P.E.I. singer-songwriter Scott Parsons was the first person I ever interviewed when I started working at The Guardian.
He’s very personable. And I’ve always enjoyed our conversations.
In the past decade, I’ve watched him grow from a troubadour into a musical storyteller of black Island history beginning with his debut CD, “Jupiter Wise” and his second, “The Old Stock”.
This month I’m watching Parsons take another giant leap in his art, with his soon-to-be-released album, “Darkie’s Hollow”.
Four of the songs are based on the stories of black Islanders. The title track, “Darkie’s Hollow”, was inspired by a conversation with P.E.I. author Stella Shepard. It refers to the Shepard family homestead. It’s located in a hollow, on the Seven Mile Road. In earlier years, it was a gathering place, where people would stop to enjoy an evening of music and socializing.
Shepard told Parsons that people from her area had called it Darkie’s Hollow for years, referring to the Islanders of black heritage who lived there.
“I don’t think anything bad was meant by it because everyone got along. But, because it had a bad connotation, I wanted to take it, turn it around and make it into something positive,” says Parsons, adding the album will be launched on Saturday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m., at the Haviland Club in Charlottetown.
The process of gathering ideas for songs has taken Parsons four years.
“I looked for them everywhere.”
Parsons wrote “Stella’s Dream” after reading Shepard’s book, “Ashes of My Dreams”. Based on her own story, it’s about how a plan to abduct her baby by nuns to be sold in the United States was stopped by a P.E.I. doctor.
“Stella is a great source of stories,” Parsons adds.
Another song, “Hattie’s Prayer”, is based on Hattie Hughes’s childhood story of the death of her mother, which left her and her three brothers in the care of her father.
“Someone from social services didn’t think that her father should be raising them.”
However, her father thought otherwise. Described as a “good man who provided food and clothing and a roof over their head,” he told the children to hide in the cornfield to avoid being taken by family services.
“So, the kids hid in the cornfield, and (the social worker) never did find them,” said Parsons, who heard the story from the 88-year-old, when he visited the Dr. John Gillis Memorial Lodge in Belfast.
Another chapter of P.E.I.’s black history is heard in “Old Chocolate”. The song tells the story of P.E.I.’s black boxer George Godfrey who went to Boston and opened up a gym.
“He had worked his way up the ranks, earning the right to fight John L. Sullivan, the bare-knuckle boxer of the world, back then.”
Sullivan’s management set up a fight. But just before the two men set foot into the ring the police came and shut it down because racial laws wouldn’t allow it.
“The rumour on the street was Sullivan was scared to fight Godfrey, Old Chocolate, so the fight never happened.”
If you are going
What: Scott Parson’s CD launch.
When and where: “Darkie’s Hollow”, Saturday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m., at the Haviland Club, Charlottetown.
Dedication: The album is dedicated to Dennis Green, the late Vancouver guitarist, who played on the album. Other musicians included Mike Peters, guitar, Jason Furness, bass, Peter Richards, bass, Leona Carmichael, vocals, Elise Moher, vocals, Colin Campbell, harmonica, and Johnny King, drums.
Recorded: At Barking Dog Studio in Blooming Point by Laura Powell and Peter Morrison. Mixing was by James Carrier.
Copies: Available at Back Alley Music.
Launch lineup: The event will feature a presentation by Stella Shepard and Linda Wigmore and comedy by Ryan Gallant, as well as the screening of “The King Versus Jupiter Wise”.
Sally Cole is an entertainment writer with The Guardian. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggestions for future columns from readers. She may be reached at sally.cole@TheGuardian.pe.ca or by phone at 902-629-6000, ext. 6054.