Self titled debut album. Raw & powerful, with just four musicians and few overdubs, featuring Newfoundland (Celtic) music with revolutionary arrangements. Figgy Duff.
Newfoundland folk group. Named for a raisin pudding popular on the island, it was formed in 1975 in St John's by Noel Dinn (piano, drums) and Pamela Morgan (vocals), with Philip Dinn (vocals, percussion), Kelly Russell (violin), Art Stoyles (accordion), and Dave Panting (mandolin, bass guitar). Dinn (b St John's 25 Dec 1947, d St John's 26 July 1993) and Morgan (b Grand Falls, Nfld, 25 Nov 1956) have been constant to Figgy Duff. Personnel otherwise varied with each of its three albums to 1990: Figgy Duff (Posterity PTR-13014, issued in 1980) with Panting and the accordionist Geoff Butler; After the Tempest (Boot BOS-7243, issued in 1984) with Panting, Butler and the bass guitarist Derek Pelley; Weather Out the Storm (Hypnotic 71356-1000, CD and cass, issued in 1990) with Kelly Russell, Frank Maher (accordion, harmonica), Bruce Crummell (guitar) and Rob Laidlaw (bass).
Based in St John's, save for a period 1977-8 in Toronto, Figgy Duff has performed across Canada in nightclubs (eg, with some frequency at the Ship Inn, St John's, and the Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto) and at the Atlantic Edmonton, Mariposa, Owen Sound, Vancouver, and other folk festivals. It first travelled to Ireland and England in 1977, returning to Great Britain in 1982 and annually 1985-9, and also performing on occasion in Germany and Holland. It made its US debut at the 1981 Philadelphia Folk Festival and has appeared at other festivals (eg, the 1988 New Orleans Heritage Jazz and Blues Festival) and toured in New England and elsewhere.
Figgy Duff's early repertoire comprised traditional Newfoundland folk material given respectful, if affectionate performances carried by Morgan's unadorned, soft-edged singing. The group subsequently made increasingly progressive use of its Celtic influences, to the point on its third album of employing synthesizers and integrating mainstream pop - without, however, losing its ties to its island heritage. Weather out the Storm included several original songs by Dinn and/or Morgan, among them the title tune and 'Heart of a Gypsy'. The group also has recorded fiddle pieces by Émile Benoit (whom it has accompanied on occasion in concert) and Rufus Guinchard. Figgy Duff has written and performed incidental music- eg, for the film The Third Walker (1977) and a production in St John's of Shakespeare's The Tempest (1982) - and prepared a 'folk opera,' A Nobleman's Wedding (1982).
Figgy Duff was a Canadian folk-rock band from Newfoundland. They played a major role in the Maritime roots revival of the 1970s and 80s. Formed in 1976 by Noel Dinn, who named the band after a kind of traditional white pudding, Figgy Duff travelled across Newfoundland, learning traditional songs. They performed with some distinct elements of rock and roll.
They began working with Island Records early, though the album that resulted has yet to be released. Instead, their first recording was an indie album called After the Tempest (1984). It was followed by Figgy Duff, in 1981, produced by Gary Furniss and Tom Treumuth.
Throughout the next twelve years, Figgy Duff continued touring and recorded three studio albums. The line-up changed several times, but the core of Dinn and Pamela Morgan, singer-songwriter, stayed the same. Their 1990 Weather Out the Storm was nominated for a 1991 Juno Award. Dinn died of cancer in 1993, and Morgan disbanded Figgy Duff soon after.
The 1970's heralded an era of newfound discovery and pride in Newfoundland culture and identity. The Folklore department at M.U.N. was thriving, people stopped being ashamed of the way they spoke, and rebelled against the newfie joke. We were in sync with a roots movement all over the world, as people began to look inward to their own people for inspiration.
Noel Dinn, who had defied all odds and led his 60's rock band, Lukey's Boat, from Newfoundland to Montreal, on to London England, now began to assemble a group of musicians to carry on his vision of greatness, a band that would mingle his incredible powerful rock drumming with the music of the people. This group became Figgy Duff.
But our source of uniqueness and strength was also our obstacle. There was no music industry on this windswept island in the North Atlantic in the 60's and 70's. The energy, courage and determination it took to blaze the Celtic trail across Canada and abroad in the 1970's is utterly astonishing.
In the very early years we traveled what seemed like every square inch of Newfoundland, seeking songs and music from people. We played community halls, clubs, festivals, kitchens, full houses, empty houses, to audiences indifferent, hostile, enraptured. In St. John's we were eyed with suspicion by the folklore set who were re-discovering their uncle's oil skins and boots and cape-anns battened down. We favored velvet and lace, and were vegetarians who smelled strongly of garlic and had a taste of poetry and copious amounts of fine wine. I remember a maze of diner parties with songs, music, laughter, and discussions far into the night of Blake & Yeats and Newfoundland nationalism, with Neil, Nelson, Genevieve, John, Patricia, Anita, Mike, Peter & more. Some of the folk purists were downright outraged that their precious folk music was being tampered with by long haired "urban intellectuals" using drums and amps. But in those years we were measured our success by the joy we brought to the people from whom we learned the music - who instinctively understood that you can't cram a delicate and beautiful modal melody into a three-chord country format.
The road became a way of life. We thought nothing then of picking up and hopping aboard the old Chevy van, perched on and between P.A. speakers, and driving to Toronto and beyond, gone for months on end, picking up gigs as we went. We crisscrossed Canada more times than I care to remember, sometimes on organized, well-paid tours, but more often on a wing and a prayer.
In later years we began to turn our attention more to original music. Noel in particular needed more forms of expression - his poetry and original music were crying for a voice. Times got hard - the record industry was unkind to us. The traditional players fell away to pursue their own interests - Dave formed "Rawlin's Cross" and Kelly and Frank "The Plankerdown Band"' and on July 26, 1993, Noel Dinn passed away. But not before he had accomplished more in his 45 years then most do in a lifetime. In the last two years of his life he produced three albums with ex-members and close friends of "The Duff" - the exquisite "Color of Amber", the joyful and spirited "Vive La Rose" and the dark and poignant "Downstream".
-Pamela Morgan, Topsail Nfld., February 1995