The Record, Canada
By Neil McDonald
On the ninth album since her 2004 debut, “Night Songs,” Kitchener singer-songwriter Lynn Jackson decided to embrace a new way of recording.
After co-producing many of her previous records, Jackson said she was eager to hand over the recording reins to someone else for “Follow That Fire,” which will receive its hometown release at The Boathouse next Friday.
“I was just getting tired of my own ideas, my own sort of toolbox. I needed to go and start fresh with somebody else who has their own ideas on how to do things and it can be really refreshing that way,” she said in a phone interview this week. “I was just up for anything; I was just up for change, and up for a brand new approach.”
Jackson asked Cowboy Junkies guitarist and songwriter Michael Timmins to produce “Follow That Fire” a couple of months after meeting him backstage at last year’s Kitchener Blues Festival. Recorded at Timmins’s studio The Hangar in downtown Toronto earlier this year, the album is a dark and compelling collection of songs with themes of death, dreams, and the passage of time.
Jackson said Timmins, who also plays electric guitar on the record, not only helped shape the sound of the album, but her vocal performances as well.
“He said that he really wanted the stories of all the songs to stand out, so he thought that the best approach would be to go for something that’s kind of intimate, even in the vocal delivery. Instead of really belting things out, to try to pull back as a device to draw the audience into the words and into the stories. I always spend a lot of time on the words, but to try to sing in a more intimate fashion, that was different for me, but I just trusted that I liked the stuff that he’s done before, the stuff that he’s produced before, and I’m really happy with the results,” she said.
The album also features guest appearances by Josh Finlayson and Andy Maize of the Skydiggers, who Jackson originally met through her friend and one-time Skydiggers guitarist Paul MacLeod. Maize sings harmony vocals on “Meet Me In The City,” a song inspired by a dream Jackson had about MacLeod and another friend and local songwriter, Mo’ Kauffey, both of whom died last year.
“It was a really peaceful dream. I knew they were going on a trip, and they were going to be gone for a long time, and we went out for a couple of drinks and told some stories and told some jokes, and then actually in the dream they got on a bus and they waved goodbye, and everybody was happy,” she said. “And I got up and I wrote that song.”
The song “Random Breakdowns, False Starts & New Beginnings,” was also written for MacLeod, to whom the album is dedicated. Jackson said MacLeod and other local songwriters like Shannon Lyon had a major impact on her when she first began attending shows at the Walper Hotel in the late ‘90s.
“I just couldn’t believe how great everybody was, at songwriting, at guitar playing, at stage presence, it was all there,” she said. “And Paul, for sure, an amazing guitar player, an amazing entertainer, he would have the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. And I would just watch in awe as he would play that guitar and sing really, really difficult songs, really great original songs, very melodic.”