Influenced by Maybelle Carter, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Lead Belly, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday, and arguably best known as a member of country act Dinner Belles, Hamilton, ON-based singer/songwriter Terra Lightfoot received attention for a raw, yet slow-burning and subdued debut effort. Adding to a growing profile Lightfoot has shared bills across France, the UK and Canada with an impressive array of renowned acts including Emmylou Harris, Ron Sexsmith, Gordon Lightfoot, Blue Rodeo, Rheostatics, Grace Potter, The Both, Built to Spill, Sloan, Arkells, Basia Bulat, Albert Lee, James Burton, The Sadies, Steve Strongman, Monster Truck and Daniel Lanois.
Lightfoot’s sophomore effort Every Time My Mind Runs Wild was released earlier this year through Sonic Unyon Records and if you’ve been frequenting this site, you may recall that I had written about the Canadian singer/songwriter’s bluesy and heartfelt single “All Alone,” a single reminiscent of a more muscular version of Patsy Cline‘s “Crazy” and “Walkin’ After Midnight,” complete with the same heartache at its core. Just in time for the holidays, Lightfoot released an understated solo rendition of the Christmas season classic “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” which she played for the first time at CBC’s Sound of the Season last year and she recently recorded live at McMaster University’s LIVELab. Interestingly, Lightfoot’s self-accompanied guitar arrangement draws from Chet Atkins‘ instrumental rendition.
As Lightfoot explains in press notes about her rendition of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas: “I think I feel comfortable delivering a song like ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ because I can really live inside that gentle mood and melody. The heartfelt lyrics, that sense of fragile security. The melody and chords are stunning, but as a songwriter I also appreciate the uncertainty and underlying tension in the plot: you’re not sure if you’ll make it home, or maybe your home is long gone and you’re wishing you could go back. I don’t know if I would be able to deliver a song like ‘Joy to the World’ with quite as much conviction. ” Interestingly, in some way the tension within the song shouldn’t be surprising as the song was originally written from the perspective of troops separated from their families by war — and considering that families are being uprooted from their homelands and separated from each other by seemingly unending conflict or from politics, Lightfoot’s understated rendition gives the song a subtly modern context, while sounding as though it could have been released in 1957.
Personally, I think what makes Lightfoot’s rendition one of the more compelling renditions I’ve heard in some time is that the Canadian singer/songwriter’s voice conveys a painfully lonely ache and longing — the sort of longing that comes from lengthy periods apart from loved ones and from home.