Various artists’ One Voice: A Tribute to Norm Hacking

cover art, One VoiceNorm Hacking is a big man with a big heart and a lot of friends. Many of them gathered in the last year to put together this collection of some of Hacking’s best songs, performed with affection and skill. Wayne Marshall, a guitarist and songwriter from Brantford, Ontario, produced this rich and varied collection.

I met Wayne this summer when we both were standing neck deep in a northern lake, watching the 10-12 year old boys we were counselling as they waterskied. It turned out that we shared an affection for Texas songwriters, folk music, and bottleneck guitar. He told me about a project he was working on. Now three months later, here it is, One Voice.

There are 18 songs on this CD, all composed by Hacking, but played and sung by a who’s who of Canadian folk musicians. The album begins with Jason Fowler’s precise finger-picking, backed by a tasteful pedal steel guitar (Al Brisco) on Hacking’s “Stubborn Ghost.” It tells the story of the “ghost of a child” who is always there, maintaining a sense of innocence in the mature songwriter. It’s a delightful image, and a relaxed, joyful performance. Chris Whitley follows with a jazzy version of “Go Down Dancing.” Accompanied by John Sheard on funky “N’orleans” piano, Whitley sings and adds a trumpet solo. Then Alan Rhody returns to a folk sound, finger-picked acoustic guitar and harmonica for a version of “Crazy For Love.” He adds his own harmonies to this tale of unrequited love. Beautiful.

Michael Smith, Brenda Lewis (with Tony Quarrington), Rick Fielding and Nancy White each provide tracks, lending their own special talents to this celebration of a master songwriter. I was not really familiar with Norm Hacking’s songs before, but they are well written, melodic works. They deal with universal themes of love, and loss, and stories of people trapped by both. Mikel Miller, Jory Nash and Ron Nigrini all join in. Some tracks were recorded live, others are studio recordings made for this collection, and one or two are borrowed from the artists’ own albums for inclusion here.

Much of the album is quiet, reflective, soft guitars and mellow voices. Marianne Girard’s “Reason To Love” sounds a bit like Judy Henske, powerful and strong. Producer Marshall forms a trio with Michael Laderoute and Jim Layeux for my favorite song on the album. “Shine” features the three vocalists trading verses and some interesting guitar breaks.

Hacking’s song “One Man Dynamo” celebrates the career of hockey player extraordinaire Wayne Gretzky. It’s the weakest track on the album, not because Jim Layeux does a bad job, it just isn’t a very good song. But that’s just one track out of 18. Not a bad average! And, this is called volume 1; maybe there’s more coming.

If you are a Norm Hacking fan and want to hear his songs done in a different way, then pick this album up. If you’ve never heard of Norm Hacking and crave some solid folk music, then pick this album up. If you are just a lover of good pickin’ and singin’ then pick this album up! You can order it from Norm Hacking’s website.

(3 Flamingos Music, 2001)


David Kidney

David Kidney was born in the Marine Hospital on Staten Island in the middle of the last century, when the millenium seemed a very long way off. His family soon moved to Canada, because the air was fresher. He has written songs and stories, played guitar, painted, sculpted, and coached soccer and baseball. He edits and publishes the Rylander, the Ry Cooder Quarterly, which has subscribers around the world. He says life in the Great White North is grand. He lives in Dundas in the province of Ontario, with his wife.

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