Vancouver based singer-songwriter Bob Stark joins us on Episode 638 of Folk Roots Radio to chat about his gorgeous eighth album, the beautifully understated “Sculpted Pieces Of Love”. There’s nothing forced here – it’s a joy for the ears from start to finish. As always, we wrap up the episode with more new releases and this time around we check out new music from Heal & Harrow, Oysterband, Ziggy Alberts, Andrew Bird, Morgan Toney, Amy Speace, David Olney, Li’l Andy and Julian Taylor. Remember, if you like what you hear on Folk Roots Radio… and want to support the artists… don’t just stream their music, BUY their music and then you’ll really make a difference to their income during this difficult time, when live show opportunities are harder to come by. Check out the full playlist below.
“Vancouver based singer-songwriter Bob Stark’s wonderful eighth album “Sculpted Pieces Of Love” really brightened my day when it arrived. There’s just something about it… the beautiful lyrics, the warm vocal delivery, the harmonies, the apparently simple arrangements. There’s nothing forced here, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s an album I immediately fell in love with.” (Jan Hall)
Sculpted Pieces Of Love was self-produced with support from Michael Friedman. Joining Bob Stark on the album are wonderful vocalists Karly Warkentin, Antonia Robertson, Cindy Keep with Michael Friedman on second guitars/backing vocals and Karen Graves on Soprano Sax and Flute.
“The whole album was mixed initially to keep the listeners focused on the storylines, my poetry, and vocals, with vocal and instrumental support. I had originally considered other instrumentation but opted for several reasons – “this works! take the risk!” – to keep it simple and different from most albums these days”.
As well as being a singer-songwriter, Bob Stark has also taught songwriting and is a poet and writer of short-stories, travelogs and plays. He’s even working on a crime novel.
For more information about Bob Stark and his music, check out his profile on Jango.com.
We started off this episode with two of Scotland’s foremost musicians and composers, harpist and singer Rachel Newton and award winning fiddle player Lauren MacColl and “Da Dim” from their self-titled collaboration as Heal & Harrow. Heal and Harrow is a beautifully crafted release that pays tribute to the many Scottish women who were persecuted as witches in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Nearly 3,000 Scots were executed in a tidal wave of femicide after Scotland’s 1563 Witchcraft Act was introduced. Herbalists, healers and midwives could be revered for their skills one minute and condemned as witches the next.
Staying in the UK, we followed that with England’s Oysterband and some advice for the future on “My Son” from the excellent “Read The Sky”, their first studio recording in eight years.
Australian singer-songwriter Ziggy Alberts collaborated with Canada’s Donovan Woods on his recent single “The Sun & The Sea”, a song with a strong environmental focus that reflects on the differences between how we are currently live and how we wish we were living.
“We actually got talking because I put one of Donovan’s songs on a personal playlist of mine. Everything about this collaboration has been so natural. From the first time I heard Donovan sing “we want to be famous”, I was blown away; it felt that this was how the song was meant to be all along.”
“Make a Picture” is a song about how we all capture images of what’s occurring in our mind’s eye and use that to frame our understanding of world events as they happen in real time. You can find it on the ever creative Andrew Bird‘s latest recording “Inside Problems”, a collection of 11 original songs that Andrew describes as being all about ‘the complex thoughts, questions and middle-of-the-night obsessions’ that pre-occupy us.
This episode’s instrumental comes from 22 year old Mi’kmaq fiddler and singer Morgan Toney from Wagmatcook First Nation in Nova Scotia. You can find “Tribute To Mr. Bigs” on Morgan Toney’s debut album “First Flight” which brings together his love of Cape Breton Island fiddling and the traditional songs of his ancestors.
“Cottonwood” comes from Amy Speace‘s latest recording, the excellent EP “Tucson”, a collection of very personal songs written during what Amy describes as her healing journey – time spent at a retreat centre in Arizona at the start of the pandemic while receiving treatment for depression triggered by the death of her father. It’s a great album, and definitely well worth checking out.
The late great David Olney left us in early 2020. His exit was most remarkable (for an acclaimed singer-songwriter) in that he was live on stage, in the middle of a song during a workshop at the 30A Songwriter Festival in Santa Rosa Beach, FL when it happened. The David Only song we play on this episode “This Side Or The Other” comes from “Nevermore”, one of his last two live recordings (the other is titled “Evermore”) that wrap up his LIVE IN HOLLAND series.
