Jimmy Rankin canít remember the first
time he heard Farewell to Nova Scotia.
With its familiar chorus
"Farewell to Nova Scotia, the seabound coast/Let your mountains dark
and dreary be/For when I am far away on the briny ocean tossed/Will
you ever heave a sigh or a wish for me?" the song, whose author is
unknown, has become an unofficial anthem for the Bluenose province,
sung at gatherings large and small, by tourists and native sons and
"Itís a part of everyoneís consciousness for the Maritimes and Nova
Scotia," concedes Rankin, bundled up in a soft, olive green wool
sweater and olive Diesel cap in a Halifax coffee shop during Nova
Scotiaís first blizzard of 2006.
"Because itís such an anthemic song, itís almost been bastardized.
Itís played in pubs everywhere."
The Mabou-raised singer-songwriter, who has been busy touring with
his two solo albums since The Rankin Family disbanded in 1999, will
perform Farewell to Nova Scotia tonight for the first time in his
career at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame 3rd Gala at the Metro
Toronto Convention Centre.
Among the other performers are Andy Kim, who will be joined by
Bedouin Soundclash doing his hit Sugar Sugar, the Stampeders singing
Sweet City Woman with country sensations Doc Walker, Jully Black and
Jarvis Church dueting on Oscar Brandís A Guy is A Guy as well as Sarah
Slean, Louise Pitre, Willie Nelson, k.d. Lang, Rufus Wainwright and
CBC radio listeners can catch highlights of the gala on Monday on
Radio One from 11 a.m. till noon and Radio Two from 8 to 10 p.m. A
one-hour TV special will air on CBC on Monday, March 6 at 9 p.m.,
The gala is hosted by Andrew Craig from CBC Radio Twoís In
Performance and CBC Radio-Canadaís Sophie Durocher,
Farewell to Nova Scotia is one of 26 songs being inducted along
with five songwriters: ragtime composer William Eckstein; big band
giant Carmen Lombardo and classical composer and lyricist Lionel
Daunais; and songwriter/poets Gilles Vigneault and Leonard Cohen. Gene
Mac- Lellanís Put Your Hand in the Hand will also be inducted.
Quebec singer Lucille Dumont, Springhill songbird Anne Murray and
Canadian industry pioneer Herbert Berliner will also be presented with
Legacy Awards, honouring their contributions to, and support of, the
Canadian songwriting industry, a news release from the organization
"I wrestled with the kind of version to do," says Rankin. "I
started by re-examining the lyrics. Itís a very tragic song,
heart-wrenching. I do it not like a dirge, but slower, more
melancholy, thoughtful than the pub version where itís slammed out as
a beer drinking song."
According to a news release from the Canadian Songwriters Hall of
Fame, Farewell to Nova Scotia is believed to have been written shortly
before or during the First World War.
"Derived from The Soldierís Adieu, by Scottish poet Robert
Tannahill, the song was changed to reflect a soldierís sorrow at
leaving the hills behind as he heads out to sea," the release says,
noting ""the song gained popularity when it was recorded in 1964 by
Catherine McKinnon to be used as the theme song for the CBC TV show
"People tend to take it for granted, so itís almost overused," says
Rankin of the folk-traditional tune.
"At any pub in Nova Scotia, any ex-pat pub across Canada, you
expect to hear it. Itís been overused, maybe misused, but the lyrics
are touching. Itís a memorable melody, sung constantly since it was
Rankin left for Toronto on Friday for a whirlwind few days
beginning with a sound check for the gala on his way in from the
airport before an appearance later that night with the Songwritersí
Association of Canadaís Bluebird North Cafť. He was to perform with
Kardinal Offishall, Melissa McClellan and Dala in a show hosted by
Blair Packham and Shari Ulrich.
In late January, he performed with Divine Brown, Tom Wilson, and
Wil in Bluebird North shows hosted by Lennie Gallant and Ulrich in
Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton.
And on Thursday heíll kick off Casino Nova Scotiaís Songwriter
Series in the Schooner Showroom at 8 p.m. Hosted by Bruce Guthro, the
evening, also showcases Nova Scotian favourites Jill Barber and Dave
Gunning. Tickets are $24.98 each plus tax. The Bluebird North Cafť
will stop at Casino Nova Scotia on Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. with Ron Sexsmith,
Jane Siberry, Ron Hynes, Thom Swift, Morgan Davis, Packham and Ulrich,
in the lineup to sing their songs and tell the stories behind them.
