Friday, January 05, 2018
OLD DAN'S RECORDS
Appearing in stores in November 1972, Old Dan's Records saw the bearded bard gifting listeners with his second disc in less than a year. Unlike Don Quixote, a larger group of musicians contributed to the sessions. Drums return to the mix along with pedal steel, banjo, dobro and autoharp.
What about that title?
Kind of a play on the words: old dance records. It reminds me of my uncle Jack's 78-RPM dance-record collection. It reminds me of hanging out with the grandparents at Christmastime or some other holiday, having a party and getting out the old vinyl.
Curiously, breaking out the old vinyl has caused me to listen from a different perspective. This LP sees a further elaboration of the sounds that he had first explored on the Summer Side of Life. Once again, his voice slips easily into the songs as if they were a pair of comfortable shoes. With Dylan, there was always a sense of affectation that crept into his country-fried material. Lightfoot didn't change his approach to singing, nor did he try to emphasize a twang that he didn't naturally possess. His secret was to be as earnest as possible in executing his part when he stepped up to the mic. His power of continuous creativity is astounding, with side one being absolutely flawless. "Farewell to Annabel" builds gradually, adding layers of instruments. Just as it reaches a crescendo, the drums kick in and the curtain comes down as the track fades precisely before the three minute mark. Leaves you wanting more. "That Same Old Obsession" is an aching ballad that should have struck gold as a single. The title track is a joyous exercise and "Lazy Mornin'" benefits from the deployment of atmospheric vibes. Highlight here is the pedal steel driven "You Are What I Am". Two minutes of perfection, it garnered lots of play on both sides of the border. Allegedly written for his girlfriend at the time (Cathy Smith) it has an infectious chorus, doesn't overstay its welcome and exudes positivity. The coolest of the pack is "My Pony Won't Go" which features some sweet slide work courtesy of David Bromberg. It sounds as though everyone is having one hell of a good time throughout this record. Whether intentional or not, the closer, "Hi'way Songs" is arranged very similarly to "Farewell Annabel" with all instrumentalists ramping up as the needle eases toward the run-out grooves. The lyric seems to look back on the journey that he had taken thus far as a touring musician breaking into the larger US market, yet happiest back on home ground in Canada. Per usual, his economy with words ensures that the narrative is thinly veiled, tightly edited but with enough detail to convey the message.
Just for now I'd like to rest
In the shade of a maple tree
To the blue Canadian sky
I'll say a prayer for the world out there
When I stand on my own sod
It feels so good to be home, by God
The winter wind has turned my head
But I always came up warm somehow
Prolific would be the best descriptor of the man in 1972. There was more fine work to come.