Gordon Lightfoot Goes ‘Solo’ on 1st New Studio Set Since ’04: Review

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For a long time, it has seemed as if 2004’s Harmony might be the last studio album from Gordon Lightfoot, the great Canadian folk singer/songwriter. But 16 years later, he’s back with Solo, a self-produced CD containing new recordings of 10 recently unearthed songs. Lightfoot wrote and first recorded all of them in late 2001 and early 2002, shortly before he endured a near-fatal aneurysm, but he didn’t release them at the time.

As the title suggests, Solo features just the singer and his guitar. (“I thought my fans would be interested in hearing what songs sound like when first written,” he says.) Without his longtime sidemen, the album occasionally seems a bit like a demo tape; most of the time, however, the guitar work and vocals are more than enough to carry the day, even if the latter are somewhat less imposing than they were in his heyday.

Watch the lyric video for “Why Not Give it a Try?”

The lyrics are redolent of vintage Lightfoot—romantic, contemplative, wistful—although this is clearly the voice of an older man looking back on life.

Listen to “Oh So Sweet”

The plodding “Just a Little Bit”—which finds the singer asking whether you “ever get tired” of everything from “mowin’ the lawn” to “the clothes you wear” to “the old routine”—strikes this listener as the only misstep. (By the time he gets to the line that goes, “Do you ever get tired o’ me singin’ this song?” I’m ready to answer “yes.”) That track aside, though, Solo is another fine entry in one of the finest folk catalogs of the last half century.

Listen to “Return Into Dust”

***

Lightfoot, who turned 81 last Nov. 17, had lined up a very active tour calendar in 2020. However, following a run of February dates, he was forced to postpone much of his spring tour, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Ironically, many of these concerts had already been rescheduled from Fall 2019 when Lightfoot suffered a leg injury.

Related: The story behind Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

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