Jory Nash,
Aengus Finnan,
Joel Morelli
C'est What, Toronto, Ontario
(17 November 2000)

When I sat down to write this review, I realized that if I used all my notes, I would have at least four pages of anecdotes and impressions. I was upset -- I wanted to include it all, because I really enjoyed the performers, but it just wasn't practical. So I'm going to stick to highlights and hope that I can convey the happiness I have that artists like these three young men exist and write down their thoughts.

The venue seemed less than ideal at the start of the show -- it is a rectangular room with bad vantage points all over the place. Once the show started, though, I realized why it's such a popular venue for acoustic shows -- the sound is fantastic. I never had a problem hearing the vocals or the guitar, which is important when that's all you have. This trio of folk singers filled the room with their acoustic stylings, and kept their audience entertained with great songs and stories until early in the morning.

Owen Sound's Joel Morelli stepped onstage with his guitar, unassuming and comfortable in what could only have been his favourite shirt, and began to play. He did a 10-song set of quirky, intelligent originals and well-chosen covers (including, at the urging of some fans at the front of the room, a Martin Sexton song ... something about jet planes...).

After a short break, Aengus Finnan and Jory Nash took the stage and held it firmly for the next two hours, trading the spotlight and captivating the audience with intricate guitar work and clear, piercing vocals. Nash was first up with a couple of songs from his two records, 1998's One Way Down and this year's Tangle With the Ghost. It was amazing to hear the silence in the room as he sang "A Terrible Man," a soul-searching ballad.

Finnan, rising from a borrowed chair behind Nash, stepped to the microphone with a smile and allowed his beautiful voice to tell the stories. Most of the original material he played was new to me -- so I have high hopes for the new record, due out next year. He urged the audience to sing along with the choruses of "My Heart Has Wings" and "Swing Boys Swing," a labour song about the building of the railroad. Both he and Nash seemed completely at home behind the microphone -- and watching them play those guitars was a treat.

Nash's interpretation of The Temptations' "My Girl," "as if it were sung by Lyle Lovett," was unexpected, but he pulled it off with a smile. He followed it with "Don't Mind Dying in This Place", a new song to be included on his next record, also due out next year. Finnan, always the storyteller, followed Nash with "The Julia B Merril," a song about Toronto in the 1930s. The historian in me was fascinated -- apparently, before there were fireworks at the Canadian National Exhibition, old ships were torched in the harbour to entertain the crowds. This song is the story of one of those ships. Before they took a much-deserved break, Finnan and Nash shared vocal duties on Finnan's Northern Ontario ode "Rollin' Home," which he dedicated to everyone's "inner truck driver," and Gordon Lightfoot's classic "Early Morning Rain."

During the second set, we heard award-winning songs from both artists. Finnan's "Lately," from his 1999 debut Fool's Gold won the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals' "Songs From the Heart" award in 1999, and it went to Nash this year for his new song "When I Walk Out." The highlights of the set were Finnan's beautiful "Apple Blossom Tyme," a lament for lost love set in the apple orchards of Northumberland County in Eastern Ontario, and "Calm It Down," which Nash wrote with Ari Posner for his new CD.

The relaxed format of the show, with the artists trading songs and stories, worked really well and showcased unique songwriting, instrumental, and vocal talents. I look forward to seeing these artists again -- both to hear them play and to become a part of the stories they tell.

[ by Rachel Jagt ]