REVIEW: Pamela Morgan Band

This is a brief review of a Rogue Folk Club concert by Pamela Morgan Band at the W.I.S.E. Hall in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on Tuesday, July 19, 1994, followed by my Vancouver Folk Festival review including notes on her and others.

I heard Pamela Morgan last night in hot weather --- her new stuff is mostly mellow but intense, partly due to the deaths in the last few years. Her voice keeps getting better like fine wine, and carries the sound of the wild Atlantic, with seabird highs and the smooth low bass hum and crash of the waves, and rolling rhythm. The arrangements (voice, guitar, keys, violin) of the trio were designed to showcase her voice.

I have a much more extensive review of her Vancouver Folk Music Festival mainstage performance two or three days before, which I was even more impressed with in my files (I hope) but am having trouble locating it. I will weave that in when I find it. (OK I found it, maybe it wasn't archived on google for a while since it was to more than four or five groups but they recently added some such posts to the archive.)

Since then a new solo CD has come out entitled On a Wing and a Prayer and I highly recommend it. It came out in 1996. Another one is in the works, and also she and others have just (late 1997) released a Christmas CD entitled Amber Christmas.

2004 update: She now has a second solo CD, Seven Years, that is quite good, and her web page is Pamela Morgan.

Now here is my original 1994 Vancouver folk festival review with comments on Pamela and others, but with phone number corrections suggested by someone in a followup. I will insert Festival Distribution web site later, must run now.

From: David Dalton (dalton@mantle.Geop.UBC.CA)
Subject: Pamela Morgan & VFMF review 
Newsgroups:,,,,, alt.rock-n-roll, bc.general
Date: 1994-07-24 02:39:46 PST 
[edit Newsgroups line of followup as appropriate]

The Vancouver Folk Music Festival is truly a world music festival,
and there was music from many genres, including celtic, singer
songwriters, acoustic blues, country, native music, African,
bluegrass, Latin American and others.

I was particularly moved by certain voices and by the acts from
my home province of Newfoundland.   Here I will comment on some 
of the acts that impressed me the most, beginning with Newfoundland 
singer/songwriter Pamela Morgan and her band.

Pamela Morgan  [genre: celtic tinged original folk rock]
Pamela was lead singer and co-founder of the celtic rock band 
Figgy Duff, and has the best voice ever to come out of Newfoundland,
a voice  that can calm you with a lullaby of seabirds, or rouse
you to passion with the growl of the wild sea.  No come hither girlish
voice this, but the warm powerful tones of a woman in her prime.
Over the course of the weekend and a followup concert on Tuesday 
July 19 at the W.I.S.E. Hall she performed many original songs and 
a few traditional Newfoundland songs.  Her new stuff is mostly 
mellow but intense, partly due to the deaths of Noel Dinn and 
Emile Benoit over the last two years.  Her voice keeps getting 
better like fine wine, and carries the sound of the wild Atlantic, 
with seabird highs and the smooth low bass hum and crash of the 
waves, and a rolling rhythm.  No sharp, unsupported notes here.
On a very hot Tuesday night concert, this voice of the sea
dispelled the heat for the duration of the concert.   
   The arrangements (voice, guitar, keys, violin) of the trio were 
designed to showcase her voice, and succeeded admirably.   
   She is doing almost entirely original songs, with one or two
by Noel Dinn but the rest by her, and her songwriting and
arranging skills have improved markedly in the last five years.
   The Pamela Morgan band is currently touring across Canada;
if I get a tour schedule I will post it; I think they are
in Victoria right now and then Alberta.   Don't miss their
unique blend of powerful ocean voice, strong songwriting,
and some touches of celtic and Russian gypsy fiddle in a
unique mature pop sound.   And watch for a new album in 1995
or for now check out the Figgy Duff albums.   Some of the
comments in my Tammy Fassaert review below also apply to Pamela.
(and a friend said PM's new stuff reminded him of early Fairport Convention)

Tammy Fassaert  (excerpt from review I posted last week, when I was more poetic)
                [genre: country/folk/bluegrass]
Tammy was one of the many voices who wowed me at the Vancouver Folk
Music Festival with their ability to convey emotion and turn
an ordinary song into a jewel or a good song into a moving
experience.    Between the stages, her voice was carried by 
the wind and grass, singing along --- draw closer, to feel the
song opened within you by the singer.

The best singers are of and in the song; they expose and project
the song to the world.   The song and singer dance as one, the
golden voice surrounds and upwells  within you.   Nothing is
held  back, each phrase a flower of memory, nested in the
intrumental bed.  

Tammy's recording is available at  Festival Distribution
(604 253 2662) and Black Swan Records (604 734 2828) and 
other sources.  I will find out the label details  as soon 
as I buy a copy, and will review it for the net.

Plankerdown Band  [celtic/world music band]
This high powered celtic/world band from Newfoundland shone
in the Sunday workshops, when the temperature and humidity
seemed to suit the harmonica and accordion better, and
were nearly as good in the Saturday workshops and Friday
main stage set (which had some sound problems).  They
blasted out many dance sets of jigs and reels, with rolling
button accordion from Frank Maher and blazing fiddle
from Kelly Russell.   They performed dance sets from
recently deceased fiddlers Emile Benoit and Rufus Guinchard,
some dance sets from Placentia Bay, beautiful ballads
sung by Lori Cooper, and got the crowd dancing in the
rain on Sunday.   Their debut recording,   The Jig is Up,
is available from   Pigeon Inlet (709) 754 7324.
Their recording (and set) includes a Latin American tune
and some Swedish tunes as well as Newfoundland and Irish ones.

