David Newland
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David Newland

Cobourg, Ontario, Canada | SELF

Cobourg, Ontario, Canada | SELF
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


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"Review: David Newland, 'Give it a Whirl'"

“His songwriting—which celebrates the basic, small-town, homey pleasures of things like bare feet on a gravel road, strawberry season, and autumn leaves—while universal, is precise and beautifully integrated into the music in a way that seems inevitable.” – Barry Hammond - Penguin Eggs

"The Gospel According To Uke"

Frank Faulk explores the passion for the ukulele in his documentary The Gospel According to Uke. - CBC Radio

"Corktown Ukulele Jam on CBC Newsworld Weekend Scene"

CBC Newsworld host Jelena Adzic takes a ukulele lesson from Steve McNie & David Newland on the patio of Toronto's legendary Dominion on Queen, home of the famous Corktown Ukulele Jam that takes place every Wednesday evening. Details: http://torontoUKES.com - CBC Newsworld

"Tiptoeing Through the Tavern With Ukes"

Tiptoeing through the tavern with ukes
Published On Tue Nov 10 2009




Ukulele players gather recently at the Dominion on Queen tavern for a workshop/open mike event.
John Goddard Staff Reporter

Toronto's secret ukulele players have discovered one another.

Every Wednesday night they gather at the Dominion on Queen, a pub in operation since 1889, on Queen St. E. in Corktown.

"Is there anything that looks tricky?" co-host Steve McNie asks 75 or more players filling the main room, each holding a ukulele.

"Yes!" several reply at once. "E flat minor six."

"Okay, everybody play D minor," McNie responds. "Sneak the little finger onto the second fret of the first string. Move everything up one fret – that's E flat minor six.

"It's a passing chord," he adds. "Don't play it if you don't want to."

McNie is leading the opening workshop portion of the Corktown Ukulele Jam, a fringe event fast gaining popularity.

Usually the session takes place in the rear room to smaller numbers, but tonight a three-piece gypsy band leads the assembly in Django Reinhardt songs.

The lights are low, the atmosphere thick with concentration. Violin, guitar and accordion players stand on a riser at the front as streetcars roll regularly past the windows.

"Keep those fingers bouncing on the fret boards," guitarist David Dunlap says, demonstrating a percussive strum. "If it's too wet there's no space between the chords."

The idea that solitary uke players across the city might be hankering to play together came to McNie last winter when he started bringing the childlike instrument to jam sessions with his friend David Newland.

They were taking a break from their '80s cover band, the McFlies, when McNie said, "Maybe a larger group of people would be into doing this."

They built a website, www.torontoukes.com. They placed an ad online. They set Jan. 14 for their first meeting and on an especially cold, snowy, wintry night more than 30 people showed up.

Weekly gatherings have continued since, with more than 200 people of all ages – and a balance of men and women – counting themselves members.

Tiny Tim, with his powdered face and falsetto vocals, might have killed the uke's popularity in 1968, but the instrument is back, Newland says.

"The Internet combined with the tiny apartment or condo, combined with a lack of kitchen parties and jam circles, combined with the rise of geek culture – all inject new life into the uke," he says.

"It's portable, versatile, easy to get going on," says regular jam-goer Eve Goldberg, whose guitar composition "Watermelon Sorbet" played as the theme song for years on CBC Radio's Richardson's Roundup.

Shelley O'Brien, another regular, this summer released a CD of ukulele songs, You, Me and the Birds.

Every week starts with everyone playing Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight."

Special events are held. One week, everybody got on the Queen streetcar and played through downtown. Another time, members paddled canoes to Centre Island and played around a campfire.

So popular have the sessions become that a Monday jam launches Jan. 11 at Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas W., with the first four weeks devoted to beginner's lessons.

At Dominion on Queen, "a minimum level of proficiency is required," McNie says. "Not that it would take you more than an hour to reach that level."
- Toronto Star

"Praise for the Humble Ukulele"

I don’t know how David Newland does it: he has a day job, a night job and a hobby that looks a lot like a third job. There he is every Wednesday evening at the Dominion Tavern (500 Queen Street East) hosting the remarkably popular Corktown Ukulele Jam with his musical partner Steve McNie. Launched in January 2009, uke nite as it’s affectionately known, typically attracts 50 – 75 ukulele players who crowd into the pub’s backroom to share music, laughs and most of all an inspiring sense of community.

