Sean Cronin at the Snoring Sasquatch

SEAN CRONIN AND THE VERY GOOD BAND: Sean Cronin and “The Very Good Band” at The Snoaring Sasquatch, Creston, Sunday July 29th,2012,  8pm

Sean Cronin and his pals at the Snoring Sasquatch on Sunday took me back to a time and place where I have never been. The Sunday evenings performance would not have been out of place in a smoky Greenwich Village jazz cellar in the mid-50’s. This was a time when rock and roll had yet to be invented; Charlie Parker was either dead or dying; Miles Davis was a young musician of great promise struggling with his heroin addiction and bold experiments in literature were the purview of Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg and the beat poets. In retrospect it was the complete antithesis of the “Leave it to Beaver” world of popular culture that was considered the norm of the day. So in a sense Sean Cronin and his band may also be out of step with the current cultural fashions of this new century. With their eccentric mix of jazz, rock, literature and theatre they are either way behind the times, way ahead of the times or maybe not even on this planet. In describing his music Sean tagged it with the label “Art Rock” and as such he is attempting to pigeon hole a style that somewhat defies description. Having said that it had nothing in common with the screaming guitars I associate with “Art Rock”. The music of this evening was a very finely calibrated performance with lots of sonic variety and full of surprising twists and turns in the performance.

The leader, Sean Cronin (bass, piano, guitar and banjolele) immediately brings to mind a young Charlie Haden fresh off the farm before his immersion in the turbulent free jazz waters of Ornette Coleman. In the middle of the ‘beat’ era the vocalist, viola and violinist Meredith Bates would have look elegant and right at home on the arm of a young Miles Davis. Martin Reisle (cello, guitar, vocals) in his straw hat looked like he just stepped out of a French Impressionistic painting. Even though his Gibson Firebird guitar had yet to be invented in the 1950’s Tom Wherrett would have been stylistically consistent with the era. The drummer Andrew Millar, whose back ground includes Scottish Pipe Band drumming and bebop, has the look of a somewhat dishevelled character straight out of a Jack Kerouac novel.

What about the music? Well it certainly isn’t straight ahead jazz or straight ahead rock. There are too many interesting twists and turns for either of those genre. While the music has a song base it is, to quote from other reviews, “…. the music is at times zany, the results of Cronin’s creative escapades are often quite subtle, and many of these songs are just plain good songs, with an air of melancholy sweetness”. Throughout the evening there was an incredible sonic mixture of literature, theatre, finger clicks, vocal harmonisation, banjolele (a hybrid banjo / ukulele from the 30’s), home made percussion and general weirdness. But it was not all off-the-wall performances. Their ‘off the stage’ performance of Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” was a classy string version of that all time jazz classic. And, although I am not familiar with the original James Brown version, I will certainly check out the inspiration for their version of the bluesy “Down and Out in New York City”.

After winning the Galaxie Rising Star award at the 2010 Vancouver Jazz Festival, and recording a brand-new album or two, “Vancouver’s most original band” is ready for the streets, or a bar, or a living room and of course, the Snoring Sasquatch. Thanks Paul Hutcheson and his staff of the Snoring Sasquatch for giving us the opportunity to experience this wonderful music.

More images from the performance:





Music at the Markets

A beautiful evening at the end of a bright sunny day; two busy markets in the down town core; lots of social activity; what more could one want? Music of course! Local musicians turned up in good numbers for the Farmers Market and the Down Town Business Association Market. Here are some images from the scene:

Local Bluegrass musicians Keith Larsen, Steve Jones and Elena Yeung.

Bluegrass – an excuse to dance            



Keith Larsen and Steve Jones





Singer / Song writer / banjo picker Elena Yeung



  Youthful mayhem unleashed by “The Good Ol’ Goats”This photo lies; behind the photographer the street was packed with people.

   Sabrina – new to the area


A seasoned Kimberley performer – Kaity Brown






Musicians would like to thank the Farmers Market and the DBA for the venues and the Cranbrook and District Arts Council for their sponsorship.


