Some songwriters seem to be linked inextricably with certain places. Manfred Janssen is as much a part of the fabric of the musical history of the Yukon as Stan Rogers is of Nova Scotia. They were both born in Ontario. And they both played at Farrago in the Yukon‚ one of the oldest folk festivals in the country (run in high style on the mine profits). This was back in the heady days of the late seventies.
At that time‚ many young people seemed to gravitate to the Yukon in the summertime‚ as if it were the Promised Land. As fall approached most would leave‚ but many stayed. The Yukon experienced an artistic flowering as the long winter nights led to explosions of creativity.
After a mispent youth in and around Georgetown‚ playing in various rock bands from the roller rink to the Rivoli‚ Manfred arrived in the North. It wasn’t long before he entered his first Yukon collaboration with Jim Vautour‚ forming “Two Rivers” to play coffee houses‚ folk nights and festivals. Around that time‚ Manfred and Jim co-wrote “Land of Gold” a song that is recognized today as the unofficial Yukon anthem.
When “Two Rivers” disbanded‚ Manfred continued to perform as a solo singer/songwriter‚ penning several of the most memorable songs to emerge from this period of time in the Yukon. Audiences greeted his performances enthusiastically‚ and one CBC producer in Toronto sat up and took notice‚ offering Manfred the opportunity to record an album of his original songs. The album (recorded in three days with studio musicians) still exists as a rare item on discerning vinyl collectors’ shelves.
The next decade and a half saw Manfred going through numerous journeys of discovery; musically‚ emotionally and geographically. His fans followed him through his “electric period”; the growth of his musicianship in several top-notch touring and house bands; his travels to Thailand‚ Germany‚ Mexico and Hong Kong (and the songs that would accompany his return); and his joining up with a traditional touring Welsh band! (remnants of his “Two Rivers” days.)
Finally‚ in 1998‚ Manfred felt ready to enter the studio again with a pocketful of new‚ original songs‚ some of the finest musicians in the Territory‚ a Juno award-winning studio‚ and enough time to “get it right”. The resulting album‚ “Familiar Ground”‚ is a triumph. It is the culmination of a musical journey; a homecoming; a return to the very basic rootsy appeal of Manfred’s sound. There is a beautiful simplicity to his work‚ whether playing with a ten-piece band or solo on his Martin.
“Familiar Ground” is a brilliant excursion through a series of personal landscapes of music‚ emotion and place.
Manfred’s music has captured the simple beauty of time spent at home in the Yukon and on the road traveling‚ wandering‚ and musing. He has a way with words‚ melody‚ phrasing and style that help create a portrait of the artist as a mature musician.
His guitar playing is reminiscent of the pounding rhythms and expert acoustic playing pioneered by guitarists like John Martyn and Bruce Cockburn. And such a voice! His CD‚ “Familiar Ground” is an opportunity to hear one of Canadian folk music’s hidden treasures playing and singing a collection of songs that are honest’ compelling and seem somehow achingly familiar‚ even at first listen.
Below is a sampling of Manfred’s own music CD’s and compilation CD’s that his tunes have appeared on. More will be added in the near future. Click on the arrow to hear a thirty second sample of the song. Please keep in mind that these are low quality samples in order to cut down on loading times. To purchase any of Manfred’s music, you can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit iTunes.