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.

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

On the year’s most anticipated album, Montreal’s Arcade Fire lives up to its spellbinding reputation. Weaving horn, string and woodwind arrangements around the vocals of husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, the band continues its daring chamber-pop excursions on songs like the dread-filled “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations” and the dreamlike “No Cars Go.” Then there’s the dizzying power of “Intervention,” an ominous hymn complete with pipe organ and choir that’s nothing short of breathtaking.  

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Po’ Girl - Home to You

Think of Po’ Girl as four young women exploring their inner minstrels, summoning weary blues, mountain music and what they call “creaky old jazz songs.” Like the Be Good Tanyas, Po’ Girl’s members are folk-festival sensations, thrilling audiences with their homespun musicianship and backporch harmonies. Here, banjo tunes like “Angels of Grace” could liven up any parlor room, while the fiddle-fuelled “To the Angry Evangelist” has the power to raise church rafters. Undeniable old-world charm.

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Lucinda Williams - West

She excavates emotion with the skill of a seasoned coal miner. Like actress Helen Mirren, Williams digs into subjects like love, loss and redemption with wisdom and a mature sexiness. As usual, her latest has lots of yearning, especially on songs such as “Fancy Funeral” and “Mama You Sweet,” about her mother’s death. There’s plenty of heartache, too, on bluesy country numbers like “Learning How to Live.” But Williams is at her best on “Come On,” an acerbic kiss-off to a former lover that she delivers with rapier-like wit.

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Simple Minds - Graffiti Soul

It’s been a longtime since Scotland’s Simple Minds rivaled Ireland’s U2 as the kings ofCeltic rock. You’d have to go all the way back to 1985, when theinclusion of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” in the movie The Breakfast Clubpushed Simple Minds into the stratosphere. But don’t feel sorry forsinger Jim Kerr, who owns homes in Nice and London and a luxury hotelin Sicily. His band’s latest is a return to form, featuringradio-friendly rockers like “Rockets” and “Kiss and Fly” that shouldkeep the coffers filled. July 2009

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Steve Martin - The Crow: New songs for the 5-string banjo

Well excuuuse me! Who’d expect the original “wild and crazy guy” to be a sterling musician? But Martin, whose first album in 30 years is subtitled “New Songs for the Five-String Banjo,” dazzles with his instrumental bluegrass work. Although he features stellar guests like Dolly Parton, Earl Scruggs and Canadian actor Eugene Levy and voices one humorous number, “Late for School,” it’s Martin’s dexterous picking on original gems like “Tin Roof” and “Daddy Played the Banjo” that truly impresses. Not a novelty. July 2009

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Sunparlour Players - Wave North

Andrew Penner sings with the fervor of a gospel devotee. Small wonder: the Sunparlour Players’ frontman sang in a church choir while growing up in a Mennonite farming community near Leamington, the Sunparlour district of southwestern Ontario that gives his roots-rock trio its name. With horns and a string quartet adding to its core instruments of guitar, banjo and kick drum, the group’s second CD has a rousing, Arcade Fire-like sound, especially on Penner’s Lake Erie anthem “Point Pelee is the Place to Be!” July 2009

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Bahamas - Pink Strat

His stage name suggests the sunny Caribbean. But Bahamas, who served as Feist’s guitarist-pianist under his real name of Afie Jurvanen, is a dyed-in-the-woolen-toque folkie who has more in common with the confessional northern ballads of Ron Sexsmith than any hip-shaking calypso or steel-drum music. The songs on Pink Strat, named for the childhood guitar he still plays, showcase Afie’s gift for broken-hearted laments like “Lonely Loves” and “Till the Morning,” some of which feature Feist on backup vocals. July 2009

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The BoDeans - Resolution

Hailing from the U.S. Midwest, The BoDeans first made their mark with a sound that drew on stirring harmonies and ringing guitars. Along with bands like Los Lobos and Lone Justice, they led the roots-rock revolution of the mid-1980s. Although they haven’t issued an album since 1996’s Blend, due to contractual disputes, The BoDeans are back with their signature sound. You’d never know there’d been problems. Passionate songs like the chiming “If It Makes U,” the Springsteen-inspired “617” and the dreamy ballad “Slipping into You” feature the patented vocals of Sam Llanas and Kurt Neumann. And “(We Can) Live” and “Wild World” are buoyant, feel-good rockers, while “Two Souls” boasts a fine,...

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