Cranbrook Community Radio needs your help

Rick Edwards is originally from Nova Scotia, lived in Ontario for 25 years and moved to Cranbrook recently and set up the Cranbrook Community Radio. It is currently located in the Artrageous Gallery in Cranbrook. (see the June 6, 2012 posting in this blog). Rick has been financing the venture out of his own pocket. He recently lost his job and he could really use our help to try and keep the station going. It is a very tight month and he needs
donations to get the station through this month. It’s very tight and he may not be
able to pay the rent due next Tuesday… monthly bills right now total
$450.00 a month.

contact Rick at 250-426-8924 or email

Field of Dreams Syndrome

THE FIELD OF DREAMS SYNDROME: By their very nature Municipal Governments, Regional Districts, Chambers of Commerce and similar local business organizations are  optimistic and conservative in their approaches to planning for the future. The optimism is heart felt and needed in any attempt to move forward. The conservatism, however, is often based on assumptions and analysis that are history by the time they hit the discussion floor of these organizations. Over the past decade this combination of optimism and conservatism  has led to an emphasis on tourism as a possible economic  engine to offset the variability of the resource sector in the East Kootenays. The result is a plethora of tourist targeted developments. Numerous ski hill expansions, golf course constructions, hotel expansions and recreational real estate developments that have all been designed as added value “Fields of Dreams” to attract potential tourists. The philosophy seems to have

Mission Hills Golf Course: over supply in action – Sunday, mid-summer, mid-afternoon.

been “build it and they will come”. But have they? Over the past few years estimates of tourist traffic indicate a definite decline. Some anecdotal estimates place recent down turns  as high or even higher than 30%. Added to the significant declines over recent years the idea that tourism is a growth industry is definitely dead. Even the most optimistic forecasts describe tourism activity as “flat” – a euphemism for “negative growth” or even, dare we say it, “decline”. Even by the most conservative estimates the truth of the matter is that tourism has been in steady decline for years. Noted in the Vancouver Sun, Saturday June 16th, 2012, “BC Ferries Traffic Sinks – hits lowest level in two decades contributing to $16.5 million loss” and “BC is recovering from a 20 year low in visits from Americans”.

Shadow Mountain Golf Course: More oversupply in action – Sunday, mid-summer, mid-afternoon.

Since the heady tourism days of the late 1990’s what do we have to show for the effort? An over supply in most tourist targeted projects (skiing, golfing, recreational real estate) and financially floundering development projects (Shadow Mountain, WildStone, Kookanoosca Lake Shore properties and on the horizon the Jumbo Pass Glacier development) and a tourism sector that continues to be sluggish. Why is that?

The reasons are many. Here are few. The financial crash of 2008 is right up there as the watershed moment that changed everything. That crash has been compounded by the ongoing European debt crisis, the high Canadian Dollar, negative affects of the HST, Peak Oil, the impacts of Global Warming, sales tax differentials with other jurisdictions and increased competition from both national and international tourist destinations. And it isn’t over yet. As the world financial centers roll from one crisis to another the economic uncertainty is likely to continue for many years. On the horizon is the impending implosion of the Chinese real estate boom. This will unleash another 2008 financial tsunami that will impact the whole globe. The Chinese money that has driven up real estate demand and prices in Western Canada will disappear and that, along with predicted higher mortgage rates, changes in mortgage rules and attempts to cool the “hot” market will lead to declines in local real estate values. The slide in values has already started. As Chinese economic activity slows so will the demand for Canadian resources with all the attending economic impacts.

Some, but not all, of the factors mentioned, could have been predicted or avoided. Locally the biggest problem has been timing. The sale of the Blackcomb / Whistler ski area was the penultimate signal that, despite the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Ski industry had peaked. Immediately prior to the games the shareholders knew that the glory days were over and it was time to take the money and run, and that they did.

