Dan McKinnon
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Dan McKinnon

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"Black Swan, York, England, June 29th, 2006."

The Black Swan’s seen some splendid nights of late, but this was one of the very best, with a fantastic atmosphere. Dan’s a warm-hearted, warm-voiced, singer-songwriter from the Canadian Maritimes who’s yet to attain wider acclaim in this country – but he received a rapturous welcome at the Black Swan! Quite simply he’s one of the most genuinely engaging performers I know. He put the near-capacity audience in thrall the moment he took to the stage with his customary opener Wandering Days immediately winning over the curious into converts. Dan has a gorgeous baritone voice with an exceptional command of phrasing, light and shade – perfect for conveying the nuances and narratives of his finely-crafted songs.

He’s been compared with Stan Rogers, and while he’s very much his own man the comparison is not inappropriate, for Dan shares that beguiling quality of total artistic and emotional honesty. Dan’s two well-filled York sets, dove-tailing with some perfectly well-timed floor spots, served as an excellent introduction to his world, with songs expressing a broad range of emotions and experiences all set to memorable melodies and many containing intriguing (if slightly challenging) choruses for us to sing (and we did…!).

During the course of the first set alone Dan gave us a heartfelt tribute to Canada’s ‘War Brides’ (Kith and Kin), a heart-warming exploration of long-term relationships (The Same Pillow), two covers – a fun anti-shanty by Jim Stewart and Stan Rogers’ White Squall and, to finish, a lovely nostalgic essay conveying the essence of Aesop’s Fables.

Dan almost sold out of CDs before embarking on the longer second set, where he supplemented five more of his own fine songs with Archie Fisher’s poignant Every Man’s Heart, Stan’s sublime Lockkeeper and the traditional Farewell to Nova Scotia. And what more could you wish for? – an encore! A blistering rendition of Mary Ellen Carter to bring the house down, naturally!

Yes, Dan’s a lovely guy who really cares about humanity; his music is lovingly presented and accessible (and so what if these are old fashioned virtues!), and you owe it to yourself to discover his talent at the earliest opportunity (and he’ll be touring the UK again next summer I believe).

David Kidman
- Tykes News


"Eric Bogle & John Munroe, The Rockingham Arms, Wentworth, June 23rd"

Eric Bogle & John Munroe
The Rockingham Arms, Wentworth, England, June 23rd.

Although not billed to appear, Canadian singer-songwriter Dan McKinnon opened the evening with a half hour set which caught many by surprise. Accompanying himself on guitar, McKinnon, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, recounted a number of half forgotten events which are very much part of Canada’s history. One such story was inspired by just one of the forty one thousand war brides who left Britain to marry Canadian servicemen whom McKinnon had met during his travels. Titled Kith and Kin it was both graphic and inspiring. Another song Remember Me recalled a devastating disaster which caused over two thousand deaths and blinded hundreds of children when two ships collided in the harbour and destroyed a large part of Halifax. Dramatic, horrific, and yet again, in its own way, inspirational, this song demonstrated McKinnon’s skill as a storyteller. On this showing there is little doubt that Dan McKinnon could hold the attention of an audience for a considerably longer time than he was allowed tonight and should he happen to come your way, make a point of seeing him.

- Larry Kelly
- Maverick Magazine (UK)


"Dan McKinnon: Fields of Dreams and Glory"

Dan McKinnon is one of the toughest people I know. After several years of playing on the pub circuit, he decided that was not the way he wanted to pursue his music. He then began the not always stable or lucrative life of the folk-singing, song-writing, travelling troubadour. On June 4th, 2005, two days before I wrote this review, he retired from 13 years of singing almost every Saturday morning at the Halifax Farmer's Market. Five or more hours of singing with his hat for offerings and his recordings for sale.

Dan's career should take a real positive turn with the release of his new recording, Fields of Dreams and Glory. Fourteen tracks include ten of Dan's compositions, two by Archie Fisher, one by our mutual friend Jim Stewart and a traditional Scottish song. Dan's songs take an introspective look at life's loves, ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies that are part of making it from day to day. He sings if days gone by, youth and aging, war and injustice, all in his gentle baritone accompanied by his warm finger-style guitar. The studio musicians, some of Canada's best, are also superb.

Dan is a very good songwriter. Whether singing about a life experience or an historical event, his knack for storytelling puts the listener in the moment. Two of my favourites on this CD are "This Side of the Sod", a humorous look at turning the big Five-O, and "Many Miles to Go", about the sailors in the Merchant Marine during World War II and the national embarrassment of the more than 50 years it took the Canadian Government to recognize them as war veterans. I've always been partial to The Corries' version of "The Rose of Allendale", but Dan's version is going to get a lot of airtime on my CD player. Dan takes Archie Fisher's songs "Border River" and "Every Man's Heart" and makes them his own. The a-capella version of Jim Stewart's "Ballad of a Simple Sailor" is great.

