CBC East Coast Music with Bob Mersereau

Music Review: Lennie Gallant - Live Acoustic at The Carleton
Jul 13, 2014

Here's Lennie in the best possible setting, an intimate club. This is the second album recorded in the East Coast's best club, The Carleton in Halifax, after David Myles' live one from 2011, and it has the same spark that award-winner did. The excitement of the audience, and in return the enthusiasm of the musicians is easy to hear on the recording. It's a very confident set, over an hour long, with both long-time favourites and brand-new material, and the crowd is just as keen to hear the new ones as the hits.

Gallant's current touring group is a small acoustic crew, with Lennie on guitar and harmonica, Anthony Rissesco on violin, and two of Gallant's nephews, brothers Jeremy playing keyboards and Jonathan on percussion. I prefer this combo to a full band, as it lets Gallant play the storyteller, and doesn't overwhelm the lyrics. And when they want, they can still party hard, especially on some of the Acadian numbers. Gallant (the elder) is obviously enjoying the young energy the others bring as well, and he really seems to be commanding the stage with this show.

That bodes well for his new theatre show that has just begun in Charlottetown, Searching for Abegweit: The Island Songs & Stories of Lennie Gallant. He and the same band star in that, and although it has much more spoken-word and thematic material, several of the songs featured show up on this set. Those include the new number Abegweit, written about the Mi'kmaq name for P.E.I., and the legend that it was Glooscap's pillow. Also from the show is his Tales of The Phantom Ship, a ghost story about a ship on fire that sales the Northumberland Strait. Gallant has his own style of folk music, whether they feature historical tales (such as the Titanic number The Band's Still Playing) or fantasy songs (Tell Me A Ghost Story), where he rocks them up and makes them lively and exciting. It's easy to fall for these stories when you're having such a good time learning them.

So far, so much fun, but he has some heartache and some tear-inducing ones held back for the right moment. Peter's Dream appears, its tale of what happens to a fishing family when the industry fails still as powerful today, with its brilliant Biblical metaphor. That's followed by another favourite, Pieces Of You, a great lyric about lost love. The show wraps up with Mademoiselle (voulez-vouz danser), its warmth and charm a lovely way to go into the night. This is the set Gallant needed to remind us all of the strength of his writing, and his powerful performance style.

 

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Lennie Gallant in ‘fine form’ on new CD

Doug Gallant - The Guardian
July 5, 2014

Lennie Gallant: Live Acoustic At The Carleton features a mix of fan favourites and new tunes

Timing is everything. That is perhaps one of the most over utilized expressions in the English language.

But there are times when it still seems appropriate.

This is one of them.

In the last 30-odd days, singer-songwriter Lennie Gallant has published a new book, released a new record and launched a new musical at the Charlottetown Festival.

Could he possibly have timed things any better?

He now has a book, a show and a record that can cross-promote each other.

And happily all three are worth promoting.

The book is worth reading, the record is worth hearing and the show is worth seeing.

For the purposes of this column, however, I’ll stick to the record.

Lennie Gallant: Live Acoustic At The Carleton was recorded at my favourite Halifax watering hole, The Carleton, on Argyle Street, one of the best venues on the East Coast to hear singer-songwriters like Gallant, Dave Gunning, Don Brownrigg and Thom Swift.

Recorded over the space of two nights, the record features some 16 songs, many of them fan favourites of longstanding like Peter’s Dream, Tales Of The Phantom Ship, The Band’s Still Playing, Tell Me A Ghost Story and Mademoiselle.

But the record also boasts several new offerings, one of which, Abegweit, was written specifically for the musical, Searching for Abegweit: The Island Songs & Stories of Lennie Gallant, which is playing five nights a week until the end of August at The Mack.

Other new entries featured here include an absolutely beautiful piece called God’s Reply, which he co-wrote with John Wiggins, and Amelia, a haunting ode to flyer Amelia Earhart, which he co-wrote with Liam Titcomb.

There’s also a version of Has Anybody Seen My Skates, a great song about Canada’s national obsession that Gallant debuted during a special concert at the Confederation Centre for National Hockey Day.

Gallant was in truly fine form for these shows at The Carleton. His voice has seldom sounded better and his guitars got a serious workout because he was the only guitar player for those shows. Nice harmonica work, too.

He was more than ably supported by violinist Anthony Rissesco and two of his own nephews, keyboard player Jeremy Gallant and percussionist Jonathan Gallant, both of whom are also playing with him at The Mack.

All three contributed backing vocals.

There’s also a special guest vocalist on the record. The voice of Mi’kmaq singer Hubert Francis can be heard on Abegweit.

What’s missing from the record are several of the stories Gallant told his audiences during those shows. But you can hear them, too, by going to Gallant’s website at http://www.lenniegallant.com/.

