The ‘Songs of Tony Quarrington’

The Songs of Tony Quarrington

Featuring Heather Fielding,  Jon Brooks, Glen Hornblast, David Storey, HOTCHA!, Wendell Ferguson, Sebastian Agnello, Brian Gladstone, Wayne Neon, Isabel Frysbert, Soozi Schlanger, Noah Zacharin, Fraser & Girard, Joe Hall, Stuart Laughton

The Making of ‘The Songs of Tony Quarrington’

Track Notes

Down By The Dirty Don – Jon Brooks’ rollicking guitar passage underscores this tale of great affection for a Toronto river that falls victim to the encroachment of civilization, as it conveys a nostalgic yearning for a time gone by.

Blue Cadillac – A mid-tempo country shuffle interpretation by Glen Hornblast details the last tragic days of country superstar Hank Williams.

When Townes Sang ‘Em Down – A tribute to Texas songwriter Townes Van Zandt and his musical integrity, which he upheld in spite of his circumstances, benefits from David Storey’s sensitive singing.

Jubilee –  Some blazing Howard Druckman slide guitar and a feisty Bev Kreller vocal add a Southern Baptist feel to this feverish fundamentalist romp by HOTCHA!.

Jimmie’s Last Blue Yodel – Wendell Ferguson’s wonderful straight blues salute to The Singing Brakeman, Jimmie Rodgers, featuring Tony trading tasteful guitar leads with Wendell.

 Full Moon and Welfare Cheques – A sardonic, tongue-in-cheek spoof affectionately interpreted by Sebastian Agnello about those on the rougher side of the fence whose lives don’t quite measure up to expectations, but live up to stereotype.

 Lightning Man – Tasteful, full-bodied guitar accompaniment and Brian Gladstone’s emotive tenor marks bright spots in this song that heralds the life and accomplishments of inventor Nikola Tesla.

I Wanna Be A Blues Guy – A cheeky, outlandish tale of a blues singer wannabe  striving to be a legend in his own mind. His 12-bar ambition is mockingly delivered by Wayne Neon.

Broken – A poignant waltz that describes an emotional condition that hampers too many of us strikes a sympathetic note with Isabel Fryszberg’s pathos.

Gee, But It’s Drunk Out Tonight – Soozi Schlanger’s sassy and funny take on someone who is blissfully unaware they’ve over-imbibed references Tom Waits and Joe Hall at their finest.

Frida and Diego – A wonderful duet by Laura Fernandez and Noah Zacharin in Mexican canción style, documenting the passionate lifetime romance between painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

 Hellhound On My Lawn – Demonic troubles dog Alan Fraser and Marianne Girard in this hilarious and bluesy duet about a run of horrific luck.

Big One on the Way –  A worrisome lament of looming ecological and geographical catastrophe from a Big Easy viewpoint as a potential post-Katrina hurricane takes shape. A sweet, reflective vocal by Howard Gladstone.

How Many Miles To Babylon? – A rather pessimistic and fatalistic look at the world benefits from Joe Hall’s engaging take, with a reminder that there is no escape from the inevitable.

Heartstrings – Stuart Laughton finds romance is alive and well in this fun-loving mushy song, equating matters of the heart with musical instruments and a serious case of cornpone.

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About the ‘Songs of Tony Quarrington’ Live Album

By Nick Krewen –  During one sublime and emotional August 2016 summer evening at Toronto’s Black Swan Tavern, a coterie of Tony Quarrington’s talented musical peers assembled to pay homage to the original songs of one of Canada’s finest tunesmiths.

Prior to this pristine-sounding, 15-song live concert tribute, Quarrington had already established himself as an eminent guitarist, JUNO-Award winning producer and an artist well-versed in a number of genres. There’s his mid-1960s initiation into The Gangrene Boys – jokingly described by the man as “a punk bluegrass” band, his stature as right-hand man and multi-instrumentalist for waggish Joe Hall in his roots-driven Continental Drift and a 15-album career in jazz music as an artist and composer.

