Music Review: Lennie Gallant - Live Acoustic at The Carleton

Here's Lennie in the best possible setting, an intimate club. This is the second album recorded in the East Coast's best club, The Carleton in Halifax, after David Myles' live one from 2011, and it has the same spark that award-winner did. The excitement of the audience, and in return the enthusiasm of the musicians is easy to hear on the recording. It's a very confident set, over an hour long, with both long-time favourites and brand-new material, and the crowd is just as keen to hear the new ones as the hits.

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Gallant's current touring group is a small acoustic crew, with Lennie on guitar and harmonica, Anthony Rissesco on violin, and two of Gallant's nephews, brothers Jeremy playing keyboards and Jonathan on percussion. I prefer this combo to a full band, as it lets Gallant play the storyteller, and doesn't overwhelm the lyrics. And when they want, they can still party hard, especially on some of the Acadian numbers. Gallant (the elder) is obviously enjoying the young energy the others bring as well, and he really seems to be commanding the stage with this show.

That bodes well for his new theatre show that has just begun in Charlottetown, Searching for Abegweit: The Island Songs & Stories of Lennie Gallant. He and the same band star in that, and although it has much more spoken-word and thematic material, several of the songs featured show up on this set. Those include the new number Abegweit, written about the Mi'kmaq name for P.E.I., and the legend that it was Glooscap's pillow. Also from the show is his Tales of The Phantom Ship, a ghost story about a ship on fire that sales the Northumberland Strait. Gallant has his own style of folk music, whether they feature historical tales (such as the Titanic number The Band's Still Playing) or fantasy songs (Tell Me A Ghost Story), where he rocks them up and makes them lively and exciting. It's easy to fall for these stories when you're having such a good time learning them.

So far, so much fun, but he has some heartache and some tear-inducing ones held back for the right moment. Peter's Dream appears, its tale of what happens to a fishing family when the industry fails still as powerful today, with its brilliant Biblical metaphor. That's followed by another favourite, Pieces Of You, a great lyric about lost love. The show wraps up with Mademoiselle (voulez-vouz danser), its warmth and charm a lovely way to go into the night. This is the set Gallant needed to remind us all of the strength of his writing, and his powerful performance style.

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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).

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