LEVACK—Manitoulin’s favourite troubadour Kevin Closs recently released a new CD that reaches back into his spiritual roots to come up with a surprise Christian theme.
“I have been collecting songs over the past five years,” he said, noting that the material on this new album drifted in on the wings of a rather intermittently appearing muse. “I don’t write a lot of new songs these days,” said Mr. Closs. “Every now and then something comes to me.”
Last Christmas he found himself writing a Christmas song. “Now that isn’t what any artist really thinks he would do,” laughed Mr. Closs. “But I started thinking about Christmas.” The song just began to flow.
Spirituality has played a significant role in Mr. Closs’s life; his BA from Laurentian University is a combined religious studies and history degree. “It was something I really gravitated to,” he said.
As he started thinking about the song catalogue for the new CD, Mr. Closs came to a startling epiphany. “I suddenly realized that they were all related to a Christian theme,” he said.
“I had never wanted to do a ‘contemporary Christian’ album,” he said. “To me they always seemed contrived, a bit artificial, and, like Ian Tamblyn once said, ‘Christian alright, it’s bloody God awful.’” Although Mr. Closs admits that stance is a bit of an extreme condemnation of the contemporary Christian music genre overall, it nonetheless accurately reflects his counter motivation to deliberately following that route.
There is nothing contrived or artificial in ‘All for a Song’ however, simply a serendipitously coherent unconscious link that fuses the album together that happens to be Christian.
‘New Man,’ the first song on the album, “is actually an old, old song,” said Mr. Closs. “It was on my first cassette. When I wrote it I thought of it as a pretty folk song, but when I reflected on it later, I noticed that it has some very Christian undertones.”
Most of the songs Mr. Closs gathered for this album were in fairly rudimentary production. “Most were just acoustic recordings with me and my guitar,” he said. “But the great thing about having a computer-based recording studio is that the songs are right there at your fingertips.”
Getting the songs ready for prime time required a lot of work and Mr. Closs turned to a network of friends and contacts made over the course of decades of experience in the music industry to help him get the songs ready for the CD.
“I had some amazing help,” he said. “Jay Lamothe is really the hero of the hour on this one.” Mr. Closs explained that he had played in a band with Mr. Lamothe over two decades ago. “I knew he had a recording studio,” he said. “There were two songs that had not been done at all, ‘Four Letters’ and ‘Longest Day’.”
Mr. Closs sent his friend the two songs to listen to. “The next day he sent them back,” he said. His friend had stayed up all night working on the production of the two songs. “What he produced was fantastic. I had sent him just my voice and playing guitar. Without him I don’t know what would have gone on the CD.”
Another friend, Peter Cliche, an artist who plays with Susan Aglukark, assisted with another cut. “Ken Kanwisher came on for ‘Christmas is a Start’,” said Mr. Closs.
When it comes to a favourite song on this CD, Mr. Closs started to laugh. “Usually it is the last song I worked on,” he said. “But in this case I think it is ‘Christmas is a Start’.”
The challenge with Christmas songs for an artist is that the time frame for performing them is limited. “Usually these days that is just after Halloween isn’t it?” he said. “But with this song, I get goosebumps when I start it. There is a real feeling of connection with people.”
Mr. Closs said that he is currently looking for a physical outlet for the new CD on Manitoulin Island and is working on setting up some Island gigs. In the meantime, ‘All for a Song’ can be accessed at iTunes or from Mr. Closs’s own website at kevinclossmusic.com.