PROVIDENCE BAY – As anyone who knows him can attest, Merdick McFarlane is something of a renaissance man. He confesses that comes from not being able to hold still for any serious length of time. “If I don’t have three things on the go I don’t know what to do with myself,” he laughs when contacted by The Expositor late last week.
One of his latest projects has a triple set of benefits: highlighting Songs of Manitoulin—literally—while at the same time raising funds for the Mindemoya Hospital Auxiliary and a raffle ticket on the back of the CD features a chance to win tickets to Bluegrass in the Country.
Mr. McFarlane had written a song about Manitoulin and that led to a conversation where he began to wonder just how many songs there are about Manitoulin. The most famous of that genre is probably ‘Moonlight on the Manitoulin,’ but he knew there were plenty more out there, given how many songwriters and musicians call Manitoulin home, for at least part of the year. He decided to look into it, crowdsourcing suggestions on social media and through articles in this newspaper. “I got quite a few responses,” said Mr. McFarlane. “There was definitely enough out there for an album, probably more than enough for a couple.” The result was a compilation CD featuring local artists and their songs extolling the virtues of the Island.
What all of the songs have in common, besides sharing some wide range country music stylings, are a deep and abiding love of all things Manitoulin, each extolling some aspect of the Island, its people (especially its redneck girls), flora, fauna, fishing, hunting and…well, you get the picture.
In fact, all of the tunes on Songs of Manitoulin feature Manitoulin in their title but one—‘The Tehkummah Song.’
The front cover of the CD features the Little Current swing bridge, referenced by more than one of the songs, with a photo by Jib Turner, while the back cover photo and CD design was put together by Andre Probst.
Inside the plastic case are: ‘Manitoulin Dance Hall Days,’ an ode to that country rite of passage written by Cliff Jewell (performed by Riverbend Song Demos); ‘Manitoulin Style’ by Jim Beech (performed by Riverbend Song Demos); ‘Manitoulin Beckons You,’ ‘Manitoulin Time,’ ‘Manitoulin Redneck Girls’ and ‘Heading Home to Manitoulin’ (all also performed by Riverbend Song Demos) all written by Mr. McFarlane; ‘Our Day on Manitoulin’ by Lori Gordon Hall; ‘Manitoulin Hunting Song’ by John Gilchrist; ‘Take Me Back to Manitoulin Island’ by J.R. Aubertin; ‘Manitoulin So Much to Learn’ by Wayne Bester; the aforementioned ‘The Tehkumah Song’ by Andre Probst (performed by Riverbend Song Demos); and ‘Manitoulin Island’ by Dale Gilchrist.
“I tried to get them recorded locally,” said Mr. McFarlane, but there was simply “not enough time. Some were willing to do it, some didn’t have the time.”
He then checked out Toronto and other Canadian production houses. “Everybody I tried wanted $700 to $3,000 a song and 50 percent of the song rights.” That was a non-starter; besides, when he dug a little deeper everything was done south of the border anyway. “I thought ‘yeah, right’,” said Mr. McFarlane.
Since Mr. McFarlane had a friend with a recording studio in Bristol, he went with his next best option. The result is a high-quality CD that captures the spirit and zeitgeist of Island life through 12 songs.
Produced by Big Bird Little Worm Production in Bristol, Tennessee (sorry Nashville, Bristol is the real birthplace of country thanks to the Carter Family et al), the CD retails for $20, with net proceeds (after production expenses) going to the Mindemoya Hospital Auxiliary.
Songs of Manitoulin CDs are for sale at Occasions in Gore Bay, Bridal Veil Esso in Kagawong, Buies in Spring Bay, Williamsons in Mindemoya, Guardian Pharmacy in Mindemoya, Little Current and Manitowaning, Finn’s Gas Bar in M’Chigeeng, CFRM 100.7 The Island Radio Station and The Expositor office in Little Current.