Well… This is really fun. Actually, it’s way more than just plain old fun. It’s a recording of 20 of the brilliant songs written by Ron Hynes, Newfoundland’s “Man of a Thousand Songs.” Produced by Alan Doyle and Cory Tetford, the recording includes new arrangements of Ron’s best known songs.
Sadly, Ron died at the young age of 64 in 2015, but left us with a body of work he penned over his 40-year career in music. Here, we have 20 of Newfoundland and Labrador’s finest musicians singing their hearts out to pay tribute to Ron’s genius.
Ron was born in St. John’s but raised in the community of Ferryland, NL, on the Atlantic coast, close to the most easterly point of land in North America. Ron created and performed with the fabulous Wonderful Grand Band and also as a solo artist. His songs are regularly performed by musicians worldwide but are also widely sung in the kitchens and pubs of Newfoundland, they are that loved and respected.
The title of this album, Sonny Don’t Go Away, comes from the first line of the chorus of what is perhaps Ron’s best known song, “Sonny’s Dream.” It explores the unbelievable heartache Newfoundlanders feel when contemplating leaving their beautiful island home for work, a better life, or just to see the outside world. It’s a sentiment that just about everyone on The Rock knows well, since everyone knows someone who has left. I figure that there’s not a soul in Newfoundland today who can’t sing at least the chorus of that song, if not the whole thing.
Ron’s work as a songsmith left an indelible impression on people far beyond Newfoundland’s rocky shorelines. But it marked Newfoundlanders forever. These are people who love music and love to sing. To be able to sing of your own place, your own time, your own geography, your own community, is a gift; truly a wonderful gift that Ron has left.
“I was honoured to take on a project that I knew would be really important to the music community in Newfoundland and Labrador and the general population of Newfoundland and Labrador as well,” said Alan Doyle. “Dealing with Ron Hynes’ material in this neck of the woods is like dealing with the Bible. He showed people like me that we could be ourselves and we should be ourselves and not try to pretend we’re from anywhere else. Not only was it ok for us to sing our own songs and tell our own stories but it was essential that we do so.”
Some years ago, I had the immense pleasure of hearing Ron play a solo show at Hugh’s Room in Toronto. Ron sang “Sonny’s Dream” and remarked that he’d dashed off the song one day and had no idea what he’d created. The song took on a life of its own and went out into the world.
So, on Oct. 20, we will have this treasure of a recording to listen to. Twenty of Ron’s best songs have been recorded by a tremendous roster of artists such as Alan Doyle, Tim Baker, The Once, The Dardanelles, The Ennis Sisters, Matthew Byrne, Cory Tetford, The Fortunate Ones, Mick Davis, and Kellie Loder, to name just a few. Every artist that Alan approached to contribute instantly said yes.
Of course, we have “Sonny’s Dream” on the album, but we also have treasures such as “No Change in Me,” “Atlantic Blue,” “St. John’s Waltz” and “Leaving on the Evening Tide.” That last one has been released as a music video, featuring Tim Baker on piano. (Watch for Alan Doyle in the band, singing backup!) It’s a beautifully designed and executed short film. Ghostly images of Ron play in the background and you can feel his presence as you listen to his words sung to his tune.
You can see that film and pre-order the music via the website: www.sonnydontgoaway.ca. You can order a digital download, a physical CD or a limited edition white vinyl double record. Streaming services will also offer it. Personally, I can’t wait to hear what this magnificent team of musicians has conjured.