Hugh Oliver
A gorgeous new year to all beings from a sofa-bed in the west end of Toronto. My year in independent music was a positive one. I was pleased to finish the video for ‘Love in London’ and come up with new songs about people who are, or were, important to me, about unpleasant musical collaborations and about moving house. On the live front, there was a marked improvement from my low level of activity since 2006.

Fellow singer-songwriter Gare Black and I have done some gigs as Ben and Gary’s Ice Cream Band, playing half his stuff and half mine. He plays guitar and I play keyboard and mandolin. We both sing. The people who have heard us so far have been appreciative, as I hoped they would be. Piano was my first instrument and I’ve enjoyed getting back into it.

In August I jammed in Hoboken, New Jersey with the excellent, feelgood, reggae-influenced singer-songwriter Bobby Syvarth. We hadn’t seen each other for 19 years but reconnected through facebook. During that time he’s become a great guitarist too. Later on in the year the literate folk of Toronto were supportive of my guitar/voice sets at The Boat and St Clair/Silverthorn Library.

Not being a natural member of any one musical community, I’ve been moving away from folk jams and towards DIY punk gigs. There’s more scope for original music at the latter, if your eardrums can hold out. Both scenes are about community and are non-exclusive, though, so amen to that.

It was a delight, in 2011, to meet performer, jazz singer, poet and sculptor Hugh Oliver. His new CD, sympathetically produced by Mike Rosenthal (who plays all the instruments, including banjo and drums) is called ‘Grandpa and the Alleycats’ and consists of 11 songs by Hugh and Mike sung by Hugh and his grandkids.

Hugh writes charming, witty, well-crafted verse which is free of sentimentality and explores universal themes, both vital and trivial, with a light-heartedness which is enviable. Do he and the kids always sing in tune? Nope. Is everything in time? Uh-uh. Is the musical genre a classifiable or lucrative one? Not really. But the album brings something genuine and noble to my ears, which is more than I can say for Michael Bublé.

Here’s hoping that 2012 will be a year in which independent people support independent music.

One comment on “A Gorgeous New Year

  • Hi Ben!
    Happy New Year to you mate. Great to read about all the stuff you’ve been doing- wish I could be there to see/hear some of it!! Any live stuff up on Youtube?
    All the best,
    Al Lindsay

    p.s. have studio up and running at home now, and can now do session guitar via the web :-)

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