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What Folks Are Saying...

Great solo work from this The Watchmen alum!

Sounds like:  memories shared, full of emotion

 

There's a special kind of song out there, one that songwriters have been chasing for decades. Few have caught it. Ron Hynes was one of those, says Ken Tizzard – a man who could write a deceptively simple tune with a story people wanted to hear, songs filled with characters at their best and worst, love, loss and discovery.

"You can be tremendously entertained by that kind of songwriting," says Tizzard, the Newfoundland-born, Campbellford-based bassist for The Watchmen and Thornley, whose side gig as a solo singer-songwriter has taken precedence in recent years.

Tizzard is on the road with his new album, A Good Dog Is Lost. It's his tribute to a man who inspired him as he was coming up the ranks as a young musician with an introspective side, and played a big role in his transition from hard rocker to acclaimed singer-songwriter.

Tizzard released a video to launch the album. His take on Sonny's Dream, recorded with his daughters Cassidy and Caitlyn, was turned into a gentle, rolling video filmed in a vintage car on the backroads of Northumberland County.

He's also been touring, playing pubs and clubs across the country, places where Hynes's songs still resonate. He brings that music to the Red Dog in Peterborough on Saturday, with a CD launch party starting at 8 p.m. Admission is $15.

Hynes, a Newfoundland folk musician whose music made him one of the country's finest singer-songwriters, died in 2015 at 64 after a cancer battle.

He and Tizzard had been on the road together before his death after Hynes approached Tizzard in 2013 and asked if he'd join him for a tour of smaller duo shows. "He was getting more fragile and asked if I would step in as his bass player," Tizzard says.

This led to the two of them touring in one car, their instruments in the back with a couple of suitcases. Nothing fancy, just two musicians on the road.

It was during this period, while staying in quiet motels, that Tizzard started playing some of his own songs for Hynes. In addition to his work as a rock bassist, Tizzard writes and performs gentler, country-tinged songs, both solo and with a band, and Hynes was a big influence.

The feedback was valuable, and helped shape Tizzard's solo sound as the two of them worked through as many as 30 Hynes tunes.

"I use the word 'mentor' but I don't think it really applies to Ron. I'd play a song and he'd go 'eh …' I'd play another one and he's say 'That one's good.'"

But while he was writing his own songs in hotel rooms, he was playing Hynes's work on stage each night.

Those classics include Sonny's Dream. St. John's Waltz, 1962, My Father's Ghost and the title track, songs Tizzard could relate to long before he sat down beside Hynes to play them.

"Those sort of lyrics remind me of me – the Newfoundlander who leaves home and tries to make it," he says, adding that working with Hynes helped his own solo songs take on new life as he embraced the storytelling side of music, as heard on his albums.

Years later, after Hynes's death, Tizzard began thinking about recording some of his songs. Not as a cover artist, or impersonator, but as a tribute to the legacy Hynes left behind – a legacy, Tizzard says, not enough people know about.

The first step was a show at Westben, Hynesight, where he played songs by Hynes and himself and told stories about their time together.

But eventually he started thinking about a record.

"I was on and off the fence with the record, but last November I started recording, and was done by January."

He turned to a new group of musicians to work on the album. The band came together naturally, centred around one of Tizzard's musical haunts – the Church Key Pub in Campbellford, where he plays a regular gig called Whisky Wednesdays with Ken Tizzard and the Random Strangers. 

"Campellford has been such an inspiring place to make music," Tizzard says. "It makes the place feel more like home to us."

At different times, he met musicians new to the area who were interested in jamming a bit – and the new band, with Ken Grant, Steve Dagg and Luke Mercier, took shape.

The album, recorded at Tizzard's own Storey House Studio in Campbellford, also features guest vocals from Amelia Curran with piano from Paul Kinsman on the track St. John's Waltz, recorded in Newfoundland.

"I felt like Ron was looking down on me, so to speak," Tizzard says of the finished product. "I think he'd be happy with it."

Learn more at kentizzard.com

St. John’s born musician Ken Tizzard has come home to release his latest project.

“A Good Dog Is Lost” is a collection of Ron Hynes Songs. Tizzard told Irish Newfoundland Show host, Greg Smith, this was an album he wanted to do, but was hesitant of doing for a long time.

He says he talked to Hynes about doing it before but never got around to it. After a period of grief when Hynes passed away, Tizzard admits it was hard to take the first step, but once he began doing demos everything began to take shape.

Tizzard says some of the songs, like Sonny’s Dream, had to make the album, but some of the others came from an emotional attachment. Tizzard toured with Hynes following his first bout with Cancer, and a lot of the songs they played had to be altered due to the singer’s voice being weak. He says some of the songs on the album will sound different from the original version, but will sound closer to the way the duo performed them.

