Since the nature of my job dictates that I spend several hours a month on the road – a figure that’s likely to grow exponentially now that we’re into the second week of a provincial election campaign – I’ve found a way to have some fun with it and celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday at the same time.
I’ve decided to limit my driving music to Canadian artists during our sesquicentennial year and, in a move that embraces both my over-patriotic nature and a rarely-seen layer of anal-retentiveness, I’m doing it in alphabetical order.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Cathy and I own more CDs by three artists – the musical-comedy group The Arrogant Worms, internationally-renowned folk legend Bruce Cockburn and well-travelled Pictou County native Dave Gunning – than any other Canadian musician. So at the start of every month, regardless of where I am in the musical alphabet, I play albums by the Worms, Bruce and Dave in sequence, before returning to my previous playlist.
This isn’t the first time I’ve tried something like this. Four years ago, I went through our entire CD collection, picking a new genre every month. Apart from being an eye-opening look at our personal music library, it introduced me to a lot of songs and artists – particularly those from Cathy’s past – that I had never experienced.
That approach also showed me that we have less of certain types of music in our collection than we might have previously recognized. In particular, I was surprised and disappointed with how little Acadian music we owned, given my own personal and cultural history. I think we’ve rectified that situation now, and it’s been fun to supplement our still-predominant English-language selections with a good “tintamarre” every now and then.
And I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I suggest that the 2013 experiment actually got me through the last provincial election campaign. (Seriously, there’s a lot of driving around several different counties during these things, folks, and not just for the candidates or party leaders.)
This time around, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed revisiting so many old favourites and giving more attention to the newer Canadian albums we’ve picked up in just the last few months, let alone the last four years. Among these new additions: Evans and Doherty’s delightful 30th-anniversary double album, which we purchased shortly after their March visit to the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, and Christian artist Steve Bell’s 2006 release The Symphony Sessions, the result of his collaboration with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
Going with The Arrogant Worms once a month has also done wonders for my celebratory Canadian mood. Sure, their overall body of work – stretching back 25 years – is creative and funny. But when our great nation is hitting a significant milestone, it’s hard to go wrong with ditties like “Canada’s Really Big,” “Proud To Be Canadian”[“We won’t say that we’re better/It’s just that we’re less worse”], “The Mountie Song,” “When Canada Rules The World,” “If I Were Prime Minister,” “I Am Not American,” “We Are The Beaver,” or “Canada-Man” [“He eats donuts every day/And tries to stay out of the way”].
Going through the “C” portion of our music filled me with hometown pride, thanks to our Celtic Colours compilation CDs, the Cape Breton Summertime Revue 10th-anniversary collection, and a couple of albums’ worth of assorted Cape Breton artists. And the “D” side of things reminded me of how fortunate we are to have so many strong Atlantic Canadian female artists, from Teresa Doyle to Yvette d’Entremont, not to mention Melanie Doane. (We’ve got five of Melanie’s albums and could easily add a few more.)
The “G’s” should be interesting – after all, what other letter guarantees you French music from Nova Scotia’s Grand Derangement and B.C.’s The Gruff, Cape Breton legend Bruce Guthro and his European band Runrig, a Glenn Gould box set, a compilation CD from the late, great CBC Radio show Gilmour’s Albums (and its late, great host, the thick-voiced Clyde Gilmour), and Best Of Gowan? (Side note: Lawrence Gowan is just about to release a new album with Styx, the band he’s fronted since 1999. I think that might just qualify as Canadian content.)
And then there are the “M’s” – all 63 of them.
Yes, 63. (I counted them again before writing this column.) What can I tell you, we happen to like artists whose names begin with “Mac” or “Mc.” You’d think we were Nova Scotians or something.
Hmmm – I’m starting to think this little project might extend beyond Canada’s anniversary year. But, as you might have already guessed, I also think I’d be just fine with that.