Highlights From The Home County Music & Art Festival (Part 2)

Coco Love Alcorn

In this second installment of our trio of features on the 46th annual Home County Music & Art Festival, we feature three artists that we had highlighted as ‘must-see’ events during our time in London, ON.  Additionally, these are three artists that we had never been able to see live until this past weekend.  With representation from ON, AB (now ON) and NS, we experienced some outstanding live music in Victoria Park from Coco Love Alcorn, Deni Gauthier, and Dave Gunning.

Coco Love Alcorn: Main Stage, Friday

We pretty much jumped for joy when we saw Coco Love Alcorn’s name on the bill for this year at The Home County Music & Art Festival.  Having wanted to see this iconic Canadian pop-jazz singer for some time (and having heard a phenomenal live cover of her song “The River” a couple of years ago by none other than rising star, Jeremy Dutcher), there was no way that threats of thunderstorms or tornadoes in London that day could keep us away.  Introduced to the Main Stage as hailing ‘from the mean streets of Owen Sound,’ and joined by Connor Walsh (upright bass), Ewen Farncombe (keyboards), and Jon Foster (percussion), Coco would captivate the Friday night audience with a stunning selection of her original tunes, including “The River.”  “This song has been a special thing in my life,” Coco would share. “Choirs started singing this song, and to date there’s been well over one hundred choirs who have done this song, and I’ve been going around visiting choirs, and it’s fun.”

Drawing strongly from her 2016 “Wonderland” album, Coco and her band would amaze the audience with tracks that included “Mary Mary”, “Unbreakable” (co-written with Ian Sherwood) and “That Old Feeling.”  With a phenomenal display of her vocal range during “Unbreakable” (those cries of finally delivered with blissfully perfect precision), Coco shone all evening.  The vocal harmonies of her three companions would shine too when stepping away from their instruments to huddle around one microphone and add their collective voices during the gospel-inspired “My Day.”  Pausing momentarily from her performance, Coco would share some great news. “I have a new album coming out this fall, called Rebirth,” she stated.  “And drummer Jon Foster told me I should be brave, and sing a new song right now.”  The highlight of the set had to be Coco’s performance of an earlier hit, “Compassion.”  With the band sporting an incredible jazz vibe to this track, Coco would once again stretch her vocal cords beyond belief.  She would also factor in some Home County focused rap (“That’s my best MC skills,” she joked), and added some great four part harmonies to close. Amazing!  Coco Love Alcorn left us craving much, much more.

Set List:

  1. Mary Mary
  2. The River
  3. Unbreakable
  4. Wonderland
  5. Rebirth
  6. My Day
  7. Compassion
  8. That Old Feeling


Deni Gauthier: North Stage, Sunday

Yes, we spent a large percentage of our time over at the North Stage this weekend, finding many of our favorite artists, and several whom we had never yet had the opportunity to see.  Cue the arrival of Deni Gauthier for the 2pm slot on this stage; an artist whose name was very quickly circled when the final schedule was released a few weeks ago. Originally from Calgary, AB, but now calling nearby St Thomas, ON home, Deni would be joined on stage by ‘The Horrible Mischief,’ a band of notable local performers, comprised of Paul Aitken (guitar), Steve Clark (bass) and Nathan Smith (percussion).  With an eight-track performance, Deni was happy to converse with the audience at length during his fifty minute slot.  “I’m really proud to be a part of this festival because it’s simply one of the finest folk festivals in Canada,” he stated, after a rousing performance of “Into The West.”

Tracks such as “Why Don’t You Go Home” and “Let Me Go” were prefaced with personal tales of how he met his wife, their courtship, marriage and arrival of four children.  “I can’t wait to grow old. I can’t wait to get grumpy and fully surly,” he stated following “This Is Why We Fight.”  I wrote a song about an old couple, living a lifetime together … who finish each others sentences and stuff, like knowing when the dude needs a sandwich or the lady needs the dishes washed.”  Deni would go on to perform “60 Years Or More.”  It was wonderful to witness the inclusion of “Next Line,” whereby Deni would repeat the title of Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers In A Dangerous Time” into the final chorus, before yielding to a great guitar solo outro from Paul Aitken.  The band would crank it up with “Don’t Be Afraid,” complete with some added vocal distortion effects for Deni.  “I forgot this is a folk festival,” he stated at the close of the song. “I hope this wasn’t too rocky for your guys.  It’s just a lot of fun playing rock music with these guys.”