David NewlandOnce a month the Uke-eteers move their party out front into the pub’s main lounge for a theme night featuring costumes, craziness and extra special musical offerings. This Wednesday’s performance (October 13) is devoted to show tunes and there should be laughs aplenty as the pros and novices test their chops and pipes on selections by Gershwin, Porter and who knows, maybe even Lloyd Webber.

For Newland, the quality of the music is almost beside the point. He heartily encourages people who have never played a stringed instrument before to jump right in. “There’s a magical quality to the ukulele,” he insists, “it humbles the great and elevates the humble. It’s a very simple instrument to learn – four strings, four fingers, that’s all there is to it. And it’s possible for a big bunch of people to get together and play ukuleles without drowning each other out.”

Corktown Ukulele jam
“We think a major reason people come out to the event is that they really need community culture in their lives,” speculates Newland, “and the ukulele is a way of making that happen. The playing isn’t so much what this event is about, it’s just the catalyst for fellowship and community.”

Newland is all about community. By day he’s the Director of Social Media for Canoe.ca and by night he’s the editor in chief of rootsmusic.ca, as well as a member of ’80s acoustic cover band, The McFlies. “My work is in connecting people with culture,” he says. “Primarily that’s music on the fun side and on the corporate side it’s about trying to build online communities around content.”

David Newland rocks out on the ukuleleEach week the Corktown jam attracts a slew of regulars and a smattering of newbies who have been encouraged to tag along by family or friends. There’s a great spirit in the room as both the humble and the great share a short lesson in uke basics. Sing-alongs are standard, as are comical kazoo solos. No question, uke nite is fun; it’s also free. Only the monthly theme nights come with a cover charge (suggested donation, $5).

When I ask Newland what he gets out of it – aside from exhaustion – he responds, “I’m a performer and a songwriter and a ukulele player and a host and a community organizer — it’s a need for me so I’d be doing it anyway. I’ve hosted the Gordon Lightfoot Tribute Concert at Hugh’s Room for the past nine years; I’m on the board of the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals, this is the work I do. I think what I get out of it is personal gratification but it’s also on-the-job training; people hire me to be the MC of their events. I’ve hosted this event something like 100 times and in that process probably done 1,800 introductions on stage so it’s good for my chops.”

“It’s not about what’s in it for me,” he concludes, “the community told me what it wanted and I offered up what I had to give.” - LiveWithCulture.ca

"Corktown Ukulele Jam unites a community"

Story and photos by Michael Talbot, CityNews.ca

January 14th, 2009. Toronto.

A wicked winter wind is blowing.

The concrete jungle glows virgin white.

You can almost hear the streets creak like old arthritic bones as the temperature plummets and the snow continues to sink from the sky in heavy sheets.

Common sense says, ‘stay inside’.

Things aren’t looking promising for the inaugural Corktown Ukulele Jam.

After a few weeks joyfully plucking and strumming on ukuleles at their neighbourhood watering hole, the Dominion at 500 Queen East, good-time co-conspirators Stephen McNie (pictured above, left) and David Newland (above, right) envisioned a weekly jam session in the bar’s backroom. They were given the green light by the establishment’s proprietors and soon put up a website, inviting others to join them.

“We looked at each other and it was an instant thing,” recalls McNie. “We basically said, ‘hey we’ve been doing this for the last few weeks, it’s a lot of fun, it’s too much fun, do you think there are some other people that would like to do it?”

“So we built a website and we agreed that if we had 40 people say that they’d be interested then it meant that maybe on the first night we’d have half a dozen people that would show up and do it.”

They set the date and nervously watched as a winter storm blanketed Toronto. All but certain the night would be a bust due to the inclement conditions, they were pleasantly surprised when the first few stragglers stepped foot inside the Dominion, shaking off their snow-sopped coats to seek out the advertised session.

Then a few more showed up.

And a few more.

Gusts of wind kept creeping into the bar as the door opened and closed. McNie and Newland had a hard time believing what they were seeing.

