The Grindstone Cowboys play in Portland

July 31, 2011

For film of Saturday’s Sail-past and Salute, check

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PpShfEo6zQ

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Saturday I sat at a picnic table in Hanna Park in Portland while a group of us listened to a very laid-back concert by a group of musicians who call themselves The Grindstone Cowboys.  To say these guys and ladies are good is like saying Buzz Boles’s honey is sweet.  The event was the second annual Portland on the Rideau Historical Society Sail-past and Salute in celebration of the life of Admiral Kingsmill.

One fellow didn’t seem to be playing an instrument or singing, so I drew him aside for a word.  He introduced himself as David Bearman, summer resident of Grindstone Island.  “The Cowboys are an eclectic collection of musicians who turn up at the Island on long weekends to make music.”  I asked about his role as patron of this obviously talented group.

“It’s a very extended family, though not one is a blood relative of mine.  I provide wine and cheese.”  He pointed to the inscription on his T-shirt:  “Three things that age well:  cheese, scotch, and ‘King’ David.”

The group slipped from “Hallelujah” to “Folsom Prison Blues,” and the kid playing violin by ear didn’t miss a note.  Somebody behind the tree worked some mellow riffs out of a harmonica.

What struck me about this group of musicians was the ease with which they and younger family members contributed to the songs from their small circle of chairs under a tree.  There is way too much talent and technique here for a garage band.  “King” David admitted that several of the members are professional musicians on their way to the Canadian Guitar Festival this weekend in Kingston.

Bearman supports the Historical Society’s work, partly because his summer residence was the home of Admiral Kingsmill, so he has brought the band in each year to provide music for the tribute.

He told me the group’s next gig is at the Corn Festival on Sunday at Wendy’s Market, near Lyndhurst.   Bearman warmed to the subject.  “Wendy’s Market has a special event on the last Sunday of each month during market season, with musicians, artisans, farmers and chefs invited along for a party at a farm on a dirt road between Morton and Lyndhurst.”  He encouraged me to find out more and write a column about Wendy and her operation.

By now they were doing a sing-along version of “I’ll Fly Away” and we stopped to listen to the remarkably clear alto of one of the seated group members.  Then the lead guitarist finished off with a squeaky rendition of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”

There’s certainly no predicting the songs the Grindstone Cowboys will perform.  On their website they offer a number of original cuts like “Sam McGee,” as well as spirited covers of “Thunder Road” and “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”  I hadn’t realized how much all of these songs rely upon their instrumental interludes.

The Grindstone Cowboys are highly competent musicians with a penchant for anonymity through corny pseudonyms.  If you get a chance to catch them in concert, they’re well worth a listen.  You can also find samples of their work online, especially on CBC3.

It’s an open secret that noted guitarist David Barrett plays steel guitar for the group.

Then Buzz Boles took me aside to show off a treasure the Portland on the Rideau Historial Society has just unearthed.  Sim Scovil, grandfather of the recently departed Tom Scovil, revived his grandfather’s store on the waterfront in 1924, serving the Portland community and summer residents until his retirement due to ill health in 1967.  Sim made a practice of mailing out to his customers spring and fall greetings consisting of poems he had written and a few personal notes.

Buzz told me they were delighted this week to receive a scrapbook containing a dozen or so of these poems from Frances Quattrochi in Smiths Falls.  By interpolation they believe there should be between sixty and eighty titles out there, and they would very much appreciate access to any that readers might have.  They want to put together a book of Sims’s work.

If you have or can get access to any of Mr. Scovil’s poems, please contact Doug Good or Buzz Boles, or email prhs@live.ca.  Have a look also at http://portlandontario.com.

FALL, 1942                              by Sim Scovil

DON’T FORGET THE SOLDIERS’ MAIL

When the troops are busy training,

And perhaps it has been raining,

When discomfort seems the order of the day;

Then a parcel or a letter

Makes a soldier somewhat better,

For he knows he’s not forgotten, though away.

It’s a joyful, gladsome feeling

O’er his senses quickly stealing

As he’ll recognize the old familiar hand;

Like a miser with his treasure,

He’ll gloat o’er it at his leisure,

With a simple joy not hard to understand.

This link never should be broken,

For to him it’s just a token

Of a loving friend who’s ever in his mind;

And he’ll do his duty gaily

For his heart’s uplifted daily

By the thoughtfulness of those he’s left behind.

To you who were able to come to the Lake this summer, thanks for everything.  For you who missed the Rideau this season, well, better luck in 1943.

SIM SCOVIL

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