Review: Lumens of Light (Independent)
There’s a pleasing stylistic gamut that Jason Fowler runs through on his latest album, one that shows off both his at times understated guitar work (I Could Die Here), knack for observational lyrics (Now There’s You) and general attention to song craft throughout.
Topped with a weathered voice that sounds at times like a mix between Bruce Cockburn and Mark Knopfler, the songs on Lumens of Light are low key, pensive and full of nice touches, like the pedal steel on It’s Coming Again, or Hugh Marsh’s violin on the title track.
Country-folk unhurried and steeped in reverie, but hooked in such a way that you’ll always come back.
– By Tom Murray, Penguin Eggs, Issue 49
Review: Lumens of Light (Independent)
March 19, 2011
To call “Lumens of Light” Jason Fowler’s best album would be to mix apples with oranges, for his body of music is remarkably diverse. Unlike the earlier CD ”Big Hill Little Hill,” for example, “Lumens” is not an instrumental album (though it does feature two original guitar instrumentals, the compelling title track and the hauntingly beautiful ”Solaris”). And because all of the tracks on “Lumens” are original compositions, the album is very different from his previous CD, ”Buckets of Rain,” on which Jason covers a selection of the classic folk songs that inspired him to get into the music game in the first place. Nevertheless, “Lumens” is my favourite of all Jason’s albums, not to mention my favourite album of the past year. Known primarily as one of Canada’s most accomplished finger-style guitarists, Jason proves on his new album–if proof were even needed–that he is also a vocalist and a lyricist to be reckoned with. There isn’t a single throw-away song here: every track is a gem worth listening to again and again, and every new listening experience reveals something new and previously unnoticed. Exploring various musical styles from full-blown rock to folk to country ballad and beyond, “Lumens” is ultimately an album of love songs–but with a twist. A consummate songwriter, Jason brings new life to the love song, for he avoids the hyperbole, sentimentality, idealism, and false emotion that too often mar the genre, and he isn’t afraid to explore the gritty realism of love and romance in the twenty-first century. I can’t recommend this album too highly: everyone who loves good music should give it a spin. (Of course I may be a bit biased given that Jason has played on and produced two of my own CDs.) For more information on Jason Fowler and his remarkable body of work, check out his website at www.jasonfowler.ca.
The Morrisburg Leader, Tuesday, February 1st, 2010
When a performer must return to the stage for not one but two encores follwoing a standing ovation, it’s apparent that his audence has been overwhelmed. At his January 30 evening performance at the Morrisburg Meeting Centre guitarist/singer/composer Jason Fowler was clearly an unqualified hit. His dynamic show featured a mixture of blues and folk classics from the likes of Bruce Cockburn and Bob Dylan, and favorites by fingerstyle guitarists like Chet Atkins. He balanced these pieces out with instrumental works, many of them original compositions by the artist himself. “Our audience simply wouldn’t let him off the stage until he’d done at least two encores,” said Sandra Whitford, a member of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage which brought Fowler to Morrisburg. “It was a great evening.” A classically trained guitarist who holds a degree from McGill University, Fowler has been on easily 100 recordings, and has toured extensively with tenor John McDermott. He is an artist very much in demand in Torotno and throughout Canada according to his friend and St. Lawrence Stage board member, Derek Hunter. Those fottunate enough to attend Fowler’s Morrisburg concert could see why. Fowler dexcribed his voice in an earlier interview as a “husky baritone”, but Whitworth found his vocals a delight to hear. “I knew he was a great guitarist,” she said, “but I had no idea how god a singer he also was.” At one point in the concert, Fowler did an amazing rendition of The Beatles classic, “And I Love Her”, inviting the audience to hum the melody along with him as he improvised the instrumentals. The effect, according to Whitworth, was both “quiet and utterly beautiful.” Earlier in the day, jason Fowler held a small, special workshop for guitarists. Partcipants ranged from those who consider themselves really novies to those who are considerably more advanced. Fowler’s teaching methods were unaffected and relaxed. He discussed and demonstrated picking styles, fingering, anchoring, emphasis and ways to get rid of what he described as “muddiness” in sound. His advice was practical and real, not dogmatic, and he was supportive of the directions each guitarist hoped to travel in his music. He made a key distinction between “playing” and “practising” which hit home with the other musicians. “Playing” is simply playing what you already know,” he said, “and I call this type of playing ‘maintenance’. But if you want to get better, you have to practise. You have to play the music slowly, slowly, so that you never learn a piece with mistakes. If your preparation is sound, and you’ve only ever played a song correctly, then external forces- audiences, lights, disruptions- cannot throw you. There are no professional musicians in the world who will not tell you this.” Marc Muir, a guitar teacher from Cornwall who attended the workshop, and later the evening show, summed up both experiences as “absolutely amazing.” Jason Fowler has expressed an interest in returning to Morrisburg for another concert sometime in the future. We should only be so lucky.
Cornwall Standard Freeholder, Tuesday, January 12, 2010
One of the country's most sough-after guitarists is coming to Morrisburg. Jason Fowler, a Toronto singer/songwriter, session guitarist and producer, will perform at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage (Operating Engineers Training Institute of Ontario) on Jan. 30. Fowler's talents have been highly-lauded and acknowledged throughout the industry. A two-time winner at the Walnut Valley National Guitar Championships in both fingerpicking and flatpicking categories, he has appeared on more than 100 albums by artists as diverse as Ian Tamblyn and Amy Sky. He's performed with, among many others, Nana Mouskouri and Murray McLauchlan. Since 2001 he has toured internationally with Irish tenor John McDermott and is currently his musical director. Fowler is also a savvy producer for artists, including McDermott, and an accomplished composer who has also played on scores of television and radio jingles, plus feature film soundtracks. It seemed rather preordained that he would follow a career in music, although he was sorely tempted by hockey. A keen player, it wasn't until age 16 that lick came to bodycheck. "My dad played guitar, my cousin and brother all played, my sister played piano and my mom sang," said Fowler. "I couldn't wait to be a part of it." Growing up his musical tastes were strongly influenced by what his folks played at home. Artists like Bruce Cockburn, Gordon Lightfoot and Anne Murray were frequently heard wafting through the air, as folk and country were the order of the day.
Not unusually, he then balked during his teenage period against his parents' style, opting more for rock and roll, fusion and jazz.
