Amanda Rheaume Brings Family (History) Out On Tour

Well, another question solved. I always wondered what The Guess Who was singing about on their cut So Long, Bannatyne from the 1971 album of the same name. Turns out it's an avenue in Winnipeg, and it also turns out it was named after Amanda Rheaume's great-great-grandfather, one of the founders of Manitoba, a pal of Louis Riel's, and the subject of her own AGB Bannatyne. It's one of several family history songs on the Ottawa roots performer's new album, Keep A Fire. If you dig deep enough, you can usually find a pretty interesting character among your ancestors, and Rheaume didn't have to go far for inspiration on either side of her parental past.

keepafire-album.JPG
Bannatyne was quite the rebel, already the subject of lots of biographical material, and Rheume found enough family stories to fill much of the album. She interviewed her kin to find out more, and to be able to put their stories in perspective with her own life. The song Ancient Rime was the initial inspiration, which came to her after flying over the Northwest Passage to go play for troops in the far north. She knew that her own grandfather had been a navigator on HMCS Labrador, the first vessel to circumnavigate North America in one voyage. She actually knew him, had memories and love to share, and you can feel the sincerity in the project when she sings "I flew the Northwest Passage a lifetime after you."

Who knows, maybe everybody could find such touching stories if they went back a few generations, but Rheume seems to have a remarkable amount. Keep A Fire In The Rain tells about her Metis heritage and Ojibway great grandmother, shunned because of her mixed race relationship. Not This Time is about a terrifying journey of her father's side of the family a couple of generations back, mother and children being towed on a barge across Great Slave Lake, set adrift when a storm hits. Wrapping up the project in a tribute song, You Walk Beside Me, Rheaume sings about the pride she feels when thinking about one great grandmother, but you can tell that goes for all the relatives she writes about here.

Rheaume's bringing her whole family, or at least their stories, to New Brunswick over the next couple of weeks. Wednesday, Sept. 11, she's at the Red Herring in St. Andrews. Then it's Woodstock on Thursday the 12th, at Colin's Log Cabin Diner. Friday night, she's off to Moncton and Plan B. After some Nova Scotia dates, Rheaume drops back in on her way back to Ontario, playing the Creekview Restaurant in Gagetown on Thursday, Sept. 19.

more »

Latest East Coast Music Reviews

Vogue Dots one of the N.B. music success stories of 2014
Vogue Dots one of the N.B. music success stories of 2014
Dec 17, 3:11 PM

One of the nice surprises of this year's music scene in the province has been the emergence of a new group, featuring Saint John's Babette Hayward. The young singer-songwriter made a mark with her rich voice and engaging lyrics when... more »

Marie-Jo Therio captivates on new live album
Marie-Jo Therio captivates on new live album
Dec 12, 3:41 PM

The wonderful and engaging Moncton native doesn't make albums so much, she makes artistic projects. As she showed on her last studio collection, Chasing Lydie, showed how interested she is in mixing dialogue and sound with music, also story lines... more »

First Nations music collection reveals lost classics of '60's - '80's
First Nations music collection reveals lost classics of '60's - '80's
Dec 10, 3:51 PM

Aboriginal music in North America has faced an uphill battle in recent years. Despite music being a vibrant and integral part of the community, it gets little support outside of First Nations, and mostly flies under the radar. When we... more »

Free To Grow offers a mix of influences for debut disc
Free To Grow offers a mix of influences for debut disc
Dec 8, 3:19 PM

Most groups making a debut album have young members, all about the same age, experience and taste. Free To Grow, with members from the Fredericton area and western N.B., doesn't fit that formula, and its one of the strengths of... more »

More East Coast connections to Emmylou Harris highlighted in box set
More East Coast connections to Emmylou Harris highlighted in box set
Dec 5, 3:31 PM

I started writing about Emmylou Harris and her connection to the Maritimes a couple of days ago, highlighting a reissue of her classic Christmas album, Light of the Stable from 1979. It was produced by Halifax native Brian Ahern. Now,... more »

Former Minglewood, Dutch sideman Roly Platt releases debut
Former Minglewood, Dutch sideman Roly Platt releases debut
Dec 4, 3:44 PM

Roly Platt has long been considered one of the country's best harmonica players, based out of Toronto. There, he's the man to call for recording sessions, working with everyone from David Clayton-Thomas to George Canyon, and there's a good chance... more »

View all reviews for December 2014 »

About Bob Mersereau

Rockin' BobBob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).

Share this review