“We set the first day for January 14 and about 35 people showed up on what was the worst winter night of last winter,” McNie recalls excitedly.

“It was the snowiest, coldest night, it was a night when everyone should have stayed home and when we got into this room, we were blown away that there were 35 people we had never met before.”

On a blustery night, from the womb of a winter storm, the Corktown Ukulele Jam was born.

Newland fondly remembers the curious, eclectic faces that had gathered and the collective sense of adventure shared that night. “It was basically a room full of strangers holding ukes and they had these big weird grins on their faces because they had never seen so many ukes in one place before and certainly not so many people playing. We just got a whole lot of love out of it and it took off from there, we made it a weekly thing.”

A year later they are still going strong. Last Wednesday, the Corktown Ukulele Jam celebrated its first anniversary. The numbers may have swelled since that first night, but the original freshness and spirit remains intact. They sing, strum and smile together, leaving their pretensions at the door to embrace the charms and nuances of the simple but surprisingly complex instrument that brought them together, helping them grow as individuals, and a community.

Nick Tustin was there on that first night, and a year later his enthusiasm remains unbridled. He’s a familiar face on Wednesdays and helps set up the sound system for the open mic performances.

“I was here for day one, “ he proudly reveals behind a bushy beard. “I was somehow Google-ing something to do with Toronto and ukuleles and I found the website that Stephen and David had set up and I thought 'that sounds kind of interesting'. So I came down on the first night and there was (a group of people) in the backroom all gathered around. I didn’t know what to think at first but it stuck and I try to make it every week.”

“It’s gone from that backroom thing that was an informal setting and Stephen and Dave have organized it, there’s a workshop now, an open mic, sign-up lists online and we probably get on average four or five times the amount of people that came out a year ago. People are uke crazy right now.”

Michael Griffin can attest to the fact that a ukulele craze is fully underway. He owns Broadway Music in Orangeville, and has seen demand for the instrument skyrocket recently.

“We’ve had the store for two years, in our first year we sold 4 ukuleles. They were all $35 toys. Between September and now we’ve sold upwards of 120 ukuleles and they can cost anywhere up to around $600. We are seeing a more serious approach to ukuleles and a lot of serious musicians coming in looking for them,” he explains.

Griffin now hosts his own ukulele night on the first Sunday of every month in Orangeville. He cites several popular culture references with contributing to the recent resurgence in the instrument’s popularity.

“In 50 First Dates, they played that song at the end of it (by Israel Kamakawiwo) and people started paying attention to the ukulele again. Jason Mraz has a couple of songs out on ukulele. Neil Young admitted in his biography that the first thing he learned to play was ukulele so everybody is starting to pay attention to uke again and it’s just a little groundswell.

“In the 60s Tiny Tim killed it,” he adds, grinning. “He was just so campy and so off the beaten track that people didn’t recognize it as a musical instrument as much as novelty instrument.”

The backroom at the Dominion is rapidly swelling.

People from all walks of life, ranging in age from 10-80, are settling in for the evening. There’s an obvious camaraderie among the group, and a family atmosphere highlighted by the pluck of strings being set to the standard C tuning (G-C-E-A).

Some will only be participating in the group lesson/jam, while others, usually the ones nervously sipping stage-fright-dissolving spirits, will be taking part in the open mic to follow.

The night starts off with a few sentimental words from Newland before an animated and energized McNie takes over to lead the class. Sheet music is projected onto the wall, and 60-80 people attentively follow McNie as he explains the chord changes and urges them on while making appropriate corrections and even at times pleading for silence like an exasperated school teacher when uke-happy hands are intent on noodling around while he’s trying to keep things focused.

With that many people in one room, things could quickly deteriorate into chaos, but McNie proves to be the glue that binds the collective experience.

Often thought of as a solitary instrument, the ukulele actually shines in a group setting.

“It’s very similar to a drumming circle,” notes Newland. “It’s very similar to a glee club or a choir, it’s similar to a kind of church basement gospel revival thing, it’s similar to the kind of singalong workshops that happen at folk festivals.”

