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Playlist: Twain, McLauchlan and others suggest songs that calm and inspire


The Globe and Mail - Canada
By Brad Wheeler
April 10, 2020


In times of trouble, music can bring a sense of tranquility. Asked to identify their go-to songs these days, Shania Twain, Murray McLauchlan, Laila Biali and Hannah Georgas picked tunes and pieces of music that console and relax. Mad Mad World rocker Tom Cochrane, on the other hand, chose songs of defiance. Whatever works.

Shania Twain

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, the country music superstar was two days into a Las Vegas residency that was forced to shut down.

"With this self-isolation, on a farm outside Las Vegas, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the microphone, writing songs. Occasionally I’ll stop and start singing Amazing Grace, a cappella, over and over again. It’s very zen and reflective. I use it as a break – a reprieve, I guess.

I just gravitated to it. Obviously the current times have affected the frame of my mind, and the search for that peaceful place. I just get lost in it. When all this started, I thought of Christmas. In a sense this is a peaceful time. The world is in one place. I think this self-isolation has brought that."

Murray McLauchlan

A winner of 10 Juno Awards and nominated for 13 more, the Farmer’s Song troubadour last put out a record in 2017. Love Can’t Tell Time was issued on True North Records.

"The songs I think about are the ones that I used to put myself to sleep to when I was on the road. More recently, some of them were the ones I played for my brother as he passed. They’re important to me.

The French-American classical pianist François-Joël Thiollier did the most beautiful version of something by my favourite composer, Claude Debussy. Suite Bergamasque, particularly Clair de Lune, is one of the most beautiful piano recitals I’ve ever heard.

Another instrumental is Chet Baker’s version of Little Girl Blue, off his 1957 album Embraceable You. If you’d been up all night, walking around New York or old parts of Montreal, and there was an angel playing a horn on a fire escape – that’s what it sounds like.

For something that’s not an instrumental, Nat King Cole singing Unforgettable. It doesn’t matter what he sings. Every time he opens his mouth it feels like Christmas."

Laila Biali

The Juno-winning jazzer and host of CBC Radio’s Saturday Night Jazz just released her latest album, Out of Dust on Chronograph Records.

“I often return to a collection of records I listened to as a student at Toronto’s Humber College. I grew up in North Vancouver. I was away from home for the first time in my life. While it was exciting, it was also a lonely time. I gravitated to albums that felt church-like, including Keith Jarrett’s solo piano recordings. Vienna Concert, released in 1992, in particular. I would set up candles in my small apartment and listen to that record. It would wash over me. Another album that had the same impact is Somewhere Called Home, by the U.K.-based jazz singer Norma Winstone. The album, named after the song, gives me the same feeling as the Keith Jarrett solo piano recordings. These records were my sanctuary. It was total peace, where I could return to myself.”

Tom Cochrane

The veteran Canadian rocker is known for hits that include Lunatic Fringe and Life Is a Highway.

"I’m like everybody else. I’m fighting the war that we can’t really fight. The health-care workers are doing an unbelievable job. We’re all this together, but we can’t be together. That’s the irony of it.

I beg forgiveness for picking one of my own songs, but I think of Human Race. "Knocked me down but I got back up, and I got myself back in the race again." There’s a starkness in that in that song, a loneliness, but also a resilience.

The other one is by the late, great Tom Petty, I Won’t Back Down. It’s defiant. I think we have to be positive in these times. We’re a resilient bunch, Canadians in particular. I think we’re going to come out of this stronger, changed."

Hannah Georgas

After releasing the EP Imprints a year ago, the Canadian singer-songwriter issued the sublime single That Emotion earlier this year.

"I’m a big fan of Sade. She brings me back to a time in high school when I discovered her album Lover’s Rock, from 2000. I had gone through a breakup. I remember driving around in my parent’s car, in tears, listening to that album and finding a lot of comfort in her voice and the production style. The song By Your Side still feels like a warm hug, and it still calms me down.

I listen to the Irish artist Enya. The one record of hers I listen to over and over again is 2000′s The Memory of Trees, named after the album’s first song. You don’t have to think too much when you listen to her. Hearing her, it feels like you could fall asleep to everything."

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