Rawlins Cross  [celtic/original pub rock band]
I was surprised they didn't get a mainstage set.   This
pan-AtlanticProv  celtic band were tighter than I have
ever heard them before, and pumped out the celtic pub
rock tunes to get the crowd dancing on Sunday and
some even on Saturday in the early heat.   Bagpipes,
accordion, mandolin, bass and drums meshed with 
new vocalist Joey Kitson's voice.   He seemed more
comfortable with the songs that just after he joined.
They have three recordings, available from 
Groundswell    (800) 563 7935  or  (902) 492 0447

Roy Forbes   [high speed picking, soulful loon voice, great country songs]
Roy used his passionate voice and incredible guitar
picking to keep the crowd going in the Sunday afternoon
rain, ending with his tune "Keep Lighting that Fire".
He was also the sparkplug at several workshops.
He will release a CD of Bim tunes shortly, and 
also a new UHF album, and then a followup to his
recent solo album,  Human Kind, available from  
Black Swan  (604) 734 2828  and other places.
He gets the sound of the loon (bird) in his voice,
tugging at the strings of your heart.

Craobh Rua  [celtic trad]
This Irish band didn't impress me much on Friday night,
partly because I arrived over halfway through their
set, since I though the ad listed performers in 
reverse order, with headliners listed first.   But 
in later workshops, especially the Sunday celtic
workshop with  Plankerdown and  Rawlins Cross, I
was moved by the fiery fiddling and uillean pipes.
At the end there was a session on stage with
members of all three bands, who had obviously
been playing together back at the hotel over a beer
or two the night before from the chemistry they
exhibited on stage.

Quartette  [country, some folk, some cajun]
Four superb women country singer/songwriters,
four goddess voices who alone could move the
coldest crowd, who together could move massive 
stone.   They sounded best in the rained upon
country workshop on Sunday, and kept the crowd
warm, but also closed the festival with a
powerful mainstage set.

Danny Dill  [country folk]
One of my favourite voices, than conveyed the 
sound of the wind in his country tunes.  No
frills, just honest emotion.

Penny Lang  [folk blues, gospel]
Another great voice.   Canadian acoustic blues
artist, some gospel, full of passion and emotion,
really woke up the crowd on Sunday morning, kept
them going in the heat on Saturday afternoon.
Some pretty good guitar, too.

Uzume Taiko   [powerful drums/etc, asian/western fusion]
This Asian-Canadian band fuses traditional taiko drumming
(rhythm, form, dance) with the shakuhachi flute of
Takeo Yamashiro, cello from Peggy Lee, sometimes saxaphone.
Their Friday mainstage piece was a triumph; it called up
the rhythm of earth and sun, sea and mountain, heart and soul
in the audience.   Picture an array of drums on stage,
musicians clad in black leotards, leaping about, setting
the rhythms, while flute regulates the breath, cello links
the rhythms, regulates the blood.   Powerful art.
They also got the earthbeat going in the workshops.
Body and drum are one, fluid rhythm.   See/hear them.

Robert Minden Ensemble   [genre: stories, found instruments, environment]
I missed their full group concert, just caught Robert
doing some masterful storytelling about how he started
playing the saw, then doing the whale story to music
with members of the group.   They play music on 
found object such as saws, bottles, vacuum cleaner
hoses, hollow logs, lots more.

Takeo Yamashiro   [classical and modern shakuhachi flute]
This "bad boy" of the shakuhachi shone in his appearance
with Uzume Taiko and in his midday Saturday solo concert
evoked images of birds, regulated our (at least my) 
breathing, and called to the spirits of tree, air, sea...
His recording is available from  Festival  (604 253 2662)
as are the Uzume Taiko ones, I think.

Les Freres Labri  [quebec trad band]
Toe-tapping/foot-stomping bad from Quebec, did
a mix of traditional songs and dance tunes,
some vibrant accordion, fiddle, banjo, etc.

Radim Zenkl/John Reischmann  [genre: bluegrass/jazz/classical/... mandolin]
Two amazing mandolin virtuosos, I caught them
in a bluegrass workshop.   Cascades of notes,
make you wonder how they ever got that good.
John has a mandolin album with stuff in  a
variety of styles (bluegrass, jazz, celtic,
etc.) probably available from Black Swan.

Ani deFranco  [New York singer/songwriter/performance-artist]
Another powerful stage presence, puts everything
into her voice, carries the song and self from 
stage to the back and beyond.   Glowing smile,
bobbing moves, just pumps the energy out.   

Wapistan (Lawrence Martin)  
           [singer/songwriter influenced by his native spirituality]
Native tunes, guitar and ringing voice, in the
setting of the mountains, sea, trees and marsh.
He sent out a renewed native pagan spiritual message,
brought the audience together to mourn old wrongs.

Claudia Schmidt  [singer/songwriter, passionate, feminist, humanist]
Another motivational singer, got the crowd to respond.

And of course there were a number of excellent world
music bands such as  Die Knodel, Narasirato Are' Are 
Panpipe Ensemble, Black Umfolosi, Boukan Ginen, all
of whom impressed me, and more acts that I missed.

The Vancouver Folk Festival is in a jewel-like setting,
and presents a consistently good mix of old favourites,
local acts, acts from a different feature province
each year, and relatively unknown acts from a few
different countries each year.   I would recommend
it if you want to expand your musical horizons.   
The festival office is at    (604) 879-2931.

David Dalton ----geophysics Ph.D student-----  ---
  Dept. of Geophysics & Astronomy,                    (604) 822-2267
  2219 Main Mall, University of British Columbia      fax  822-6047
  Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Z4                           home 733-1303