Archie Fisher and Garnet Rogers to play Malagawatch Church this August
Archie Fisher & Garnet Rogers in Concert, August 2, Tickets: $28.50 advance, or $32.50 at the door. 902-725-2272. www.highlandvillage.ca
Archie Fisher and Garnet Rogers have graced the stage with their talents for many years, making names for themselves through their consummate singing, songwriting, and prowess on the guitar. Now, on Aug. 2, in what promises to be a magical evening, they’ll dig into an extensive repertoire in a concert that will be a part of Fisher’s final North American tour. What better setting to catch them than at a concert as the sun sets in the Malagawatch Church in Iona.
Fisher will turn 80 in 2019, and both he and Rogers have been cutting back on their touring schedules after decades on the road. Coincidentally, each has settled happily into the rhythms of rural life - Fisher raises quarter horses on a small farm in the Scottish Borders, while Rogers has set down roots in Brantford, ON, on a farm where his wife, Gail, breeds thoroughbreds. They are coming to Cape Breton on the heels of their performances at the Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso.
Fisher’s career began in the 1950s during the skiffle movement, in which a British fascination with American music presaged a British folk revival. A Glaswegian with Gaelic Hebridean roots on his mother’s side, he’d came from a musical family that spawned several musical careers. As a guitarist, he pioneered the use of open tunings to simulate the droning notes of bagpipes. As a songwriter, he became known for ballads that capture the lives, stories, and vernacular speech of everyday Scottish people.
His encyclopedic grasp of traditional music was on full display between 1983 and 2010 when he hosted BBC Radio Scotland’s weekly flagship show “Traveling Folk”. In recent years, he has been showered with many honors, including being named a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the Queen for services to traditional music, and being inducted into the Scots Traditional Music Hall of Fame.
Garnet’s parents’ Nova Scotia roots exposed him from the time he was a little boy to storytelling and music making. Summertime visits to Canso thrust him into a world of relatives who wrote poems, told stories and made their own tunes, he recalled recently, in a telephone interview. He remembers harmonizing with his brother, Stan, in front of the family floor radio during Grand Ole Opry broadcasts when he was just 6. The brothers embarked on a musical career just 10 years later, traversing Canada and often performing for rowdy audiences unaccustomed, and actually hostile, to their original acoustic music. By the sound of things, they were armed with a trucker’s map, youthful ambition, their fists, and not much more. That Stan crafted exquisite songs often in the midst of chaos remains, to Garnet’s mind, an enduring mystery. Garnet’s memoir, Night Drive: Travels with My
Brother, which was published in 2016, is must reading for people interested in the Rogers’ story and the emergence of Canadian indie music. In his robust and unvarnished portrait of his brilliant and often volatile brother, Garnet appears to have both set the record straight and made peace with the man who left him tragically in 1983. In the early days, it was by no means a forgone conclusion that many of the Roger’s songs would become a treasured part of the Canadian folk music canon. And in the succeeding decades after Stan’s death, Garnet would come into his own, emerging as what a writer for Sing Out proclaimed not too long ago “as the greatest interpreter and vocalist performing in the contemporary folk scene.” One need just watch and listen to him perform Night Drive, his haunting evocation of this early life, to experience his power as a songwriter and singer.
Fisher/rogers began touring together in the 1980s and their musical friendship has flourished both in and out of the studio for more than three decades. One can hope for a bit of reminiscing, along with the performers’ characteristic wit, in what promises to be a rich and poignant evening.
Garnet Rogers, photo by Bruce Dienes
Archie Fisher, photo courtesy of Red House Records