"When I got back from university, I started to look to the others again," said Fowler, who graduated from McGill University (Honours, Classical Guitar Performance). "I started to really appreciate again those artists I had grown up hearing."
He arrived on the Toronto music scene in 1995 with the release of his debut album Hiss Of Distance. Billboard magazine called it "a real gem" and RPM noted that "It's Fowler's finger-work on the guitar that demands first attention."
His 2009 CD "Buckets of Rain" is his fifth release.
"I wouldn't call it a tour I'm on now," he chuckles.. "When I was growing up, that word held a great deal of romanticism for me.
"When you can go out and play a few places over a weekend, then go home, it's not really a tour-tour."
A quick look at his performance schedule on his website www.jasonfowler.ca
will show you just how in-demand he is. Often on-tour with McDermott, Fowler intersperses his own engagements among so many others.
"I love it," he exclaims. "I would get sick of playing my own stuff every night.
"I turn 40 this year and I've realized that if I play Massey Hall, it's probably going to be with John McDermott. But that's fine . . I have my own house, I play music, I have a beautiful 11-year-old daughter. Life is good."
Instead, he finds it "completely rejuvenating" to go out and showcase himself periodically. Many of these gigs are at house parties, which are becomingly increasing popular, especially in Toronto, but he equally enjoys performance venues, like Morrisburg's.
In addition, he will also be running a fingerstyle workshop from 2-4 p.m. at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage.
Workshop cost is $40. To register, call 613-543-2514. A discount will be available for those attending both the workshop and performance." People can expect to hear a number of new songs, a bunch from each record, plus new instrumental stuff. Blues, folk, mostly original, a couple of covers. I like a good combination," Fowler says.
Show time is 7 p.m.
Tickets are $15. They may be purchased at the door.
The Morrisburg Leader, January 27th, 2010
The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage concert series is kicking off the 2010 season in a spectacular fashion with its first concert, 7 p.m. on January 30 at the Morrisburg Meeting Centre. Renowned singer/songwriter jason Fowler, winner of numerous guitar honours, and inaugural winner of the OCFF (Ontario Council of Folk Festivals) Instrumental Composition of the Year Award in 2004, an outstanding performer with five albums to his name, will be the January 30 concert headliner. The Stage board is excited and honoured that the celebrated guitarist will be presenting a one night only concert in Morrisburg. “We are very fortunate,” said Jeanne ward. “Jason is literally booked at concerts through to next Christmas. It will be wonderful to have him on our stage here in Morrisburg. And he also agreed to do a workshop on Saturday afternoon for interested guitarists.” Jason Fowler, whose home is in Toronto, is a Canadian phenomenon who has appeared on over 100 recordings with artists as diverse as Ian Tamblyn, Amy Sky, Nana Mouskouri, Murray Mclauchlan and Ember Swift. He has toured extensively with tenor John McDermott, and with Toronto violinist Anne Lindsay. His work has been in demand on the albums of David Bradstreet and D’Arcy Wickham. Fowler has played on scores of television commerciald, film soundracks and radio spots. Two of his original songs were featured on the shows Party of Five and Time of Your Life. In June of 2009, Fowlrr released Buckets of Rain, which revisits artists he has long admired like Bruce Cockburn, Bob Dylan and Hoyt Axton, as well as his original works. On January 19, Jason Fowler took time from his busy schedule to talk to the Morrisburg Leader. “Hoqw did msic become my life? Fowler said, laughing. “Well, to tell you the truth, until I was 16, my career choices were hockey or music. Age 16 was the turning point.” In high school, Fowler, who was a percusiionist, joined the marching band, the jazz band, the concert band and the orchestra. “I’ve always sung,” he explained (Fowler describes his voice as a ‘husky baritone’) and music was a strong part of my family life. Every family occasion was an opportunity for people like my dad to pull out their guitars and sing.These home concerts instilled in me the idea that it was ‘cool’ to do my own music, and I started writing songs when I was 12 years old. Formal training at McGill only deepened Fowler’s love of music, ranging from classical to bluegrass to folk, and for performing for audiences throughout Canada. He developed a strong personal approach to his music. “A teacher told me, whenever you practise a new piece, play it slowly, very slowly, until you can play it flawlessly. From the beginning, learn the msuic without mistakes. I’ve always found great satisfaction in playing things correctly. You have to crawl, if you will, beofre you can walk.” Fowler’s Morrisburg concert will reflect a striking balance between songs and instrumental pieces, some taken from his new CD, Buckets of Rain. This 2009 CD is made up of songs that Fowler said he has been singing and playing his whole life, many in the areas of folk and blues. Yet the artist has injected what he calls his own “spin” into the pieces making them essentially his own. Somewhat unusually, this CD was recorded in Fowler’s home studio, without the usual pressures and restraints of a regular sound studio. The results “floored” him. “Without headphones and the demands of time, I found I ‘played out more’,” he said. “There is a fresh authenticity to the music, a richer sound, more the way I would perform these pieces in a live concert. This CD is, I think, more like the sound of the original artists, without studio trappings, probably created.” He will perform several pieces from Buckets of Rain, as well as works from his earlier albums. Fowler plans to split his St. Lawrence stage concert (as artists like Bruce Cockburn do) between songs and instrumental pieces. There will be much for music lovers to enjoy on Saturday night when this experienced and dynamic performer takes to the stage. “I think people will like the eclectic nature of the hsow, finding something to enjoy in its different aspects, whether it is a touch of classical guitar, or a moent of blues. I especially love it when audience members tell me later that the way I have interpreted a piece has really struck a personal chord with them.” “Sometimes when I am in the middle of a concert, I will drift away for a moment,” Fowler said, laughing, “and suddenly think to myself, I’m actually working here. The way I see it, though, I’m getting paid for my travel to and from concerts. As for the performance itself, well that’s a pure joy, a wonderful thing.” Jason Fowler’s concert at the Morrisburg Meeting Centre will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, January 30. Tickets are $15 at the door, or by contacting www.st-lawrencestage.com His Saturday afternoon workshop tickets are $40 ($50 with a concert ticket). Interested guitarists should register as soon as possible for this private teaching session with renowned performer Jason Fowler. ~Wendy Gibb
Sideman in spotlight for solo show
Toronto Star, Feb. 16, 2006.
