A Life Devoted to Restoration and Beauty: Peter J. Moore

by JaneFairburn on November 21, 2023

The values of restoration, beauty and respect for the past are deeply entwined with my current project – with this in mind, I’d like to to pay tribute to a distant cousin and extended member of the Moorlands clan, music producer Peter J. Moore, who died last Saturday in Toronto. Peter’s credits include a number of musicians who contributed to a unique and lasting Canadian oeuvre, including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn and Oscar Peterson, though he’s probably best known for his brilliant rendering of the one-microphone recording of the Cowboy Junkies Trinity Session in Toronto in the 1990s.

Peter’s career culminated in a shared Grammy award he received for masterminding the restoration of Bob Dylan and The Band’s legendary Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 in 2016. His honour was well earned; he laboured for 8 months straight, 7 days a week over decomposing tape rediscovered in barns, some of it water damaged and covered in manure.

Through it all, his legacy is the creation of beauty through the art he, “set free in the world” – he never wavered from that purpose, and we’re consoled that he will continue to live on through his inspired work.




Central to Part II of my current work, Moorlands: An Ancestral Memoir of Loss and Belonging, is a rethink of the liberal project Canada and the West have undertaken over the past 500 years.

By the liberal project/liberalism, I mean the holy trinity of rights, democracy and capitalism that most of us unconsciously take for granted, and that forms the basis of our current social order and political structure. I’m arguing in Moorlands that while the success of liberalism is undeniable, it has also led to a series of unforeseen consequences, including a profound loss of belonging, and a deepening disconnection from the land and each other.

So let’s just say I was gobsmacked about a week ago, when I first watched Oliver Anthony from Farmville, Virginia standing alone in the bush, ripping an elegiac lament about that very disconnection and loss. His YouTube song, “Rich Men North of Richmond”, currently sitting today at 21 million views, specifically takes aim at the plight of the working poor, the vicious suicide crisis particularly prevalent among young men, and the loss of belonging many of us have experienced as we enter a new age more closely aligned to quasi-feudal capitalism, than the woke utopia the Left has on offer.

His anthem has inspired chatter from the usual suspects, including The Guardian, that (shocker) summarily tried and convicted him for slamming Washington elites and the line, “if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds / Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds…”

But before we write him off as just another rural, south-of-the-Mason-Dixon-line whack job, consider this: most of the societal ills Anthony sings about are live concerns for people not in the privileged, laptop class. In Canada, we have to look no further than the current opiod crisis, the ‘safe’ injection site ‘treatment’ programmes, and a recent Research Co. survey, released in May of 2023, where more than a quarter of Canadians indicated that being impoverished or homeless was justification for assisted suicide. This societal unhinging has contributed to an unexpected brand of populism – one that holds both the Left and the Right’s feet to the fire in equal measure.

As Anthony himself said the evening before the release of his song, “It seems like both sides serve the same master and that master is not someone of any good to the people of this country.”

.                    .                    .

How did we get here? Political scientist Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame University produced a fascinating book in 2018, entitled “Why Liberalism Failed”, (Yale University Press). Widely praised by a broad spectrum of the liberal elite, including former American President Barack Obama, it argues that, “liberalism has failed because it has succeeded”. Liberalism abhors limits, and is by nature progressive, both in its cultural, political and capitalistic/consumerist aims. It has produced both unfettered economic globalization, and encouraged the growth of rabid individualism over nurturing the collective, leading to a withering of our shared sense of history, and respect for the past.

In the late spring of 2023, Deneen delivered his follow-up work, Regime Change (Penguin Random House), that envisions an innovative, mixed-constitutional order honouring the lived experience of the many, while instilling responsibility in a newly envisioned elite to build a better society, focused on the Common Good, in a post-liberal age.

While I certainly am not in agreement with all that Deneen has to say (for example, who gets to determine the Common Good, and BTW, what’s the procedure for so doing?), it is nonetheless a courageous, intelligent, and deeply thoughtful attempt to address the legitimate and serious problems raised by the likes of Oliver Anthony. Rather than dismissing his clarion call as just another rightwing rant, I invite you to listen UP.






In the Wake of the Famine: Toronto’s Irish and the Sisters of St. Joseph

March 16, 2023

Hello friends — it’s been a while. On the eve of Saint Patrick’s Day, I thought you might like to read a piece I wrote, previously published by Providence Healthcare (part of Unity Health, Toronto), on our city’s connection to the Great Famine, and the role the Sisters of Saint Joseph played in administering to […]

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Iskotew Iskwew: Poetry of a Northern Rez Girl

July 22, 2021

Hello all, I’d like to share news about the recent publication of a Cree poetry collection, written by lawyer Francine Merasty, and published by BookLand Press. I was honoured to write the Foreword to the book. Iskotew Iskwew: Poetry of a Northern Rez Girl illuminates Francine’s lived experience in this extraordinary project we call Canada/Kanata […]

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Infrastructure Transformed to Art

October 9, 2020

Imagine a time in Toronto’s not-so-distant past – the first fledgling years of the 1900s – when the water that flowed out of the taps could kill you. Go farther. Imagine the city as a random assemblage of former hamlets and villages, with no common civic fabric. In many sections, residents hobbled home from work […]

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City Hick 3.0
Sustainable Agriculture: Reimagining Our Relationship to the Land

September 25, 2020

Septembers in Ontario, like the vine, are perennially bittersweet. Children, still kissed by the summer sun, hasten off to the serious business of school. Routine and order reign, as parents get down to the task of making a living. Cooler days give way to blacker evenings and the certainty of hard frost, while maple leaves […]

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City Hick 2.0: Muir Bogs and Belonging

June 8, 2020

Gardens, hen and hoop house, Meadowcliffe Bluff. © Jane Fairburn, 2020. Come to think of it, I’m pretty much sure I’ve always been a city hick. Like many Canadians, my story of ‘back to the land’ is rooted in the experiences of my ancestors and married to the policies of British Imperialism and colonization that […]

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A Tribute to Ted English 1928-2020, and Further Information on the Legacy of the Hanlan and Durnan Families of Toronto Island

May 25, 2020

This tribute was written by Richard MacFarlane, 45-year rowing veteran and historian, and member of the Hanlan Boat Club, Cherry Beach, Toronto. The story of the Hanlan and Durnan families, including a 2013 blog I authored with Ted’s assistance, may also be found in a series of links below. Ted English, present-day. A 1948 graduate […]

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City Hick: Pandemics, Broken Dryers and Back to the Land

April 12, 2020

First of all, the dryer went on the fritz. That’s a key piece of infrastructure in a pandemic — especially when you and your spouse are self-isolating with four young adults. So being the practical type, and quite frankly, with few other options, I bought a clothesline. But not one of those $19.99 specials from […]

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“Tír gan Teanga, Tír gan Anam”: Ireland and the Language of the Land

November 29, 2018

Irish revolutionary Pádraig Pearse said, “Tír gan Teanga, Tír gan Anam.” In English, “A country without a language is a country without a soul.” Irish, the native tongue of Ireland, continues in the present to be poignantly expressed in the mythology, poetry and language of the land. 18th and 19th century Irish immigrants to Ontario […]

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