Review In Roots Music Report and CD Insight
Rating: * * * * *
John & Sheila Ludgate
The Ontario-based folk duo, John and Sheila Ludgate, sing about "so many miles, so many roads, we’ve come so far, so far to go" in the title track, "Northern Soul," off their new album. The song won the multi-cultural subcategory prize in Folk Music Ontario's (formerly the Ontario Council Of Folk Festivals – OCFF) prestigious "Songs From The Heart" competition. In some of the lyrics, sung in French, they make a promise to stay "in the true north ... the land of the north, strong and free."
John (guitar, harmonica) and Sheila (bass guitar) have released quite a few albums since 1992, all while raising four boys who are also featured musicians. "Electric Guitars" alludes to the importance of music to the Ludgates with many witty references to Beatles and Bob Dylan songs. Yet, like many things in life that come with aging and change, the ephemeral nature of life and music may also lead us to a place where "it’s all over now, hard rain’s going to fall, times are changing for us all." In other words, let's live it up while we can!
Further, in the song "One Thing’s For Certain," a call for perseverance, the Ludgates remind us to "do the best you can, with what you’ve been given." They must think a lot about the past, present and future because "Blink" is also a song which has references to yesterday, today and tomorrow but optimistically encourages us to keep on trudging towards "the future, an unsung song."
Similar to their 2011 release ('Running Through the Innocent Years'), their new project continues to emphasize John’s fingerpicked acoustic guitar and warm conversational baritone voice, as well as Sheila’s silky backup harmony and solid bass playing. Their arrangements are cohesively woven to emphasize the messages in their pensive and thoughtful balladry.
The Ludgates' songs are insightful, and some are quite profound. "Fine Line," for example, gets us thinking about "pride and false confidence, living in the present tense, you might be blind to what you left behind, but you’ll live with the consequence." Again, their relaxed songs thematically cover many sentiments from the past and present, while also remaining focused and optimistic for the future. "Requiem for Love" is certainly a lamentation, but it's far from a dirge.
With a variety of approaches to their expressive and reflective music, the Ludgates are troubadours with a keen ability to blend introspective thoughts with melodies and instrumentation that complement their messages. Their lyrical music is quite serious and thematic so it's a nice relief when they serve up some humor in a song like "I’m A Dog."
Ending the album on a bit of a sentimental note, "A Dog’s Last Ride (For Abbie)" is a sad goodbye to a faithful, best friend. However, she's left this song to sing, even if time is no longer on our side.
I look forward to hearing more from the Ludgates as they cover all aspects of human emotion from joy to sorrow, wit to whimsy, gravity to jollity, and humor to solemnity. These voyagers have a good handle on life, and we'll all find meaningful relationships with their friendly music that invites you into their intimate space. I always enjoy their pleasant grooves, perspectives and energy. The CD is available on iTunes or by contacting John and Sheila Ludgate directly via the contact information on their website. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report) (This review also appeared in CD Insight)