Gordon Lightfoot remembers one Utah concert well. He and Leo Kottke were teamed for a show in the high hills of Park City. The night was so cold Kottke could barely pick his guitar and Lightfoot himself was forced to retire early before suffering frost-bite.
This time he'll be indoors at Kingsbury Hall on Tuesday, July 14, at 8 p.m.This time he's stacked the deck in favor of a warmer show.
"I'm looking forward to being there," he says.
Lightfoot, of course, was a flag carrier for the 1960s folk music movement. Like other Canadian sing-er/-songwriters (Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen) he had a gift for provocative lyrics and a distinctive singing style. His song "Early Morning Rain" - recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary - became a staple on college campuses. Today, he sees the song as his anthem, the song that finally boosted him into the limelight.
"We still play the song all the time," he told the Deseret News. "It's had some wonderful covers. There are actually two ways of playing it, two different chord progressions."
When told the line "You can't jump a jet plane, like you can a freight train" seems, in 1998, to be an indictment of the way modern tech-nol-ogy leaves people isolated, he pauses then replies, "Sure, why not? In fact, I'll think of it that way."
After his first blush of success in the '60s troubadour clubs of Canada, Lightfoot stopped writing topical fare such as "The Canadian Railroad Trilogy" and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" and began penning pop tunes like "Rainy Day People" and "Cotton Jenny" - much to the dismay of the purists who preferred the dark, haunted sound of his earlier work.
Today, his new CD, "A Painter Passing Through," continues the lighter Lightfoot tradition, though the singer insists the changes were never driven by the market. They signaled a change in attitude. He simply began feeling better about life.
"These days I find it's a lot more fun to dwell on the light side," he says. "I'm not sure when that turn-around came, but it was a number of years ago. I've learned to write more uplifting songs. That's the direction I'm looking to go."
"A Painter Passing Through" - Lightfoot's first album in half-a-dozen years - does brim with optimism and hummable tunes. The old Canadian Indian rhythms can still be heard at times, and some songs - like "Drifters" - still harken to the brooding, minstrel years. But there's a buoyancy now. Even the vocals are less husky, more from the easy listening side of the charts.
"Actually, the vocal shift shouldn't be that clear. At least one would think it wouldn't be," he says. "The truth is I got into a workout program awhile back and it really helped my lung pressure. I feel I'm getting more voice these days."
Old-time fans should rest assured, however. It wouldn't be a Lightfoot concert without a lick or two of "Ribbon of Darkness," "Alberta Bound" or "Bitter Green" showing up. And the "Railroad Trilogy" is usually his signature encore number.
And along with those, watch for a country song or two written by Lightfoot's lifetime pal, Ian Tyson. The country song "Red Velvet" appears on the new CD.
"Ian and I have done a number of shows together. Some as recent as last November," Lightfoot says. "We did some environmental work together. I was thinking about doing `Summer Wages' on the album but went with `Red Velvet' instead. I've liked that song for a long time. It tells a pretty horrendous tale about being left in the middle of nowhere."
Like on a runway, maybe.
In the early morning rain.
With nowhere to go.