• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

A Mainer's Family Wintertime Traditions

Air Date: Week of January 1, 2016

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Singer/songwriter Denny Breau performing at the 2014 Fryeburg Fair in Fryeburg, Maine. (Photo: Denny Breau and family)

Denny Breau, a singer/songwriter from Maine, joins host Steve Curwood during these cold winter months to discuss some of the moments that warm his heart. He shares stories about one of his favorite holiday meals, ice-fishing, his Acadian family origins, and traditions of song that span the generations.

Transcript

CURWOOD: It's the Living on Earth solstice holiday season show. I'm Steve Curwood. We head now to the frozen north of Maine to join singer, songwriter and raconteur Denny Breau from Lewiston, Maine. So Denny, coming home for the holidays means of course getting something to eat. I’m sure you’ve got something for us along those lines.

BREAU: I sure do. I sure do. It’s a song I wrote about my favorite dish in the whole world, not synonymous with holidays, but still my very best favorite.

[BREAU PERFORMS SONG “POT ROAST” ON ACOUSTIC GUITAR.]

BREAU: Now there’s this little thing I’ve been addicted to.
So many time I’ve said were thru,
But I always seem to come right back to you.
One helping is so good I think I’ll have two.
God only knows how much I love to eat
That simmered-for-hours chuck roast meat.
The bang for the buck just can’t be beat,
And if there’s anything left you make a fricassee.

Pot roast, any old time.
Pot roast, dinner on a dime.
Pot roast, so bovine,
Mashed with gravy, so divine.
Pot roast for all your guests.
Pot roast, why not feed them the best?
Pot roast, I’m feeling blessed
‘Cause if you think you’re through
I could finish the rest of your pot roast.

Now it makes no difference if your black or white,
Protestant, catholic, left or right.
We all love the kids and the wife,
But it’s that crock-pot that’s calling me home tonight.
So you can keep your turkeys your chickens, and your hams,
Cranberry stuffing and those candied yams
‘Cause when that next holiday comes rolling around
For me it all comes down to…

Pot roast, any old time.
Pot roast, dinner on a dime.
Pot roast, so bovine,
Mashed with gravy, so divine.
Pot roast for all your guests.
Pot roast, why not feed them the best?
Pot roast, I’m feeling blessed
‘Cause if you think you’re through
I could finish the rest of your pot roast.

CURWOOD: Wow! That's amazing. You're making me so hungry, Denny.

BREAU: [LAUGHS] I'm getting pretty hungry myself.

CURWOOD: Yes, sounds pretty good. Now, pot roast, that's not expensive meat at all.

BREAU: Not at all. That's the whole point.

CURWOOD: So you grew up in...

BREAU: I grew up in Lewiston, Maine.

CURWOOD: Mainers...when you go home there's, yeah, the place where you live and then there is camp.

BREAU: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Camp is a very important thing, and we’ve been going to this one particular camp for 30 years, the family and I. Every year, at the end of the summer when we start to close it up for the season, we do what they call an “I-C.”

CURWOOD: An “I-C?”

BREAU: An “I-C.” That's an "idiot check".

CURWOOD: Oh. [LAUGHS]


The Breau Family show, 2012. Denny’s mother, Betty Cody, toured extensively with Denny’s father Hal Lone Pine during the ‘40s and ‘50s, and she is considered a “legend in country music.” (Photo: Denny Breau and family)

BREAU: You kind of go through the camp and make sure you didn't forget your sunglasses or your favorite bathing suit or your favorite CD. It could be just about anything you just don't want to leave there so you have to go back ’cuz it's a ways away. One year we forgot the dog. Yup, we left the dog there. Had to turn around go back. "I thought you had the dog." "I thought you had the dog." Well, nobody had the dog, so…

CURWOOD: Now, I imagine your camp is some place near a lake in Maine.

BREAU: Yeah, it's up in Peru, Maine, a placed called Worthley Pond.

CURWOOD: And of course, because winter is coming along, that sets you up for a great Maine tradition.