Set List:

  1. This Is Why We Fight
  2. 60 Years Or More
  3. One Last Fight
  4. Don’t Be Afraid
  5. Let Me Go
  6. Next Line
  7. Into The West
  8. Why Don’t You All Go Home


Dave Gunning: Main Stage, Sunday

Another artist that had proven elusive to us in our concert-going quests, Dave Gunning proved to be the perfect headliner to close out the 46th annual festival.  Gracing the main stage with just his acoustic guitar in hand, Dave received a very warm welcome in his return to this city.  “This is a song I wrote on the bus on the way here,” he joked before opening with the lines, “The sun was setting in the west / the birds were singing on ev’ry tree,” earning immediate applause from the appreciative crowd, who clearly knew every word to “Farewell to Nova Scotia.”  Dave conversed at length, and in good spirits, all evening.  “Sarah and the boys rode up with me from Nova Scotia … and I was singing along to a popular song, but I got the lyrics wrong,” he shared, eliciting chuckles.  “And I was singing it with conviction too. I was trying to be cool for the kids, and they were laughing at me ‘til they realized I was serious and thought those were the real words.”  Pausing for effect, he continued his tale.  “There was something about ‘Going to take my horse to the hotel room / I’m gonna ride ‘til I can’t no more / Going to take my horse to the hotel room / I’m gonna ride ‘til I can’t no more’,” he shared. “And Sarah said ‘What are you saying? Are you saying hotel room?’  I think it’s ‘Old Town,’ right? Anyway, they’ve been singing that to me the whole trip, the little buggers.”

Dave would draw upon his most recent “Up Against The Sky” album, sharing cuts such as “Ferris Wheel,” and “Celebrate The Crop,” before dipping deeper into his extensive back catalog.  He would also acknowledge how the crowd responded so well to “These Hands” during his last Home County visit, and requested plenty of audience participation to “make me look like a rock star in front of my kids.”  Prior to performing “A Game Goin’ On,” his winning composition from the 2014 CBC Hockey Night in Canada Song Quest Competition, he would provide some hilarious commentary about the song.  “I wrote this song with David Francey. I grew up as a Montreal Canadiens fan, and David Francey’s a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, and despite our differences, we got together, wrote this song and agreed on everything,” he commenced.  “Everywhere you go, you meet Toronto fans.  My dad’s a Leafs fan … and I’ll confess that I was cheering for them the last couple of years.  I wanted to see them win the [Stanley] Cup so bad; I was a confused Hoser.”  Fits of laughter spread like wildfire throughout the crowd, prompting Dave to continue.  “I thought it would be awesome to see the Leafs get a colored photo with the Stanley Cup,” he joked.  “I never mind teasing Leafs fans. They can take it. They are the most gentle, humble, patient people you’ll ever meet. They are good people.  They are like the golden retrievers of hockey fans.”

For his finale, Dave would invite guest guitarist and co-vocalist Lynne Hanson (The LYNNeS) to join him on stage, complete with electric guitar.  Asking the sound engineer to dial up a two second reverb to his voice and acoustic guitar, “It’s a good night for a hanging,’ he exclaimed.  “Hanging songs aren’t that trendy these days.  It might be the only one you’ll hear all week, in fact.  In these days of political correctness, it might be a Taser and Restraint song, but even at that, we’re pushing it.”  With the sound to their liking, Dave and Lynne would introduce his popular hit, “The Long Black Veil,” with plenty more conversation.  “Lynne and I like the murder ballads.  We hit it off over some beers one night talking about murder ballads,” Dave stated.  “I have an entire record of murder ballads called Seven Deadly Spins,” added Lynne.  “Neither one of us get commissioned to write a lot of songs for people,” Dave joked. “In fact, if anybody does reach out to us, we’ve been asked to notify the RCMP and the OPP immediately.” With the haunting reverb from Dave’s guitar, and added low-end twang courtesy of Lynne, this song proved an incredibly unique and entertaining way to close the show.  Finally hearing the outstanding music and conversation from one of Nova Scotia’s finest (and crossing his name off our artist bucket list, at last), I have no doubt that several more shows from Dave Gunning await us in this lifetime.

Set List:

  1. Farewell To Nova Scotia (Trad.)
  2. Ferris Wheel
  3. Celebrate The Crop
  4. These Hands
  5. A Game Goin’ On
  6. Coal From The Train
  7. Sing It Louder
  8. The Long Back Veil (with Lynne Hanson)

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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