Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Concert Review: J.P. Cormier, Little Lake Music Festival, Peterborough, Ontario

On previous occasions I have written about the vibrant music scene that exists in Peterborough, Ontario, a city of 75,000 northeast of Toronto.  In addition to the many clubs and bars that host many nights of live music, the newly-christened Little Lake Music Festival takes place weekly on Wednesday and Saturday nights from the end of June to the end of August.  The concerts are free and they take place lakeside at Del Crary Park.

This past Wednesday July 27, I had the great pleasure to attend this festival and take in a show by East Coast singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist J.P. Cormier.  A lifelong musician, J.P. has performed with the likes of Waylon Jennings, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart and bluegrass giants Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs to name a few.  When I read that on his web site, I knew I had to see his show.  

J.P. as a man, is a very commanding figure on stage.  This gentleman stands 6'4" and towers at the center of the stage between his two back-up singers/musicians.  As a musician and vocalist, J.P. demonstrates why he has won all the awards and why he has been so successful in both Canada and the United States for more than 25 years.  Performing "Gilgarry's Glen" early on in the set, J.P. showed the crowd from the get-go that he is one of the finest guitar players Canada has ever produced, as well as one of Canada's finest vocalists.  Quite simply, this was one of the best shows I have had the pleasure of seeing this year.

There were many stories to tell on this night, with tales of his time in the state of Alabama and growing up in Nova Scotia.  My personal favorite was the story of the time J.P. fell in love with a young woman ... but not just any young woman mind you, it was a young woman at McDonalds who asked him so wantingly, "Do you want fries with that?"  This story was a great lead-in to a beautifully written and performed song, "My Autumn Girl."  Given the opportunity, and with his long history as a musician working with some of the greatest legends in the music business, I would love to hear more of J.P.'s experiences.  

Songwriting seems at the core of what J.P. does musically.  As I've stated previously, this is a gifted musician, a multi-instrumentalist who played the guitar, fiddle and banjo on this evening.  His voice is as rich and smooth as you will ever hear.  When the music starts, you will find yourself tapping along and smiling.  But songwriting appears to be the biggest pleasure for J.P.  "Leaving Charlottetown" is a beautiful piece of art that is reminiscent of Merle Haggard's earliest works.  Perhaps the finest performance of the night was a tribute to Canada's own singer/songwriter legend, Gordon Lightfoot.  Playing a selection from J.P. Cormier's The Long River: A Personal Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot, J. P. delivered an astounding version of Lightfoot's "Song for a Winter's Night."  It was one of the finest performances I've had the pleasure of seeing and hearing, and I am sure that Mr. Lightfoot would be very proud of what J.P. has done with his song.  

J.P. continues his 2011 tour with stops in Edmonton, Alberta on August 4 at the Edmonton Folk Festival; the John Arcand Fiddle Festival in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on August 12; the Dakota Dunes Casino on August 13, also in Saskatoon; Music Up Close House Concerts on August 20 in Innisfil, Ontario; and the Shelter Valley Folk Festival on September 2 in Grafton, Ontario.  Do check out J.P. should you get the opportunity.  You will bear witness to a Canadian/East Coast treasure.

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