Four Strong Winds


 David appears in a Canadian documentary directed by Martin Melhuish


While David was in Canso Nova Scotia for the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, He and Dave Clarke sat down at the dock for an interview with Martin Melhish. Martin was filming for his documentary about Canada's singer/songwriters

photo by Beth Girdler

"The eight-part documentary series Four Strong Winds celebrates Canada's singer/songwriters and the impact they have had on the world of popular music. Shot on location in pubs and record stores, the series covers Canada's wide range of musical genres, from Celtic, Rock, and Country to traditional French. The series features legends such as Hank Snow, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot, and homegrown heroes Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan, Jann Arden, Alanis Morissette, Avril Lavigne and Hawksley Workman." CMT.CA

New documentary looks at Canada's songwriters

TORONTO - Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Hank Snow, Neil Young, Alanis Morissette, Avril Lavigne, Jann Arden and Shania Twain are a few of the singer-songwriters listed on this country's musical resume.

A new documentary, Four Strong Winds, attempts to unravel the mystery of why Canada produces so many renowned artists considering our small population.

Director Martin Melhuish thinks he's got it solved -- wide open space.
"There's only 30 million of us living in this huge country, and (space) seems to play into every song or certainly has some influence on every songwriter," he said.

Singer k.d. lang says her melodic approach is a result of her upbringing on the Alberta plains. "The open space. The vastness of it," she says in the show. "My vocal approach is very long phrases, very open melodic structure."

Told in eight parts beginning Tuesday, Jan. 4, Four Strong Winds starts by explaining the roots of Canadian music, namely Aboriginal and Celtic, using the likes of Jimmy Rankin, Great Big Sea and Buffy Sainte-Marie.
It also hypothesizes that our long, frigid winters help creative types hone their skills.

Chantal Kreviazuk recalls spending countless hours listening to old records when it was too cold to do anything else in Winnipeg.
"That's when I consciously fell in love with songwriting," muses Kreviazuk in the opening episode.

Moving outside the traditional folk world, the show explores country, rock and pop genres through superstars of yesteryear as well as the current crop like Our Lady Peace, Hawksley Workman and Sum 41.

"When you say singer-songwriter there's usually a definition of a very sensitive type with a guitar," said Melhuish, whose music books include Oh What a Feeling and Wired For Sound: A Guitar Odyssey.
"We tried to broaden it. We brought in pop stars, looking at Paul Anka and others."

Outsiders also try to explain the Canuck songwriting tradition thanks to archival footage of George Harrison and Eric Clapton talking about Robbie Robertson and The Band.

Melhuish hopes viewers will be surprised and impressed by the sonic trivia in the documentary.

"I'd like to send a copy of this to Tucker Carlson (co-host of CNN's Crossfire). He's full of mouth about 'We have to leave the country to go down there and we need America and all this stuff.' Well, it works both ways. I've heard people say Neil Young, he's American. Joni Mitchell. No, she's not. Alanis Morissette. You could go on and on. The list is huge."

With more than 20 years of experience writing about music, Melhuish says he's still astonished at the lengths musicians have to travel to get their songs heard in Canada - some 9,971,000 square kilometres of land.

"To be a singer-songwriter and get out and bring your music to the people, you got to have a little bit more going for you then anywhere else in the world," he said.

"If you live in England, it's a drive anywhere. If you live in the U.S., you've got major cities all over the place that aren't far apart. But if you live in Winnipeg, or worse somewhere north of Winnipeg, you go through great lengths (to reach another city). That's been the story of a lot of our acts." Canadian Press

David and Dave Clarke, dockside for the interview

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