This album is special. It’s a live album, which can sometimes be hit or miss, but let me tell you this is one you’ll enjoy listening to. It was recorded by the CBC at a concert in Halifax, in 1993, and you get so much of the concert experience on this album. You get the stories behind the songs, you get the banter between band members, you get tales about this and that and the other thing, all interspersed among some of the best music you’ll ever hear.
And I don’t say that lightly; I truly believe that. Stan Rogers wrote all about the struggles of working people, primarily on the East Coast, and about those who had to move to the West to protect their livelihood and their dignity. My good friend Paul Maddalena puts it perfectly when he says “It all feels so Canadian, it’s real and down to Earth”.
The songs are about pride, loss, change, hope, love; essentially, the songs are about people, and how they live their lives. There’s one song, called The Idiot, about how a man from the East Coast has to move to the Prairies to make a living because he refuses to take a government hand-out, to preserve his dignity. Another, called The Mary Ellen Carter, is, on the surface, about a boat that sank, and her crew who decides that they’ll work to bring her back up from the depths of the ocean. The last verse of the song, though, addresses those who have faced hardships (no pun intended)and fallen into despair, and calls them to rise again.
This album also contains what I believe to be one of the most beautiful love songs ever written. Perhaps the most beautiful, actually, because it’s so honest and real. It’s called Lies, and it’s about a woman who lives on a ranch with her husband and seven children. The song talks about the hardships she’s endured through her life, and how patient she is, and how she takes care of her children, and how she has to go without the finer things, and about how all these things leave her looking older more tired than maybe she would like. She sees wrinkles and age on her face, though she’s too young for them, and the song tells us that the mirrors are telling her lies.
This may all seem to be a bit of a downer, and not really a love song at all, but the way the lyrics describe the relationship between her and her husband is, as I said, perhaps the most beautiful I’ve ever heard. The lyrics talk about a dance at the legion, coming up on Friday, to which she’ll have to wear a dress she’s worn countless times before. But she’ll be there dancing with her man, whose amazed and clumsy fingers put that ring upon her hand, and everything will be fine on Friday when she looks up in that weathered face that loves hers, line for line. And then she’ll laugh at how the mirrors lie to her, because there, in the face of her husband, she finds her own youthful beauty reflected.