A new music and art collaboration brings to life the history of the Ohio and Erie Canal. Laurie Caner of folk band Hey Mavis and Akron artist Leandra Drumm have just finished their CD and book project, Silver Ribbon Dream.
Caner became inspired to learn about the canal while Hey Mavis were artists-in-residence at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park about a decade ago. The band includes her husband, Ed. They lived in the park with their children.
Two years ago, she was awarded funding through the Knight Arts Challenge to create the album of original songs about the canal, accompanied by illustrations. She reached out to her friend, Leandra Drumm to make the book.
The opening track "30 cents" captures the struggle of living and working on the 309-mile canal in the 1820s. "There was a lot of hardship and illness and most of the canal was dug by hand by Irish immigrants paid 30 cents a day," Caner said.
The drawing that corresponds with the song depicts three tired and worn canal workers surrounded by items including shovels, a bottle of whiskey and coins.
"I liked to read the history that Laurie would provide with each song and then read the song a few times and listen to the music to get a visual of what she's trying to convey in the song and the history," Drumm said.
Captain Pearl Nye
During her research, Caner learned about the man who would become the central character of the album -- Captain Pearl Nye. He was the fifteenth of 21 children all born and raised on a canal boat.
"He had such a deep love for the canal even after it closed down and wasn't being used anymore," Caner said. "He ended up using an old canal boat on the side of the canal and using it as his home. He called it Camp Charming."
Nye wrote dozens of songs and manuscripts about the canal after it closed in 1913, and Caner used an excerpt of one of his recordings for her song, "Dearest Place."
"That song I think took me the longest to write out of all of them. I just felt this great responsiblity to try to communicate [his love for the canal]."
Miss Uno, the snake charmer
Another song on the album is about a woman named "Miss Uno."
"She was a snake charmer who had her own canal boat," Caner said. "She had cages of all these trained snakes. So she would release them into the woods and walk down the towpath with her mouth harp harmonica and all of the snakes would come out of the woods and come to her."
Drumm said Miss Uno was fun to illustrate. "The wool-striped stockings and the pantaloons and the wild, moss hair is just a character I could imagine existing in today's world."
Caner said the title track of the album, "Silver Ribbon Dream," was what Captain Pearl Nye lovingly called the canal.
"He said there's a little silver ribbon that runs across the Buckeye State. I didn't want the whole project to be all doom and gloom. I also wanted to capture the other side that it was just this really beautiful thing, too."
Drumm said, "I sort of feel like this was kinship or parallel between Laurie and Captain Nye as they went through the experience of writing songs about the canal. It's just a wonderful opporunity to explore our canal history."
- October 13th- GAR Hall, Peninsula OH
- October 18th- First Congregational Church of Akron, Akron OH
- October 19th- Plain Folk Cafe, Pleasant Plain OH
- October 20th- Natalie's Coal Fired, Columbus OH
- October 25th (DUO show)- Rocky River Public Library, Rocky River OH
- November 3rd- The Kent Stage, Kent OH
- November 16th- Funk N Waffles, Syracuse NY
- November 17th- Lovin' Cup, Rochester NY
- November 24th- The Purple Fiddle, Thomas WV
- December 1st- Nighttown, Cleveland Heights OH
You can pre-order the CD and book here.