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Penny Lang (1942-2016)

Penny Lang

’‘Precious icon, this is what this woman is’‘ Richard Flohil

’‘Lang’s CFMAs for « Best Artist – Solo » and « Best Album – Contemporary » capped off a triumphant come-back for the 64-year-old singer’‘

Time Out New York called her “a Canadian cult folkie – an odd treasure”

Deep-rooted folk

 

A genuine living legend, Penny Lang is indeed a “First Lady of folk” in Canada, according to The Globe and Mail. With her unique, earthy voice, she interprets her own compositions, as well as ancient ballads, roots-blues or lovesongs, chosen from a repertoire of traditional and original pieces. Her award-winning eighth album, Stone + Sand + Sea + Sky (2006, Borealis/Koch), was produced with the help and talent of Big Apple friends Roma Baran and Vivian Stoll, and the result is pure gold. Two 2006 Canadian Folk Music Awards for Best Solo Artist, Best Contemporary Album; Helen Verger Award at the 2007 Ottawa Folk Festival.

Penny Lang Tribute Concert

Open up our hearts to see , Connie Kaldor

It’s not easy

To many night, Bobby Dove

Those Dance Hall Girls

Spanish Moss, Eve Goldberg

Keep on walking Forward

Let me Fly, Micheal J Browne

My Last go Round

Family Reunion, Danna Whittle, Béatrix Méthé, Colin Savoie-Levac

Careless Love (french)

 

 

Penny Lang emerged on the North American music scene in the 1960s. Her powerful interpretations and originals in folk, blues, country and gospel have gained her a large and devoted following as « a superb singer of sardonic folk material… hugely entertaining » (The Toronto Star). She also remained true to the art of entertaining, keenly perceptive and able to read the mood of her audiences. No two shows were alike, as she was a master communicator. Her songs: emotionally powerful observations of the human condition, sometimes poignant, sometimes hilarious, always memorable.

Born in east-end Montréal to a musical family, Penny Lang learned the ropes in prisons, hospitals, churches, camps and dusty old theatres. During the 1960s she performed at major folk festivals (Philadelphia, Mariposa..), folk clubs and countless bars throughout North America. Her mentors  were Dave vanRonk and Kate McGarrigle; she hung with Stevie Wonder and the Reverend Gary Davis; she adored Nina Simone and Pete Seeger. A near brush with fame occurred when she was asked to record Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne for a US major label  but it was not to be. Her darkest years lay ahead of her, and Penny left regular performing in 1970 after the birth of her son Jason.

In 1988, after some time living in rural Québec, Penny re-emerged a stronger woman and a more powerful force. With the help of friends she directed her energies into songwriting, and was welcomed back to an adoring public. She became the darling of le tout Montréal, virtually precipitating a folk/roots revival. Dobros and mandolins, harmonicas and accordions; singalongs, jump-ups, improv: these were the magic of Penny’s shows, which could best be described as “happenings”. Eventually the rest of Canada caught on, “when she re-emerged in the late ‘80’s…it was as if a folk music resurrection had taken place” said Alan Neister of The Globe & Mail, who also crowned her « a first lady of folk”.

Since returning to the stage, Penny Lang once again took to the road. There were countless shows throughout North America, and she’d also toured to Australia, Italy, Denmark, France & the UK. Her admirers are everywhere. She also finally began to record: six critically acclaimed albums, Yes (1991), Live at the Yellow Door (1992), Ain’t Life Sweet (1993), Carry on Children (1996), Penny Lang & Friends Live, (1998) and Somebody Else (1999), all on She-Wolf/Festival brought to the forefront Penny’s thoughtful songwriting and soulful vocals. A new chapter of Penny’s career began as she was signed to Canada’s top folk music label, Borealis. A compilation titled Gather Honey garnered Penny her first JUNO nomination. It is a remarkable collection of bootleg tapes and archival recordings from 1963 through 1978, and represents a wonderful portrait of the folk era of the time.

Penny Lang’s 8th recording “Stone & Sand & Sea & Sky” was released in 2006; it was produced by Grammy-nominated, New York-based Roma Baran and Vivian Stoll and has been receiving excellent press as well as steadily climbing the folk music charts since its release. Pennyfest was presented in 2009 and 2010 in Montreal, as away to welcome her home after her move to the Sunshine Coast, BC.

