Two Roads Leading to the River
I've been a fisherman for as long as I can remember. I was fortunate enough to come from a family that had a sport fishing tradition, and a place to pursue it - a family cottage in Ontario, where I spent the entirety of my summers until I was a teen. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother taking me to catch sunfish and rock bass with a homemade rod, hook, line, wine-cork bobber and worm. From there I graduated to trolling with my dad, and late-night “Jitterbugging” with my Grandfather. Sometimes, when I was lucky, I'd get to go fishing with my uncles Art and Don, both skilled and passionate fishermen.
Collectively they would tell me stories of my great-grandfather Elmer Elo, an immigrant Finn, who ended up on the shore of Belmont Lake, and from what I gathered, was the type of natural fisherman we all hope to someday be. You see, from the beginning, I was not only hooked on the act of fishing but to the lore surrounding it.
It started with fishing magazines, catalogues, and TV Shows (anyone still remember Scuttlebutt Lodge?). Eventually, I got into the books, both prose and instructional. My non-fishing friends always get a kick out of my 100 or so fishing books that reside above my fly-tying desk. I tell them that it's really a tiny library, that there are more books written on fishing than any other sport; mostly they eye the one written by the late Datus Proper and say “so...what did the trout say?”.
As a life-long urbanite, all this written lore was a way to feel connected to fishing when I couldn't find the time or means to get on the water. When I got into playing old-time and bluegrass, I was attracted to the organic beauty of the music on a level that I can only describe as primal. As I got to look deeper into the music, I found tradition, culture, evolution, and comradery - the same lore as I did in fishing.
If you were to look into the “Parachute Royal Wulff" (fishing fly), or at the history of the West Virginia fiddle tune “Queen of the Earth, Child of the Sky”, you'd find they both share stories of evolution that span centuries and continents, and are filled with colourful characters. Or if want, you could forget about all that, and be left with two highly useful things of beauty. What more could you ask for?
Fishermen often find a way to relate anything in life to fishing, and musicians can take a similar microcosmic bent. Given the right beverages and a willing audience, I can go on and on about how fishing and music have so many parallels - rhythm, timing, touch...but it can start to get a bit abstract, and after a while, what’s left of my audience can look pretty glazed over. However, I do know that the two things have influenced each other in my life and since the music on this album is a result of that, I’ll try to briefly explain.
For me, the artist's highest challenge is to create something that somehow attempts to reflect nature's perfect, simple, beauty, while acknowledging his or her place within it. Fishing puts me in places and situations that remind me what that perfection looks, and sometimes feels like. It forces me to take a closer look than I might otherwise and be aware of layers that I personally would have passed over. All this gives me something to aspire to, dream towards, and makes me more awake to the world. In that way, you could say fishing has been my most consistent muse.
But music has also informed my fishing. By virtue of putting a lot more hours into playing the banjo than I have fishing, I'm a much better banjo player than I am fisherman. I find myself telling my banjo students that the very best musicians find the easiest and most logical way of doing things; when you're really playing, you're not in your head thinking. While having a decent instrument is important, anything beyond that is just collecting, which is fine, but it isn't going to make you a better musician. When I'm bumbling around on a trout stream third guessing myself, or in a fishing store trying to justify buying a new piece of gear, I try to be mindful to practice what I preach.
I'm not trying to throw my hat into the already crowded world of fishing experts and gurus . I know enough about fishing to know that I'm not an especially good fisherman (although I keep trying), or the most dedicated (although not a day goes by that I don't at least wonder what the fish are up to). But I love it for sure, and always have. This album is my attempt to join in its lore. Maybe this all seems a bit airy-fairy for two things as seemingly “down to earth” as fishing and banjo picking, but there you have it...what the trout said, indeed.
Thanks for picking up this album. I hope you dig the music here. If you do, please let your fishing and music buddies know about it. All the profits from this release go to The Elk River Alliance based in Fernie BC. The ERA are good folks trying to protect a watershed by promoting “well managed human activities that result in healthy ecosystems and a robust economy.”
Finally, I’d like to dedicate this album to my uncle Arthur Church who took the time to share his knowledge and love of the outdoors with me and many others. Thank you! Hope to see you on the water someday! - Chris Coole
All songs written by Chris Coole (SOCAN) except track 5 (C. Coole/J. Showman), track 6 (C. Coole/A. Collins), Track 11 (Ernie Carpenter), track 14 (S. Burnette - Golden West Melodies)
Chris Coole - Banjo/Guitar/vocals , Andrew Collins - Mandolins (6,7,13,14), Ben Winship - Mandolin (2), Max Heineman - Bass (7,13), Alastair Whitehead - Bass (11,14), Andrew Downing Bass - (1,4), David Thomas - Bass (2), Brian Kobayakowa - Bass (10), Roman Tome - Percussion (4), Arnie Naiman - Guitar (1,9), Chris Quinn - Guitar (13), Erynn Marshall - Guitar (3), Burke Carroll - Pedal Steel (10), Brian Wickland - Fiddle (2), John Showman - Fiddle (5,7,13)
To all the musicians who played so well here. To Andrew Collins and David Travers-Smith for their generous hard work recording, mixing and mastering much of the music on this album.
Jonanthan Church, Chris Church, Bob Hutton, Joe Hendrick, Frank Kuiack, Tyler Carson, Glen Carson, Jason Romero, Ben Winship, Eli Garret, Joe Marinzel, Steve Hayes, Alastair Whitehead - all fishing buddies, mentors, guides, or some combination of the three.
To Mike Hepher for the cover image (banjo-trout), and Annie Hepher for proof-reading and editing
To Julie Lawson, a wonderful friend and partner who makes the road home even better than the road to the river.
The cover image for this album is the logo for Gillbilly and was donated by the Old Type Music Society in Fernie BC.. Gillbilly is a weekend of old-time music and fishing that happens each October. It’s big fun. You can find them at www.oldtypemusic.com.
Tracks 5,8,11,12,14 - Recorded in 2018 by Andrew Collins at Sytesounds Studio
All tracks remasterd for this project by David Travers-Smith at Found Sound
Track 2 originally released 2011 on Fishing Music 2 - www.benwinship.com
Tracks 1,9 originally released 2000 on Five Strings Attached Vol. 2 - www.merriweather.ca
Tracks 7,13 origianlly released 2006/2012 by The Foggy Hogtown Boys - www.foggyhogtownboys.com
Track 3 originally released 2007 on Meet me in the Music - www.dittyville.com
Track 4 originally released 2010 on Old Dog - www.chriscoole.com
Track 10 originally released 2016 on The Tumbling River - www.chriscoole.com