Performing about 60 shows Outside each year, we should not be surprised that the Yukon’s own Kim Barlow has a lot of friends in the music business.
And when she asked five of them to join her in an ensemble to take on tour, it is interesting to see – and hear – what she was able to pull together.
Meet The Pan Canadian New Folk Ensemble.
It includes Christine Fellows, a singer and piano player whose music has been described as “chamber-pop, avant folk.” Married to the Weakerthans John K. Samson, Barlow says she is a member of Winnipeg’s musical family.
Then there is Old Man Luedecke. Barlow met him when he lived in Dawson City for a few years. He now lives in Nova Scotia and has a following of ’20s hipster kids who are stomping their feet and singing along,” says Barlow.
“It has a messianic feel to it,” she says of watching him perform.
“He’s 30 or 31, but he plays like an old, back-porch guy … he’s got some wisdom they seem to need.”
On cello will be Alex McMaster of Toronto — “Yeah, we are from all over,” says Barlow – who is classically trained and will add an “exciting” element to the music that will be “folk pop” with roots influence.
Rounding out the strings section will be violinist Alison Corbett of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Barlow met her at a festival in St. John’s, where she was improvising with many of the musicians.
“She is working on her masters in ethno-musicology, so she’s a well-rounded cat,” says Barlow.
Finally, there is Jordy Walker, who plays electronica and percussion. He and Barlow had started a duo, called Father Daughter, playing old-time and electro-acoustic experimentation.
Barlow says with this group of performers, each taking turns, she will be able to be a back-up singer and she will play different instruments.
“It’s exciting to take my songs and put them into a new context; it’s exciting to not concentrate on my own singing.”
It is an ensemble that hearkens back to collaborations of the ’60s such as The Rolling Thunder Revue, Bob Dylan’s travelling caravan that saw such performers as Joan Baez, Bob Neuwirth, Emmylou Harris and T-Bone Burnett.
She likens it to her work with the Longest Night Ensemble, “a big group that takes songs and makes them work with what ya got.”
On Oct. 14, the six performers got together as a group for the first time in Windsor, Ontario. The idea was to stay in cabins and bond together. After sharing music via the Internet, they would finally get a chance to play together.
The Phog Lounge in Windsor, Oct. 15, was the debut show.
From there, the group travelled to Wakefield, Montréal, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and then, of course, Whitehorse.
“I wanted to bring my band here and show them off,” Barlow proudly declares.
They perform at the Yukon Arts Centre Oct. 31 at 8 p.m.
Haines Junction’s St. Elias Convention Centre is also on the itinerary for Oct. 29 and then there will be Dawson City on Oct. 30.
There was also a show in Atlin, BC, on Oct. 28, but Barlow wasn’t able to take part as that was her son’s birthday.
“There won’t be a lot of time (for sightseeing),” says Barlow. “Just driving, a lot of driving. Maybe if we are lucky we can go for a walk.”
That will be 17 shows from Oct. 14 to Nov. 3, ending on Salt Spring Island.
“It’s a costly tour,” says Barlow. “Hopefully we’ll be able to make a little money.”
Making it possible are grants from the Yukon Touring Fund and Canada Council.
If the ensemble does meet with success, they may get together for another tour – perhaps a European tour – and maybe a CD.
“But we’ll probably change the name to something less clunky.”
Tickets for the Oct. 31 show at the Yukon Arts Centre are available at the Yukon Arts Centre Box Office and Arts Underground.