Although I have heard and privately critiqued many CD’s in the last number of years, it has been awhile since I actually put my thoughts to print for a review. Lennie Gallant’s latest English language recording, If We Had A Fire has made my return to this much-missed assignment a particular joy. I have had the pleasure of covering most of Lennie’s releases in the past, with his Live album continuing to rank at the top of my all time favorites. But it took just the first few listens to unquestionably proclaim this latest offering as, without a doubt, his best collection to date.
Lennie Gallant does not simply write songs. They are stories. They are windows on the state of the world. They are statements of protest, celebrations of love, lost and found, folk tales brought to life through a chorus and beautiful melody. If We Had A Fire delivers all of these and more.
The album begins with “You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are”, a great love song that builds into a powerful anthem, accentuated by the backing vocals/electric guitar of Brad Davidge, and steel guitar of Scott Sanders. “Dance The Dark Away” is sure to have the listener taking that advice as the tempo leaves you unable to do anything else but follow the rhythm that is classic Lennie Gallant.
“Tell Me A Ghost Story” is definitely a standout. Its unique arrangement of a soft lyrical ballad that builds to a crescendo blast of a chorus, showcases what has become a signature part of the Lennie Gallant touring band, the violin of Sean Kemp. It is nothing short of magnificent.
“Flowers In My Heart” is a personal, extremely touching song, actually co-written with Gallant’s then five-year old daughter, Amelie. Joined by Rose Cousins for backing vocals, the pride is obvious in the lyrics. This continues in “Be The Change”, again, joined by Amelie and a group of children along with the haunting vocals of Coco Love Alcorn, as they sing of hope for the future.
“Emily’s Letters” is story-telling at its finest. “Extraordinary Ordinary Life”, could stand out on the merits of the words and voice alone, but add members of Symphony Nova Scotia and let’s just say you have a recipe for an exceptional gift to the ears—a truly moving composition and arrangement.
The title cut pairs Lennie with one of the best contemporary singer/composers in music today, Carolyn Dawn Johnson for a great original addition to the mix.
Throughout the entirety of the recording, Lennie is supported by a who’s who of the best accompanists, who take the already first class material to the highest of heights. Be prepared to lose yourself in the drama and intrigue that is the brilliant writing of Lennie Gallant. If We Had A Fire will have you waiting patiently for whatever he has in store next, for those who appreciate perfection among their listening collection.
-Wanda Earheart, www.whatsgoinon.ca