With two major playmates out of commission — violinist, composer and bandleader Anne Lindsay has taken a year off touring to perform with The Lord Of The Rings orchestra, and Celtic tenor John McDermott is on vacation through the end of April after a year of almost constant concert work — primo Toronto guitarist, accompanist and songwriter Jason Fowler has some time to ratchet up his own solo career.
He's producing records for others, working on new tunes for an upcoming album and performing a series of live dates, including a biggie Saturday night at the Acoustic Harvest folk club in Scarborough.
"I don't often get the chance to play solo, but it's something I really enjoy, and something I need to do," says Fowler, one of Canada's most versatile A-list sidemen, whose elegant finger-and-fret work has graced recordings and live performances by Amy Sky, The Irish Tenors, Murray McLauchlan, The Cottars, Susan Crowe and Quartette, among others. As a solo artist, Fowler has shared concert stages with David Francey, Steve Vai, Robert Plant and Deep Purple.
He is also an often featured soloist on the highly successful Solitudes series of nature-and-music recordings, and has been commissioned by the Canadian label, now renamed Somerset Entertainment, to put together a collection of "relaxation" instrumental pieces. It's lucrative work, Fowler says, that allows him reasonably free rein to explore all kinds of musical territory.
As one of Canada's leading acoustic guitar pickers, Fowler is often scrutinized at gigs by other musicians seeking tips on technique, tuning variations and charts of his intricate compositions.
Following the 2004 release of his fourth solo album, Temporary Ground, he decided to publish transcriptions of 25 original pieces in book form, to sell at performances, on his website (www.jasonfowler.ca) and in specialty guitar shops.
"After writing, transcribing, checking and editing, it turned out to be as much work as making a record," says Fowler.
But he doesn't just want to be known as a guitar virtuoso, hence his decision to branch out as a solo artist, mixing songs and instrumentals, and spicing his performances up with yarns.
"Too often guitar recitals rely on one or two tricks, similar rhythms and an overabundance of a particular style," says Fowler, whose favorite album is Ry Cooder's Into The Purple Valley, an eclectic mix of instrumental wizardry and compelling balladry.
"I don't like to try people's patience by playing at them ... it's too hard to hold their attention. I'm more interested in songs and communication, and I colour my work with different kinds of guitars — acoustic steel-string, a resonator, a classical guitar, a high-string guitar — and cover as much turf as I can, from blues to classical and folk.
"I learned from John McDermott that storytelling is a great way to reach an audience, and though I don't actually prepare a patter in my solo act, I have in the back of my mind a bunch of stories that connect in some way with what I'm playing. Audiences, particularly in more intimate rooms, seem to appreciate that kind of connection."
In recent weeks Fowler has also found time to co-produce McDermott's next CD, an interpretive work featuring both familiar and lesser-known songs by Toronto composer Ron Sexsmith, and a new work by veteran Toronto songwriter David Bradstreet.
"These are all new songs, with a couple of co-writes with (Toronto poet/musician) Robert Priest and Hamilton roots artist Rob Lamothe," he says. "I tried to get to the essence of what David sounds like in live performance, with simple, acoustic arrangements, using early recordings by Gordon Lightfoot and Jackson Browne as my template. My parents used to listen to David's records, so I feel as if I know him.
"David is and always was a folk-based songwriter. It's a pity record companies only wanted pop records from him."
Toronto Fingerstyle Guitar Association Newsletter, September 2005.
The Toronto Fingerstyle Guitar Association 2005/2006 Concert Series got off to a great start on Saturday with Toronto’s own, Jason Fowler.
Guitar players love to talk about the "T-words" - tone, timing, taste, technique - but very few embody all these elements, or "walk to the talk", as they say. Both, Jason's ability on guitar and his choice of material displayed a highly developed musical sensibility that all musicians should strive for on six strings or otherwise.
With a large number of instruments, which included steel string, nylon string, and resonator guitars, Jason played a diverse set stylistically, but maintained a consistent tone to the entire evening.
Many of the pieces where quiet and introspective, with influences ranging from the more obvious guitar icons Mark Knopfler and Bruce Cockburn, to minimalist composers Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Jason combined these influences with his uncanny ability to balance both the demanding and effortless listening requirements of his audience to produce a rewarding, and accessible program of guitar music.
Jason Fowler said his musical quest was "finding the big note". In fact, he may have already found it!
Acoustic Guitar, August 2004.
The fourth self-released solo effort from Toronto-based guitarist Jason Fowler, Temporary Ground showcases a highly versatile performer's ability to don a number of musical hats with style and verve. In singer-songwriter mode, Fowler mines a pair of melodic roots-rock gems, the set-opening "My Daily Burden" and "A Blessing And A Curse." Two other vocal numbers, "Lily" and "James' Song," shimmer in softer folk ballad settings. But his considerable skills as a pop tunesmith and emotionally direct vocalist represent just two facets of Fowler's well-rounded game. Seven of the album's 11 tracks are instrumentals, ranging from tautly gorgeous, fingerpicked acoustic guitar solos ("Great Dream From Heaven," "Adirondack Lullaby") to strutting country blues ("Dogbite") and breakneck bluegrass flatpicking with string band support ("Kansas"). For good measure, Fowler tosses in an angular contemporary composition for solo acoustic guitar ("Midwestern Lament"), a duet for guitar and violin (the title cut), and a stately small-acoustic-ensemble version of the country standby "The Tennessee Waltz." Thanks to Fowler's consistently fluid and tasteful guitar work, the aural patchwork's stylistic components blend together smooth and easy.
Review: Temporary Ground
Penguin Eggs, Summer 2004, Issue No. 22
A captivating fourth solo album from Toronto guitarist Jason Fowler. The material here ranges from introspective instrumentals to high-octane bluegrass with mandolinist Ray Legere and fiddler Anne Lindsay, and a fine fingerpicked cover of Ry Cooder's Great Dream From heaven.
Fowler's warm vocals complete the package, giving a nice laid-back feel that entices the listener to make repeat visits, revealing new subtleties. This is a nicely crafted CD, with some exquisite guitar work, thoughtful interpretations of familiar material like The Tennessee Waltz, and quality originals. Fowler's depth as a songwriter and instrumentalist is evident; there is nothing temporary about Temporary Ground.
