Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stan Rogers – Fogarty’s Cove (reissue)

Fogarty’s Cove
Fogarty’s Cove/Borealis

This review discusses the newly remastered and reissued version of Fogarty’s Cove, Stan Rogers’ first album.

As I noted in my review of The Very Best of Stan Rogers, Stan and I were friends for the last eight years of his life after meeting at the 1975 Mariposa Folk Festival. I invited him to come and play at the Golem, the Montreal folk club that I ran in the 1970s and ‘80s, and he played his first three-night gig there in February 1976.

Stan and I talked a lot that weekend about his artistic vision and the kind of records he’d like to make given the opportunity. As it happened, he got the opportunity to record his first LP later that year, thanks in no small part to the efforts of producer Paul Mills – who would go on to produce all but one of Stan’s albums – and the financial backing of Mitch Podolak, founder and then-artistic director of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, who bankrolled the production and release of Fogarty’s Cove.

Stan was, in my opinion, the finest folk-rooted songwriter that Canada has yet produced – and that was already more than obvious to me from the songs on Fogarty’s Cove – many of which he performed that February weekend at the Golem.

When he died at the so-very-young age of 33, Stan left behind a formidable body of work including several themed albums capturing specific regions of Canada and their distinctive people. He started that ongoing project with Fogarty’s Cove, about Atlantic Canada and its people. Along with several other albums, Stan went on to record Northwest Passage about the prairies and From Fresh Water about the Great Lakes region of Ontario. Eventually, he would have done projects about most, if not all, of Canada’s regions.

Stan’s parents both grew up in Nova Scotia and he spent much time there himself visiting relatives. No contemporary songwriter has captured Maritime life as genuinely as Stan did on Fogarty’s Cove (and in other songs that would later turn up on Turnaround, and two live recordings: Between the Breaks…Live and Home in Halifax). Whether it’s the lives of fishers and their families in songs like “Fogarty’s Cove” and “Make and Break Harbour,” the transformation of modern day Halifax in “Fisherman’s Wharf,” the played-out mining area in “The Rawdon Hills,” or the 18th century story he tells in “Barrett’s Privateers,” a song that seems so real and authentic you’d swear it was a time-tested traditional sea chantey.

Another highlight on the album is “Forty-five Years,” a beautiful love song inspired by his wife-to-be and “a day in Cole Harbour.” It would turn out to be one of Stan’s best-loved and most venerable songs.

I’ve listened to this album countless times. Stan played a cassette for me before it was released and I wore out at least a couple of copies of the original LP before moving on to the first CD version. But Fogarty’s Cove has never sounded as great as it does on this newly remastered version. It’s like hearing these amazing songs for the first time. Stan and accompanists Garnet Rogers and David Woodhead, his touring band of the time, and Curly Boy Stubbs (Paul Mills), Grit Laskin, Ken Whiteley, Bernie Jaffe and John Allan Cameron sound glorious.

--Mike Regenstreif

1 comment:

  1. These things are a matter of personal taste, of course, but at least in my hearing Rogers produced songs of sometimes jarringly uneven quality. His best songs, no one would deny, were good indeed. But as to Canadian folk-based singer-songwriters, this non-Canadian deems Rogers only here and there the equal of such deservedly celebrated figures as Ian Tyson, Gordon Lightfoot, and the McGarrigles.