BREAU: I've never actually ice-fished myself. I've sat in the shacks and shared a few stories and a couple of glasses of this and that. You actually cook meals and just wait for a bite, and certainly around the holidays a lot of people love to get together and get ice-fishing and maybe have a nice fresh salmon along with the pot roast, ya’ know.

So anyway, this next song is called “Ice-Fishing.” I kind of wrote it to poke fun at Mainers a little bit and their garb and the tradition itself and just all of the fun aspects of ice fishing. I hope you like it.

[BREAU PERFORMS SONG “ICE FISHING” ON ACOUSTIC GUITAR.]

BREAU: Way up north where the cold wind blows
When the lake freezes over people chop little holes
Drop a line and kick back in a little square shack
And if the ice didn’t melt they’d never go back.
A little wood stove just a waitin’ for a bite
Drinkin’ all day and drinkin’ all night
Gonna sit right here ‘til the winter ends
And I’ll be sittin’ right here when it comes again.

Ice fishin', nothing is quite the same.
I’m itchin’ to get back in the game.
They say 20 below and three feet of snow.
Grab your stuff ‘cause we’re still gonna go.
Ice fishin’, just a party by another name.
Ice fishin’, a tradition here in Maine.

Green gummy boots lined with felt
A bean pocketknife hanging off of my belt
Plenty of beer and plenty of time
A knitted wool cap that’s one of a kind.
If you don’t like fishin’ you can still tag along
‘cause there’s plenty of fun on that frozen pond
Stories to tell, guitars in hand.
Supper ‘s swimming around ready to jump in the pan.

Ice fishin’ nothing is quite the same.
I’m itchin’ to get back in the game.
They say 20 below and three feet of snow.
Grab your stuff ‘cause we’re still gonna go.
Ice fishin’ just a party by another name.
Ice fishin’ a tradition here in Maine.

(spoken) Now our parish priest comes ice fishin’ too,
A religious experience he’ll gladly tell you.
He says he’s waiting for hell to freeze over
So he can go ice fishin’ there too.

Ice fishin’ nothing is quite the same.
I’m itchin’ to get back in the game.
They say 20 below and three feet of snow.
Grab your stuff ‘cause we’re still gonna go.
Ice fishin’, just a party by another name.
Ice fishin’, a tradition here in Maine.

CURWOOD: So you've been a few times, but you haven't ever caught anything, huh?

BREAU: A buzz. [LAUGHS] About it. Right. Yeah.

CURWOOD: So you describe yourself as French-Canadian, but I understand recently you had a sort of a deeper revelation about where your cultural home might be.


Denny Breau’s mother, Betty Cody, with her four sons: Bob, Dick, Lenny and Denny in 1962. (Photo: Denny Breau and family)

BREAU: I did. As a matter of fact, I was made aware that Breau was actually an Acadian name. I just happened to be reading this article about how the Acadians have been kicked out of Canada by the English back in the 1700s sometime, and, I don't know, this song kind of fell out. The children and the mothers, they were put on ships, or they were told to just go, not knowing what the future might bring.

CURWOOD: And of course, we know Acadians in northern Maine and New Brunswick and eastern Québec, but also in Louisiana, there are Cajuns.

BREAU: Absolutely, the Cajuns, where a lot of the Acadians ended up. I thought when they left Canada that they immediately went to Louisiana and various places, but I found out that they went back to France first, and France didn't want ’em anymore so that's when they ended up coming back and settling in Louisiana. So I came by the song first and then found out I was actually related to these people down the road. A little song called “Acadie.”

[BREAU PERFORMS SONG “ACADIE” ON ACOUSTIC GUITAR, SINGING IN FRENCH MIXED WITH ENGLISH.]

BREAU: Pleure pas mes enfant pleure pas
Le bon dieu il y a pas oblis a vous
Je ses sait une autre journie avec du pain et du lout
Pleure pas mes enfant fait dodo

Across the ocean in a land far away
Lived a man who would be king.
His hunger for power will force your hand.
Death and destruction he will bring
Swooped down did his men like a hurricane.
Leave this place or die,
Forced upon the tall ships then cast upon the wind.
This land we claim in his name.

