2017 FFC SONGWRITING COMPETITION:
First Place goes to Linda McRae for “Be Your Own Light”
Linda was also was inducted into the
2016 BC ENTERTAINMENT HALL OF FAME!!!
New Folsom Prison provides starting point for Linda's new album Shadow Trails
California’s Folsom State Prison occupies a hallowed place in the history of roots music. As the location of several Johnny Cash performances and the subject of his song “Folsom Prison Blues,” it has become a symbol of the “outlaw” element of outlaw country. Now, some 60 years the California State Prison complex has had a transformational impact on another singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist roots musician:
Canada’s Linda McRae.
After answering a call to host a song-writing workshop at New Folsom in 2011, McRae and her husband, James Whitmire, were moved to develop song-writing workshops for at-risk youth – to try and prevent them from ending up behind bars in the first place. Her new, Steve Dawson-produced album, Shadow Trails, is inspired by that work.
Though perhaps best-known for her eight-year tenure as a member of the platinum-selling band Spirit of the West, Linda McRae had already raised a daughter and performed for more than ten years with west coast punk and roots outfits before joining Spirit.
Performing on banjo, guitar and accordion her warm and world-weary voice, unforgettable melodies and thought-provoking lyrics, make McRae a captivating and sought-after artist. Promoter Fernando Pinto says "One song breaks your heart, the next one puts it back together”.
In 2006, McRae found love and much more with James Whitmire, a retired American rancher who had recently discovered his voice as a poet. Whitmire – who she pays tribute to on the album with the song “My Man” – became her manager, collaborator, and constant source of moral support while she’s out on the road. A recovered addict, who’s been clean for more than 28 years, Whitmire has life experience that many incarcerated individuals and at-risk youth relate to, and that has helped the couple build trusting connections through their therapeutic Express Yourself Writing Workshops currently being presented in detox centres, alternative schools, and youth and adult correctional facilities across North America.
That work, in turn, has inspired McRae, whose new album is chalk-full of raw, honest reflections on hardship delivered with a rough-hewn authenticity.
Shadow Trails has received high praise from international media.
No Depression reviewer John Apice "Sounds like something The Rolling Stones could sing now, today -- if Leonard Cohen was their lyricist."
Penguin Eggs' Mike Sadava “In three words, this album kicks. She’s never sounded better”,
The Georgia Straight’s Alexander Varty “It’s a wiry, charged record ant finds McRae telling stories that have risen from the streets, from prison cells, and from her own generous heart”
Pot Pourri’s Lesley Mitchell-Clarke “unflaggingly authentic, deeply satisfying, refreshingly acoustic and imbued with a big dose of soul and a skilled musicality.”
Here's a little about a few of the songs:
“Flowers of Appalachia” features a wistful, insightful poem by elderly New Folsom inmate Ken Blackburn set to a tender mostly-acoustic backdrop of banjo, guitars and bass.
“Sidewalk Princess,” inspired by another poem by a Folsom inmate, is the fictionalized account of a homeless woman in Vancouver.
And “Jesus or Jail” drew its inspiration from the film “Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus” and the message McRae took away from it: If you’re poor in the south, you have two choices: Jesus or jail.
Other stand-out tracks on the album include “Why Can’t Waylon?” a fabulous outlaw country-style song that borrows an even more fabulous outlaw country –style utterance from the young son of McRae’s friend: “If Jesus can come back, why can’t Waylon?”
There’s also a stirring cover of Willie P. Bennett’s never-recorded number “When Love is a Game,” featuring beautiful pedal steel by Dawson.
And then there’s “Singing River,” which tells the story of Teh-la-nay of the Yuchi nation. The nation called the Tennessee River the singing river because they believed a woman who lived in the river sang to them. When the nation was forcibly relocated to Oklahoma in the 1830s, Teh-la-nay walked for five years to return because she missed hearing the river’s song. The ancestral home of the Yuchi nation lies across the river from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, home of the legendary Fame recording studio, and some say the stream of seminal recordings that came out of Muscle Shoals can be attributed to a certain something in the water.
Booking/Management: James Whitmire, 42RPM, 615-952-2469, firstname.lastname@example.org
Label: Borealis Records, 416-530-7692, email@example.com
Publicist: Heather Kitching, 604.838.4968, firstname.lastname@example.org
Express Yourself Writing Workshops: http://lindamcrae.com/workshops