It’s going to be a busy month for Jack Cole of the Old Chestnuts Song Circle, who’ll be finding himself on stage for three Stan Rogers tribute shows in the midst of preparing to host three other concerts and a pair of workshops. It all adds up to a good stretch for local fans of folk music.As part of the Folk Night at the Registry series Cole organizes, Mustard’s Retreat performs Saturday night. Next weekend he’ll be playing three consecutive concerts, including February 21 at the Registry Theatre, as a fundraiser for the Stan Rogers Folk Festival. Those show are followed by the Roots Weekend March 13 and 14, with The Kruger Brothers performing the first night and Trent Severn the next. Both bands will also be taking part in workshops on the Saturday.
“It is a mad dash right now,” says Cole of the string of performances.
Things get rolling Saturday with Mustard’s Retreat.
David Tamulevich and Michael Hough met in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1974 while working as short order cooks, both on hiatus from their studies at the University of Michigan. Discovering a mutual interest in music, songwriting and performing, they put together three songs one day after work, and took them to the legendary Ark Coffeehouse’s open mic night. They were a hit, and were invited back to do a 45-minute set. Within a year and a half they were doing music full time.
Forty years later, they have a dozen highly acclaimed recordings of their own, plus three more CDs with their songwriting collective, The Yellow Room Gang.
“They really came out of that ’60s folk scene,” said Cole, pointing to the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary. “They’ve certainly got that ’60s folky vibe.”
That’s reflected in their choice of instruments, which remains eclectic: guitars, electric bass, dulcimer, mandolin, harmonica and penny whistle among them.
Their first recordings remind him of the early stuff from Gordon Lightfoot – “Their voices have stayed true to that.”
And, being folkies, there are always plenty of tales to be related.
“They tell great stories. And after 40 years, there are plenty of stories.”
The following Saturday, Cole takes to the same stage, joined by four other musicians including Rogers’ friend, guitarist and record producer, Paul Mills. The group is rounded out by Brad Nelson, a Cambridge singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist; Anne Lederman, a Toronto multi-instrumentalist (fiddle, accordion, piano) and singer; and Dan Patterson of Kitchener, who provides bass, keyboard, and backing vocals.
The concerts (the other stops are in Hamilton and London) are a follow-up on two previous tribute shows in 2008 and again in June 2013, the 30th anniversary of Rogers’ passing at age 33.
The band is remounting the show in support of the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, which had to be cancelled just two days before last year’s event due to Hurricane Arthur, a huge financial blow to the organization, Cole explained. Known as Stanfest, it brings together some 50 artists and 12,000 fans in Canso, Nova Scotia every year, with an economic impact worth millions to the region.
For this outing, the group has dug deeper into Rogers’ playbook, planning to perform half a dozen or so more obscure pieces – lighthearted, up-tempo pieces from the canon, said Cole, adding there will be all of the big favourites such as ‘Northwest Passage’ and ‘Barrett’s Privateers.’
“There’s going to be more of a sing-a-long component, too. We’re going to the audience participation angle this time.”
All proceeds from the shows will go to the festival in Canso. The organization there has sent Stanfest merchandise to sell, plus some full-weekend passes for the 2015 event in July, to be auctioned off.
That should certainly bring out the faithful, but Cole notes it’s a fine time for those unfamiliar with the Canadian folk icon’s music to experience Rogers’ music.
“I hope the diehards bring out some first-timers … who’ll get to love Stan’s music as much as we do,” he said.
More than 30 years after his death, his music continues to be among the most popular in Canadian folk circles, garnering air play, record sales and many artists performing his songs.
Mustard’s Retreat performs February 14 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17, or $20 at the door. Rise Again: Remembering Stan Rogers is set for February 21 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18, or $20 at the door. All shows take place at the Registry Theatre, 122 Frederick St., Kitchener. Tickets are available at the Centre in the Square box office by calling 578-1570 or toll free 1-800-265-8977 or online at www.centre-square.com. For more information, check out www.folknight.ca.