Al Parrish... like a wild force of nature straight from the Canadian backwoods, the Hall seemed almost too small to contain this big man – a larger than life character in every way with his mane of red hair and his regency green satin shirt and when, walking away from the microphone for fear it would blow the audience’s heads away, he began his first set with an unaccompanied Gaelic song delivered in his powerful yet sweet voice, Alstonefield knew that somebody very special had arrived to entertain them. We weren’t disappointed… this hugely engaging personality delivered a varied set of songs from his own wryly humourous observations on the eternally mysteries of the relationship between men and women (Women Fall In Love With Potential) to rousing pirate songs (with an energetic nod to the Who’s My Generation!) to songs about driving through the back roads of rural Canada. Explaining that his father had been a big jazz fan, Al then proceeded to grab hold of his famed double bass to play a finger-numbing Lambert Hendricks Ross jazz piece and the great Tom Waits’ The One that Got Away. Simply brilliant!

Al’s heart is as big as his stature and when he sang Stephen Foster’s Hard Times Come Again No More, the song was rendered even more relevant to the times we’re living in when he added a rousing extra verse of his own asking that we do all we can to make sure that ‘hard times come again no more.’ And we all joined in…

Al generously gave us two encores. His last song of the evening was a wonderfully inspiring unaccompanied song called Fall Down Like The Rain on which he succeeded to get the entire hall singing with the chorus.

Earlier in the evening Al had sung a song about a White Squall – a sudden wild gust of wind that whips up out of nowhere from over the Great Lakes. ‘Not unlike Al himself,’ I thought as the Village Hall emptied into the night. 

(Rick Ford)

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