Lewis Melville: Canadian Music and Shakespeare
Lewis Melville is a Guelph, Ontario, composer, producer, and recording artist. As a result of his work exploring the role of music as a positive force in breaking down barriers between different cultures he has been called a “music-in-development activist”. He began performing professionally in 1968, and is a veteran of the alternative Canadian music scene. Whilst pursuing a career as a Canadian roots musician, Lewis has maintained a keen interest in experimental music since the early seventies. He is an original member of the Woodchoppers Association, a Toronto-based free-style jazz orchestra. As a producer and performer his various musical adventures have taken him across Canada, North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Highlights of his musical career include: recording the traditional music of Tashi Nencha in Bhutan for Tashi Norbu; producing several albums involving over one hundred artists to raise money for international relief (Music For Peace; You Buy From Me; Work Songs; 60 Second Songs); co-producing and recording an album of songs by Su Tamootakoo, a musical group comprised of Karen students from a refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border; recording numerous musicians in Mali, West Africa, including Mansa Sissoko (a griot, kora player and songwriter), Wasselou musician Jah Youssouf, Ngoni virtuoso Abdoulaye Kone, and students at the National Institute for the Arts in Bamako. In 2005 he and fellow Woodchoppers travelled to Cuba with human rights activist and musician Daniel Fischlin on a project to study and document the Afro-Cuban Yoruba music of Matanzas.
In 1993 he co-founded Dave's Records of Guelph (DROG) with Dave Teichroeb. DROG is an organization dedicated to catalyzing new music by independent regional Canadian artists, building community through music, and using music to promote goodwill worldwide. Over 100 albums have been released on the DROG label, including six theme albums and three compilations. The latest theme album is a collection of 59 songs about Canada’s role in Afghanistan entitled “Afghanistan … On Guard For Thee?” involving hundreds of artists. Lewis is also a research scientist at the University of Guelph (Molecular and Cell Biology) specializing in studying anatomy of mycorrhizas (the reciprocal interactions between soil microorganisms and the roots of plants). He has published or co-published numerous scientific papers and several books.
As a multi-instrumentalist (guitars, banjo, pedal steel, dobro, mandolin), Lewis is well-known for his performances with Canadian bands like the Skydiggers, Rheostatics, Grievous Angels, and Pat Temple and the High Lonesome Players. His playing can be heard on scores of albums by other artists (Cowboy Junkies, Bird Sisters, Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, Waltons, Kim Stockwood, 13 Engines, Tannis Slimmon, and so forth), including the multi-million selling album “Gordon” by the Barenaked Ladies.
He has produced and recorded many albums for other artists, both independently and on the DROG label, as well as documenting live performances by many of the world’s best experimental musicians for the Guelph Jazz Festival. As Woodchoppers’ musical archivist, over the past eight years he has recorded most of the Woodchoppers' concerts, including their first release You Buy From Me, live tracks on the their seminal album Life is Not A Rehearsal, and Phantomopthera.
When not appearing with the Woodchoppers, Lewis can be found playing banjo with the local roots bluegrass band the Hoofbeats, supporting Guelph singer-songwriter Tannis Slimmon, playing pedal steel with Michael Johnston, or deconstructing the works of Shakespeare as post-modern popular song in the anachronistic pop band the Williams. He also performs occasionally as a solo artist. His songs have been heard on many of the CBC’s (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) national shows, and his albums are available in Canada and worldwide through MapleMusic (www.maplemusic.com). Lewis is currently working on a fourth solo album, the latest DROG benefit theme album, “Book Songs”, and producing a new album by Malian musician Jah Youssouf. He continues working together with Lyn Vasey (program director of Charm Tong’s School for Shan State Nationalities Youth) on a project supporting and documenting music in refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border, and is coordinating an ongoing collaborative project between the Woodchoppers Association and musicians from Mali, West Africa, in support of the Developing Countries Farm Radio Network. Additional projects include co-producing a book on music improvisation teaching methods.
In the demo recordings of nascent songs on Romeo and Juliet, Melville combines his unique musical formation with a strong literary sensibility, searching to give new meaning to the star-crossed lovers cliché that has become one of Shakespeare’s most identifiable brands from a unique vantage point in the alternative Canadian musical scene.
|Not Enough Room||The Reverbs||1989||Ind.|
|You Buy From Me||Lewis Melville, Lyn Vasey, Woodchoppers||1998||DROG|
|Trials of This Lonely Man||with Needy Fingers||1998||DROG|
|Have You Herd?||with the Hoofbeats||1998||DROG|
|Not Really a Bluegrass Album||Lewis Melville||1999||DROG|
|Life is Not a Rehearsal||with the Woodchoppers Association||2001||Sonic Onyon|
|Noah’s Work||Lewis Melville||2003||DROG|
|What Ho?||with the Williams||2004||DROG|
|Mayflower||with the Hoofbeats||2005||DROG|
|Truck Songs||Various Artists||1987||DROG|
|Music For Peace||Various Artists||1999||DROG|
|Food Songs||Various Artists||1999||DROG|
|Work Songs||Various Artists||2001||DROG|
|Sixty Second Songs||Various Artists||2002||DROG|
|Aghanistan…On Guard For Thee?||Various Artists||2006||DROG|
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Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgWebsite: www.drog.com
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Fischlin, Daniel. Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project. University of Guelph. 2004. <http://www.canadianshakespeares.ca>.