Pipe Street Publishing
Guelph ON Canada N1H 6L3
This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 8/99
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Ex-Tamarack member James Gordon's maiden solo effort is a curious amalgamation--his smooth, easy-to-listen-to vocals are quite charming but the variety of subject matter he hoes throughout this release has some especially dark and weedy corners: emigrating with the prayer of a better life, bewilderment about time's passage, animals abused in out-of-character rituals solely for the amusement of humans, insomnia, environmental excesses producing both lost jobs and serious illness, the oxymoron of religious commercialism, both first and unrequited love, national identity, progress and profits at the expense of community, and the struggles of the performing life.
The effect is disarming as his beguiling music eases the listener into a tete-a-tete with rather sobering subject matter. His is not an in-your-face style and his subtlety provides an opportunity for enlightenment without being off-putting.
He opens with the wistful and gentle emigration tale "Robin Hood's Bay" and then slides into "That Old Cedar Strip," a tale of confusion about past memories and where time has gone. After reflecting on how life and family has overtaken youthful activities, Gordon sings:
"Coke Oven Brook" is the most angry, emotional cut on the release. A slam at Sydney Steel for both abandoning a town deriving its livelihood from the mill and for leaving behind an environmental and public health disaster, Gordon pulls no punches here.
The melancholy "Far From Our Shieling," based on a poem by John Galt, depicts the umbilical connection to homeland felt by immigrants. Gordon sings:
Never again shall we walk in that valley
Where between the dark hills winds the small, clear stream
Never again 'round our chieftain we'll rally
Nor see the moon on the kirk spires gleam
Once our bold kindred in time long vanished
Conquered the soil, fortified the keep
Now all the children, they have been banished
So that a lord might raise sheep..."
Dinner at the Taco Bell
And back at the El Rancho Motel
They watch TV and try to meditate
Tomorrow there's a double bill
With Kenny Rogers out in Beverly Hills
They invoke the Awakening Ones
So they don't sleep late
Their agent calls from Malibu
He wonders if the boys could do
Maybe one or two more upbeat tunes
And tell a couple of Tibetan jokes
He tells them that the show's a hit
But could they tighten the longevity dance a bit
You got to please the fans
with short attention spans
Remember, you're sponsored by Coke..."
"Too Canadian These Days" is a wry jab at the Canadian soul:
Kind of empty in the middle
As far away as Hudson Bay
You know I'm feeling just a little
Too Canadian these days
...Gettin' good at riding fences
That's our national disease
I'd do something about it
But that wouldn't be like us
We're not inclined to shout it
out of make any fuss..."
He closes with "Isn't It Time To Go Home," a selection made more interesting by his recent decision to leave Tamarack and reduce his traveling schedule. He bitingly sings:
The audience is older, the winter is colder
And it's been years since I was warm or young
And how long can you sing a song
Before it is all sung?
Too many guys with guitars too many wannabe stars
So the money keeps getting worse
More and more I have to dig deeper for
The words to the next verse
Not another tune to carry, Jesus, Peter, Paul and Mary
Isn't it time to go home
Not another tune to carry, Jesus, Curly, Moe and Larry
Isn't it time to go home"
Besides penning each song, Gordon remarkably also performed all the guitar, mandola, banjo, tin whistle, recorder, trumpet, percussion, synthesizer, organ, bass, hammered dulcimer, accordion, piano and harmonica instrumentation.
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