Monday, August 1, 2022

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: MIKE BRAVENER & BLUEBIRD - HAVE YOU EVER HEARD THE STORY?


Happy New Brunswick Day! And what better day to feature the new collection of trad N.B. folk songs from Mike Bravener. His first, 2020's Depend Upon The Pay, was nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award, and once again he's dug deep in the province's history for more. The songs reach back to the early 1800's, and this time out Bravener has concentrated on story songs, those that tell true or tall tales. 

Given the rural and resource-based economy of the province at those times, most of the tales involve fishing, lumbering, river travel, courting songs, and knee-slappers. Bravener goes all-in on his searches for material, combing archives from here to Indiana, searching out rare field recordings and transcripts, searching graveyards for the resting places of the heroes mentioned, and learning songs from old-timers that might have been lost to history without this recording. 

The players and singers keep the music close to traditional, but occasionally they stretch out a bit. "Grace Darling of the Saint Croix, one of the few 20th-century tunes, gets the most modern treatment, starting simply enough but turning into a Gospel-flavoured singalong, Fredericton's vocal group Les Chanterelles shining. Wisely Bravener sticks to the English-language folk songs of the era, rather than trying to dig into the province's well-documented Acadian traditional material. These songs have been largely neglected for decades except by folks in the Miramichi folk music community, and Bravener's enthusiasm is an important cultural statement.