The postman is dead, long live the postman!

Presenting...: Postcards

A new EP from Cougars in America coming in January 2014.

NEW unreleased recordings from and about this year's criss-cross-Canadian adventure.

Coming soon: sneak previews and details on how to get one delivered to your mailbox (if you still have one). 

Production is limited so send me an e-mail (or a letter) if you want to be on the waiting list!

Over My Eyes

Written in the Prairies, recorded close to home. Here is a song about being watched by something much larger than yourself!

Sixty Thousand Pounds of Baloney

I'm sitting in a church basement in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island,
the elk steak is stewing in a pot on the stove,
the band, barman, and butler are off catching fish for tonight's feast,
the school bus is parked out back,
and there is only one small stretch of highway left leading out to the Pacific coast and the magnificent beach that stretches along the coastal rainforest from Tofino to Ucluelet.
Here is how it came to pass.

On the 11th of July I left St. John's Newfoundland in my beloved Mildred, both of us 5 months into this never-ending "Wild Life Sketches" tour. My engine was still firing on all cylinders but I had no idea how I was going to fit a band of friends and gypsies from all over Europe plus all of their stuff into my car for the 9000km trip back to the West coast. In Halifax, I begrudgingly left Mildred behind and started West in Henry, a big old Ford van, the cheapest of its kind available on Kijiji. Arriving in Montreal, I had grown to enjoy the luxury of a bit of space, having spent the better part of this year touring the country in a compact car. I took in the evening fireworks with my sister and her dog and then set off to find Paolo, Antonio, Stephanie, Florent, and Raffaele. The band, the barman and the butler were scattered along Boulevard St. Laurent celebrating their arrival in Canada in varying degrees of inebriation but everyone was located eventually and after sleeping off the madness of the night, we left town towards a chapter of this story that was only getting started.

Since Paolo and I hadn't played together since last November and the trumpet player was forced to cancel at the last minute, Morgan Yew helped me to assemble a last minute all-star band for the opening night of our tour at the Cameron House in Toronto and make sure Paolo wasn't the only one who didn't know the arrangements. The rule was any instrument except guitar and after inviting new special guests onto the stage every two or three songs, we ended the night with 8 people who had never played together playing the traditional Pizzica music of Salento. Before the age of doctors and psychiatrists, Pizzica was used to lull the ill into a state of trance that made them dance away their maladies. Now it's the music of summer celebrations and you can feel it immediately when the tambourellos start shaking. A dear old friend agreed to find space for 6 in her house and we set to work on the bottle of Calvados while we watched the raccoons clamber over the rooftops downtown.

In Guelph the next day, our concert moved from the Cornerstone to Jimmy Jazz and ended again with a crowd of people cheering and dancing along to the pizzica rhythm. Another dear old friend put us up for the night and after an incredible pH-neutral breakfast we were headed north to make the long trip around the great lakes. Arriving in Bracebridge with a hitch-hiker called Yann who tagged along for the evening, Owen and Mike Warr greeted us all as family at the Old Station and we celebrated the end of the Calvados with Christmas in July around the campfire. After leaving Yann in the big nickel, we carried along the northern coast of Georgian Bay and lake Huron, stopping for Clarence's Smoked Fish in Blind River and enjoying it with the Four Sands beach all to ourselves before being greeted by Tom Carnahan's long open arms at the Auld Kirk in Thessalon. It was both of our birthdays and everyone else's, too, so we celebrated the first day ever and after the concert we sang around the piano until late with nothing but the sound of the blender buzzing away in the background.

On my birthday, we arrived in a hotel/restaurant/gas-station/convenience-store/bar on the Northern shore of lake Superior. It was called "Drifters" and seemed to me like a fitting place to grow older. We ate hand-made gnocchi and meatballs over a bottle of Amarone and when we finished the bar was packed full for a birthday concert to remember ending in cake, champagne, fireworks and, of course, Pizzica. The next day, the Tricholo family who owns and operates Drifter's invited their Calabrese parents over for lunch and after still more meatballs and gnocchi, we sang to them the music of their Italian homeland before heading off to Thunder Bay. When we arrived at the Apollo, Sheila's mom put out an endless array of snacks and Alex plugged us into a sound system built for shaking mountains and it was a pleasure to see a crew of friends from my last adventure through town. We played around at the town busking festival the next day and started north in the afternoon as I drifted slowly off to sleep in the back of the van.

