Nathan Sloniowski sent us this today. Well worth watching.

Made in Almonte – Sloop John B, sung and played by Nathan Sloniowski, recorded and co-produced with Ken Friesen

This song is devoted to the people compelled to cross the earth, against all odds, for a better life.

I learned it first as a child. It “appeared” again about 45 years later on the afternoon of March 6, 2015 as I was experimenting with some new electronic guitar tones blended with my acoustic instrument.

The sounds invited the tune back into my imagination, but I couldn’t recall all of it. So I searched for lyrics, read the 1917 original called “The John B. Sails” and as (literally) a child of the 60s, decided to lean on the words of the more familiar 1968 “Sloop John B.” cover by The Beachboys. I strayed from their interpretation as well as I better understood what the song meant to me in my fifth decade compared to my first.

As I searched, I also found out that the younger Johnny Cash did his own cover in 1959 called “I Want to Go Home”. Yet it was the elder Mr. Cash that seemed to be channeling through me on this version. Thanks Johnny.

Later the same evening, I decided I’d post my take on the tune to YouTube, and started assembling images of my hometown of Almonte, Ontario, Canada. Then something else happened.

As I listened to the scratch version I recorded on my phone sheltered by the bricks, boards and pipes of a former 19th century work-room, I struggled to find images that would convey a universal theme. To me, now, the Sloop John B. lyrics are about yearning for home while facing daunting obstacles on an involuntary journey.

That drew me to think about several new Syrian families in our town, and what they must have gone through to get to Canada. And the increasingly colossal barriers – from the immediacy of razor wire and steel fences after crossing treacherous seas in overcrowded vessels, to the more esoteric geo-political constructs around petroleum resources that drove other nations to destroy their homes and kill their loved ones. Then, the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people on the move.

Finally, I understood why the song appeared, and began assembling public domain photos of people involved in this crisis of humanity. As I did so I booked studio time down the street with my friend and record producer Ken Friesen.

On the afternoon of March 8th, Ken helped me sort through an arrangement that turned my electronic musings into the swells of waves, ethereal ringing of bells and the down deep echoes of loneliness that may inhabit the minds of sleepless, desperate, yet still hopeful people pushing themselves to risk everything for a chance at a peaceful life.

Maybe the song can help somehow. It seems to need to be here.

For the guitar geeks:

I created the tones using a Larrivée J-03 Mahogany Jumbo guitar wired through to a Boss SY-300 guitar synth. Ken took it from there, with wise arrangement suggestions, gorgeous mics and sonic wizardry that make him a treasure to musicians everywhere.

For the photographers:

Many thanks to all the photographers, some anonymous, who immortalized these people and offered their images to the world with Creative Commons licenses. Here are the photo credits:

Rescued migrants are brought to southern Italian ports. By Irish Defence Forces from Ireland – LE Eithne Operations 28 June 2015, CC BY 2.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41249816

Rescued migrants near Malta, October 2013. Official U.S. Navy Page from United States of America U.S. Navy photo/U.S. Navy – Distressed persons are transferred to a Maltese patrol vessel. Public domain.

Migrants along the Balkan route crossing from Serbia into Hungary, 24 August 2015. CC BY-SA 3.0. Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed –http://szegedma.hu/…/migransok-szazai-ozonlenek-roszkerol-s…

Migrants crossing illegally into Hungary underneath the unfinished Hungary–Serbia border fence, 25 August 2015. Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed – http://szegedma.hu/…/migransok-szazai-ozonlenek-roszkerol-s…. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Migrants being stopped at the Greek–Macedonian border near Gevgelija by the Macedonian Police. CC BY 2.0. Dragan Tatic / Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äusseres – Arbeitsbesuch Mazedonien.https://www.flickr.com/photos/minoritenplatz8/20270358044/

Migrants crossing illegally into Hungary underneath the unfinished Hungary–Serbia border fence, 25 August 2015. Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed – http://szegedma.hu/…/migransok-szazai-ozonlenek-roszkerol-s…. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Migrants in Slovenia, 23 October 2015. CC BY 3.0. SV –http://www.slovenskavojska.si/…/sodelovanje-slovenske-vojs…/

Arrival of migrants in Dobova, Slovenia. SV – http://www.slovenskavojska.si/…/slovenska-vojska-pri-resev…/. CC BY 3.0.

Migrants in Budapest railway station, with most heading to Germany, 4 September 2015. Live on Friday, the 4th of September, 2015. Fornoon. Budapest, at Eastern Railway Station. Entrance of the Metro Line, square in front of the Railway Station, Passage under the Baross square.

Migrants at Eastern Railway Station. CC BY-SA 4.0. Elekes Andorhttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Elekes_Andor

Wien Westbahnhof railway station on 5 September 2015: migrants on their way to Germany.

Refugees at Vienna West Railway Station during the European migrant crisis 2015. CC BY-SA 4.0. Bwag.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Bwag

Refugees strike in front of the Budapest Keleti railway station, 3 September 2015. CC BY-SA 4.0. Mstyslav Chernov.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Mstyslav_Chernov

Rescued migrants are brought to southern Italian ports, 28 June 2015. Syrian and Iraqi refugees arrive from Turkey to Skala Sykamias, Lesbos island, Greece. Spanish volunteers (life rescue team – with yellow-red clothes) from “Proactiva open arms” http://en.proactivaopenarms.org/ help the refugees. CC BY-SA 4.0. Ggia – own work.https://www.flickr.com/photos/dfmagazine/19047840598/