January 2006

Lynn Harrison | Broadview CD Release
January 12, 2006Hugh's RoomToronto
Writing Magic with Delicate Hands
by Andy Frank with photo by Arthur Uyeyama
A unique energy inhabits an intimate CD release party, as evidenced by Lynn Harrison’s celebration of her third record, Broadview. I am seated among the many friends, the Mom and Dad, the kids, and of course, the humming fans of the Texan belle.

I quickly realise that I am among the subjects or inspirational subjects of many of Lynn’s new and not-so-new songs we’re hearing. There’s the humourous tale of visiting her folks in their adopted Canadian hometown (“Yes, It’s Cold in Winnipeg”); the encouraging story of her kids’ resistance to mashed turnips (“It’ll Grow on You”), and the touching, nostalgic “First Day of School”. One can’t help but feel the intimacy of a moment where the stars of the songs are either revelling or squirming right at the next table.

These are just a few examples of the kind of first-person-recounted themes Lynn shares at her concerts and through her recordings. She is, above all else, a wonderful storyteller, and experiencing Lynn in person at an appropriate venue is heart-warming. Her writing magic is best witnessed when she freeze-frames a moment in time, picks it up in one of her delicate hands, analyzes it from all angles, watches how the light reflects off of it, and carefully scribbles down her observations. They are songs about losing her keys, cats jumping up on her computer keyboard, and almost breaking down in tears while shopping for a sympathy card.

However, if I — in a King Kong moment — were to pick up Lynn in my less delicate hands, and analyze her under different lights, I would see that her art is not limited to a series of Hallmark Moments. For example, in one of the show’s most touching highlights, Lynn proves to be equally adept at writing about the Luminous Veil, that hideous device along the Bloor Street Viaduct that helps prevent people from jumping to their deaths onto the DVP or into the river below.

I, as King Kong, would also behold a ballsy redhead who is one of only 75 licensed TTC subway buskers, and who, as a musician, is compelled to perform, and will do so under almost any circumstances. This is no stay-at-home suburban Mom baking brownies. This all adds up to Broadview, a CD about her neighbourhood, her life, her subway station, her view, and her point of view, the kind of perspective that is essential in extracting the wisdom of a moment.

Musically, Lynn is faithful to her words. Her songs are simple, (although producer and multi-instrumentalist David Woodhead teases her about her choice of keys), catchy and performed in a clean, easy to digest format. Lynn is a good guitarist with a finely tuned ear, and I could spend several more fruitless hours trying to associate her pleasant vocal qualities with the usual list of female folkies (something I can usually do in seconds!).

Her band (Eric Newby of Likewater, David Woodhead of Everyone Who is Anyone in Toronto, Al Cross, and the wonderful Dean Cavill) did what a good back-up band should do: they stayed out of the limelight, and skilfully complemented Lynn’s guitar and vocals. The only ingredient lacking on this night was a female backup singer who could help replicate those wonderful, harmonious highlights that appear on her CDs.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Andy Frank
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