Tickets for that show are $25 plus tax.
"When you get the right combo itís a lot of fun. You need good
chemistry and a good mix of genres and personalities," says Rankin.
After spending less than a week out west, Rankin returned home to
discover numerous changes in his six-month old son James.
"Heís more co-ordinated, more interactive. Heís got a tooth. There
are little things, heís evolving from an infant to more of a human
being," says the proud first-time dad.
"It happens before your eyes and itís kind of amazing.."
Besides revelling in the joys of fatherhood, Rankin will be
spending this winter working on his third album.
His 2001 solo debut Song Dog earned him ECMAs for single of the
year and SOCAN songwriter of the year for Followed Her Around and
country artist of the year as well as two Juno nominations.
His 2003 followup Handmade earned ECMAs for SOCAN songwriter of the
year for Midnight Angel, male artist of the year (2004) and
roots/traditional solo recording artist.
And heís already booked for some performances in and around the
Junos at the end of March, beginning of April in Halifax, as well as
the South by Southwest music festival in March in Austin, Texas.
Photo: Singer-songwriter Jimmy Rankin, shown at a Halifax coffee
shop on Wednesday, will perform Farewell to Nova Scotia tonight for
the first time in his career at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame
3rd Gala at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. (PETER PARSONS /
February 24, 2006 - Global Maritimes
By Murray Brewster - Canadian Press
HALIFAX (CP) - Canada's youngest premier summoned his small-town
values and rural Cape Breton roots as he was sworn into office Friday
in Nova Scotia.
Being thrifty, helping neighbours, taking responsibility for
yourself, and giving more than you receive will be the guiding
principles of his administration, Rodney MacDonald, 34, said after
taking the oath of office. "I believe these are the values of Nova
Scotians," he told over 1,000 invited guests, many of them
high-profile federal and provincial Conservatives.
His outlook on life and government, said MacDonald, were moulded by
his upbringing in Mabou, N.S., a picturesque, sleepy hamlet in western
Cape Breton which has recently been a hotbed in the revival of Celtic
In an echo of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent election
campaign, MacDonald said his Conservatives will make the health and
well-being of families the highest priority of his government.
"To us, each little village, every small town and both of our
cities matter," he told a packed convention hall.
"We all know our communities are strongest when our families are
doing their best."
Later in Ottawa, Harper greeted the new premier at the front door
of 24 Sussex Drive and said to reporters: "I'm no longer the newest
first minister. He's newer than I am."
MacDonald's homespun words touched friends, supporters and
colleagues in Halifax, who gave the rookie premier three standing
ovations during his first speech as premier.
"It's quite a day," said Gerald MacDonald - no relation to the
premier - as he used a white handkerchief to wipe tears from his eyes.
"He's from down home and I know him very well. I served on
municipal council with his father and he's a great guy."
Mixed with the warm personal assessment, the Port Hood, N.S.,
resident was bursting with pride at the thought the new premier was
from Cape Breton, where residents have long considered themselves Nova
Scotia's distinct society.
The pomp and circumstance of the nearly hour-long ceremony was
often punctuated with folksy touches, beginning with a bagpipe
processional and ending with the national anthem sung by friend and
fellow musician Raylene Rankin, of The Rankin Family.
His 15-member cabinet was sworn in at the same time Friday, with
only five untested ministers.
One of the newcomers, Brooke Talyor, a longtime backbencher who ran
afoul of former premier John Hamm, admitted being overwhelmed by the
"I was sweating like a hen hauling wood up there," said the new
natural resources minister.
"I'm not used to a whole lot of pomp and ceremony. When I got up, I
forgot to shake the premier's hand until after I signed. Everyone else
did it before. I don't know whether you call that a bad start or not."
The prime minister was quick to congratulate MacDonald, who was the
only Nova Scotia cabinet minister to support him during the federal
"All Nova Scotians can be confident in knowing that their premier
is committed to ensuring the province remains vibrant and optimistic
for the future," Harper said in a statement.
MacDonald has inherited a relatively stable minority government,
one stacked with experienced ministers who earned their stripes under
Hamm. The 67-year-old former country doctor announced his retirement
last fall after six years as premier.
