Feature

Only Love – Benefit Concert

Rosemary Phelan had planned to release her new CD, What Sings In The Blood, on Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at Hugh’s Room in Toronto. However, she has been fighting ovarian cancer over the past few months, and as a result, is not able to perform.

Her good friend Jon Brooks decided to pick up the Hugh’s Room date, and with the help of many talented friends, will release the CD on her behalf. The only merch being sold that night will be the new CD, and all monies raised will go to Rosemary as she has not been able to work (as a community nurse). Like so many of us today, Rosemary is without the kinds of benefits or income required at times like these.

We strongly urge those of you who can participate to support Rosemary – a woman who has helped thousands of others in times of need – to join us at Hugh’s Room Wednesday evening. Roots Music Canada will be there: Andy Frank hosts and David Newland performs.

Meanwhile, Jon and Rosemary recently got together to talk about the new record.

JB: First of all, I love how the songs on WHAT SINGS IN THE BLOOD seem to talk to each other; the CD feels more akin to a novel with songs as chapters. How much of this was by design and/or by creative intuition?

RP: I would call it an “unfolding”. I found myself checking my interior compass often, looking for the path that connected each song to the next, trying to stay true to the greater story that was slowly revealing itself.

JB: I remember the working title of WHAT SINGS IN THE BLOOD was ‘RED’. And, as all themes should, yours is deeply layered without being obvious. RED as fire, light, love, passion, lust, birth, death, inspiration, anger, sin… Are we on the right track here?

RP: Yes. Red is both sacred and profane. As human beings, we often lose ourselves along that continuum; at some point the luminous, rose-pink of love degenerates into the muddy scarlet of violence. Does this have to happen? Do we have to wander so far from beauty? That was my question with this album.

JB: On rare occasion we all seem capable of writing those ‘essential’ songs, songs that, as Guy Clark once observed, ‘write us’. I recall John Fogarty talking about PROUD MARY and his feeling, the second after he completed it, that he’d just written an American classic. I suspect that’s the case with THREE WISHES?

RP: I believe we can sometimes carry the seed of a song inside us for a long while… we may or may not be aware it’s there, gestating. Then one day something gets triggered; something calls that song out of you. That’s how I felt about “Three Wishes.” It was born, fully formed, in answer to a need that wasn’t present before.

JB: I realized only recently the futility in the question of ‘influences’. Why? Because no matter what influence I name, there’s something lacking in their work for me. If I could name a songwriter doing exactly what I’m trying to do, it’s unlikely I’d feel compelled to write another song. So: rather than asking your influences, what’s missing for you in your favourite 3 songwriters’ songs?

RP: I have a deep respect for several of our contemporary songwriters, and derive a lot of inspiration and solace from their work. As for me, well, there’s a kind of arrow-to-the-heart “language” that isn’t predicated on cleverness or intellectual prowess (as much as I admire those qualities); it has its roots in something basic. It speaks to the interior intelligence and wisdom we all possess, no matter what our personal story, or our advantages and disadvantages in life. It’s love. It’s our common language, and it’s what I always yearn to be “speaking” as I write.

JB: Throughout my favourite CDs I hear a common pulse – a consistent ‘beat and/or tone’, a visceral sense of unity. I’m thinking of Joni Mitchell’s BLUE; of Neil Young’s TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT; of Van Morrison’s VEEDON FLEECE; of Nick Cave’s THE BOATMAN’S CALL – the list goes on… Whatever the pulse may be, it will elicit varied responses in your audience, but for you, what is that pulse in WHAT SINGS IN THE BLOOD?

RP: The best answer I can give is: Feel your own heartbeat; your breath. You’ll hear it, more eloquently than I could ever describe… it’s a message that can’t be denied.

JB: What question about your songs and purpose do you hope I won’t ask?

RP: “Who are your influences,” and “why do you write?” You had the good sense not to, so thanks!

Ed Note: Redwing, one of the tracks from the new CD, has just been nominated for the Ontario Arts Council’s Colleen Peterson Award. Enjoy this performance of the song from FRANKFEST 2009 (August 7) featuring Jason LaPrade on guitar.


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1 comment

  1. avatar
    Janet Sadel 28 October, 2010 at 01:19

    Rosemary,

    You were my songwriting teacher for a while a couple of winters ago. I’m the one who bought your Strum Stick. I truly did benefit from that course – in terms of courage and focus. And I thank you for that.
    I’m writing and journaling now. I did make that move to Vancouver – in Sept.
    I’m in touch with other singers here and learning to read music in a Jazz/blues music course.
    Who knows – once I settle in out West – there may be more songs I’ll come up with.

    Big congratulations on the record release!!! I’ll get a copy.
    I couldn’t watch the live feed. My heart goes out to you – I’m wishing you strength and recovery.
    I know, I will be thinking of you often now.

    All the best, Peace and Health,

    Janet Sadel

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