Music is more than art, expression, philosophy, or language. It’s a medium that also exists to remember history—times, people and places that are all but forgotten, in an attempt to bring them to life. Folk music is arguably the best and most common way of doing just that. On PEI, Shane Pendergast is keeping the Island folk music tradition alive, crafting sophisticated music and poetry that takes listeners back in time on an era-spanning journey.
Pendergast writes music that can transport you, not necessarily in the psychedelic or emotional way, but through words. It’s news in song, fact that has often been lost in time, and memories that don’t belong to you but feel like they could.
At 21 years old, Pendergast comes from a long line of folk musicians. “My family has always been into music, on both sides. One side’s Acadian and one side is Irish. There was always music involved when the family would get together—folk music, traditional, and fiddle tunes.” Pendergast would be invited on stage as a child so he got used to the spotlight. He started playing summer shows at the age of 13 and has been doing so ever since.
More recently Pendergast wanted to dip into crafting his own works, rather than performing cover tunes. “I would torture myself trying to come up with things and I didn’t’ have the life experience yet or the knowledge to come up with anything that was very good. I’ve always been very critical about my songwriting, due to probably going up around really good musicians.”
Upon the first listen of Pendergast’s debut single, “Gaspésie,” it’s fair to say that he has filled the shoes of family members that have come before him, namely, his father Michael Pendergast, who is a household name on PEI. “He’s basically been able to make it work full time, which is pretty crazy.”
Pendergast released his debut album Place to the Name in February. It’s an epic 13–song work of art, featuring 12 original songs, and one spoken word written by his father. While he was able to do a launch show in Toronto, he had hoped to have his album launch here much sooner, but things didn’t go as planned due to COVID-19.
Pendergast defines his music simply as folk with Acadian and Irish influences. “I use folk as an amalgamation of a number of traditions that make up Maritime music.”
Folk musicians are sometimes branched into the singer-songwriter genre, but Pendergast doesn’t want to be defined by that. Singer-songwriters generally write more personal songs, while most of Pendergast’s are about history, legend and made up stories.
Two songs of Pendergast that transform history into song are “Three Mile Limit” and “The Song of 52.” “Those songs in particular are historical. I read up on the history from different sources and from what people have told me, compiled that information and basically started to write poetry from it. But it’s all fact. Other songs on the album are meant to sound like they are true, but they’re made up stories.”
Hear Pendergast’s debut album on any major streaming platform. Better yet, you can see him live every Sunday from 1–4 pm at Lone Oak Brewing