Newcastle singer-songwriter Ron Warne’s musical influences, like his ubiquitous plaid shirts, are comfortably familiar and well-worn. With the debut of his first CD release, Good Enough For Me, he presents a collection of thirteen original songs inspired by what he’s dubbed, “the holy trio:” legendary musicians Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash.
Those influences are unabashedly evident especially in Warne’s vocals, which at times — both in tone and style of delivery — almost fool you into thinking you are listening to Neil Young. His straightforward presentation on acoustic guitar and harmonica is also reminiscent of Young, not to mention Dylan, whose early protest songs seem to have also left an impression on Warne, with Cash’s influence to be felt in Warne’s heartfelt, storytelling lyrics.
Most music lovers can understand why Young, Dylan and Cash would be good enough for Warne. Yet in his strongest offerings, which include “Certainly Not Me,” “She Feels Like A River,” “Stop Fuelling The Machine,” and “Truth Serum,” the listener forgets the influences, and just enjoys the songs in their own right.
Warne, at 39, took a slow and circuitous route to the recording studio. Born and raised in Scarborough, his musical career began when he played drums in a band in high school, he told the Times in an interview just prior to the CD’s official release. But when he moved in with his grandparents while attending university, he felt obliged to give up the drums. It was then that he took up the acoustic guitar. He gradually improved but, without a band, considered himself simply “good around the campfire.”
Putting his musical interests aside, Warne completed an honours B.A. in history and urban studies, followed by a Masters degree in town planning. From Scarborough, he moved to Pickering and then, about six years ago – by this time, married and with two sons – he settled in Newcastle.
“I’m moving progressively further east, progressively more rural,” he noted, citing perhaps another influence, as a rural, environmental theme runs through a number of songs.
Despite his day job as a town planner in a neighbouring municipality, and his involvement as a minor hockey trainer and soccer coach for his sons’ sports teams, Warne finally found in Newcastle the chance to explore his musical abilities.
Not long after arriving, he discovered the open mic night at the Village Inn in Bowmanville. And it was here that he met Dan Reiff and Abel Renton of Bowmanville’s Get Bent Records label.
“Our work with Ron started as a friendship that grew from meeting him at the Village Inn open mic,” said Reiff. “He was playing some Neil Young and Johnny Cash covers, and threw in some originals and we really liked his sound.”
Warne is still a regular at the open mic night. “It’s probably the only time I play regularly, on Mondays at the Village Inn,” he said. “Bit by bit, I felt like I had enough material, and I was encouraged by the open mic crowd to start recording my own stuff.”
“Ron is very well-received at the open mic,” noted Reiff, “as is anyone who consistently plays Neil Young tunes, it seems. But his regular visits have really helped get his original songs out there and the response is always good.”
According to Warne, Reiff and Renton encouraged him to develop his original songs, and later helped give the album a fuller sound.
The pair, known collectively as the Bent Brothers, not only decided to put Warne’s original songs out on their label, they also engineered and produced the album. They even contributed musically to the production: Reiff playing drums, and Renton playing guitar and bass.
“I wouldn’t have recorded if it weren’t for them,” Warne stated. “They had a record label and that was the catalyst for me to make sure there was a certain level of songwriting. I had to get the songs to where they were worthy to record, and a big part of that is Dan and Abel’s musicianship on the record. It wouldn’t be nearly the quality record it is without their musicianship, their mixing and engineering, and their playing on it.”
Reiff said that he and Renton decided to put the album out on Get Bent Records because they really enjoy the music.
“Ron brings a more folk-rock songwriting approach to the label, with emphasis on lyrical content and storytelling,” said Reiff. “His approach is more laid back and relaxed, with a strong sense of honesty, family, and home.”
The value Warne places on lyrics is evident in the fact that he ended up sourcing the packaging for the CD from a company based all the way in British Columbia, just so he could include the lyrics in a second pocket in the CD jacket, he said. It was also important to Warne that the CD be as environmentally friendly as possible.
“There’s no plastic case for the CD,” he said. “The jacket is printed on 100-percent Forest Stewardship Council certified boardstock, using vegetable-based ink. And all of my lyrics are in there. It was really important for me to have the lyrics included.”
Warne officially launched the CD on Sunday evening with a performance in Newcastle at The Snug pub, accompanied by Reiff, Renton, and Warne’s wife Allison on backup vocals.
It’s been a long process for Warne, who said he wrote the songs over the past four years, and spent the last two years recording and re-recording. So it’s no wonder he finally called the album Good Enough For Me.
“It’s been a process. I tried to do my best, however it ends up. I’m glad to get it done,” he said. “I’m just tremendously excited by it. I’m very proud of it.”
Good Enough For Me is available at Hands On Music in Bowmanville, or online from Get Bent Records at http://www.getbentrecords.com. Ron Warne will be one of 15 acts playing at the Bent Family Summer Solstice Festival on Saturday, June 19th, along with the Micronite Filters, and Sue Latimer.