|Reprinted with permission of the Boston
Songs of their childhood
GOOD CATCH: Great Big Sea, above, and Mary Jane Lamond bring a seasoned Celtic mix to two venues.
Sea performs at the Paradise on Thursday while Lamond can be seen at Johnny D's in Somerville.
Mary Jane Lamond and Great Big Sea
bring Newfoundland to the Hub
|By Brett Milano
You have to look a long way these days to find an unspoiled, regional music scene; especially one where kids grow up on Celtic folk tunes instead of Marilyn Manson. You can find that on the Atlantic coast of Canada, where the old songs are still played in family kitchens, and young garage bands are as likely to learn "Bog oíLochain" as "Louie Louie."
Two acts from that area hit the hub Thursday: the Newfoundland band Great Big Sea plays the Paradise, while the Cape Breton chanteuse Mary Jane Lamond (known as the singer of Ashley MacIsaacís hit "Sleeping Maggie") hits Johnny Dís. The two acts don't sound remotely alike - the raucous, acoustic Great Big Sea could be Newfoundlandís answer to the Pogues, while Lamond favors a haunting, goth-influenced sound. But both recently appeared on the compilation album "Fire in the Kitchen," put together by folk booster Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains; and both perform the traditional songs they grew up with.
Though Lamond now sings only in Gaelic, her background is a bit more urban. And her fans may be shocked to learn that she once played keyboards in a Montreal punk band.
"Sure, Iím not in the closet about that - Iíll readily admit that I love Iggy Pop and the Sex Pistols," she said last week. "Iíve always been a person who looked to the alternative, and I loved punk music for the philosophy as well as the sound. That was the first time I cut my hair short, because I couldnít do the Farrah Fawcett hairdo."
After a spell in the fashion industry, Lamond rediscovered her roots. "In Cape Breton, music and songs are really the fabric of peopleís lives. Itís never been a place where people accumulate a lot of possessions; thereís a lot of pride in the tradition and respect for what people do. Iíll give you an example: I was in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland recently, and I heard a traditional song that Iíd also heard in Cape Breton - it was exactly the same melody, the same verses. So two communities with virtually no contact had maintained this song for nearly 200 years."
Is there a danger of the music getting too commercialized? "Thereís already a backlash in Canada, people saying ĎNot another band from Nova Scotia.í But there are thousands out there with a lot of intrinsic value. I wouldnít call myself a folkie; Iím more interested in combining traditional and modern elements."
"Anything that exposes the world to our culture is a good thing," said Great Big Sea singer Alan Doyle, calling from a pay phone at Kennedy Airport.
"We all grew up with music in our household, and I think Newfoundland is a place where children and parents do more things together. Everyone in the small towns has some great talent for parties, whether itís dancing or playing accordion. When we had house parties, the stereo got turned off pretty early."
You donít have to be from Newfoundland to recognize one song in Great Big Seaís repertoire: They turn the R.E.M. hit "Itís the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)" into a sea chantey.
"We wanted to support the struggling American artists, we figured they could use the money," Doyle said, laughing. "I know it was a protest song in the Ď80ís but we do it in a different spirit, because the singer is optimistic in the face of the apocalypse. Thatís a Newfoundland kind of attitude."
And, of course, people in America might think of Newfoundland as the end of the world. "Thatís true. But we all know that itís really the center of the world."