Essentials… with Stephen Fearing
Each week, Essentials allows Canadian musicians to share the things that have helped them get through the pandemic, and why they still can’t live without them. Here are the choices of an acclaimed folk-rock veteran.
By Jason Schneider
Each week, Essentials allows Canadian musicians to share the things that have helped them get through the pandemic, and why they still can’t live without them.
Revered singer/songwriter Stephen Fearing had a lot planned for 2020. Not only was his band Blackie & The Rodeo Kings gearing up to celebrate its 25th anniversary, but Fearing was also primed to hit the road in support of his latest solo album The Unconquerable Past, which came out in late 2019.
Only now is Fearing starting to catch up with solo shows around his current home base in British Columbia, and a Blackie & The Rodeo Kings Canadian tour is set to kick off at the start of February. Although The Unconquerable Past did receive its share of praise, the unfortunate timing of its release didn’t get it into as many ears as it deserved.
Fearing is starting to rectify this with a new video for the track Christine, an upbeat, Mose Allison-inspired song written for his wife. Together, they’ve made a playful video for it using puppets, which can seen on Fearing’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
Fearing says, “We both loved the idea of writing an old-school rock ‘n roll song with a feminist twist about love in your fifties. When Christine started talking about making a music video using puppets, I knew we were in for something different and I was happy to let her steer the whole thing using her sets, feminist theory and imagery.”
The Unconquerable Past is available now on all digital platforms, Bandcamp, or from stephenfearing.ca.
Essential Album: Al Green, Let’s Stay Together (Hi Records, 1972)
Recently, I have found myself listening and re-listening to this album. The past two years of enforced isolation has—among other things—presented me with the opportunity to delve deeply into home recording, and so with newly sharpened ears, I am approaching some old favourites afresh. Let’s Stay Together is a revelation as much for its performances as it is for the arrangements and recording itself. I’ve had a few long drives lately and love to listen to this record in detail, by turning off the right or left channel and hearing things from a totally new and weird perspective. I thoroughly recommend this method to any Beatles lovers out there too.
My Covid reading kept me sane and was all over the map. Some favourites were Paul Simon: The Life by Robert Hilburn, Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe, and LastChance Texaco by Rickie Lee Jones. But in terms of fiction, I relished Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell Trilogy—Wolf Hall, Bring Up The Bodies and The Mirror & The Light. It left me gobsmacked once again over how much energy, money and blood has been spilled between Catholics and Protestants for centuries!
I managed to completely avoid The Tiger King thing but did get caught up in Ted Lasso, despite the truly dreadful Christmas episode. And along with various “crimmys,” including re-watching The Wire in its glorious entirety, I remain a loyal viewer of Monty Don’s Gardener’s World on the BBC.
I love Wes Anderson’s characters and sense of humour, so the missus and I are looking forward to seeing his latest, The French Dispatch. My seasonal favourites are Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and A Christmas Carol—the 1951 version with Alistair Sim, please and thank you. And I’ve decided to hold off on the most recent James Bond until I am on a plane or in a hotel again.