Most of the songs that appear on this record are also featured in his show at The Mack so if you like the record, see the show. Conversely, if you like the show, buy the record.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

 


 

Maverick Magaine - 4 out of 5 stars!
www.maverick-country.com

Lennie Gallant IF WE HAD A FIRE Revenant Records ****

Rated as one of Canada’s best performing songwriters, though new to me, he certainly lives up to that on this, his ninth album. It has recently picked up the East Coast Music Awards Roots Album of the Year. He teams up with fellow Canadian Gordie Sampson and Music Row’s Troy Verges for the opening You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are, a great rhythmic opener. Carolyn Dawn Johnson had a hand in the writing of the title tune and also adds her distinctive vocals. Dance The Dark Away is a powerful roots-rocker with definite Springsteen flavouring. A great story teller, you’ll be hooked in by the lyricism of Emily’s Letters and The Ringer.

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Dirty Linen Magazine

Lennie Gallant If We Had a Fire [Revenant 0209519 (2009)]

Canadian songwriter Lennie Gallant’s eighth recording is much like its predecessors, full of rich, melodic songs written about everyday people and events. The opening track, “You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are,” is a simple but telling love story, as is “Emily’s Letters,” a song about the finding of old love letters and the dilemna of what to do with them. Gallant also writes about the real world, as in “Wounded,” a touching tale of an injured Canadian solider, and “The Coldest Road,” about the loneliest of truck drivers in the frozen north. The arrangements are fairly straightforward: bass, drums, and electric and acoustic guitar with touches of mandolin and violin. One track, “Extraordinary Ordinary Life,” is written about the joys and problems of a long-term marriage, and he’s joined on this track by the Symphony Nova Scotia. Another winning collection of first-rate songs from one of Canada’s premier songwriters. (JL)

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What's Going on in Arts by Wanda Earhart

Lennie Gallant
If We Had A Fire
Revenant Records (2009)

Although I have heard and privately critiqued many CD’s in the last number of years, it has been awhile since I actually put my thoughts to print for a review. Lennie Gallant’s latest English language recording, If We Had A Fire has made my return to this much-missed assignment a particular joy. I have had the pleasure of covering most of Lennie’s releases in the past, with his Live album continuing to rank at the top of my all time favorites. But it took just the first few listens to unquestionably proclaim this latest offering as, without a doubt, his best collection to date.

Lennie Gallant does not simply write songs. They are stories. They are windows on the state of the world. They are statements of protest, celebrations of love, lost and found, folk tales brought to life through a chorus and beautiful melody. If We Had A Fire delivers all of these and more.

The album begins with “You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are”, a great love song that builds into a powerful anthem, accentuated by the backing vocals/electric guitar of Brad Davidge, and steel guitar of Scott Sanders. “Dance The Dark Away” is sure to have the listener taking that advice as the tempo leaves you unable to do anything else but follow the rhythm that is classic Lennie Gallant.

“Tell Me A Ghost Story” is definitely a standout. Its unique arrangement of a soft lyrical ballad that builds to a crescendo blast of a chorus, showcases what has become a signature part of the Lennie Gallant touring band, the violin of Sean Kemp. It is nothing short of magnificent.

“Flowers In My Heart” is a personal, extremely touching song, actually co-written with Gallant’s then five-year old daughter, Amelie. Joined by Rose Cousins for backing vocals, the pride is obvious in the lyrics. This continues in “Be The Change”, again, joined by Amelie and a group of children along with the haunting vocals of Coco Love Alcorn, as they sing of hope for the future.

“Emily’s Letters” is story-telling at its finest. “Extraordinary Ordinary Life”, could stand out on the merits of the words and voice alone, but add members of Symphony Nova Scotia and let’s just say you have a recipe for an exceptional gift to the ears—a truly moving composition and arrangement.

The title cut pairs Lennie with one of the best contemporary singer/composers in music today, Carolyn Dawn Johnson for a great original addition to the mix.

Throughout the entirety of the recording, Lennie is supported by a who’s who of the best accompanists, who take the already first class material to the highest of heights. Be prepared to lose yourself in the drama and intrigue that is the brilliant writing of Lennie Gallant. If We Had A Fire will have you waiting patiently for whatever he has in store next, for those who appreciate perfection among their listening collection.


Oct 15, 2010

Concert Review

Gallant delivers another memorable night

The Guardian
Published on October 15th, 2010
Todd MacLean

“Spending a night with Lennie is almost always a memorable experience,” Eric MacEwen said, as he warmly and passionately introduced Lennie Gallant to a packed crowd at the newly-renovated Kings Playhouse last Friday night.

MacEwen has stated many truths in his day, and the performance that Gallant followed through with proved him to be right again.

“Eric and I have never spent a whole night together, just for the record,” Gallant smiled in his first words at the mike, to start the show on a comedic note.

