Monday, March 21, 2011

Enoch Kent – Take a Trip with Me

Take a Trip with Me

As I noted in Sing Out! in 2008, “Enoch Kent was an established folk singer – a colleague of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in the Singers Club – when he moved to Canada in the 1960s. However, he didn’t record for more than three decades while working in the advertising business and singing occasionally at folk festivals and at Toronto folk clubs like Fiddler’s Green. In retirement, though, Enoch has become a prolific recording artist;” Take a Trip with Me is his sixth album since 2002.

The album title is taken from the first line of the opening track, Woody Guthrie’s “1913 Massacre,” a vivid description of a Christmas party being held for the families of Michigan copper miners at which company thugs screamed “Fire” and then locked the doors so people couldn’t get out leading to the smothering deaths of 73 panicked children on the stairs in front of the locked doors. Enoch’s version of Guthrie’s memorable song is as riveting as any I’ve ever heard.

In fact, Enoch – as on his previous releases – is never less than riveting as he explores a repertoire of traditional folk songs and contemporary compositions – his own and by others – steeped in the timelessness of traditional songs and working class life. As a singer, I’ve always thought of Enoch as being quietly powerful as he draws listeners into the compelling stories that he’s singing.

Among Enoch’s best original pieces are “The Pawnshop Window,” in which he describes many of the items for sale in a Toronto pawnshop and speculates on what the items may mean to the people who brought them to the shop or who may be buying them, and “The Murder of Ginger Goodwin,” the story of a legendary B.C. labour organizer who was murdered in 1918.

Among the other highlights are great versions of two powerful Australian songs. “Travelling Down the Castlereagh,” written by Banjo Patterson (best known for “Waltzing Matilda”) is about a farm worker who wouldn’t work with scabs, while Judy Small’s “Mothers, Daughters, Wives” is about a generation of women who saw their fathers, then husbands, and then sons, go off to successive wars – and then saw their daughters redefine their roles as women during the first wave of the modern feminist movement.

Of the traditional songs, I particularly like Enoch’s version of “Off to Sea Once More,” a ballad about a sailor forced to go to sea again after losing everything to a swindling prostitute, and “A’e Fond Kiss,” a beautiful parting song from the Robert Burns canon.

Although I’ve only highlighted half of the album’s 14 songs, I could, just as easily, have chosen any of the others to call attention to.

Enoch is also a compelling concert performer and will be in Montreal on Saturday, April 9, 8:00 pm, at Petit Campus, 57 Prince Arthur East, as part of the Wintergreen Concert Series. Call 514-524-9225 for tickets or information.

--Mike Regenstreif

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