Northern Journey Online


(Contemporary; Canadian History; Singer-Songwriter)

"Songs that reflect this country's early years, sung with skill and enthusiasm, energy and charm"--Canadian Composer. Based in Guelph, Ontario, Tamarack is a folk trio that was formed in 1978. Tamarack's specialty is writing songs based on Canadian history. Although there have been many changes in personnel over the years, co-founder James Gordon still anchors the group, writing much of the material. Tamarack CD's are simultaneously issued on the Canadian SGB and the American Folk Era labels.

Tamarack's pre-CD releases include Music of Canada (1980), A Pleasant Gale (1983), Ontario: 200 Musical Years (1984), The Tamarack Collection (1985) and Shave the Bear (1989).

The first Tamarack album available on CD is Fields of Rock And Snow (1991), featuring James Gordon, Alex Sinclair, and Gwen Swick. Highlights include the Tamarack classics, "Harvest Train," "Fields of Rock and Snow," "Teamwork," "Stuart and Lillian," and "Lonesome Cowboy's Lament." Fields of Rock and Snow received a Porcupine Award for Album of the Year in 1991. Frobisher Bay (1993), features Gordon, Sinclair, and Swick on songs like "Days of Sun and Wind," "The Hangman's Eyes," "Loyal She Remains," "No Herring Left in the Bay," "The Greenland Whale," and Tamarack's signature song, the a cappella "Frobisher Bay." Frobisher Bay (1993) received a Canadian History Award Porcupine in 1994. On the Grand: the Story of a River (1994) is the result of a commission by the Elora Festival to celebrate the naming of the Grand River in Ontario as a Canadian Heritage River. Part way through the album there's a personnel change: Gwen Swick is replaced by Carole LeClair. Highlights of the album include "Pawpine," "The Elora Mill," "The Virginia Brand," and "Pioneer Tower Road."

A group as established, popular, and award-winning as Tamarack deserves a good party, and they threw one in Guelph on September 24, 1993 when various members of Tamarack and close friends over the years got together in a live and, fortunately, recorded concert--The Fifteenth Anniversary Concert (1995). Although the recording quality is less than ideal, the album captures the spirit of the event. The liner notes contain an elaborate, useful Tamarack family tree of members and associates, past and present.

Joined by new bass player and ex-rocker, Molly Kurvink, Tamarack released Leaving Inverarden in early 1996. The title track tells the story of John Macdonald, the last surviving partner in the North West Company (a fur-trading rival to the Hudson's Bay Company). "Magdalen McGillivray," is a poignant lament from the point of view of Macdonald's sister, a woman forced by circumstances to share her husband William McGillivray with his unofficial native wife. From there the album meanders through history with songs about maple syruping, fires, rivers, and the doughty stock that settled in Canada.

Muskoka's Calling (1996) was released in parallel with Leaving Inverarden. Released as an album aimed at visitors to the Ontario Muskoka Lakes region, it is a short album of repackaged songs from other releases.

Thirteen (1998) is Tamarack's thirteenth album and it features thirteen songs. With Molly Kurvink solidifying Tamarack's newer, punchier sound, the album offers a wider range of styles than previous Tamarack albums. The historical material is still there, in songs such as "Red River Carts," a tribute to the last days of the buffalo and "Down the Old Tweed Road," an upbeat cut about an early Ontario highway robbery story, and the lovely "Chippewa Smile," a northern love song. More contemporary material includes "Hockey Town," a song about gang rape and "Highway 17," a song about northern Ontario's endless highway. This fine album raises Tamarack to a new level, preserving the spirit that has made them popular and enduring while adding a newer sound that keeps their material from being too predictable.

Fields of Rock and Snow *
1991, reissued 1993 Folk Era (FE1407CD)
Harvest Train; Home to You Once More; The Kitty Friel; Black Rapids Girl; Far from Home; Fields of Rock and Snow; Hangin' in the Barn; Teamwork; Aultsville; Stuart and Lillian; Lonesome Cowboy's Lament 38:24

Frobisher Bay
1993 Folk Era (FE1409CD)
Days of Sun and Wind; Oh, Klondike; The Hangman's Eyes; Frobisher Bay; Loyal She Remains; The Vacuum Song; Charlie Fox; Pamela; No Herring Left in the Bay; Alaska Highway Driver; Logging Camp Christmas; The Greenland Whale 45:22

On the Grand: the Story of a River
1994 Folk Era (FE 1421 D)
Our White Man's Word; Pawpine; The Song My Paddle Sings; Lochaber No More/Skirl of the Pipes; The Elora Mill; The Virginia Brand; The Grand River Canal; She Is Fickle; Lancashire Lasses; Brant County Roads; Buried Treasure; Dufferin County; Pioneer Tower Road 48:16

The Fifteenth Anniversary Concert
1995 SGB (SGB 25)
The Old Ragadoo; Wild Mountain Thyme; The Scarborough Settlers Lament; Grey County; The Swallowtail Jig/Morrison's Jig; Billy Boy; Harvest Train; Les Raftsmen; Frobisher Bay; #1 Northern; Mining for Gold; Pamela; Teamwork/Redwing; Lonesome Cowboy's Lament; Farther Along; Saturday Night up the Gatineau/Fiddle Medley 67:31

Muskoka's Calling
1996 SGB (SGB29)
Muskoka's Calling; Tugboat Days; Maynard's Big Front Porch; Booms Out on the Lake; The Pride of Muskoka; Maple Syrup; Up on the Verandah; Muskoka Road; Three Mile Lake; The Huntsville Fire; The Anglo-Canadian Leather Company Band 37:25

Leaving Inverarden *
1996 Folk Era (FE1432D)
Leaving Inverarden; Magdalen McGillivray; The Ironmaster; Maple Syrup; Up on the Verandah; The Banks of the Rocky Saugeen; Tugboat Days; Pride of Muskoka; Till the Stopwatch Is Gone; A River Runs Through Lytton; Le Sergent; The Queen of Silver Centre; The Huntsville Fire 46:59

1998 Folk Era (FE1433D)
We Owe It to the Pioneers; Maynard's Big Front Porch; Hammers on the Scaffold; Hockey Town; Elizabeth Would Walk; Chippewa Smile; Red River Carts; The Mills of Massachusetts; Highway 17; Behind the False Fronts; Take Me Back to P.E.I.; Down the Old Tweed Road; Farther Along 46:27

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Copyright © 1999, Gene Wilburn,