Route One Project to Feature Musicians of Northeast Maine

Passamaquoddy drummer Petak Lola was among those interviewed by Chuck White as part of the Route One Project when it passed through Calais recently. White's interviews and recordings will be featured in an upcoming podcast and at an exhibit in Boston. (Photo courtesy Chuck White)

By Lura Jackson


Even growing up in Northeastern Maine, it can be difficult to appreciate how much musical history and energy is associated with this region. For Chuck White, a musicologist that recently finished an eight-week, sixteen city tour along all of Route One, the significance of Northeastern Maine was evident when he arrived here.

“This is the beginning of American music,” White said, explaining how important the exodus of the Acadians to Louisiana combined with the influx of the Celtic population was to the growth of the country’s folk music development. Prior to that, the Passamaquoddy were producing unique indigenous music that was initially preserved in the first field recordings of live music ever made. The recordings were captured by Jesse Fewkes in Calais in 1890 using a Thomas Edison wax cylinder kept in the Library of Congress today.

White made many of the connections regarding the history of the area and its influence on music while completing the final leg of the Route One Project between Machias, Fort Kent, and Calais. The project represents an effort by White and his partners, including Ernie Boch, Jr., to encapsulate both the history and the present of folk and independent music. White’s tour began in Key West and concluded in Northeastern Maine. 

While in Calais, White connected with Tom MacDonald, organizer of the Calais Celtic Concerts, and subsequently interviewed and recorded Barrule, a group visiting from the Isle of Man. Through Vicki Farrell at the Visitor Information Center, he made further connections, including with Petak Lola of the Passamaquoddy Tribe. White took the opportunity to make copies of digital recordings in the Wabanaki Cultural Center, including ones featuring Wayne Newell and Blanche Sockabasin. 

The recordings that White made will be featured in an upcoming exhibit at the Boch Center in Boston specifically pertaining to the development of independent music in modern American culture. The exhibit is slated for launch in April. White also plans to make a podcast detailing his trip and the various influential areas he visited, and, later on, he aims to return to the area to meet with additional musicians and talk film footage of them as they play. “We’re just scratching the surface here,” he said.

The timing of White’s arrival in Calais coincided with the Scarecrow Fest and the Black Magic Bash at the Calais Motor Inn, and White shared, “The video I took that night is the best I got from the whole trip.” Having many of the guests in costume on the dancefloor created a surreal and fascinating video that, for White, perfectly summarized his whole trip. “It’s had this whole feeling of chasing ghosts,” White said, describing how his path has taken him through the territory of legendary musicians like Gram Parsons and enveloped the Cajuns and Celtic peoples, both of whom are his ancestors. 

To learn more about White’s project as it develops, follow on Facebook.