I woke up to the sound of organized panic as Henry rolled slowly to a stop. 100km north of Thunder Bay and a further 27km away from the nearest town, we were lucky to see a gas station just up the road and pushed the big broken van up the hill while the butler snapped photos. A mechanic on his way to the prairies appeared on the scene with a smirnoff ice and a home-made water-pipe which he puffed on while slowly dismantling the car's electrical system as a big black bear circled near. Urged on by his family, Les hit the road and we waited for the teetotaling 16 year-old gas station attendant to finish mopping up before he came to help drop the starter and ward off the scavenging bears while the night set in. At 10:30, Gary put the operation on hold and kindly put us up in a wooden cabin for the night. For the past week I had been telling everyone how nice it would be to spend that night (our first off-night) in a wooden cabin somewhere in Northern Ontario but this wasn't what I had in mind.

The next morning, a parade of passing mechanics checked our progress, tried to turn the motor over by hand and one by one they regretfully told us to stick a fork in it as they pronounced the motor pooched, seized, fried, dead, done and junked. We gave Gary his tools back and he introduced us to Mike, a truck-driver from Hamilton who was on his way to Winnipeg with 60,000 pounds of baloney. About an hour after I had resolved myself to cancelling the rest of the tour, all our gear was loaded into the cooler and the 7 of us were moving towards Winnipeg - and still on time for that night's concert! Our indie-rocking friends Alanadale came to the rescue in a small pick-up truck they had borrowed from the drummer's work and took Paolo and I to the outdoor BBQ party where we were the entertainment. I told them we would be back in an hour and headed back across town to find the rest of the gang celebrating in the parking lot. "We have a BUS!!!" I had no idea what happened in the time it took us to cross town but when I got back to the parking lot where I had left my friends and the remainder of our stuff, the barman was pouring drinks for Big Dan's crew. Big Dan had given us a school bus. He said to take it, have fun, keep smiling and if or when the bus did break down, sell it for scrap and send him a cheque. I didn't believe it until I was driving around the industrial outskirts of Winnipeg in a 1994 Blue-bird 48 passenger bus with sun shining and the chorus of "We have a bus!" crying out from seats behind me. The next day, everyone at XL transportation helped us to take out seats, turn them around, cut them in half, re-connect the exhaust pipe and get a transit permit to get this big yellow dream-come-true rolling west. We called it Big Dan after the generous soul who gave it to us. Ever since I came back to Canada, I had been encouraging my friends in Brussels to come over and drive across this big country in a school bus and share the adventure and now by some stroke of great fortune or fate it was happening!

Still on schedule, Jamie and Dale from Alanadale hopped on the bus with us and we were on our way to Brandon, Manitoba for a concert at the Double Decker when it started raining. That was about the only thing that could slow us down. The barman had the longest arm and with a contraption he rigged up in the last hours of daylight he managed to keep us going a bit further but we only made it about 60km along the Trans-Canada highway before we were sitting on the side of the road trying to find a pizzeria in Portage-La-Prairie willing to deliver to a big bus on the side of the highway. The rain let up and we finally made it to Brandon at about 3 in the morning just as a heavy fog set in and we decided to call it a night. The next day we crossed the prairies into Saskatchewan, and after putting our minds in order with eggs and bacon, we found a garage to fix the windshield wipers and were unstoppably on the road again.

