Rollin Penner and the Traveling Medicine Show
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Rollin Penner and the Traveling Medicine Show


Band Folk Country


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If anyone was depressed the season's early snowfall Friday,there was no better place to be to have spirits uplifted than Rollin Penner's Traveling Medicine Show playing in Steinbach.

It was billed after all, as a "cure for various complaints, sundry aches and pains..."
Attended by a warm crowd of well-wishers and casual music lovers, the show was a CD release party, an ode to Manitoba and a good concert with plenty of humour all rolled into one.

The evening at the regional school theatre had an auspicious beginning, with Penner reading a sketch from 'The View from Greenfield'-about dour Uncle Albert and the morning clients at Annie's Cafe, a fictional eating establishment in rural Manitoba, which was aired weekly on CBC Radio for six years.

The tone set-the audience knew what to expect and the good times rolled on, the music interspersed with brief stories and introductions to songs. Appearing with Penner on stage were his son Brett on acoustic guitar-and the banjo on a few numbers-John Gosselin on stand-up bass and Dan Donahue on electric guitar (he also produced the CD).

The skill level in the band is prodigious with Brett and John often joining Penner on back-up vocals which resulted in rich harmonies, as well as doing solo pieces with any mix of string accompaniment.

Many of the numbers came off the CD-the band's first-entitled "This and That" which allowed Penner to bring in various genres of music, including folk, country and bluegrass, as well as the serious offset by the comedic. If there was a theme that flowed through the concert it was the beauty of having a sense of place-in this case growing up on the Manitoba prairie and interacting with its people,warts and all. Penner grew up in Kleefeld and lived in Steinbach for many years before relocating to Winnipeg-all ofthese places make it into songs such as 'Greenfield' (which one would suppose is Kleefeld) 'Manitoba Blues', 'Rhyme for Winnipeg' and 'This Town'.

Many songs had a humourous twist, especially when he based his pieces on popular songs but composed his own lyrics. Examples of this are 'You left me just when I needed you most'(the Randy Van Warmer song Penner addressed to Belinda Stronach). 'Crazy'(a Patsy Cline tune but speaking here about George Bush fiascos) and 'Out on the Mira' (as sung by Anne Murray but speaking of the Salisbury House on Winnipeg's Provencher bridge).

For more information on purchasing the CD 'This and That' as well as books and DVD's produced by Rollin Penner visit the web at - The Carillon, Thursday Oct 15 2009

"Musical Ambassador Does It All"

