Pin­sent makes mu­sic at 81 in un­likely col­lab­o­ra­tion

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Nick Patch

TORONTO — Eighty-one years old and with more than a half-cen­tury of en­ter­tain­ment-in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind him, Gor­don Pin­sent is fi­nally mak­ing his song­writ­ing de­but.

The Grand Falls, N.L., na­tive’s po­ems served as the spring­board for an un­likely col­lab­o­ra­tion with Blue Rodeo cofront­man Greg Keelor and the Sadies gui­tarist Travis Good. The re­sul­tant two-disc pack­age — Down and Out in Upa­long — hit stores this week, giv­ing Pin­sent the chance to scratch an­other item off his ca­reer to-do list.

Or, if you be­lieve the play­ful Pin­sent, the last item on said list.

“That’s it now. That’s it. I got this,” said Pin­sent ear­lier this week, slouching in a royal-blue track­suit and run­ning shoes.

“He wants the Juno,” in­ter­jected Keelor, seated next to him.

Pin­sent, quick on his feet, replied quickly: “I can sit there next to Anne Mur­ray and say, ‘See? It’s not like it used to be.”’

If it wasn’t clear al­ready, the trio be­came fast friends over the course of their first mu­si­cal ex­per­i­ment. In fact, ev­ery­thing hap­pened fast.

Good and Pin­sent met through mu­tual friend Mike Bol­land, a film­maker who worked on the Pin­sent-fo­cused TV bi­og­ra­phy Still Rowdy Af­ter All These Years. Over beers, Pin­sent showed Good some of the po­etry he had been du­ti­fully jot­ting down over the years, of­ten dur­ing long plane rides to or from his home­town in New­found­land.

Good liked what he heard, and he and Keelor met up to try to set the words to mu­sic — though it didn’t take much ef­fort. In one wine-soaked evening, the two quickly con­jured four songs and the rest came eas­ily over the next cou­ple of weeks.

“It was sort of mag­i­cal,” said Keelor, be­fore re­call­ing the first time he and Good trav­elled to Pin­sent’s Toronto pent­house apart­ment, gui­tars in hand, to show­case their new cre­ations.

“It sort of felt like lit­tle or­phans com­ing home, some­how try­ing to win favour.”

Pin­sent was thrilled with what he heard, hand-stitched roots mu­sic with echoes of folk, blue­grass and coun­try. He calls the tunes “splen­did,” a per­fect rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the words he crafted over a pe­riod of years (the first disc fea­tures Good and Pin­sent’s in­ter­pre­ta­tions, while the sec­ond has Pin­sent recit­ing his po­ems over min­i­mal in­stru­men­ta­tion).

With ti­tles like Peter Eas­ton and Upa­long, it’s prob­a­bly not a sur­prise that much of the ma­te­rial on the record takes its in­spi­ra­tion from Pin­sent’s home prov­ince.

Even Shad­ows in the Sun — which Keelor and Good ini­tially took as an ode to fallen sol­diers — ac­tu­ally re­flects Pin­sent’s fear that the town in which he grew up would be re­duced to a ghostly shell due to flee­ing in­dus­try.

“New­found­land does that,” Pin­sent said of the creative in­spi­ra­tion he felt dur­ing his vis­its. “You’re sur­rounded by water, all of these lit­tle gems are sit­ting there and wait­ing for you to dig them out of your own past and bring them out and make some­thing hap­pen with them.”

Other po­ems were in­spired by dif­fi­cult pe­ri­ods in Pin­sent’s life. He penned the jaunty Easy Ridge fol­low­ing the death of his friend, TV char­ac­ter ac­tor Wally Cox. The words find Pin­sent rem­i­nisc­ing on their shared hikes around Cal­i­for­nia (only with some prod­ding from Good does Pin­sent re­veal that Mar­lon Brando was also around for these walks).

More stir­ring still is Pin­sent’s ode to his wife, the ac­tress Charmion King, who died in 2007. On Charm — fea­tured among the sec­ond disc of spo­ken-word record­ings — Pin­sent speaks softly over tin­kling pi­ano keys: “I hear her through the morn­ing/ Rid­ing waves of mu­sic’s ocean/ Break­fast­ing with my emo­tion/ Mind­ful of the tune she plays upon my heart.”

For all the con­tem­pla­tive in­ti­macy of Pin­sent’s po­ems, the trio ac­tu­ally strug­gled to re­main se­ri­ous over the course of the in­ter­view, con­stantly crack­ing up and pok­ing fun at one an­other.

Af­ter one of Pin­sent’s sharp jabs, Keelor mar­velled: “That was sort of a Don Rick­les de­liv­ery.” Good, mean­while, was sly when asked if he had been fa­mil­iar with Pin­sent’s work — a stun­ning ca­reer that in­cludes no­table turns in Away From Her and his cur­rent gig on the CBC hit Repub­lic of Doyle — prior to meet­ing the ac­tor.

“Never heard of him,” said Good. “I went to his house and I was ex­pect­ing to see Christopher Plummer, and it turned out to be this guy.”

So given the fun they’ve had, would this un­likely group con­sider do­ing it all over again for an­other project?

“Sure, I’ll find (more po­ems),” Pin­sent said. “Just have to lock my­self up and start drink­ing again.”

CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The three ami­gos: Pin­sent (cen­tre), with Keelor (left) and Good.

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