The trip from Winnipeg to Christopher Lake took about 24 hours including a few lengthy stops and when we arrived at Aandie's, Noreen laid out a spread of chilli and corn bread and everyone including me was further still and officially blown away by the incredible hospitality of everyone we had come to meet. In great spirits and joined by many good friends from Saskatoon, we played on the stage, at the bar, on the patio and eventually up on the rooftop where still more fireworks blasted off into the clear sky. The bus tour was officially ON and happening. Since that night, there have been only highlights, still too many to name. But THANK YOU to Thea, Darcy, Jared, Gemma, and Mia for the good times in Red Deer. THANK YOU to Jordy, Ally, Hanna, Seb, Seth, Ben and the whole gang at the bar yard in Canmore, for the 3-day festival that carried on alongside the Folk Festival in your incredible company. THANK YOU to Dave and Ackie at the Elk and Oarsman in Banff and if you heard rumours of a school bus full of people screaming gypsy music from a school bus parked behind your bar late into the night, I assure you I wasn't there and know nothing of it. To DJ Tiesto and the town of Kelowna I thank you for your reluctant hospitality. Vancouver, mon amour, I'll see you next week but THANK YOU Joline for continuing your role as musical tour guide in this great city. Erik, thanks for joining us in Victoria even though I told you not to. It is a great pleasure every time we play together and I look forward to introducing you to the rest of Canada. To Unicolours and Jzero, Renee, Christine and everyone at the Copper Owl THANK YOU for having us. To Phil and Dave and Joy at the Corner Bistro in Nanaimo it was so good to see you again and THANK YOU for introducing us to risotto with blackberries. And now back to the church where I am sat, THANK YOU Charlene for hosting us in your church where we are comfortable and happy and the Elk stew is nearly ready. Nothing else to say but THANK YOU to everyone I met on the way and most of all THANK YOU to my dear friends who have come from far away to join me and transform my solo trek across the country into the most insane 3 weeks of my life since I last saw you. You are brothers and sisters of the highest degree and I am blessed to know you. Now Buonappetito.

So I Sit All Satisfied

After 90 concerts and 18000km of driving since the middle of February, I've finally made it out to St. John's, Newfoundland. This is as far east as you can go in Canada and in keeping with my go east when the wind blows west mantra/mentality, it makes perfect sense that I should be on my way to Vancouver right now! Selling CDs for whatever anyone was willing to pay for them, I've now sold nearly 500 numbered copies of Wild Life Sketches for as much as an eagle feather and as little as a hundred dollars. Yes, I've had a great time ramblin' around on my own and will keep it up for another week but then and sweet goodness THEN, starting in Toronto on the 21st of July, THEN I will be joined by a troop of friends and musicians who have revolutionized this blink of an eye that I call my life on earth. After 5 summers of touring up and down the Italian Peninsula in a van full of madness with the Anti-Tapas crew (and an entourage of barmen, butlers, circus performers, photographers that only wear red high-heeled shoes, pizzica players, etc...), I suggested that this year I show them my country. A lot of the motivation for touring so intensely across this big place over the past few months has been to get ready for this big trip and I'm happy, astounded, and frightened to announce that it's happening and will be beginning in 10 days! Stops are planned in:

Toronto ON,
Guelph ON,
Bracebridge ON,
Thessalon, ON,
Terrace Bay ON,
Thunder Bay ON,
Morden MB,
Christopher Lake SK,
Sylvan Lake AB,
Banff AB,
Victoria BC,
Nanaimo BC,
Port Alberni BC,
Ucluelet BC,
and last but not least,
Vancouver BC!

...And of course there will be music and madness on the road in between all of those places, last minute concerts to fill in some gaps, many many lakes to swim in, starry nights, forest hikes and dare I say it, maybe even the school bus I imagined before I started this crazy trip.

And it goes without saying but I'm going to say it anyways: I have nothing but endless gratitude for everyone who has helped me along the way and am truly awe-struck by the kindness of people all across this country that have made my improbable trip possible. I could start naming names but quite literally thousands of people have turned this adventure from dream to reality so I will simply say THANK YOU to all those who hold "El Derecho de Ser Felices."

See you very soon and, of course, stay tuned for news about the East coast tour at the end of August ;)

Silver Shadow

Here is a song that I wrote by the light of this year's 'Super Moon' while camping at Miles Bay on the Bruce Peninsula. Hope you enjoy it and BIG thanks to Antoine and Jennifer for recording this video outside their yurt in Douglastown, Quebec.