In 2010, he refocused his profession towards song craft.

“If you can write something big and sing it in a live situation to people, you get an instant – as well as more permanent – reaction,” Tony explains. “A song can go out there and eventually other people do them and they spread around the world. Something like that was my thinking.”

To the many participants on The Songs Of Tony Quarrington, he’s preaching to the choir: they consider him a lion, a writer of considerable magnitude and a singular, inimitable voice.

“I’ve always been in awe of Tony,” says Wendell Ferguson, no slouch in the six-string department himself, and contributor here with “Jimmie’s Last Blue Yodel.” “He totally impressed me as a fluid guitar player who can play any style – the guitar player I wanted to be. As a songwriter, he delves into the autobiographies of people like Townes Van Zandt, Hank Williams or Jimmie Rodgers.

“He then writes in a song about them in their style.”

Adds HOTCHA!’s Howard Druckman, whom, with his wife Bev Kreller on vocals, delivered a striking rendition of “Jubilee:”

“He’s one of the most amazing guitar players, but what I’ve discovered in the last few years is that he’s equally great at songwriting.”

Druckman, Editor-in-Chief of SOCAN’s Words and Music, says Quarrington’s songs are “captivating and really strong with a turn of phrase. He’s got the musical chops to pull off an eclectic array of styles and he’s wide-ranging.”

Album producer Brian Gladstone, who contributes “Lightning Man,” says he’s impressed by Quarrington’s versatility.

“Tony’s extremely well-read and he’s always researching to imbue his songs with authenticity, style, substance and vernacular. I was blown away by that side of him,” says Gladstone.

As for the master raconteur himself, Quarrington says he took a page from the ’60s folk song movement to set the parameters for his talent.

“Being around those songs, listening to and playing them taught me to put a lot into a song,” he explains. “It has to have a certain weight when I’m creating it before I really acknowledge it as a song.”

Quarrington, who works lyrically before assigning music to his poetry, says he likes to have a definite subject before taking the plunge.

“I write a lot of songs about real people, and musicians, particularly. I find the details of those people’s lives fascinating. If I can pack them into a short song, it becomes very evocative, you know?”

As thorough as he is, Quarrington says the versions of his work on The Songs Of Tony Quarrington have sparked insight and reflection.

“Playing guitar on this recording was an honor, and putting it all together – fun! Tony’s songs are simply, great,” said Margaret Stowe who played guitar for the live recording, as well as cleaned up the tracks and mixed the album.

“Jon Brooks kind of transformed ‘Down By The Dirty Don,'” notes Quarrington, who has two solo songwriter albums to his credit, First Set and Gathering Place: Songs Of Toronto.

“I tend to put a lot of chords into things when I write them. I like a complex structure and prominent guitar licks. But that’s not really what Jon’s about. He abolished a lot of the chords, kept the melody, but eliminated the tune’s signature riffs. It’s much better for it. I’m going to learn to perform it his way.”

Tony also cites HOTCHA!’s energetic “Jubilee” (“I do it a lot slower with a guitar part I consider I stole from Josh White”) as an illuminating surprise. He considers David Storey’s recasting of “When Townes Sang ‘Em Down” (“He totally changed the tempo and the rhythm, making it softer and slower so you can dwell on what the words say”) a revelation.

“Someone had said to me, ‘I didn’t realize you had that kind of depth as a songwriter.’ I replied, ‘I didn’t either.’  These people emphasized things that hadn’t struck me.

It makes me more anxious to get more songs out and more out to other people who can do them.”

Grammy-winning engineer Peter J. Moore (Cowboy Junkies, Bob Dylan’s The Basement Tapes), who mastered The Songs Of Tony Quarrington, praised the sound. He said,”Because of the steps taken to ensure this was a good live recording, it made my job easier.”

The Songs of Tony Quarrington offers 15 of a catalogue that numbers an estimated 300 tales about love, loss, history and the human condition.