This blog previously appeared in an expanded form on Country Fried Rock.
Kim Beggs may not be recognizable to American roots music fans, but in Canada, her music brings forth luminaries like Ivan Coyote, Dan Mangan, and Jerry Alfred for collaboration– a who’s who of Juno Awards winners.
Listen to the entire interview right here.
Stereotypically, those of us in the States think of Canada as being culturally similar to us, when in fact, their geography and smaller population alone contribute to an on-going folk culture that is distinctly Canadian. The fact that their government supports both the preservation and creation of the arts, allows musicians and writers to make a basic living plying their gifts. Additionally, the Canadian celebration of their First Nations elevates traditional art and music into the mainstream in a way that is not reflected in the United States.
Blue Bones can easily be taken for the catchy melodies and appealing production, and not given its due for the lyrical content. With topics ranging from a family member’s life with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and early death, to dangerously fast driving, Beggs’ songwriting goes much deeper than its sing-along qualities may imply. Kim honestly assesses her songwriting development, in that the melodies she writes may not best suit her voice, and she may need to adapt them or simply write for others at some point. Beggs points out how Joni Mitchell’s vocal range has changed with age, and Mitchell’s choice to modify her melodies has allowed her to continue to perform her own songs.
For listeners not familiar with Canadian musical content, here’s a brief and intentionally incomplete description of the connections amongst the songwriters for this radio program’s playlist:
–Featured album, Blue Bones, by Kim Beggs
–“Big Yellow Taxi” 2007 version, by Joni Mitchell: part of our discussion about how one’s vocal range often deepens with age and the decision to modify one’s songs, improve one’s singing, or simply write for others
–Jerry Alfred and the Medicine Beat: conversation about a meaningful solo canoe paddle on the Yukon River to the abandoned town of Port Selkirk for a musical performance in the First Nations’ restored church; Alfred is the “Keeper of the Songs” for his community and combines traditional rhythms with modern folk music in efforts to preserve their language and traditions
–Dan Mangan: a fellow collaborator in a spoken word and song project with Ivan Coyote
–Penny Lang: Canadian folk treasure, personal friend of Beggs, story about finding the peace to write about emotional topics
—Old Man Luedecke: connection via Black Hen Records, Canadian folk label
–Steve Dawson: Producer of many records, including Blue Bones, songwriter
—Black Hen record label fellow artist
This program is available to radio on Public Radio Exchange/PRX, in 58 minute, 54 minute, and 50 minute/3segment formats.