Musical ambassador does it all
By: Morley Walker 24/09/2009

Is there something Rollin Penner can't do?
The affable Winnipeg entertainer has been a broadcaster, author, newspaper columnist, graphic artist, standup comedian, guitarist, singer and songwriter.
Now he has added recording artist to his resumé, not to mention band leader, with the release of This and That, the debut CD by Rollin Penner and the Traveling Medicine Show.
"If we're going to be a serious band, we needed some tangible product," says Penner, 51, who plays electric guitar in the country-folk trio, alongside his son Brett on acoustic guitar and banjo and John Gosselin on bass.
"A song on the radio is what gives you credibility."
The 12-song CD (which they've paid for themselves and are launching Friday at the Park Theatre) consists of a mix of original tunes and covers, marked by tight three-part harmonies, hummable melodies and uncluttered production values.
"Our own songs have a local focus, like Manitoba Blues, Rhyme for Winnipeg and This Town, which is about Virden," Penner says.
"In our live shows we do comedy songs about the Provencher Bridge and the Asper family."
Those who've heard Penner's group in their gigs around town will recognize the influences of everything from the CBC's old Country Hoedown show and the American Grand Ol' Opry to Canadian Bob Bossin's '60s folk group Stringband. Comedy is a big part of their show.
"I think of Rollin as a Stuart McLean type," says veteran Winnipeg studio owner Dan Donahue, whom Penner hired to produce the CD.
"He really can do it all. He can walk into any hall in small-town Manitoba and deliver the whole package."
CBC Radio listeners will remember Penner for his Vinyl Café-like The View from Greenfield sketches, which aired for six years beginning in 2000. He turned them into a book, The Greenfield Chronicles, which was published in 2003 by former Mary Scorer owner John Oleksiuk's Aivilo Press.
He still writes a slice-of-country-life column, The Jacksons, for the Manitoba Co-operator farm weekly.
All of Penner's work has a sunny quality, so it is surprising to learn that his personal life has been marked by trauma.
He grew up in Kleefeld, where his parents still live, a member of the ultra-conservative Holdeman Mennonite sect. Singing was allowed but not playing musical instruments.
"I don't expect that my parents or my siblings will ever come see me play, as they are religiously opposed to what we do," Penner says. "That being said, our style comes very much from the tradition I grew up in, where a cappella harmonies were all we were allowed."
At 17, he was ex-communicated from the church for what he says was "normal behaviour for a 17-year-old boy."
Penner dropped out of high school and fled to the big city, Steinbach.
"I was deeply scarred for many years," he says. "I rarely talk to my parents today."
In Steinbach, he married, had four children and worked at a series of jobs, everything from carpentry to selling cars. On the side, he wrote, told jokes and played music.
His marriage broke up 10 years ago and he moved to Winnipeg.
"I started over," he says. "Moving here was the best thing to happen to me."
He found work as a graphic designer and fell in love with another Penner, Katherine, the daughter of Winnipeg NDP royalty Addie and Roland. The couple and their blended family live in River Heights.
Last January Penner was laid off from his graphic design job. He decided this was the time to pursue his music more seriously.
"I hope that we can become ambassadors for Manitoba," he says, "sort of the way the Rankin Family is for Cape Breton."
Rollin Penner and the Traveling Medicine Show will also hold a CD release party Oct. 9 in the SRSS Theatre in Steinbach.

- Winnipeg Free Press


The LP "This And That" was released in September 2009. The title song from the album won Rollin Penner an Honorable Mention in the Billboard International Songwriting Contest.

Songs from the album have been in regular rotation on Golden West Broadcasting's Manitoba stations and are also being played on CBC Radio and several University radio stations..



Genre: influences of folk, country, bluegrass, blues, R&B, gospel, comedy
Origin: Winnipeg, Canada
Founder: Rollin Penner (singer, songwriter, actor, comedian, author, broadcaster)
Agency: Superb Entertainment

Band members: Rollin Penner (guitar, harmonica, vocals), John Gosselin (upright bass, bass guitar, vocals), Brett Penner (guitar, banjo, vocals)


Rollin Penner is well known across the Canadian prairies as the writer and performer of the comedy sketch called “The View From Greenfield” which aired twice a week for six years on CBC Radio, as well as for his regular ‘slice of life” column “The Jacksons” which appears bi-weekly in the Manitoba Co-operator newspaper. Building on those successes, he is now rapidly expanding his reputation as a stage performer with the marvelously eclectic trio “Rollin Penner and the Traveling Medicine Show.”

The trio, with Rollin on guitar harmonica and vocals, his son Brett on guitar and vocals, and John Gosselin on bass and vocals features the kind of tight vocal harmonies that have made so many country groups, from the Oak Ridge Boys to Alabama to Lady Antebellum so successful. The difference is, The Traveling Medicine Show doesn’t stick to country. While they do wonderful covers of classic songs from Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and the like, they also switch effortlessly from country to old-time blues, alternative folk, sixties rock and roll, classic folk and their own original songs, which often blend any and all of those styles.

Aside from their unique take on all of the above, The Traveling Medicine Show brings an unusual and highly entertaining comedic presence to the stage. Rollin’s background in stand-up comedy and comedic writing has helped him to create a set of parody songs that has been aptly described as “Weird Al Yankovic for the folk crowd”, and these parodies of songs by everyone from Joni Mitchell to Paul Simon to Anne Murray invariably leave audiences in stitches.

While the bands 2009 album “This and That” continues to sell well, the real strength of The Traveling Medicine Show is the exceptional entertainment value of their live performances. Make no mistake about it, Rollin Penner and The Traveling Medicine Show will not be pidgeon-holed easily. What they will do instead is simply entertain the hell out of everyone who has the good fortune to show up at one of their performances!