Smokin’ Joe Wiseman

Thanks for subscribing and welcome to my eighth Newsletter.

I am a member of the Nashville Songwriters International Association (NSAI). I am also a member and Branch Co-ordinator (Bay Sy. George) for the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC). I am an online student at SongU. I also participate annually in SongStudio – hosted by Rik Emmit and Blair Packham. I am a member of Music Newfoundland and Labrador (MusicNL). I can honestly say that each and every one of these organizations has helped me to continually hone the craft of songwriting and I thank them!

Songs are the main vehicle by which a songwriter communicates with listeners. I will be sharing my songs, and stories about how they were written, in my newsletter. I will also be sharing additional folk art and personal interests.

What’s Happening

I have recorded the vocals for my 4th CD and Fab Tranzer has finished the mastering. I have also begun a Production arrangement with Allister Bradley for my 5th Project. The songs are pretty well selected for that project and I am writing and co-writing songs for my 6th Project. I usually cover 2 favorite songs for each Project and Project 5 will feature Woody Guthrie’s “Hobo’s Lullaby” and the blues standard “Midnight Special”.

To date I have recorded 3 CD’s; A Field By The Sea, Blue Smoke and Life is Good. You can sample all of the songs from these CD’s on my CD Baby web page store. As well, some of the songs appear in the audio player on the top of each page on my website. I have all of the tracks recorded and the mastering completed for my 4th CD – The Only Sin. All that remains is the artwork and replication. Anticipated release is early 2013.

I will miss Juan Albarran in a production role as he has been with me for 4 Projects. I am indeed happy that he will continue in a musician’s role as our rhythm guy. A band without solid bass and drums is like a house with no foundation. I look forward to Juan’s continued contributions to my musical efforts. Juan and I have been discussing a co-writing arrangement and will be into a song about the time of the release of this newsletter!


What I’m Reading

I have just finished Jodi Picoult’s “picture perfect”. This book is a must read if you enjoy Jodi Picoult. You will know that I do, as this is the second Picoult book I have reviewed in my newsletter. This is an older book and I was struck by the level of development of Jodi as an author. The imagery and use of literary technique is there but at an early stage of development. It would be comparable to me, as a songwriter, looking at some of my earlier songs. The foundation is there but  the craft is yet to be honed. Still – great imagery Jodi!

Best Irish Ballads

Irish ballads have been popular to people in my neck of the woods, Newfoundland, for as long as I can remember. In Memorial University, as a student, it would not be unusual to take in blues artist Rory Gallagher one night, a jazz group – the Ralph Walker Quartet – on the next night, followed by a Saturday night with Ryan’s Fancy, an excellent Irish pub band. You can find the elements of Irish ballads in country music, the blues, rock music, bluegrass as well as many other musical genres. Most countries in the world have their own particular type of folk music but the Irish are possibly the best when it comes to Ballads. I was asked recently why our band was called Keltic Jam as we played such an eclectic mix of music. It is mainly because we grew up hearing and loving all genres of music but it got me thinking about the best traditional Irish ballads of all time and I came up with the following list.

I suggest that the top 3 are:

  • Carrickfergus

This poignant ballad of longing for home is hard to beat in any man’s top list. The minor chords and the interplay with major chords creates an emotional ebb and flow that last well beyond the first listening of this beautiful ballad. The role of alcohol to drown the young man’s sorrow, the loss of his love, the passage of time to old age are all woven together in this powerful ballad. The song has been passed down with no known credit for the original songwriter.

  • The Fields of Athenry

A ballad is not a ballad in Ireland without love and loss. This story has a father sent away to prison in Australia, from Ireland, for stealing food for his starving wife and children during the “Great Famine.” The verses alternate from the young wife left at home to the young man doomed to years in an Australian prison. The Irish have the talent of making a song sorrowful in a major key. Songwriters, these days, are taught that minor keys are for sad songs and major keys for happy songs. They need to listen to this ballad to learn the error of their ways. The song was written in the 1970’s by Pete St. John.

  • Danny Boy

Although the song was written by an Englishman, Frederic Weatherly, this song is most commonly sung and performed by the Irish and by Celtic folk bands worldwide. The melody is that of the Irish ballad, “Londonderry Air.” Once again, performed in a major key, the song is as poignant as a ballad can be. The story is that of a father singing from the grave to a son or daughter who has left and gone away. We are not sure why he or she has gone, but the song captures the longing of a parent for their dearly loved offspring in as memorable a fashion as words can portray.

Whether or not you agree with my picks, there can be no argument that these are some of the best Irish Ballads of all time.

My Sons

I have two sons of whom I couldn’t be more proud. I am proud of them for who they are, for their ability to empathize with the less fortunate around them and for their profound love of family. I an also proud of who they are becoming as professionals. Jim is in his last term of “the books” in his 3rd year of Med School and Waylon is in his last 6 weeks of “rotations” in Vet School and headed for Australia after Christmas. I could never have withstood the long haul they have both engaged in to achieve those degrees. Through thick and thin, relationships, personal loss, a marriage, and so on, they were in it for the long haul. Their Mom and I are very fortunate to have these guys as sons!

Kathleen Mae Lano has joined our family as Jim’s wife and she is a pleasure to have as a daughter-in-law. In truth she is more like a daughter and stays in touch as much as our sons. We love her dearly! Kathleen is finishing the final edit for her thesis to complete a Master of Nursing degree.

Tale of a Song

I am a longtime blues fan and released “Blue Smoke” as a project devoted to the blues. There are many great blues songs out there and blues artists cover the great ones. I needed to write my own and have written a dozen or more blues songs. It is difficult for me to get away from the genre. My favorite, co-written by my son Waylon, is “No One Got the Blues.” It features all local talent including some of my friends liike Gerry Flynn and some of Waylon’s friends including Kevin Carey. It was recorded here in our hometown by Stan Gallant.  Have a listen on my Facebook  Artist page. Send me an e-mail – and let me know what you think.

My First Newfoundland Song

My first Newfie song ia “A Field By The Sea.” The song was written as an anthem to the emotions of the family members who remain on “the rock” when loved ones move away. The image of a small cemetary (marble orchard) in a field by the sea, when the numbers of people born and raised there, far exceed the number of headstones, tells the story of many communities in rural Newfoundland. The song just adds some texture to that stark image! Check out the acoustic version (with accordion) at

My band Keltic Jam, play some of my songs locally and a version of Metis Girl, my first single release, is available on YouTube at  Hope you enjoy!

Smokin Joe radiates the soul of Johnny Cash, the sensuality of Jim Morrison and the style of Woody Guthrie wrapped up in a folk/roots package! He’s somewhere between “Ringo Starr and the Grateful Dead” His songs are “real life gritty”, not “Nashville pretty”!

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