Gordon Lightfoot Book, Music and More!

The home of music journalist Nicholas Jennings, author of Lightfoot, the definitive new Gordon Lightfoot biography from Penguin Random House.

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Movin' On: Lightfoot's love affair with trains

Gordon Lightfoot has always been fascinated by big mechanical things like trains and boats and planes, and man’s relationship to them. Three of his most famous songs, “Early Morning Rain,” “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” deal in the romance and tragedy of human interaction with the machinery of those forms of transportation. Personal and poetic, “Early Morning Rain” expressed a palpable longing while expertly contrasting the rural past and urban present in one brilliant line about freight trains and jet planes. Lightfoot placed himself directly in the story, summoning his own experience of travel and homesickness for inspiration. His memories of big 707s...
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Music Review: Elise LeGrow - Playing Chess

She’s not entirely new to the scene, having released a pop music EP in 2013. But Canada’s Elise LeGrow is now getting an international buzz, thanks to her sizzling debut album, Playing Chess . Working with soul legend Betty Wright, the Roots’ Questlove and members of the Dap Kings, who once backed Amy Winehouse, the 30-year-old Toronto singer puts a fresh spin on classic r&b songs from Chicago’s iconic Chess record label. She turns Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” into a wistful ballad, gives Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” a haunting rock edge and transforms Fontella Bass’s “Rescue Me,” into slow, sultry jazz. Already the album, released on New York’s S-Curve Records, home of Joss Ston...
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Music Review: U.S. Girls - In a Poem Unlimited

The brainchild of Toronto-based, Illinois-born Meg Remy, U.S. Girls’ latest is a deliciously subversive affair: tart political protests wrapped in sweetly seductive dance grooves. The Juno-nominated artist conveys anger over American gun violence with the Blondie-style disco of “Mad as Hell” and expresses rage about sexual assault with lush horns reminiscent of David Bowie’s “Young Americans.”
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Music Review: Holly Cole - Holly

She’s billed as a Canadian jazz sensation. But Cole, a gifted singer and two-time Juno Award winner, has never belonged to any one category. That’s because the Halifax native has always been too adventurous. Her first hit was a version of Johnny Nash’s reggae classic “I Can See Clearly Now” and she’s since covered everyone from the Beatles to, most frequently, Tom Waits. Blessed with playful personality, Cole has consistently taken her versatile contralto to unexpected places. That’s true of her ninth album—and first in five years. Although the material is drawn entirely from the American Songbook, there’s nothing conventional about Cole’s approach. Backed stellar musicians, including her lo...
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Music Review: Vance Joy - Nation of Two

He called it a “weird mish-mash of ideas.” But Joy’s “Riptide,” an insanely catchy ukulele tune that references dentists, a magician’s assistant and Michelle Pfeiffer, became a massive global hit. The Australian singer-songwriter, born James Keogh, saw his 2014 debut album, God Loves You When You’re Dancing , sell over two million copies, largely thanks to that one song. Now Joy, who Taylor Swift handpicked to open her 1989 Tour worldwide, has released his sophomore album. Once again, he focuses on intimate yet joyous songwriting. “Saturday Sun” comes closest to the infectious thrill of “Riptide.” The album’s most autobiographical song is “Little Boy,” which details a childhood accident, whi...
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Music Feature: Johnny Clegg - Scatterlings of Africa regroup

His tour bus has broken down. His cellular phone is running low on batteries. But Johnny Clegg has faced far greater obstacles in his career. During the 1970s, the feisty South African musician was arrested and harassed because the biracial makeup of Juluka, the groundbreaking worldbeat group he formed with Sipho Mchunu was at odds with apartheid. When Mchunu quit in 1985, Clegg carried on with a new band, Savuka—only to face tragedies. In 1989, a close friend, activist David Webster, was assassinated. Then, three years later, Savuka’s Dudu Ndlovu was murdered during factional tribal warfare. Since Savuka’s last album, 1993’s Heat, Dust & Dreams , Clegg’s barely been heard from. Now he’s...
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The McGarrigles' Mountain City roots

Before they became the darlings of the folk scene and the revered singer-songwriters behind such classics as “Heart Like a Wheel” and “Talk to Me of Mendocino,” Kate and Anna McGarrigle performed in a little-known Montreal singing group. It was the early 1960s and coffeehouses were springing up everywhere, filled with earnest folksingers and attentive audiences. The McGarrigle sisters were just teenagers when they joined musicians Jack Nissenson and Peter Weldon in 1962, calling themselves the Mountain City Four. “We entered into the folk scene through the records of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan,” Kate recalled. “But when we met Nissenson and Weldon, they introduced us to music at the sources and...
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