The Opposition New Democrats said Friday they're prepared to give
MacDonald some time to settle in and wouldn't speculate on whether
they would continue to prop up the Conservatives.
There will be no such grace period from the third-party Liberals,
who struck an inflexible tone.
The new premier and cabinet have less than a week to come up with
concrete policy ideas, which could be used to lure his party's
support, said Liberal Leader Francis MacKenzie.
"I'm not interested in sitting down, having coffee and making small
chat," he told reporters. "We've got a job to do here."
In a bizarre addition, MacKenzie said he's not interested in
meeting at all with the new premier, and MacDonald could communicate
with him via Canada Post.
There was one light moment amid the pomp and circumstance as
Lt.-Gov. Myra Freeman told the incoming premier that she accepted his
"resignation" instead of his "recommendation" to form a government.
March 16, 2006 - Hits Daily Double Magazine
Good Vibes Permeate
20th Edition of Austin Music Biz Confab, Let the Shiner Bocks Flow
Golda is an anonymous
industry veteran attending this year's 20th South by Southwest in
Austin, TX, under cover, and after editing her report, we can't say we
blame her. If anyone else cares to have their SXSW musings posted,
e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll see how many we can get up
Itís a Love Fest.
Arrived in Austin
late TuesdayÖ.and it really is the greatest city for live music. I'm
reminded within two minutes why I got in this business in the first
place. You can hear someone playing before you even get off the plane,
with the incredible soul goddess Ruthie Brown greeting the arrivals in
song from a makeshift stage. Waiting for my luggage was like a high
school reunionÖ some people it's really great to see and others, well
not so much...
After dropping off my
stuff, we all headed over to La Zone Rosa for legendary Asleep at the
Wheel singer Ray Bensonís annual birthday party. Don't ask how a nice
Jewish boy from Philadelphia has become the King of Western Swing, but
there you go.
The moment we
arrived, we were immediately greeted by perhaps the most famous Texas
Jewboy of all, as Kinky Friedman himself worked the room, soliciting
votes for Governor of the Lone Star State, a tidbit that, after a few
shots of tequila, you start to seriously consider... and find yourself
agreeing with his campaing slogan, "WHY THE HELL NOT??!!" Why not
indeed? Seeing the gangly 6'6" Ray on stage is always quite an
experience, but then the sultan of twang Mr. Bill Kirchen, one of the
night's special guests took over and he really is one of the most
amazing guitar players ever. Boy that tequila was going down smooth.
So now itís Wednesday
(that's yesterday if you're counting, which I've stopped since about 3
this morning). I had my annual brunch at the Four Seasons, where EMI
technohoncho Ted Cohen was seen holding court about how his cell phone
can actually microwave a TV dinner as I spent some quality time with
friends before everyone was let loose into the wilds of Austin to try
and catch as many of the 1,300-some-odd bands that would be playing
within the next 96 or so hours... not to mention which parties to hit.
I fullfilled my
obligations to SXSW by participating in their mentoring program, which
is always fun. I have even been known to actually hire some of these
kids over the years and watch them do good. Then, itís off to the
smoking balconyÖwhich I recommend should be the non-smoking balcony
sponsored by Zyban next year (which might be the only sponsor not here
this year). The Canadian contingent sponsored a big tent, barbeque and
a lively afternoon showcase and after that it was off to relax and
figure out the night, which ended up being divided between clubs on
6th Street and a couple on 4th.
Most notable were the
Gourds, who were kinda like intellectual hillbillies, and great
multi-tasking musos to boot, each playing multiple instruments
effortlessly. Then, it was off to the Austin Music Awards for a little
bit just in time to see Kinky again, giving a speech I couldnít hear
very well. Couldn't really tell you who won, but it's usually the same
folks every year. Finally a showcase for Jimmy Rankin, one of Canada's
foremost singer-songwriters, who looks like he could be Paul
McCartneyís little brother, which is enough to win me over as he rocks
the house until the clock struck 2:00. I drove around looking for
cigarettes until 3, and then it was time to sleep it off and start all
April 3, 2006 - Halifax Herald
By T'Cha Dunlevy, CanWest News Service
HALIFAX - Bagpipers
at the airport, parties in the street, industry hobnobbing, star
sightings and music everywhere -- it was an action-packed weekend on
the East Coast as the 35th annual Juno Awards did their best to
celebrate Canadian music, big and small.
