June 12, 1999
Still tracking tunes
Peter North, Southam News
Canada's folk music icon, Gordon Lightfoot, is keeping a fairly full schedule these days.
Taking a brief break between legs of a long tour that runs into next January, Lightfoot had just finished a successful stint in the States.
"We were down on the Eastern Seaboard playing places from Boston to Florida and, yes, the fans are still loyal as the halls were pretty much full," stated one of the all-time greatest tunesmiths.
"Next week we head down to Nevada and California for a number of dates, including the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles," added Lightfoot, who will be taking his quartet of longtime backing musicians into Las Vegas for a date at the House of Blues on June 22.
"As a matter of fact, I was just restringing some guitars because the boys are coming over for a rehearsal," continued the man whose career was kicked into star status in the 1960s thanks to a string of timeless tunes that started with For Lovin' Me and Early Mornin' Rain.
The summer leg of his tour coincides with the release of a four-CD box set slated to hit the stores this week. The box is offered by Rhino Records out of Los Angeles, a label that has a fabulous track record for compiling some of the most comprehensive and well-documented career overviews.
The set, simply titled The Gordon Lightfoot Songbook, consists of 88 tunes, including 18 previously unreleased tracks. Some of the unreleased gems are A Message to the Wind from '72, Mama Said, which was recorded around the time of the Sit Down Young Stranger sessions in '69, plus some newer tunes like Keep on Yearning, Lifeline and Forgive Me Lord from the '80s.
Lightfoot, who is heading for his 61st birthday in November, has also been keeping up with the new works of close friends and peers with whom he started out back in the folk boom days of Toronto's Yorkville in the '60s.
"I give Ian's (Tyson) new album Lost Herd an A-plus. It's right up there with Cowboyography and shows he's still up for the challenge," figured Lightfoot before mentioning a new disc from David Rea.
Rea, who lives near Seattle, at one time played with Lightfoot and Ian and Sylvia.
"Have you heard David's Shorty's Ghost album? It's another A-plus release and the best stuff he's done since he left Toronto to go work with the guys in Mountain and Felix Papallardi, when he wrote Mississippi Queen," raved Lightfoot of Rea's new disc that focuses a lot on the acoustic blues of Robert Johnson.
Before signing off, the member of the Juno Hall of Fame mentioned he's very much looking forward to hitting the Prairies again, another region where he's always had a large following.
"The one thing the band and I are doing right now is working up a live version of Ian's Red Velvet which I recorded on my last album, A Painter Passes Through. We've got to have it in the set just in case he shows up at the concert in Calgary," chuckled the legend, who sounds like a pretty satisfied individual these days.