A Different Kind of Art

 TIME SPENT WITH LEWIS LAKE

BY. HUNTER BARNDEN

 

Lewis Lake was a Canadian folk musician, who was born and raised in Parry Sound Ontario (1954-1996). If it weren’t for recent findings of an old notebook and a recording titled “Time Spent”, 2 min and 32 seconds, Lewis Lake would have never been recognized today as a notable Canadian folk musician.

Although there have been countless Canadian musicians who have boarded trains through the 60’s and 70’s, travelling with nothing but a guitar on his back, Lewis Lake remains a distinct star amongst others in search for freedom and love. In the found recording “Time Spent”, uncovered from a basement in a townhouse outside of Perth Ontario, Lewis Lake describes the outcome of a hard life growing up with a drunken mom and a hopeless father under the constraints of a 4/4 time signature. Immediately, there is a likeness to Bob Dylan that is spotted in the rustic, dry and flat delivery of Lakes voice, as well as in the style of finger picking on guitar. There is an indefinably strong sense of wilderness in the style of content reviewed, Lewis Lake sings about hopping trains to cross Canada where he losses a close friend during one endeavor. The choices of words are synced nicely with the tempo and natural rhythm of the progression, which permit a clear and distinct presentation.  The recording quality is not very good, and could suggest the authenticity of this finding, presumably that of being recorded somewhere while Lake was on tour. 

What makes this a timeless signature is that Lake tells a story in his music depicting historical events expressed in free form verse. Distinctions about women and relationships are obvious, and in Lakes composition, he seems to be talking about all the women who have left him and not cared for him, most specifically his own mother.  He makes one reference to an incident that may contribute to the depression that his father suffers from, and this relation can be made in the second verse, which also suggests the time of when this song was written. In the lyrics “wars break, fires loose, like them lightning blues…” a relation can be made which describes the cancellation of the Avro Arrow project initiated by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1959. Lakes father was laid-off as an aerospace engineer, making sense of the rest of the verse “the old mans gone now fishing again, living life like he doesn’t owe anything”, further developing the feeling of being robbed, that Lake is able to translate throughout the composition. 

In a journal that was found years after the recording, along with news paper clippings and photographs left in a shoebox, Lake turns out to have had a Daughter named Suzan Elaine Ackerby, who was unaware of her father until after the box was recovered from a fatal trailer fire which belonged to her mother. In the box remained notes of Lake on tour and clippings, which portrayed a man that had long dark hair and a guitar on his back, presumably Lewis Lake form other descriptions in the journal. Lake wrote a couple of entries where he talks about being on the road meeting Neil Young and Bob Dylan. There are also numerous entries with full songs and poems that have never been recorded or produced, which emphasize the anonymity of Lewis Lake as a folk artist. Also in the journal, Lake describes many situations where his mother used to come home very drunk, and his father would not tolerate her behavior, so he would occupy himself at work, which left Lake to be neglected and un-cared for by both parents since a young age. 

The chorus sums up the message in Lakes song, being a story of a daring boy where all his loved ones leave him with out notice or opportunity. Throughout the song, Lake describes the experience of travelling to Parry Sound, Texas, New Orleans and eastern Canada playing music while reminiscing over loved ones. Throughout the poem, lyrically, there are many situations that have been designed to create a flow that connects words to each other to create not only multi-valent interpretations, but also simple soothing sounds. It is not clear whom Lake is referring to in this song when he sings the chorus, but it is suggested that it is his father, for not helping Lake pay his rent. The Lyrics “left right looking for a notice on the door, my darlin’s keep running out on me” could refer to the many girls who keep running out on him after one night stands or intimate encounters which Lake wishes were more meaningful. 

The verse that talks about roses and wild horses is an addition to the song that takes the place of the chorus when considering the traditional balance of an ABB format. This new format introduces the value C when observing rhythm. The chorus represents A, the verse is B and when looking at this song, the pattern looks like this: ABB, ABBCA. This observation describes a unique and unconventional method to songwriting as apposed to a more traditional style of ABA, AABA and/or ABC, which makes Lake the founder of this style, further developing the history of music. The outcome introduces a poetic confession, that being the love for his mother, before rounding off to a finish with the chorus which allows for a balanced and resolved feeling when the song is over.  

 

 

 

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