"Fields of Dreams and Glory" was recorded, produced and mastered at The Millstream in Toronto by Paul Mills. The production on this recording is about as good as you are ever going to hear. It is a brilliant CD. Congratulations Dan.

- John Ferguson
- Celtic Heritage Magazine - July/August 2005


"Bluenose Folksinger Goes International"

A curious thing is happening to Halifax-based singer/songwriter Dan McKinnon. After genuine Atlantic Celtic giants like Great Big Sea and The Cottars, he's become the East Coast Folksinger who is scoring the most international airplay. New Zealand, Northern Ireland, England, Israel, Trinidad, and various parts of the US from Santa Cruz, California to Alaska, all these places have seen folk music radio stations and internet playlists adding tunes from McKinnon's latest album Fields Of Dreams And Glory.

Indeed, the tunesmith with the sturdy baritone is spending Spring 2006 across the pond on yet another tour of the United Kingdom. He's coming off a week-long workshop engagement in France with the legendary Scottish-born, Australian-based folksinger Eric Bogle (the man who wrote the enduring anti-war ballad And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda). Bogle led McKinnon through a week-long songwriting session outside of Paris; the Nova Scotian folk artist will now open at least two--and perhaps three--of Bogle's upcoming English Concerts.

Pretty heady stuff for a neo-traditionalist songwriter best-known for his half-decade of Saturday morning performances at Halifax's bustling Farmer's Market. McKinnon's approach, however, has always been unconventional. He's released five solid, defiantly independent albums, played hundreds of gigs with rubber-boot traditional groups like McGinty and Evans And Doherty, and portrayed the man who inspired him--Stan Rogers--in a theatrical presentation that has been seen widely all over Eastern North America.

At the heart of Dan McKinnon's life and art, however, is a stubborn dedication to writing songs about who and how we are. Using our rich nautical history to spark his extraordinary storytelling skills, the Halifax-based musician and recording artist has charted out a musical path that manages to balance the traditional with the contemporary.

Blending elements of the early 1970's singer/songwriter approach--where confessional revelations and biting personal observations were the norm--with the enduring oral folk traditions that still linger from Nova Scotia's strong Celtic lineage, McKinnon is clearly on the verge of a major breakthrough.

One listen to the man's latest album will tell the tale. Fields Of Dreams And Glory is a superb 14-song collection of ten originals and a handful of cover tunes. Using a spartan recording approach where voice and accompanying acoustic guitar form the basis of the sound, producer Paul Mills of The Millstream studio in Ontario has perfectly caught McKinnon's warm, direct approach.

A couple of tunes have a little more instrumentation--a restrained piano here, a sinuous violin there, touch of accordion in between--but for the most part the album consists of McKinnon's vocals and guitar delivering confident performances of some exceptionally compelling songs.

The selections range from austerely tuneful (Angeline) to warmly nostalgic (Aesop's Fables) to the humorous (This Side Of The Sod) to the starkly reflective (the title track Fields Of Dreams And Glory). There's much yearning in the melodies; the lyrics are intelligently crafted and packed with vivid imagery that evokes our collective past and McKinnon's particular present.

And while the Halifax singer/songwriter was once heavily influenced by the likes of Stan Rogers, he's clearly his own man now. The songs and performances on Fields Of Dreams And Glory contain a brisk, determined originality that reveals a musical artist who clearly knows exactly where he wants to go.

The album is one of those unique discs that reaches a sustained plateau of tranquility. The narrative force in a song like Many Miles To Go, for example, has a full cinematic quality, bringing the listener in on the action and events detailed in the lyrics about the wartime Merchant Marine, raising and falling with the melody like the gentle rocking motion of the waves that play such an important part in the story of the song.

The more personal songs leave room for unexpected bursts of illumination. A selection like The Road Seldom Travelled--powered by a stunningly soaring melody--deftly balances self-confidence with a touch of melancholy, revealing McKinnon's ability to translate images of motion and travel with more acute observations of the natural world that surrounds him.

Clearly, there are some very good reasons that Fields Of Dreams And Glory is currently making such major headway right around the world. By the time McKinnon returns to his East Coast home from his summer of tours, workshops and other global wanderings, his lingering, just-under-the-radar status might have to be exchanged for that of an emerging folk music star with a burgeoning international reputation.

For more information, check out danmckinnon.ca.

