Les Stroud in the Haymarket Lounge - 11/6/18Tuesday, November 06 2018 6:00pm Doors / 7:30pm Start / Ends 9:00pm (estimated end time)
Les Stroud in the Haymarket Lounge - 11/6/18
at in the Haymarket Lounge
- 9:00pm (estimated end time)
To purchase tickets to the meet and greet, please click here.
TICKETS ARE $25.00 IN ADVANCE & $30.00 AT THE DOOR.
“That’s always been my mission,” says Les Stroud, environmentalist, musician, filmmaker, and creator and star of the groundbreaking TV series Survivorman. “To reconnect people to nature. To get them to celebrate and protect nature.”
For many years, Survivorman was Stroud’s principle vehicle for conveying that message. Now, he’s combining his love for our natural environment with his other passion: music. On his fifth full-length album, Bittern Lake, the Canadian singer- songwriter issues an urgent call for environmental preservation with a collection of powerful original songs and classic covers, produced by the legendary Mike Clink (Guns ’N Roses, Joe Cocker, Metallica). Recorded at his home studio in Huntsville, Ontario, on the shore of its namesake lake, Bittern Lake represents Stroud’s favorite way of making music: “live off the floor, no overdubs, everybody in one room, all at one time. The musicians that join me are in love with the process.” Those musicians on Bittern Lake include members of Stroud’s longtime backing band, the Campfire Kings, as well as guest singer-songwriters Oh Susanna and Justin Rutledge, ace session drummer Tony Braunagel (Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal) and Cuban-Canadian guitar wizard Elmer Ferrer.
Bittern Lake announces its subject matter with a pair of gritty covers. “Death in the Wilderness,” a little-known track by renowned guitarist and songwriter J.J. Cale (author Eric Clapton’s classics “Cocaine” and “After Midnight”), mourns the loss of the Earth’s last wild spaces over a smoldering blues-rock groove with hard-hitting lyrics: “God save this planet now/We’ve got to help somehow/We’ve let it happen way too long.” Following that comes one of the album’s biggest surprises: a version of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” that strips away the original’s catchy chorus and sunny acoustic guitars in favor of a sparse, bluesy arrangement featuring little more than a dusty slide guitar and Stroud’s own scorching harmonica licks. “I even added a new verse — sacrilege!” Stroud notes. But to his delight (and relief), when he sent Mitchell his version, “She loved it.”
Elsewhere on Bittern Lake, Stroud displays considerable songwriting chops of his own. “Snowshoes and Solitude” could be described as Northern blues, as Stroud meditates on escaping to “a world of wind and water” above the Arctic Circle, where he’s alone with the caribou and the aurora borealis. “How Long” is a wakeup call disguised as a plaintive folk ballad, wondering if it’s too late for humanity to realize “time’s no longer on our side.” On the mid-tempo rocker, “Any Minute Now,” Stroud strikes a more hopeful note, singing, “Any minute now, my dreams will all come true/There’ll be an end to this waste/And I’ll finally lose this blue” before Ferrer’s guitar streaks across the song’s bluesy chords like a sunset painting the autumn sky.
Stroud has logged his 10,000 hours in music. He began playing guitar and writing songs at 14, and by his early twenties was a published songwriter with RCA/BMG Music. He later put music aside to focus on his burgeoning career as a filmmaker and outdoor adventurer — but a chance gig on one of his many wilderness trips rekindled his passion for music. “The second I stood up on a stage in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories at the northernmost blues club and blew harp to ‘Mustang Sally,’” he recalls, “I was like, ‘Holy shit, have I ever missed this.’”
Since then, he’s continued balancing both careers. “All the time I was Survivorman, I was recording albums,” Stroud notes. He has written or co-written music for all his film projects, including Survivorman, and released four full-length albums of original material, as well as shared stages with the likes of Alice Cooper, Slash, Jonny Lang and Journey. But Bittern Lake is especially close to his heart, and not just because of its environmental themes. It’s also the album on which he reunited with Noel Golden, a childhood friend who is now an accomplished producer and engineer and who engineered Bittern Lake.
“When I was 14 and started writing, the first guy I ever showed my stuff to was Noel Golden. Three years ago, we started recording together. It was kind of bizarre,” Stroud marvels. Through Golden, Stroud met producer Mike Clink, who was sufficiently impressed with Stroud’s skills as a songwriter to sign on for the project and travel from Los Angeles to Ontario to oversee the Bittern Lake recording sessions.
“In order for me to get involved with an artist, I have to love the music,” says Clink. “I’m really happy with how the record to turned out. It’s a good introduction to what Les is all about.”
Bittern Lake also features covers of fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn’s cautionary tale, “If a Tree Falls,” and a blistering version of Ben Harper’s “Excuse Me Mr.,” as well as an intimate, gather-round-the-campfire version of the theme song from Stroud’s all-time favorite film, Jeremiah Johnson. (“I’ll still watch that once or twice a winter,” he says.) And because Stroud loves to collaborate, he passes the mic twice — once to Suzanne Ungerleider, who records under the name Oh Susanna, with whom he duets on the heartbreaking “Poison”, and once to Toronto singer-songwriter Justin Rutledge, who ends the album on a graceful note with the country-tinged “Goodbye July.”
For Bittern Lake’s two videos, “How Long” and “Big Yellow Taxi,” Les is excited to partner with Matt Mahurin, a photographer and filmmaker whose other credits include Metallica’s “The Unforgiven” and U2’s, “With or Without You.” “The guy’s a genius,” Stroud enthuses. “His stuff is very dark.” Bittern Lake is the first of two albums Stroud recorded with Clink at the producer’s helm. Clink describes its follow-up, Mother Earth, as a “big extravaganza” with a more aggressive sound that will feature guest appearances from the likes of Slash and Steve Vai. Like Bittern Lake, its songs will continue to explore Stroud’s love for the natural world and concerns for its future.
“I come by what I’m saying honestly, because I’ve been saying it for a long time,” Stroud affirms. “As far as releasing this music now, sometimes the stars align. We have phenomenal musicians, a great producer Mike Clink, and most importantly, the right message. It’s very much the right place and the right time.”