CD Review: Pamela Morgan – Play On

Pamela Morgan lo res 1

Before, you read this review I should tell you that “I love Pamela Morgan”.  Always have.  Always will.  Pamela Morgan is a Newfoundland music treasure.  She was the voice of the most influential band in Newfoundland history – Figgy Duff.  As a child growing up in St. John’s in the 1970’s  and 1980’s, Figgy Duff was the one traditional band we listened to constantly.  I still have a ticket stub from Figgy Duff’s November 6, 1990 concert at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre, which I keep in my After The Tempest CD case.    Even before I pressed play on the Play On CD, there was no doubt that I would love it.

That being said, I did not expect Play On to be as good as it is.  Morgan has recruited a number of stellar musicians for the album, including fellow Figgy Duff member (and my personal all-time favourite Newfoundland musician) Dave Panting, Pete Zorn, Marion Fleetwood, PJ Wright, George Morgan and many others.   To my ear, this is Morgan’s best solo album to date.Pamela Morgan - Play On CD cover jpg lo

The opening song “Play On” immediately took me to Ireland…and travelling minstrels.  I’ll ask you to indulge me for just a moment and come with me…to Ireland.  Picture yourself, if you will, standing on rolling green hills of an Irish countryside.  Suddenly a caravan arrives and a group of travelling minstrels jump out, set up their instruments and play.  What song are they playing?  For me, that song is “Play On”.  Click here to give the song a listen.  Then come back. The review will still be here.

Many of the other songs on this album have the same travelling minstrel feeling, including “Barbry Ellen”, “All The Pretty Flowers” “Travellers” and one of my favourite songs on the album “The Frog Prince”.  “The Frog Prince” is a Tom Dawe poem put magically to music by Morgan.  I don’t know who the male voice is singing with Morgan on this one, but the song captures the fun and love of music that I always feel when listening to old Figgy Duff albums.

The album also features songs that allow Morgan’s mystical voice to shine.  “The Rose and The Briar” and “Wayward Heart” are two such songs.

Of all the songs on the album, the one I keep coming back to (for both the tune and the lyrics) is “A Hundred Miles”.  This is a heart-wrenching song written from the point of view of a fisherman’s wife, who cannot understand her husband’s love of the sea and the reason her husband continues to go “a hundred miles” offshore “to face whatever nature has in store”.

morgansite2_10There is a line in this song “a child lost on the ice who walks to death”, which is written about “the tragic story of Burton Winters, a fourteen year old from Labrador who became disoriented on the ice and walked 19 km away from his snowmobile before he froze to death”.  This line also reminds me of the Newfoundland sealing disaster of 1914, for which Cassie Brown’s book Death On The Ice was written. 

“A Hundred Miles” also takes on additional sadness considering the recent loss of the five young crewmen on the Miss Ally.  I have reproduced the lyrics in their entirely below.


Play On is a brilliant album from a musical legend.  Play On is Newfoundland folk/traditional music at its finest.

Track Listing
1. Play On
2. A Hundred Miles
3. Prince of Darkness
 4. Barbry Ellen
5. The Rose and the Briar
6. Lonely
7. All the Pretty Flowers
8. Wayward Heart
9. Travellers
10. Fair Rosamund
11. Loving Arms
12. The Frog Prince

A Hundred Miles (lyrics)
He’ll be leaving
long before the dawn
I’ll wake up, he’ll be gone
Steaming out to nowhere and beyond

I gave up going
down to say goodbye
won’t let him see my eyes
Asking yet again to tell me why

He’s going
a hundred miles offshore
to sweep the ocean floor
For anything they never took before

A hundred
a hundred miles offshore
A hundred miles or more
to face whatever nature has in store

The sea’s a savage
crashing on the strand
cruel mistress to my man
A love I can’t begin to understand

And I don’t need it
all the fancy toys
the things the money buys
I’d rather have him poor and still alive

And no-one’s listening
to any S.O.S
A seaman in distress
a child lost on the ice who walks to death

A hundred
a hundred miles offshore
A hundred miles or more
to face whatever nature has in store

Ah, precious cargo
my husband and our son
 Seven heardy seamen
my brothers all but one

Don’t be going
a hundred miles offshore
 It’s different than before
there’s nothing left to catch there anymore

A hundred
a hundred miles offshore
A hundred miles or more
to face whatever nature has in store

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