Ladies Sing Lightfoot, is an album of 14 newly recorded Gordon Lightfoot songs produced by Carla Olson and performed by a variety of female artists. It’s set for release on October 1 from indie label Have Harmony, Will Travel.
Lightfoot is widely acknowledged as Canada’s greatest and most covered songwriter. Among the countless artists who have recorded his compositions are Harry Belafonte, Blue Rodeo, Glen Campbell, Eva Cassidy, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, Ian & Sylvia, the Kingston Trio, Mark Lindsay, Johnny Mathis, Nana Mouskouri, Olivia Newton-John, Elvis Presley, Tony Rice, Jeannie C. Riley, Barbra Streisand, Scott Walker, Don Williams and Jesse Winchester.
The idea of recording an album of Gordon Lightfoot songs performed by female artists has been percolating for a few years – a prospect that only made sense considering Bob Dylan’s comment, “Every time I hear a song of his, I wish it would last forever.” Producer Carla Olson decided that the time was right to pursue this concept so she developed a list of artists she thought would be appropriate. While she already knew some of the performers she had in mind, there were some she hadn’t previously met. A few of the artists asked for Lightfoot song suggestions but most already had favorites and inquired if the one they wanted to record had been chosen by another.
The results of the process are in hand and elicited some positive commentary by notables who previewed the album:
Joe Wissert is the producer of recordings by the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Turtles, Boz Scaggs as well as some of Lightfoot’s biggest album successes. He produced Summer Side of Life and Sit Down Young Stranger -- the latter of which would be retitled If You Could Read My Mind after the smash hit single. He offered, “The recording, aside from being a salute to a great songwriter and performer, abounds with five star performances.”
Richie Furay, of the Buffalo Springfield and Poco remarked, “When I went to the mailbox the other day there was a surprise from my friend Carla Olson; it was a musical tribute to a living legend – Ladies Sing Lightfoot. I know you will enjoy the interpretations these women did of his well-known and some not-so-well-known songs. I know I sure did.”
Goldmine Magazine’s Warren Kurtz noted, “The new album features Susan Cowsill’s emotionally inspired ‘If You Could Read My Mind,’ the Textones’ lively ‘Early Morning Rain,’ Ilsey Juber’s tenderly haunting ‘The Way I Feel’ and many new favorite interpretations of classic compositions from this Canadian legend.”
Sample tracks and pre-save Ladies Sing Lightfoot on all digital platforms : https://orcd.co/ladies-sing-lightfoot
A track-by-track, artist-by-artist look at Ladies Sing Lightfoot
“Sundown” by Darling West – this Norwegian duo were performing in Los Angeles and were asked to participate. They deliver a beautiful “cosmic folk” version of the Lightfoot classic with Mari Kreken handling lead vocals. Gordon’s version appeared in 1974 on the album of the same title and was a #1 single in both the U.S. and Canada.
“Cotton Jenny” by The Kennedys – another duo, American in this case. They’ve recorded with Nanci Griffith, Roger McGuinn and Steve Earle among others. Maura Kennedy is the voice heard on the track; husband Pete is the author of Tone, Twang & Taste – A Guitar Memoir. The song is fan favorite from 1971’s Summer Side of Life album and was a #1 hit in Canada for Anne Murray.
“Steel Rail Blues” by Natalie Noone, daughter of Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits), features Stephen McCarthy (Long Ryders) on guitar and Johnny Lee Schell (Bonnie Raitt band) on dobro. This composition was released by Gordon on his first album – Lightfoot!
“Summer Side Of Life” is hauntingly performed by Shawn Barton Vach who was formerly a member of New Mexico’s Hazeldine who had been favorites on the No Depression Tour. It was the title track of Lightfoot’s 1971 album.
“River Of Light” by Arwen Lewis features her father, Peter Lewis of Moby Grape, on guitar. It’s one of the more recently composed Lightfoot songs heard on Ladies Sing Lightfoot and was first released in 2014.
“Early Morning Rain” is from producer Carla Olson’s recently reunited Textones. Carla regularly performed this song at the annual charity Elvis Presley birthday bash in Los Angeles, hosted by scenester Art Fein. “Early Morning Rain” appeared on Gordon’s 1966 debut album and has since been recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary, Chad & Jeremy, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley and Paul Weller.
“If You Could Read My Mind” is by Susan Cowsill of the Cowsills and the Continental Drifters. Lightfoot’s original version from 1970 is perhaps his best known song. It was a #1 hit in Canada and went top 5 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
“The Way I Feel” is by Ilsey Juber who has written songs for Dua Lipa, Beyonce, and Miley Cyrus. She is accompanied here by her father, Laurence Juber of Paul McCartney and Wings. This song first appeared on The Way I Feel, Lightfoot’s second album, released in 1967.
“Beautiful” is performed by Ana Gazzola of Brasil Brazil. She is also known for her album of Bee Gees songs sung in Portuguese – Música e Palavras dos Bee Gees that was also produced by Carla Olson. “She sings like a kiss,” wrote Steve Horowitz in Pop Matters. Lightfoot’s version, a track on his album Don Quixote, was a hit in the U.S. and Canada in 1972. He still performs it at almost every concert.
“Canadian Railroad Trilogy” is one of Gordon Lightfoot’s lengthy masterworks, performed here by Katy Moffatt. Her career has straddled both folk and country genres and she was, in fact, nominated “Best New Female Artist” by the Academy of Country Music. Gary Allegretto, recipient of the Blues Foundation’s Keeping The Blues Alive Award, joins on harmonica. The song was commissioned in 1966 by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to celebrate Canada’s confederation centennial.
“Cold On The Shoulder” is by Sarah Kramer who has played with artists ranging from Big Star to Leonard Cohen. She’s heard here accompanied by Gary Myrick on acoustic 12-string guitar. “Cold On The Shoulder’ was the title track of Lightfoot’s 1975 top ten album.
“Song For A Winter’s Night” is by Kristi Callan of Wednesday Week, L.A’s seminal “paisley underground “pop band. Featured here are her husband David Nolte and son James Nolte. The track was part of The Way I Feel, Lightfoot’s 1967 album.
“Carefree Highway” is by Shayna Adler, an Americana artist who has become a UK favorite. The track incorporates beautiful piano, violin and cello accompaniment. The song was the second single from Lightfoot’s 1974 Sundown album and was a top ten hit in Billboard and went to #1 in Canada.
“Ringneck Loon” is performed by Carla and Todd Wolfe. The song debuted on Lightfoot’s 1998 album A Painter Passing Through.
The album’s producer:
Carla Olson is one of the very few active women record producers. She has previously produced albums by a wide variety of artists ranging from bluesman Joe Louis Walker to singer-actress Mare Winningham. She produced British Invasion legend Paul Jones of Manfred Mann with Eric Clapton on board. She’s worked with Davis Gaines, star of Broadway’s Phantom Of The Opera as well as Chubby Tavares and Phil Upchurch. Individual track productions have ranged from Otis Rush to Billy Joe Royal to the Ventures.
Look for Goldmine's Fabulous Flip Sides of Gordon Lightfoot interview article with Carla Olson coming October 4