Edmonton Journal – Entertainment feature story

Meaty solo effort a collection of stories 

When touring Alberta, singersongwriter Jon Brooks likes to have a steak with his breakfast. 

Such was the case this Friday morning past, when at a Whyte Avenue eatery, the Ontario-based troubadour ordered up a juicy portion of beef with some eggs. One couldn’t help but draw a line between his plate and the compact disc case sitting on the table. The latest collection of 10 songs from Brooks, which was released under the title Moth Nor Rust, also has much meat on its bones. 

So much so, that Brooks was nominated as English Songwriter of the Year for the 2009 Canadian Folk Music Awards. It was an event he dearly would have loved to have attended this past weekend, but here he was, out on the prairie singing songs like War Resister, When We Go and Safer Days, his fly-on-the-wall tale of staying in Calgary’s infamous Cecil Hotel. (As it turned out, Susan Crowe wound up winning that Folk Music Award.) 

Brooks describes himself as “a collector of stories” who has sucked up the fumes and inspiration of such folk greats as Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen over the years. 

“I’ve been doing some of that on this tour. I was up in Fort McMurray, and even though I was doing a show, the main reason for being there was to get a deeper understanding of what that town is like,” said Brooks, who plays the Blue Chair Cafe this evening–his second show in as many weeks in Edmonton. 

“It is a place that is profoundly of our time.” 

While Brooks insists he is not interested in politics, he certainly has a handle on the events of the day and what spurs and motivates change, both good and bad. If he’s not sure what the real story is, he is just as apt to head off to some unsettled region and find out. In 1997, he made such a pilgrimage to wartorn Bosnia to get a first-hand sense of the devastation caused by years of violence and deprivation. He was so struck by what he encountered there that he put down his guitar for a time. But since 2006, he has released three albums–including the critically acclaimed Ours and The Shepherds, a collection of Canadian war stories. 

While sawing on his steak, Brooks talked about recording his latest disc, which takes its title from the New Testament. It is the definition of a solo effort, as listeners hear combinations of his voice, guitar and harmonica, and nothing more. 

“It took three rounds of sessions to get it right and I don’t really know why.” 

Tickets for the 8 p.m. show at the Blue Chair Cafe(9624 76th Ave.) are available by phoning the venue at 780-989-2861. 


November, 2009