Fafard covers old blues standards on a wild, cross-country tour
by Stephen LaRose
Joel Fafard’s Regina stop is part of a month-long Canadian tour that looks like it was scheduled by the same people who convinced Napoleon that invading Russia just before winter was a great idea. One performance is scheduled for Saint John, N.B. on Nov. 24: the next show, on the 26th, is in Vancouver. However, Fafard — who has won a Western Canada Music Award and been nominated for a Juno award — is an engaging live performer, and likely to put on quite a good show.
Fafard, formerly based in Saskatchewan but now living on BC’s Sunshine Coast, has also just released an album of covers. On first listen, it’s an abrupt turn for Fafard’s career. Instead of the folk music idiom he’s travelled through for the years since leaving Scruj MacDuhk, the new release, Cluck Old Hen, is filled mostly with blues standards, though there are a couple of contemporary songs — Lyle Lovett’s ‘If I Had a Boat” and Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.”
The major change, at least artistically, is that Fafard takes over a large chunk of the singing duties on this release. Previously, he performed mostly instrumental compositions of his own creation.
Why the covers? In Cluck Old Hen press release, Fafard said that many of the songs were part of his on-stage repertoire and audience members were continually asking which of his albums had those songs. But while his intentions may have been noble, the execution is mixed. Fafard does okay on the blues standards but his Lyle Lovett and Richard Thompson covers pale compared to the originals. Cluck Old Hen might be a treat for Fafard’s biggest fans — but it might also be more evidence that musicians put out cover albums when they’re in a dry spot artistically.