Thursday, May 7, 2009
There is probably nothing as Canadian, or as confusing as Canadian football. Where to start with the CFL? The insane rules, incredibly huge field, medicine ball sized football, the fact two teams in an eight team league had the same name and, of course the distinct lack of talent (read more about my hatred here), let's just say the CFL is no friend of mine.
Even with my distaste for the tradition of Canadian football, it seems there is one area the CFL dominate their counterparts south of the border: music. Sure, we all got excited seeing the Fridge and Willie Gault freak the funk on the SuperBowl Special, and don’t get me started on Prime to the Hammer, Hammer to the Prime or the redneck charm of Hank Williams telling us about his rowdy friends, but for the most part there hasn’t been a huge amount of tracks coming from NFL-ers.
Now, thanks to the tireless work of folklorist Henry Adam Svec, we have a fully restored version of the legendary CFL Sessions that were captured in the 1970s by the late Canadian folklorist Staunton R. Livingston. The songs were the best of the best, with CFL players performing original tracks and spirited covers that were played in locker rooms and bars after the games. Svec retreated to the House of Miracles and with the support of Canadian notables WL Altman, Laura Barrett, Andy Magoffin and Jeseka Hickey, he recreated the efforts as best he could. The result is an interesting glimpse into the past freshened with a new coat of paint. More importantly, musically this record kicks it like Lui Passaglia.
Without the large contracts and stardom of other professional sporting leagues, Canadian football is a seasonal occupation akin to tree planting or landscaping. The stark honesty of simple admissions like, "in the offseason I work at the mall. I sell shoes" or "I could drink all night in this city, if we had any money" really hammer home the fact a lot of these players play simply for the love of the game.
Central theme and cohesion aside, the songs are enjoyable even out of context. The songs focus on the sadness of the CFL athlete, but could just as easily be about the working class. I think Svec made a smart choice using lighter melodies and not letting depression dominate the recordings. The quick burst of pace on Life is Like Canadian Football or the jangle-y guitar that dances along in surprisingly catchy, Song Written Upon Getting Cut by the Argos keep you listening. Another uptempo ditty, On Play lets Svec show off his more playful side and even the campfire feel of CFL Seasons in the Sun is more enjoyable than you'd expect. Long story short, while the CFL sessions may not get me excited for the upcoming season, it is an enjoyable listen (especially considering it's free).
MP3:: CFL Sessions - Song Written Upon Getting Cut by the Argos
MP3:: CFL Sessions - Life is Like CFL Football
PS - If you are still buying the historical accuracy of this project, I have a Sidd Finch rookie card on auction on EBay you might want to get in on.