Bill Bourne, Wyckham Porteous and Jas
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Bill Bourne, Wyckham Porteous and Jas


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Musical chameleon Bill Borne reinvents his sound on latest CD, Boon Tang.


Elusive Edmonton songwriter and acoustic guitarist extraordinaire Bill Bourne brings his bags of mysterious tricks – songs that might have been imagined by famed British folk musician Bert Jansch during a blizzard in Norway or an idyll in the tropics – to these parts this week for a rare swing through southern Ontario.

I’ve been crazy busy, not playing as much as I’d like to…producing other artists and getting ready for “the Dance,” Bourne said last Friday afternoon as he was about to head out for a show at Port Dover’s Lighthouse Theatre.

Minus the ubiquitous topper that has become his onstage trademark, the peripatetic musician was slow getting his bearings. Bourne had flown in earlier in the day from Memphis, Tenn., where he performed at the recent North American Folk Alliance conference with his protégé, Icelandic singing sensation Eivor Pálsdóttir, and after a brief stopover in his hometown.

“The Dance” is what Bourne calls his website and the unpleasant business of self-promotion, a ritual he indulges in only when there’s a new recording to promote.

It has been about four years since his landmark effort, Voodoo King, was released. For the past two, Bourne has been slowly working toward completing its successor, Boon Tang – he claims the title is a little-used English phrase that means “an unexpected blessing with a strong flavour” – released this week on the Vancouver label Cordova Bay and launched with a performance Saturday night at Harbourfront Centre’s Enwave Theatre, with guitarist and frequent sidekick Madagascar Slim, singer Kristin Sweetland and drummer Michelle Josef.

A flight through the musical ether distilled from a lifetime of adventures in African, Caribbean, Nordic, bluegrass, country, Celtic and blues forms, Boon Tang features Bourne’s fluid, unrestrained reinvention of three covers – Gordon Lightfoot’s “For Lovin’ Me,” the Bob Marley hit “No Woman No Cry,” and Ewan McColl’s “The Terror Time,” a prescient piece salvaged from Bourne’s time with Tannahill Weavers – along with eight original compositions featuring Pálsdóttir’s powerful voice and contributions from two prodigies. The young talents are the Red Deer, Alta singer-songwriter known only as Laurelle and 12 year old Hong-Kong-raised flautist Aysha, whom Bourne credits with almost single-handedly organizing a concert that raised $700,000 for tsunami relief at Edmonton’s Winspear Centre last year.

“I’m very happy with this album,” Bourne said. “I took my time with it, recording it at home on a two-track tape deck with good mics and pre-amps. I’d add bits when I had time. I was in no hurry to get it finished, but when it was, it sounded like a new kind of music. Someone told me it reminds him of music played in some remote part of Mongolia…but I’ve never been there.”

March 15, 2007



Bill Bourne came to town last night, taking an appreciative audience on a largely acoustic journey through his influences and creations.
Whatever atmospheric shortcomings may exist at the Elks Hall, one cannot argue with the welcome afforded its visiting blues and folk artists, largely the result of the warm embrace every artist receives from their audience.

With more than 200 in attendance, Friday night was no exception as local favourite Bill Bourne, sans his customary hat, but bedecked in dark clothing accented by a tasteful yellow scarf took the stage with a selection of musically like-minded collaborators.

Playing to an audience of friends, schoolmates, relatives, and long-time appreciators, Bourne had the assemblage in his hip pocket before ambling to the cluttered corner stage.

Listeners expecting an unadorned evening with Bourne and son Pat may have been taken aback by the rotating cavalcade of guests joining Bourne, as four individuals accompanied the Innisfail-raised performer throughout the performance.

Never delivering the same show locally twice, the veteran songwriter opened his portion of the evening unaccompanied, quieting the audience chatter with what appeared to be little more than a metal mortar and a wooden pestle, before stomping into a spiritual medley encompassing elements of Lay My Burdens Down, I Shall Not Be Moved and other familiar refrains.

As the best singers' are, Bourne's voice is distinctive. Stripping Bob Marley's No Woman, No Cry to its essence — unadulterated melody — gave the oft heard sediments added resonance, no matter how removed the listeners' experiences are from “the government yard in Trenchtown.”

While some listeners may complain that every Bourne song sounds the same, such complaints miss the point; it is the very familiarity of every “dee, dee, dee” augmenting his lyrics and instrumentation that makes Bourne who he is.

Bourne's ability to convey story through song was also in evidence, as on The Gift, a song about, as the writer tells it, “a guy who quit drinking, and made everyone happy; that's it in a nutshell!”
Bourne kept the stories and song introductions to a minimum, while managing to highlight the importance of a sister’s Gordon Lightfoot album, wisdom and inspiration gathered at folk music festivals, and the shortcomings of bottled water.

A sincere take of Lightfoot's For Lovin’ Me was a showstopper, with Bourne's deft fingerpicking lending the popular folk standard freshness.

The evening of music drifted along similarly, no matter the instrumental and vocal configuration. Nearing the end of his initial set, Bourne invited the youthfully confident flautist Aysha Wills to the stage.

Performing a homey song from his newly released album Boon Tang — Pie and Ice Cream, a light-sounding ode that strives to end war through dessert- the duo complemented each other beautifully. Wills' flute was nearly inaudible at first, due to a quickly settled issue with the house mix, but then added texture to Bourne's guitar playing.