Sweet ballads and virtuoso guitar
JASON FOWLER Temporary Ground (Great Big Music)
The Record (Waterloo), Saturday, March 20, 2004
It takes guts to record such a well-known and timeworn chestnut as Tennessee Waltz. Toronto guitarist Jason Fowler not only displays artistic courage by recording it on his fourth solo release Temporary Ground, he does the timeless classic proud. But this is only one of 11 superb tracks on an album that confirms the award-winning artist as one of the most accomplished guitar ists in Canada. Just listen to his rendition of Ry Cooder's Great Dream from Heaven. Produced by Fowler and featuring a talented supporting cast including fiddler Anne Lindsay (in whose band Fowler performs), Temporary Ground has much more going for it than inspired covers. Fowler is a gifted songwriter who crosses musical boundaries with ease. He's also a competent vocalist whose low-keyed approach forms a dynamic contrast to his virtuoso guitarwork. Listening to Temporary Ground reminds me of the delight with which I enjoyed early Bruce Cockburn, Tony Rice and Leo Kottke. Fowler is quietly assembling an impressive legacy of music and it's time he stepped on to centre stage.
Fowler's fab fingerwork, The Toronto Star, January 22, 2004.
JASON FOWLER Temporary Ground (Independent/JasonFowler.ca) Award-winning Toronto guitarist Fowler's fourth solo album is a polished blend of originals and folk/country classics (a good half of them instrumentals) that showcase the artist's impeccable finger work, a rich, resonant baritone, and some earnest songs about life's simple joys. With considerable help from fiddler Anne Lindsay, in whose band Fowler's a regular, and mandolin player Ray Legere, the guitarist rips off some astonishing licks in the pursuit of melodic enrichment, never just for show. This is as fine as acoustic guitar work gets.
Review: Temporary Ground, The Province (Vancouver), Tuesday, February 10, 2004.
I learned about Jason Fowler when they played his fine instrumental version of "The Tennessee Waltz" on CBC Radio's Vinyl Cafe. Interestingly, this new, fourth solo effort from the Toronto singer/writer/ guitarist also includes a killer fingerstyle cover of Ry Cooder's "Great Dream From Heaven," the Vinyl Cafe theme. A guitarist with flashes of brilliance on a par with Cooder, Doc Watson and Tony Rice -- he's a dazzling flatpicker -- there's a little Bruce Cockburn in Fowler's songwriting and singing style as well. His "Lily" is as sweet an ode from father to child as you'll ever hear. A great find.
-John P. McLaughlin
Review: Temporary Ground
Review by Lillian Wauthier; Acoustic Harvest
Folk Club, Fiddles and Frets Music, OCFF, Mariposa Folk Foundation.
This new recording, Temporary Ground, reconfirms Jason Fowler's rank as one of the top guitarists in this country. It is a splendid album, eclectic and strong. Jason always seems to convey a sense of wonder in his recordings. This one is no exception, although it is something of a departure from his previous work. Filled with a range of tunes and songs from modern classical to bluegrass, this CD demonstrates Jason's skill and ease in any genre of music. But unlike his other CDs, it's more laid back. He has taken the
same care and precision with this one, but it's as if he just went into
the studio, let loose and laid it all down in one take and still the
outcome is a polished, tasteful and very listenable CD.
Apart from Jason's virtuosity and exquisitely beautiful guitar work, the predominant feel or tone to this album, for this listener, is one of relaxed, as opposed to anxious, introspection. This is a very personal collection of songs, without being overly sensitive, cataloguing the changes in his life and asking 'what's on the horizon?'. It is reminiscent of Dylan's Time Out Of Mind album in some ways, although unlike Dylan's taking stock of his life, wondering whether the 'party's over', and questioning if he has anything left to say, you get the distinct sense that Fowler definitely has much more to say and will say; he doesn't have that same broodiness, yet there is an element of inner questioning, of trying to find one's way in this "cruel world", of asking "where do I go from here?". A Blessing and A Curse with it's "wounds that I consider now are piercing as a thorn/It's a blessing and a curse just bein' born" carries on this thread of reflection begun with the words "I still don't
know where I'm going.....And I still don't have any answers/ Lots of hints though that it just might be within" (James' Song) and are summed up in the hauntingly wistful and ethereal tune Temporary Ground.
There is an emotional mix to this current material, an expression of both an easy-going, relaxed, even bold, "hell, this is the way it is" attitude to Life's trials and another more nebulous feeling of uncertainty, vulnerability and cynical pessimism. Like good literature I look to the meaning and import of words and stories - I get the sense of lovely, insightful but somewhat mysterious lyrics here, as if the writer is holding back something and just giving us a taste, perhaps in order to help foster our own imaginations. Perhaps an unintentionally, or perhaps intentionally, hard read.
Produced by Jason Fowler himself, the CD begins and ends with a nice juxtaposition - the driving, powerful, vibrant My Daily Burden and ends with the almost lullaby-like Temporary Ground, both exemplifying times of change and upheaval. Jason knows the beauty of simplicity and can do justice to a few simple notes.The beautiful, delicate, sweet Lily with lovely, subtle guitars compliments the words of love from a parent for a newborn baby, in this case, Jason's own daughter. Fowler's arrangements are impeccable and always played in his own unique style. Joseph Spence's tune Great Dream from Heaven (also recorded by Ry Cooder) is given a dexterous, flawless and uplifting interpretation as is the wonderful Stephen Bennett tune Adirondack Lullaby The big surprise on the CD is his own Kansas, a compelling and spirited Bluegrass tune with superb accompaniement from Ray Legere on mandolin and fiddle - this is a tune sure to be covered by many a bluegrass band! And Jason's arrangement of the classic Tennessee Waltz is as finest a rendition as I've heard in them yonder hills, with gorgeous mandolin and violin accompaniement from Ray Legere and Anne Lindsay. Dogbite is a funky, quirky, tune Fowler wrote after his Mother was attacked by dogs on the island of Cayman Brac (in the Cayman Islands). The tune seems to not necessarily depict what happened but suggests a response or reaction to what happened with a jaunty and sassy air celebrating the strength and courage of his Mother - an attitude she might have had of "you never know what's around the corner, what can hit you" and "well, let's just kick those dogs in the ass!". Other tunes on the album have that same kind of vibrancy.
