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Vain & Alone: The heart broken a thousand times, reassembled a thousand and one.

Vain & Alone, December 25, 2015. Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

Vain & Alone, December 25, 2015. Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.


With my father hovering somewhere between worlds, I am firmly Vain but somewhere between Alone and not.

These were days infused with a kind of poetry that crushed us,
days burdened by an unbearable beauty…
that broke the heart a thousand times and reassembled it a thousand and one.
These were days when I was not much of a father to my children,
not much of a lover to my wife, not much of a friend to the few friends I have.
Only a son in service to his father.
In return, he told me with scathing honesty what he saw in me,
and located that nurturing part of me I’d thought long dead.

I’ve held on to this photo for a bit, unsure of it, not trusting its’ origins.
But in the life I have created for myself,
these kind of moments are all I have to weave into the work I do.
So, I wonder aloud here at what this man gave with his dying
to his wife, his children, his grandchildren, and his friends:
shattering the inane noise of the world for us with his ragged breath,
lubricating this arid desert of a place
with tears that leaked from his eyes in his final moments,
and finally binding us together with his absence…

This is the gift he gave us:  how it could be when it is our time to die.

The poetry, the heartache, the laughter, the songs,
the courage, the fear, the healing,
the forgiveness, the goodbye, the wrenching loveliness of it all—
this is what we can give to our own sons and daughters, lovers and friends.

I was alone in the house when I self-consciously set up the phone to capture singing a song to him, a song we had crafted together.  It was a song that came to be when he declared his pride in what I did for a living even though, as a father, it worried him to no end.  He was firm in the pride he felt but asked if I couldn’t at least write something “light”— not my strong suit, to be sure.  So, we spoke of his great love for my mother, and his growing love for the simple beauty he would see outside the window — the trees, the sky, the sun, the birds — that left him speechless and dumbfounded as to why the whole world seemed not to notice.  A song was woven together over time.

On this night, I sang it to him as I had done dozens of times in the previous weeks (along with his favourite cowboy tunes and a few from the hit parade he used to sing to us as kids) but in a self-conscious way, too aware of the camera, wondering what kind of man would film himself like this? as I sang looking down on his unmoving body.

When I stumbled into the bridge,
and the line “Love comes for you”,
he surfaced and opened his eyes to me,
raising his arm slowly to rest his hand on my forearm.
I continued picking through the solo
and at the first line of the last chorus, “Mary, Mary, in the yard”
he chuckled, then slipped back to where he’d come from, gliding out on
“Through the trees the sunlight slips/
To steal a kiss from Mary’s lips.”

This photo, taken after I put the guitar down,
is less a record of my singing to him
and more that of a son who owed his father everything,
learning here how to say goodbye,
and deeper in debt
when all was said and done.

Would that it could be this way for everyone who reads this.

gh

 

Gallery

Useful In a War

Recorded in Toronto, December 2015.  With Kevin Breit, Russ Boswell, and Lisa Hodgson.  Videography by Adrian Underhill.

 

I am yours to do your bidding
It’s been this way since the beginning
Now my hair is grey and thinning
Do you need me anymore?

I have watched the burning skies
Through a coward’s eyes
Ignored the battle cries
That are right outside my door.

Stumbled drunk through love and joy
Far too long the mannish boy
But I’m ready to deploy
Make me useful in a war.

Purify my ambition
Sanctify my secret mission
Make me Black Ops, cut the cord
Deny that I was even in the war.

Take my head out of the heavens
Take my hands and make them weapons
Hold me to the oath I swore
Make me useful in a war.

Make me deaf to my own voice
I wont question any choice
Coming down from the Commodore
Make me useful in a war.

Throw me in the line of fire
Make me climb the razor wire
Until my flesh is torn
Make me useful in a war.

Take my fear and give it edges
Make me dance out on the ledges
Make me hungry, make me poor
Make me useful in a war.

 

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Kevin Breit – Gregory Hoskins

Coming in December to Southern Ontario, 5 nights of songs of love, hate, hubris, humility, and muscular sorrow drawn from the catalogs of these veteran recording artists.

BH_BN

Friday December 4,  Dublin St. United Church, Guelph.  Buy Now
Joined by Russ Boswell on bass, Lisa Hodgson on vox.

Saturday December 5, Bad Manor, Elora.  Buy Now
Kevin Breit and Gregory Hoskins tear through their diverse catalogs.

Thursday December 10, Moonshine Cafe, Oakville.  Buy Now
Joined by Don Rooke who will be contributing songs from the excellent 2015 release of The Henrys “Quiet Industry”.  Russ Boswell, Lisa Hodgson, and drummer Geoff Arsenault joining.

Friday December 11, Knox Amphitheater, Stratford.  Buy Now
Joined by Don Rooke who will be contributing songs from the excellent 2015 release of The Henrys “Quiet Industry”.  Russ Boswell, Lisa Hodgson, and drummer Geoff Arsenault joining.

Sunday December 13, The Burdock, Toronto.  Buy Now
Breit, Hoskins, and an armada of songs for troubled times.

Gallery

A bit of A Singer & A Painter: 00:30

Gallery

A Singer and a Painter: Encore Concert Presentation with Tina Newlove, Dec 12, Hamilton, ON

Buy Tickets:

https://gregoryhoskins.bandcamp.com/merch/ticket-to-pearl-company-hamilton-december-12-2015

TIX_DEC_12

I first met Tina Newlove at this time of the year in 2012 in a factory loft art space (sadly no longer there) in Kitchener, ON.  We performed as part of a series that curated a visual artist and a musician for an evening.  Not content with just singing in the midst of art hanging on the wall,  I thought maybe live painting would be an avenue to look into and Tina had had plenty of experience with painting on stage.  Then I thought it would be a lot cooler if somehow the painting and I could interact more, and that’s when I proposed training a video camera on to Tina’s canvas and projecting the feed over me onto a screen behind me.  The singer and the song become sort of subservient (nice alliteration) to the “hand of god” and the brush as the audience watches the birth of a painting, the mess of it all, the seeming disorganization and the sometimes horrifying white-ing out of a part of the image that one might have grown attached to…

FROM LOW_2

The singer, the screen, the hand.

It.  Was.  Amazing.  The painting sold (you would be advised to bring along a chequebook), the audience was exhausted, and we had done something a little off the beaten path.

We are very excited to try this again in the lovely factory confines of The Pearl Company in Hamilton, Ontario.  Please join us.

TandG1

gh and artist Tina Nelove and a piece of the finished painting still being projected.

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, 40 years on.

I didn’t know today was the 40th anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald going down.
A few years ago, on a magical night, I was lucky to be in the company of some of the finest musicians a man could find himself in and one of the songs we did that night was Lightfoot’s iconic retelling of the sorrow of the misfortune of the men aboard. Here is a link to that performance.

The arrangement, by Aaron Davis, is worth plugging your computer/handset into a stereo worthy of the endeavour.

http://artoftimeensemble.com/media/music?id=33

Vain and Alone in T’Sou-ke Nation

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Vain and Alone in T’Sou-ke Nation.
It takes a particular vanity to do this under the gaze of a tree that that has and will outlive me and all those I love.  I hope it had a sense of humour.

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