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The Walking (And Constantly) ( Jane Siberry Cover ) 05.20.09

Jane Siberry had a huge impact on me in my first year of college in 1984. She had piqued my interest (as she had with so many) in the weeks leading up to my departure from Sarnia, Ontario to the big city of Brampton (which was only a 45 minute Go Bus-ride to metropolitan Toronto), because her video for Mimi On The Beach was in heavy rotation at the newly-created Moses Znaimer-owned Much Music channel, broadcast nationwide here in Canada.

The 1984 Jane Siberry album No Borders Here (on cassette!) was one of my first purchases on one of my first consumer visits to the then bustling and vibrant collective of Toronto record stores in the Yonge/Dundas area. I can’t overstate the impact listening to that landmark album had on me. It was pure music cinema, nothing like anything I had heard to that point in smalltown Ontario, and it kept me and my Walkman company on those sometimes solitary late-night Brampton/Toronto bus rides. My exposure to Jane’s work fundamentally opened myself up to more types and kinds of music, and I’ll always attribute that gift to her.

The song The Walking (And Constantly) came two albums later, in 1987. By then I had graduated from Sheridan College and was working at Nelvana (an animation house), ironically sharing an office with one of the people who helped art direct/set decorate the Mimi On The Beach music video, Carol Bradbury (a mentor and a lifelong friend.) I remember playing the album The Walking (the album was named after the track) for months in the office. Thankfully my boss Kim Cleary, Carol and I had rather synchronized musical tastes.

From what I can remember, the 1987 album didn’t sell as well as Jane’s previous albums. (I could be wrong; I’m going on a report I read 22 years ago.) Some reasoned that audiences may not have connected to the album’s deeply introspective tenor and asymmetrical, avant-garde musicality. Me, I ate it up. The Walking (And Constantly) resonated with me from a melodic perspective. Jane knew how to structure harmony in a sophisticated way for full, dramatic, cinematic impact. But I also connected to its very personal lyric of love and loss. It’s a very mature work, and Jane would only have been about 31 when she wrote it.

I will admit, the song is a challenge to sing. My “servicable” voice does not have the range. I had to find a way to sing it by dropping the song a tone, and lowering passages by a full octave, perhaps lessening it’s overall impact structurally. I’m not sure. I may have added in a chord or two to resolve those challenges. I apologize for that Issa. Most would resolve themselves to the fact that the song doesn’t fit their personal limitations, but it’s been a favourite of mine for 22 years, and the song has always meant a lot to me. I therefore threw caution to the wind and gave it a go. More people need to know about this song.

I did a few versions. This take was done with the camera mistakenly set at a telephoto setting, (please don’t look up my nostrils), but I liked the immediacy of the performance. Again, warts and all. Hey, I’m at home. I can do what I want. 😉

For those keeping count: I broke a couple more keyboard weights recording this. Two G’s.

When Jane’s 1989 follow-up Bound By The Beauty was released, it was noticeably lighter in flavour, but no less great. It contained the song The Valley, which is another song by Jane that I would consider a standard. k.d lang did a wonderful version, an orchestral live version (which in my humble opinion I believe to be superior to k.d.’s studio version) that you can find here on YouTube. It’s marvelously transcendent.

I met Jane once, about five or six years ago, when she played Hugh’s Room in Toronto. I brought another musician friend, violinist extraordinaire, Alex Cheung. We approached her after her set to get our cds signed and to say hello. After introducing ourselves, Jane immediately turned to Alex saying that she sensed the spirit of an artist in Alex. Intuitive, I thought, given how extraordinary an artist he is.

Jane still releases albums. She recently released a new album, called Dragon Dreams, and you can find links to the album here.

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