Everywhere on the album, Jason's voice resonates with a mellow, rich and deep sound. Other musicians round out the CD's lush instrumentation - Gary Breit on organ, David Woodhead and Maury Lafoy on bass and Mark Mariash and Al Cross on drums, all with solid and tasteful playing.
A fine recording by a mature artist. This one's a keeper folks!
Performers capture essence of Lightfoot in poignant tribute, The Ottawa
Citizen, Sunday, January 12, 2003
You'd have thought The Man himself was in town Friday
night. Every seat of the National Library auditorium was
taken, with the overflow spilling into the aisles.
Hopefuls clutched a "Need 2 Tickets" sign at the
entranceway. Others negotiated with ticket-takers for
admission. And excitement rippled though the audience as
the first notes of Gordon Lightfoot's wistful I'll Tag
Along tripped from the speakers. But it was Jason Fowler,
not Gordon Lightfoot, on stage, leading off a masterful
two-hour tribute to one of Canada's folk gods by 12
veteran and up-and-coming performers. Poignant, lyrical
and inspiring, the show plumbed the heart of Lightfoot's
music, along with the country and emotions he's been
writing about for close to 40 years. The tribute was
conceived last year by Ontario folk singers Aengus Finnan
and Jory Nash, well before Lightfoot fell seriously ill in
September. (He was in hospital for two months and released
shortly before Christmas.) Finnan and Nash felt that a
tribute was long overdue, and their flurry of e-mails and
phone calls resulted in the shows Friday in Ottawa and
last night and tonight in Toronto -- all of them sold out.
Friday's concert was tightly organized, with each musician
accorded 10 minutes to sing a couple of Lightfoot songs
and say a few words about him. Terry Tufts prefaced his
limber performance of the ultimate chauvinist song, For
Lovin' Me, by recalling that he learned his first
Lightfoot tune to spite his brother, a staunch Ian and
Sylvia fan. At age 11, Katherine Wheatley was converted by
Lightfoot's image of a lone puma in Sixteen Miles, a song
she performed Friday with sad dignity. Ian Tamblyn
remembered Lightfoot records being played in North Bay
coffeehouses and then launched into one of the concert's
highlights, a sweeping cover of Home From The Forest that
captured the tragedy and humanity coursing through
Lightfoot's tale of a dying derelict. The National
Library's music division helped stir the memories with a
lobby display of Lightfoot songbooks, album covers and
newspaper clippings.But the show was anything but an
exercise in nostalgia, as each artist made the songs their
own. Dan Kershaw found Lightfoot's country influences in
his renditions of Walls and Somewhere USA. Connie Kaldor's
The Way I Feel reverberated with the isolation only a
Saskatchewan girl could know. Hanging tight to the song's
core of loneliness, Jory Nash took Early Morning Rain
soaring in a clean, sharp performance. Rick Fines'
flashing slide and fingerpicked guitar unearthed a deep
vein of sneering blues in Bossman. And demonstrating just
how broad Lightfoot's catalogue is, Hart Rouge brought its
three-part harmonies to the Stephen Foster sound-alike,
Your Love's Return, while Valdy, resplendent in his red
running shoes, performed Piddling Pete. Not all the
numbers were Lightfoot originals. David Newland wove
Lightfoot song titles into his spoken word homage, and
Aengus Finnan's contributed his heartfelt tribute,
Lightfoot. For the finale, all the performers -- including
the crack house band of Tom Leighton, Anne Lindsay, Dick
Van Raadshooven and Jason Fowler -- gathered for Alberta
Bound, Rich Man's Spiritual and Canadian Railroad Trilogy.
Two richly deserved standing ovations rewarded them all.
The Way We Feel- A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot @ Hugh's Room on Saturday, January 11, 2003. Review by Lillian Wauthier; Acoustic Harvest Folk Club, Fiddles and Frets Music, OCFF, Mariposa Folk Foundation.
To my mind, it's only fitting that a Tribute to an artist
or poet or composer should be paid to him or her while he
or she is still alive. And so it was last night (Jan.
11th) with the marvellous tribute, "The Way We Feel", to
Gordon Lightfoot, held at Toronto's Hugh's Room. It was a
beautiful evening of music, filled with the some of the
best known and some of the more obscure Lightfoot songs.
For someone like myself, who regretfully was not all that
familiar with Gord back in the heyday of the 60's and 70's
it was a wonderful introduction - better late than never!
- to Lightfoot's incredible song-writing and story-telling
skills. I really was given the sense that here is a man
who is truly Canadian, traveling and loving this land from
coast to coast and spending his life passionately telling
us about it with a language both simple and pure, complex
and eloquent - the language of the heart. And it was so
heartening to see how Gordon Lightfoot has inspired so
many people, so many musicians, not only those on last
night's stage, but also countless others who have sung his
songs on stages everywhere across Canada or in the privacy
of their own homes; it seems everyone has a Lightfoot
memory or has been happily influenced by him in some
manner or other. Last night's moving tribute was a much
deserved celebration. And there was so much evident love
and feeling flowing from the performers and the audience
that I think Gord would have been overwhelmed with pride
and cried tears of joy. There can be no better testament
to a person's worth than a roomful of people singing and
praising his life's work. This tribute was put together,
with the help of many, by two of Canada's finest young
songwriters, Aengus Finnan and Jory Nash. They are to be
commended for their vision, dedication and hard work in
bringing this tribute to fruition. It was successfully
launched in Ottawa the night before (Jan. 10th) and will
run a second night at Hugh's Room tonight. Jeff Goodes,
host of CBC Radio's "Fresh Air", hosted with his usual
warm, humourous and witty stage presence. And the
performers! What a range of superb talent, starting off
with Jason Fowler on guitar singing "I'll Tag Along" and
then, for the rest of the evening, he joined the
top-knotch house band of Anne Lindsay on fiddle/violin,
Dick van Raadshooven on upright bass and cello and Tom
Leighton on accordian and keyboard. If that wasn't enough
excitement in itself, a grand lineup of guest musicians
took to the stage, each singing one or two songs Truly a
night to exclaim - Lightfoot Forever Remembered!