Pleure pas mes enfant pleure pas
Le bon dieu il y a pas oblis a vous
Je ses sait une autre journie avec du pain et du lout
Pleure pas mes enfant fait dodo

What can we do how will we survive
With nothing but the clothes on our backs?
My young without a father I call for him at night.
He ain’t never coming back.
What did we do to deserve such a fate?
Why have you turned the other way?
Heaven on earth is now a living hell
And I curse your name as I pray

Pleure pas mes enfant pleure pas
Le bon dieu il y a pas oblis a vous
Je ses sait une autre journie avec du pain et du lout
Pleure pas mes enfant fait dodo

Acadia you were my home
And I long for the life I knew.
Deep in my heart and down to my soul
I know I’ll never come back to you.

CURWOOD: That's so sweet and so sad.

BREAU: Thank you. Thank you very much.

CURWOOD: At this time of year when we think about coming home for the holidays we think of some of the people who won't be there.

BREAU: Yeah, that’s very true. It's going to be a rough one this year because back in July my mom passed away. 90 years old and, uh, we'll miss her. But, ya’ know, we'll still experience the joy of being together, and certainly we'll remember Mom. She was such a big part of my life, not only as my mother, but we worked together professionally for, gosh, 30, 40 years, and it really is a tough thing to deal with. She'll be there in spirit, I'm sure.


Singer/songwriter Denny Breau and granddaughter, Aiyana, on the lake at their family “camp” in Peru, Maine in the summer of 2014. Aiyana is the “daughter’s daughter” in Denny’s song by that title. (Photo: Denny Breau and family)

CURWOOD: Singing along.

BREAU: There you go.

CURWOOD: And when you gather with your family, how many of you are still singing?

BREAU: My granddaughter is very, very, very musical, loves to sing. One of the first things I wanted to do when she was born was write a song for my first granddaughter. Out at the camp again, walking around, guitar over my shoulder, just walking through the camp by myself, staring out at the lake, trying to come up with that first line, and then I happened to stumble on, “When I'm holding my daughter's daughter.” And I thought, “Oh, man, that's the line I've been looking for, and the rest of it fell out. For all you grandparents out there, love your grandkids.

[BREAU PERFORMS SONG “MY DAUGHTER’S DAUGHTER” ON ACOUSTIC GUITAR.]

BREAU: When I’m holding my daughters daughter
I feel like a king.
Hope she likes the pretty things we bought her
And she likes it when I sing.
And I know she’ll be no stranger to the water
Just jump right in.
I know that I am ready for the joy she’ll bring.
You and me here we go again.

When I’m holding my daughters daughter
The world is a better place.
I see love, peace, and innocence
In her tiny face
Like the new day sun shining from above
In a tropical dream.
Wake up, wake up my little angel,
Aiyana serene.

A precious jewel to be taken to the heart
May you grow up to be strong and proud
And dance thru all of life’s changes
And when you sing your song sing it loud.

When I’m holding my daughters daughter
I get shivers up my spine.
Wish your mother and our fathers could have seen her, taken long before their time.
Like the new day sun shining from above
My Caribbean queen
Wake up, wake up my little angel,
Aiyana serene.

CURWOOD: Well, Denny, you got me all choked up there.

BREAU: Me too. [LAUGHS] Me too.

CURWOOD: And one would hope that our home that we share, this Earth, will be great for your daughter's daughter.

BREAU: Ah, let's hope so, huh. Things are changing so fast and the more people we get and the more resources we use and sometimes it just feels like it's so bleak, doesn’t it? And then there’s music, and it brings you right back, and gives you full of hope, and…ah!


Singer/songwriter Denny Breau recording in the studio for the Living on Earth broadcast. (Photo: Steve Curwood)

CURWOOD: Denny Breau is a songwriter, musician, storyteller, and Maine-uh. Did I say that right?

BREAU: Pretty darn good. Maine-uh. Yessuh. It's “lobstuh” ya’ gotta say.

CURWOOD: Lobstuh.

[MUSIC]

BREAU: [LAUGHS] There you go. Lobstuh.

 

Links

More about singer/songwriter Denny Breau

 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.