Stompin’ Tom passed away at 77 in his home.  Here’s a song I wrote for him, and recorded in at the CBC, Glen Meisner producing, with J.P. Cormier as the entire band and background vocals.  It ended up getting both of us on his “comeback” tour.  Coast to coast.  Me and J.P. in my van… one motel after another.  Talk about white line fever.  Oh, lord, what a gig.  We’ll not see the like of him again.  R.I.P.

Download here:
Hero-Stompin Tom

The Well-Read Naturalist Review

The Lord God Bird


I will be perfectly honest; when I first opened the envelope containing the review copy of Tom Gallant’s The Lord God Bird and saw the title of the book, I may have and likely in fact did utter something along the lines of “Oh no, not another Ivory-billed Woodpecker book.” However having now read it cover to cover, which I did almost uninterruptedly – so strong was the grip of its narrative upon me – I am very pleased to admit just how unjustified my initial exclamation about it was.

Not a work of natural history at all but rather a novel, The Lord God Bird is a delightful tale written in a superbly spare and grounded style that so ideally fits its plot, its setting, and its main characters that one cannot help comparing it to such works as John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row or John Nichols’ The Milagro Beanfield War. It must be noted, of course, that the comparison is further encouraged by the author’s employment of magical realism – the incorporation of super-natural elements into an otherwise realistic story – in the telling of his tale.

The plot of the story centers around one man – the name of whom is never disclosed (a stylistic device that serves to add an element of Everyman to him) – whose family roots go deep in the flooded southern forest that was also once the ancestral home of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. A true product of the land upon which his family has long lived, the man lives in harmony with his surroundings to a degree that few today now do and as a result is one day given a glimpse into one of the forest’s deepest secrets.

The astute reader will likely be able to guess as to what this secret might relate; however it is where Mr. Gallant takes his story next that makes the tale the thoroughly captivating one that it is. Rather than become an expansive story of “chasing rarities” or a pious Jeremiad upon the decline of a habitat area and the species it supports, The Lord God Bird is a very close and personal tale of loss and discovery that, I am not ashamed to say, at one point brought more than a single tear to the eyes of this cynical old reviewer.

As the publisher of The Lord God BirdQuantuck Lane Press, is not a large publishing house, it might not be a book that will be readily found on the shelves of your local bookseller. If you don’t see a copy, please ask that it be ordered for you (Quantuck titles are distributed by W.W. Norton & Company and are thus easily obtainable by booksellers); you will be very glad you did.


American Birding Association Blog Review


Gallant: The Lord God Bird

by Rick Wright


A man did claim to see the Ivory Billed Woodpecker in Big Woods, Arkansas, and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology did mount a search…. The author does not know who the man was, who the scientists and searchers were, and has never personally communicated with an Ivory Billed Woodpecker.

Such is the disclaimer with which Tom Gallant introduces his beautiful new novella, “The Lord God Bird,” a simply and movingly written story inspired by the purported rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker early this century. This is the very opposite of a roman à clef: Gallant’s principal characters have names like “the man,” “the canoe,” “the bird.” Liberated from the constraints of historical “fact,” Gallant is free to explore not what the bird was but what the woodpecker means:

“When I saw that bird, I think maybe I took it as a sign,” said the man…. “I wonder if you know what this means,” said Walton.


The man–he has no other name–is a widower, “neither young nor old,” “fit and able,” living alone on a small farm in the Big Woods of Arkansas. Ten years after his wife’s death, he takes to the swamps in the canoe his grandfather built after returning from the Great War; cleaning up after supper at a traditional campsite, “he heard a sharp knocking, distinctive and rare.” The sound is the double-rap of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, “a kind of miracle”:

The man wanted to believe in miracles. He was tired of the relentless loss that life seemed to be.

There are in fact three Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the woods, a pair with a single female young. Their presence is a sign for the man, a miracle, and the “small measure of hope” it gives opens his world again to work, to music and art, and ultimately to love.

Others find different meaning in the man’s discovery. He hesitates long before telling “the town,” but soon enough, in the book’s closest echo of the Brinkley affair, there are ivory-billed cheeseburgers and red mohawks; for a time there is even hope, at long last, that the town might move back from its shabby edges to its once-loved center, a place both geographic and emotional.

For the searchers–the ornithologists from Cornell, and the birding volunteers who lodge with the man on his farm–the woodpecker comes to represent a number of things, from the faintly ridiculous “spirituality” of the hippy vegans to the pinched professional ambition of one of the scientists, whose fervor will admit of no doubt:

“I’m convinced…. I will not countenance any negativity on this…. we’ve got the lab, the EPA, the Conservancy, everyone. We’re talking millions for our work…. This is the kind of thing that gets your name on buildings.” 

