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A Good Dog Is Lost (BIO)

A Good Dog Is Lost - Ken Tizzard

 

 

KEN TIZZARD

A Good Dog Is Lost

A Good Dog Is Lost is a musical labour of love, one crafted with passion, patience and immense skill. To be released November 6th, 2018 it features singer/songwriter Ken Tizzard offering fresh versions of eleven songs written by the late great Ron Hynes, the Newfoundland folk songsmith who passed away in 2015, but whose deep and rich catalogue lives on.

Now based in Campbellford, Ontario, Ken was born and raised in St. John's, Newfoundland, a locale that retains a huge place in his heart and soul; as does the work of Ron Hynes, an artist who became both a friend and songwriting mentor for Tizzard.

The roots of this project date back to November 2013, when Hynes asked Tizzard to accompany him on bass for a 12-date tour of Newfoundland, a highly memorable experience that had a lasting impact on Ken.

In 2016, grieving the loss of his friend, Tizzard created an acclaimed one-man show,Hynesight, that he performed at noted Ontario arts venue Westben Festival Theatre. The production featured heartfelt and intimate reinterpretations of songs written by Ron Hynes, as well as Tizzard originals that Hynes had an influence upon, interspersed with recollections of the time the two spent together.

"I learned about 30 Ron songs and played 12 in the show," Ken recalls. "The night was recorded and I thought I could use that as a live album, but then I shelved that idea."

The power of Hynes' songs continued to resonate with Tizzard, however, compelling him to create and record A Good Dog Is Lost. He explains that "the original thought for the album was to record it with my bassist, Mr, Grant, as a duo, the way I had toured with Ron. But then last summer these other players showed up: drummer Steve Dagg, multi-instrumentalist Luke Mercier (fiddle, banjo, mandolin), and guitarist Ken Kelly.

"I locked myself in the studio, chose the songs I wanted to record, and started fleshing them out. The sound was very much curated by what I was hearing in my mind."

The self-produced album was recorded in Tizzard's own Storey House Studio, with the exception of "St. John's Waltz.” It features duet vocals from Juno-winning singer/songwriter Amelia Curran (another huge Hynes fan) recorded in St. John's with pianist Paul Kinsman, a long-time Hynes sideman, contributing accordion.

The result on A Good Dog Is Lost is a collection of songs that play eloquent homage to Ron Hynes while remaining true to Tizzard's own creative essence.

"The one thing I worried about was becoming the Ron Hynes impersonator," Ken candidly explains. "I  really wanted to take these songs and take everything I'd learned from Ron about those songs but then make them into my songs and play them the way I would play them. I hope I hit the mark on that."

That he certainly did. Tizzard's rugged but emotionally expressive vocals are the perfect vehicle to drive into the heart of Hynes' unique and poetic songwriting. Helping make these reinterpretations even more compelling are the shared experiences and similar backgrounds of the two artists.

Ken notes that "we have a lot of similar character traits, both being musicians from Newfoundland who have had some success with major labels, if in different musical worlds [for Tizzard, that was as bassist in Canadian rock favourites The Watchmen and Thornley]. Touring together, we had a lot of conversations I don't think he could have with other musicians, plus we had a lot of shared friends. There was  just a bond between us that allowed me to siphon some of the tools from his toolbox, and I learned how to use them as I was working with him."

Choosing 11 songs from the vast Hynes catalogue was no easy task, but Tizzard notes that "there is a specific choice behind every one of these songs. Some are chosen because they're my favourites, others just needed to be on the record, and others are there because of experiences I had with Ron in playing the song. It is a really nice collection of memories for me."

 It is no surprise that both "Sonny's Dream" and "St. John's Waltz" are reprised here. Written in 1976 and first recorded by The Wonderful Grand Band, "Sonny's Dream" is Hynes' best known song internationally. Those covering it have included Great Big Sea, Emmylou Harris, Christy Moore, Valdy, Mary Black, Stan Rogers, and Hayley Westenra. Tizzard's version features fiddle and female backing vocals (courtesy of Ken's daughters Caitlyn, 18), and Cassidy,16) to fine effect.

"St. John's Waltz" is one of the most popular songs written about Newfoundland, and the sweetly contrasting vocals of Tizzard and Amelia Curran help make this a highlight of an album devoid of lowlights.

Tizzard used to play "Judgement," another Hynes classic, with his group Bad Intent. "Ron once said 'if you ever record a band version of that song, I'd love to hear it,' so I decided to go for that on this record."

The only song on A Good Dog Is Lost that is not a solo Ron Hynes composition is "No Change In Me." A co-write with another Canadian songwriting great, Murray McLauchlan, it explores the theme of Newfoundlanders forced to leave home to seek work - "you can't live for free, you can't drink the sea." That theme is also explored on the album's a cappella opening track "4 the USA" and "Old Perlican."

"House" is included in part because it is Ken's wife Alison's favourite Hynes song. "We do it quite differently than Ron, making it more country," says Tizzard. "'1962' is one of my favourites," he adds. "That is the first song I ever played with Ron on that tour."

Tizzard took some liberties with "Man Of A Thousand Songs," something of a signature song for hardcore troubadour Hynes. "Ron recorded that when he was on EMI, and it was the big pop song off his record Cryer's Paradise. It rather became his nickname and his legacy, the idea of the alter-ego of the drug addicted singer/songwriter, the character that rather takes over your life.

"It was an upbeat full band song on record, but when I played it with Ron he did it real slow and in a different key and quite a different arrangement. That was the arrangement I took and built the band around that."

In preparation for their 2013 tour, Tizzard learned and charted a huge number of Ron Hynes songs. That experience left him with a deep appreciation of the musical complexity and originality of Hynes' material. "Part of the beauty of Ron's songwriting is his way of taking very complex melodies, chords and structures and making them sound from a distance really easy."

To those familiar with Ken Tizzard only as the propulsive bassist in major Canadian rock bands, A Good Dog Is Lost would come as a surprise. The album does, however, fit neatly into the other side of Ken's musical personality, that of the guitar-toting roots singer/songwriter.

Wearing his rock 'n roll hat, Ken has toured internationally, appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and played such major venues as The Air Canada Centre. Donning his cowboy hat, he has long performed his original material, solo or with a band, for a loyal and growing audience in pubs, clubs and concert halls and festivals across Canada and the US.

 

Beginning with his 2006 debut, Quiet Storey House...an Introduction, Tizzard has released five stylistically eclectic solo records prior to A Good Dog Is Lost. His previous record, 2015's No Dark No Light, was very positively received, though a diagnosis of MS for his wife Alison prevented him from extensive touring to promote it.

 

Ken remains very active on many different musical fronts. The Watchmen continue to occasionally perform large concerts, he works on co-writing musicals and booking shows at Westben, and as head of independent label Booth Street Records, he produces and releases albums by such area artists as Brian Finley, Muddy Hack, Ontario Kelly and Carvan Haylan, Elly Kelly, and Jane Archer and the Reactionaries

For now, his focus is on A Good Dog Is Lost and his passionate advocacy for the songwriting genius of Ron Hynes. "People should know who he is, and that is one of the reasons I wanted to do this record," Tizzard states. " As much recognition as Ron got on the East Coast, I do feel he was over looked by a lot of other communities. When I played the Philly Folk fest, I asked the audience if they'd heard of him, and few had."