RIK BARRON

 As a young fella growing up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Rik Barron wanted to be a folk singer. He was weaned on the music of accordion players Wilf Doyle and Harry Hibbs, and was an avid fan of “All Around the Circle” – a weekly folk-music program produced in St. John’s for CBC television in the late 60s and early 70s. But the template for launching a career as a folk singer was hard to find. “I didn’t know anyone who played music for a living; in fact, I’d never heard of that. I met people who taught music, but even the people who were on TV had day jobs, so I figured I had to go that route.”

 Tall and strong, Rik thought he would be a good candidate for the Mounties. He enlisted, and became a member of the RCMP’s prestigious Musical Ride. Then, his career just beginning, he suffered a life-changing injury: “I was on the Musical Ride and broke a few vertebrae. Through Veteran’s Affairs, I was categorized as disabled. During my recovery I decided to be a folk singer. When I left the Mounties, I walked out of “N” division on St. Laurent in Ottawa, went straight to the Ottawa Folklore Centre, and bought a set of strings from Arthur McGregor.”

 In the early days of his physical recuperation and his career, Rik was sustained by sheer tenacity, and by the fact that folk music was now his day job. He set about becoming the best that he could be. He learned to build and repair guitars. He travelled and cultivated relationships with other musicians. He played banjo, guitar, and mandolin, and sang as much as he could. He met and married an American woman and had two children. Life was wonderful, and then it became even better.

 Through his father-in-law, former Sunshine Skiffle Band leader Gil Carter, Rik met American banjo legend, Tony Ellis. “The first time we met, we sat for  hours playing, and I picked his brain. He said, ‘Oh, you got one of those Martin D 28s. That’s nice! I’m hankering to get rid of this banjo. Would you trade?’ I now have his original Mastertone banjo,” laughs Rik. 

 To this day, Tony remains Rik’s close friend and mentor, and Rik has been responsible for bringing much of Tony’s music to the listening public. Tony recently gave Rik his unpublished catalogue, and Rik’s next project will be to record some of that material. Rik is also working with PEI singer-songwriter Allan Rankin, and performing both as a solo artist and as a member of a small ensemble, doing both roots music and children’s shows.

 Since the day he bought that set of strings from Arthur McGregor, Rik has excelled in his field. He has toured throughout Canada, the States, and Europe. His eight recordings have garnered him a host of honours, including three ECMA awards for Children’s Recording of the Year, two Indie Award nominations for Children’s Recording of the Year, and three CFMA nominations: Children’s Album of the Year (2008), Traditional Singer of the Year (2010), and Instrumental Solo Artist of the Year (2012). 

 Playing live is still where Rik feels most at home. His warm baritone voice, expert musicianship, and wicked Newfoundland wit serve him well, both in front of large audiences and at the kitchen tables of his many musical friends. Fate may have dealt the young Mountie a hard hand, but thirty years later, there is no doubt that he has landed firmly on both feet, simply trading one musical ride for another.

 By Jean Hewson

INSTRUMENTAL FOLK MUSIC WITH A CANADIAN ACCENT

""Speechless" Barron's first all instrumental album was recorded in his home studio with help from guitarist/bassist Chili Taylor.

Barron plays a variey of instruments on this album that reflects Celtic and old time music genres. Barron performs on guitar, five string banjo, tenor banjo, mandolin and bass.

He opens with "Father's Pride" a Tony Ellis banjo melody. A fine clawhammer banjoist, Barron really shines in this realm. Melodic banjo doesn't get much attention these days but in Barron's hands, along with an absolutely gorgeous sounding Deering banjo, this track and others in this style are examples of  just how expansive a banjo can be in a really creative players hands.

Barron sticks to more traditional lines in "The Congress Reel," "Flight of the Chinquapin" and John Brown's Dream" on mandolin and tenor banjo in subsequent tracks. There's also a fine clawhammer banjo on "Foggy Dew/Sally in the Garden." The lone solo guitar track is the final one, "Speechless"

Throughout we hear the Newfoundland versions of many familiar melodies.

Overall "Speechless" is a good introduction into Barron's instrumental side.

Until you can hear him in concert I suggest you look him up on CD Baby or iTunes.