The televised show last
night was just one event among many, and there was truly something for
Ginger's Tavern was the
place to be on Friday night, as soft-spoken romantic Ron Sexsmith held
court before a full house.
Outside, about 30
people stood in line, waiting desperately for a chance to hear their
favourite artist. They watched as media, label reps and other industry
pass holders waltzed in front of them and upstairs.
Inside, Mr. Sexsmith
played acoustic guitar (and, briefly, piano), accompanied only by
stand-up bass as an enraptured crowd (save for a few schmoozers near the
bar) hung on his every word and note.
The scene was somewhat
more disjointed (and rowdier) over at Irish pub Pogue Fado, where
Vancouver's Alpha Yaya Diallo played fluttery African guitar, backed by
a tight, funky band. Half the crowd went obliviously about its business
-- drinking and gabbing --while the other half danced along.
Elsewhere in town, Luke
Doucet played to the jam-packed college crowd at Tribeca; rock acts
Stabilo and Pilate performed at the Marquee Club; Toronto rapper Eternia
and soul singer Carl Henry played an urban showcase at the Waterfront
Warehouse; and Montreal rocker Jonas performed at Your Father's
The kids got their fix
on Saturday at Juno Fan Fare, an autograph session featuring Nickelback,
Bedouin Soundclash, Hedley, Shawn Desman and more than a dozen other
Things kicked into high
gear on Saturday night, as every venue in town seemed to have a lineup
out the door.
Justin Trudeau and Ben Mulroney were among the elite in attendance at
CTV's invitation-only Juno party, at the Economy Shoe Shop. It was open
bar, Pamela Anderson was hanging out in a back room somewhere, and Jimmy
Rankin was playing to the dolled-up, elbow-to-elbow attendees.
Things were more
down-to-earth next door at the Seahorse pub, where local acts Hey
Rosetta and Elliott Brood were performing to the mostly hometown crowd.
Around the corner at
Ginger's Tavern, Jully Black -- who had just hosted the non-televised
awards with a fearless mix of snappy punchlines and caustic wit -- was
delivering the smooth soul sounds of her Juno-nominated album This Is
The big show of the
night was a double bill: indie rock collective Broken Social Scene and
reggae act Bedouin Soundclash. Feist swooped in to join her pals in
Broken Social Scene for their song 7/4 (Shoreline). Both groups
performed at last night's televised awards and both, coincidentally, won
around the city on Saturday night included Halifax rockers Sloan, Juno
winner Corb Lund (roots and traditional album of the year -- solo) and
Blessed (reggae recording of the year), plus Julie Doiron, Tanya Tagaq
University's Rebecca Cohn Auditorium -- away from all the hustle, bustle
and hype -- a handful of artists sat on stools yesterday afternoon,
acoustic guitars in hand, for the Songwriter's Circle. Among them:
Martha Wainwright, Diallo, Mr. Sexsmith, Joel Plaskett, Jann Arden and
the event's host, Great Big Sea's Alan Doyle.
Broadcast on CBC Radio,
the show was the antithesis of the flashy affair the Junos have become.
But between the two extremes lay an endless array of possibilities --
each somehow representing the eclectic, confusing and evolving identity
of Canadian music.
April 5, 2006 - Halifax Herald
By Elissa Barnard
EDITORíS NOTE: Arts reporter Elissa Barnard asked a few of Nova
Scotiaís Juno winners, what a Juno did for their careers and for some
of their Juno memories.
JIMMY RANKIN, of The Rankin Family and The Rankins, winners
of six Juno awards, four in 1994 for single of the year, Fare Thee
Well Love; group of the year, country group of the year and Canadian
entertainer of the year:
"Weíd been to the Junos before. Nothing really came out of it then
the next Junos we were nominated for a bunch of awards. I donít even
think we were going to go, we were planning to be on the road.
"We cleaned up that year and in all four categories we were
nominated in. That combined with the surging popularity of the band
and the radio play and word of mouth and sweeping the Junos really
brought the band to another level nationally. It brought us to the top
level you can get in this country.
