Traveller: Stories and Songs in the Key of Connection (Book)

By Barry Truter

Traveller is a smorgasbord of international offerings with a common theme: connection through music. With its interleaving of 10 nonfiction stories and 15 original songs, a sprinkle of poems, and a dessert of 8 instrumental pieces, this collection flows loosely from tales of land journeys to sea adventures and from short trips to long voyages while winding gently through times past and present. There are works to touch the spirit and turn the brain, test the heart and protest the way of the world. Anecdotes of encounters with fellow musicians sit comfortably with songs that range from the personal and political to the historical, environmental, and social. Musical styles run from ragtime, folk, and blues to Caribbean, rhumba, and swing.

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In Times Like These (Single)

By Roger Holdstock

The single In Times Like These evolved from a song-writing workshop taught by Susan Crowe at a Georgia Strait Guitar Workshop. The lyrics are a reflection on more than 25 years of a relationship, going back over rough and smooth times and the pleasures of long-term closeness. Although written and sung by Roger Holdstock, this is still a Fraser Union project with Barry Truter on guitar, Henk Piket on dobro, and our good friend Michael Burnyeat on violin. Recorded and engineered by Victor Smith.


Dan Kenning

For over twenty years, Dan Kenning’s rich voice and robust stage presence were an important part of Fraser Union. He brought his work experience as an elementary school teacher, prospector and fisher to the group, as well as his involvement in workplace health and safety issues. Many a classroom kid learned “Drill Ye Tarriers,” “Salmon Circle,” Kettle Valley Line,” and other BC songs from Dan. He retired from singing with Fraser Union in December, 2008, but his voice continues to be heard on Fraser Union’s four CDs.

Jill King and Tam Lundy

Jill King and Tam Lundy were two of the four original members of Fraser Union along with Roger Holdstock and Henk Piket.  All four met at the Vancouver Folk Song Society and discovered that their voices created a magic blend of harmony.  With an interest in similar traditional and contemporary folksong material, the foursome started practicing and performing together. The song, “God Speed The Plough,” was brought to the group by Jill and remains in Fraser Union’s repertoire to this day.

Roger Holdstock

Vocals, Guitar, Mandolin

One of Roger Holdstock’s early memories from England when he was about five years old is of his grandfather playing concertina. When Roger was six, his family moved to California, where his two older brothers immediately bought guitars. Roger’s brother, Dick Holdstock, who continues to perform folk music in California and England, had a strong influence on Roger’s choice to play music with folk roots.

Roger feels privileged to have found a rich community of musicians and friends since moving to Vancouver in 1974. Since the early 1980s, when the original members met through the Vancouver Folk Song Society, Fraser Union has been a central part of his musical, social, and work life (including performances for the college classes he has taught).

From benefit concerts to festivals, from picket lines to academic conferences, from living rooms to stages, Roger believes that the songs chosen by Fraser Union encourage voices to join together and to build community—and that keeps him singing.

Fraser Union (1988)


The self-titled first album • 1988

(Cassette; out of print)

Song titles

Bank Trollers, Lord Franklin, The Yankee Sails Tonight, Canning Salmon, This Land is Whose Land, Arthur MacBride, God Speed the Plough, Drill Ye Tarriers, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, Don’t Cry in Your Sleep/Campbell’s Farewell to Redcastle, Children of Africa

Split Shift (1989)


Fraser Union with the Vancouver Industrial Writers’ Union • 1989

(Cassette; out of print)

Song titles

Bank Trollers, Snap the Line Tight, Grand Hotel, Bosses’ Lament, Truck Driver’s Song, Everything Possible, The Soda Jig, Hard Rock Miner, Canning Salmon, All Used Up.

Traveller (CD)

By Barry Truter

Barry Truter has been a traveller for most of his life. He was born the son of a diplomat whose assignments took his family to a new home every few years. But Truter’s wandering lifestyle didn’t cease when he moved into adulthood; his first job was as a deck cadet on a merchant ship sailing from Europe around Africa and into the Red Sea. His journeys are reflected in the musical style and diversity of this album of seven originals and seven carefully chosen covers supported by guest appearances from musician friends including Fraser Union bandmates Roger Holdstock, Henk Piket, and Dan Kenning.

Truter’s lead vocals accompanied by guitar, octave mandolin and ukulele shine on the album’s arrangements, from sparsely emotive versions of Bruce “Utah” Phillips’ “The Killing Ground” and the Fijian farewell song “Isa Lei” to tasteful licks and soulful backing vocals by some fine Vancouver musicians on the self-penned “Levuka Town” and Leadbelly’s “The Bourgeois Blues.”

