I have often mentioned that given the seemingly endless supply of new Canadian music, an artist has to offer up something special to separate themselves from the pack and grab my attention. Prior to her 2014 release “Every Time My Mind Runs Wild,” I had no knowledge of Hamilton singer-songwriter Terra Lightfoot. The sudden radio interest in her popular tune “No Hurry” gave me a brief introduction, and on the strength of this single alone, the album soon made its way into the CD collection. A couple of listens and I was left with an impression that Terra Lightfoot was a little like an unpolished diamond. Sure, the shine (her voice and songwriting ability) was bright and beautiful, but what I appreciated the most was that this particular diamond was a little rough around the edges. Sourcing her previous self-titled album shortly afterwards, a quick spin of this album garnered the same sentiments. Well written and structured songs, yet somewhat raw and gritty in character. I certainly liked what I heard, but ultimately these two albums were filed away with many others for another day.
Earlier this year Terra Lightfoot would release her third album; one that caught my immediate attention given that I gravitate very much to recordings of live performances. Better yet, “Live In Concert” was not only performed in her hometown of Hamilton, but also featured a collaboration with the National Academy Orchestra which automatically gave this a unique appeal. Upon just one spin of this album, I revisited tracks from the past, but this time around those rough edges had been smoothed a little. Her vocal strength was still present, as were her lyrical mastery and her penchant for a great guitar riff. Like a well-polished diamond, the end result was amazing, and quickly vaulted Terra back onto my musical radar and listening pleasure.
And here we are, still very much in 2017, eager to experience the latest new music from Lightfoot. After teasing with her most recent single “Paradise,” an all new studio album titled “New Mistakes” is just out today. If you have not yet heard “Paradise,” I encourage you to do so as soon as possible. As the opening track on the new album, this tune reveals not so much a change in direction for Terra Lightfoot, but a much more definitive sound that fully awakens the senses. Opening with her typical signature guitar riff, subliminal traces of distortion offer hints of her music being raised to another level. An introduction that is very reminiscent of the familiar distortion wizardly popularized by Whitehorse – who just happen to have Terra accompanying them on select dates of their upcoming tour. Small world indeed.
Terra Lightfoot recently shared another new track from the album. With the title “Norma Gale,” Lightfoot considers this to be her first songwriter’s song, and was inspired “after meeting a Canadian woman named Norma Gale who was a near-famous country star in the 1970s,” says Lightfoot. “She played all over the world but specifically had a great following in Nashville.” Listening to this album for the first time today, with no liner notes or track listing to draw upon, it was this very track that leapt out of the car stereo to demand my attention. With a strong sense that ‘Track #6’ would dominate as the stand-out piece on this album, I was not at all surprised to find that this was indeed “Norma Gale” when I finally reviewed the track listing. It is often said that ‘the devil is in the details,’ and here, the choice of instrumentation (varies throughout the song), passionate lyrics and a well-polished level of production serve to elevate the game for Terra Lightfoot. In my humble opinion, “Norma Gale,” could well be the best Terra has offered yet, eclipsing the previous material to date.
“New Mistakes” contains several other gems across the twelve tracks on offer. Having honed her craft on the road with an extensive tour schedule, there is a clear sense of maturity that accompanies the new material. Any good album will invite the listener to take a journey, and experience a full range of emotions in the process. Terra Lightfoot has easily accomplished this, and if there was any kind of strategy in determining track placement, it works. From the joys of the foot-stomping “Pinball King” to the sadness surrounding “Three In The Morning,” Terra mixes it up with the best of them. And for those who crave her signature blues-rock edge, you will certainly appreciate both “Hold You” and “Slick Back Kid.” Moreover, Lightfoot demonstrates a flirtatious take on the sounds of yesteryear with “Two Hearts,” whilst reconnecting with the vibe of her second album on “Stars Over Dakota” (at least IMO, I hear similarities to “No Hurry” during this one).
Aside from the aforementioned “Norma Gale,” there are two other cuts on this album that truly stand out. “Ruthless” has not only the combination of wonderful lyrics and musicianship, but a great bridge and change of tempo that simply oozes a radio-friendly appeal. As for “Lonesome Eyes,” if there was ever a perfect choice to close the album, this is most definitely it. Making it easy to close your eyes and picture this as an encore performance in an intimate live setting, my thoughts return to her live album, and how my appreciation grew for Terra’s music upon that first listen. And now, with this “psychedelic, gospel-tinged album closer,” Lightfoot not only has me ‘thinking’ that I would love to see this performed live, she has got me ‘wanting’ to see all of this material performed live.
After listening solidly to “New Mistakes” over the last few days, Terra Lightfoot is not only about to release her best work to date, but has embraced her musical identity whilst hitting her professional stride. My own personal take is that while Lightfoot has polished up her act, as with any true ‘diamond in the rough,’ it takes only a few minor scratches on the surface to uncover that raw underlying edge that shall always remain the heart and soul of her musical heritage. This album is an absolute gem, and I strongly recommend that you make plans to pick up a copy today.