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.

Feature Article: The Messengers' songwriting magic

For Adam Messinger and Nasri Atweh, success has come from having the right songs at the right time. Within a month of relocating to Los Angeles from Toronto in 2007, the songwriting-producing duo known as the Messengers had met singer-actor Donnie Wahlberg, then searching for songs for a New Kids on the Block record. Atweh, who once performed as a solo artist, wound up co-writing four songs while he and Messinger co-wrote another. It proved to be the group’s comeback album. A few months later, Atweh and Messinger provided songs to a Michael Bolton album. The Canadians’ contributions were praised for adding a seductive, calm air to what critics called Bolton’s most confident release in years....

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Feature Article: Stompin' Tom Connors - A rebel's return

Mild-mannered and moderate, Canadians are generally wary about wrapping themselves in the flag. But Stompin' Tom Connors is unabashed about his patriotism. When the country singer hit the stage last week in Owen Sound, Ont. - his first concert in 13 years - the backdrop was a giant Maple Leaf. As the flag unfolded across the back of a high-school auditorium in the Georgian Bay community, 190 km northwest of Toronto, Connors walked onstage, and the packed audience of 700 greeted him with a standing ovation. Gaunt-faced, wiry and dressed from Stetson to boots in black, the 54-year-old musician from Skinner's Pond, P.E.I., looked more like a villain from a western than a defender of Canadian cu...

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Feature Article: Passing the Torch - musical progeny

When Dustin Bentall was 12, he spent the summer with his parents at a cabin they bought in Cariboo Country, in British Columbia’s interior. There his father, veteran Canadian musician Barney Bentall, taught him the guitar to Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” Dustin loved it and played the song constantly. One day his dad took him into the city, stopping at a music store where Dustin got to try out the song on electric guitar, before proceeding on to his North Vancouver recording studio. Recalls Dustin: “We arrived at the studio and my dad’s band was all there. He says to me, ‘Pick up that guitar and show the guys that song you know.’ I was pretty shy and hesitant at first. But I started ...

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Feature Article: Great Lake Swimmers' new energy

For Tony Dekker, recording—like real estate—is all about location. The Great Lake Swimmers frontman has made a habit of working in unusual settings, beginning with his Toronto-based group’s 2003 self-titled debut, which was recorded in an abandoned grain silo. Since then, Dekker has opted for churches, legion halls and even an historic castle in the Thousand Islands to commit his atmospheric folk-rock songs to tape. With its fifth album, New Wild Everywhere, the Great Lake Swimmers chose what was, for them, an exotic location: a real recording studio. “It was a new challenge for us,” laughs Dekker. “We’ve been so used to all the work that goes into putting together these location recordings....

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Cover Story: Hey Rosetta! - Literary songwriting worth yelling about

Tim Baker has a problem. As frontman for Newfoundland’s Hey Rosetta!, one of Canada’s fastest-rising, hardest-working bands, he is touring for nine months of the year, performing concerts on three continents. Trouble is, Baker is also the group’s chief songwriter and he has yet to master the knack of writing songs on the road. “When I finally get home, it’s difficult for me to set time aside because there’s so much else to do,” admits Baker. “Your house is falling apart, you haven’t seen your friends forever and you have to design the band’s next T-shirt. All this stuff creeps in and the writing gets pushed out.” Despite those obstacles, Baker has been able to write songs for all three of th...

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Music Review: 25 Essential Music DVDs

1. The Last Waltz The Band’s elegant swansong is the ultimate rock concert movie. Director Martin Scorcese’s discreet camerawork and superb sound captures inspired performances from Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and others. Scorcese keeps his focus almost exclusively on the stage. Beneath three massive chandeliers, the Band pays tribute to its influences with such friends as Muddy Water (an explosive “Mannish Boy”), Neil Young (a wistful “Helpless”) and Bob Dylan (a stirring group finale on “I Shall Be Released”). But the highlight is “The Weight,” performed with gospel’s Staples family, which ranks among the most exquisite music sequences ever committed to film.     2....

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Feature Article: Kathleen Edwards is an Emotional Voyageur

A lot can change in four years—especially in the music world. In 2008, when Kathleen Edwards released her album Asking for Flowers, the Ottawa native was known primarily for story songs about other characters, some drawn from real-life headlines, and an alt-country sound she shaped with her husband, guitarist Colin Cripps. Fast forward to 2012: Edwards has a brave new album, Voyageur, made up almost entirely of first-person narratives and an engaging sound steeped in multi-textured pop that owes a good deal to its U.S. producer, Justin Vernon, also known as ethereal electronic folk star Bon Iver, who just happens to be her new boyfriend. Sitting on a park bench overlooking the Toronto skylin...

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Feature Article: The Midway State - From Riches to Rags and Back Again

Nathan Ferraro doesn’t seem the least bit bitter—which is surprising, given everything he’s been through. In fact, the affable, afro-haired frontman exudes all the serenity of a Buddhist monk, as he sits in a Toronto café and calmly recounts the rise, fall and rise again of his band, the Midway State. Ferraro and his bandmates were teenagers from Collingwood, Ontario, a small ski town two hours north of Toronto, when they became the subject of an intense bidding war from 13 record labels. After being flown around the world and getting wined and dined by industry executives, including legendary figures like Clive Davis and Jimmy Iovine, they eventually signed a deal with Iovine’s Interscope l...

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Cover Story: Diana Krall - Sweet Seduction

It’s mid-morning in a quiet hotel restaurant and Diana Krall is having a love affair with an artichoke. One by one, she peels off the leaves and dips them into a small bowl of balsamic vinegar before gently lifting them to her mouth and slowly pulling the tender flesh off with her teeth. It’s a ritual she clearly relishes, washing down each morsel with a sip of chardonnay. But for Krall, this is also lunch. Having already done a photo shoot, and with an in-store appearance scheduled for noon, the Canadian jazz star is taking her meal while she can—even if it means being interviewed at the same time. Briefly distracted as she finally reaches the artichoke’s prized heart (“Pardon me,” she says...

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Feature Article: Oscar Peterson - A living, swinging legend

Oscar Peterson peers up through the glass ceiling of his sunroom and apologizes for the faint noise coming from a distant jet passing overhead. “We’re right in their flight path,” explains Peterson, whose split-level house in Mississauga, Ont., sits due west of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Happily, the spacious home he shares with his fourth wife, Kelly, and their seven-year-old daughter, Celine, is also smack in the middle of the flight path of many migrating birds. Peterson loves birds. His sunroom is filled with artists’ renderings of them—some cast in bronze, others shaped in shards of brightly coloured glass. “My favourite is the loon,” says Peterson. “I've always loved its ...

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