In today’s post, I’m happy to share with you what are perhaps my favourite field recordings I’ve made to date. In late August and early September 2013, I was hanging out at the Pembroke Fiddle and Step Dance festival around the legendary blue Gaspé Tent. Towards the end of the week, Brian Morris showed up from Montreal with his guitar in tow. Within an hour of his arrival I heard some stellar guitar duet music coming from inside Brigid’s trailer. I dropped what I was doing and ran to fetch my recorder. Here’s what I heard:
Brian Morris is one of the finest guitar players I’ve met. He has an uncanny ability to capture the swing of the Gaspesian fiddle style of his father, Erskine Morris. Brian grew up near Huntingdon, Quebec and in Verdun immersed in the Gaspesian diaspora and remembers people often coming by to listen or dance to his father’s music. He is mostly a solo finger-style guitarist but learned the bluegrass flatpicking style in the 1980s and later applied it to his dad’s old tunes. Brigid Drody was born in Douglastown to the musical Drody family and has backed up fiddlers her whole life. She’s lived south of Montreal since the 1960s. No one can back up a tune with as much drive as Brigid, something many fiddlers will tell you.
The first tune comes from celebrity Québécois fiddler, Isidore Soucy; “The Little Boy’s Reel” is from Brian’s father; “Leslie DeVouge’s Tune” we learned from Cyril DeVouge who learned it from his father, Leslie; “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight” is a popular song that goes back to the 19th century – Brian arranged the melody as a dobro-inspired guitar instrumental; “La Ronfleuse Gobeil” is a French-Canadian classic that Brian’s dad played as did countless other fiddlers from Quebec.
The Gaspesian presence at Pembroke goes back to the early 1980s when Gaspesians living in the Montreal-area began congregating there during the week leading up to Labour Day, bringing along boards to make a dance platform and small elevated stage for the musicians. Through the years Gaspesians living at the four corners of the continent made the pilgrimage to Pembroke and partied into the early morning hours. (If you want to hear and read more about the Gaspesians at Pembroke, see this earlier article from our sister blog).