The premise behind the night of music at the Kings Playhouse was to raise money and food donations for the Georgetown Food Bank. And what better way to do it than to bring out one of the Island’s most widely-known singer-songwriters of all time for the cause.

(Incidentally, he’s so nationally known now that he recently became a “P.E.I. singer-songwriter” clue in the National Post crossword. “And Stompin’ Tom did not fit!” Gallant said.)

Flanked by two Nova Scotia musicians, Anthony Rissesco on violin to his right and Keith Mullins on drums and backing vocals to his left, Gallant wheeled into a driving quick strummer of a first tune — Mademoiselle, Voulez-Vous Danser — to kick things off with a spectacular bang.

(Did you know that Jimmy Buffett recorded that one several years ago? Of course, it pales in comparison to Gallant’s version, but hey, there it is.)

Gallant’s new album is called If We Had a Fire, which has garnered him three nominations for the upcoming Canadian Folk Music Awards in November, and throughout the night he performed a handful of tunes from this new recording.

His third song of the evening, Before We Sell This Car, was one of these. A tune written with Juno award-winning country artist Carolyn Dawn Johnson, it’s a nostalgic heartstring-puller complete with some catchy melodic hooks and was definitely one of my favourites of the night.

Some other highlights of the first set included songs like Tell Me a Ghost Story (perfectly spooky for an October night), You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are (a gorgeous new tune written for his six-year old daughter, Amelie), 47 Angels on Her Front Lawn (always such a rocker) and, of course, Peter’s Dream, which raised everyone’s voices in song, as well as the goosebumps on the back of my neck.

Gallant also told us an interesting story in the first set. Mentioning that Canadian astronaut Julie Payette took one of his CDs along for her recent trip into space, he also said he was originally going to try to get her a copy of the new CD to take along for the ride as well, particularly because the launch of the album coincided with the launch of her shuttle (“What better way to launch a CD, eh?” Gallant chuckled). But he quickly realized this wouldn’t be the best idea when he remembered that the CD was called If We Had a Fire.

Some highlights of the second set were songs like the set opener, Which Way Does the River Run, the title track from the CD, If We Had a Fire (which is just such a fantastically-written song, with a profound putting-life-in-perspective message to it), the old classic that still sails on, Tales of the Phantom Ship (again, wonderfully fitting for this time of year), the emotively enveloping Wounded, the Gandhi-inspired Be the Change and the massive finale, The Band’s Still Playing, which featured the cream of the crop of Rissesco’s incredible violin solo work throughout the show.

After a standing ovation, and an encore of Seven Years, a guy shouted out, “Open Window!” in the midst of the audience’s applause.

“Maybe he just wants us to open a window?” drummer Mullins said.

But follow through with his request they did, as Gallant belted out with gusto one of his most adored tunes in his repertoire, and the trio rocked it home solidly.

What a treat it was to hear Gallant in this setting and what a great help it was for the underprivileged of the Georgetown area to head into the fall and winter with a boost to the food bank resources.


Full House at Folk Harbour Roars It Up For Lennie

Stephen Pedersen on August 8, 2009

Lunenburg loves Lennie and Lennie loves Lunenburg. Repeated standing ovations at his outstanding set Friday night in the Tent on Blockhouse Hill, echoed the thunder but also completely wiped away the memory of the extraordinary cloudburst and lightning storm that swept over the site minutes before the show began.

Lennie Gallant’s genius at writing and singing his own songs has given us not only classics like Peter’s Dream, And The Band Played On, and Which Way Does The River Run, but new songs on their way to the Lennie Gallant Hall of Fame.

These would include Wounded, his compassionate tribute to broken soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in an atmosphere of our collective silence and neglect. And the poignancy of Before You Sell This Car (from his latest album If We Had A Fire). An old car is full of memories from first kisses to coffee spills that often mark the landmarks of our lives.

There is an energy in Lennie’s singing, an inner fire of Acadian French rhythms performed at blazing speeds, and also an orchestral fullness to the fat chords he pulls or strikes from his guitar.

A further sign of Lennie’s musical taste is the musicians he chooses for his bands. It’s a highly refined taste, that penetrates more often than most singer-songwriters to the inner sanctum of music’s wizardry, of it’s ability when approached with utter honesty, to penetrate the cosmos, to rip away the veil of the familiar to reveal the fabled Music of the Spheres talked about in earlier centuries.

Anthony Rissessco on violin and Jamie Alcorn on acoustic electric guitar are two veteran practitioners who, like Lennie, are at the peak of their musicality having broken through to the glory of speaking it’s language with the ease and eloquence of great poets.

Both of them stunned the audience repeatedly with their improvised solo breaks and interior fills and ornaments. Brilliant as they were, they topped it all with the kind of professional confidence and support that cleared the path for Lennie and only surged in after he had passed, like the Red Sea after the Army of Jehovah reached the far shore dry-footed.