Reprinted from Toronto Community News, Inside Toronto December 18, 2009 by Norm Nelson

Well here we go again, another super positive review. A quick scan of my blog since I kicked it off a couple of weeks ago with our new website has shown it to be pretty effusive with praise, and here we go again with Brian Gladstone’s most recent CD, which actually isn’t that recent as it was released in 2005, called A Time For New Beginnings.
You can preview (or purchase) the songs at CD Baby. Link here.

I picked it up several years ago when I was doing a story on Winterfolk, a February roots festival on the Danforth which Gladstone, a North York native, founded and has continued to run for years. Incidentally, it’s confirmed again this year from Feb. 12 to 15, again incorporating the new Family Day Monday holiday. Link here to website and press release.

Besides being a musician, Gladstone is also kind of an independent activist/record company mogul, in a small, independent kind of way, trying to save the world as all good 60s folk singers try to do. He gave me one CD compilation called Protest Songs for a Better World featuring roots musicians from around the world. And, guess what, I thought it was awesome, as well, and a review will follow.

As an aside, I should apologize or at least try to explain the opening flood of positive reviews. I’ve been covering local musicians for our publications for nearly half a decade, and what I would do is profile the artist and their CD – but not formally review it. This blog is now affording me that opportunity, and what’s happening is that I seem to be plucking out some of my favourites.

And that’s exactly what I did when I decided to spin Brian Gladstone’s latest last night. I was expecting it to be a positive experience because, at the time of the interview, I had played it quite a lot and enjoyed it immensely. And sure enough, it was just the kind of folk/60s vibe I needed last night as a tonic to the stress that always accompanies the joy of Christmas.

Actually, this CD takes its place right beside one of my old favourites, John Prine. Specifically the guitar work kind of reminds me of John Prine’s effortless fingerpicking backed by the late Steve Goodman, specifically on Souveniers. And actually here is a real good Youtube version of that song, boy they sure look young!

Having said that, this CD has its own totally original vibe, very successfully transposing the best of the that 60s/hippy-ish feel to the 21st century. Like Prine, it’s got some nice harmony regularly floating in as well.

I’ve actually lost the main sleeve of Gladstone’s CD but I assume it’s co-producer Tony Quarrington doing the second guitar (although Gladstone’s accomplished enough to do it). It’s a case where you can just be awed and entertained by the guitar work itself, which you actually are on the instrumental Estrogen. But like Paul Simon or John Prine the songs are also great in their own right.

Another strength of the album is the variety of moods from romantic, to humour to poignant – and sometimes a combination. Standouts  for me are the summer/cottagy feel of Every Day Can Be a Sunny Day and For a Day in the Park, the romatic/poignancy of opener A Song for Everyone, I’ll Try and the humour of Office Tower Blues, which is as fine a take on the Take this Job and Shove It genrre as I’ve heard.

Again, for me, this album gets mentioned in the same breath as Prine/Simon, gets placed beside them, and will get played as often.

I mentioned that I had written a story on Gladstone back in 2006 when he moved Winterfolk to the Danforth. I could no longer find a live link on our website, actually it might even predate our old website, but it’s reprinted below …

North York guitarist behind Winterfolk Plans on summer peace rally at Mel Lastman Square
Norm Nelson North York roots musician Brian Gladstone is bringing a huge roots festival, called Winterfolk, with more than 80 artists to the Danforth area of Toronto this weekend.

But for his next major endeavour, the former student at William L. Mackenzie Collegiate Institute is promising to stay right at home in North York where he was born, raised and still lives. He said the first annual Brian Gladstone picnic for peace will be held July 19 in Mel Lastman Square. “I’m having a good old fashioned peace rally,” he said in a recent interview.

This weekend, however, all his energies will be on his huge Winterfolk festival which is now in its fourth year, having started at College and Spadina but is now in its second year at the Danforth location.

Winterfolk is billed as a blues and roots festival “which basically leaves it wide open”, said Gladstone. “Roots music, to me, what that means is music that evolved or is indigenous to Canada or North America, wh ich is all the folk styles, country music, bluegrass – those things evolved here. And that’s mainly what we’re focusing on.

Perhaps the most recognizeable name to mainstream audiences is Russell DeCarle, founding member and stalwart of Prairie Oyster. He’s on tap tonight.

Gladstone, this year, has brought in Randi Fratkin as artistic director. “She’s also the artistic director for the Mariposa Festival so she’s very well connected. She brings a great amount of expertise to us.

Besides the performances, workshops are also scheduled. Any guitar picker or roots music fan will want to check their website out at

Gladstone, a singer songwriter with a unique finger picking style, will also perform at Winterfolk. He has four CDs to his credit, including his latest, A Time For New Beginnings.

For anyone who enjoyed 60s folk, this CD could catch you by surprise. But it’s no throwback, it’s completely relevant to today, commenting on a variety of issues, ranging from the Iraq invasion (Flags of Freedom) and the nine-to-five rut (Office Tower Blues) and is presented in a variety of moods.

Also of note is a compilation CD he has produced, called Protest Songs For a Better World. Any fan of 60s folk would no doubt be ecstatic to see the protest-song tradition very much alive and relevant.

The joke for many aspiring musicians is … don’t give up your day job. With Gladstone, the local music scene has obviously benefited from his doing exactly that. He spent the last 25 years as a director of engineering and as a research engineer and has two patents to his name, but since he put out his first CD in 1999, his obvious love and talent for music has taken over.

Just in the last year, I've basically retired from the corporate world, and 100 per cent of my time is devoted towards my creative interests,he said.

One of those interests is the registered non-profit Association of Artists for a Better World. It is under that umbrella that he puts on Winterfolk and issues the compilation CDs. Check out that website at

For more on his own CDs and performance schedule, check out his own website at

Good News Toronto - Celebrating Heros reports on Brian Gladstone
Vote For Brian Gladstone - Ontario Council of Folk Festivals Board
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