Of all the clichés about P.E.I., the notion that we are bursting at the seams with homegrown musical talent is the easiest to prove true. It's also the foolhardiest to attempt. So broad are the possibilities that it is impossible to include all the deserving musicians who have at one time or another called Prince Edward Island home. Foolhardy, indeed.
That's where I come in.
It's impossible for me to think of P.E.I. music and not think of Gene MacLellan. Canadians came to know him from appearances on CBC TV's Singalong Jubilee and Anne Murray's recording of the MacLellan-penned hit Snowbird. It's MacLellan's own version of this melancholy tune, however, that kicks off my P.E.I. mixtape.
Throwing it back a little farther, track two belongs to Don Messer and His Islanders. Though Messer was originally from New Brunswick, he moved to P.E.I. in 1939 and founded His Islanders here. Goin' to the Barn Dance Tonight, his TV and radio theme, is my choice.
For track three, how about a late, great Acadian band known for their energetic music and onstage antics? Only, how about we forgo all that and go with an a capella track that showcases the gorgeous harmonies of Albert Arsenault, Hélène Bergeron, Louise Arsenault and Chuck Arsenault? Track three is Le Vieux Soldat (The Old Soldier) performed by Barachois.
Back in the '90s, the alternative music scene in the Maritimes became a thing. Nova Scotia had Sloan, New Brunswick had Eric's Trip, and we had Strawberry. With Deirdre Smith's dreamy vocals and P.E.I.'s all-round music guy Pat Deighan on guitar/bass, Stolen Shoes is my fourth track.
Tracks 5, 6 and 7
In the present day, we've witnessed a number of truly talented Islanders head to Halifax and beyond in order to pursue their careers, and tracks five, six and seven belong to them: Oh My Heart by Jenn Grant (with a major assist from Daniel Ledwell), Grace by Rose Cousins, and Art by Tanya Davis, respectively. Each track is as unique and as wholly individual as the musicians performing them.
One musician who made the move and then moved back to P.E.I. (and we're happy and lucky to have her) is Catherine MacLellan (you know the connection to track one). Always authentic and compelling, Beneath the Lindens is track eight.
What's a mix of P.E.I. music without Lennie Gallant? Though it may seem an obvious choice, Peter's Dream is track nine. Gallant has a significant songbook from which to choose, but this song is quintessentially P.E.I.
Tracks 10 and 11
Anyone who was familiar with the work of the late Urban Carmichael is also familiar with what true Island wit is. It's Urban's other side, however, that is reflected in Butterfly, a notoriously hard-to-find track that was also recorded by Kerri Wynne MacLeod. Also hard to track down digitally, but much easier to hear live, is Urban's sister Margie Carmichael's terrific Red Dirt Road, an earthy earworm if there ever was one. These are tracks 10 and 11.
Tracks 12 and 13
You may not have heard, but there are a couple of stage musicals about our beloved Anne Shirley. Anne of Green Gables from the musical of the same name is eternal, and You're Island Through and Through from Anne & Gilbert is an infectious number with the added bonus of some nicely pointed lyrics about Island life. These tracks, 12 and 13, are available on the original cast recordings.
One of the writers responsible for those pointed track 13 lyrics is Nancy White. White is known for her sharp satirical wit, but she's a criminally underappreciated singer/songwriter, and her song When You Fall in Love Like That fits in nicely at track 14.
For those who don't get Stompin' Tom Connors, I like to think of each of his songs as an aural piece of folk art. With that in mind, the immortal Bud the Spud is track 15. Impossible to ignore.
Nathan Wiley's Bottom Dollar Baby has been on my internal playlist since it was released in 2002. A well-crafted bluesy pop-rock song that wouldn't be out of place in a David Lynch movie, it seems fitting to add it at No. 16.
Track 17 belongs to Irish Mythen. Seems like everyone loves her, and what's not to love? Led by her tender-tough voice, Nah Nah Nah also sees her sense of humour firmly in place.
Tracks 18 to 23
I'm out of tape (and out of space), but my P.E.I. mixtape wouldn't be complete without including Blackbird by Kinley Dowling, My Fault by Sorrey, Fire Dance by Richard Wood, We'll Play for Rent by Stabbing Joy, and even though the video for Bad Bad Boy was shot at Skate Country, I'm going with Black and Blue by Haywire, because once I hear it, it won't leave me alone.
Twenty-three tracks. But the question is: What's on your ultimate P.E.I. mixtape?
- MORE P.E.I. NEWS | Delayed timeline for legal pot 'not all bad' for P.E.I. supplier
- MORE P.E.I. NEWS | Year after son's death, parents urge 'loud and clear' talk about mental health