"Itís a great thing. I donít know if at the time it registered how
important in our career it was. Itís a great landmark. I have them on
my book shelf, my Junos. Iím very proud of them. We were there and we
deserved them. Itís something that never happened again and rarely
happens to a band.
"One of the highlights for me personally was the Juno for Fare Thee
Well Love. It was a song I wrote. It was the last song that made the
album. It was an afterthought; we needed another song for Cookie.
"Iíve been to a lot of these awards ceremonies. I donít care what
anybody else says. When they call your name it doesnít feel anything
RITA MACNEIL, winner of three Junos including most promising female
vocalist in 1987:
"I was in my 40s. It was so exciting I couldnít believe it. It was
just very, very exciting, and a great experience to meet people
through a wonderful event and it can be a great memory in your
MacNeil performed on stage at the Junos with The Men of the Deeps.
"A highlight for sure and so proud to sing Working Man and have them
with me. It came off as a different performance from what they had in
the show. It was very exciting for us all and coming from Cape Breton
and bringing that culture to the stage in Toronto was a great night
for us all."
MacNeil has kept her Juno awards. "Oh my, theyíre in my tea room
where people can pick them up and look at them. Itís nice for people
because theyíre responsible for buying the CDs and coming to the
"I think itís great the Junos are in place to recognize performers.
Whether youíre nominated or you win a Juno itís a great thrill. Itís
great for your career for sure. I think at the end of the day the goal
in this business is to have longevity in your career.
"I have a new CD coming out in May, an album of cover tunes which
is different for me, and Iím following up with a tour and doing a CTV
special on TV in the spring and planning a tour for the fall and
winter and a trip to Australia so Iím pretty busy. Iíll be 62 in May
and Iím still going and I still enjoy it as much as ever."
CARROLL BAKER, winner of country female vocalist of the year in
1977, 1978 and 1979:
"I was the first country performer they ever had on the Junos and
my performance (of Iíve Never Been This Far Before) was live and most
people lip-synched and I did a live performance. I got on the stage
and said to myself, ĎOK, Baker, this is for country music.í
"It was one of those magic moments. I got a standing ovation. The
next day I woke up and my face was on the front page of the newspapers
and I got a lot of offers.
"I already had a gold record at that point and a No. 1 record and I
did not win a Juno that year but I won it the following year but I
didnít have a hit record then," she says with a big laugh.
"I think the performances were more fun than actually winning the
Junos. For all singers itís about the music: do the fans like it? do
you like doing it? The gold and platinum records indicated I had fans
which no industry award can say to you.
"The awards are the icing on the cake but I loved the performances,
I love the camaraderie of being with the people at the Junos.
"I started going to the Junos when they were so small, everybody
knew everyone. My daughter Candace was five when she started going. It
was nothing to see her on the shoulders of people like Bryan Adams or
One year Baker co-hosted the Juno Awards with Ronnie Hawkins. "We
arrived on stage in a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce and the doors
wouldnít open. Ronnie was climbing out the side and I was coming out
behind him and Pierre Trudeau was in the front row and people were
laughing hysterically. Iíve got some really good memories."
The Bridgewater-born singer, who lives with her husband John in
Guelph, Ont., is giving a rare performance on Juno night, Sunday April
2, at Nine Mile River Community Centre, as well as a 3 p.m. show. "I
said to John, ĎI guess my audience they donít watch the Junos.í Iíll
be thinking of them. Hope theyíre thinking of me."
BUCK 65 (RICH TERFRY), winner of alternative album of the year in
2004, nominated this year for video of the year for Devilís Eyes, and
creating the main music for the awards ceremony including the opening
theme and incidental music between performers and award presenters:
"Itís one of the things that I feel kind of strangely conflicted
about because it seems on some gut level a strange thing in this day
and age and with everything going on in the world to be handing out
trophies for art and it is certainly not what motivates me to make
"For as much as Iíd like to say weíre real artists and none of this
stuff matters to me, it feels good. I had been fighting against
hip-hop type for years. Just to be nominated in the alternative
category made an interesting statement that maybe drew people to my
"When youíre making music thatís difficult to categorize, when you
have attention drawn to what you do in a big way with a major award
nomination, and in an unexpected category, that might make the average
person check it out. They might go, ĎI always thought Buck 65 was a
normal hip-hop guy but why is he in alternative?í
"To go one step further and to actually win that category was very
flattering and it did draw some new listeners to what I was doing. I
do remember in the week or two following the awards we saw a real
spike in the sale of my record.
