Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How does a Canadian end up in a recording studio in Somerville?

Rose Cousins grew up in one of the most beautiful places on earth. This is not just my opinion, it's called Canada's Garden Provence for good reason, and in addition to growing the best potatoes (and mussels) on the face of the earth, it is spectacularly beautiful from the White sand beaches of the south to the red sand of beaches in the north. It is also the home of "Anne of Green Gables." (You have at least seen the PBS series haven't you?) Rose actually grew up near the birthplace of Anne's creator Lucy Maud Montgomery and among the places mentioned in the books.

Prince Edward Island has a thriving folk music scene both traditional and contemporary. There is still an abundance of fiddle music, Scottish, Irish and Acadian. There has always, it seems, been a songmaking tradition which has been well documented by Dr. Sandy Ives with his books on Lawrence Doyle, Larry Gorman, Joe Scott and other 19th songwriters who's work has passed into the tradition. This tradition has continued with writers like the late Gene MacLellan (and now his daughter Cathlene,) Alan Rankin, Scott Parsons, Tara MacLean, Lenny Gallant and a seemingly endless stream of others.

As wonderful as the Island is, like so many young people from PEI, Rose took the ferry to the mainland in search of greater opportunity. She moved to Halifax which is not just a hotbed of contemporary music but theater and comedy as well. Once there she went from playing open mics (like the one hosted by folks from the Halifax Folklore Center) to open shows for established "stars" like fellow PEI native Lenny Gallant, and eventually headlining her own shows.

In 2002, her day job necessitated a business trip to Boston and, having heard of the songwriting mecca that is Club Passim, she convinced her boss it would be cheaper for her to stay in the states an extra day. She used that day to pay a visit to the Passim open mic where she really impressed people. One of the people she impressed was Matt Smith who, nine months later, booked for for one of the weekend long Campfire Festivals. This, in turn, led to a friendship with Rose Polenzani and to a mutual love affair with the rest of the local music scene and eventually to her new album.

She recorded previous albums at Ginger's Tavern and the CBC studios in Halifax with some of the cream of the Atlantic Canadian Music scene like Luke Doucet (Whitehorse,) Jamie Gatti (Barra MacNeils) and in demand session guy Ray Leger. For her latest, "We Have Made a Spark," she came to her home away from home, Somerville and Q-Division. The album is produced by Zachariah Hickman (Josh Ritter's band, Barnstar!, etc.) and features 15 other well know artists who call Massachusetts home.

For more about Rose, her new album and some live in studio performances of her songs, tune into "Live at " this Friday.

-Dave Palmater

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