by Diane Eaton
MANITOULIN— Jim Beech, well-loved singer-songwriter and country musician, just finished recording a new CD called ‘The Possum and the Devil.’
Mr. Beech, 66, has performed frequently on Manitoulin where he and his wife Neen spend half the year. He grew up near Paisley and has worked with many fine musicians from the Bruce County area. He selected all local musicians for his CD.
Mr. Beech’s musical path started on a precarious note. “When I was four I lost all my fingers in a farm accident,” he said. But that didn’t stop Jim from learning to play piano, even with each of his fingers half gone. He started at an early age. As a youth he got interested in guitar. At 17, his parents gave him a guitar of his own.
“My parents encouraged me all the way along. I taught myself because, without fingers, no one could teach me.” Jim tunes his guitar to an open G chord and plays mostly bar chords. That works well for him. His limitations did not hinder him from being a fine performer.
“I was grateful that I could play guitar,” he said. “I love entertaining people. I can play a show to 10 people or 5,000 people. It doesn’t matter. I enjoy making someone happy. I tell a lot of stories.”
Mr. Beech has performed across Ontario and in the US. For 12 years he was a lead singer with Yesterday’s Wine (1984-96). In 1990 the group went to Nashville and had the opportunity to play an afternoon performance on the Grand Ole Opry stage.
Of all the CDs he produced, this one is different, Mr. Beech said. “I did this CD because I wanted to record songs I wrote and never had a chance to record. I also included some of my favourites.”
The CD contains 14 songs showcasing Mr. Beech’s style of country music. A few gospel songs are included. Five numbers are Mr. Beech’s original compositions, while the remaining ones are remakes of familiar tunes done in his own style. They sound just as you would hear them at a country music show event.
A song which stands out is ‘The Possum and the Devil,’ an original by Mr. Beech. It pays homage to the late great country icon George Jones. George sometimes didn’t show up for a scheduled show, hence he was nicknamed “No-show Jones.” The song is quite a clever take on this! Another song of note is ‘Roses in the Snow,’ co-written by Mr. Beech. It speaks to the great and beautiful everyday things in life that we often overlook.
Another of Mr. Beech’s own songs is called ‘Manitoulin Style,’ which expresses his fondness of Island life:
“…Cause the people that you meet on your journey
will make you feel the Island is your home.
But when you’re on the Island
You’ll think it’s paradise!
Ah you’ll never beat Manitoulin;
It’s a better way of life.”
CDs will be available at The Source Electronics – Hardman Photo and TV in Gore Bay, The Manitoulin Expositor Office in Little Current and Wilson’s Corner Store in Mindemoya.