“It’s almost the only instrument that a room full of people can all play, they can all sing, they can hear the accompaniment but it doesn’t drown the voices,” he stresses. “In some ways what we are really doing is enabling people to sing together and I believe there’s something that happens when people make music together period, but when they sing together, there’s like a connection in the heart that is critical. It goes back to the dawn of time, it’s what humans have always done, it’s the original entertainment, it’s the original spirituality and as simple as it is, we engage that.”

The skill level of the attendees varies greatly, but one of the charms of the ukulele is that almost anyone can learn the basics in a few minutes, enabling them to play dozens upon dozens of songs. Combine that with the openness of the event, and individuals who may have never contemplated playing an instrument in a group setting are suddenly embracing the uke.

“It’s a really nurturing environment,” explains Michael Runcimen, who has been playing for a few years. “It’s a real sense of camaraderie. The first hour you learn a song together and everyone is strumming and learning the chord changes and the open mic is sort of a nurturing environment. I had never performed in public before and I got up the nerve here to actually strum in front of people so it’s great it’s been good for me.”

“We have people who come up and play who are professional players and we have people who have only been playing for a very short period of time, know a few chords and they don’t feel intimidated to get up and try it,” adds Rick Bales, a longtime musician.

Visual artist Rob Elliott isn’t quite ready for the open mic, but he nonetheless enjoys the group setting. He’s also relatively new to Toronto and finds the event a great social outing.

“It takes the fear out of music to some extent. The ukulele is not completely daunting, a lot of the chords are made up of a single finger, you don’t feel terrified going into it,” he says, taking a moment away from his notebook of ukulele songs.

“I think a lot of people I know who play music talk about how the idea of playing together has been lost, how it’s become either a spectator event or something where you take lessons and you never actually do anything with the lessons.

“I might go up in a month of two, I’ve got a couple of three chord songs I’m thinking about.”

Tony Burns has been coming out since the early sessions. He’s a recent retiree and blogger who strives to find interesting and cheap activities to keep him stimulated and fulfilled.

“The ukulele is a very accessible instrument,” he remarks. “Somebody can buy a ukulele and you can sit down in 10 minutes and teach them a couple of basic chords and you can feel like you’re taking part.”

Stephen McNie and David Newland admit they are a little overwhelmed with how popular the Corktown Ukulele Jam has become.

People from around the world have shown up to sit and play with the group and every week there's several new faces in the crowd.

"We are still surprised. It’s a phenomena," Newland tells me before kicking off the open mic with a few songs.

Upon reflection he can now see why so many people made it out that first night, and why increasing numbers continue to show up. It's not so much about the music, but the group experience and friendships that have blossomed.

"In an age where people are often divided off into their cubicles at work and into their condominiums at home, local vibrant music culture is something that people are seeking and if you can provide that....it’s an amazing thing.

"If you bring people together and they do something together, especially something as moving as music, there is something higher happening there."

michael.talbot@citynews.rogers.com - CityNews.ca

"Strum Along with the Mighty Ukulele Revival"

Jason Anderson Special to the Star

"Happiness played is music self-played."

These words are written on the body of a vintage ukulele pictured in a new documentary film on the instrument – one that many people may forever associate with Hawaiian holidays and Tiny Tim.

But those words also serve as a handy explanation as to why the once-lowly uke is experiencing such a widespread revival.

Festivals, weekly jams and new ensembles devoted to the little four-string wonder have been cropping up in cities all over the world, including Toronto.

Inaugurated a little over a year ago, the Corktown Ukulele Jam attracts upwards of 70 strummers every Wednesday night to the Dominion Pub on Queen St. E. A spinoff was recently launched at the Lulu Lounge on Dundas St. W., geared to neophytes under 30.

Uke enthusiasts will fill new corners of the city this week. A new documentary by the local husband-and-wife team of Tony Coleman and Margaret Meagher, Mighty Uke, receives its Toronto premiere at the Royal Cinema on Thursday. Hosted by Corktown jam co-founder David Newland, the screening will be followed by live performances by several performers featured in the film, including Nova Scotian virtuoso James Hill.

