This Cana­dian icon keeps Stompin’ along

Whiskey Jack keeps the mu­sic go­ing in the Sto­ries & Songs of Stompin’ Tom Oct. 14 at Mary­hill’s Com­mer­cial Tav­ern

The Woolwich Observer - - THE ARTS - STEVE KANNON

CHARLES THOMAS CONNORS MAY have passed away in 2013, but Stompin’ Tom lives on as an icon of Cana­dian coun­try and folk mu­sic.

His tunes, from the nowu­biq­ui­tous Hockey Song to the likes of Bud the Spud and Till­son­burg, are the very essence of Cana­di­ana. And his mu­sic is very much a liv­ing thing in the hands of those who were his backup band for some two decades, Whiskey Jack, who’ll be per­form­ing Sto­ries & Songs of Stompin’ Tom at Mary­hill’s Com­mer­cial Tav­ern on Oc­to­ber 14.

Whiskey Jack first be­came as­so­ci­ated with Stompin’ Tom in the late 1980s when Connors ended his decade-long re­treat from the mu­sic in­dus­try. By that point, hav­ing formed in 1977, the band had al­ready es­tab­lished a name for it­self, ap­pear­ing weekly on the CBC’s Tommy Hunter Show in the ’80s, for in­stance. The six crit­i­cally ac­claimed al­bums to their credit in­clude the 1993 col­lab­o­ra­tion, Dr. Stompin’ Tom… Eh?

Whiskey Jack co-founder Dun­can Frem­lin, Stompin’ Tom’s long-time band­leader, said he and his col­leagues have been work­ing to keep the mu­sic front and cen­tre in launch­ing Sto­ries & Songs five years ago.

“It’s very per­sonal. It’s not a trib­ute show – we’re his band­mates that loved and re­spected him, and we’re just con­tin­u­ing on,” said Frem­lin of the con­cert on tap for Mary­hill.

Along with the stan­dards – “Tom al­ways said the nov­elty songs paid for the ad­di­tion on his house, his cars,” he laughed – the band will be play­ing an as­sort­ment from Connors’ vast cat­a­logue of some 300 songs.

“A song like Song­bird Val­ley, when peo­ple hear it, no­body could dream that Tom wrote this song,” said Frem­lin of Connors’ song­writ­ing range, not­ing he wrote love songs and took great pains craft­ing them.

Along with ex­plor­ing the mu­sic, the Whiskey Jack show also in­cludes plenty of sto­ry­telling, giv­ing the au­di­ence some in­sight into the man be­hind the icon.

Frem­lin has so many sto­ries, in fact, that he’s writ­ten a just-re­leased book, My Good Times With Stompin’ Tom, that takes a look at “the be­hind-thescenes Tom.” It in­cludes plenty of sto­ries from the road, drawn from the cross­coun­try tours that saw the band hit dozens of cities from coast to coast, with Tom tak­ing in the lo­cal flavour rather than rush­ing from one show to the next.

Frem­lin notes that, driv­ing the van, Connors was a vir­tual tour guide, telling the band about all the land­marks and lo­cal sto­ries of the places he’d been many times, hav­ing hitch­hiked back and forth across the coun­try as a teen and a young per­former.

“He was like a travel agent for these places – he had hitch­hiked all these roads.”

A pro­moter of all things Cana­dian, Connors was par­tic­u­larly keen to boost Cana­dian mu­si­cians, happy to share his stage and ex­pos­ing young tal­ent to his au­di­ence.

“He was very gen­er­ous with his stage, with his au­di­ence and with his time,” he said, not­ing that ex­tended to his back-up band, who were re­quested to play their own songs and to adopt his own. “He was very en­cour­ag­ing of the way we in­ter­preted his songs.”

For Sto­ries & Songs, Frem­lin (vo­cals and banjo) will be joined by award-win­ning vo­cal­ist Cindy Church; Dou­glas John Cameron, two time Juno Award nom­i­nee and multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist; Randy Mor­ri­son, five time Cana­dian Na­tional Fid­dle Cham­pion; Eric Jack­son, one of Stompin’ Tom’s bass play­ers, and drum­mer Al Cross.

To­gether, Whiskey Jack have been cu­ra­tors of sorts of the Stompin’ Tom mu­sic cat­a­logue since his death in 2013.

“We’re thank­ful to be able to do this. It’s a priv­i­lege,” said Frem­lin of car­ry­ing on the Stompin’ Tom tra­di­tion.

“We’ve been to­gether a long time, and we’re play­ing the best mu­sic of our lives. We’re all in this be­cause we love Tom and his mu­sic.”

“We’re of­ten told af­ter shows that ‘you guys look like you’re hav­ing fun.’ We are hav­ing the time of our lives,” he said. “It’s not work. It never gets tired.”

Whiskey Jack and the Sto­ries & Songs of Stompin’ Tom take to the stage at 3 p.m. on Oc­to­ber 14 at the Com­mer­cial Tav­ern. Tick­ets are $30, avail­able at the venue, 1303 Mary­hill Rd., or by call­ing 519-648-3644. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.com­mer­cial­tav­ern.ca.

[SUB­MIT­TED]

Dun­can Frem­lin (with banjo) and Whiskey Jack will be at the Com­mer­cial Tav­ern on Oct. 14 to per­form Sto­ries & Songs of Stompin’ Tom, draw­ing on their many years of col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Cana­dian coun­try/folk icon.

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