Inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, recipient of the Order of Canada and 11 JUNO Award-winning artist Murray McLauchlan challenged herself to search inside issues of systemic racism, privilege and economic disparity on her landmark 20th album, hourglass, releasing July 9 through its long-standing partnership with True North Records.
hourglass carries many marks of other McLauchlan albums, including powerful folk and country songs of a personal, philosophical and topical nature. But this time, the composer has refined his prose, distilling the stories down to the essential. “I tried to make the compositions simple and accessible, like children’s songs for adults,” says McLauchlan. “I’ve never tried this before. I’m pushing 73 now and still feel like I’m getting better at what I’m doing. He adds: “Each album is a little different journey. You go where the muse takes you.
Hourglass is also a collection of songs that address the shocking events of the recent past and the ongoing trajectory of a troubled world, but also the sweetness of life itself. McLauchlan began with a series of deeply personal poems, then married them to licks and guitar riffs, to build one of his most political and personal albums. Soaring pedal steel, delicate piano melodies and skillful guitar playing bring the lyrics to life, in a project that ultimately celebrates the resilience of the human spirit.
Much of Hourglass has been written over the past year, during COVID’s anxious times of mask-wearing, social distancing, and seemingly endless lockdowns. Yet even though there is a song on the recording called “Pandemic Blues” McLauchlan does not consider Hourglass to be a pandemic album. “I would hesitate to call it that,” he says, “because the album reflects a world view and world events that have been evolving for some time. In particular, McLauchlan sets his sights on chronic issues like systemic racism, economic disparity and rampant consumerism, what he calls in one song the “machine of global greed”.
“Following the public assassination of George Floyd in the United States, a massive wave of revulsion against systemic racism swept the world,” foreshadows McLauchlan from the previously released single, “I Live On A White Cloud”. “It made many of us, including me, to look honestly into our hearts and not flinch at what we might find.”
When it came to the second single, “The One Percent,” it was McLauchlan’s sharp perspective of the rapidly widening chasm between those with inordinate resources and the rest of the world’s population.
“Some time ago when the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests were taking place, many people looked down on the protesters for their inability to explain why they were there,” McLauchlan recalls. “I remember thinking, though, ‘it’s not going to go away.’ While the accumulation of great wealth has increased for a very few, the vast majority of people have seen the opposite.
“I’m just a songwriter,” he says clearly. “It’s the only voice I have, other than my vote. But I know this: if we can’t find a way to make the world a more equitable place for all, our future is in question.
Murray McLauchlan is not one to rest on his laurels. Although now in his sixth decade as a singer-songwriter, with shelves teeming with awards including a prestigious Order of Canada and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, the energetic musician remains more creative than ever. Hourglass finds McLauchlan constantly evolving artistically, creating some of the best compositions of his long and famous career.
List of tracks:
1 The percent
2 Pandemic Blues
4 If you are there Jesus
6 A Thomson Day (for Tom Thomson)
7 lying by the sea (for Alan Kurdi)
8 i live on a white cloud (for George Floyd)
9 shining city on a hill