There'll be also be time for an audience strum-along because – as Coleman jokes in an interview last week – "the plain old truth of it is if you invite a few hundred ukulele players out to a screening, they're going to bring their ukuleles and they're going to play whether you like it or not!"

Coleman will have plenty of chances to see if uke players take to their movie – the Royal event is the first night of a "road show" tour that'll take the filmmakers and various musicians across North America, the U.K. and Australia in the next few months.

The director's interest in the instrument was stirred when he inherited one from his late sister. A former professional musician and veteran of the CBC's documentary unit, Coleman says he initially felt the same disdain for it many people do, due to the kitschy reputation the uke has developed since its mid-20th-century heyday.

But his estimation improved when he started playing it.

"Then I started taking it to jams with musician friends and they would all want to play it," he says. "And so I was like, `Hang on a sec, why does everyone want to get their hands on this thing?'"

Thus began Coleman's and Meagher's research into the instrument's surprisingly rich history and its recent rediscovery by both seasoned musicians and newcomers.

The gallery of uke fanatics featured in Mighty Uke includes "Jumpin' Jim" Belkoff, a music historian whose popular series of uke songbooks helped kick-start the revival in the 1990s. We also meet the young men and women of the Langley Ukulele Ensemble, a group of B.C. school kids who do a mean rendition of "Flight of the Bumblebee."

Coleman says the biggest surprise was the wealth of ukulele music created in Hawaii in the late 19th century. Many of the instrument's signature tunes were written by members of the Hawaiian royal family, who embraced the uke after an earlier version of the instrument was introduced to the islands by Portuguese sailors from Madeira.

That music is also getting a new life as more and more players flock to the uke. Since the Toronto resurgence didn't manifest until after Mighty Uke finished filming, Coleman is happy to unite with David Newland and the Corktown crew at the Royal.

Newland is also one of the organizers behind two more special events this week: a Ukulele Speakeasy at the Blue Moon on Friday and a build-your-own-uke workshop at the Dominion on Saturday. Newland says he knew there was a revival stirring when he and musical partner Stephen McNie began the weekly jam last January, but the response has far exceeded their expectations.

As to exactly why the uke is catching on, Newland cites a variety of reasons: It's cheap; it's portable; it's easy to learn; and it goes well with singers even when you've got 50 strummers in a room.

But most of all, he believes it's the sense of community and connection it fosters, something that happens whenever people get into a room together to share music. He has seen that happen time and again.

"If you light a campfire and draw a circle of people around it who are all interested in music, it begins to happen in the way that it ancestrally did," he says. "I don't know if we learned it from wolves or monkeys or what, but when we get together like that, we sing and make music. That's something humans do."

Stuck with a wacky tag for so much of its lifespan, the ukulele might be more profound than anyone could have known. - Toronto Star

"Folk from the Bay of Fundy"

The singer-songwriter might have the most precarious job in the world, only slightly less dangerous than the tightrope walker. These guys are the Wallendas of the music industry, just a guitar and a prayer to deliver their heartfelt emotions in a three-minute song.

Stakes are high -you win and there's no better place than that spotlight. Fall flat, and there's nowhere to hide, no net to catch you.

David Newland plays the high-stakes game on his solo debut album, Evergreen, recorded live in the former churhc hall in East Margaretsville on the Fundy shore. WIth just his well travelled acoustic guitar, a rack of harmonicas and his expressive singing voice, the wandering musician offers up 11 original folk tunes.

This album took a while to sink in - with just the barest of production and low-key arrangements for every tune, there is a sameness that threatens to mire the music. Yet with each listen, the earnest observational writing begins to win over.

Newland is a no-frills guitarist, mostly strumming or simple fingerpicking to provide accompaniment. But for the most part, it's all the support the tunes need - the arrangements push the story songs out front.

Newland has roots here in Nova Scotia, though he grew up in Parry Sound, Ont. A summer spent busking on the Halifax waterfront built up the young performer's confidence, and led him to the Evergreen Co-op in East Margaretsville in the Valley. He built a modest cabin there and lived close to the Earth for a couple of years - no water or power.

He's since relocated to Toronto, and is slowly renovating a house that once belonged to his great-great-grandfather. Yet Margaretsville called him back to record Evergreen.