"Iíll be absolutely honest with you. I wondered before the award if
this was any sort of thing people took notice of internationally but I
noticed in the press I did after it that people did. There is a lot of
focus on Canadian music these days
"There is an awareness that Canadian music is hot and Canadian
music has been getting a lot of international attention and so maybe
our national music identity from an international perspective is
changing a bit. In years past people thought of Canadian music as
Celine Dion and maybe Neil Young. Weíve always had a bit of big pop
"Now that a lot of successful Canadian music is a little edgy and
left of centre itís changing peopleís perception of what weíre about
and what our sound is.
"I was backstage after the Junos and people were leaving and
milling about and I was approached by Sarah McLachlan and she walked
up to me and put her hand on my shoulder and said, ĎI think what you
do is very interesting,í and it was kind of funny. It was like things
had come full circle. I remember when she performed at the Flamingo in
Halifax a long time ago.
"I was hanging out with Ron Sexsmith. Weíre not party animals and
we went back to the hotel and decided to spend a quiet night hanging
out and Ron had his guitar with him. Just Ron and I and a couple of
""It was so intimate. It was just so friendly and off the cuff and
at one point I snapped out of it (and thought), ĎItís me and Ron
singing Leonard Cohen songs! Thatís great.í
"This year it being in my home town is a real double whammy. Iím
really looking forward to it. I imagine itíll be very full-on and a
ASHLEY MACISSAC, winner of best new solo artist in 1996 and
instrumental artist of the year in 1997, recently released his new
singer/songwriter CD Pride in Canada and in the U.S. this week:
"It means I have a couple of statues. I donít have them anymore. It
did nothing for my career. If it did they might ask me back to the
Junos this year. I did get invited to play a private CTV party and I
told them, ĎNo, Iím not going to play your private party unless you
put me on the show.í I think theyíre more concerned about whether
Coldplay is going to show up.
"Iím not knocking them, it is an honour. I was ecstatic and elated
at being told youíre worthy in Canada. Obviously, it made my parents
very proud. At that time I thought it meant a lot more. In the long
run it probably looks good on the resume.
"You canít spend it though. Awards are great for recognition from
your peers, but it doesnít necessarily parlay into album sales.
"Iíve got good memories definitely from it. A free limo, you know,
that sort of thing. It was a pretty big night. It was a great
performance the year I opened the Juno show. I had David Foster tell
me it was his favourite Junos.
"The Junos are for people whoíve had a lot of success or very
little and the middle ground is neither here nor there. Iím not
knocking them. Itís definitely an honour. Itís an honour with a grain
JOE SEALY, Montreal jazz musician and composer who lived in Nova
Scotia and whose father grew up in Africville, winner of best
contemporary album for Africville Suite, 1997:
"I think it really did help. It publicized the project itself and I
ended up doing a lot of touring which I was doing anyway but I think
it did increase the amount of touring I did. The publicity made the
project a lot more visible in the eyes of the public.
"It was my third nomination but it was the one that had the most
emotional involvement on my part. The whole project was a tribute to
"Itís always a thrill when you hear your CD named. Itís very
exciting. I think most people hang out with people theyíre familiar
with. Iím not much of a schmoozer. Iím not into star gazing and I
presume no one is star gazing at me."
June 25, 2006 - Halifax Herald
By Stephen Cooke - Entertainment Reporter
SHEíS ONLY appeared on the East Coast twice; once last February at
Casino Nova Scotia, and later that month at the East Coast Music
Awards in Charlottetown, as a special guest at the Songwriterís
Circle. But the Northern Alberta native has a special fondness for
Recorded in her adopted home of Nashville, Johnsonís
latest CD Love & Negotiation ó in stores on Tuesday ó features a few
Atlantic Canadian contributions. One is a guest vocal by Mabou-born
singer-songwriter Jimmy Rankin, a former tour mate and longtime
friend. Thereís also a songwriting assist and vocal backup on the
song Crybaby from Cape Breton singer-songwriter Gordie Sampson, now
a hot property after his chart-topping, award-winning success with
Jesus Take the Wheel, a solid hit for Carrie Underwood.