Review of Big Hill, Little Hill
by Teja Gerken, Acoustic Guitar Magazine, Nov 2001
Toronto-based fingerstyle guitarist Jason Fowler showcases
his versatile talent on this album of mostly original
tunes solo tunes. Whether he's playing Irish traditional
pieces such as “Shi Big, Shi Mhor,” the grooving “Oskar
Versus the Spruce,” or the modern “BG-42,” Fowler is in
full command of his instrument. He relies on a smorgasbord
of alternate tunings, and his great tone and sense of form
permeate the album. Even the slower compositions have a
strong rhythmic sense, making Big Hill, Little Hill a
Review of Big Hill, Little Hill
by Kurt Swinghammer
This beautiful sounding disc is by an extremely accomplished acoustic guitarist from
Toronto who until now has been in the shadow of his stylistic inspiration, Bruce Cockburn, partly due to a striking similarity in vocal mannerisms. Fowler wisely
sticks to instrumentals on this release, thereby avoiding obvious comparisons. At their best the compositions sparkle with colourful chords and crisp performances-Jason doesn't use the songs as mere excuses to display his abundant technique, but instead concentrates on the essence of a good song-melodic development. The album's
centerpiece is a 6 plus minute long trilogy that unfolds like a classic narrative, expressing an interest in European modernism with unusual voicings far beyond the
expectations of Americana folk forms. A strong step forward for a local artist seeking recognition in a crowded, competitive forum.
McGill News Alumni Quarterly- Winter 2001/02 Volume 81, no. 4
Big Hill, Little Hill, Jason Fowler, BMus '92 Great Big
A lesson in just how good a guitar player Jason Fowler is.
In 1997, he travelled to Winfield, Kansas, for the
National Fingerpicking Championship - the closest thing to
the Olympics for acoustic guitar - and took third place.
He returned in 2000, and at the suggestion of one of his
Toronto guitar students entered the flatpicking division
of the championship, usually the domain of monster
bluegrass pickers who practise furiously on their Martin
dreadnaughts for much of their lives to rank at Winfield.
Fowler captured third place there as well.
It follows then that Fowler's all instrumental third CD is
bound to be a very special treat for the ears. (OK, it
could have been an exercise in aimless, virtuoso guitar
noodling, but he is not that kind of player.) Big Hill,
Little Hill showcases Fowler's fingerstyle talents, for
which he is primarily known, as well as his songwriting
and arranging chops.
The CD's title is a translation of Irish harp master
Turlough O'Carolan's "Shi Big, Shi Mhor," the
drop-dead-gorgeous, opening track on the CD and
additionally the cut chosen for Six Strings North of the
Border from Borealis Records, a compilation of Canadian
guitar music. While in the past Fowler has shown off
blues, country and folk stylings, there is a Celtic tinge
running through a number of the pieces on Big Hill, Little
Hill, including the lilting adaptation of Garnet Rogers's
"Green Eyes." Other tunes are very modern, inhabiliting
the realm (if not the direct influence) of fingerstylists
like Leo Kottke or Pierre Bensusan, such as "Oskar Versus
the Spruce," "The Bight," and "Full Armoured Jousting."
Fowler the composer also takes on the Impressionist tone
of Claude Debussy in "Prelude in G Major." Though he is
technically flawless and fluent in many styles and tunings
(included in the notes for the guitar nuts among us),
Fowler will also keep you riveted to your chair with pared
down, harmonically simple, and extraordinarly beautiful
material like "Tigerlily" and "Len's Song."
Big Hill, Little Hill is refreshing in the best sense of
that word. Since it's an independent instrumental record,
it will probably be hard to find as well, so try
Concert Review- Big Hill, Little
Hill, CD Release at The Edward Day Gallery, by Lillian
Wauthier, December 8, 2000.
As we all know, Canada is a country rich in it's
diversity. As Canadians we're fortunate to live in a
country whose diversity has produced a proliferation of
gifted artists, the musical kind being no exception. Many
regions have spawned many different and specific kinds of
music. And here in Ontario (as elsewhere I know) we're
blessed to have an array, an eclectic mix of genres,
styles and instruments. And we have some virtuoso
guitarists. Jason Fowler is one of them. Friday night at
his CD release concert at the lovely Edward Day Gallery in
Toronto, he displayed a mastery of his instrument that
certainly justifies the title of virtuoso. The depth and
maturity of his growth and vision has made a solid
progression in the last couple of years. When I first
encountered him, at the Eaglewood Folk Festival four or
five years ago I believe, there was an intensity to his
focus that has now changed. He's still intense, focused,
but there is a measured, relaxed, succinct and loving
quality to his music: a feeling of familiarity and ease,
borne out of knowing his instrument so well. Technically
he's perfect (I love his use of harmonics) and there are
people who strive for that, achieve it and the achievement
remains admirable but Jason has crossed over in to that
other realm of encompassing passion and soul into every
note he plays. He strives for the absolutely right notes
to follow each other and he is attuned to every nuance,
subtlety, tone and voice. His compositions are simply
brilliant. His new release is entitled “Big Hill, Little
Hill”, which is the Irish harpist Turlough O'Carolan's
piece “Shi Big, Shi Mhor”. This lovely tune from Jason can
also be found on the “Six Strings North of the Border”
Borealis release produced by Bill Garrett. All of the
tunes on the album and more, some brand new, were
performed at the Gallery that night- “Oskar Versus the
Spruce” is a wonderful tribute to Oskar Graf, the maker of
Jason's beautiful guitars. A piece called “The Odds of
Falling” is two separate tunes splendidly woven together.
Two tunes celebrate Jason's parents- “The Bight” for the
region his mother lives in on one of the Cayman Islands
and “Len's Song” for the nickname he gave his father.
“Prelude in G Major” was influenced and inspired by the
piano preludes of Claude Debussy, “Tigerlily” is a pretty
tune he wrote for his daughter Lily, “Green Eyes” is
Jason's fine arrangement of Garnet Roger's tune. Others-
“Sebenza”, the intricate “BG-42” and “Full Armoured
Jousting” were interspersed with songs-the hilarious Steve
Goodman song “Talkin' Backwards”, “Hiss Of Distance”, Arlo
Guthrie's amusing classic “The Motorcycle Song”, “No Blues
Pass By My Door” and an exquisite song for the birth of a
baby, “The Latest Miracle”. There were some new tunes,
still un-named, one very unique and quirky (strange
tuning) as well as “Black Mountain Rag”, Blackberry
Blossom”, “Simple Chains”, “Tennessee Waltz” , the best
“Good King Wenceslas” I've ever heard and more. It's a
risky business putting out an all-instrumental album but a
necessary step I think because this music deserves to be
heard and saluted. Instrumentals have a lyricism all their
own and are invaluable in offering knowledge, expertise
and experience to other instrumentalists as well as simply
being very pleasurable listening. This CD certainly can be
added to the list of recordings well worth hearing.
