When I’m attending a concert I want something more than just a greatest hits review. I want to feel some connection. Murray McLauchlan does a wonderful job of welcoming you into his world of song writing by setting up each piece before performing. After all, he has always been a story teller, and that’s what we love about him and that’s what connects us to him. Stories of dropping the song writing gauntlet for his brother Calvin which resulted in My Martini. His heartfelt appreciation for his wife Denise Donlon expressed in The Luckiest Guy. And his honesty about the challenges of song writing where he shared some less than billboard worthy ditties.
When you’ve been out of the lime light for a few years, but still manage to sell out shows, you’re probably drawing in an audience with memories of what your music was. That seemed to be the case for Murray McLauchlan’s March 3rd show at Ottawa’s Centrepointe Theatre. And respectfully Murray satisfied those of us seeking to relive our folky youth. He opened with Down By the Henry Moore, slid easily into On the Boulevard, and didn’t make us wait any longer than those two hugely recognizable songs before giving us Child’s Song. If your only experience with Murray McLauchlan relied on well played radio hits, you could have, with satisfaction, packed it in then and said it was a great show.
Accompanied by Victor Bateman on electric double bass, Murray then moved to the grand piano for Whispering Rain, another very recognizable hit from the late seventies, and arguably one of this most beautiful songs. He stayed behind the piano for Almost Constantly Confused from Human Writes and No Change In Me from Gulliver’s Taxi – his return to True North Records album.
It wouldn’t be a Murray McLauchlan concert without Farmers Song which was how he left us at the end of the first set.
This tour was a promotional tour for his latest album Love Knows No Time. The second set of songs was largely dedicated to songs from this album. For those only familiar with his folk and folk-rock work, Murray the crooner may come as a bit of a surprise. For me, it was a happy surprise. Seven of the ten songs on this latest release were previously available on The Songbook … New Arrivals (2006) from his musical Eddie: the somewhat autobiographical story of a down on his luck 40’s or 50’s vintage singer – not too coincidentally, Edward is Murray’s middle name.
Murray clearly demonstrated his musical abilities playing wonderful jazzy guitar licks during this second set. While at age 68 we would all ignore any vocal lapses that may have occurred, but they didn’t. I’m not sure if it is a case of writing what he can best sing or simply a matter of Murray McLauchlan still having a great singing voice – I suspect the latter. Beyond the music, what made this second set of the evening special was his humility when he thanked us for sticking with him through these songs that may not be familiar to many of us. I felt this was more of a thank you for sticking with him for the roller coaster ride that has been his performing career. He wrapped up this set with I’m Not Gonna Waste A Minute Of My Life. I hope that musically this is a commitment he keeps, because he still has a lot to offer us.
And thanks, too, for the encore Sweeping the Spotlight Away. It was a bitterly cold Ottawa night that Murray managed to warm up for all those who chose to accompany him for The Second Half of Life.