“Murray, as much as a songwriter, is a myth-teller. Which is to say that he inhabits, as all true artists do, the middle space between the world as it is and how it ends up in the songs that he writes.” – Noah Richler, “Human Writes Liner Notes”
Most artists spend their entire careers chasing that “middle space;” few artists find it. Then there are artists like Murray McLauchlan who don’t search at all. They exist and create within it. For over 40 years, that “middle space,” the space between where our world exists and where it exists in song, is a world McLauchlan has meticulously woven through his melodies, poetry and most of all, stories. It’s a world he most recently explores on his new album, Human Writes (True North Records, 2011).
After the release of McLauchlan’s last album, Gulliver’s Taxi, he was content to close the door on his solo career. However, a meeting with True North Records president, Geoff Kulawick encouraged him to head back to the studio once more.
“Each album I’ve released comes from a very personal, creative space. Sometimes your fans connect and join you in that space, and sometimes, unfortunately, they don’t,” says McLauchlan.
Fortunately, it’s clear that with Human Writes, McLauchlan welcomes his fans to join him in the depths of his insight, emotion and creativity. His first album in six years, Human Writes is a breathtaking journey with one of Canada’s most influential songwriters.
Produced by McLauchlan, and engineered and mixed by Jeremy Darby (Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton) at Canterbury Music Company in Toronto in spring 2011, conceptually, the album is about putting the song and its performance at the centre of the production; everything else, the instrumentation and arrangements, work only in support of that end. All the tracks were recorded live, with first-takes often making their way onto the album. Joined by Burke Carroll (steel guitar, dobro), Victor Bateman (bowed bass) and Dennis Pendrith (electric bass), every song on the album features only one guitar - a handmade instrument built in 1938 chosen by McLauchlan for its soulful, almost haunted sound. All of these elements come together to create Human Writes; a work of art that explores the light and dark side of humanity. Simply put, Human Writes is a pinnacle piece in a lifetime of achievement.
In his over 40-year career, McLauchlan has played in every major Canadian concert hall, from Massey Hall in Toronto to the Orpheum in Vancouver. Before he even cut his first record, McLauchlan’s track “Child’s Song” was already well-known after it was recorded by American folk legend, Tom Rush, and “Honky Red” had been floating around the folk and country circuit, performed by Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Bobby Neuwirth.
McLauchlan is one of Canada’s most decorated and praised songwriters with 11 JUNO Awards and 24 nominations. More flattering, however, was McLauchlan’s appointment to the Order of Canada in 1993. He exudes an unbridled passion for Canada, uniquely captured by television crews when he flew a Cessna 185 floatplane from coast to coast and everywhere in between for the special, “Floating Over Canada,” featuring legends Gordon Lightfoot, Buffy Ste. Marie, Levon Helm and Edith Butler. The program aired for a number of years on Canada Day broadcasts, eventually picked up by PBS in the United States.
His passion for celebrating Canadian culture through art found an outlet with “Swinging on a Star,” McLauchlan’s weekly CBC radio program. For five years, every Saturday over 750,000 listeners tuned in, making it the top rated music show in the country in the mid-80s.
McLauchlan’s cultural impact runs across generations, from his classic and influential albums, Songs From The Street, Day to Day Dust and Boulevard to his memorable appearances on “Sesame Street” and “The Elephant Show.” Put simply, Murray McLauchlan is a Canadian treasure.
The 90s saw the release of his memoir titled Getting Out Of Here Alive (Penguin/Viking), providing a well-lit snapshot of the early days of the Toronto music scene. In the early 2000s McLauchlan began to work on his stage musical, Eddie; the story of a Sinatra-like singer who has as much trouble with his demons as his women. It debuted in 2004 and McLauchlan’s album, The Songbook, New Arrivals (Capitol/EMI) is a collection of songs written for the musical, paying homage to standards and the likes of Porter, Arlen and Cahn.
Most recently McLauchlan joined the mega-songwriter band, Lunch At Allen’s, featuring Marc Jordan, Cindy Church and Ian Thomas. Coming together as the result of a meeting in Toronto at Allen’s restaurant on the Danforth, the band has released three CDs: Lunch At Allen’s (2004), Catch The Moon (2007) and More Lunch At Allen’s (2010).
McLauchlan is happily married to Denise Donlon and they have a son, Duncan. A budding musician himself, McLauchlan’s son worked with his father on Human Writes. In particular, Duncan contributed all the horns on the album, creating a number of voices from just one valve trombone. Duncan’s involvement was very much a full circle and much treasured moment for McLauchlan.
With Human Writes, McLauchlan reaches a new creative space. The album is an unexpected gift from one of Canada’s most celebrated artists and music pioneers. His impact on Canadian culture crosses generational boundaries and the affect McLauchlan has had on Canadians’ lives is profound. Human Writes is a work of art to be cherished for generations to come.