A musical voice for Canada

Legendary folksinger Valdy takes the stage at the Key City Theatre with Bluesman Ken Hamm and Cranbrook's Connor Foote Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Legendary folksinger Valdy takes the stage at the Key City Theatre with Ken Hamm and Connor Foote Tuesday

Legendary folksinger Valdy takes the stage at the Key City Theatre with Ken Hamm and Connor Foote Tuesday

Barry Coulter

Despite its vast geographical size, Canada is really a small country. That’s a good thing. And nobody makes it smaller than Valdy.

Valdy, set to play the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook with Bluesman Ken Hamm, Tuesday, Oct. 27, spoke to the Townsman from Mississauga, Ontario on Thursday. But he’d already been in Cranbrook a few days earlier, where he stopped to get a tooth pulled, on Tuesday morning, Oct. 20.

Valdy was playing a 60th birthday party gig in Mississauga, prior to setting off on a fairly intense B.C. tour with longtime friend and collaborator Gary Fjellgaard (which includes the Cranbrook stop with Ken Hamm). “This is allowing me a good convalescence time.”

Valdy said the pain came on just last Friday, between a gig in Lloydminster and Camrose. “I started a course in anti-biotics, but by Tuesday morning I was in the chair (in Cranbrook) having it pulled out. Dr. Dave Burwash was very good.”

That the legendary Canadian folksinger can come down with the toothache in Camrose and have it extracted in Cranbrook is testiment to his constant roadwork — 200 shows a year in towns big and small across Canada.

That’s the life of a Canadian musician, even for someone with the stature of Valdy.

We do have to be on the road to be able to reach out to people who want to hear us. They won’t come to us, so we have to go to them. It’s a vast country, so there’s lots of miles involved in it. Travelling is half of our life. The music probably takes up about three hours a day, travelling’s up to six hours a day.”

Valdy (aka Paul Valdemar-Horsdal), came to prominence in the 1970s as one of Canada’s top singer-songwriters along with Gordon Lightfoot. The writer of such hits as “Rock and Roll Song,” “Yes I Can,” Peter and Lou” and “Sonny’s Dream” spoke to the Townsman about his concert partner Ken Hamm, the recent election, and where he gets his inspiration.

He and finger-picking blues virtuoso Ken Hamm have been friends for years. “He’s on the road a great — I was looking at his website, he’s been working very hard this month.

“He’s on his way to Lethbridge, then to Fernie, then coming in with me at the Key City Theatre on the 27th. He’s a great player — a traditionalist, but he’s put his own stamp on the tradition of the blues — wonderful to hear.”

Valdy’s latest album, a collaboration with Country singer Fjellgaard, is about to be released, but probably not in time for the Cranbrook show.

“It’s being manufactured in the Great Toronto Area as we speak,” Valdy said. “It’s getting pressed today. I don’t think they’ll be ready for Cranbrook. I fly back Monday, and if they’re ready I’ll bring some with me.”

As for the election:

“I’m really pleased with it. I’m disappointed that there’s a majority — I would have liked to see a minority government, especially for Trudeau’s first term. But he’s got good people around him so I hope he does okay.”

A prolific writer of songs, Valdy serves as a musical voice in Canada. in which we can see ourselves, and in some ways our own reactions.

“Inspiration comes, I think, from things that come across my bow, and something that piques my interest and is worthy of being commented on. There’s not a lot of Stompin’ Tom Connors music around anymore, so I wrote him a tribute song. And a woman on Saltspring had an exhibition of all the pictures she’d taken of people for 30 years — she asked me to play for the opening, so I wrote a song called ‘Faces’ for her.

“Things like that, that I think are worthy of being represented or discussed or exposed, that’s generally what I choose to write about. On occasion, something flippant or fun. But mostly something affirmative of the social situation.”

What kind of show can Cranbrook expect? Valdy answers that while he doesn’t know the exact format of the upcoming show yet, he knows what kind of show he’d like to have.

“I would very much like to play with Ken — I don’t know if he’d like to play some guitar with me or not — but I’d like to see us do a ‘songwriters in the round,’ where we go back and forth, and then have individual slots where we can presents ourselves as well, and then have a situation where we can play together.

“I also have a bass along with me — I’d like to play a little bottom end for Ken. He’s got a great thumb on his left hand, so he keeps the bottom end going pretty well. But to keep something tasty going underneath that would be nice too.

“The whole area is picturesque. You live in as much of a paradise as we do on the West Coast.”

Valdy and Ken Hamm, with guest Connor Foote of Cranbrook, take the stage at the Key City Theatre on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m.