Northern Journey Online

Grit Laskin

(Contemporary; Singer-Songwriter)

One of the most cherished and sought-after items on the folk circuit is a Laskin guitar. Stan Rogers played one. James Keelaghan, Garnet Rogers, Curly Boy Stubbs, Tanglefoot, Tim Harrison, and Arnie Naiman play them. Known for their beautiful sound, masterful construction, and intricate, imaginative decorative inlays, the instruments crafted by Toronto luthier William "Grit" Laskin are so highly acclaimed they occasionally overshadow his equally fine talents as a singer-songwriter.

In addition to his long-standing association with Friends of Fiddlers Green, Laskin has recorded three solo albums: Unmasked (1979), Lila's Jig (1987), and now his first CD, A Few Simple Words (1995). This CD, presents a delightful display of Laskin's witty, literate, funny, serious, poignant, and thoroughly engaging lyrics. A long album, over seventy minutes, it offers something for everyone, ranging from a riveting ten-minute ballad, "In the Blood," that tells the tale of an infamous Ontario court case of a man accused of deliberately infecting three women with HIV, to a lyrical love song, "One Sunday Night," Laskin wrote for his wife one evening in Paris. Laskin wrote all the songs on the album except for the beautiful "Ojibway Country," written by Bill Houston for the very first IMAX film North of Superior.

What really sets this album apart, and makes you want to play it over and over, are the poignant, poetic, probing lyrics of Laskin's more serious songs. Lyrics such as "where some know evil and some know good / some are just misunderstood / in my neighbourhood" ("Margins of My Neighbourhood") or "and though at times I cursed and ranted / I never once my vow recanted / I challenged rules, I laughed at fashion / and for my lover saved my deepest passion" ("My Turn"). A Few Simple Words is a wonderful album--one that will find a special place in your collection.

A Few Simple Words was produced jointly by Ken Whiteley and Grit Laskin. Additional musicians include George Koller, Dennis Pendrith, Al Cross, Oliver Schroer, Laurence Stevenson, Ron Allen, Jani Lauzon. Harmony vocals were provided by Tannis Slimmon, Eve Goldberg, Tam Kearney, Alistair Brown, and Rick Fielding.

Produced by Ken Whiteley, Earthly Concerns (1998) is Laskin's fourth solo album. Comprised of original tunes and songs, it starts off with a delightful instrumental mandolin medley, "Driving to the Woods/Sorry I'm Late." There's a theatrical side to this album, with three "conversations." The first, "Earthly Concerns," is Laskin's conversation with the past, a song about the unfairness of dying young. It touches on three individuals--Grit's birth mother, Stan Rogers, and David Parry. The second of the conversations is called "Hi Sal, Have You Checked Your E-mail?"--a conversation with the present. The third, "The Two Centuries," is a conversation with the future as the 21st and 20th centuries, a contrast between new optimism and old pessimism.

As always, Laskin touches you with flashes of humour, poignancy and probing commentary. "Fast and Loud" portrays the existing state of three key elements of modern society: the popular media, politics and sex. "Keep it shifting / always shifting / don't leave time to think / a single blink is long enough." Another recommended purchase.


A Few Simple Words *
1995 Borealis (BCD001)
A Few Simple Words; Margins of My Neighbourhood; Guitar Maker; Ojibway Country; The Loving Game; Beginner Fiddle; One Sunday Night; In the Blood; Soft and Round; My Turn; A Begging I Will Go; Neverending Quickstep Waltz; Nothing to Say; Aunt Sarah's; Moved by a Melody; Won't Somebody Sing Me a Lullaby 73:29

Earthly Concerns
1998 Borealis (BCD111)
Driving to the Woods/Sorry I'm Late; Earthly Concerns; Fast & Loud; My City; Hi Sal, Have You Checked Your Email?; The Two Centuries; Flipside; If I Were; The Most Amazing Thing in the World; Resister; Sing for a Penny; Earthly Concerns: Reprise 55:50

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Copyright © 1999, Gene Wilburn,