BY SEÁN P. FEENY
LATER this week the Balor Arts Centre in Ballybofey will welcome an extraordinarily talented Canadian artist Cam Penner and his dark, raw and folksy blues.
It has been nearly five years since Cam last visited Ireland to tour and the musician is very much looking forward to making a return to these shores on his 20-date tour of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Speaking to the affable Canadian on Thursday, after he had just stepped off the plane in the UK, Cam was already on the road, something he is very used to and is reflected in his beautiful songs such as Driftwood or Memphis.
“I really enjoy performing in Ireland and the UK; and Europe in general. The people have a real sense of appreciation for the travelling musician and the stories you have to tell, whether they are in the music you play or you tell them in between songs. It’s all about the experiences you have on the road, the people you meet, the places you get to go to, the musicians you get to play with and you’ll have some crazy stories to tell from live on the road, which has always been very important to me.
“I don’t complain when I am on the road, why do that, you will only make it worse on yourself. And you learn not to take anything for granted.”
Cam is a throwback to the old-time authentic travelling artist. At only 18 years of age, he left small town life to wander the highways and back roads of North America.
A year later Cam found himself in the US city of Chicago serving mystery soup and stale bread to two hundred and fifty homeless men a day.
Next, a women and children’s shelter, then youth shelters and detox centres. For 13 years he immersed himself in this subculture absorbing as much raw humanity as he could.
When the shift was over he would spend endless cathartic hours writing and playing his guitar, exorcising his emotions through music.
After becoming a self-taught expert on homelessness, he decided to become a full time touring artist, meanwhile becoming homeless himself.
Cam said: “I’ve had no regrets in my life, and the biggest thing for me has been the travelling and in my music I try to come to a resolution for things and don’t just form an opinion about some of the things that I have experienced.”
Cam is accompanied by producer and guitarist Jon Wood. While Cam lives up in the mountains, Jon lives in the city of Vancouver, but somehow, Cam said, their music just clicked when they started playing together eight years ago.
“Jon and I have worked on my last three albums together and he is on the road with me, too. He’s a pain in the a** otherwise, but he keeps me intrigued,” Cam laughed.
“Jon lives in Vancouver a few hours away from me in the forest, but when we play together it’s something unique and just fits.”
Together their music conjures up comparisons with Tom Waits, Charlie Parr and Otis Gibbs, stirring up the ghosts of long gone bluesmen and old time hillbillies in its raw power. It’s folk, blues and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s as authentic and distinctive as the man himself.
For further information ticket bookings call the Balor Arts Centre box office in Ballybofey on Tel 07491 31840 or log onto www.balorartscentre.com