Montreal country artist Li’l Andy has released a really interesting new project, “The Complete Recordings Of Hezekiah Procter 1925-1930”. It’s based on the music of the entirely fictional 1920s Americana singer Hezekiah Proctor and comes as a two-disc, 29-song box set that also includes a 150-page novel that tells the story of Hezekiah Procter. To add to the mystery, the tracks used for the project were recorded on both analogue tape, and using pre-electric, 1920s technology.
“When I started playing guitar as an eleven year old, I loved listening to Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers and Charlie Poole. I got sucked in as much by the music as their stories, the mythologies that built up around them. What made them burn out and fade away so young, so sadly, so mysteriously? That made me wonder: Could I create some kind of über-roots musician, that kind of untrained, self-destructive genius who makes a handful of great recordings, then disappears from history so that 78rpm collectors and archivists obsess about him?”
“That’s who Hezekiah is. He’s a medicine show performer from the 1920s, one of those singers who was there when phonograph companies began recording “hillbilly” music, a folk hero, a Marxist who writes union ballads for striking labourers. He’s also maybe a sell-out, and a murderer. Once he formed in my imagination, I began to write songs as him. And while I wrote those 30 or so songs, I realized I had to write his life story to understand him more. So I wrote a biography of him, which took the form of fake liner notes to a box set of his collected recordings. That grew into 150 pages”.
“When it came time to record Hezekiah’s songs, I realized I needed to record them on equipment from the 1920s or 30s. I hate modern, digital recording anyway — it’s too clean and transparent — but to use it on this project in particular would’ve ruined it. So we managed to record on a Webster-Chicago wire recorder made in 1937. And while recording I began acting as Hezekiah, developing his vocal mannerisms and archaic guitar style. So now, when I perform live, I am him. In my singing, the banter between songs, everything. It’s old-time country performance art. It’s extreme vintage recording. It’s experimental fiction.”
Toronto’s Julian Taylor is definitely having a moment. His music career is now moving along two different but very successful tracks – as the leader of soulful rockers The Julian Taylor Band, and now also as a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter. “S.E.E.D.S.” is the first single from Julian’s second solo album “Beyond the Reservoir” which lands this fall.
S.E.E.D.S. was inspired by both the death of George Floyd and the shocking news that came out last year about the extent of abuse that took place in Canada’s shameful residential school system that was put in place to indoctrinate and assimilate its indigenous peoples. The song comes with the immortal line “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.”
“I really enjoyed writing and producing this new album. I dug down deep. It’s extremely personal like my last record (The Ridge), and I’ve taken that to heart. It took me longer to write this piece of art, and I think that I was learning and teaching myself so many things along the way. I’ve realized that by sharing my personal truth and the stories of my life, as they are and were, is a real gift to myself and to others. It’s not easy to love ourselves, and it’s not easy to love in general. I have a difficult time with it, and as I shed my own skin to reveal that kind of vulnerability, I find it connects me to the human experience in a more meaningful way. Ultimately, I hope my work helps people relate to their own humanity.”
Fortunately the truth will, and always will, prevail. We’re really looking forward to hearing more from this new project.
That’s all we have time for. Thanks to all the artists who share their music with us, and thank you for listening. We have lots of great music and interviews to bring you on future episodes.
If you enjoy the music we play on this show and want to support the artists – many of whom aren’t able to play live at the moment because of the Covid-19 pandemic, don’t just stream their music – that earns them much less than a penny per play. Instead, buy their music – and really make a difference to their income. They’ll love you for it!
Stay safe and well everyone!
Image credit: Bob Stark.
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Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises
Roll Right (2019, self)
Heal & Harrow
Heal & Harrow (2022, Shadowside Records)
Read The Sky (2022, Running Man Records / Proper)
The Sun & The Sea (feat. Donovan Woods)
(single) (2022, Kobalt Music)
Make A Picture
Inside Problems (2022, Loma Vista Recordings)
Tribute To Mr. Bigs
First Flight (2022, Ishkōdé Records) CDN
Be All We Can Be
Sculpted Pieces Of Love (2021, Self) CDN
Interview: Bob Stark discussing his latest album “Sculpted Pieces Of Love”.
I Can’t Be Sure
Sculpted Pieces Of Love (2021, Self) CDN
We Gotta Change
Sculpted Pieces Of Love (2021, Self) CDN
Tucson (2022, Wind Bone Records)
This Side Or The Other
Nevermore (The Final LIVE IN HOLLAND Session II) (2022, Strictly Country Records)
When The Fire Comes Down
The Complete Recordings Of Hezekiah Procter 1925-1930 (On Reel-To-Reel Tape / Analog) (2022, Self) CDN
(single) (2022, Howling Turtle Inc. / Warner Music Canada) CDN