But Johnson has known Sampson for years, as part of Nashvilleís
burgeoning Canadian contingent, and snagged him for the song before
he became too hot to handle.
"Gordie sings harmony with me on Crybaby, you can hear him in
there quite a bit," says the willowy blond over a cup of green tea
at Halifaxís Trident Cafť. "His voice is so awesome, itís got this
great rasp on it, but it sounded a little . . . Ďsmushy,í when we
turned it up more in the mix. So I pulled out my other harmony, and
then put him in-between, and I think weíve got the right balance. I
think weíve got it; he did some really cool nuance things that I
wanted to keep.
"They were things that werenít totally perfect, but he has great
pitch, and itís like heís got his own melody going on in there."
In a lot of ways, Sampson is following a similar path to the one
blazed by Johnson, who started commuting back and forth from
Westlock ó 85 kms north of Edmonton ó to Nashville with a head full
of songs for a few years before finally settling down in Music City,
U.S.A. While establishing herself as a performer she wrote tunes for
the likes of Patty Loveless, Jo Dee Messina and Pam Tillis, and got
Chely Wright to number one with Single White Female.
She was part of a new generation of young songwriters, including
longtime friend and Sampson songwriting partner Troy Verges, who
also contributed to Crybaby.
"Weíve been writing for, like, 10 years now," says the American
Music Award and Canadian Country Music Award winner, in the middle
of a quick visit to Halifax to tape a special for French CBC-TV. "We
were the nobodies that no one cared about when we started writing
together. We were both at a small songwriting company, and he had
been an intern there, and then he got some single song contracts,
and got signed on.
"We were working together, and he had a little rock band, and we
were just gelling. We wrote my first single ever together, Georgia.
Surprisingly, Crybaby is the only song heís on with me on this
record. For some reason, heís not on the rest, but it was just this
particular combination. Iíve got so many things of his in mind, but
sometimes when youíre making a record you worry about covering the
same subject matter twice, and finding the songs that fit together."
Clearly Johnson has been able to find new inspiration for Love &
Negotiation. She wrote or co-wrote all but one of its 12 songs,
relying on an intuitive ability to draw on the world around her for
their subject matter. "Itís just a compilation of stuff thatís going
on in my life; past, present, whatever. There are observations of
other people, but mostly itís . . . stuff."
Stuff like the ups and downs of getting the most out of a fully
committed relationship, in this case her 2003 marriage to husband
Matt Fisher, still
going strong thanks to the two factors named in the CDs title track.
"I always knew Iíd call the record Love & Negotiation, because
the title had been in my head for a long time, and then I had a
chorus sitting around that I just thought would really be something
once I got it written," she says.
"It just encompasses this whole aspect of being a couple, when
love motivates us to do some things, and sometimes you have to
negotiate to get ahead. What can you sacrifice to get what you
really want; your job, your home, your kids. Youíre always making
deals, somehow or another."
For Johnson, the trick to making the song work is knowing which
personal details will be the ones to engrain the lyrics in
listenersí hearts and minds.
"Iíve kissed a few Jacks," she sighs, referring to the male
character of her musical mini-play. "Iíve turned a few princes into
toads, Iím just talking about my own life experiences and how Iíve
gone through some of that stuff too. You give up certain things just
because you think youíre not going to win, and you realize things
arenít right for you, so you get out. And even if youíre not
married, you can probably relate to having your own knight in rusty
armour, and how if he gets to have his night out with the guys, then
you get to go out with the girls the next night.
"Hopefully it all works out."
But it wouldnít be country music if things worked out all the
time, and while Johnson is a whiz at the up tempo, uplifting stuff,
she can also tug at heartstrings on a song like Thereís Nothing Good
About Lonely, a song that had its foundation in her own feelings of
isolation, but grew into something else when a friendís story gave
it even more depth.
"That was just me in my bedroom one weekend when I was by myself,
thatís how it started," she recalls. "I just had a chorus. Then my
girlfriend came over and she was going through a really hard time;
her boyfriend was moving back to Russia, and she couldnít keep him,
but she didnít want to marry him although she was in love with him,
and she was so sad.
"So I pulled this out and we finished the song, although she was
sad the whole time. And thatís Jimmy Rankin singing on that tune
with me, he just sounds awesome, and somehow makes the song sound