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Linda McRae returning to Lethbridge with new music inspired by Folsom Prison

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Linda McRae is always changing.Linda McRae plays the Lethbridge Folk club this week. Photo by James Dean Photography
 You may rememberher from playing with Ken Hamm a few years ago or as the mayor of the South Country Fair. Going back almost 20 years, you may remember her as being part of ’80s/’90s hit-makers Spirit of the West. She will be returning on her owl to play a solo show for the Lethbridge Folk club at the Lethbridge College Cave, Nov. 20 in support of  her new CD “Shadow Trails.”

The music was inspired by a series of workshops the Nashville based McRae has been doing with prisoners at the  legendary California Folsom State Prison with her husband James Whitmore.
 But the more electric sound of the CD was inspired by iconic Canadian producer and guitarist Steve Dawson who recruited an A-list of Toronto musicians to appear on the CD.

“We recorded it live off the floor. I showed the songs to the guys and they played them three or four times and recorded them,” summarized an affable McRae, getting ready to play a show at the West End Cultural Centre in Winnipeg before coming to Lethbridge.

“We had a big  city release for the CD in Nashville where I live now,” she said.
 She credited Dawson for the more electric sound than her previous few CDs.
“I have a lot of respect for him. He’s  great guitar player. There’s also some old B3 organ which suited the songs. There’s also some folky songs as well,” she said.

 She has been working with prisoners at The Folsom Sate Prison since 2011, which she found to be very inspiring.
“It’s exciting. They are two hour workshops. The idea is to play 20 minutes and talk abut some of the challenges I’ve been through and James has been through because he has been a recovering addict for 20 years. I play them songs for the first 20 minutes then take them through a writing exercise that helps them to express some of their feelings and more intimate thoughts. They get to have a voice they’ve never been able to express before,” she said.

“ It’s a range of ages from 12-years -old to 85 because there are prisoners serving life without parole,” she said.

 She noted the work they came up with was impressive. She ended up turning a poem from inmate Ken Blackburn  into a song on the CD “ Flowers of Appalachia.”
“He’s in his ’70s. He wrote the words and I wrote the music,” she said.
She is pleased with how the CD turned out.
“It just feels really good,” she said.

“People are saying it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, which is really nice to hear. I think it is really good. But it is really hard to gauge. It’s  hard to judge your own material. It’s like trying to pick your favourite child. You can’t.”

 She is excited to return to Lethbridge.
“I played the Lethbridge Folk Club with Ken Hamm, but I’ve also played the Owl. It’s nice to play the Lethbridge Folk Club. I have a lot of friends there. I’ll be playing solo. I play guitar, banjo and accordion and have a foot stomp box on my left foot and a tambourine on my right foot. I like to keep it interesting,” she said.
 She said her set will include much of the new CD and some of her older songs, though no songs from Spirit of the West, who she played with in the ’80s and ’90s.

“I don’t do those anymore, that was almost 20 years ago. I left them in 1997, so it will be a couple of years before 20 years. But I’d like to think I’ve moved on and experienced some progression hopefully,” she said.

 McRae, who has called Nashville home for the past  eight years, enjoys living in Music City.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been eight years. They have the best musicians there and to be accepted by them means a lot  to me,” she said.

“I’ve made a lot of friends. and a lot of my friends  come down there to visit me,” she said adding thew quality of musicianship in Nashville has made her up her game a little.
“Totally. There’s a lot of music down there  that I’m just not into. But there’s so many wonderful players there but you can’t help but to get better yourself,” she said.

Linda McRae will be playing the Lethbridge College Cave  in the Lethbridge College student’s union building with Shaela Miller and Skinny Dyck at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20. Tickets are $25 members, $30 for invited guests which includes  a year's membership. The show begins at 8 p.m.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 18 November 2015 13:53 )  
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