The Wakami Wailers,
Waltz with the Woods
(self-produced, 1993)

I grew up looking forward to summer camping trips; we visited many of the beautiful provincial parks that Ontario has to offer. When I think of them now, I can't help but smile at the memories of campfires and walks in the woods. I was thrilled to discover this record -- full of visions of those parks. Waltz with the Woods is a musical tribute to Ontario's parks, as it journeys from Algonquin to Mississagi to Turtle River and beyond.

From the song selection, which includes original compositions as well as remakes of classic campfire songs, to the fact that it was recorded in beautiful Campbellford, Ontario, on the Trent-Severn waterway, this record celebrates Ontario. Wailers Robert Hollett (guitar, vocals), Michael Bernier (fiddle, mandolin, vocals), Mark Despault (guitar, banjo, concertina, vocals) and Jeff Allen (spoons, raconteur) are paying homage to their province. Producer Andy Thompson (of the Arrogant Worms) also helps out on bass, accordion and keyboards.

The classic Canadian folk song "Log Driver's Waltz" opens the record, exactly as I remember it from National Film Board cartoons when I was a kid. The vocals are clear and crisp, the harmonies perfect. "Land of the Silver Birch" is another classic I remember from childhood -- it is a haunting story of native inhabitants of the woods.

David Lickley's "The Rivermen," written for the movie of the same name, showcases a beautiful harmony and tells the story of "the men of the last frontier," uniquely Canadian characters. The banjo and fiddle accompany emotional lyrics in "One More Spike," Hollett's vision of what the men who blazed the railroad trail westward might have seen as they looked to the horizon and beyond. "The Legend of Nanabozho" is the story of an ancient Ojibway legend -- it says that their Great Manitou, Nanabozho, lies within Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, near Thunder Bay, on Lake Superior. The spoken word presentation is eerie and powerful.

The Wakimi Wailers hold these parks and their beauty responsible for both inspiration and solace. As I sit in my living room in February, listening to this record makes me wish it was August and I was sitting by a campfire, like I did when I was young, listening to stories and singing songs.

[ by Rachel Jagt ]
Rambles: 2 March 2002