Timing is always of the essence. The Cranbrook airport expansion is about 15 years too late. The intended influx of international flights to boost the local tourist industry was predicted on the success of earlier airport expansions projects south of the border. The infusion of public money encouraged Delta airlines to initiate international flights into Cranbrook that were later suspended due poor local and international response. Because the expansion was built with borrowed money this little bit of optimistic planning will continue to burden the local economy for years and yet, there is a bright side. The airport did need upgrading and proposed increases in tourist traffic was as good as an excuse as any to go ahead with this particular “field of dreams”. With an upgraded facility in place Cranbrook may now be able to assume its rightful place as a commercial business center. A local air carrier operating a much needed regular schedule between Cranbrook and Kelowna would be a helpful step in the right direction.

The fate of the airline industry and tourism traffic in general has been impacted by ‘Peak Oil’ (production output is being outpaced by demand – hence higher fuel prices). Simply put it means it costs more to get goods and people from one place to another. That cost is going to continue to rise.

The down turn in the economy and the negative impacts of the HST have decimated recreational property sales. But also at fault is some questionable market assumptions that probably identified baby boomers as potential buyers. The part of the equation that appears to be faulty is the lack of recognition that the targeted buyers are approaching retirement and one of their prime objectives would be a desire to downsize. A half million dollar property on a golf resort does not qualify as down sizing. Most women in that demographic would not look favourably on cleaning and maintaining a large, possibly an additional dwelling, that would be  equivalent to a large domestic residence in the city. Similarly, large lake shore developments have the substance and appearance  of suburban Calgary. Some where the ambience of cottage country got lost in the mix.

So where do we go from here? Denial or acceptance? With unpleasant news denial is always in the cards and there will be a perceived sense that the situation is not that bad. It’s just a hiccup and the economy will turn around and the good times are again just around the corner. Possible of course but unlikely. Wouldn’t it be better to hope for the best and plan for the worst. If things turn around that would be great but if things stagger on in the same fashion as the past few years a Plan B to diversify the local economy would be more than prudent. So folks, where is plan B?


Chris Coole at the Clawhammer

Music on a Human Scale:   Chris Coole at the Clawhammer Letter Press and Gallery, Fernie, Saturday July 14th, 2012, 8pm.

This is a concert that took me back, way way back to the mid-1960s. The United States Government had finally issued Pete Seeger with a passport and he was in my home town in Australia. While there he performed a a concert at Sydney University. He walked onto a bare stage with nothing but a clawhammer banjo in one hand and a 12 string guitar in other.  He then proceeded to entertained the audience for two hours. In those days it was very unusual for a solo musician to take on a challenge of the that magnitude. Chris Coole, although the comparison probably embarrasses him, is cut from the same cloth. After a short warm up session by redGirl  (Mike and Anie Hepher with Steve Jones) Chris, armed with only a clawhammer banjo and a borrowed guitar did a marvelous recreation of a Pete Seeger style concert of so many years ago.

Chris Coole plays clawhammer style banjo, so named because the right hand picking hand is held in a claw like position with sound being generated by the backward flick of the fingernail across the strings. It is a style that is a significant step away from the more familiar frantic Bluegrass style of banjo picking. It is actually a step more than away, it is a step back to the origins of Bluegrass music. That is, the songs, the murder ballads, and fiddle tunes of Appalachia. It is rhythmically softer and, to these ears, a way more melodic way of playing the banjo. And that was the tone set for the evening – the rhythmic tinkling of the banjo underscoring beautiful melodic lines and songs.  A delightful feature of the evening was the complete lack of musical cliche. Every song and tune was fresh and new. Even such familiar songs as the 1971Stone’s hit “Wild Horses” and Paul Simons “I Know What I Know” came out sounding so unbelievably new   that it was like you had never heard them before. Chris paid tribute to the much admired John Hartford with “Let him go on Mama” and “I Wish We Had Our Time Again”. No show saturated with traditional music would be complete without a blues and for the occasion Chris borrowed Anie’s wonderful old beat up Gibson guitar for a version of Blind Willie McTell’s classic blues “Delia” (as I type this I am listening to Martin Simpson’s recreation of the same tune). Among the plethora of traditional songs and tunes there was a sprinkling of original material that included “Old Dog” and “One Hundred Dollars”. If a blues must be included then Gospel music is not far behind. For the occasion “Keep Your Hand on the Plough” included the audience in the performance. The full throated participation in the chorus and the gentle stomping of the audience’s feet generated an ambience that will not fade from my mind for a long time.  The evening of wonderful traditional songs, tunes, and cover versions of newer pieces that seem to be finding a place in the folk tradition came to a close with an encore that included the Gospel instrumental “Camp Meeting on the Fourth of July” followed by another unnamed tune. One of the joys, for me, of this style of music is the prevalence of instrumental pieces and Chris served them up in spades.