© Ron Foley Macdonald 2006 - Aliant.net


"Dan McKinnon - Fields of Dreams and Glory"

If you've ever been to the Halifax Farmer's Market, you've seen him nestled in by the ramp, eyes closed, mouth smiling, this fine finger-picker with the golden voice (often compared to Stan Rogers but with more heart than grit). Dan's story telling skills are at their finest on this Paul Mills produced disc - in "Many Miles to Go" he's a young soldier lying about his age, in "Kith and Kin", a Canada-bound war bride. He will touch the heart with the perfectly sweet "The Same Pillow" and put a smile on your face with the swingin' "This Side of the Sod". Dan makes Archie Fisher's "Border River" and "Every Man's Heart" his own, does an a capella cover of New Brunswicker Jim Stewart's "The Ballad of the Simple Sailor", and finds inspiration from Nic Jones' version of "Rose of Allendale". Dan McKinnon puts so much heart and soul into his music that listening to him, be it live or on cd, is a healing experience.

- By Mary Beth Carty - Penguin Eggs


"From Canada to the hearts of all who see him"

Dan McKinnon at the Merry Muse was one of the finest performances I have seen at the Muse for a very long time.... When Dan got on stage we weren't prepared for the rollercoaster of emotion that ensued. From deep and insightful looks into the ageing process to the heart wrenching tales of disasters, Dan's songwriting is as powerful as is his performance. His voice is a mixture of James Keelaghan and Stan Rogers; his fingerpicking guitar style is as proficient as any of the greats.... What a night! (Guy Gibson) - The Monaro Folk Society Inc.


"Dan McKinnon - Fields of Dreams and Glory"

Although not his first CD, "Fields of Dreams and Glory" is my first encounter with this incredible artist. Hearing Dan McKinnon for the first time reminds me of the first time I heard Stan Rogers or James Keelaghan. Maybe that's because McKinnon is yet another talented Canadian or maybe because the CD is produced, engineered and mixed by Paul Mills, who also plays guitar on the CD. The beauty of McKinnon's voice is arresting, and I don't usually swoon over male voices. Its richness, timbre and certainty enthrall the listener. Fortunately, the 14 songs, 10 of which are originals, are worthy of McKinnon's voice. He chose the covers well, from the repertoires of Archie Fisher, Jim Stewart and Nic Jones. Many of the songs illuminate points of Canadian history through the tales of individual lives rather than grandiose epics. "Kith and Kin" tells of World War II brides leaving family and friends in Europe to settle in Canada. In "Angeline" McKinnon grippingly relates the incredible true story of a woman who, in 1868, was travelling by sea from Dublin, Nova Scotia to Halifax. Her ship sank and she was rescued by a ship on its way to England and she did not return home for three months. "Fields of Dreams and Glory" perfectly reveals the bond in memory between people and the land. "Many Miles to Go" recognizes the service of the Merchant Marine in World War II in a most vivid and poetic telling. I would be remiss not to mention "This Side of the Sod," a jocular toast to life and a put down of bureaucracy. I consider it high praise when I say that this CD could pass for folk music, in the sense that the songs are burnished into that patina with intimacy and universality. This CD should be in everyone's library. - R Warr - Sing Out!


Discography

FIELDS OF DREAMS AND GLORY

“Hearing Dan McKinnon for the first time reminds me of the first time I heard Stan Rogers or James Keelaghan. The beauty of McKinnon’s voice is arresting... Its richness, timbre and certainty enthral the listener. I consider it high praise when I say that this CD could pass for folk music, in the sense that the songs are burnished to that patina with intimacy and universality.” (Rich Warren,
Sing Out! Spring 2006)

Fields of Dreams and Glory has been lauded by folk DJs as one of the Best Folk Albums of the Year in Chicago, New Jersey, Vermont, and New Zealand for 2005 and 2006, and placed #9 on the Top Canadian Folk Albums of 2006 as reported on Maplepost.

On November 19th, 2005, “The Midnight Special” on WFMT in Chicago was the first radio show in the US to play a cut from Dan McKinnon’s fifth CD Fields of Dreams and Glory. That started Dan’s run on the Folk DJ List’s CanCon report, a listing of international airplay for Canadian artists. On that same Folk DJ-List, over 74 consecutive weeks later, Dan has had more continuous international airplay than any Atlantic Canadian artist in the past three years. Fields has been featured and played on folk radio shows throughout the United States and Canada as well as stations in Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel.

Teaming up for the first time with producer Paul Mills in Toronto, Fields of Dreams and Glory has opened important new doors for this artist and garnered reviews in prestigious trade publications in Canada and abroad.

“He takes the classic themes of life, love, hope and despair and thoughtfully weaves them into beguiling and involving narratives that have the ring of absolute truth and total artistic and emotional honesty.” (David Kidman, NetRhythms, UK)

With the release of Fields of Dreams and Glory, Dan received two nominations for the 2005 Music Industry Association of Nova Scotia Awards - Folk/Roots Recording of the Year and Male Artist Recording of the Year.

