When Irene Sankoff and David Hein began working on the sound of the Broadway musical Come From Away, Hein shared the music of his favorite Newfoundland and Labrador bands with the producers and directors of the show...via mixtape.
"Almost every track I was like, 'Oh, we should have a bodhran beat like this Great Big Sea song, or it should have a voice sort of like The Navigators, or it should have the fiddle line or the penny whistle line," says Hein. The idea was always to have the Broadway show sound as authentic as possible. "But the step after that was always to try to five back to Newfoundland for the generosity they showed us when we were interviewing there."
And thus, Covers From Away was born.
The album, due out September 17 on Craft Recordings/Concord Theatricals as part of a week-long schedule of events surrounding the 20th anniversary of 9/11, features reimagined and reinterpreted covers of the musical's songs performed by Newfoundland and Labrador artists. Two songs can be heard early on the September 10 premiere of Come From Away on Apple TV+, but Playbill has a first listen to "Welcome to the Rock" performed by The Navigators. Check it out above.
Newfoundland music comes from the Celtic folk tradition of the British isles, incorporating instruments like the afore-mentioned bodhran drum, fiddle, and penny whistle, but adding their own unique sound with instruments like the ugly stick, "which is basically a mop screwed into boot with bottle caps screwed in on the sides that you hit with a stick," explains Hein.
"It's a musical tradition that is trapped in amber, to some degree," says Hein. The remoteness of the communities have kept that Celtic sound alive for a long time, however many of the bands of the area have begun to expand on the traditional sounds through various forms of rock, pop, and country.
Artists featured on the album include The Navigators, Rosemary Lawton, The Punters, Alan Doyle, The Once, Rachel Cousins and Abigale, Silver Wolf Band, Shanneyganock, Damnhait Doyle, Jason Benoit, The Irish Descendants, Sherman Downey, The Dardanelles, Mike Herriott, Ofra Harnoy, and Bob Hallett.
Hallett served as a music consultant on Come From Away, and not only performs on the album, but co-produces with Hein and Sankoff, alongside Ian Eisendrath and Sean Patrick Flahaven. He is an original member of the Newfoundland band Great Big Sea, one of Hein's favorites. "We went to see them a lot when we were dating back in the 1900's," says Sankoff.
Covers From Away isn't just a cover album, though. Because the musical doesn't have a lot of cabaret type stand-alone numbers, the artists were asked to reinterpret the tunes, and Sankoff and Hein dug up some of the original lyrics, so there are a few surprises on the album. "We tried to have fun with it for sure," says Sankoff.
"This album brings Newfoundland music, hopefully, to people around the world," says Hein, "And I hope people will return the favor by seeking out these artists, and buying their albums and going to their concerts, and even coming to Newfoundland to hear them."