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Tuesday, 31 March 2020 14:35

Ken Whiteley

Written by Roger Levesque
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After five decades, veteran musician still revels in making roots music recordings.

So much music. So many insights. From the sheer satisfaction of strumming and singing to his deepest or more light-hearted songs, to his work interpreting the tradition, Ken Whiteley has passed on an amazing legacy of tunes. Still, it’s hard to think of a set of songs as personal or reflective as the recent Calm In The Eye Of The Storm, his first album in four years.

“I think we live in very troubled times and that obviously impacts us all as individuals, so this is really the response to ‘how do we find peace and calm?’ and that has both a personal, social, political, and spiritual component. It’s a reflection of my own journey, both the themes and where I’m at personally, from the 55 years I’ve been playing music in public and soaking all this other stuff up.”

As Whiteley hits 69 this spring, it’s hard to think of anyone else who is such an institution of Canadian folk music, a multi-instrumentalist and multi-linguist in the sub-genres and dialects of folk and blues traditions, a curious man with a youthful spirit at heart. All that and his big hair, as if he might be a hermit lost for decades on some deserted island or mountainous retreat.

The album’s opening track, Lay My Burden By The River, was inspired by a month-long trip to the Himalayas and the source of the Ganges River that Whiteley made in 2000, an experience that had to evoke a song if anything would. Not all the tunes start from such exotic signposts but, either way, it’s an entertaining set.

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