Music You Don't Know You Like Yet
2010-10-02Review by Nick of Enoch Kent Take A Trip With Me Bio: Scotland born and now Canada-based, this legendary interpreter and songsmith's love of traditional music was first inspired by his family. His father played the concertina, and popular songs, Scottish songs and old-time favorites were often sung at home. After graduating from the Glasgow School of Art in sculpture and ceramics, Enoch formed the traditional Scottish group,The Reivers,. The group researched the history, lyrics and music of Scottish folk songs which were published by The Scotsman. Scottish Television then signed the band to perform these old songs every week to a new and ever-widening audience. The band's live shows and steadfast interest in promoting traditional music formed the foundation of the Scottish folk music revival that took place in the 1950s and 1960s. Later, when Enoch moved to London, he kept this music alive and well with his folk band"The Exiles". Since emigrating to Canada in the 60s, Enoch performed in many folk clubs and festivals across the country to wide acclaim. During that time, he focused on live performance and decided to put recording aside for awhile. However, after a 36-year recording hiatus, at the age of 70, Enoch well made up for lost time with his return to the studio and the release of four outstanding CDs on the Canadian indie label SecondAvenue Records: "I'm A Workin' Chap" (2002), "Love, Lust & Loathing" (2003), "For The Women" (2005), and "I'm A Rover" (2006). Enoch's music is treasured by traditional music enthusiasts with a passion for story-songs, love & betrayal ballads, and gritty politics. While his songs are deeply rooted in the traditional Scottish style, much of his subject matter is Canadian, giving his music a unique cultural blend. Enoch was recently nominated for the Canadian Folk Music Awards category of Best Singer-Traditional. The songs he writes, the songs he interprets and the stories he sings are rooted in (tradition). "I have always sung for us." He continues in his husky, Scottish brogue. "I've written a few personal songs, but they got something to do with fellow working men--like a love song from a coal miner, deeply in love, but with nothing to give the woman. The same thing is true in the farm community. If there is a hint of unrest, he's one of us, he's not one of them." Enoch grew up singing the songs that everyone else was singing. Sentimental Scottish songs, music hall and popular songs of the day were all a part of his raising. His mother dragged him to a local ceilidh at the Highlander's Institute and everything changed. He discovered story songs. In fact, he was so inspired by these songs he set off for the library where there was a music room specializing in Scottish music. He set out to learn a song a day. "At this time I was invited to sing at ceilidhs as a ballad singer because I liked the stories--the big ballads with the stories in them as opposed to just songs." He remembers. "So I was off and running. I went to a ceilidh in Edinburgh. They asked me to sing, so I sang. They asked me again, and I sang. But I only knew six songs. At the end of it, I got an encore. I sang one of them again and I still got a cheer because they liked the way I sang. He emigrated to Canada in the 1960s with his wife to look for work. They ended up in Toronto, where Enoch happily worked in the advertising business for 32 years. He was a regular at the Mariposa Folk Festival and at the famed Fiddler's Green coffeehouse in Toronto, but music was not the main focus in Enoch's life. This changed rather quickly after reaching retirement. He released the CD I'm a Workin Chap in 2002, Love, Lust, and Loathing in 2003, and For the Women in 2005. "I was busting to get them out. I had a story to tell." Enoch mused. "I couldn't keep them to myself because I was asked. 'You have to record these things. People aren't going to grasp them if you don't do them.' Inside all of these songs you will find traditional songs. I will never leave it alone." His philosophy and guiding principles are still very much alive in his writing, performing and song choices. "I don't carry Celtic gloom with me everywhere I go. You're supposed to be entertaining people. Not lecturing them." Garnet Rogers adds, "I admire him tremendously as both a friend and an artist. He has influenced me a lot, both in terms of what I look for in a song or in music, but also his attitude towards what's important. It's just good to see someone out there doing it for the love of it, and just rejoicing in it. That is really inspiring." At 73 Enoch Kent is still very excited about sharing these songs and stories with an audience. When we spoke, he was preparing his workshops for an upcoming weekend folk music camp. He broke into a verse of "The Three Gypsies" while explaining the concept of Muckle songs. "These are songs that are so dramatic and so big that the late John Huston or Steven Spielberg could walk in and make an entire movie out of them," he related with enthusiasm. Scots are infamous for their thriftiness (translate miserly). An example: two Scotsmen were playing a round of golf. On the fourth fairway, one of the gents had a stroke. His opponent made him count it. (I'm here all week, folks). Traditional Scottish songs are generally very sparse musically, but are rich in prose – this album is a classic example. For over 60 years, Scottish-born Canadian Enoch Kent has been singing and entertaining crowds big and small with his traditional and powerful song-stories. Enoch Kent is a true workingman, and weaves stories for the crowd, delving deeply into his own rich workingman's experience. So many of these songs relate to his ties to the people and histories of the lands in which he grew up (Canada: “The Murder of Ginger Goodwin”, “Store Owners Christmas”, “1913 Massacre”, “The Pawnshop Window”; Scotland: “Bonnie Susie Cleland”, “Off To Sea Once More”, “Travelling Down The Castlereagh”, “A'e Fond Kiss”; London: “Mothers, Daughters, Wives”), and several others seem to come off the cuff as we sit around with a wee draught o' Bellhaven Wee Heavy Ale – husky a Capella songs such as: “The Bonnie Wee Lassie That Never Said No”, “The Gallowa' Hills”, “Peas Brose”, “Rigs O' Rye”. There are some songs that just seem to flow from the lips of Enoch after all these years: “The Old Time Songs” comes to mind. Although my musical tastes go all over the map, I generally do not get excited about story songs. This is no different. Enoch Kent is a very good storyteller and has a voice much like Burl Ives on two packs a day. His strength lies in the skillfully woven imagery he produces in his story songs. As music, I would have to take a bye on this; however, as storytelling, I would definitely put him at the top of the list. Review by Nick Nickelson
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