Talk like that gives the man second thoughts. He has heard and he has seen the birds, but wary of the scientist’s motives, he withdraws ever more sensibly from their enterprise, casting doubt on what he knows to be the truth of the birds’ persistence. He knows that the Big Woods and the town, their diminishment visible all around him, can be saved only if the bird is still there. But the man is persuaded, by the bird itself, to deny the ivory-bill’s survival.

“I did that for the bird. He wanted to be alone with his family…. Every family needs some deep secrets.”


The beautiful simplicity of Tom Gallant’s prose conceals the equally lovely complexity with which he constructs the parallel stories of the novella’s human and avian characters. Repetitions and reminiscences are woven through the text with a subtlety and an intricacy that is nothing less than musical. Just as the man finds a new family at the end, the birds themselves come to rejoice in the new life they discover in this season’s eggs. For both families,

It was little enough, and a great burden…but there was reason for happiness. A small carelessness, a sickness, hunger, any of it could take them from the world forever…. But for now, on this spring day in the Big Woods, there was life abundant, and gratitude….

Life abundant, and gratitude: enough for anyone.

Booklist Review

“The majestic ivory-billed woodpecker, called the Lord God Bird for its exalted beauty and dazzling presence, was believed to be extinct until a 2004 sighting in Arkansas. Ornithologists from Cornell University rushed to the scene, but the bird never appeared again. In his first novel, songwriter and playwright Gallant offers an astutely imagined tale about why this large, resplendent bird might make itself known to only one man, a thoughtful, observant widower tentatively emerging from grief as he cares meditatively for his cows and pigs on his small Arkansas farm. He is sustained by his hands-on life, his love for nature, and his inherited gift for building finely crafted wooden canoes. He is paddling in just such a vessel when he sees the ivory-billed woodpecker and the bird sees him. Gallant illuminates the minds of bird and man, each versed in loss, as scientists flock to the woods. The man knows that the bird can revitalize his struggling community, but he also knows, as does the bird, what is truly worth saving. Gallant’s ruminative, profoundly affecting novel summons reverence for all life.”

— Donna Seaman


Foreward Spring 2012 Review

Here is our first print review from ForeWord Magazine, the industry standard for reviews of independently published books.

The Lord God Bird
Tom Gallant
The Quantuck Lane Press
Hardcover $24.95

The Lord God Bird is a quiet novel with a solitary spirit. Like its protagonist, it delves into the muddiness of the human condition-the way we live and lose our lives-but does so with gentle strokes of methodical, tender revelation.

In the deep woods of Arkansas, a lonesome widower paddles through still waters and breathes in his surroundings in meditative peace. He is part of the woods, rooted by history and habit to natural surroundings that provide him with an abiding connection to the real substance of life. In one brief, fleeting moment he catches a glimpse of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, a magnificent bird believed to be extinct from the area. The sighting is a long awaited omen of good things to come for the widower and the town in which he lives. The town, nearly empty and slowly succumbing to the economic invasion of large conglomerates, is in need of a revival; the widower, still grieving, is in need of hope.

This novel engages itself in an interesting experiment involving perspective. The narrative features dual voices-the lonesome widower as he copes quietly with the death of his wife, and the perspective of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker as he warily nests with his family in the Big Woods, the land of his ancestors. At first, the choice to create a bird’s perspective seems odd and ill conceived. However, Gallant’s rendering of a bird’s memory and thought process is captivating and, as the story progresses, the bird as character becomes a necessary and welcome aspect of the novel.

The prose is sparse, creating a crisp narrative landscape where nothing unnecessary is brought to the page. The opening words of the book evoke this sense of simplicity and set the tone for the rest of the novel: “The man lived beside the river at the edge of Big Woods, Arkansas, The big woods were no longer big.” The writing is disciplined and restrained, but has a melodic gait, the narrative rhythmic and calming. This unadorned style allows the characters to breathe, with the world behind the words presenting itself as sumptuous and riveting, even as the prose that depicts it does so in the simplest form.

This sparse style and structure of the novel also serve as an archetype for the messages the novel aims to espouse: To live simply; to thrive on necessities instead of excess; and to rejoice in nature, relationships, life, and death-these lessons are embodied in the lives of the characters. This minimalist approach creates a seamless text where form reflects content quite beautifully.

The Lord God Bird is a book with diverse appeal. In an era punctuated with all levels of neglect, it provides a voice of gentle reason. (January) SHOILEE KHAN


Book Launch – The Lord God Bird


Tom Gallant will be speaking about his new novel at the
Atlantic Booksellers Dinner in Halifax, Nova Scotia
on Feb 5, 2012 at the Prince George Hotel.

“The Lord God Bird” is set to launch April 18, 2012.