Art Edelstein

RIK BARRON'S LATEST CD

I don't know how I expected Rik Barron to be, considering I'd been blown away by an album I judged as best in an ECMA Traditional/Roots category some years ago. But it certainly wasn't the tall retired ex-RCMP officer who'd been a member of their Musical Ride. But he was funny, a born entertainer as was his side man, Chili Taylor. Rik, born in Newfoundland, now lives with his US born wife in Vermont. His favourite guitar is a semi-jumbo built by William (Grit) Laskin, the guiding force behind the creation of the Canadian Folk Music Awards eight years ago.

I didn't realize, however, that Rik's new album Speechless is just that: no vocals, but twelve instrumentals and my great interest is story songs and ballads such as are on both early albums of his I have: Bound For The Ice and Right To The Bone, which, although including instrumentals, have a wealth of rare songs, as well. I should have read the small print, A Collection of Acoustic Instrumentals, which can't help but be a treasure for any lover of guitar, banjo or mandolin music since his picking technique with all three instruments is that of a master.  

Rik says of his banjo fixation. “I heard my first banjo at a concert in Portugal Cove, Nfld. in 1962 when I was ten years old. I was completely taken by the sound and knew right away that I wanted to play banjo. I felt the same after hearing guitar, mandolin and bass a first time. Fifty years later, I still have that same enthusiasm. Making an instrumental recording with my friend Chili and some other fine instrumentalists is my idea of a really great time!” And it shows. For more info visit www.rikbarron.com or email info@rikbarron.com In concert the glares and looks of disapproval and bewilderment between Rik and Chili are priceless.

 

I’ve mentioned Rik Barron before, a Newfoundland native with a rich musical background who has a long list of East Coast Music nominations and awards to his credit. Recently he released two brand new CDs that take him in two different directions.

Both were recorded at his Triple B Studio in St. John’s. One is contemporary folk while the other is geared toward children. Both contain a wonderful selection of music from a cross-section of writers (including our own Duncan Wells), and everything uses simple melodies to get the musical point across.

Never So Far is the folk album, a very laid-back selection of music that would go best with friends and a glass of wine by a nice fireplace. You can relax with Renaissance (a Valdy hit that was written by David Bradstreet), which has songs from Pete Seeger, John Hartford and Gary Taylor and a pair of banjo instrumentals from Tony Ellis. My personal highlights are the opening cut, a retrospective on life called 55 Years that was written by Canso resident Irish Mythen, and the title cut written by Gregory Dane Brown.

The second CD is, by contrast, far from relaxed. Bright and spirited, Over In The Meadow is designed to keep the kids entertained, singing and clapping along to a dozen tunes geared to that audience, but enjoyable to all ages. You have The Fox, Little White Duck, The Red Red Robin, Dave Maillet’s The Garden Song, Duncan Well’s Wait For The Dinner Bell, all comfortably familiar to the listener.

Whatever he’s playing Rik Barron is an entertainer. Both of these CDs are able to draw you in, much in the same way that Rik does at a live performance. I’m not sure if these recordings are available locally but they are certainly worth searching for, whether you have some kids that you want to entertain or you just want some good music to relax with.

This, folks, is as close as yer gonna get to a Waylon Jennings kids' album. Newfoundland folk and roots music veteran Rik Barron uses his considerable talents to create Shine, a wonderfully rustic album for children. Barron's quavering baritone is very reminiscent of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, and his quiet, almost conversational delivery fits his material perfectly.

Barron's choice of cover songs adds to Shine's quality: Butch Hancock's "My Mind's Got a Mind of its Own," Iris DeMent's "Let the Mystery Be," Duncan Wells' "Shine," the Jimmie Davis classic "Nobody's Darlin but Mine," and a traditional tune made popular by Raffi, "To Everyone in All the World." Banjos, open-tuned guitars, and a strong collection of tunes make Shine a great CD for kids and their grownups. Like Barron's liner notes say, this isn't a party album: gather the family 'round and listen to this one around the fireplace or out on the front porch.

Here is a recording by Rik Barron that is a real pleasure to hear and have out in the world....

One thing that impresses me about Rik's vocal presentation is that he places on each song a stamp of gentle power, whether it be on a light-hearted offering or something quite serious. Barron has a voice capable of soothing ears while at the same time holding the listener's attention to the lyrical content........

It was somewhat refreshing to discover a CD on which the artist doesn't write or compose any of the material, thereby concentrating the creative process on the arrangements of other people's works. From this practise Rik Brron makes his musical statement, and this has helped him to become a very effective song and tune agent....

This album features  good balance of instruments on each track, with none of the clutter that results from over produced recordings...

I discovered that on successive listenings, the total package of music really grew on me as new surprises found their way into my ear. If one wants to hear terrific music by a talented music agent with great baritone power, Rik Barron's Quiet Faith of Man is a sure bet.

