When it comes to concert-going adventures, it’s funny how travel plans can escalate quickly. Case in point – our most recent Canadian excursion was born from a Matt Andersen tour announcement late last year, with this particular event falling on a spring weekend in London, ON. Tickets were purchased the moment they went on sale, and we circled the Friday through Sunday on our 2023 calendar.
As we transitioned into the new year, another notification came our way, this time advertising a Reuben and the Dark concert in Hamilton on the following evening over that same weekend. We promptly purchased tickets and scratched the original idea, circling the Monday as the return date instead. And with a few weeks to go before the arrival of spring, sure enough, another announcement arrived, offering a chance to see Julian Taylor perform a house concert in the same geographical area. Had to be done, right? Agreed – it was, and we suddenly had a full schedule of three shows in three nights. This was going to be a fun road-trip.
Cast your mind back to when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in early 2020, and recall how quickly the world stopped turning – how quickly this global crisis impacted all of our lives. We all needed emotional comfort during that immediate period of uncertainty and chaos, and for me, music was my go-to security blanket. In my humble opinion, music fixes everything, and those artists we rely on to keep us going certainly stepped up to the occasion.
Just a month into the pandemic, Toronto’s Julian Taylor released his single, “The Ridge,” and what a game-changer that proved to be. I really was lost for words when first hearing the tune – truth be told, I did not connect the song and artist at first, so different was this sound for the soul-rock-funk star we knew and love. Those words soon came, however, as did the yearning to review the tune here for GDW – and again, happened during the craziness when we all desperately sought something positive to reach for and cling on to. “The Ridge” became a buoy, easily making my 2020 year-end singles list, and the album (same title) that followed gave us many more wonderful roots-Americana tracks to savor, easily earning a spot in my 2020 Top Four album picks. Yes, we’ve been waiting a long time to hear many of these tracks live.
“This song took me by surprise, to be honest. I’ve been at this for 25 years… But this song opened up the rest of the world to what I was doing here in Canada, I was shocked,” Julian shared, prior to performing “The Ridge” at Stonecroft Folk. “I couldn’t tour this record. I was locked in my house, just like everybody else. I don’t know if you have a place in your mind that sets you free, but I do. It’s a place in Maple Ridge, BC.” Julian would proudly recall his own fond childhood memories of the annual cross-Canada trip both he and his sister would take to their grandparents farm each summer, from a very young age right through to their mid-teens. “So, I can see that gravel road in my mind, I can still smell the pines,” he added. “The Ridge is a very important place, and I’m so glad that it resonated with so many people.”
Julian would return to this album several times during the evening, performing “Be With You,” the breezy “Love Enough,” and the audience-participation favorite, “Ballad of a Young Troubadour.” He would also share tales from his recent European tour, and how audiences (and even some fun-hecklers in Liverpool, UK) reacted to his music – a perfect conduit to sharing some of the latest material from his stunning 2022 “Beyond the Reservoir” album. “I didn’t realize that this song [“S.E.E.D.S”] would have such an impact on people, but when I was away for a month [in Europe] there were people in the audience who did not know what the song was actually about. It’s not really about 215 unmarked graves [Indigenous children remains discovered in Kamloops, BC], it’s about resilience, it’s about courage, it’s about all our traditions, it’s about heritage, about being human. That’s what it was written for,” he disclosed. “But I remember playing it in Berlin, and three people came up to me after the show and said, ‘Oh, our grandparents were in the holocaust,’ and I just went, ‘oh my goodness.’ [This song] just seems to keep doing that.”
Following an extended version of “S.E.E.D.S,” complete with willing audience participation, Julian put yet another smile on my face when pulling out some older tunes from his 2016 “Desert Star” and 2014 “Tech Noir” albums. It is always a pleasure to hear the deeply personal narrative surrounding “Carry Me Home,” and the grooves from “Why Would You Do That?” – delivered acoustically, but still with plenty of pizzazz. He would also announce prior to a performance of “Glass House” that this was one of his favorite self-penned tunes. “You don’t like your other songs?” came a candid call from the back of the room, which in turn erupted in laughter. A mile wide smile on his face, Julian offered a perfect fun rebuttal: “Oh, you’re like the people from Liverpool.”
Prior to performing “Back Again,” one of two numbers he would draw upon from his 2019 “Avalanche” album, Julian once again had a great story to share – this time about the early days of his music career, when playing shows whilst legally underage in downtown Toronto. “Nobody actually knew we were underage. I had this fake ID for a really long time. I was at downtown where the RPM used to be in Toronto, and I was at the coat check and this guy said, ‘Dude, you look like me,’” he commenced, pausing for effect. “He was cool. I don’t know where he is now, but I do know his birthday. He was born on December 12th. I know this because he gave me his ID, and I kept that for a really long time. And when I used to go to the beer store – I was a tiny, skinny kid – I’d go into the beer store and get drinks and stuff for all my friends, and I’d hand that card over to the beer store guy, and he’d go, ‘Ah, 12/12, alright.’ 12/12 – that’s what they used to call me. Funny, I saw those guys from the beer store years later and they’re like, ‘Yeah, we knew man, yeah, it was totally fine.’ They just thought it was funny. 12/12 – I’ll take it.”
Winding down his 1 hour 45-minute show, Julian would take one final opportunity to address the room to discuss another personal topic – one of human nature, resilience, and love. “I think one of the things about being human is that we have the ability to do one thing better than any other species on the planet if we decide to put our minds and hearts to it,” he commenced. “We can share with one another. Share our stories. Share our time.” A brief pause for silence was promptly filled by a cry from ‘Fiddle’ – one of the resident canines at Stonecroft Folk – whose timing was perfect and resulted in plenty of merriment. “I feel you too, oh that was so sweet,” Julian continued. “Oh, Fiddle gets it. That’s a very touching moment for us all. But what I really wanted to say – and Fiddle put it into context – is thank you for sharing your time with me, for sharing your space with me, and your energy with me. If we, as humans, can get to do that more often, then we’ll be okay.”
- Be With You
- Wide Awake
- Back Again
- Murder 13
- Glass House
- Carry Me Home
- Why Would You Do That
- The Ridge
- 100 Proof
- Desert Star
- Love Enough
- Ballad Of A Young Troubadour
- Opening The Sky
- Just A Little Bit