By Willow Grier
CALGARY – For thousands of years, humans have found ways to transcribe experience into music. Most can recall a song or lullaby from childhood, caught in the recesses of our memory, persevering the ebb and flow of age and perspective. These songs may tell a story so well that they stick with us and shape us through our formative years. A song might impart a small piece of wisdom, or soothe a weary soul, move one to act, or help navigate difficult terrain. There is something indescribable about this type of song that endears it to us and carries the weight of all its history and sentiment, long after we’ve forgotten its name or maybe who sang it originally. This timeless and poignant quality is what takes residence in the songs of Alex Ginella, multi-instrumentalist of Rotary Park, now poised to release his first solo endeavour.
Rotary Park is an alternative bluegrass collective that has become a fixture in Calgary and has toured from coast to coast, with humble roots in busking and ties to a plethora of genres. The group continues to stoke the fires of collaborative creativity by hosting a weekly open mic jam, Mondays at Mikey’s on 12th. Over time, with members fluctuating in availability and location, Alex Ginella decided that his desire to create and perform might be well served to carve a place of its own. The songs to be released in January may be familiar to Rotary Park followers, but they have a distinctly Ginella flair.
“I like Pink Floyd a lot, and that’s probably my main influence,” the songwriter tells BeatRoute. “That progressive sound. Some of the songs I’ve written end up having a lot of transitions. There will be a Spaghetti Western part, a jazzy part…I like to not have boundaries.”
This meandering type of sound is evident in “One Last Goodbye,” recorded live-off-the-floor at The Speakeasy Garage by Mike Watson for this release. In fact, an extended improvisation-heavy cut will also be included, to aid listener’s fall further down the rabbit hole. Ginella describes this song as coming from a place of “reconciling loss and what you learn from it,” and is haunting in each part.
“I lived and grew up in Montreal and then I moved to New Brunswick and hated it there and had no friends,” Ginella recalls. “Then I moved [to Calgary] and things got good again, but I was always kind of sad about that…That i never got closure on that part of my life.”
The song deeply evokes the heavy heartedness of unsettled nostalgia; feelings that never quite leave or evolve, but stay stuck in whatever period of time they were born from.
“One Eyed Jack” gets a bit more thematically esoteric. Described as a conversation with a supernatural entity, the track is a frenzied and fiddle-heavy counterpart to the other more sombre and sprawling tracks, though still retaining its emotional centre. The release of these songs will be Ginella’s first show as a solo artist, and despite the fact that he will be joined by many of the musicians who are also featured on the recording, he describes the nervousness of having his name specifically attached to the show.
“My music is very emotive,” Ginella describes. “When I write and when I sing and perform I feel very visceral about it. It’s not as mechanical. It’s very personal and I’m putting myself out there with it. It’s my soul.”
With this intensity comes a special sort of care and attention, obvious when Ginella performs live. The music has a wisdom beyond the notes, an enduring passion that will move listeners as long as it is still played, and containing the warmth and depth of a Grandfather’s fireside tale. There are still great storytellers in this world, and Alex Ginella is one of them.
Alex Ginella releases his EP Thursday, Jan. 4 at The Ironwood Stage and Grill (Calgary), with support from Daniel Kosub and Micah Erenberg.Alex Ginella, Daniel Kosub, Micah Erenberg, The Ironwood Stage and Grill