There is no dearth of content on the album. Originals such as “Song for Robert Dziekanski” and “Ships of the Deep” are reminders that we live in an insecure world of increasing inequity. But there is also hope and spiritual regeneration on offer in the lyricism of “Roll River Free,” the east/west musicality of “Dravida” and the anthemic chorus of “This Old World.”

Song titles

Levuka Town, Walking Blues, I Wandered By a Brookside, Duncan’s Dream/The Soda Jig/Siobhan’s Gallop, The Killing Ground, The Bourgeois Blues, Song for Robert Dziekanski, Roll River Free, Dravida, The Amphritite, Ships of the Deep, This Old World, Time to Go, Isa Lei.

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Hello, Stranger! (1991/2003)

The title Hello, Stranger! took on new meaning in 2003.  Besides being the opening line of the opening song of this album, it represents a return.  Originally recorded in 1991 and released as a cassette tape, Hello, Stranger! was digitally re-mastered and released as a CD with far better sound quality in 2003.

As with all of Fraser Union’s repertoire, the contents of this album were chosen carefully over time.  Canadian history is represented in the opening track, “Are You From Bevan” (Vancouver Island’s Coal Strike 1912-14) collected by Phil Thomas, and in Bill Gallaher’s “The Last Battle” about the Metis rebellion of 1885.  Allister MacGillivray’s ” Coal Town Road ” tells of the lives of Cape Breton coal miners and Vic Bell’s “Snap the Line Tight” takes us to the West Coast for log salvaging.

That song and most of the others have to do with the ordinary heroics of daily life, of adapting by necessity to the conditions we encounter.  Tommy Sands’ “Your Daughters and Your Sons” is an anthem of courage and hope, while Bob Blue’s “Their Way” ironically twists “My Way” to describe the familiar adaptations required by academic life.  These songs are balanced by two well-loved blues standards, “Deep River Blues” and “Trouble in Mind.”

“God Speed the Plough,” “Aa Cud Hew,” and “Chemical Worker’s Song” carry on the theme of working lives.  “Walls of Troy ” is a too-frequently needed song about the recurrence of war.  The album began with a “hello” and closes with a farewell in Celia O’Neill’s “Upon the Road Again.”

Song titles

Are You From Bevan, The Last Battle, The Goodnight-Loving Trail, God Speed the Plough, Deep River Blues, Coal Town Road, Their Way, Trouble in Mind, Your Daughters and Your Sons, Snap the Line Tight, Aa Cud Hew/Chemical Worker’s Song, Walls of Troy, Upon the Road Again

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From There to Here (2000)

Fraser Union is known for a meaningful repertoire of Canadian material reflecting the lives, history, and landscape that make up this country. From There To Here is a strong representation of those themes.

The title refers to geography and time: the songs span three centuries and move from the Scottish Highlands to Vancouver Island, tracing the movement of peoples and events from the highland clearances to computer programming and globalization.

A sampling of the songs gives a sense of the recording’s themes and relevance. “Lady Franklin’s Lament” tells of the ill-fated voyage in search of the Northwest Passage. Andy Vine’s “Woman of Labrador” is based on the story of Elizabeth Goudie’s difficult life on the land in Labrador. “Empty Nets” by Jim Payne laments the plight of the fishing industry. Bill Gallaher’s “Augustus and Catherine” is the inspiring story of two “Overlanders” who survived their arduous journey on the strength of their love. “Ships of the Deep” is the reflections of Barry Truter, one of the group’s members. Barry’s song describes the harm that has been done to a once-proud industry by ships operating under “flags of convenience.”

The West Coast appears in John Lyon’s “Home Dear Home,” set off the north coast of Vancouver Island, and Fraser Lang’s “Salmon Circle,” about the mysterious and fragile cycle of the mighty salmon. Current and future directions of Canadian society are indicated in the lyrics of Zeke Hoskin’s “The Ghost Program” and Rick Keating’s “One Big Highway.”

Accompanied by guitars and mandolins, the 14 songs on this album form an important reflection of our lives: past, present, and future–From There To Here.

Song Titles

Don’t Cry in Your Sleep, Lady Franklin’s Lament, Woman of Labrador, Empty Nets, Free in the Harbour, Augustus and Catherine, Make Me A Pallet, Home Dear Home, One Big Highway, Ships of the Deep, Bosses’ Lament, Salmon Circle, Canaries in the Mine, The Ghost Program.

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