After almost a decade of producing award-winning albums of original work, Colleen Power decided to return to the folk ballads that first sparked her love of music.This December, the singer/songwriter released, Raised On This, an album of her favourite traditional Newfoundland, Irish, and Celtic songs.
We spoke to her about her inspiration for the new album.
What Does the Title Raised on This Mean?
My good friend and amazing Singer/Songwriter Sherry Ryan came up with the title. I was looking for something that reflected the fact that most of these songs were ones I heard and sang growing up in Freshwater, Placentia Bay.
My bedroom was directly above the living room, and when Dad and Mom had people over, often, The Clancy Brothers and Ryan’s Fancy vibrated through the ceiling and through the floor of my room. I had a few titles for the recording and they weren’t doing it for me, and when Sherry came in to sing on the album, she said “You should call it Raised on This! It was perfect and that was it.
What Made You Want to Record an Album of Trad Songs Right Now?
I’ve wanted to do it for many years, and I actually found a list with most of these songs on it in my notes from 2002, before I recorded my second CD, Face and Eyes.
It was spurred on in a big way by singing songs at gravesides when my relatives and friends’ relatives died and were being buried. It is a sentimental album and most of the songs mean something to me or remind me of a certain person.
Also, I found out in 2005 from my late Grandfather Thomas Connors that my late Grandmother, Ellen (Nellie), who was from Belfast was a singer in concert halls over there before moving to Newfoundland as a war bride. I found that very fascinating. Pop Connors used to say, “Colleen, you should have heard her singing the ballads.”
I went to Belfast and came back with her birth certificate in 2000 and that was a big deal for my Mom and her sisters, who’d never been to Ireland at all. She passed away when I was three, but I have memories of her singing and vague memories of her praying or speaking in Gaelic.
Many of These Songs are Ones You Sang at the Beginning of Your Career Before Becoming a Songwriter. Do You Appreciate Different Things about These Songs Now That You Are a Songwriter?
Absolutely. These are all very well-written songs. I love the story songs and the ballads of loss and longing for loves, places, and better times in the past. I found it very interesting to do research on each song, finding different versions of each that had been altered with the passing of time, what my late, great friend, Ron Hynes called “the folk process.”
When I listen to the album as a whole, I can easily compare it to the vibe I feel in Newfoundland right now, a sort of sentimental longing of better things and a better way. When I listen to the stories of The Boston Burglar and Sam Hall, I am reminded of our Province’s skewed justice system; that could be the political activist in me. But overall, I have a great love for all of these songs and it’s no trouble to know they are very finely crafted.
What’s Your Favourite Song on the Album and Why?
That’s a difficult question to answer! I have a different one every day. I guess right now it’s a toss up between Cod Liver Oil and Molly Bawn. I loved singing with Fergus O’Byrne and Mark Hiscock, so I could listen to them all day.
And there’s Pat Murphy’s Meadow, which was my father’s favourite when he died, and the song that my brothers wanted me to sing when he was being buried. That was brutal but I did it, and I knew he would have loved it. That song was recorded very simply, live off the floor at Jason Whelan’s studio, The Sound Solution, in one take, with Jason playing guitar and me singing. I love the simplicity of it.
My favourite part of doing the album was working with and recording with such amazing Newfoundland traditional artists like Fergus O’Byrne, Mark Hiscock, Jason Whelan, Dave Panting and Geoff Panting and Rob Brown, and it’s always a treat to work with Sherry Ryan and my wicked rhythm section of Aneirin Thomas and Ed Sutherby. There may be a volume 2 and 3 of Raised on This, and there are so many more talented folks I’d love to work with!