Anie and Mike Hepher need to be thanked for bringing Chris into town for this concert in this small wonderful space that is Mike’s work place (The Clawhammer Letter Press and Gallery). Steve Jones the bass player was gob smacked happy to be playing his wonderful new bass behind Chris Coole and it will take a while for him, and the audience, to come down from this wonderful concert. It was music presented the way it should  always be – minimal sound re-enforcement in a very intimate setting. In other words music on a human scale.

Some more images from the concert:





The quote of the evening “Welcome to my world, bass playing and clawhammer banjo.” Steve Jones.




A Bright Sun Shiny Day

Saturday July 7th, 2012 noon to 5pm: TWO SCOOP BBQ AND MUSIC JAM  at Two Scoop Steve ice cream parlor in  down town Yahk.

It is one of the outstanding features of Canadian seasons. When it is time for the seasons to change it is like the big guy in the sky throws a big switch and its time to move on. A week ago we were in the throws of a very wet spring and a couple of days into the week the rain stops, the sun came out and the temperature soared and here we are into summer. The Big Guy threw the switch in time for TWO SCOOP STEVE’S ANNUAL BBQ AND JAM in Yahk. As usual this was a musical smorgasbord of talent from the East and West Kootenays and below are some images and comments about another unforgettable day of music in Yahk (click on the images for a larger view). Mr. Tom Bungay in full summer red neck attire doing the sound check with “You Say it Best When you Say Nothing At all”. He returned a little later with “Folsom Prison Blues”, and John Denver’s “Country Road”.

Les and Melissa of Elmer Street Conspiracy
with “You Ain’t Going No Where” and Darryl Scott’s  “River Take Me”

Dan Unger adding some Dobro sweetness to Dave Prinn’s version of “Vincent”                                

Dave Prinn with a set that included “Vincent”, “Crazy”, “Man of Constant Sorrow” (just for Dan Unger’s Dobro), “Daddy Played the Banjo” and “Get Rhythm”. Dave Prinn stayed on deck with Jim Marshall, Mike Mitchell (percussion and harmonica), Neil Ostafichuk (bass) to jam on a Neil Young tune, Chuck Berry’s “Memphis Tennesse”, “Have you Ever Seen the Rain” and “Bright Lights, Big City”.  



Ernie Toupin and his hat.


The Kings of Kitchener (Mike Mitchell, Ted Bryant and Neil Ostafichuk) played a set of their weird inventions and were joined by Tom Brown  on Tenor Sax for the famous “I’m the Ice Cream Man”.


Other performers during the afternoon included poet  R. Lee Rose, Connor Foote, Bob Gollan, Rod Wilson (on Irish Cittern playing some traditional or tradition inspired tunes – “Bonnie Ciara / The Blarney Pilgrim”, “Ben’s Lament” and “Billy of Tea / Cuppa Jig”), Bob Gollan and his tribute to Bob Dylan and Jackie Gingras (“Can’t Let Go”, “A New Coat of Paint”).








And that was not all. Tom Bungay was taking to the stage as I left at 5:30pm and I know Daze of Grace were in line to take the music further into the evening. For another wonderful day of food, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, burgers and music, music, music, a special thanks to Mike and Marlene Mitchell. They took ownership of the place in 2004 and are now going into their ninth season. Their annual BBQ and Jam is the high light of the summer season and should not be missed. See you next year!!








