Last weekend I was grateful to return for my third year teaching banjo at the International Music Camp‘s annual Fiddler’s Weekend, held in the International Peace Garden, which straddles the US and Canada just north of Dunseith, ND.
I always learn a thing or two going up there. This year I learned that if you play folk music in Canada, you better know who the heck Stompin’ Tom Connors is!
Jaws dropped when I explained I had never heard of him and I was promptly given a proper education via an evening of Canadian beer and a playlist of many of his 300+ Canadian-themed folk anthems.
We listened to songs about hockey, Ketchup, potato farming etc…. all with tons of references to Canadian towns and history. From what I gathered, he literally only sang about Canada. Apparently, he even turned down a chance to play the Gand Ole Opry because… not Canada!
I enjoyed what I heard, for me it landed somewhere between Johnny Cash and John Hartford. However, what I liked most was how the music resonated with all of the Canadians in the room, who knew all the songs and sang along with every refrain.
There was a real feeling of pride. I’ve always been a bit jealous of people who have a true musical connection with “place.” I try to imagine how folks from Appalachia feel singing bluegrass in the mountains or the Irish sharing traditional songs in a local pub.
Well, I may not have claim to bluegrass or Stompin’ Tom, but I still get excited when I hear The Replacements mention Garfield Ave. in “Run It“(I used to live on Garfield!) or Prince sing about “Uptown” (where I grew up skateboarding). I guess this is my folk music.
I digress… I had a wonderful time teaching banjo and performing with the High 48s at the Fiddler’s weekend. If we go back, we’ll definitely have to work up some Stompin’ Tom!