Here are three YouTube clips I recently uploaded to the archives’ YouTube channel. They feature Nash Stanley and the Gaspé Twang (Don Barclay – 2nd guitar, vocals; Glenn Patterson – fiddle) at this year’s Shigawake Agricultural Fair and Music Festival (footage courtesy of Anna Swanson).
Shigawake is a special community and its festival a real gem. I’ve been going as a musician and spectator since 2011 and have made a few lasting friendships there. And so I was pleased when festival organizer, Meghan Hayes, wrote me in July to see if I had any music to propose for their festival. I suggested Gaspé-area singer, Nash Stanley with Don Barclay and I as his backup band. Nash had received a warm reception on a rainy night at the Trough in Shigawake a month earlier for their Thirsty Thursdays event and so I knew he would be a hit at the festival.
In our first practice in late July, Nash introduced Don and I to Waylon Jenning’s, “The Door is Always Open.” It quickly became my one of my favourite songs to hear Nash sing. You can hear his command over his deep baritone vocal register on this one.
I knew Nash had composed a half dozen or so songs in the past two years and so I requested that he bring one of his originals to the show. “Goodbye This Time,” is a Nash Stanley classic country song about alcohol, relationships, and regret. It is worth noting that, as Nash informed the audience at Shigawake, “it’s got nothing to do with my life, it took me about forty minutes to write, and I was in the shower when I wrote it.”
During our last practice before the festival, we were discussing some of the great stories you hear in country music. Nash started telling us about a recent Craig Morgan song about a homeless man called “Almost Home.” In mid-sentence as he was describing the song’s narrative, he began singing us the first verse unaccompanied. Don and I hushed. After Nash finished giving us a sketch of the song this way, a light bulb went off in my mind. There was something so powerful about the combination of the song’s story and it being told with no accompaniment. Somehow with the guitars and other accompaniment stripped away, the song pulls you that much deeper into the story. I told Nash and Don that it reminded me of some of the old-time ballad singers who learned to sing long, narrative songs in an era before guitars were the norm in country music. I asked Nash if he would consider performing the song just like that—with no guitar or other accompaniment—at the festival. Like those old ballad singers, Nash’s delivery is highly ornamented and had a lonesome quality that you can still find in some country music today. You may have heard the recently-deceased bluegrass vocalist Ralph Stanley sing in this old-time style on the “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” soundtrack. You’d find these singers all over the Europe and North America and their craft developed in an age before mass-mediated music when singing and storytelling around the house were common forms of entertainment. I find it interesting how a well a modern country song from the Nashville machine can adapt so well into this older tradition of singing.
We were given a spectacular reception by the Shigawake community and we most appreciate getting to play for you.
fonds: Glenn Patterson