Playing With Pleasure Pays, by Greg Burliuk, Kingston Whig-Standard
Saturday, November 17, 2001
The arrival of children changes our lives in more ways
than one and in Jason Fowler's case it meant a change in
his musical career. The acoustic guitarist is the latest
in a series of stellar acts in the 2 Months of Sunday's
series at the Kingston Brewing Company. Jory Nash also
plays on the double bill. “Having a kid changed things,”
says the Toronto guitarist. “At the time I was fronting my
own band and these days you can't afford to pay a band
regularly or you don't make any money, and making money
became more important after my daughter was born. So I
started doing gigs as a single.” “Life got very busy. I
was home with my daughter during the daytime and I wasn't
writing songs as much with lyrics, after I wrote the
requisite number of I love my kid songs.” Consequently,
Fowler started playing more acoustic guitar and writing
more originals, and his latest album, Big Hill, Little
Hill, is a collection of acoustic guitar instrumental
music. “The guitar went back to feeling like a hobby again
and I started to enjoy playing it even more.” There are a
couple of Kingston ingredients on the CD, since two of the
three guitars used on it were made by area guitar-maker
Oskar Graf. “Those are my main two acoustics and I've got
another coming in the spring,” says Fowler. “Oskar's my
man. Unlike a factory-made guitar, you can have things on
a hand-made, like a slightly wider neck and a more curved
fingerboard. Most American guitars are knockoffs of
Martins and Gibsons. But Oskar comes out of the German
guitar-making tradition and then he came over here and met
all these folkies. His guitars are very close, in terms of
the design, to classical guitars.” Making an instrumental
record proved to be a good career move for Fowler. “Being
a male singer-songwriter of my age and experience makes me
one of about 1000 out there,” he says. “Doing just an
instrumental record opened up a lot of doors for me.
Before, people would just think of me as a
singer-songwriter, but now I'm getting hired just as a
guitar player.” So, Fowler has a flourishing career as a
sideman: He'll be playing on the Ontario leg of crooner
John McDermott's next tour, and he has also worked with
Amy Sky, Brent Titcomb and Nash. “I've played on the last
couple of Jory's records,” says Fowler. “We do a fair
amount of double bills together. In fact, (tomorrow)
before we come to Kingston we're playing a gig at
Harbourfront.” Tomorrow's show won't be all instrumental
music. “When I play live, I still sing a third to a half
of the night,” he says. “I don't want to listen to a whole
night of instrumental music and I think people come out to
hear songs,” he says. “And I like singing so much.”
Life Is Rich is a welcome arrival, Lynn Saxberg, Ottawa Citizen, March 7, 1998.
Toronto folk/roots artist Jason Fowler made a splash a few
years back with his debut CD, Hiss of Distance. Though it
never appeared on my desk, his latest, Life Is Rich, is a
welcome arrival. Fowler reminds me of a young Bruce
Cockburn, in the timbre of his voice, the intricacy of his
guitar work and even some of his arrangements. His
roots-rock sensibility is evident in songs like the
strong, Wallflowers-ish melody of the title track, while a
folkie's touch can be heard in the simple lyrics and
sparkling acoustic guitar of Don't You Go Away. Where
Fowler differs is in the old-time flavor of a couple of
tunes, such as the piano-driven Baby It's You and the
ragtime-flavored I Didn't Mean For It To Happen, and his
intimate lyrics. There's a definite connection to the
heart in Fowler's songs as he chronicles the ups and downs
of relationships, touching on two of the biggest steps-
marriage in the achingly romantic Marriage Song and a
baby's birth in the sweet, husky Latest Miracle. At this
stage of the game, life is rich and it's nice to hear
somebody write about it so honestly.
RPM Weekly- Life Is Rich, by Walt Grealis January 19, 1998.
A very serious picker at the best of times, Toronto
singer/songwriter Jason Fowler lightens up a bit with this
package of high level entertainment. Fowler is known for
his exceptional finger work and his thought provoking
lyrics and he follows through with this release of Fowler
originals, with the exception of one track, I Didn't Mean
For It To Happen, which was written by another Fowler,
Lancelot, and which is a key track. Fowler is also a
perfectionist, displaying an intense concentration on his
picking yet able to shift this concentration with ease to
bring his vocal talent into prominence. Also key is Don't
You Go Away, Some People Change and the countrified title
track. Also contains two instrumentals, a highly-energized
Hector The Inspector and a more laid-back Hunger Of The
Clock, where Fowler's guitar work is dominant. The session
players, which happen to be Fowler's backup band, are
exceptional: Dave Szigeti (electric and acoustic bass,
tenor banjo, harmony vocal), Todd Lumley (acoustic piano,
Hammond B-3, Wurlitzer, Kurzweil and accordian), Mark
Mariash (drums, guitar back and djembe), and of course,
Fowler (acoustic, electric, hi-string and baritone
guitars and mandolin). Produced by Fowler and his band and
recorded at TheStudio at Puck's Farm in Schomberg,
Ontario. Mastered by George Graves at Toronto's Lacquer
Lambda - Life Is Rich, Thursday, February 26, 1998.
Have you ever had one of those friends who can just pick
up a guitar in the middle of a party, start playing
something he wrote only minutes before and basically
hypnotize everyone in the place with his sound? Well, that
is basically what this second release by Jason Fowler is
like. Jason began playing guitar with his father, then
ended up receiving a degree in classical guitar
performance from McGill University. His first album, Hiss
Of Distance, sold 400 copies and was only available in
Toronto record stores and at live performances. The
musical style changes throughout the album from country,
blues, modern pop, ragtime to almost any style you can
think of on the guitar. There are even two instrumentals
titled Hector the Inspector and Hunger of the Clock which
give the album an extra edge. It is so nice to sit down
and listen to an album and not have to worry about
pounding bass lines and screaming vocals. Jason fowler is
an artist and uses this CD to place his creation in the
laps and ears of the listener. I have no idea how
available this disc is going to be, but find it! Life Is
Rich is full of everything music is missing these
days…talent, excitement and heart.
