Remy Rodden is best known as a children’s performer and environmentalist, having previously released Think About the Planet, a children’s album.
With his new CD, In the Hills, Rodden turns his songwriting talents to more adult topics, sharing his vision of the North with his audience.
Rodden has assembled some of the best Yukon musicians for his band, including the album’s producer, Dave Haddock on bass, guitars and backup vocals, Lonnie Powell on drums, Jay Burr on trombone and Andrea McColeman on marimba and accordion. Bob Hamilton also provides guitar on the song, “Still the Phoenix Rises”.
The result is an eclectic mix of musical styles, from Celtic (“In the Hills”) to swing (“Moonlight, the Yukon and You”), to world beat/reggae (“Suffering Optional”) to rock (“Woman with a Chainsaw”) to modern folk (“Louisa”).
His band provides a solid accompaniment for this musical tour of his Northern-themed songs.
The opening track, “Last Stand on the Land”, is an earnest and honest description of Rodden’s decision to remain in the Yukon. It’s a lyrical love story of how he was captured by the raw beauty of the land, the mountains and the aurora borealis. It’s a story that’s common enough to those of us who moved to the Yukon and decided to stay.
“In the Hills” shows his commitment to stay and defend his home, no matter what. The song is a hard-driving Celtic anthem, drawing inspiration from Rodden’s Irish heritage.
It seems to double as an Irish battle song, reliving the battles with Oliver Cromwell and William III with its cry, “We won’t be slaves in our own home.”
Rodden’s “Herschel Island Whaling Song” stands out from the rest of the album. In a style reminiscent of Stan Rogers, he sings of a Gold Rush era sailor joining the Beaufort Sea whale hunt. He manages to capture simultaneously the romance of the North and the brutality and gore of the whaling industry.
It stands out that an environmentalist like Rodden can feel the drive of whaling: “Way, I’m off to the Pole/ I don’t give a damn for the Klondike gold/Making my living on the Arctic Sea/Herschel island, it’s the whaling life for me.”
Rodden includes three cover songs, Jim Richards’ and Buck Evans’ “Moonlight, the Yukon and You“, Peter Krug’s “Woman with a Chainsaw” and Joe Bishop’s “The Spawn Song”. This last song must appeal to Rodden as a biologist. It also has a nice marimba played by McColeman, giving the song a bubbly, watery feel.
Rodden’s other career as an educator comes out in “Don’t Make a Crude Mistake”, but the effect is jarring. About the wreck of the Exxon Valdez, the song takes the wrong path.
Rather than a traditional shipwreck dirge, so common in Newfoundland folk songs like “The Petty Harbour Bait Skiff”, the song is a jazzy number that reduces the potential lesson of a massive environmental disaster to the over-simplistic moral, “If you drink, don’t drive … Drinking killed the sea.”
The CD on the whole is a good mix of musical styles with a great band, about Rodden’s love of the North – a love those of us who live here can appreciate.
And for tourists who visit to get a taste of the North, getting this CD can help bring that love home with them.
Outstanding Tracks: “In the Hills” and “Herschel Island Whaling Song”.
The local release of In the Hills will take place Thursday, April 7 with a concert at the Centre de la francophonie, 302 Strickland St. at 7:30 pm.