"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Monday, July 06, 2009


I'm a little behind in my podcast listening, so it was only this morning on the way to work that I heard the wonderful Canada Day edition of CBC Radio's "As It Happens" and their feature interview with Jowi Taylor.
When Quebec was about to hold its last referendum, a whole lot of us across the country got on buses and went to Montreal for a big outpouring of "Baby-Please-Don't-Go-ism" and I guess, to some degree, it worked since Quebec is still part of the country and all. But the demonstration and the way the whole referrendum was portrayed in the press as a blue vs red, English vs French, Quebec vs Ottawa issue sort of irked Taylor and he got to thinking about the rich history of Canada and the whole cultural mosiac that makes Canada what it is. And then he got an idea. An incredible idea.

The nation as musical instrument.

It took him about a dozen years, but with the help of luthier George Rizanyi, Taylor got the thing built and it made its debut at the Canada Day concert on Parliament Hill in 2006 in the extremely able hands of Stephen Fearing.

There is metaphor and symbolism and just plain mojo in everything I guess. Everything we touch comes from somewhere and has been part of some other life. There is the Muddywood guitar and back in the early 90s I remember a lot of art that featured bits of the Berlin Wall, but this is like something out of a fantasy novel or a fairy tale. The guitar is built from bits and pieces of wood, bone and metal that come from across Canada: A scrap from Rocket Richard's Stanley Cup ring, a bit of a sideboard that held the booze in Sir John A. MacDonald's office, a slab of the sacred Haida Gwaii Golden Spruce, part of Paul Henderson's hockey stick from The Goal, a chunk of Pierre Trudeau's canoe paddle, a bit of mammoth ivory from the NWT- the case even incorporates a piece of Don Cherry's pants and Karen Kain's tutu.

And its been played by anyone and everyone - Stompin' Tom has played it in his home, Gordon Lightfoot played it on his 70th birthday, and Taylor has been touring the country letting the whole population get its strum on.

You'll be seeing stuff about the guitar in all the papers this week as Taylor has just published a book about its creation. My question is this: What song would you play on it and why?


zoomer said...

Stompin' Tom singing the hockey song. I was in Lillehammer for the Olympics and my sound guy friend had brought it specifically for sound checks. It ended up on the rink sound system- this in a cave hollowed out of a red granite mountain, and the locals, who all understand English well- went wild.

Or maybe Don Ross if he'd deign to play a sixer. :-)

Well found.

the rev. paperboy said...

Zoomer! Long time, no see mon ami. Good call on the Stompin' Tom tune.
Don Ross is another good pick for people who ought to play this ax, thought the speed at which he sometimes plays is liable to set the thing on fire.

zoomer said...

I lurk here nearly every day, love your stuff.

btw, thanks for not riding the MJ wagon. You're an oasis in a sea of electrified, radioactive human feces. Hmm, perhaps I should better consider my metaphor generation....