“Sonny Don’t Go Away: A Tribute to Ron Hynes”, released on October 20th, 2023 via Sonic Records, gathers a diverse group of Newfoundland and Labrador-based artists, presenting their interpretations of an eclectic mix from the Ron Hynes songbook, ranging from his classic hits to lesser-known songs. Affectionate, genuine, contemporary, this is a stellar collection of material meant to touch the hearts of ardent, long-time fans and serve as a portal into the vast creative genius of Ron Hynes for new enthusiasts.
Hynes, who died in 2015, has long been recognized and repeatedly awarded as a mythical figure in the evolution of the East Coast music scene, but more importantly, he was an originating pioneer of, and an emissary for, an astounding flood of authentic Newfoundland singer-songwriter performers, many of whom contributed to this dazzling array of story and song.
Some chose to honour Hynes’ spirit with reimagined versions of his popular tracks, while others delved deep into the emotional resonance of his poetic lyrics and magnificent melodies. “Sonny’s Dream” performed by Kellie Loder, for example, offers a fresh look at the decades old favourite, while “Dark River” by Amelia Curran and Duane Andrews hauntingly captures the mysteriously rich imagery and metaphoric qualities of Hynes’ original, transcending its simple sentimentality into a journey of profound discovery.
Plumbing the depths of emotion on “Godspeed (Requiem for Gene MacLellan),” by Quote the Raven, or “Atlantic Blue,” by the Once, or “Lonely Song,” by Ennis Sisters, one cannot help but marvel at the treasure of beauty, nuanced sensitivity that Hynes managed to enshrine in his chord progressions and perceptive lyrics.
Every bit as important as his Canadian contemporaries, such as Gordon Lightfoot and Ian Tyson, Ron Hynes never found a strong footing outside of his home of Newfoundland, where he enjoyed weighty respect and legendary status. Nevertheless, he toured tirelessly and laboured intensely at the song form craft. Few Canadian writers, could reflect simple daily stories and connect them, seemingly effortlessly, into universal acknowledged themes – home, sea and sky, fellowship and the endless struggle to prevail and overcome adversity.
Every song, every performance, on “Sonny Don’t Go Away: A Tribute to Ron Hynes,” is worthy of repeated listening, not only to relish the propensity of Hynes’ writing, but to celebrate in the talents that bring these tales to life in a vigorous and surprising fashion. Each and every song provides a glimpse into how precious our common experience and humanity truly is – that life is short, fragile, fleeting as a shadow.
Produced by Alan Doyle and Cory Tetford, the album has a timeless quality to it. Even though most of these tunes were written many years ago, the tracks utilize modern technologies without sacrificing Hynes’s innate characteristics – intricate chord progressions, his famous modulation on the third verse, his phrasing and lyrical pacing; at the same time, spotlighting the exceptional talents of each of the artists individually, many of whom never met Hynes, and who essentially make the songs their own. An outstanding achievement.
Tim Baker – Leaving on the Evening Tide
Amelia Curran & Duane Andrews – Dark River
Quote the Raven – Godspeed (Requiem for Gene MacLellan)
Alan Doyle & The Dardanelles – St. John’s Waltz
The Once – Atlantic Blue
Jodee Richardson – Cryer’s Paradise
Mallory Johnson – River of No Return
Joel Thomas Hynes – Last Chance Avenue
Ennis Sisters – Lonely Song
Matthew Byrne – 1962
Barry Canning – Where Do You Get Off
Cory Tetford – Shine Like Diamonds
Glenn Simmons – Picture of Dorian Grey
Yvette Lorraine – Where Does Love Go Wrong
Rum Ragged – House
Shanneyganock – If I Left You Alone with My Heart
Fortunate Ones – No Change in Me
Silver Wolf Band – Dry
Mick Davis – Get Back Change
Kellie Loder – Sonny’s Dream
Photo Credits: Andrew Vaughan (Ron Hynes) / Stills taken from Artist Video releases.