“Dan’s storytelling skills are at their finest on this Paul Mills produced disc... Dan McKinnon puts so much heart and soul into his music that listening to him, be it live or on CD, is a healing experience.” (Mary Beth Carty, Penguin Eggs, Summer 2006)

MINSTREL IN THE RAIN

"Dan McKinnon's (fourth) album is a fine showcase of his rich voice and careful renderings of traditional songs and new compositions." (Dan Gilman, Sing Out!)

SONGS FROM THE HEARTH

"This album, and McKinnon's work in general, features very ear-pleasing instrumentation and melodies. The instrumentals flow together seamlessly... McKinnon's solo guitar and vocals shine ..." (Cheryl Turner, Rambles)

BETWEEN WIND & WATER

"Between Wind & Water, is a strong tribute to that [maritime] heritage. McKinnon exercises his skills as a storyteller to evoke colourful memories of the region." (Tom Knapp, Rambles)
AMTEC award of Merit Winner, (AMTEC Association for Media Technology in Education in Canada.)

CHASING SUNSETS

" McKinnon has a remarkable talent for vocal (as well as instrumental) expression, the tunes to his songs are catchy, and his lyrical abilities are outstanding." (Cheryl Turner, Rambles)
This CD includes the Nova Scotia Winner of the tenth and final CBC Atlantic Song Contest, "Lakes of Bras d'Or."

Photos

Bio

Dan McKinnon grew up within the sight and the smell of the salt water of his beloved Nova Scotia. Music was a rich part of his family life, and he learned the timeless canon of traditional songs at home, while mastering the acoustic guitar.

For over 25 years, McKinnon has taken his music to concert halls, folk clubs, and festivals, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to London, England, from Chicago to Sydney, Australia. He has headlined the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium with Symphony Nova Scotia, he has opened for performers such as Eric Bogle, Garnet Rogers, and Archie Fisher, and has performed and recorded with several Atlantic Canadian folk artists.

Cut from the same cloth as Canadian folk heroes Stan Rogers and James Keelaghan, McKinnon is both a masterful writer of insightful history-based songs and a full-on performer with a booming baritone voice that can fill any room.

"Dan is blessed with a gorgeous baritone voice, and an exceptional command of phrasing, light and shade - perfect for conveying the nuances and narratives of his uniformly finely crafted songs.... You can hear from the moment he steps out in front of an audience that he's one of the most engaging and genuine performers on the scene." (David Kidman, The Living Tradition, September/October 2006.)

In 2007 Dan stretched beyond the borders of his native Canada, and from his annual forays into the English folk club and festival circuit. His first US appearances in September were highlighted by a live-to-air show on WFMT's "Folkstage" in Chicago, hosted by Rich Warren.

This past November also saw Dan continue his world journeying with his first venture to Australia. During this five week, nineteen date tour Dan performed across Australia's south east coast from Sydney to Melbourne and in clubs, concerts, and festivals in Malden, Yass, Bendigo, Yatteyattah, Briagolong, and Canberra, to name but a few.

"Dan McKinnon at the Merry Muse was one of the finest performances I have seen at the Muse for a very long time.... Dan's songwriting is as powerful as his performance." (Guy Gibson, Newsletter of the Monaro Folk Society Inc., Canberra, Australia, December 2007.)

Over the course of five solo recordings McKinnon, armed with a degree in history, has blown the dust off Nova Scotia’s seafaring past and breathed life into the colourful history of this corner of the world. "Fields of Dreams and Glory", released in 2005 received two Music Nova Scotia nominations for Folk Roots Recording of the Year and Male Artist of the Year. The album, produced by Paul Mills, opened important new doors for Dan and garnered reviews in prestigious trade publications in Canada and abroad.

“Hearing Dan McKinnon for the first time reminds me of the first time I heard Stan Rogers or James Keelaghan. The beauty of McKinnon’s voice is arresting... Its richness, timbre and certainty enthral the listener. I consider it high praise when I say that this CD could pass for folk music, in the sense that the songs are burnished to that patina with intimacy and universality.” (Rich Warren, Sing Out! Spring 2006 )

His music has been broadcast nation-wide by CBC radio, and world-wide on folk radio and folk internet radio shows from Florida to Northern Ireland, Israel to New Zealand, and Edinburgh to Belgium. At Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan, ten songs from his "Between Wind & Water" CD were featured in the Maritime Museum’s Rich Media presentation in the Canadian Pavilion. Also, several of Dan's songs have been used for documentaries aired on Canada's History and Discovery cable TV channels.

Dan is in the midst of releasing his newest recording, "Just Another Day", again recorded and produced by Paul Mills.