Tag Archives: Joni Mitchell.

O Canada!

15 Dec


My previous post (about Frazey Ford) set me thinking about my comment that I was not surprised that recording an album in Memphis gave it a different feel to what I would have expected had it been recorded in Vancouver.

This led me to think about all the artists in my musical collection who are Canadian or who have Canadian roots – which was interesting and is reported on below.

Equally interesting though is the extent to which Canadian artists are nurtured by their roots or whether they thrive better if transported south to the USA!

The starting point is that there are three Canadians who have really shaped popular music and who feature heavily in my music collection. This is not to disrespect others who may yet do so or who have made significant contributions in their own way but who do not feature in my collection (namechecking Bryan Adams, Randy Bachman, Celine Dion, Nelly Furtado, k.d. lang or Pat Travers). (I would like to try k.d. lang – can anyone tell me where to start?).

The BIG THREE in my opinion are:


These are people whose work cannot be ignored! Young is the most maverick – the best of his work is breathtaking but he’s also released some bizarre and disposable albums. The thing is, he’s always interesting and it’s fascinating to see where he goes next! Mitchell is classy but sometimes inaccessible and detached (try as I might, I can’t warm to some of her later stuff). Which leaves Leonard Cohen. I’ve always loved some/much of his output and as I grow older,  I find new depths to his music and lyrics. For me, he’s,   the real guv’nor of Canadian musicians!

Beneath the Big Three come Kate and Anna McGarrigle, who have given me more pleasure than the others combined but whose potential never exceeded their  jaw-droppingly awesome debut album. At their best, Kate and Anna produced some of the best music I will ever experience but consistently great performances were not their strong point.

Next come The Band (not entirely Canadian of course – and benefiting from the USA sensibility injected by Levon Helm) . And then there’s Martha and Rufus Wainwright (also half US),who are great but, for me, have yet to surpass either of their parents. 

Looking at my own music collection, the next names that leap out are Gordon Lightfoot (if I were older I suspect he’d feature more highly), then Ron Sexsmith (as a writer as much as a performer – which is also the case for Ian Tyson). Then Stephen Fearing and Frazey Ford and the Be Good Tanyas. After that I’d namecheck Natalie McMaster.

For a country of fewer than 37m people, Canada (like Ireland) seems to punch above its weight in musical terms. I wonder why that is and I’m sure that I’ve missed some great  musicians in this round-up!