Copyright © 1998 All Rights Reserved.
by Martin Kemp
Saturday, September 26
The Strathcona Community Centre
Over the last decade, there's been a dramatic increase in the number of East Coast musicians who have made it big within Canada, as well as internationally. It is difficult to turn around without hearing another performer who is following the Rankin Family/Ashley MacIsaac/Natalie MacMaster/Great Big Sea/Irish Descendants path to fame and fortune. In fact, so many artists are coming out of the Maritimes that conspiracy theorists might even suggest Eastern Canada is participating in some weird musical genetic mutation experiments. (Is there such a thing as a stepdancing gene?)
Despite the establishment of the Maritimes as a sort of musical nirvana, there has perhaps been a tendency on the part of the rest of the country to stereotype all East Coast musicians as fiddlin', I'se-the-b'y-that-builds-the-boat kind of folks.
While Lennie Gallant is extremely proud of his P.E.I. roots, he for one wants to be known as more than just an East Coast musician. Described as having a "driving roots rock energy," Gallant observes that despite not having a traditional East Coast sound, he often gets thrown into the same category as a myriad of other musicians. "The music I'm doing is not a Maritime style," he maintains. "As a songwriter, I write about a lot of different places and a lot of different things. In the same way that Springsteen is going to base some of his songs on Jersey, and Mellencamp is going to base some of his songs on the Midwest, I'm going to end up basing some of my songs on the East Coast; that doesn't make me an East Coast songwriter. We get labeled like crazy; it's nuts."
A songwriter who has long had an itch for traveling, Gallant's songs don't just contain images from the Maritimes, but are also affected by his jaunts around the world.
"I find myself getting bored rather quickly," he says of his need to travel. "At the end of a long tour I can't wait to get back home, but in two days I'm jittery and I want to get back onto the road. So this is a good job for someone like me, because I love to travel and have had the opportunity to do a bit of traveling, even outside of my music."
That bit of traveling has included Guatemala, Europe, the Middle East, Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. With this many air miles logged over the years, Gallant finds it difficult to point to any one experience that has affected him and his music the most. "How do you compare sailing up the Yukon River to hanging out in Quebec City to being in the Sinai Desert or being in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt?" he asks.
A passionate advocate of both human rights and the state of the environment, much of Gallant's world travels have been spent working on these issues. Social and environmental problems are often reflected in many of his songs, including several on his latest album Lifelines. However, Gallant prefers a more subtle approach to dealing with issues, rather than banging people over the head with a message. This is apparent in Lifeline's "The Band's Still Playing," a rowdy, danceable number that compares the current state of the planet to the sinking of the Titanic.
"I'm talking about the environment and the potential destruction of the earth, and everybody sings along to it," says Gallant. "There is kind of a weirdness to it; it is kind of a happy song, but the subject matter is very dark. We have a hole in our environment - we are on the good ship Titanic and we think it is unsinkable. But it is sinkable and yet we're still carrying on every day. The band's still playing, as though we are still somewhat oblivious to our situation."
It seems that fewer and fewer Canadians are oblivious to Lennie Gallant these days, after national television exposure and, of course, extensive touring. Gallant is in Calgary for just one show before flying off again, leaving audiences with only one evening to discover why he is not just another East Coast musician.
Back To This Issue Table of Contents
Back To Main Index