The Happy Camper: Best Canoe Albums

Kevin Callan lists his favourite albums and songs for canoe tripping — featuring artists who capture the essence of the outdoors.

I recently picked up Adam Ruzzo’s first CD titled Algonquin Park Sketches.It’s a truly captivating album and does exactly what Adam set out to do – to create a living musical landscape for Algonquin.

His instrumental collection expresses the park in music just as Tom Thomson’s paintings did in the visual medium. Adam’s album is the latest to capture the joy of canoe tripping, but he’s not the first to successfully motivate paddlers with music. Here’s a few others that I highly recommend. (See Adam’s work on YouTube Here.)

Can You Canoe?Okee Dokee Brothers

The Okee Dokee Brother’s Can You Canoe? album won them a 2013 Grammy Awards for best children’s recording. The musicians (Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing) are a little-known duo from Minneapolis and the songs on the album are inspired by a lengthy canoe trip they took down the Mississippi River. It’s like a long love letter to the great outdoors, spiced up with clever lyrics that’s accompanied by banjo, fiddle, tuba and even some pots and pans.

Canoe Songs Vol. 1 & 2 — James Raffan

Canoe author, James Raffan, and award-winning record producer, Paul Mills, teamed up together to compile Canadian music artists who have written songs about canoes and canoeing. Both albums — Canoe Songs Volume I & II — are a must-have for paddlers. They’re pure declarations of the joy and values given to paddlers by going on a wilderness canoe trip. My favorite songs are Three Sheets to the Wind’s version of “Woodsmoke and Oranges” (Vol. 1) and “Brush and Paddle” by Ian Tambyln (Vol. 2). However, the one my nine-year-old daughter insists we play in the car on the way to every canoe trip is Les Voyageurs by Mike Ford (of the band Moxy Fruvous).

Wilderness Waltz —  David Hadfield

Yes, Dave Hadfield is Chris Hadfield’s brother. They both sing and write music. However, Dave’s passion happens to be paddling a canoe rather than flying a space ship. I’ve been a huge fan of David Hadfield’s singing and songwriting abilities for many years. It’s obvious he has a passion for wilderness travel — but more than that, it’s obvious he continues to spend a lot of time out there enjoying it as well. Listen to “Cry of the Wild” or “Gyproc Box” from Wilderness Waltz and you’ll understand my point. David truly understands the lure of the North. That’s why I was so honored when David wrote a song to go with a short video of mine Learning to Laugh at Yourself. It grabbed us an award at the Waterwalker Film Festival. The guy is a genius.

True and Deep — Jerry Vandiver

I was a drummer in a band throughout my college years, but my percussion talents never turned into anything meaningful — that is until I played cowbell with Jerry Vandiver’s band at last year’s Canoecopia show in Madison, Wisconsin. Jerry was there to promote his latest album True and Deep: Songs for the Heart of the Paddler . I was ecstatic. True and Deep is a musical masterpiece that’s reminiscent of those classic albums like Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell or Pink Floyd’sThe Wall. Not that the sound is remotely similar — it’s just that the list of cumulative songs form a strong story line. Jerry has created an amazing story — and lucky for us, it’s all about paddling. If you’re a paddler, you’ll definitely love listening to Vandiver’s album from beginning to end. The first few arrangements (“More Than a River,” “Headwind,” “The Spirit of Fishdance Lake”) are warm-up tunes, the ones that get you excited about spring break-up. Then there’s “Rocks and Roots” andCamp Coffeethat relate to the trip itself. And “The Morning Fog has Lifted” and “True Deep” finish it off and create an enthusiasm to plan the next trip on the way home from the previous one. My personal favourite songs on the album are “Wabakimi” and “Leave No Trace.”