Patrick Stewart - The Agawa Canyon Guitar Man

Posted: Monday, May 17, 2010 by •»¶hê ƒRëq»•-)•–––– in

I first met Patrick Stewart around 1997 in good ole Sault Ste. Marie. Patrick was selling life insurance at the time but as a sideline, he was a singer/guitarist looking to record his first album. My bass player at the time introduced him to me and we connected a bit over the next few months. He would show up at my band's gigs and ask to come up and sing a few songs and we had some good times. He was doing his own solo shows around town trying to build an audience, which he did. He was a strong singer and solid acoustic folk guitarist. The most enjoyable part of Pat's original music was his ability to tell a very clear story. His lyrics drew you in so easily that you felt you were on the same journey he had ventured to get the inspiration to write a particular song.

Patrick was now set to record his first album in 1997 but he had no experience with the recording studio. In true Sault Ste. Marie fashion, producers always seem to come out of the woodwork to volunteer to hopefully do good or in some cases, make a mess of the entire process. Recording for this album would be done at Satellite Sound Studios (now long gone). There was no doubt that Patrick wrote some strong songs and could have easily gone in and done his album with just himself and an engineer and had a project to be proud of at a minimal cost. I also believe that if you're doing your own album just as a demo or to sell locally, you don't really need a producer to control every aspect of the album. In Patrick's case, it was a signal for disaster.

At the time Patrick started recording his album, he had musicians lined up to perform on it along with a producer. He also had a graphic artist for the album's sleeve design. At the time, I was enjoying my own bands and playing around town when one day, I got a desperate call from Patrick saying that things weren't going well and asked if I would play drums and percussion on his album. I said absolutely, I'd love to. As it happened, the producer he had hired in good faith was running way over budget and he and the producer were locking heads at the direction of the project. Strange how some think they know how your song should be. It had gotten ugly and Patrick's spirits were sinking fast. When I got there, my bass player was in tow and we simply told Patrick to play his songs the way he always did in his solo shows and just get the engineer to press record. My bass player and I also said to just have fun and let what happens on tape, happen. The album process picked up speed and for the new batch of musicians, it was an absolute pleasure performing on the remainder of the album. The last song on the album "Maggie Malone" was the entire band just goofing around in one corner of the studio having a blast. Once the album was finally recorded and we listened back to it in the control room, we realized we had a beautiful piece of folk music created.

With the album complete, Patrick set out to perform shows but he also wanted to find a unique way to promote his album. He came up with a brilliant idea that to this day still puts a smile on my face. Patrick decided to approach the Agawa Canyon Train folks and become a singing linesman. They LOVED the idea. Patrick dressed up as a train linesman in vintage clothes and sang a 15 minute set in each train car throughout the trip to Agawa and back. To do this with some kind of amplification, he bought a small P.A. system on wheels that he could sing through and plug his acoustic guitar in yet have the ability to roll it from train car to train car. The audience ate this up like gang busters. He was a huge hit with the tourists and sold tons of copies of his album. He did this for 2 years until he was burnt out from playing and singing. That was a lot of singing especially during the hot summer months but it was worth the effort.

Patrick went on to play out of town and as quietly as he came into the Sault music scene, he mysteriously faded away. I've not heard from him in 10 years and there isn't a sample of his music anywhere that I can find on the internet.

Patrick was a super sweet guy that always had a story to tell. I'll always have fond memories of ordering Mrs. B's Pizza with the band while recording his album at Satellite Sound and then after a session going over to the Stonewalls bar to unwind after a night of recording with the entire band and engineer. Listening to the album as I write this today is a real treat. ;-) It's a shame this album was only done on cassette as there are some beautiful songs on here that should be redone on CD. Probably one of the best songs on the album is "Autumns Turning". That is my personal favourite. It's basically just Patrick and his guitar, a mandolin, harmonica and a backing vocal. It's got this haunting sound to it that makes it stand out from the rest of the album. Great song!!! Another personal fave is the song "Saskatchewan Moon". It was fun to play drums to but it's just an enjoyable song to listen too and it has a fun groove to it.

I really don't know what became of Patrick as some musicians only cross musical paths once or twice in a life time and never see each other again. I do hope he's still playing music as he does have a great gift. For me to be able to let you hear a few tracks of this wonderful album, I had to convert copies of the cassette to digital format which has limited sound quality just because I have a crappy tape deck but at least you will get a taste of the music of Patrick Stewart. I have created an album preview video with segments of each song for you to hear the music and view the album art.

Here is the song order of Patrick Stewart's One Road album.

1. Fee For the Fiddler
2. Whiskey Bay
3. Saskatchewan Moon
4. Autumn's Turning
5. Your Back Pocket
6. About A Train
7. Come Back Home
8. Herself Surprised
9. Piers
10.When She Flies
11.Maggie Malone

Musicians involved were as follows:

Patrick Stewart - Lead Vocals, Guitars
Rick Deevey - Guitars, Mandolin, Whistles, Vocals
Glen Thomas - Percussion, Drums, Vocals (Tracks 3,4,5,7,10,11)
George Ravlich - Bass
Jim Young - Guitar, Mandolin, Harmonica, Vocals
Rick Datson - Drums (Tracks 1,6)
Pierre Schryer - Fiddles
Mike Case - Banjo
Kelly McGillivray - Vocals