Literary family snapshots told with unflinching candor & wry humour in Pamela Williams’ Evelyn’s Stories

Cover photo of Evelyn by Pamela Williams.

 

I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Pamela Williams’ new book Evelyn’s Stories at a reading to a packed room on Sunday at the Tranzac Club. Known mostly for her beautiful, haunting black and white photographs of cemetery sculpture, Williams has assembled a collection of brief stories, as told to her by her mother Evelyn—and some handed down to Evelyn by her mother—in a series of short vignettes. Evelyn’s Stories are literary snapshots of family across time and space, ranging from 1900s Glasgow, to 1930s Thornbury and into the 1970s and beyond.

Told with unflinching candor, sharp detail and wry humour, Evelyn’s Stories is a window on moments of personal history and experience; inviting us for brief peeks (the stories are postcard-sized or slightly longer) inside the world of Williams’ family, as told to her by her mother, and to her mother by her grandmother.

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Pamela Williams reads at the launch of Evelyn’s Stories

It’s family biography as comedy and drama, with eyebrow-raising tales of marriage and infidelity (“When Hector Married Stella” and “Keep Toby Out, England, 1907”); charming and funny childhood shenanigans and observations (“Bathtub Visitor” and “Divorce”); memories of brutal and sweet elementary school teachers (“Mrs. Pinch” and “Miss Chalk’s Replacement”); tragic loss (“New Spectacles, Glasgow, 1906”); hilarious social interactions (“That’s Why I Asked You” and “At the Cinema”); and harrowing but comical senior driving mishaps (“Two Motorcycles” and “A Ride on the Wild Side”).

As the family tales shift from poignant, to comic, to tragic, to saucy, Evelyn’s Stories captures the heart, lives, loves and experiences of generations of family who crossed the ocean from Glasgow, Scotland to settle in rural/small-town Ontario, Canada.

Check out Williams’ book collection online, including her photography books; order via email.

 

 

Double-barrelled sound goodness @ Red Falcon / White Lightning CD launch

Big, big fun times as Red Falcon / White Lightning launched their double CD Rootsy!!! Rocky!!!! & Power!!! Poppy!!!! at the Tranzac Club last night.

Opening band The Roughnotes served up an energized set of alt country, rockabilly, wailing blues and even a little reggae with “Winona,” a tribute to Winona Ryder, and some old time rock ‘n roll with “Get A Job” and Beatles cover “I Saw Her Standing There.” Shouts to this awesome three-piece band: Colin Brady (vocals/guitar), Paul Pitre (back-up vocals/bass – and keys on the CD) and Matt Wills (drums), who brought some big audience love by offering their self-titled CD – for free! Keep your eyes and ears peeled for The Roughnotes.

Red Falcon / White Lightning – fronted by Robert Eckert on bass, and Jeff D. Elliott on lead vocals and guitar – doubled our pleasure with all original tunes from their two-pack CD Rootsy!!! Rocky!!!! & Power!!! Poppy!!!! , complete with custom t-shirts (Eckert is Red Falcon & Elliott is White Lightning) and RF / WF banners. The band was rounded out by an impressive selection of musicians/vocalists, including guitars and back-up vocals by Nelson Sobral (also of the band Melting Pot & the duo Cry Wolf) and Hugh Wilson (Big Name Actors), Kevin Jagger on drums, Pete Gorman on keys, and Jake Warwick jumping in for a few songs on back-up vocals and harp.

Kicking the set off on the roots/rock side of the spectrum, the band opened with “The Ballad of Red Falcon White Lightning,” an anthem with a driving beat and harmonies that bring to mind Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The band continued giving us a sampling of the two discs, which I’m listening to as I write this post; the CD set features some nice sax and horn arrangements, especially on the Power!!! Poppy!!!! disc. Love the whimsy of the kazoo arrangement on the Rootsy!!! Rocky!!!! first track “Run Back Jack” and the haunting harmonies on “Always Missing Out” – and there’s a trippy psychedelic vocal riff on “Pretty Big Shoes To Fill.” And there’s a fun, surprise message at the end of the RR disc too. 🙂

On the Power!!! Poppy!!!! disc, “Flame Without A Fire” features heart-pounding rhythms and more tight harmonies (I should note here that my left foot did not stop tappin’ all through the concert – even when I was taking pics!). “I Live With My Girl” has a great kicky pop sound, reminding me of Simon and Garfunkle. With lyrics full of heart and soul, accompanied by infectious beats, whether about a girl like in “Sooner or Later” or getting the audience to join in on “To the Moon” – I defy anyone to stay still while immersed in the joyful noise sounds of this band.

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The Roughnotes: Paul Pitre on bass, Matt Wills on drums and Colin Brady on guitar/lead vocals
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The Roughnotes – Colin Brady
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Red Falcon / White Lighting
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RF / WL – Jeff D. Elliott
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RF / WL – Robert Eckert
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RF / WL – Nelson Sobral
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RF / WL – Hugh Wilson
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RF / WL – Jake Warwick & Hugh Wilson
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RF / WL – Kevin Jagger
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RF / WL – Pete Gorman

These guys can most definitely rock. With a powerful, eclectic sound, supported by stellar vocals and musicianship, Red Falcon / White Lightning is definitely a band to watch out for. You can also check them out on their YouTube channel and Bandcamp page.

Some December happenings

While I’m taking a bit of a break after all the recent theatre-going and set work, thought I’d shout out some ongoing and upcoming December fun.

Red Sandcastle Theatre is cooking with music, comedy, drama and holiday fun all month long! Check out their website to see what A.D./actor Rosemary Doyle (who’s appearing in Escape From Happiness till Dec 17) has happening for December.

Alexander Showcase Theatre (formerly the Alexander Players and Singers) remounts their 1940s radio play version of It’s A Wonderful Life for a very short run, from Thursday, December 6 (that’s tonight, folks) to Saturday, December 8 – please note the early curtain time of 7:30 p.m. – at the Papermill Theatre.

The December edition of The Beautiful and the Damned poetry cabaret is coming up next week, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 13 upstairs at Glad Day Bookshop. Hosted by Duncan Armstrong, and featuring Rocco di Giacomo, Melissa Benner and Ameoba Starfish, plus open mic performers.

Songwriters Circle of Jerks – featuring the amazing sounds of Melting Pot, Big Name Actors, Nick Verona and David Hustler, and maybe even a guest or two – at Free Times Café, also on Thursday, December 13 – 8 p.m. in the back room.

Set Those Sails – A Night of William Finn with new arrangements by Tara Litvak on Friday, December 14 at the Tranzac Club (292 Brunswick Ave., Toronto) at 7:30 p.m.

Animator/filmmaker/artist Patrick Jenkins and photographer Pamela Williams are both going to be appearing at a Goth Bazaar (918 Bathurst St., Toronto) on Saturday, December 15 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Plasticine Poetry – poetry and spoken word at Pauper’s Pub on Sunday, December 16 at 6 p.m. – featuring David Clink, Lisa de Nikolits, Cathy Petch and Lizzie Violet.

Singer/songwriter Craig Stickland plays at The Drake Hotel on Tuesday, December 18 – 9 p.m. $10 cover or $5 with a non-perishable item.