Sonny Don't Go Away: A Tribute to Ron Hynes
New music talk with Wendy RoseIf youâre going to buy just one more Newfoundland and Labrador record this year, you canât go wrong with Sonny Donât Go Away: A Tribute to Ron Hynes. Produced by Alan Doyle and Cory Tetford, this compilation album features the best of the best of Newfoundland and Labradorâs music scene, performing songs by the best - a statement thatâs not up for debate around these parts. A true tribute album, the liner notes made room for quotes from the musicians about the songs they perform and their connections to Ron.Sonny Donât Go Away opens with Hey Rosetta!âs Tim Baker performing âLeaving on the Evening Tide,â the first and only single released from the album. Tim describes the song as âpersonal, local, clever, catchy, and itâs somehow heartbreaking and tough and rousing at the same time.âAmelia Curran and Duane Andrews tackle âDark River,â while Folk duo Quote the Raven covers âGodspeed (Requiem for Gene MacLellan).â Producer Alan Doyle teamed up with The Dardanelles for the famous and beloved âSt. Johnâs Waltz.â Tom Power of The Dardanelles shared an amusing story from his childhood about asking his father if there was a municipal anthem. His father paused pensively before giving this Ron Hynes song that honour.The Once reprised their version of âAtlantic Blue,â dedicated to the lost crew of the Ocean Ranger. âCryerâs Paradiseâ went to Jodee Richardson, who had fun putting his own spin on this catchy, uptempo song. âWhen I listened to the song after Ron passed, it unfurled a different narrative,â Jodee explained. âHe had become the metaphor of the song.âWhile Mallory Johnson often performs âRiver of No Returnâ as part of her set, this albumâs soft-pop version sees Mallory, rather than bandmate Chad Murphy, take on lead vocals. Ron once told Mallory to record a song of his one day. âIâm happy I finally got to do it,â she shared.Ronâs nephew, Joel Thomas Hynes, covers âLast Chance Avenue,â putting an even harder edge on this amazing country blues song. Ennis Sisters adapted âLonely Song,â with its âbeautiful, haunting melody.â Maureen Ennis stated that âRon had a wonderful way with words and a truly magnificent gift for telling the stories of the people and capturing the rugged beauty of Newfoundland and Labrador.âMatthew Byrne performed one of his personal favourite tracks, â1962,â while Barry Canning covers my favourite semi-saucy track, âWhere Do You Get Off.â This song is also Barryâs personal favourite. Heâs been playing it live for years, occasionally even singing it with Ron himself. âI miss Ron. I miss him not being in St. John's,â Barry shared. âYou can really feel his absence, and you know, he would like that.âProducer Cory Tetford started playing with Ron in the mid-1990s, and later engineered and performed on Ronâs Standing in Line in the Rain, the album that features Coryâs selection, âShine Like Diamonds.â Cory explained that playing Ronâs music was âsuch an invaluable lesson in melody, chord structure and, most importantly, storytelling.âThe storytelling continues with âPicture of Dorian Gray,â performed by Glenn Simmons of The Wonderful Grand Band and The Fables.Yvette Lorraineâs rendition of âWhere Does Love Go Wrongâ puts a womanâs touch on this soft acoustic ballad, turning it into soft jazz-pop. Yvette described Ronâs large catalogue of works as âa testament to his determination, commitment and brilliance.âRum Ragged takes on âHouse,â creating a wonderful rendition of this Stealing Genius selection. Previously, Rum Ragged covered another Ron Hynesâ song, âDirt Poor,â on their sophomore album. When asking Ron for permission to record it, Ron gave lead vocalist Mark Manning his blessing - âso long as you all donât shag it up.âShanneyganock added their classic trad-rock brand to âIf I Left You Alone with My Heart,â with Chris Andrewâs strong vocals giving a new depth to this maudlin plea.Having played âNo Change in Meâ for audiences all over the world, Fortunate Ones explain that with each performance, âit never ceases to make us feel closer to home.â Of Ron, the duo says, âHe was a student of the human condition and was never satisfied until he had painted near perfect pictures of the pain and beauty of existing. Every image pined over, every word in its place.âThe clear, crisp, clean vocals Silver Wolf Band delivered on âDryâ felt like quite a departure from Ronâs breathy, raspy original version, but this approach worked for the Labrador band. âIt's like a mountain,â they said of their song selection. âIt makes you ponder the frailty and beauty of life all at once, and we were delighted for the opportunity to paint a picture of it.