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Back in Halifax and taking stockBy Janice Landry | Sep 26, 2011
Tags: Kim Stockwood
Kim Stockwood returns.
“My heart is full
My heart’s at peace
I kiss the ground
The rock beneath my feet
This night, this sky, this memory
I’ll take it with me when I leave”
—Stockwood and Doyle, excerpt from “Back to the Water”
Kim Stockwood did leave. And leaving was tough. It still hurts. But creativity comes from pain. And it also comes from joy.
Stockwood finds joy in her life together with husband, Allan Reid, and their two boys, Sam (age six) and Jack (age eight). And now, she brings them all back to the water as much as possible, to her homeland of Newfoundland; that province being the focus of her latest release, Back to the Water.
She left Atlantic Canada in September 1992, for Toronto, where she currently works and makes her home. Now she’s preparing to come back to Halifax, where she once played so often, for an October 2 show.
Sons Sam and Jack are marking off days on the calendar until their next visit out East and she says they “kind of know” what their mother does for a living. Stockwood has performed at their elementary school a few times, “I did ‘O Canada’ one morning and I was more nervous than opening for Willie Nelson,” she says.
She toured alongside the legendary Nelson in the now defunct Canadian girl trio Shaye with her best friend, fellow Newfoundlander and collaborator, Damhnait Doyle. The two of them were recently sitting in a van, during a break from filming a recent CMT music documentary showcasing Kim’s new album and homeland, one rainy day on Signal Hill. It was here, on this bleak but beautiful setting, where Stockwood and Doyle, finally, after years of trying, completed the lyrics to the title track, “Back to the Water.”
“This isle of olde
Well it is my home
Though I left here years ago
I see it now through my childrens’ eyes
Get’s harder to leave every time”
What has been even harder, actually excruciating, Stockwood says, was selecting the 11 traditional, Newfoundland songs that comprise this homage to her native homeland. All the songs, except the title track, are, literally and figuratively, pieces of music history; some extremely well-known, like the anthem-like “Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary’s”, which was written by Otto P. Kelland of Flatrock, Newfoundland in 1947.
Kelland was the warden of the St. John’s Penitentiary when he composed the classic. This heartfelt tune and the other selections, like Ron Hynes’ “St. John’s Waltz,” which is the first track you’ll hear, are truly symbolic parts of a giant jigsaw that make up what is uniquely Newfoundland: its history in Canada, its geography, its coastline, and most importantly, its people.
As Hynes also says, in a written letter sent to me about Kim especially for this article, “In the words of Bob Dylan, she was ‘never known to make a foolish move.’ And the best move she’s made to date is her new CD. All of us have talked about what a great idea it would be to take the traditional songs of home and pull them all together under one production. But we all just talked about it. Kim went out and did it. I love the CD. Everyone I know loves it. She brings out nothing but pride. She makes me laugh and she makes me cry, and that’s what a truly great artist is supposed to do.”
Many of the album’s tunes, which Stockwood will perform in Halifax, were obscure for Kim, like the haunting and melodic tune, “Petty Harbour Bait Skiff,” which was suggested to her by Hynes.
Inside the CD liner, after each song, Stockwood credits the writer, if known, and tells the tale of the song’s birth. “Petty Harbour Bait Skiff”, for example, was written by John Grace in 1852, and tells a tale of woe that happened on the high seas that same year. As Kim explains: “Ron Hynes sang this to me …Based on the true story of a boat that was caught in a heavy squall and went down near Petty Harbour on June 8, 1852. Of the crew of seven, only one young man, named Menshon, was saved,” she explains.
Stockwood wonders aloud if there is anyone who knows someone who may be related to the sole survivor, Menshon, still living today in her native land. She sings this song and this album for them, wherever their kitchens may be.
Gotta get back to the water
Gotta get back to the sea
No matter where I wander
It’s always calling me
Kim Stockwood performs at The Carleton on October 2.