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Wild Child, Brave Journey Of Just A Girl
Lee Lindsey Above The Madding Crowd
By Mark Kirby
(more articles from this author)
2006-06-12
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Like all forms of music, folk and country are inundated with an overflow of artists. This is just as true for indie and alt versions of these styles as it is for the commercial forms. The egalitarian, do-it-yourself philosophy that punk rock and the Internet has championed has had the unintended consequence of allowing the talentless, the mediocre, and the downright delusional, to add to the cultural noise. The upside of this movement is that deserving artists can also break through. Lee Lindsey is a singer songwriter who blends old school country music, Irish fiddles, and electric folk rock to create a unique, personal sound.

When one goes to her website, there is a photo of her sitting and smiling, the picture of openness. Her psychedelic, red paisley pants harken back to an era that is so old, it's new, and gives the listener a clue as to what to expect - music with a story and plenty of color. For this, she can, in part, thank her parents' taste in music. "My parents mostly listened to people like Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers, Elvis, Dean Martin, and loads of country music. And the songs on the radio that I loved were by the Eagles, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Paul Simon, Neil Young, Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye."

In those freewheeling days of yore, the golden '60s and '70s, it was as normal for an R&B artist like Ray Charles and a folkie like Bob Dylan to both adopt/adapt country and rock and roll to their music, as it was for the Beatles to play Motown songs and Ramsey Lewis, a jazz artist, to reimagine the Beatles. While not as stylistically radical as these artists, on her new CD, Above the Madding Crowd, Ms. Lindsey presents a body of songs that, in the past or distant future, would be played on pop, rock and country stations right alongside The Little Willies (with Norah Jones as a band member) and those notorious, dangerous, subversive Dixie Chicks. Sadly, we don't live in that world but you can still check her music.

Above the Madding Crowd is a musical rendition of the emotional landscape she has traveled, a "based on actual events" audio diary. The first cut on the CD is called "Journey" and, were her life a TV melodrama, this would be the theme song. A country rock groove of hard-hitting drums and heavy bass, colored by fiddles playing a pensive riff, underscores her singing a song about adventurous travel physically and otherwise: "I put on my old leather boots / And I tramped the city streets of Amsterdam ... Smiled to myself / Cause I know that I can help / Help myself / But the journey is long / And the past fades away..." The chorus is a pure, pub sing-a-long tune that gets its hooks into you, and musically contrasts the tense, somewhat dark melody on the verse. This captures the emotional peaks and valleys of the rest of the album and of life's journeys which, like all of us, started early.

[Kirby] When did you start playing music?

[Lee Lindsey] When I was 12 and I got my first guitar. The first song I played was "The House of the Rising Sun" like all beginners! And then I started writing my own songs when I was 13 and got a song on a school record.   

[Kirby] Was there any support for your artistic leanings and pursuits from family members?

[Lee Lindsey] No support from my father. However, my mother loved to hear me play and sing and so did my sisters. We all sang and harmonized when we were little, but when we became teenagers, I don't know what happened. It all stopped, family wise.

[Kirby] Was there an active music and art scene of any kind where you were growing up?

[Lee Lindsey] I grew up in Deschenes, Quebec, right across the river from Ottawa. I had one teacher in intermediate school, at the age of 13, that let me and two other girls skip English class, just to focus entirely on song writing. We did a whole year instead of regular class like that. It was pivotal for me.

This turning point led to Ms. Lindsey leaving home at age fifteen. Besides the usual teenage conflicts with parents, her father tried to squelch her creative fire. So she left home, quit school, got a part-time job, started modeling, and eventually moved to Toronto. The second song on the CD, "Wild Child," is influenced by, if not actually about, this period of her life. The chords and melody are upbeat, more joyous than the previous song: "Chevrolet convertible roars along the desert road... One foot on the gas the other on the dashboard /At only 19 years she ain't no angel / God help anyone who tries to tame her / Yeah, she's a wild child." The fiddle is featured and the song is based, as all the songs on the CD, on her strong acoustic guitar playing and the kind of authority that comes from lived experience and the road.

[Lee Lindsey] I didn't run away (from home). I moved to my grandmother's house and paid her rent. I ended up going back to school after a four-month break. I was an A student and completed my high school education in the last two months of the year. I moved to Toronto at sixteen, continued modeling and singing and playing. Then moved on to Hamburg, London, New York, Paris, Ibiza, Aspen, back to Ottawa for a spell, then back to London. I met a guy, got married young, he bought me my Martin guitar which I still have now, had kids, and started seriously song writing. The husband was like the dad; he didn't want me to work in music or work at all really. So when my kids were babies, we got divorced and I put my suit of armor on and carried on with the battle on my own (breathe). And here I am now!

While in London honing her skills and performing, she started the London, UK division of Tall Poppy Records, an urban roots and folk rock label. She also started a music showcase that featured local, unsigned artists. This weekly series of events created a splash in the independent music community of London. Coming full circle, she moved back to Canada, and is now residing in Vancouver.

[Kirby] What made you decide to leave London, and move to Vancouver?

[Lee Lindsey] London was killing me or would have. I needed to come home. I needed to be around my family and my people.

Making this CD forced her to look back and access her journey thus far. She had to face various issues and states of mind. This is reflected in the other songs on the CD. "Brave" finds the singer facing hard times, fear, and melancholy, while hoping for a better future (Will the flowers bloom again for me / Cause I don't wanna be here). "More Than You'll Ever Know" is a classic break up song with more complex depth than most songs of this type. Holla if you've been divorced! Other songs deal with searching for answers ("Life Ain't No Rehearsal), vulnerability ("Just A Girl") and redemption ("One Day at a Time" and the title song).

In Vancouver she is busy with her two kids, music, and expanding the activities of Tall Poppy Records. In addition to presenting the label's new artists, she is creating a showcase for live performers similar to the one in London. This series will include artists from all over British Columbia and Alberta. Besides taking charge of her own music career, she intends to pursue her vision of empowering like-minded artists in the independent music community. For more information on Ms. Lindsey and purchasing her CD, contact her at the Tall Poppy Records.


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