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Doug Gallant
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Two new recordings should make many people appreciate Stompin’ Tom Connors all over again

The music of Stompin’ Tom Connors is being brought back via two releases this month, a hits package and a re-issued live recording.

I remember the exact moment I heard Stompin’ Tom Connors had died.

I was sitting in The Carleton on Argyle Street in Halifax.

It was East Coast Music Week 2013, and the place was packed with musicians and music fans gearing up for four big days of live music.

Shortly after 9:30 p.m., my cellphone rang.

My editor told me they’d received word that Stompin’ Tom had died and hoped I could track down some other East Coast artists for comment.

It wasn’t hard.

Everywhere I turned there were clusters of people talking about him.

Word of Connors’ passing had spread quickly through the Twitterverse and it seemed like every other person in the place had a story about Tom to share.

What struck me almost immediately is that when they spoke about his passing they spoke about him like he was family, like that favourite uncle everybody wants to spend time with at the family reunions because he has the best stories.

Over the next few days, Connors’ passing was mourned by everyone from Rockin’ Ronnie Hawkins to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. There was an outpouring of admiration and affection from every corner of the country.

Why, some people asked, would so many have so much to say?

Because Connors made us proud to be Canadian, that’s why.

Through his songs and stories he made us look at Canada the same way he did, with wonder, with awe and with a sense of appreciation for all this country has to offer and for the people who built and shaped it with their blood, their sweat and their dreams of what could be.

So why am I offering up this tribute to Connors more than a year after his passing?

Because two recordings are about to hit the street that might make you appreciate the man from Skinners Pond all over again.

The first is A Truly Proud Canadian: The Hits The Country.

This set brings together some of Connors’ best loved songs about Canada and Canadians.

Released as a two-CD deluxe edition with some 40 songs, as a standard CD and as a digital download, A Truly Proud Canadian is a celebration of the man, the music and the country that never failed to inspire him.

This is also the first collection of Connors’ music to be made available since his passing. Previous collections have been out of print for some time.

The first disc features the best loved of Connors’ more than 250 songs, songs like Bud The Spud, Gumboot Cloggeroo, Big Joe Mufferaw, The Hockey Song, Sudbury Saturday Night, The Ketchup Song and Margo’s Cargo.

The second disc, if you buy the deluxe edition, includes his homage to each of the Canadian provinces and territories from P.E.I. to the Yukon.

Here you’ll find songs like My Home Cradled Out In The Waves, My British Columbian Home, New Brunswick and Mary, Prairie Moon and Down Nova Scotia Way.

Also hitting the street this week is In Live Concert, a 2006 recording of a concert Connors gave the previous year at Hamilton Place.

Originally released as a DVD, it’s being re-issued in three formats, CD, DVD and Blu-Ray.

In Concert Live, which has not been available the past few years, has been digitally restored for enhanced sound and picture.

Featured here are performances of several of the classic items on the previous release like Bud The Spud, Tillsonburg, The Ketchup Song and Margo’s Cargo.

But there are also performances of less frequently played material like Luke’s Guitar, Take Me Back To Old Alberta and Around The Bay And Back Again.

The DVD and Blu-Ray releases include three promotional music videos Connors made for Margo’s Cargo, I Am The Wind and Blue Berets.

When Connors first began to record, I didn’t pay much attention to him, but over time I developed an appreciation for his music.

He was no Dylan, but his songs were honest, heartfelt representations of the places he’d been, the people he met and the things he’d seen and they reflected his pride in this country.

I was not surprised when voters in a CBC-TV nationwide poll to find the greatest Canadian of all time placed him at No. 13 in the top 100.

He actually placed first in the arts/music category, receiving votes from millions of Canadians.

If these releases rekindle your interest in Connors you should consider taking in the production of The Ballad of Stompin’ Tom at the Jubilee Theatre in Summerside this summer.

Connors own story is recounted in that production, which features 15 of his most popular songs.

And just two months ago, Universal Music Canada released a new Album called Unreleased Songs from the Vault, Volume #1, the first of 10 albums of songs Tom Connors recorded before his death.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

 

Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at dgallant@theguardian.pe.ca or 629-6000, ext. 6057.

 

 

Organizations: The Guardian, CBC, Jubilee Theatre in Summerside Universal Music Canada

Geographic location: Argyle Street, Halifax.It, Canada East Coast P.E.I. The Waves New Brunswick Old Alberta

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