Gordon Lightfoot Can Still Run The Race,
Sing The Folk Songs

By Don Ketchum, The Arizona Republic

June 27, 1997

Folk-music fans took a step back in time to the 1960s on Wednesday night at Phoenix Symphony Hall as they were serenaded by Canadian minstrel Gordon Lightfoot.

He comes from a time when song lyrics were filled with hope, promise, love and a playful naivete.

The 58-year-old's voice is not as consistently clear, nor does he have the range he once did when playing coffeehouses north of the border 30 years ago. Yet we still can appreciate the voice in its autumn.

Lightfoot began the first of his two one-hour sets with a love ballad, 14 Karat Gold, and what probably is a self-anthem, In My Fashion.

With a forest backdrop, he took us on a walk through the woods and helped us imagine twigs crackling under our feet. And he provided a gaze at the moon in the night sky with Sea of Tranquility.

There was Don Quixote, from the early 1970s album of the same name, followed by another cut from that album that served as a revitalization of the spirit on a trip to Christian Island (Georgian Bay).

Band member Terry Clements made his guitar sound like a mandolin on the latter song. He remains one of the most underrated pickers around. The other three members provided solid assistance - keyboardist Mike Heffernan, percussionist Barry Keane and Lightfoot's longtime faithful sidekick on bass, Rick Haynes.

The lighting and backdrops also fit the song moods - blue spotlights on his tribute to the whale, Ode to Big Blue, the red passion of a backdoor rendezvous in Sundown, and the white of Old Man Winter's icy death grip in Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

You know that we all get a little older every day, as does Lightfoot. It is not known if he will pass our way again. One hopes so. If not, at least we can take a step back, smile and remember.

Don Ketchum is a sportswriter for the Arizona Republic who has been a huge fan of Gord's since the early 1970s. In the 1990s, he branched out and began interviewing and writing about Gord. This is his third article.

©1997 The Arizona Republic