Ron Hynes

I wouldn’t call this post a meal in itself – more a retrospective amuse bouche.

I’ve seen a bit more music recently than the reviews on this blog show. I just haven’t posted about them all. So the next few are a bit of a catch-up: snippets and standouts from gigs I’ve been to over the past year or so.

The first one is Ron Hynes aka The Man of a Thousand Songs. According to Wikipedia, he’s responsible for the 41st greatest Canadian song of all time on the 2005 CBC Radio One series 50 Tracks: The Canadian Version. Despite its almost comical specificity, that’s no small accolade. The song is called ‘Sonny’s Dream’ and, Canadian or not, it has definitely been toward the top of my list of favourites.

The source of the discovery was a showcase of Newfoundland folk music at Notes in Sydney’s Newtown in January of this year. A friend is a native of eastern Canada (Nova Scotia) and he invited me to join him and his friends for what I expected to be a hit and miss affair, but was entirely wonderful from start to finish. I knew precious little about the ‘Newfie’ folk scene before this evening but soon discovered a diversity of performers; some of whom are dedicated to preserving the Celtic traditions, whilst others have evolved in different directions: jazz/swing, rock and more alternative folk styles.

I’ll provide a link to my friend’s more detailed review of the show at the bottom of this post as it mentions all the acts. They’re definitely worth looking into as they are all excellent. Special mention to The Once and what I heard of The Dardanelles.

As I say, whilst I enjoyed all of the acts for the evening, I came away with ‘Sonny’s Dream’ stuck in my head. It’s just a beautiful, simple tune woven around a poignant and quite difficult issue – the dreadful waste of potential as a young man’s sense of duty keeps him on an isolated farm looking after his ageing mother and unable to experience the world.

The song came to prominence when Christy Moore covered it and has since taken on a life of its own. In fact, it wasn’t until much later that I realised I had actually heard it before under a different name. A relative has a recording of a version (simply called ‘Sonny’) recorded by Emmylou Harris, Mary Black and Dolores Keane. It’s a beautiful version, but I think I still prefer to hear it from Hynes – something about hearing it come from the mind who created it, or being closer to the craftsman’s intent. Maybe it’s just the extra buzz from hearing it live and sung full-throttle by every Canadian voice in the room and I’m just a sucker for a singalong.

Whatever. Here’s Ron’s version:

Footnote: I met Ron after the show when I bought one of his albums (Get Back Change)  from him. He came across as a true gentleman and gentle soul. I love those moments.

Here’s the review from my friend:

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