Penny received many awards: the Prix Folqui (Lifetime Acheivement) award from FOLQUEBEC; and two Canadian Folk Music Awards in 2006 for Stone + Sand + Sea + Sky. She continued to perform in her adopted community of Madeira Park, BC, until she passed away peacefully in 2016.

“I first heard Penny sing at the Montreal Folk Workshop….I heard passion, I heard vulnerability, and I heard complete candour about pretty much everything. She’s a gospel voice, you might say, a gospel singer with the blues” Jesse Winchester

Bien enracinée

Véritable légende vivante, Penny Lang est LA grande dame du folk canadienne. Elle interprète de sa voix unique ses propres compositions ou des ballades anciennes, des blues mélancoliques ou des chansons d’amour tirées de repertoires traditionnels ou inédits. Son huitième album, Stone + Sand + Sea + Sky (2006, Borealis) a été realisé par les talentueuses new-yorkaises Roma Baran et Vivian Stoll et le résultat est d’une pureté inédite. Gagnante de deux Prix de musique folk canadienne 2006, Meilleur Artiste Solo et Meilleur Album Contemporain; ainsi que le Prix Helen Verger 2007 au Festival Folk d’Ottawa.

Penny Lang commence à être remarquée dans les années 60 et pendant dix ans tourne dans les grands festivals de Folk, entre autre le Philadelphia Folk Festival (invitée par Dick Waterman), et d’innombrables clubs et bars à travers l’Amérique du Nord. En 1964, elle chante au fameux festival de Folk de Mariposa à Toronto, où elle rencontre tous les grands artistes de l’époque, Joni Mitchell, Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger.

Mais c’est en 1988 que  Penny Lang réapparaît sur scène, à Montréal, après s’être retirée à la campagne pendant onze ans pour élever son fils Jason.   Son retour sur scène est vivement accueilli par un public très enthousiaste, la salle est comble. Grâce à des amis, elle aest parvenue à vaincre ses propres démons, et concentre toute son énergie dans la composition, cette fois-ci plus bluesy. Cette deuxième carrière démarre de manière fulgurante. Depuis maintenant plus de dix ans, ses tournées se succèdent à travers le continent américain mais également en Australie, en Italie, en France, au Danemark, au Royaume Uni. Elle est présente à tous les grands festivals : le Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, Harbourfront Festival à Toronto, Edinburgh Blues Festival et Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Ecosse), Pontardawe Festival (Pays de Galles)… Elle partage la scène avec Ani DiFranco, Judy Small… Souvent accompagnée par Ken Pearson, l’ancien pianiste de Janis Joplin, Penny a déjà conquis un large public.

Depuis 1991, Penny Lang a enregistré six disques qui passent régulièrement sur les radios locales et nationales du continent américain. En 2000, outre de très nombreux concerts en Amérique du Nord, elle se produit entre autres au Perth Arts Festival (Ecosse), au Colne Blues Festival (Angleterre), et en Belgique.

Les six albums  de Penny Lang ont été  accueillis très chaleureusement par la critique internationale : Yes (1991), Ain’t Life Sweet (1993), Carry on Children (1996), Live at the Yellow door (1997), Penny Lang & Friends Live (1998), and Somebody Else (1999) tous sur SHE-WOLF/Festival  et Gather Honey (Borealis/Festival) avec une nomination au JUNO.

En 2006, elle sort son septième album, Stone & Sand & Sea & Sky, conçu avec la réalisatrice canadienne/New Yorkaise Roma Baran, (Laurie Anderson) et avec ses amis Michael Jerome Browne, Kate McGarrigle, Ken Pearson, et Dave Clarke (David Francey).

Aux Canadian Folk Music Awards 2006, Penny Lang a reçu le prix de l’Album de l’année pour ce disque, ainsi que le prix de l’Artiste solo de l’année.

En novembre 2003 Penny avait aussi gagné le premier Prix FOLQUI (Folquebec) au congrès national Rendez-Vous Folk.