Joined in turn by vocalist Laurelle — more on her later — Bourne's son Patrick on guitar and bassist Jasmine, the tone of the evening was set with further performances from the new disc including the uplifting Open Up Your Hand.
With nary a free chair in sight, the audience soaked up every bit of the groove-laden offerings Bourne and his merry band delivered.

Deadline restrictions limited observation of Bourne’s second set, but promised more familiar fare as Ole Buffalo was served up soon after the break.

Opening the show was former Red Deer resident Laurelle, accompanied by bassist Carl Stretton. Appearing noticeably more seasoned than previously, Laurelle’s Cat Power- textured voice was showcased to full effect, from her opening love note in song (I Do) to her closing (and similarly themed) offering, on which she was joined by Bourne.

Politely received by the capacity audience, Laurelle’s jazzy, coffeehouse leanings served as a calming and appropriate set-up for Bourne’s more embellished offerings.

Boon Tang is a phrase meaning ‘blessing with a strong flavour,’ a fair description of the performance Bourne and his friends gave last night, the headiness of which will linger for days and weeks with those in attendance.

Donald Teplyske is a local freelance writer who contributes a twice-monthly column on roots music. If you know a roots music event of which he should be aware, contact him at
re embellished offerings.


"Bourne's Brilliant with Boon Tang"

At work, I'm a sucker for acoustic guitar pickers. Canada has produced so many brilliant ones, all of whom seem to send me their latest releases. (It's much

I just got triple-Juno winner Bill Bourne's latest, Boon Tang (Cordova Bay Records, Bourne is a world renowned folk-singer from Alberta who's been on the road for almost 20 years. He has a songwriter's
appeal (a la early Bruce Cockburn), but mixes it up on Boon Tang with some Icelandic and near-eastern influences.

Bourne's done this by teaming up with a 23-year-old singing prodigy from the Faroe Islands, a Nordic archipelago somewhere northwest of Scotland in between Iceland and Norway. Her name is Eivor Palsdottir and, despite the Viking roots, her voice mourns for the desert sands and places even farther afoot, perhaps even India.

With Bourne's eerie slide arrangements, she takes the listener to other-world places on songs like The Terror Time. Just to keep things down to earth Bourne also covers Gordon Lightfoot's For Lovin' Me (with mixed results) and Bob Marley's No Woman No Cry

Graham Rockingham - Hamilton Spectator

"A Night for Adjectives"

Last Friday's performance by Bill Bourne was a night for adjectives: His songs were simultaneously familiar and exotic, his guitar playing hypnotic, and he quickly had the audience mesmerized. He occasionally shared the stage with the dashing Jas, she of no proffered last name, a multi talented sprite who played a mean guitar, sang sweetly, and, to the astonishment of us all, performed an energetic modern dance piece based on native hoop dancing. For this the sprite turned into a dervish, and when she finished, the audience seemed to be unable to stop clapping.
All night, Bill had been expounding his theory that dancing was the cure for many ills, and since a space had already been cleared for Jazz's performance, a good half of the audience and the staff decided to test the theory. I think there were people on the dance floor who were surprised to find themselves there.
The performance went into serious overtime, though no one seemed to notice, and when we finally let Bill leave the stage, no one wanted to go home. The best word I can think of to describe the evening is - joyous.

"Professional, high energy, talented and lovely people"

- The Bookstore Cafe - Les Jones


Bill Bourne has released 14 recordings and has been nominated for 8 Juno Awards and has won 3 Juno's.

Wyckham Porteous' latest recording, '3 AM' was produced by Andrew Loog Oldham and nominated for 3 Canadian Folk Music Awards

A summary follows:

1990 - Bourne & MacLeod - "Dance and Celebrate" ***
1992 - Bourne & MacLeod - "Moonlight Dancer"
1993 - Various Artists - "Saturday Night Blues" ***
1994 - Bill Bourne & Shannon Johnson - "Dear Madonna"
1996 - Bill Bourne & Shannon Johnson - "Victory Train"
1997 - Bourne, Schuld, Stammer - "No Special Rider"
1997 - Bill Bourne - "Farmer, Philanthropist and Musician"
1998 - Bill Bourne - "Sally's Dream"
2000 - Tri-Continental - "Tri-Continental" ***
2003 - Bill Bourne - "Voodoo King"
2007 - Bill Bourne - "boon tang" Nominated Best Roots Recording - The Western Canadian Music Awards
(*** indicates a Juno Award Winning Recording)

Bill & Slim and their good friend Lester Quitzau are credited with 3 Tri-Continental Recordings for the German Label Tradition and Moderne:
2000 - Tri-Continental 'Live'
2002 - Let's Play (with Ramesh Shotham percussion)
2004 - Drifting (recorded 'live' with Ramesh)



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About Bill Bourne, Wyckham Porteous and Jas
Currently recording their debut CD. A collaboration between two great songwriters and a young bass player/singer/songwriter who adds a surprising direction to this veteran group. Brought together through circumstance, the group met on the stage in Vancouver. Bill and Jas had just driven from Edmonton in eleven hours. Wyckham was waiting and soon they took the stage in front of a full house. The response was immediate, both for the audience and the group itself. A few shows later the three of them were in the studio recording some songs together. This is more than just a group of people playing music together: with the addition of Jas' virtuostic dance theatrics, the shows enter the realm of performance art. Each of these artists is great on their own...together they are something special.