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James Gordon’s latest album: off the page and on to the River Run stage

Singer songwriter James Gordon from Guelph returned for a live audience at the River Run Centre to record his 42nd album, 'Wrinkles and Scars'
Singer songwriter James Gordon from Guelph releases his 42nd album, 'Wrinkles and Scars'.

It was a welcome home worth waiting for.

Singer songwriter James Gordon of Guelph was thrilled to return to a live audience at the River Run Centre to record his 42nd album, Wrinkles and Scars, earlier this year.

“This album is special for me. I’m such a Guelph guy. Recording it in the River Run Centre, it's a place that means a lot to me. After all, I was involved with advocating for the creation of it."

As a record producer, playwright, community activist, and theatre director, Gordon also served as city councillor, a role that kept him from performing at his favourite hometown venue.

“I was a city councillor for eight years, and the River Run was always my musical home. I would do a concert there once or twice a year. But I wasn’t allowed to when I was a councillor. Because it is owned by the city, it was perceived as a potential conflict of interest,” Gordon said.  

“That was tough. So, this was a welcome home kind of thing.”

Wrinkles and Scars was recorded live over a couple days in January.

“The audience was invited to join us. It’s such a nice space with great acoustics. And to have that warm welcoming Guelph crowd in the audience really affected the music too,” Gordon said.

The performance was backed by an ensemble including Ian Bell, Randall Coryell, Anne Lindsay, Katherine Wheatley and David Woodhead. 

On the album are 14 songs that include reflections on aging and loneliness, to some more politically charged material for which Gordon is known, including climate change, religious fundamentalism and the Rwandan genocide.

“I did not choose the songs for this album. The songs chose me. I’m a compulsive song writer, with over 2,000 of them now. In this case, it was a bit thematic, but also, after the pandemic, I could now gather with people in a room. My last album was all just me in my studio,” Gordon said.

“I love collaboration, getting different creative input, and so I was able to assemble this amazing band, all friends who have great talents and in different musical areas.”

After watching a documentary about Leonard Cohen’s 1984 classic, Hallelujah' Gordon looks for the key to unlock the mysteries of the universe with his single, Leonard’s Secret Chord.

“I have an uneasy relationship with Hallelujah because a lot of people in my business think it is just way over done, and it also gets played out of context. But then I saw this documentary about Cohen’s process with that song, and the impact it had,” Gordon said.

Looking at his great body of work, Gordon said he believes Cohen was always searching for meaning and truth.  

“We are all on that journey.  I wrote Leonard’s Secret Chord’ with an affinity for that sentiment and trying to be that voice for other people who are also on their own journey,” Gordon said.

“I try to stay optimistic despite our current challenges,” he says. “As an activist, I want to hold onto hope, otherwise there’s no point investing energy into ‘the cause.’ That often feels pretty unrealistic in my moments of despair.”

As a founding member of folk trio Tamarack, with whom he performed from 1978 to 2000, and subsequently as a solo artist, Gordon has toured extensively across the globe.

He’s composed for symphony orchestras, musical theatre and dance troupes, written film scores, and served as a songwriter-in-residence on CBC radio for over a decade. As a record producer, he’s credited on albums by Canadian folk artists, and has mentored both youth and adult songwriters.

“The number of albums just keep adding up because I just can’t stop,” Gordon said.

“For me, it's important to have an outlet to express myself. During the pandemic, I was stuck at home and not out on the road, which for 40 years, has always been my pattern. It's my little way to stay connected.”

Gordon said it's his job ‘to just serve the song.'

“I think, what can I do to this song to lift it off the page and onto the stage?” he said.

Gordon looks forward to touring and returning for another River Run Centre concert at home.

“I’m getting to be quite an elderly gentleman now. The reason that I still do this, is that every now and then, there are moments where I feel that what I’ve contributed through my art or through my music, has landed with someone that means something to them. I do it because I can make connections with my music,” Gordon said.

"I want to make sure that I am still relevant and doing something that resonates with people, and when it does, that is still a pretty great feeling for me.”

To hear Leonard’s Secret Chord, visit YouTube, Spotify, and Website