Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Pearl Company, again

Friday night my wife and I had dinner at The Bread Bar (an 'earth to table' restaurant on Locke Street) and then went down to The Pearl Company to watch Valdy, a Canadian legend! I call him a legend, but earlier on Friday afternoon Ben Babchishin (a film-maker from out west) had told me the story of pitching a film to the people at Bravo TV. They liked his hour long portrait of Mae Moore and Lester Quitzau and thought it might be the start of a series. He said, "What about Valdy?" The Bravo woman said, "WHO?"

In fact when I told a friend that we were going to see Valdy he said, "Is he still around? He only had that one song didn't he?" "Play me a rock and roll song or don't play me no song at all..." is the song he was thinking of. All of us folksingers (and wannabe folksingers) knew and loved that one. Some of us did "stay home with a big case of beer" but Valdy soldiered on and released a string of successful songs, "Simple Life," "A Good Song," "Peter and Lou," and an album that got played more than any other (except maybe Raffi) in our household Valdy's Kids Record.

More recently he has released a couple of country flavoured CDs with Gary Fjellgaard, and a double disc entitled Viva Valdy! Live at Last. That's how he was on Friday...live at last! Just Valdy and his old Martin guitar playing most of the hits and a wide selection of tunes from his long career, including a handful from a new album not yet released!You could purchase a download card for $10 that allowed you to dump this new collection onto your iPod (more about that later) or you could buy the Viva Valdy set for $20. I think there were even CDs of that infamous kids' record available!

Valdy is an energetic performer, always moving, kinetic. His guitar playing is superlative alternately jazzy and folky, and that '60s Martin rings beautifully, but it's his voice that stands out, this guy can sing.

Someone once quipped that Valdy could sing the Muskoka phonebook and make it entertaining, and in some instances the other night that's essentiallt what he did, if he forgot a lyric he just kept right on going making things up, or continuing a narrative right through the chords. It was a fine example of the folk process in action. Just like Pete Seeger, who doesn't feel successful unless everybody's singing, Valdy led the room in some old folk songs, and in the choruses of his own classic tunes. He encouraged audience participation from the start by quoting Chilliwack's Bill Henderson "if there's no audience / there just ain't no show!" We even got to sing Christmas songs since it was Christmas Eve in the Orthodox calendar! Valdy's last chance to sing his Christmas repertoire 'til next year!

Between sets Valdy moved to the lobby/gallery/merch table, poured himself a cup of java and signed CDs and chatted for the whole break. After that brief respite he again took the stage to do it all over again.

After the show I rushed home to download the new album, only to find that the promised link was nowhere to be found. I looked around his website and located an e-mail address. I sent a short message, and within a few hours Valdy had replied directing me to another location. Not his manager, or his handler, but the man himself replied! The album? It's a goodun. Can't wait to see what the artwork looks like, but the music is just fine!

Tomorrow night...Andy White...at The Pearl Company!

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