âMick Davis chose his favourite tune, âGet Back Change,â and recorded it at The Ship Pub one afternoon. This version features three voices (Mick, Cory Tetford and Alan Doyle) and three guitars.The record wraps up with Kellie Loderâs take on the quintessential Ron Hynes hit, âSonnyâs Dreamâ - the logical closer for an album of this magnitude. âWhen I sing about Ronâs Sonny, I think back to growing up in a small town in rural Newfoundland, feeling the same pull toward something more,â Kellie noted. After the final notes fade out, I go to hit play again from the top. Twenty songs by 22 artists, and I still want to hear more. Yes, itâs that good. Q&A with Tony Ploughman of Fredâs RecordsWhen I think of Ron Hynes, I think of Fredâs Records. Working at Fredâs is how I was introduced to Ronâs music, and itâs where I got a master class in Newfoundland music from Tony Ploughman.After nearly 40 years behind the counter at the iconic independent store, Tony is likely the biggest, deepest source of local music knowledge in the province. Through all genres of music, his opinions and tastes are revered and respected. Iâve watched in awe as folks put full trust in him to curate the soundtracks of their lives, buying records they donât know by bands theyâve never heard of, at Tonyâs undeniably expert suggestion.Recently, Tony asked his Facebook friends to chime in on his naming of the greatest Newfoundland and Labrador songwriters who ever lived. Ron Hynes was in his #1 slot. The post - and its heated comment section - caught the attention of comedian, author and TV personality Rick Mercer. In his foreword for this album, Rick referenced Tonyâs social media musing, noting that ânot one person questioned the notion that Ron Hynes was our greatest songwriter. In a land of contrarians, not one soul questioned his place at number one.âAfter reading Rickâs foreword, and ahead of listening to the tribute album, it seemed logical to ask Tony about Ronâs legacy.Wendy Rose: When and where did you first hear the music of Ron Hynes, and what was your first impression of him?Tony Ploughman: I first met Ron and the entire Wonderful Grand Band at a house party on Gower or Bond in February of 1982, at the height of the bandâs popularity. My introduction to Ronâs music was a cover of his song âJust Like a Movie Scene,â performed by highly established BC folk singer-songwriter Valdy. It was played on the two main AM pop radio stations in NL. I really dug the song, the imagery and the feel. As a guy in his late teens, I could relate to the message. I first heard Ron at The Ship in the late â80s and instantly found his style compelling. It was obvious he knew how to weave a story in song and hold the audience in the palm of his hand.WR: Based on your years living and breathing the local music scene via Fredâs Records, what kind of cultural significance does Ron hold here on the island? What about outside of Newfoundland and Labrador, and beyond?TP: Ronâs âculturalâ significance is well documented. âAtlantic Blue,â the Ocean Ranger; âSonnyâs Dream,â a global folk fave recorded by so many, it has been thought to be an ancient Irish folk song; âSt. Johnâs Waltz,â I think acknowledged as the official anthem of the city; and of course, his Lifetime Achievement award and many other provincial awards; a statue on George Street - all of it speaks volumes to his status here. He posthumously received an induction into the Canadian Songwriterâs Hall of Fame, the highest honour achievable - Lightfoot, Tyson, Cohen, Joni, Neil, and Stan Rogers amongst them. When Larry Leblanc, Canadian Bureau Chief for Billboard Magazine and one of the worldâs leading music journalists called me for thoughts on Ron in 2003, he exclaimed that âRon, hands-down, is the best songwriter in Canada.â I know from personal contacts that Gordon Lightfoot admired Ronâs work and, of course, Ron influenced virtually every songwriter worth their salt in Atlantic Canada. WR: Tell us about your experience the night that Ron passed. TP: I was at Fredâs working on the night of November 19, 2015, when I received a phone call from my friend, Andrew James OâBrien, around 7:40 in the evening, to tell me that Ron had died. I thanked him for the call and told the young staff person, who had no idea of the significance of this event. With one customer in the store, I told the staff they could end their shift. I put on âCryerâs Paradise,â cranked the volume and was immediately struck by the prophetic lyrics of the opening track and subsequent warnings in several numbers relevant to how Ronâs last 20 years had played out. I was glassy-eyed for the next 40 minutes. At closing time at 9 p.m., just as âAtlantic Blueâ was winding up the last verse, I stepped outside to bring in our sidewalk sign. Staring down Duckworth Street as far as the eye could see - darkness. All the lights out, starting right next door, yet ours were on. I was numb for a moment, and sort of glanced skyward as I whispered, âThanks Ron,â while the final lines, âmy heart is as cold as you, as youâ came over our speakers.