FESTIVAL @ ALSTONEFIELD
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 As 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
THE BEAT MAGAZINE
My brother had a favorite expression...“There’s nothing like a nice, quiet, relaxing evening… and that was nothing like a nice quiet relaxing evening!” Totally appropriate, in a good way, for last Saturday night at the London Music Club. RPR was loud, vibrant and exciting...their performance Saturday was a joyous occasion... pirates, in my mind, who always brought such outlandish energy to the stage.
They play their instruments at times with roaring vigor at others with sparse intensity, creating many moods: Rob Ritchie on keys; Steve, his brother, guitars and bass including some great licks on electric guitar; “Dylan was nearly killed for doing this”; Al Parrish guitar and electric bass guitar – we missed Al’s stand-on acoustic bass!! And new this time was the welcome addition of drummer Beaker Granger, who definitely looked the part adding more long hair to the stage. (Yes, I’m jealous!) His driving rhythms and delicate percussion gave the band huge presence, adding greatly to the lack of “…nice, quiet, relaxing evening”!
They sing raucously and passionately with big stirring harmonies. Rob told us that CBC described Al’s baritone as being somewhere between chocolate and sex.
Rob and Al seem to write mostly in a more humorous vein. Rob did a country achy–breaky-heart song about not being able to play his keys out in the woods miles from anywhere because the extension cords had come unplugged... silly but funny! Steve tended to add to the body count with ballads ranging from soldiers to suicides. His are songs with great depth of understanding of the human condition. Having got used to Rob’s sense of humor – sort of – he then devastated us with a story, which he was asked to write for a fund raiser for the victims of Katrina.
It’s great to have you back guys. May RPR (and B!) keep having fun and making music for us all. The evening was somewhere between chocolate and....
the evening flew by, with them telling stories about how they came to write their story songs, full of humor, pathos and love. Al has been married for thirty two years...just not to the same woman! And it’s taken him all that time to realize that a woman falls in love with a man’s potential to become the man of her dreams! - - Bob Cunningham
FAV BANDS MAG
Way back in the past, Sister Whiskey entertained their audiences at hundreds of shows every year. Their songs came largely from the ‘pub’ repertoire.
October Browne (guitar and mandolin), Shelley Coopersmith (violin/fiddle and mandolin), and Al Parrish (bass and guitar) delighted people with the familiar, but scattered among those well-worn, old chestnuts, were some quirky and interesting sidelights, like Colcannon, Georgy Girl (yes, the Seekers), Tunnel Tigers, Dublin Bay (not Bridie Gallagher's, nor Silly Wizard's, but Stephen Fearing's Canadian one). Listeners loved the songs they knew but commented most often on the out-of-the-ordinary songs.
Eventually, the Sisters went their separate ways. October toured the world as musical director of River Dancey show, and played with the renowned Morgaine Lefaye; Shelley worked with such luminaries as Tamarack and Sylvia Tyson; and Al performed in Canada, the US, and the UK with the award-winning Tanglefoot.
Years later, by lucky coincidence, Al saw Shelley at a gig she was playing, spoke to her afterward and said that he missed the Sister Whiskey days – the vibrancy, the repertoire, the arrangements, the harmonies. Shelley suggested lunch with October might be in order.
Before long, lunch became a jam and an opportunity to shake the rust off the most interesting and enjoyable parts of the old repertoire and add dozens of other songs in that same idiosyncratic vein.
The result is the 21st century version of Sister Whiskey: a truly fascinating repertoire of well-known, not-so-well-known, and certainly not overplayed songs from the jukebox of your life.
Done with tight arrangements, stellar playing, dazzling harmonies, great story-telling, it's really entertaining and just plain fun.
- - That Writer Guy
Holy Lord T'undering
Maudit Tabarnac Review
Glendon Rock Ensemble
& the Mellow-Ds
Brean Derg Muc
Solomon's Lost Mind
Sister Whiskey (again!)