Summer Artists Showcase Series

Cranbrook International Airport in partnership with “The Pickled Bean Cafe” are running a Summer Artists Showcase at the airport. The idea is to expose incoming and outgoing travelers to some of the fine talent in this area. For two hours at peak travel times, usually Thursday or Friday between 4:30 and 6:30pm, acoustic solo or duos acts avail themselves of the relaxed atmosphere of the Pickled Bean cafe. Long time local favorite Tom Bungay (The Saltwater Cowboy) was the first to kick off the series in June. On Friday June 22, 2012 the duo “Daze of Grace” played a selection of original material as well as covers of some classic rock tunes. Described as “Ambient Folk/Rock” it was a good mix for the venue. Sharon Routley (Guitar and Vocals) is a well know visual artist in area and she displayed some of her cards and prints during the performance.



Jubal Routley, Sharon’s accompanist added his ethereal guitar sounds to the mix.

On Thursday July 5th, 2012 it was Jim Marshall’s turn to entertain the travelers at the Cranbrook International Airport. Jim is probably one of the finest finger picking guitar players in the area and is well known for his vocals and original arrangements of his own material as well as a  classic country, rock, blues, ragtime and pop tunes. Included in Thursday’s performances was Santana’s “Black Magic Woman”, an instrumental version of the Beatles “Michelle” (with some wonderful moving bass lines), The classic Big Bill Broonzy blues “Key to the Highway” and a rocking version of Chick Berry’s “Memphis Tennesse”.

Jim will be back at the Pickled Bean Cafe on Thursdays July 12th and July 26th, 2012.

Leather Britches, featuring young Angus MacDonald on fiddle and Rod Wilson on Irish Bouzouki, will bring the sounds of Cape Breton to the Cranbrook Airport on July 19th, 2012. Heather Gemmel  will be also be performing her unique blend of acoustic rock and blues there on Friday August 3, 2012.

Even if you are not going any where drop by. It is a great place to cool your heels and take in some of the good music of the area.




The Death of Doc Watson

As the latest edition (August) of ACOUSTIC GUITAR went to press it was reported that Doc Watson had died. For anybody playing acoustic guitar the life and music of Doc Watson has a special place. For myself, the first time I heard Doc Watson play it was with a sense of disbelief. Up until that time I didn’t think acoustic guitarists played above the fifth fret. It was just too hard to play up the neck. He certainly changed my mind about that. Thanks Doc for a lifetime of wonderful music.

Unexpected Benefits


My son informs me that with the advent of the digital age people fall into two categories. Those that are still into molecules and those that are into bits and bytes. I am afraid I fall into the former group. I don’t own an IPod, I don’t down load (that seems like too much work to me) and I prefer to listen to music without the aid of headphones. Regardless of how loud or obnoxious the music is a set of headphones still tends to put me to sleep. I also need molecules; I need to have something in my hand. It means it exists and won’t disappear when the wrong button is accidently pressed. I like to flip open the CD, peruse the cover art, liner notes and, if included, lyrics are a real bonus.

I have listened to and collected recorded music ever since I was a teenager. I have avoided some, but not all, of the technical missteps. For instance I have never owned an eight track player and I never was a big fan of cassettes. I preferred reel-to-reel tapes (okay, okay, that was a misstep). But having said that I think I have successfully navigated my way though most of the technological changes of the past half century. I even collected 78 rpm recordings at one stage. When CDs came on the market in the early eighties I immediately jumped on the band wagon and have been collecting CDs vigorously ever since. It meant I no longer had to preserve the original recording by transferring the vinyl LP to tape. I was not alone in this somewhat strange pursuit of permanency. Lots of guys, never the ladies, upon the purchase of a prized album would immediately record it onto tape and keep the original, in a pristine and safe condition, stored in some safe place waiting for the eventful day when the car stereo or some other misadventure destroyed the taped copy.

