Thirty-five years have passed since Holger Peterson and Alvin Jahns sat down at a kitchen table in Edmonton, Canada and formed Stony Plain Records. Now 400 or so albums later, it is recognized as one of the leading independent music labels in the world. The label has decided to celebrate its birthday this year in style, by releasing the three-CD set, 35 Years Of Stony Plain.
It is a fine introduction to its artist roster and musical approach. It is a 41-track, 10-video extravaganza that presents its brand of rock, folk, country, blues, and roots music. You even get a tour of their new offices, which is still in a house in Edmonton; also the home of a huge record collection.
The label has been the home for the well-known and obscure. Artists such as Maria Muldaur, Jeff Healey, Ian Tyson, Rodney Crowell, Rory Block, and Long John Baldry have recorded for the label. Even a few Americans such as Steve Earle, Duke Robillard, Asleep At The Wheel, and Emmylou Harris appear on the album.
As with many albums of this type, it only provides a taste of the label’s music. The tracks flow and meander, yet ultimately combine into an excellent listening experience.
Like many compilation albums by various artists, you take what you get. Long John Baldry was a legendary British blues artist who passed away during 2005. He lived in Canada the last few decades of his life and his take on the venerable “Gallows Pole” is modern blues at his best. Better yet, there is a 1991 DVD track of him performing “Shake That Thing.”
Likewise, Jeff Healey passed way several years ago. He is represented here by a live performance of “I’m Torn Down,” which demonstrates why he was considered one his generation’s better guitarists.
Ian Tyson is now 77 years old. He was a part of the early 1960s folk revival in the United States and Canada, solo and as a part of the duo Ian & Sylvia. He has been with Stony Plain for 25 years. Here, he is represented by his “Blaino’s Song “and “Springtime In Alberta." His weathered voice is the perfect vehicle for Canadian folk music.