Barry Luft, Calgary. Alberta

TRICKS OF THE TRADE

Old Dogs , New Tricks. It refers to that familiar saying that " you can't teach an old dog new tricks. But for noted veteran musicians Rik Barron and Dave Panting, it was a perfect term to title their new CD. The two have played a significant role in the folk music scene of this province.....
This CD is a folk album with expert players, and you can hear their skilled musicianship throughout...... It's an acoustic lover paradise, with a sound that is very gentle to the ear. Old Dogs New Tricks is an album that all folk music lovers will enjoy.Whether you appreciate the musicianship on the instrumentals or their soothing vocal lets hope these Old Dogs have a few more tricks up their sleeves.

Cape Breton Post

 

 

One new CD that did get some ECMA recognition is Shine, the newest release from Newfoundland’s Rik Barron, which is in competition for children’s recording of the year. Rik is a folk singer and entertainer who has been around the business for years. He is an amazing and very entertaining storyteller. Shine is a collection of 11 cuts, eight songs and three instrumentals geared toward the younger audience but with a great sound that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. There are some nice singalong songs like Bring Me Little Water Sylvie and Pete Seeger’s To Everyone In All The World. There are some humorous numbers with My Mind’s Got A Mind Of It’s Own and classics like Nobody’s Darlin’ But Mine.

There are also those instrumentals that really caught my ear as they often include strange combinations like banjo with cello. I particularly like the way Rik has handled the title cut (written by Cape Breton’s Duncan Wells) and Iris Dement’s Let The Mystery Be, with Rik’s gravelly voice pushing things to the limit.

This is a great CD, not only because of the wonderful vocals, but because of the thoughtfully and carefully arranged instrumentals. The production is excellent and the material is top notch. The only thing that would make it better would be some of those patented Rik Barron stories.

Dan MacDonald

It is a good selection of songs, graced by Barron's strong clear voice. The music is well arranged, smoothly executed and bears up to repeated listening. In four syllables " Recommended"

Barron and friends got the audience in the mood with high spirited songs. He told stories of old friends, snow, green meadows and the hard life of sealers and whalers. He made us believe that we were there and seeing it for ourselves. A consummate folksinger.

Rik Barron's CD The Quiet Faith of Man is the kind of record that uplifts the spirit and renews one's faith in simple independent recordings.

A simple yet accomplished project, this collection of mostly-traditional folk songs is enjoyable from start to finish. Clocking in at just over 32 minutes for 12 songs, it never overstays its welcome and leaves the listener wanting more.

Rik Barron comes across as a warm and genuine person, with a rich and weathered voice that's well-suited to simple love songs and traditional odes to his home of Newfoundland. He sings all lead vocals and plays guitars, mandola, mandolin and 5-string banjo with confidence and precision. Perhaps not a songwriter himself, he chooses to showcase the songs of others, including those of his colleague on guitars and mandolins, Dave Panting. Other songwriters represented on the album are Duncan Wells ("From Hopkins Wharf to Havenside," "Sittin' Next to You"), Bill Staines ("The Quiet Faith of Man") and Daniel Master, whose award-winning "No Place for Children" is particularly thoughtful and affecting.

Barron skillfully combines songs and instrumental tracks on the CD, and the instrumental pieces are just as satisfying as the songs. Tony Ellis's "Cherry Blossom Waltz" and "Hand in Hand" are lovely. In addition to Barron and Panting, the band consists of Brian Bourne on bass and backing vocals and Geoff Panting on accordion.

Barron's thoughtful liner notes provide more insight into the project and how it came together. The Quiet Faith Of Man was clearly a joy to produce and that positive spirit carries through to the listener.

 "The Quiet Faith of Man"
Rik Barron is a multi-instrumentalist with a fine rich baritone voice. His delivery is straight and uncomplicated. If someone told me that he had sat at the feet of John Stewart, then I should not be surprised.
Here we have a variety of traditional and contemporary material. Songwriters include Cape Breton Island's, Duncan Wells and Newfoundland's Trad/Rock pioneer, Dave Panting. Rik has toured throughout Canada, the United States and Europe.....For sure the quality of the voice, the instrumentation and the album production are all first-rate.

Combining an enviable vocal with formidable instrumental talent on banjo and mandolin, Rik has crafted an outstanding concept album (mostly) delineating the history and heritage of seafaring in the Northern latitudes.