Yes, CDs where the great leap forward. No more static build up, scratches or pops that, for me at least, interfered with my listening pleasure. Now it was  just pristine broad band sound. There are luddites around of course who insist that vinyl is, or was, the best recorded sound and by comparison CDs are harsh and ear fatiguing. Ferdy Belland, an expatriate Cranbrook bass player now living in Vancouver, on a recent tour through the area wrote a newspaper article where he claimed it “had been proven” that the physical contact of the needle on vinyl produced a more psychological pleasing sound. That sounds like fantasy to me or at least nostalgia for a bygone musical era. In his article he noted that bands are going back to releasing their material on vinyl. This is partly true but I can’t see it gaining a significant market share. After all who still actually owns a high end turn table. Those of us who lived though the “snap, crackle and pop” era of the 60’s and 70’s have no real need or desire to re-invent that very shaky wheel.

It is kind of ironic that at the height of the vinyl era there was a concerted effort both in recording and play back technology to obtain the best fidelity possible. The quality of one’s stereo system was a measure of self worth. Next to a really hot car it was all that really mattered. Pretty shallow eh! So, as I said, it is ironic that when this purist goal of perfect sound actually came within reach fidelity standards were down graded to accommodate the digital mp3 era. The new goal was capacity and convenience rather than fidelity. Not for me. The CD is a superior storage media with better quality sound. Despite early claims, they are not indestructible, but with minimal care can be relied on to last for at least my life time or what little there is left of it.

 And yet there is a hidden plus side to this push to the lower mp3 standards and the constant quest for over capacity. The president of ARCHIV (a Classical CD distribution site) recently stated that lovers of classical music are living in a golden era of recorded music. He’s right you know. The major labels, and some of the not so major labels have huge inventories of very high quality material stretching back over 50 years. They are in the process of repackaging and releasing this material at a quality and a price that cannot be matched in the download arena. For instance I recently acquired a 15 CD boxed set of Joseph Haydn’s “The Complete Music for Solo Keyboard” for less than the regular price of 3 CDs (around $60 including shipping). That’s 17 hours of music  recorded by Ronald Brautigam on a reconstructed pianoforte. As a musical endeavor and recording project it is mind boggling. A musician, a major interpreter no less, studied, polished and recorded a great chunk of a major composer’s output and released it in a conveniently minimal package. It is not only a startling beautiful recording it is at a price that there is no way you would spend or would want to spend the time and effort to download the inferior product from iTunes. And that is only the beginning of the deluge. I have seen complete box sets of Bach, Haydn, Vivaldi etc. These 150 CD collections have been listed at $150 and I have even seen them on sale for $100. That’s less than a buck a CD. I now rarely purchase single CDs of classical music – the boxed sets are just too good to pass up. And there is the added bonus of the documentation included with the sets that is just not available with an iTune download. That’s more molecules to enhance my listening experience.

Similar things are happening in the Jazz world. The deals may not be as lucrative but there is still a wealth of material out there. The Jazz label Mosaic has been in the market of boxed sets for around twenty years and is producing material that is exemplary in sound quality, documentation and packaging. Most of the material is generally unavailable anywhere else. Everything from vintage recordings of the early giants of the 20s though to the late 60s.The re-mastering and packaging is unbelievably good. These box sets run from around $80 to $180 depending on the number of CDs in the collections. Considering the quality of the material it is still a pretty good deal. Interestingly enough Mosaic still produces and markets high end vinyl sets.

The folkloric, world music and the world of popular music are under represented in this bonanza of recorded material. Most of the pop world is image and celebrity driven and generally not of much musical interest anyway so that’s no great loss. Bad luck about the other non-mainstream material. It is out there, it is somewhat available but unfortunately, comparatively expensive.

So luddites all, enjoy your “snap, crackle and pop” world to your hearts content. Down loaders, if you have the time and don’t care about true high fidelity just go right ahead and plunder iTunes for all its worth. For me I am very happy taking advantage of the current  “golden era” of recorded music.

For Classical Music check

For Jazz check