Over the last twenty years, k.d. lang has lent her superb voice to an astonishing range of material, from Nashville standards to Tin Pan Alley torch songs, from cow punk tunes to sultry, adult pop- most recently her Grammy-winning gold album with Tony Bennett, "Wonderful world." With Hymns of the 49th Parallel, the Alberta native brings it all back home, metaphorically speaking, exploring the work of her favorite Canadian-born songwriters: Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Ron Sexsmith & Jane Siberry. On this lovingly assembled disc she juxtaposes classics from iconic artists who were her inspirations with equally brilliant material from contemporary performers who remain her fellow travelers.
Was it homesickness that compelled long time Los Angeles resident k. d. lang to fashion her one woman campaign for north of the border nationalism, or just plain good sense? As an organizing tool, 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 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