THE OVERLY FAMILIARCanadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, who is now 68 years old, is not only alive and well; he's performing in town this week. Lightfoot, whose career began in the '60s as a songwriter for acts such as Peter, Paul and Mary and Marty Robbins, went on to become a dominating presence on the charts in the early '70s with a string of folky hits that are still played on oldies stations today, including "Sundown," "If You Could Read My Mind," "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" and "Carefree Highway."
My problem is that I'm not sure whether or not I'm excited about Lightfoot's appearance here, and I'm not sure whether I care enough to go see him. I'm sure that some pop psychologist somewhere has a name for what Gordon Lightfoot represents to me, but since I don't know it, let me explain.
See, I grew up in the '70s, when Lightfoot's songs were inescapable to anyone who listened to the radio regularly, which I did constantly. And I heard his songs before I could really make any sense of them. I could sing you the bulk of the lyrics to any of the songs I mentioned above, but I couldn't tell you what any of them is truly about in detail--and not because any of them is in any way complicated lyrically. On the contrary, Lightfoot was always a pretty straightforward lyricist. When I first heard the songs (and I heard them repeatedly), I was old enough to grasp their melodies and to parrot the lyrics back, but I was too young to put it all together to form any sort of meaning from them. Hell, I may have been too young to know that songs could even be "about" anything.
This isn't exactly nostalgia--it's more like some sort of disconnect--but I don't know whether or not I like Gordon Lightfoot. If someone were to ask me what I thought of his music, I would say something without thinking, like, "Oh, he's great. I love him." But the truth is, I'm merely overly familiar with his music. So familiar, in fact, that I never had to buy a Gordon Lightfoot album, because I could always turn on the radio and hear his songs. (Though I should 'fess up that when I was 6 or 7, I begged my mom to buy me the 45 of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," which I still own today.) While I find his music comforting, in that nostalgic way, my critical faculties have been blunted.
Still, it can't be just a matter of time, age and nostalgia that has me so confused. For example, I heard the Beatles on the radio at least as much as I heard Lightfoot during the same period, at the same age, and I can tell you with certainty that I still love them. If this were a blog instead of a column, I would end this by asking for comments: Who is your Gordon Lightfoot? But, alas, it's not. I guess I just may have to hunt down a book by a pop psychologist who will explain it all to me, and tell me, once and for all, whether or not I enjoy the music of Gordon Lightfoot.
Gordon Lightfoot performs at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 29, at the Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St. Tickets are available for $40 at the venue's box office, at foxtucsontheatre.com and livenation.com, or by calling 547-3040. For more information, call 624-1515.
THE KING OF SURFSurf guitar legend Dick Dale returns to Tucson this week for a performance at The Hut. The highly influential Dale, 69, whose music was introduced to a younger generation via the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, is widely recognized as the king of all surf guitarists, and anyone who's seen him perform in recent years knows that he can still shred and twang with the best of 'em. But those same people will also tell you that part of the fun in seeing a Dick Dale show these days is hearing him boast about his accomplishments--in the third person, no less. ("Back in 1963, when Dick Dale released the album King of the Surf Guitar ...") But, hey, when you basically invented a genre of music back in the '50s that still pervades pop culture today, I suppose you've earned your bragging rights.
Dick Dale performs on Saturday, Jan. 27, at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave. The show begins at 8 p.m. with opening sets from two local bands, desert rockers Ghost Cow and The Swigs, an instrumental trio who combine Dale's brand of surf-rock with both something a bit harder and jam-band elements. Advance tickets are available for $20 at all Zia Records and Bookmans locations. They'll be $23 at the door. For further details, call 623-3200.
LET'S GET EXPERIMENTALThe Anticon label has made its name by releasing albums of underground hip-hop, but most importantly, experimental underground hip-hop. So experimental, in fact, that it would be a stretch to call what one of the label's artists does hip-hop. I'm talking about Martin Dosh, who records under his surname, and recently released his third album, The Lost Take (2006), on Anticon.
Whereas Dosh usually records his material primarily on his own, relying on loops of both samples and himself playing various instruments (just as he does when he performs live), The Lost Take is notable in that he rounded up a long list of musicians to perform on the album this time around, including Jeremy Ylvisaker (Fog), Erik Appelwick (Tapes 'n Tapes) and Andrew Bird.
(Astute music fans may remember Dosh performing alongside Bird during his last Tucson performance, in September. Prior to that show, in an interview with Linda Ray for a Weekly article, Bird said of Dosh, "He's a performer in his own right, and he has a solo thing similar to what I do, but he's more into the underground, electronic, hip-hop scene. He loops all of his drums and keyboards through his own mixer, so we've been having a lot of fun combining both of those elements and even writing songs together.")
The result is an album that merges elements of jazz, electronica and indie rock, blending them into a seamless whole of beat-driven soundscapes that utilize samples and a wide swath of live instruments such as violin, electric and acoustic guitars, saxophone, clarinet and even the occasional pedal steel. Because The Lost Take features more live performances (which is to say, performed on real instruments by players especially for the album) than Dosh's previous work, it radiates a warmth that his first two albums lacked. If you stop long enough to dissect what's going on within the music, it reveals itself as rather complicated; casual repeated listens will leave you feeling that the music is interestingly pleasant. In other words, it doesn't flaunt its complexity.
It'll be interesting, too, to see how Dosh pulls off the new material live, when he performs on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. The all-ages show begins at 9 p.m. with opening sets from Sole and Skyrider. Admission is $8. For more info, call 884-0874.