There are very few books, television shows, movies, etc. that bring out the sentimental streak in my otherwise overly critical soul, but somehow The Vinyl Cafe has done just that. For those who aren't familiar with The Vinyl Cafe, I will elaborate. It is a radio show which airs every Sunday at noon on CBC Radio One, and features musical guests and stories written by the host, Stuart McLean. These stories feature an average family, that always seem to get into interesting scrapes, especially the patriarch, Dave. Along with his long-suffering wife, Morley, he bumbles his way through life with the best of intentions and the worst stroke of luck. Dave's two children, Sam and Stephanie round out the family along with Arthur the loyal hound dog. Every week, McLean tells another story of their adventures, with a puckish, yet wholesome delivery.
I was first introduced to this show by my high school English teacher who impressed upon her students that some stories just sounded better read aloud. We read McLean's stories to each and found ourselves chuckling along despite our attempts to appear aloof. Though I can picture some other teenagers rolling their eyes, the stories really are ageless and they are richer through McLean's reading. This show reminds me of the oral tradition of storytelling which predates the written word and how people would it for hours as a wandering troubadour would recite Beowulf or The Iliad from memory. Similarly, The Vinyl Cafe travels all over Canada, rather than simply touring the larger cities, and McLean makes a point of talking about each individual place and supporting local musicians as well.
Though my previous arguments about the quality of the stories, and the community involvement of the show are good ones, I think that the most compelling thing about the show is the hos himself. McLean is charming in a folksy way with that typically Canadian self-effacing sense of humour. In fact, there is nothing more Canadian than The Vinyl Cafe and it doesn't fall into the trap of over-the-top Canadian content like so many other productions. A biopic of Laura Secord told from the point of view of a Metis voyageur, for instance. It mentions on The Vinyl Cafe website that their podcast was chosen by Apple as the best audio podcast of the year in 2011. This is not surprising to me as a fan of the show, and I hope that you will take the time to follow the link I am adding to this post so that you can listen and judge for yourself.