Craig Gilbert | publisher@fitzhugh.ca

Decades after rocking the Atha-B as the bass player for the Watchmen, Ken Tizzard is returning to Jasper with a loaded six-string on his back.

Tizzard is releasing an album of Ron Hynes songs in November, and he’s pumping it up on the Home Routes tour in Alberta in October.

He stops in Jasper on Oct. 18 for the umpteenth time.

“It’s been a while since we played the f—in’ Atha-B, but I had some good times playing that little room in the early 90s,” Tizzard said on Monday. “The ‘B was the first place we played as The Watchmen when we were just getting on the go. We’d be there all the time, I love it up there.”

Tizzard will bring a different vibe to the Alpine Summit Seniors Lodge when he appears on the 2018 Home Routes small-c concert series.

His album, A Good Dog Is Lost, is filled with Hynes classics including Sonny’s Dream.

“It’s been recorded by 200 people around the world,” he said. “The entire country of Ireland thinks they own it. Hynes was one of those Newfoundland artists who just kept putting out music his whole life.”

Tizzard was on tour with Hynes while he was writing his last record.

“At 50 it’s nice to be able to find someone to look up to.”

Hynes died in 2015. Tizzard said it’s an emotional experience for the audience as much as it is for him when he plays a set from the new album. He had concerns about becoming a “Ron Hynes impersonator,” their common Newfoundland musician heritages playing as a drawback instead of a strength.

“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,” he said. “I hope I hit the mark on that. It’s emotional for me and for people that come out to see it. They have a connection.”

Tizzard has popped in to Calgary and Edmonton but hasn’t been through Alberta in years. He’s based in Ontario now.

“I’m just looking forward to driving around and seeing the mountains,” he said. “It’s such a peaceful place. It’s a nice change from Ontario. It’s the same thing when I go back to Newfoundland. When I’m home, I love being with my wife and kids, but I miss my road life. With the history with the other bands, brings fans that have been around a long time, fans that have become friends. I’m not sporting the mohawk and stomping around on stage playing bass anymore. It’ll be nice to get out and show them what I’ve been working on.”

Music is about stories, and Ken Tizzard has plenty to share

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Acoustic sets can be difficult to get right. When you’re reducing a selection of songs to just the lyrics and some basic chords, you run the risk of everything starting to sound the same. Sure, loyal fans may appreciate it, but how do you keep it interesting to newcomers for a full length setlist?

There’s a few things you can do: you can be an immense musical talent, for example, with a selection of songs that work just as well with a one man show as they do with a 30 piece band. You could also have an incredible variety to the types of songs you play, or create a consistent theme that sets the mood of your show. More audacious performers might even try to make the show more than just a musical performance.

Most performers will typically pick one of these ideas; Ken Tizzard, however, did all of them at Mahtay Cafe on March 17. He did more than just sing songs: he told jokes and stories, not just to fill the awkward moments between songs, but as an integral part of his performance. We learned an awful lot about Ken Tizzard that night, what makes him tick, what makes him sad and most importantly, what inspires him. Tizzard wove a complete narrative through his performance, spanning from his childhood in St. Johns, Newfoundland, right up to conception of his most recent record.

A number of Tizzard’s dear friends and loved ones appeared throughout the tale he told us, but none more so than Ron Hynes, the famed “Man of a Thousand Songs”. Tizzard has an intense personal connection both to Hynes and Hynes’ music, which revealed itself in great detail over the course of the evening. Many of the songs played were covers of Hynes’, and each came with a great story about the man.

Tizzard is more than a musician, he’s a storyteller, with no shortage of stories to tell. A whole life has happened to this man; his days of being a skater punk at St. Johns’ Harbour are long behind him. But that moment, and everything both before and after, is etched into his memory. No detail was forgotten as he regaled his audience with these stories; no word was wasted or expense spared. While he was talking about Hynes in between songs, he commended his ability to tell complete stories in just three or four minutes. Tizzard’s originals do much the same (and hold up against the songs written by his idol), but his whole performance takes the concept to another level. In around 75 minutes, Tizzard told us about an entire life.

It’s a joy to be a part of; I’ve never known a concert to be so personal and intimate. The overall result is that I left Mahtay that night feeling like I had gotten to know somebody. Ken Tizzard cuts a somewhat mysterious figure on stage, with a loose-fitting tie, leather waistcoat and eyes hidden beneath sunglasses and a trucker hat. But he’s not mysterious at all — he’d just rather let his music do that talking.