Hiss Of Distance - Jason Fowler
Online Review: http://maine.maine.edu/~n-audio/Fowler.html
I've always maintained that music, while it may have been
available for some time, will always be new to someone.
It's just one of the reasons that my musical travels take
me back in time in addition to looking forward. Upon
hearing each new recording one expands one's musical
experience and knowledge. This can allow for much
exploration. It can also allow one to backtrack with a
more expansive, watchful eye/ear.
For those of us based in the U.S.A., even those of us
living in a state that borders Canada, it would've have
been difficult to find out about Jason Fowler's Hiss Of
Distance when it was first released in Canada. Publishing
a magazine, I am fortunate enough that gems like Hiss can
sometimes just fall into my mail box, even when they
aren't fresh out of the CD pressing plant.
One listen to Jason Fowler's Hiss Of Distance will be
enough to impress anyone who's familiar with Bruce
Cockburn. There are enough striking similarities that
comparisons with Cockburn are inevitable. You would do
yourself a great disservice if you dismiss Fowler as a
clone, though I'd truly be surprised to find a Cockburn
fan unwilling to give Hiss Of Distance enough listens to
let it sink in. Hugh Marsh, who toured with and played on
a number of Cockburn's albums, adds his violin to two
Repeated exposure to Hiss Of Distance will reveal Fowler's
deft touches. He can capture one's ear with his voice
(elegantly wrapped around the lyric which gives the album
its title), his guitar playing (there are four
instrumental tracks, including the wonderfully soulful
acoustic slide version of Amazing Grace) or with a lyric
("I feel a deep desire to say goodbye/and leave this place
behind/my destination need not be defined/though I long to
kiss the fragrant mist/of the west coast ocean spray/and
hear the sweetly shattering sound.../the hiss of
distance"). But the sum of these parts proves simple math
doesn't always add up. When all the elements that make up
Jason Fowler and his music came together on Hiss Of
Distance they far surpassed any simple calculations.
If Fowler were to learn one thing from Cockburn, which
Hiss Of Distance is ample evidence that he has done so, it
would be the philosophy of being adept at many styles of
music. He is equally adept, injecting his own personality,
with blues (the playful No Blues Pass By My Door, the
aforementioned Amazing Grace), rock (It's Love That
Matters Most ), classical ( Waltz For Beth, Canterbury
Cathedral - Fowler graduated from Montreal's McGill
University with a Bachelor of Music degree in classical
guitar performance) or folk ( James' Song, Hiss of
The question that must be asked is what will Fowler do to
follow up this album? With any luck we'll be asking that
question well into the 21st century, with each successive
Jason Fowler album.
Rating : **** posted April 19th, 1997
RPM- Hiss Of Distance, by Walt Grealis Monday, October 16, 1995.
Here's a guitarist who can really sing, or is he actually
a singer who can really play guitar? Actually, it's
Fowler's finger work on the guitar that commands first
attention. His unique talent here is not unlike the folk
heroes of the past coffee houses, who brought the house to
attention with brilliant acoustic guitar performances.
Guitar playing aside, Fowler has a simplistic and
barebones approach with his vocals that's almost poppy,
but in more of a positive vein. The roots are fairly
obvious, but still, he shouldn't be pigeon-holed. The
entertainment value crosses all barriers. He lays out what
might be construed as some traumatic happenings in his
life, but he has the extraordinary talent of making these
sad tidings more of a celebration of life, particularly
with Ides Of March. His unique fingering work is probably
best displayed on the instrumental Canterbury Cathedral,
and the soulful Amazing Grace, which is also an
instrumental. Here's an artist who builds anticipation
into each of his tracks, a genuine craftsman at work. Also
ket is the bluesy No Blues Pass By My Door, and again,
it's Fowler's own interpretation of the blues, which may
be a little to the left, but nevertheless, it has his
musical signature. But don't overlook the title track.
That's supremo fiddle-guy Hugh Marsh doing the honours.
That's him on When Morning Stumbles In. Also in on the
session were drummer Mark Mariash and Drew Birston on
acoustic upright bass. Leah Salomaa is heard on harmony
vocal on Glad You're Home Tonight. Produced by Fowler and
recorded at Toronto's Studio North, with the exception of
Simple Chains and Canterbury Cathedral, which were
recorded by John LaRocque at Wormwood Mews in Toronto.
Performing Songwriter- Hiss Of Distance, by Neil Fagan January/ February 1996.
The trouble with subtlety is that it so often goes
unnoticed. If it's hard to catch, then it's even harder to
create. For a lesson in how to do it right, check out the
fourth song on Hiss Of Distance, “Glad You're Home
Tonight”. A recently broken-hearted guy calls a female
friend for consolation. You'll find yourself wondering why
these two aren't a couple already. Fowler is another
accomplished writer and musician from Canada. On Hiss Of
Distance, he offers up eleven tracks, including four
instrumentals, and one cover. His voice is often
reminiscent of another Canadian, Bruce Cockburn, and come
to think of it, his guitar work is almost the equal of
Cockburn's. “When Morning Stumbles In”, would definitely
make the other Bruce smile. The album closes with an
instrumental version of “Amazing Grace”. Fowler's slide
guitar gives the old hymn a plaintive, bluesy feel rarely
heard in today's mainstream gospel.
Words and Music- Hiss Of Distance, March 1996.
Singer/songwriter Jason Fowler makes quite an entrance
with this fine little debut album. With a dry, unaffected
voice, Fowler cuts to the heart of his own clipped,
edifying lyrics. But Hiss Of Distance suggests that the
artist is a guitarist first, an impression driven home by
some very fancy pickin' and the inclusion of several
Billboard- Hiss Of Distance, Larry LeBlanc January 27, 1996.
A gifted guitarist, singer and songwriter, Toronto-based
Fowler quietly released his fine album “Hiss Of Distance”
late last year. A real gem.
McGill News, Spring 1991.
Jason Fowler, tonight's featured performer, seems unfazed
by the small crowd. With the first song, everything- size
of audience, level of amps- seems unimportant. The guy is
good, damn good. He sings about love lost and found, being
on the road, being horny, being happy. His instrumental “E
Minor Suite” is, quite simply, gorgeous. A new-age piece
with old-age depth.