James Gordon,
with Sandy Horne,
One Timeless Moment
(Borealis, 2002)

One Timeless Moment is the latest release from veteran Canadian singer-songwriter James Gordon (of the band Tamarack), following up his double CD best-of collection Mining for Gold: Twenty Years of Songwriting. Most of the 13 tracks on this album were recorded live off the floor at the River Run Centre in Guelph, Ontario. They are, for the most part, up-tempo folk songs with an edgy feel to them. Gordon has a full band, including Scott Merritt, who also produced the record, on electric guitar and keyboards, Peter von Althen (Starling, The Skydiggers, Lynn Miles) on drums and percussion, Gordon's son Evan (The Constantines) on organ, and his Guelph next-door neighbour Sandy Horne (The Spoons) on bass and vocals.

One Timeless Moment opens with the surprisingly upbeat "Dan McPhee," a country/rock-tinged number about losing the family farm. Gordon follows with "The Old Troubadour," an excellent songwriter's song about songwriters. With some sadness, and more than a touch of righteous anger, Gordon tells the story of the onstage meltdown of one of his folk heroes: "There was a quiver in his voice/There was a trembling in his legs/In the heat of the spotlight/His pain spilled out on the stage/His song teetered on the wire/Then it plunged to its death/The old troubadour had nothing left." Next up is a very pretty piano ballad, "Michipoten," about the northern shores of Lake Superior.

Gordon changes focus for "Virginia's Day," a rather chilling depiction of a life lived with mental illness -- full of images of pills and grief and hiding places. This song has a more alt-rock feel to it, which Gordon and his band do well. Next up is another change of subject on "Another Big Box Store," a waltz that tells the story of the death of another small town at the hands of a massive retail store.

The record flows well through changing tempos to "Unspoken," a beautiful love song, featuring KatharineThompson with a subtle cello accompaniment that adds a special note of aching to the song. The piano ballad "Sing With Me" offers the song as a help in time of grief: "If you sing along/There are no great wrongs/That will be righted/But if you sail with me/On this melody/Maybe some fairer shore will be sighted."

Proving that judging a record by its cover is always a bad thing and that folk singers can be funny too, Gordon has added the quirky "Funny Old World," a cautionary tale about a kid in a fast-food world. The record ends on a poignant note with the melancholy "How Many Mistakes," a piano-based ballad about trust and relationships.

This record, with its full band sound, is a departure from the norm for Gordon. He and his crew have done a wonderful job in the transition and have created a record that is a great pleasure to listen to.

[ by Rachel Jagt ]
Rambles: 21 September 2002

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