The album was recorded by fellow folk musician and longtime friend Aengus Finnan, and he's done a terrific job capturing the warm tones onstage. What is noticeably missing, however, is a sense of personality. For a singer who has already lived a pretty interesting life, the CD would benefit from a bit of onstage banter to help set up the tunes.

He sings about the closing of a mine (When the Whistle Blows) and he writes poignantly about aging with a couple of compelling tunes (Peddlin' Poppies, Back in Forest Glade).

Evergreen would benefit greatly from the inclusion of a bit of instrumentation - the occasional fill of fiddle or second guitar. Newland's voice isn't interesting or powerful enough to carry a full album, but he's still a maturing performer. With this lovely, understated album, he's planted a seed that should make for interesting material further down the road.

- Halifax DailyNews, Sandy MacDonald

"The sense of honesty sets these songs apart"

Toronto-based singer-songwriter David Newland has a pleasant surprise in store for people who pick up his new live recording, "Evergreen." Recorded in a former church hall in Margaretsville, Nova Scotia, "Evergreen" has a very welcoming atmosphere; the warmth of Newland's voice, as well as his ease in presenting his songs to an audience and his obvious passion for those songs, drew me in and really made me listen to the words.

It is the sense of honesty that sets these songs apart - he draws stories from his own life, as well as from places that have touched him, and draws a kind of map with every song - not only of places but of people and time as well.

Throughout "Evergreen," the vocals are the focus, with only acoustic guitar and harmonica accompaniment (and a little bit of whistling on "Carry Me Away"). Newland's voice is equal parts rough around the edges and deeply expressive. There is nothing getting in the way of the meaning of the words or the power of his voice - one of the things I truly love about live acoustic music.

Although he has travelled all over the world, from a bamboo hut in Costa Rica and the heights of the Rocky Mountains to the hippie trail in India and a Greyhound bus between Seattle and El Paso, Newland's roots are Canadian, both in Nova Scotia and Ontario. He was born in Ottawa and grew up in northwestern Ontario, near the rocky shores of Georgian Bay. He celebrates his Nova Scotian heritage here, recording stories of struggle and triumph, hardship and loss. As Newland points out, the nature of the history of Nova Scotia lends itself well to folk music and songwriting.

"Heaven Only Knows," "Peddlin' Poppies" and "Back in Forest Glade" are poignant tributes to the lives of men growing older and looking back on their lives. These songs will have resonance for anyone familiar with traditions of oral history; Newland has listened to these men and now speaks with their voices. He is able to take on the voices of men much older than himself very effectively.

Mining is also an important part of the history and culture of Nova Scotia. In "When the Whistle Blows," Newland deals with what happens when a man's livelihood is taken away from him: "I had a young man's dreams/but today it seems/those dreams will all be broken by a lonesome sound…said she'd never close/but everybody knows/it's time to leave the mine when the whistle blows."

He has also included a few songs of "love gone wrong" and "love gone badly wrong." It isn't all tragic, though, in songs like "Handle of Your Heart" and "Here to Stay." I am sometimes wary of 'love songs', if only because it's rare to hear one that has any kind of originality to it. That's not a problem here.

"From the Chair to the Door," a tribute to a heroic uncle wounded during World War II, shows Newland's sensitivity not only to history and historical context; but also to the effect that our loved ones can have on our lives, mostly when we're not even paying attention.

If I had to pick a favourite track (and it wasn't easy), "Faded Photograph" would be it. It is another love song - but it looks at lost love in a quirky way: "It's just like you to walk away and sever every tie/Would it make you glad to know you make me cry?…You ask me why I never write/You feel so far apart/Would it make me glad to know I stole your heart?" He looks at this relationship as a communication between two people who are trying to define where they stand in its aftermath; and follows them through the regret, laughter, and missed opportunities that should be familiar to anyone who's ever been in a relationship that has ended.

