Hymns of the 49th Parallel fulfills k.d. lang’s longstanding desire to create a Canadian songbook. On the album, her first for Nonesuch Records, she pays homage to fellow Canadian artists including Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Jane Siberry, Ron Sexsmith, and Bruce Cockburn.
Was it homesickness that compelled longtime Los Angeles resident k.d. lang to fashion her one-woman campaign for north-of-the-border nationalism, or just plain good sense? All Canadian content has long been a mainstay of the Canadian Broadcasting System, but few have selected their material with such a fine hand and a high aesthetic. The expatriate singer has taken great pains to create a sophisticated homage to her Canadian roots, elegantly reinterpreting 11 songs penned by some of her more illustrious countrymen (and women) such as Jane Siberry, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Leonard Cohen. The idiosyncratic chanteuse turns Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" into an aching monochromatic lament, exploring new tributaries of pain that didn't exist in the original, while recasting Neil Young's "Helpless" into a haunting anthem of memory and comfort, all the while sounding anything but helpless. A gorgeous love letter to her brethren, complete with an intelligent and understated orchestration. --Jaan Uhelszki
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