Spring songs and one day she brought me several boxes of the Join the Band cd. I figured it was the perfect time to have a sale! As of right now the physical copy of Join the Band is available from my website for only $9.00 (plus shipping, etc.).
The song “Join the Band” will be my free Song-of-the-month-download as well. I remember when we recorded this song it had about 60 different tracks for all the many instruments featured. Each verse covers different groups of instruments: drums & percussion, keyboards, strings, horns, etc. It features many wonderful musicians including a great horn arrangement by Sarah McElcheran, drums and percussion by Bucky Berger and Dick Smith and Amoy and Ciceal Levy on harmony vocals as well as a room full of kids! The great cover art was done by Ian Bell.
I promise to get back to posting some more videos about my “Long Time Travelling” album. That album was recently nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award in the Traditional Recording category and the awards will be held March 31 – April 2, 2023.
Fall is on the way and I have a new video and some great gigs I’m looking forward to.
On Sept. 30 I will be in concert at the Brampton Folk Club (Sanderson Hall at St. Paul’s United Church, 30 Main St. S. in Brampton). Joining me will be The Beulah Band: Rob McLaren – banjo, guitar, vocals, Gord Mowat – string bass and Ciceal Levy – percussion, vocals. My longtime singing friend, Ciceal made her first appearance with the Beulah Band this summer at the Northern Lights Festival Boreal in Sudbury and was awesome. 7:30 showtime with an opening act and we’ll play two full sets.
I will also be accompanying David Sereda and author Anne Michaels at Harbourfront’s outdoor Concert Stage as part of the Toronto International Festival of Authors. The concert is September 24, 8 p.m. The show draws on the iconic songwriting and poetry of Toronto in the 1960’s and 70’s.
I will be performing at the Folk Music Ontario conference in London, Ontario which runs from October 13 – 16. Also, at a time still being determined I’ll be part of the record release for Hannah Shira Naiman’s new cd, “Wheels Won’t Go”. I had the great pleasure of producing the recording and it will be so fun to play it live.
My album Calm In The Eye Of The Storm came out just as the pandemic lockdown was beginning. Check out the brand new video for the song “Saluting The Sun” from that recording. Saluting the sun is a reference to the sun salutations or surya namaskar which has been part of my daily yoga practice for 30 years. It celebrates connecting with the light “even masked by the grey” and keeping going even when it is hard. As we begin the journey into the darker, colder months may this song be a reminder to persevere.
“Saluting The Sun” will be this month’s free song download. I will resume putting up songs from my new album Long Time Travelling soon.
Ken Whiteley’s newest album, Long Time Travelling, reinvigorates 11 old folk songs and takes them out of the sonic wallpaper they are sometimes confined to. Drawing on his decades of musical immersion and exploration, Whiteley is on a path to deepen our experience of well known classics like the Water Is Wide, Shenandoah, Michael Row, Farewell To Nova Scotia and others. His versatility shines as he combines traditional instruments like autoharp, dulcimer and fretless banjo with electric guitars, lap steel, vibraphone and Hammond organ while singing up to four part harmony himself. He is superbly assisted by his son Ben Whiteley (The Weather Station, Julia Jacklin, Basia Bulat, etc.) on drums, percussion and bass.
Long Time Travelling, is distributed internationally by DistroKids and is available now on all major streaming services and download sites as well as directly from here on Ken’s Store. The cover features a drawing from 1510 by old master (and mandolin player) Leonardo da Vinci. Ken has been making 21st century extensive liner note video introductions to songs on the recording and those can be seen here on his YouTube channel.
I’m excited to be playing for the 50th anniversary of Northern Lights Festival Boreal in Sudbury and going to back to Nova Scotia and the wonderful Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival. At Northern Lights I’ll have a special edition of the Beulah Band – Rosalyn Dennett on fiddle and vocals, Gord Mowat on string bass and Ciceal Levy on vocals and percussion. Gord will also be holding down the bottom end out in Lunenburg.
Amazing if you hung with this long post and scrolled all the way to the bottom. That means you can get to the Free Song of the MonthDownload which is the classic Shady Grove!
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.
Man of Constant Sorrow is the new song-of-the-month, free download! It is from my album, Long Time Travelling that I’m currently releasing one song at a time, only on my website. Go to the bottom of this page for the intro video and link for the free download.
I learned how to play the autoharp and this song from Mike Seeger (Pete’s half brother). I probably learned this song when I was 13 or 14 years old. Mike’s version originally came from bluegrass legends The Stanley Brothers, who had it passed down in their family. The first published version was in 1913 by a partially blind fiddler and singer, Dick Burnett but the song probably predates that . It’s been done by many people and I combined a number of versions to make my own adaptation. The song tells the story of a “man of constant sorrow” forced to wander far from his home. As we empathize with the words of the singer, let’s remember all of the people right now who are being forced from their homes because of war and injustice. One place, among many, to make a very needed donation is here at UNHCR.
other news …
I recently did some extended interviews looking back over aspects of my long musical journey. One was for Chris White’s Ottawa folk music show Canadian Spaces on CKCU fm broadcast on March 12. It is #2 of 3 episodes in which I talk about the experience of working with many artists and we play tracks from albums I’ve helped make during my producing career. The show is currently archived on CKCU’s website and Here’s the link. I’ll be back on Chris’ show for episode #3 in April.
Mako Funasaka (http://www.talkinblues.com/) has a long and wonderful history of archiving so many blues, roots and other musicians on both film and audio. For a while now he’s been making his own podcasts sharing many excellent interviews. We’ve worked together on a number of projects including my “You Better Mind” video but this was the first time we’ve had such an in depth talk. We had a great time taking a walk through some of my long musical history here.
Check back in April when I’ll have the next free song-of-the-month, “Farewell to Nova Scotia” and more news. In the meantime, through these troubled and troubling times, may my telling of these timeless stories in song be a vehicle for empathy, beauty, love and light for each other.
“Let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other…” – This is from the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address which I first learned in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, “Braiding Sweetgrass”. There are lots of versions on the web and here’s a link to one from a great, local project, Legacies, Earth to Table. In it we thank all the life sustaining dimensions of Nature and acknowledge the inherent reciprocity required as we all form parts of one whole. I definitely recommend checking the whole thing out. Our human world could certainly use more of that wisdom.
I start with this because our song of the month, free download is Shenandoah. The Shenandoah named in the famous song was a Haudenosaunee chief. Originally made up by voyageurs, the song was sung as a shanty on boats all over the world in the 19th century. Unlike a number versions of the song, I didn’t want to sing about wanting to take Shenandoah’s daughter away “across the wide Missouri”. When I included it on my new album, “Long Time Travelling”, I was relating to the forces that carry us forward on our journeys and thinking of what could internally anchor us as we cross the many waters of life. So in my imagination Shenandoah’s voice was one that connected me to that ancient wisdom, that is reflected in the Thanksgiving Address
Also coming up is a performance by Ken Whiteley & The Beulah Band at this year’s online Winterfolk. Winterfolk is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary in 2022! The festival runs Feb. 19, 20 & 21 and they have an amazing line-up throughout weekend. Our set is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (details below) It was awesome to play live off the floor with Rosalyn Dennett, Rob McLaren and Gord Mowat for the first time since the pandemic and it was expertly captured by Tim O’Reilly (Soundstill Prod.) and audio engineer extraordinaire, Nik Tjelios.