Dave Gunning at the Driftwood Concert House, September 24, 2013, 8pm
The music industry probably describes Dave Gunning as an entertainer. At it’s best that is probably a light weight descriptor and at it’s worst it is some what demeaning. In another time and in another place he would have been described in more worthy terms. If he had of been an aristocrat in medieval times he would have been called a troubadour and sung songs of love and chivalry. In Ireland of old he would have been called a Hedge Poet or a Seanchaidhthe (a Shanachie or story teller). In more recent times in West Africa he could be a Griot, a singer, musician and storyteller. In West Africa a Griot is more than that, he is actually the recorder and keeper of the cultural traditions. At a basic level Dave Gunning is a mixture of all these and an entertainer to boot. The most striking thing about this evening of music at the Driftwood Concert House was the sense of cultural “rootedness” (is there such a word) than ran through the stories and songs. Despite the fact that there were only a few East Coasters in the audience, and few of us would know the exact location of Dave’s home in Pictou County N.S., there was no denying that his music and stories struck the essential chord that resonates in the Canadian psyche. He kicked off the evening with The Mingulay Boat Song. This is a song with strong traditional Scottish roots and was probably the only truly traditional song of the evening. Never-the-less it set the “down home” tone for the evening. Mostly what followed were stories and song writing collaborations that were delivered with humor and pathos accompanied by his beautiful guitar playing in open tunings (DADGAD, Open G and Dropped D). Dave Gunning and his Stonebridge Guitar . This is both a beautiful and unique instrument. It is not often that you see a steel string guitar with a cedar top. Classical guitars usually have cedar while steel string luthiers prefer spruce. It might explain the wonderfully warm sound that is the hallmark of Dave’s playing. Dave had spent time touring with Stompin’ Tom as a bass player, that is a considerable feat in it self considering he didn’t own or play a bass at that particular time. There is nothing like the intense training of learning on the job. There were lots of stories of Tom’s affection for Moose Head Beer and Dave ventured forth with one Stompin’ Tom Song – Song Bird Valley. Among the wealth of “down home” anecdotes there was one that I found particularly amusing – “It was cold enough for an extra pair of shoe laces”. Except for the encore of the Long Black Veil it was a night full of the Canadian experience and that’s the way it should be.
I would like to thank Darrin, Jen and Silas for opening up their home and giving us an opportunity to experience this great music.