Shannon Lyon – Cosmic Canadian Music
Fred Eaglesmith has said that someday music scholars will look at the western half of southern Ontario the same way they look at west Texas, as a unique source of songwriters steeped in traditionalism, but also possessing a keen sense of the lonesomeness that goes hand-in-hand with their surroundings.
Along with Eaglesmith, one songwriter that perfectly fits that description is Shannon Lyon. After establishing himself for the better part of the 1990s as an uncompromising rocker with a folkies soul. Through a handful of acclaimed albums and cross-Canada tours, in April, 2000 Lyon laid everything bare with Summer Blonde (Square Dog), an album of stark beauty which proved to be his most well-received to date.
Upon the albums release, Lyon put together a new band, the World Record Players, consisting of guitarist Chris Gatchene (Fat Cats), drummer Jeff Cowell, and bassist Jay Schneider (rock scribe and Exclaim Magazines resident alt-country expert). For the next year Lyon lived out his van (literally), often sharing stages with Blue Rodeo, Oh Susanna, The Sadies, the Skydiggers and the Northern Pikes.
In fall, 2000, Lyon embarked on a solo tour of the U.S. with good friend Richard Buckner, resulting in his first contact with a potentially large new audience. The spirit of exploration eventually found Lyon to Holland in March, 2001, following an emotional send-off at his favourite hometown venue, Waterloos Jane Bond Cafe (recorded for posterity).
Soon after arriving in Holland, Lyon experienced first-hand the countrys passion for North American roots music, while establishing himself on the national club circuit, including Amsterdams legendary Melkweg. By the fall, Lyons talents had caught the attention of InBetweens Records, a natural fit considering the labels strong Neil Young connections (in 2002 it will release albums by Youngs sister Astrid and Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot).
Lyons first InBetweens release is Dharma, another chiefly acoustic album, although with a more spontaneous and organic feel than Summer Blonde. The tracks were drawn from home recordings with Cowell and Schneider, outtakes from the Summer Blonde sessions and a late night recorded crawl with long time friend and producer Bill Braun (Buffalo White, Summer Blonde).
In March 2002 Dharma will hit stores in Belgium, Italy, Holland and the UK, just in time to mark the one-year anniversary of Lyons arrival in Europe, at which point Lyon will return, this time with his band, The World Record Players.
Until then, Lyon and band will be out on the road in Canada (now augmented by Summer Blonde keyboardist Chris Giesbrecht) working out new material for a long-delayed album that promises to fully combine the loud and quiet contrasts of his songwriting. The goal will also be to combine Lyons new far-flung fan bases, although all would probably admit to being part of the Cosmic American Music community Gram Parsons defined 30 years ago. With Shannon Lyon now staking his own claim to being included in that elite club, maybe the term can be amended to include Cosmic Canadian Music.
Shannon Lyon in Holland
It has only been a year since Shannon Lyon stepped off a plane into Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. Already established in his home country of Canada as a singer/songwriter of uncommon depth, notably with his 2000 album Summer Blonde (Square Dog), by March, 2001 he was looking for new areas to explore. He took his friend, and fellow singer/songwriter, Rob Lamothes advice to go to Holland, where it was clear that audiences have always been receptive to North American roots music.
“Rob would tell me about his travels through Holland and Germany, he’d tell me that if he could move his musical career into Holland he would, and if there was a chance of getting myself and my music into the Netherlands he’d help me to achieve it,” Lyon says.
Lyon embraced the idea whole-heartedly, sacrificing most of his belongings (with the exception of his guitars) to make the move to Arnhem Holland. Once there, he hooked up with Lamothes rhythm section along with newly recruited pedal steel player Harrie Brekelmans, and set out to introduce himself to Dutch audiences.
“For the first few weeks I was sleeping on the floor at my piano players apartment. I was handed a cell phone, a bicycle key and a map of the city it was all very surreal. Even the smell of the water was different.”
It didnt take long for Lyon to find a home in the clubs and Cafe’s.
“I generated enough interest to keep myself touring for nine months, up and down the North Sea coast-line, along the German border and into the north of Holland to places like Terschelling Island, man it was beautiful up there.”
By the fall he had attracted the interest of Dutch label InBetweens Records, which quickly agreed to release Dharma, another starkly beautiful acoustic album in the spirit of Summer Blonde. Although this time drawn from home recordings in Canada with his band The World Record Players and cuts from late night studio sessions with producer and long time friend Bill Braun (Buffalo White, Summer Blonde).
The album will be released in March, 2002, in Holland, Belgium, Italy and the UK, at which point Lyon will take a break from touring with his band in North America to support his European release.
Dharmas release will be a natural fit with other albums InBetweens plans to release in 2002, including a solo debut from Neil Youngs bassist Billy Talbot.