“Hippie Gone Rogue”, a new release from Paul “Fireball Paul” Shepherd is a collection that first took seed nearly 40 years ago.
And yet it is as contemporary as if the Portage la Prairie singer/songwriter put the lyrics to music this week.
“It’s always a study in what is happening in today’s world,” Shepherd explains of the 10 songs on his new release — his fourth recording since playing in a New Brunswick band called White Trash four decades ago.
“I had this song (I Just Turned 80 Today) and I knew someday I was going to find the right place for it,” Shepherd said. “I played this in bands and duos and finally it finds a home on this release as a solo project. I kept this song and waited for the right time.”
Along the winding road from New Brunswick to Portage la Prairie, Fireball ditched the heavy metal sound, recorded with Bluenoser, Jon Harpell in a duo called Eastern Gypsy and for years here was part of a duo and helped establish the popular summer concert series, Concerts in the Park. Fireball Paul Shepherd was born in Canada, lives in Canada, plays a made in Canada guitar and records his songs in Canada about his Canadian experiences. You can’t get much more Canadian that.
His songs are basically true stories. “I usually write about what causes my fears.”
“Girl Gone Missing”, penned to keep telling the story about Jennifer Catcheway and Amber McFarland and how they went missing from Portage la Prairie.
Jennifer Catcheway, then 18, phoned her mom on June 19, 2008, to say she would be home in that night to celebrate her 18th birthday, but she never arrived.
Amber McFarland, who was 24 when she disappeared in October 2008.
Amber’s family and friends gathered recently to mark the 10th anniversary of her disappearance.
Shepherd performed “Girl Gone Missing” at the vigil which was picked up by network news and brought attention to the missing young women whose family and friends continue to seek answers and closure.
“The public still doesn’t know what happened,” said Shepherd. “Somebody knows something. These moms and dads are still hurting. “
The songwriter recalls worrying about his daughter who was then living in British Columbia and preparing to travel. “As a parent, you have a natural level of worry for your children. B.C. has its history of women going missing and here I was experiencing it happening here. I was fearful as many parents in this town were.”
“Girl Gone Missing” may play out to be the spark that ignites someone’s memory of events and help bring closure to the two hurting Portage families.
Fireball Paul finds much of his fear contained in the daily newspaper headlines and broadcast news. “There’s no shortage of material for songwriters like me.”
One song on “Hippy Gone Rogue” that stands out is “Mother Nature’s Pissed”. “I’m a bit of an activist, especially about the environment. We’re one step away from the apocalypse, at the brink of no return, and we’re not talking enough about. Hell, we have an American president who doesn’t think climate change is real. This is my way — with a little tongue-in-cheek — to put my two cents in. It’s a rock tune you can dance to, but the message is pretty severe,” he said.
How two shots of cinnamon whiskey (Fireball) and beer put the blinders on Shepherd for 35 years, “Hippy Gone Rogue” is a rebirth of sorts. “It’s funny how sobriety lets you really see things how they are. I feel like I am more of a musician now than I ever was. “Hippy Gone Rogue” is really the album I somehow was waiting to make and it was a lot of fun putting it together.”
Shepherd recorded “Hippy Gone Rogue” in Winnipeg with Dan Donohue at his Lion’s Den Studio.
“Dan has a million dollar set of ears. “Hippy Gone Rogue” sounds as it does because of his vision. Writing songs is like purging in an odd way. A relief when it’s over but a force to be reckoned with. It makes me whole.”
Shepherd is firming up details for a CD release party.
Songs on “Hippie Gone Rogue”
Tsunami Love Sick Blues
Hippie Gone Rogue
Nothing Left to Say
The Soldier’s Song
Red Neck Loser
Girl Gone Missing
Mother Nature’s Pissed
I Just Turned Eighty Today.
“Eastern Gypsy” as a duo
“The Dirge” solo acoustic
“Caught in a Jam” as a duo with Annette Heal
“Hippy Gone Rogue” solo with a complete backup band