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Father, son find common artistic ground

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Here’s hoping one of them has a nickname: from left, Joel Schwartz, Joe Fafard and Joël Fafard.

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Here’s hoping one of them has a nickname: from left, Joel Schwartz, Joe Fafard and Joël Fafard.

JOE Fafard is an Order of Canada- winning sculptor who has created some of the most recognizable public art in Canada. His Running Horses greets visitors outside the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

His son, Joël Fafard, is a Juno-nominated singer/songwriter and gifted guitar wizard who has been making music for almost 20 years.

Considering all the creativity between them, it’s a bit hard to believe that Joe and Joël had never worked on a project together until this fall.

The Fafards joined forces for A Tune To Art: Sculpture and Song, a 17-date cross-country tour that kicked off in Regina last month and arrives at Mayberry Fine Art in Winnipeg tonight. Part concert, part art show, A Tune To Art features new works by Joe as well as new tunes from

Borrowed Horses, the new album from Joël’s duo project with Toronto musician Joel Schwartz.

"We loved the idea of working together but we didn’t know what it could be," Joël says. They decided that a hybrid art show/concert would offer audiences a unique experience, but "it seemed like a lot of effort to do a one-off show."

To make it worth their while, they started flirting with the idea of mounting a full-length tour. "We were left thinking, ‘How the heck are we going to pull this off?’ " A 5.4-metre-long trailer is how. The pair, along with Schwartz and a stage manager, tours with 17 of Joe’s sculptures as well as the musicians’ equipment. By this point in the tour, they’ve got set-up and strike-down to a science, although they have to leave room to adapt. Because they’re playing everywhere from concert halls to art galleries, every show is a little different from the one before.

And so far, it’s been a huge success.

"The response has been really great," Joël says. "Almost all the shows have sold out."

On a more personal note, Joël has been cherishing the time on the road with his dad. It conjures fond memories of driving to hockey practice in the pickup truck back in Saskatchewan.

"I live so far away from him and I don’t seem him as much," Joël says. He lives in B.C. while Joe still lives just outside Regina. "To spend this time with him has been incredible."

Joël has also been enjoying playing as Fafard & Schwartz on this run of shows. The pair met onstage at a folk festival workshop in Bella Coola, B.C., and immediately hit it off.

"We found ourselves playing off each other the way we do now — and we’d never met," he recalls with a laugh. "We have a really great chemistry and two very unique guitar styles that seem to work together seamlessly."

Borrowed Horses is a guitar lover’s record, a beautifully executed collection of highly technical Appalachian folk and country blues tunes — with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s State Trooper thrown in for good measure.

Joël has long been a fan of blues guitar, an avid listener before he picked up the guitar at 15.

"I remember listening to As It Happens on CBC when I was a kid driving in the truck with my dad and hearing those blues riffs they used for intros and outros. I’d never heard anything like it. I started listening to the radio all the time while my dad was in the studio. I used to drain his truck battery." (Seeing John Lee Hooker with his parents at the Winnipeg Folk Festival is another formative memory.) Fast-forward a couple decades and As It Happens host Michael Enright now uses Fafard’s music for those bluesy intros and outros on CBC Radio One’s The Sunday Edition.

While they deal in different mediums, Joël credits his dad with putting him on the path he’s on.

"That was the role model I had," he says. "A guy who worked hard and lived a creative life."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 8, 2013 D3

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