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.

Music Review: Quique Escamilla - Encomienda

Quique Escamilla’s music is a tantalizing blend of sweet and sour, light and dark. The talented Canadian troubador’s entrancing second album opens with the Manu Chao-like reggae vibe of the title track, a tart tale of historical corruption and exploitation in his Mexican homeland, and ends with the gorgeous “Tú Sólo Tú” (“You Only You”), a pedal-steel-drenched traditional ranchera about obsessive love, a song Tejano pop star Selena covered before her tragic death. As with his debut album, the Juno-winning 500 Years of Night, Escamilla doesn’t shy away from other hard-hitting subjects, including “Highway of Tears,” about British Columbia’s remote highway where so many Indigenous women and gir...

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  1872 Hits

Music Review: Lennie Gallant - The Open Window

Rustico, P.E.I., native Lennie Gallant tended in his first two albums, Breakwater and Believing in Better, to focus on social issues. But on his third recording, The Open Window (Sony), Gallant’s first for a major label, the Maritime singer-songwriter shifts his emphasis to matters of the heart. Although he has been compared with Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp for his issues-oriented material, on his latest—a mix of folk-rock and country numbers—Gallant sounds more like a cross between Gordon Lightfoot and Stan Rogers. The romantic ballads, including “Three Words” and “Embers,” a love-on-the-rocks tale featuring producer Colin Linden’s chiming guitar, are a cut above the usual contemp...

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Music Review: The Neville Brothers - Yellow Moon

Steeped in voodoo lore, New Orleans has a reputation for casting a spell on visitors. Known to its residents as “the Big Easy,” the city has a tropical climate and a French and Spanish colonial history that give it an atmosphere unique in North America. Tourists are charmed by its annual Mardi Gras festivities and its world-famous Cajun cuisine. But for many people, music provides the city’s most potent magic. Although it has long been associated with such traditional styles as Dixieland, New Orleans also produced some of the liveliest rhythm and blues of the 1950s. Later, its musicians provided rock ‘n’ roll with exotic flavorings. Now, the city is experiencing a musical boom that extends f...

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Music Review: Gord Downie - Coke Machine Glow

Gord Downie inhabits an enviable place in Canadian culture. At concerts, thousands of fans chant his lyrics as if they were mantras. They hang on his every move with the rapt attention of a church congregation. Yet the Tragically Hip’s charismatic front man has never seemed altogether comfortable in the role of shaman. His first allegiance has always been to the band and the friends with whom he formed the group more than 15 years ago in Kingston, Ont. Now, with Coke Machine Glow, 38-year-old Downie is stepping out on his own with a poetry book and his first solo album. Released jointly by Universal Music Canada and Vintage Canada (they will be sold as a single package for the first two week...

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  2090 Hits

Music Review: Jane Bunnett - Spirits of Havana

Jazz musicians have often turned to Cuba, one of the world’s hotbeds of rhythm, for inspiration--most notably Dizzy Gillespie. Canada’s Jane Bunnett fell in love with the island’s music more than 10 years ago, when the flutist and soprano saxophonist visited there with trumpeter Larry Cramer. A rising international jazz star, Bunnett and husband Cramer recently returned from Cuba with a valuable souvenir: Spirits of Havana, a prized collaboration with several top Cuban musicians. Some of the recording, featuring veteran singer Merceditas Valdés and percussionists Grupo Yoruba Andabo, is simply well-produced, traditional Afro-Cuban music. But such numbers as “Yo Siempre Oddara (Forever Strong...

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  1533 Hits

Music Review: Joni Mitchell - Taming the Tiger

A return to her jazzier side, Taming the Tiger finds Joni Mitchell, now 54, happy but hardly complacent. Featuring saxophonist Wayne Shorter (Weather Report) and drummer Brian Blade (Joshua Redman), the album includes sensuous, romantic numbers like “Love Puts On a New Face,” with its swirling keyboards and Mitchell’s pastel-shaded chords, and “The Crazy Cries of Love,” about a late-night tryst on a train bridge that she wrote with her boyfriend, Saskatoon songwriter Don Freed. But other songs, such as “Lead Balloon” and “No Apologies,” attack some of Mitchell’s favorite targets: corrupt lawyers and twofaced record executives. On the acerbic title track, she sings: “I’m a runaway from the re...

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  1831 Hits

Music Review: Daniel Lanois - For the Beauty of Wynona

One of the world's pre-eminent record producers, Canada's Daniel Lanois stepped out from behind the controls in 1989 to release his own album. An auspicious debut, Acadie signalled the arrival of a promising new performer with a flair for moody, country-tinged rock. For the Beauty of Wynona, his follow-up album, reveals other facets of his artistry. Inspired by Winona, Ont., the town near Hamilton where Lanois grew up, the recording is full of songs that conjure up stark, sometimes haunting images. The title track, with its childhood memories of fishing and girls skipping double-dutch, and “Sleeping in the Devil's Bed,” a lazy honky-tonk number, have a shimmering, dreamlike quality. And ther...

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Music Review: k.d. lang - Ingénue

For fans who have always known that a serious singer lurked beneath k. d. lang's tongue-in-cheek country exterior, Ingénue is thrilling confirmation. Gone are the hoedown humor and country-punk affectations that characterized--and sometimes marred--her earlier style. A moody collection of ballads, Ingénue is steeped in the torch tradition of such singers as Julie London and Patsy Cline in her pop period. And the songs, written mostly by lang and fiddler Ben Mink, reveal a surprising vulnerability. On “The Mind of Love,” a tale of tortured romance, lang asks herself, "where is your head Kathryn/where is your head." And on “Save Me,” a shimmering ballad, her voice washes over the listener like...

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  1018 Hits

Music Review: Lori Yates - Breaking Point

Lori Yates' country roots run deep--in Toronto's Queen Street music scene, not Nashville. So when CBS Records signed the singer and flew her down to Music City to record a debut album in 1989, it proved to be a mistake: Can't Stop the Girl not only took the girl our of the country, it also took the country--at least Yates' special brand of it--out of the girl. Five years later, the spirited singer finally gets the introduction she deserves with Breaking Point, a superb collection of rocking country and bluesy pop tunes written and performed with the cream of Queen Street talent. A gritty heartache number like "Make a Liar Out of Me," with backup vocals by Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy and guitarist...

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  1652 Hits

Best Albums of 2018

1. Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer She’s made two conceptual albums featuring her alter-ego, the time-traveling android Cindi Mayweather, and starred in two films: the Oscar-winning Moonlight and Hidden Figures. And yet a major commercial breakthrough has so far eluded her. But this could be Monáe’s moment. Working with Prince before he died in 2016, Monáe went on to create a strikingly personal album. The sensual “Make Me Feel” is a direct homage to Prince’s “Kiss,” while “Americans” resembles the free spirit of his “Let’s Go Crazy” and the finger-popping “Pynk” channels the Purple One’s sexually liberated anthems. Monáe uses her new album to explore themes of femininity, LGBTQ and blac...

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  1451 Hits