Fièrement folk. www.williamlaskin.com
En plus d’être un luthier reconnu mondialement pour la qualité des guitares qu’il fabrique, Grit Laskin est aussi musicien et compositeur. Depuis le début des années quatre-vingt, il s’est produit en solo, en duo avec Ian Robb, et avec le groupe The Friends of Fiddlers Green ; il a joué dans les folk clubs, les salles de concerts et a participé à la plupart des grands festivals folk d’Amérique du Nord. Multi-instumentiste – il joue de la mandoline ténor, des petites cornemuses Northhumbrian, du concertina, de la guitare et du violon – il a accompagné des musiciens aux styles aussi variés que Raffi et Stan Rogers. Grit est aussi un auteur-compositeur et un musicien respecté; ses chansons ont été interprétées par Pete Seeger, The Tannahil Weavers, Magaret Christl et Rick Fielding.
Son album A Few Simple Words, contenant seize chansons joliment ficelées, a été salué par le magazine Sing Out! qui l’a qualifié de « remarquable ». L’album suivant, Earthly Concerns, lui a valu encore plus d’éloges. Enfin, son dernier album, Unabashedly Folk, est une reprise, sur CD double, de ses deux premiers vinyles, Lila’s Jig et Unmasked.
In Folk Us
A Few Simple Words
« Laskin’s creative talent seems boundless. He builds extraordinary guitars in his Toronto workshop, featuring perhaps the most imaginative inlay work of any luthier today. As a musician and singer, he performs solo, as part of the Friends of Fiddlers Green, and as backup on recordings by everyone from the late Stan Rogers (who owned several Laskin instruments) to Raffi. His original songs have been covered by Pete Seeger, the Tannahill Weavers and many others. And he’s about to publish a novel. Somehow, Grit has even found time -finally – to record his third album. The first two were on the Fogarty’s Cove label. A Few Simple Words is a modest misnomer since Laskin’s songs are highly literate, witty and diverse. He has always included both humor and deeply-felt social commentary on his recordings, and this one continues that pattern.
Laskin is known for his hilarious parodies of folk song genres, but on this album the humor is more restrained. Re has a funny anti-dieting song, a lively calypso about being a guitar maker, and an amusing description of learning to play fiddle. These aren’t the punch-line jokes of his earlier songs, but they all have clever lyrics and delightful performances.
On the more serious side, Grit sings about the outcasts in his community (« The Margins Of My Neighborhood »), businesses that cheerfully use free trade as the excuse to dump their work force (a rewrite of the traditional « A begging I Will Go »), and the frustration of having a healthy mind in a deteriorating body (« The Never-Ending Quickstep Waltz »). Two songs are particularly remarkable. « My Turn » describes someone who lives by his own convictions, including an interracial marriage, and remains satisfied at the end of his 80 years; set to a beautiful tune, it articulately celebrates courage and integrity. The album’s centerpiece, « In The Blood, » is a powerful ballad about a real-life court case involving a man accused of deliberately infecting three women with the HIV virus. The lyrics are largely taken directly from the trial testimony and dramatically express the frustrating ambiguity of the case. I really admire Laskin’s songwriting on these pieces, which are passionate but never strident.
Perhaps acknowledging the number of serious topics here Grit adds an amusingly self-referential song that has « Nothing To Say. » Adding further variety to the recording, he sings an exquisite love song to his wife, plays an original waltz on tenor mandolin, offers some bluesy observations on the challenges of love, and closes with a sweet lullaby for adults.
This is a beautifully recorded work. Grit’s co-producer Ken Whiteley plays more than a dozen instruments on it, always adding just the right touches. (Grit’s own excellent guitar work is also ever-present, though rarely showcased.) The sound is rich without ever seeming over-produced and without ever burying the songs themselves.
The title track notes our craving for great songs: « Just a few simple words / Joined to a simple melody / But we yearn for it with such force/It truly does astonish me. » Grit Laskin has now contributed an impressive collection of gentle, humane and intelligent songs of his own. He puts words and music together with the same skill and imagination as he does his guitars, and the result is a stunning album. » (BB)