The name might not be familiar, but you should certainly be familiar with the late Gene MacLellan’s songs, if not as a performer himself (though he did make four albums), but as writer whose work has been covered by the likes of Loretta Lynn, Joan Baez and Elvis. One in particular should stand out, that being ‘Snowbird’, a huge international hit in 1970 for Anne Murray.
That now forms part of this tribute album by his daughter, herself a very successful artist in her native Canada, who, as Alice Mara recently did with her father Michael’s work, has recorded her interpretations of several of his songs. Her version is strikingly different to Murray’s, a slow, stripped down reading accompanied by Wurlitzer that captures its sense of resignation and loss as well as featuring the verse that only her father ever recorded.
In the track listing it’s followed by his most covered number, ‘Put Your Hand In The Hand’, a song Murray was the first to record although it’s probably best known via Elvis. Usually afforded a big gospel treatment, here’s it another pared down take with just MacLellan and harmony vocals an acoustic guitars courtesy J.P.Cormier and Dave Gunning.
Featuring producer Chris Gauthier on electric guitar, the tribute opens with ‘Pages Of Time’, a country number that was apparently the first song he ever wrote (‘Snowbird’ being the second), and embraces such numbers as the semi-autobiographical wanderlust of midtempo country rocking ‘Thorn In My Shoe’ with Thomas Webb on pedal steel, the lesser known but catchy country shuffling ‘Just Wanna Be Loved By You’ that draws comparisons to Dolly, the bluesy organ-backed ‘Won’t Talk About Love’ and slow waltzer ‘Lonesome River’.
Elsewhere she duets with John Connolly on the classic Canadian country of ‘The Call’, as is the fingerpicked ‘Bidin’ My Time’, ‘Face In The Mirror’ is pure beers and tears honky tonk and, with some throaty electric from Gauthier, ‘Faces’ is a moody, bluesy number born of the depression that would eventually lead MacLellan to commit suicide in 1995.
Accompanied by just bass and acoustic guitar, she closes with ‘Shilo Song’, one her father recorded with Murray and the first of his songs that his daughter, back when she was 18, ever sang live and you can hear the memories and love in her voice. It might not mean much to those unaware of her father’s legacy, but, an easy and melodious, inviting listening experience, it’s well worth sharing the love.
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Artist’s website: www.catherinemaclellan.com
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