I see 67 hundred million burning lights
Beyond the silver shadow of an afternoon
Blazing through this sleepless night
To serenade the crickets
As they dance beneath the moon
And I'm waiting
Waiting for the Sun

Still beyond the silence
I can feel a sinking urge that I call
Hope to find a remedy
Ever present, Ever clear
Ripples form an orchestrated march that's everlasting
And the loon has finished calling on her mate
All the birds have left the scenery
To let the night-time sparkle on a lake that I have known since I was young
And I wonder
What have I become

And I'm waiting, waiting for the sun
And I'm waiting, waiting for the sun
I hear buses full of hopes and dreams
Rumbling down the highway somewhere distant
Orion, arms and legs out wide
Hung up on the sky
Just like the fly stuck on my windshield
Hear the highway crying wolf
I will not shy away from any place
That leads me through this silky haze of mystery
I cannot see the road beyond my nose
But I can feel it moving quickly as I run
Into the morning sun
 And I'm waiting, waiting for the sun
And I'm waiting, waiting for the sun

From Vancouver to... Thessalon?

After a lot of driving and a lot of concerts I'm back in Ontario! BIG thanks to everyone who came out to the shows in Vancouver, Kelowna, Banff, Canmore, Sylvan Lake, Edmonton, Christopher Lake, Brandon, Winnipeg, Kenora, Dryden, Thunder Bay, and Terrace Bay. What a long strange trip it's been! I got the beer-making supplies to RJ, loaded up on Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, The Band, Otis Redding, Buddy Holly, and even Jimmy Buffett at the flea market in Enderby and have been rocking my way across the incredible landscapes that make up this country. Here are some pictures from the road. Other highlights that can't be pictured: watching the stars from a mountaintop outside Canmore AB on my last night in the rockies; an amazing Northern Light show after leaving Edmonton that forced me to stop driving until the sun came back up and I could finally stop staring; arriving bedraggled in Thunder Bay and hearing the CBC plug the rest of my Ontario tour! At this point that means:

May 29 - The Round Barn in Sowerby
May 31 - The Old Station in Bracebridge
June 1 - The Wolf Den in Oxtongue Lake
June 2 - Farmer's Market in Kemptville
June 12 - The Spill in Peterborough (TBC)
June 13 - Milk Coffee Bar in Windsor
June 14 - London Music Clob in London
June 15 - Farmer's Market in Toronto
June 16 - The Cornerstone in Guelph
June 19 - The Sleepless goat in Kingston (TBC)
June 20 - The Griffin Pub in Bracebridge
June 21 - Relay for Life in Goderich
June 22 - Habits in Toronto

See you soon! For now, enjoy pictures from the road:

 Preparing for a big trip

Leaving the Okanagan Valley
 Tour bus shopping near Revelstoke, BC

 Banff Hot Springs - Thanks Jess!

 Leaving the Rocky Mountains

But not without a party with these kids...
Back in the Prairies - storm clouds move in
 Mildred does not fear storm clouds

Sunrise after the all-night Northern Light Show May 17-18

Some days I fee like Kowalski
Prairie Sky, Don't Look at me That way. Roadside Picnic Paradise.
What do I do with it?
5 sets - one night - WOW
 The stages is finally sleeping

Another roadside attraction
Come get yer Smokies
All the world is a stage
Calling all breakers
Long winding road up and over Lake Superior.
Birch trees everywhere!
There she is
 Shine your ever lovin light on me!

 Pit stop

Dead End
Blast from the past
Fill 'er up
Where am I???
Tree planting season has begun - Mildred makes friends
This waterfall is Mesmerizing! So much water. This is in Terrace Bay - home of the best home-made Gnocchi and meatballs on this side of the Atlantic!

 ....Car spotted moving east

Vast empty expanses of trees and hills and trees and hills and trees and hills and trees!
...and lakes
Please use detour
A calm evening over Lake Superior/Agawa Bay
Ojibwe pictographs! This is Mishipizheu, who can calm the waters or anger them by lashing his tail.
Four orbs and a rider.

 I forget :(


More Ripples
 Blue lakes and rocky shores, I will return once more

I don't know why I like abandoned gas stations
Footprints of the giants?
 Abandonment issues

You could be my broken window
I've seen better days
 How many captions must a man create before you can call him a man

Add it up
Sun sets over Lake Superior!

That's all for now. See you soon!