If I had to pick one word to describe "Evergreen" and David Newland's songwriting, it would be "honest." That word, that concept, keeps coming back to my mind as I listen to these eleven songs over and over again. I truly hope that there are many more records full of songs to be sung and recorded and that he continues to hone his songwriting skills. I get the impression from the songs on "Evergreen" that he's the kind of writer who follows where his passion leads, which is really what it's all about. I look forward to hearing all those songs that I have a feeling are already written, waiting to be brought to life.
- Rachel Jagt, Rambles.net

"Zen Canadiana"

Renaissance Man David Newland paid his annual visit to Free Times Café on Friday night, this time in the company of Burlington, Vermont resident, the hilarious Nathan Caswell. It was the last stop in their three-city 'tourette' titled Brains, Baboons, Trains, and Loons.
Surrounded by ukuleles, 12-strings, 6-strings, harmonicas, and a funky-looking bass guitar, the gents opened the evening alternating songs. Caswell, the author of songs like “Einstein’s Brain” and “Baboon Heart” performs songs that are usually accessible, witty and musically punchy, a little like a folk version of Randy Newman.

Newland’s work is rooted in the Gordon Lightfoot tradition (he even has a feline friend named Lightfoot The Cat). In fact, Newland is the charismatic host of the Lightfoot-tribute travelling concert series, and offers a most welcoming sound that resembles the late Jim Croce, and the artist formally known as Cat Stevens (surely Newland’s next feline’s name).
Among the things these artists share is a Great Lakes upbringing: Caswell having been raised in Thunder Bay, and Newland in Parry Sound. This heritage is evident in the singers’ lyrics and, in my opinion, in their respective outlooks. Newland calls his artistic expression “Zen Canadiana” which he describes as “a sense of balanced decay, or appropriate imperfection… such as a freight train which derailed just so”. Caswell’s song settings are usually more urban, and are often satirical, but he also yearns for a Canadian leader like a canoe-paddling Pierre Elliot Trudeau, “a leader who stands for more than himself”.

As the evening progressed, the audience got the opportunity to laugh, sing along, or close their eyes and picture a sunken ship off the shores of the CNE, or a screwdriver stuck frozen under the fresh ice on Georgian Bay. It’s always a treat to enjoy songwriters whose work can be instantly enjoyed by devoted fans or first-timers alike.

The musicians fed off each other seamlessly, and worked well together off-stage, with Caswell paying attention to the soundboard, and Newland working the friendly room.

Also, it was a joy to behold two men at the elbow of the long arm of public performing. They are young enough to be brazen, idealistic, and charmingly cynical (at times), yet old enough to be taken seriously - even in their comedic moments. Both are blessed with devastating charm, and experienced enough to use the gift sparingly. And, of course, they will never sound better.

Review by Andy Frank - The Live Music Report

"Newland & Caswell on tour"

Trains, Brains, Loons and Baboons is a definite must see/hear/enjoy. David Newland and Nathan Caswell put on a dynamic show. Their songs take you from the city to the country to the quiet places in your heart with grace, humour and love.
An evening with Nathan and David is time well spent.

Jan Vanderhorst
Just Us Folk
CKPC-FM 92.1
Brantford - Jan Vanderhorst, CKPC


Give it A Whirl, 2012 (studio album)
Roll Away, 2005 (live compilation album)
Evergreen, 2003 (live album)
Of Moose and Men, 1995 (Independent Cassette)

Riding on the Railway (Theme song for "Canada's Greatest Ride)
That's the Miracle (Featured in "The Gospel According to Uke")
Faster Than You Know (Award-winner, Waterwalker Film Fest)



Poet, performer, pundit and preacher rolled into one, David Newland is the originator of a style he calls "Zen Canadiana".

Co-founder of the Corktown Ukulele Jam, David helped lead the ukulele renaissance in Canada.

Widely respected as a stage host, David has been the MC the Gordon Lightfoot tribute "The Way We Feel" for eleven years.

David wrote the theme song for the CTV railway documentary “Canada’s Greatest Ride” and won "Best Music" at the Waterwalker Film Fest for "Faster Than You Know."

As founder and Editor-in-Chief of Roots Music Canada, David helped build a large and loyal online audience for the Canadian roots scene, and hosted of The Woodshed Sessions webshow.

David is an established writer, currently working on a book thanks to a Writers' Works in Progress Grant from the Ontario Arts Council.

He blogs at www.davidnewland.com