Where are today's Newfoundland and Labrador working songs?
Like many people over the last few days, I've been reminiscing about Stompin' Tom Connors and his musical observations of blue-collar, hard-working Canadian life.
Who can forget Bud the Spud — a tale of trucking potatoes from P.E.I. to Toronto? Or Tillsonburg — the tale of the back-breaking work of picking tobacco leaves in southwestern Ontario?
That brought me back to a recent moment when I was trapped in traffic jam on Stavanger Drive, and flipping around radio stations. I landed on a program of Newfoundland and Labrador musicians playing traditional and current folk music about our province. Most of the tunes were sea shanties, songs about fishing, and rhapsodies about the joys of outport life.
Which got me thinking — where are the songs about today's working life in Newfoundland and Labrador?
Tiny boats not common in 2013
Once upon a time, songs about tiny boats and sailing the high seas were songs about the world our songwriters saw around them.
I can't think of many radio or YouTube hits about commuting to the oilpatch in northern Alberta or about framing up a house on Kenmount Terrace.
There are some exceptions. There's the Rig Workers' Alphabet, a song written by Jim Payne, which gives an A-to-Z rundown of life on the offshore oil rigs on the Grand Banks.
The Light and Power Boys, by Bill Luffman, is a cult favourite. It's a Stompin' Tom-esque ode to the workers who "climb the poles like a pussycat" to keep electricity flowing throughout the province.
New local music has many subjects
I checked in with Elling Lien, the editor of the St. John's arts and entertainment magazine The Scope, and who is probably the most up-to-date person on new music created in this province.
Lien has been listening his way through 141 albums recorded by local musicians in February for his magazine's annual RPM Challenge.
Lien said the only song he's come across so far about contemporary Newfoundland and Labrador working life is Last Man in Fort Mac, by the St. John's Ukelele Orchestra.
He added, though, that he had heard several parodies of "traditional" local folk music.
What do you think?
So, I'm throwing this question out to you: where are the songs of working life in today's Newfoundland and Labrador? In other words, where are the 21st century equivalents of Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary's?
If you know of one, or have written and recorded one, please share it with us in the comments section below.
I'm wondering which songs of contemporary working life in Newfoundland and Labrador will be covered by pub bands and chamber choirs in the 22nd century and beyond.