Canadian Folk Troubadour James Gordon Finds Inspiration in Being Housebound for His 40th Album
By Eric Alper.
While Canadians were largely at loose ends self-isolating during the lengthy series of pandemic-related lockdowns, prolific folk singer/songwriter James Gordon hunkered down and got busy creating his 40th album, When I Stayed Home. That’s right; Four. Zero. And the timely 13-track full-length release also features Gordon’s powerful musical response to the national residential school tragedies with the song, “We’ll Bring You Home.” The arrival of COVID-19 — and the fear, uncertainty, and disruption it brought with it — initially affected Gordon, like many of us, negatively. Since the Guelph, Ontario based artist has toured all over the globe relentlessly since his twenties, being stuck at home was depressing... At least, for a while. Then, the creative muse stepped in and Gordon got busy with a capital B. From his tiny home studio, he finished a soon-to-be-released ‘musical novel’, The Ark of the Oven Mitt, set to be accompanied by a 36-song recording. He also created a virtual tour of his one-man show, James Gordon’s Emergency Climate Musical, as well as successfully navigated his side hustle as a Guelph city councillor, and, perhaps most significantly, wrote and recorded When I Stayed Home. “I can’t seem to stop writing songs,” Gordon shares. “Mostly,they write themselves — I just hold up a net, and catch them as they flutter past.” Some of those 1,500+ songs Gordon modestly claims to have merely ‘fluttered past’ have also landed on stage and in studio with the likes of Cowboy Junkies, James Keelaghan, Melanie Doane, Laura Smith, Miranda Mulholland, and various international choirs. The songs Gordon wrote for When I Stayed Home cover an array of compelling and current topics — including climate change, the income gap, racism, empathy, social justice, our natural environment, and ‘love in a challenging time’. The first single, “We’ll Bring You Home,” packs a punch that hits closest to the heart for all of Canada right now; in response to the horrific discoveries of hundreds of unmarked graves belonging to unknown Indigenous children at residential schools in Western Canada, Gordon wrote and recorded the late addition to the album just prior to final preparations for its release.
We’ll bring you home, bring you home
So your names and your stories can be known
Bring you home, bring you home
We’ll give a voice to your dust and to your bones
Over his enduring forty-year career, Gordon has released music both as a longtime, successful solo artist, and as a founding member of the groundbreaking Canadian folk group, Tamarack. That said, When I Stayed Home marks the first time a James Gordon solo album has been created almost exclusively... Well, solo. Unable to bring any of his stable of top Canadian talent into the studio, Gordon took on the formidable task of playing all the instruments himself on the album’s baker’s dozen of tracks — including acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, mandolin, piano, bass, accordion, harmonica, tin whistle, ukulele, and percussion. Just two brief exceptions were made to Gordon’s “all by myself” rule, with stellar cameos from vocalist Tannis Slimmon and clarinetist John David Williams. After a year and a half of being off the road and pivoting to a live streaming show world, James Gordon is looking forward to leaving home again and lighting up stages with his warm, reflective and topical songs of When I Stayed Home, and more. “These songs demanded to be written,” says Gordon. “I’m excited about sharing them with the opening-up world.” When I Stayed Home and “We’ll Bring You Home” are available now.
James Gordon has been there. He’s done that. He has had a remarkably diverse and resilient career in the Canadian entertainment business. As a solo singer-songwriter and with the ground-breaking trio Tamarack, he’s recorded at least 40 albums, (he’s lost track), and toured relentlessly around the world. He’s written for symphony orchestras, musical theatre and dance works, scored films, and for more than ten years was heard on CBC radio as songwriter-in-residence for the ’Basic Black’ and ‘Ontario Morning’ programs. Between tours, James is a record producer, playwright, community activist, theatre director and currently has a part-time ‘side hustle’ as a Guelph City Councillor.
His last album, ‘The Heritage Hall Sessions’ on Borealis Records charted internationally in the roots, singer-songwriter, and Americana categories. His newest album “When I Stayed Home” is just out, as is his unique ‘musical novel’ “The Ark Of The Oven Mitt” which includes a downloadable recording of 36 original songs that move the plot along.