By Derek Downham
Let's hear it for Bill Heffernan
Billy "Heff" Heffernan is possibly my favourite folk entertainer in Toronto, if not the world.
I first met Billy at the old Cafe May (now The Local) on Roncesvalles at the turn of the millennium. There, he used to host a brilliant poetry night on the last Thursday of every month. His warm candour, mixed with gravel-voiced storytelling instantly drew me in. He has travelled the world, giving aid to a myriad of just causes. A journeyman, with a heart of gold, which he shares with the needy at every turn. Always giving a voice to those without.
About a year or so ago, Heff released his first cd. " The Horses Are Loose " was 40 years (!) in the making. Expertly produced by the monolithic Alec Fraser Jr., this cd is 16 songs heavy, without a dud in the pile. These are pure and true folk anthems, penned by a real deal activist, teacher, and humanitarian. Each song is it's own nation, cradled by some of the greatest players in the game. Deservedly so. This album should be in every audio library in the country. It's an amalgamation of stories from every bright and dark corner of Billy's being. Historical and harmonious.
Honesty and heart are the stars, here.
You'll sing along, calling and answering with every chorus.
He has been hosting a Saturday matinee for over a decade at The Gate 403 on Roncesvalles. Today, sadly, is the last one, as The Gate has been sold. A sad day for many of Toronto's great roots and jazz artists. I am positive Billy will find a new home for this brilliant series, which always showcases a fine stable of talent. *edit: starting in September, The Inter Steer at 361A Roncesvalles Avenue will be hosting the matinee from 5-7, Saturdays. The inaugural show kicks off Sept 8th*
Bill Heffernan isn't a "chops" player. His chops are his words, and his actions in the community. I can't say enough great things about this man, his album, and the causes he champions.
Bill Heffernan is Toronto, on it's best day.