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‘Everybody was eager, and a bit terrified’: the making of the Ron Hynes tribute album

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To understand the cultural importance of Ron Hynes, The Man Of A Thousand Songs, to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, just consider the question once posed on social media by Fred’s Records in St. John’s. The legendary music store asked people to list the greatest Newfoundland songwriters in order. They then added, “Assuming, of course, Ron Hynes is number one.” While there were spirited discussions about who should make the list, no one quibbled with Ron topping it.

Further evidence of Ron’s impact can be heard on the new tribute album, Sonny Don’t Go Away. Co-produced by Alan Doyle and Cory Tetford, the 20-song collection features both veteran and younger members of the province’s music scene.

“Some of the younger kids that were involved had never met Ron, while a lot of us had played or written with him,” said Cory recently. “We were all extraordinarily influenced by his work.”

The project is the brainchild of Alan, who reached out to artists he thought would be a good fit for the recording. They all quickly agreed to take part. And surprisingly, they all picked different songs to interpret.

“The thing about being a musician, songwriter and artist in Newfoundland is that we have all bowed a knee to Ron and his brilliance,” Cory said.

“Everybody was eager, and a bit terrified, to be involved!”

The artists showcased on the album include The Once, Ennis Sisters, The Dardanelles and Amelia Curran with Duane Andrews. Younger performers include Mallory Johnson, Yvette Lorraine and The Silver Wolf Band. The level of talent these newer performers possessed was not a surprise to Cory.

“Some of these kids I had never heard of but the beautiful thing about everyone involved with the project was, they entered the studio with a little bit of the fear of God but also with a ton of respect and excitement for the project and what it means to us as a community.”

Cory’s own connection to Ron goes back to 1998 when he was asked to be part of the band for some live recordings at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s. One night when the engineer had to leave early, Cory was asked to do a quick mix of the night’s performance. This led to him engineering subsequent studio recordings for what eventually became the album, Standing In Line In The Rain. The album went on to win Best New Album at the 1998 Media Innovation Awards.

“It’s a bit of an obscure recording but it’s my favourite,” Cory said.

The album features the song, “Shine Like Diamonds,” which Cory recorded for the tribute album.

“Ron had the ability to write what I call ‘a three-minute movie.'” he said. “You’re listening to him sing and play but you’re also seeing the song appear in your mind.”

Prior to the release of the album, there had been thoughts of mounting a tour with some of the artists from the album but that was quickly squashed once everyone headed out on their own tours following the end of COVID-19 restrictions.

But here’s a suggestion: what with the current trend of theatrical shows based on the music of specific artists or musical genres, how about a stage show based on Ron’s life and music? What with his background in theatre, television and music, not to mention the challenges and triumphs in his life, is a Ron Hynes story not tailor-made for a theatrical presentation?

“It would be brilliant to see,” said Cory. “Even if I wasn’t involved.”

For more on the album, Sonny Don’t Go Away, go to https://sonydontgoaway.ca.

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