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Deep Cuts: Homesick Harmonies

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Steel Rail Blues

Artist: Gordon Lightfoot

Album: Lightfoot!

Released: January 1966

Gordon Lightfoot is Canada’s preeminent folk musician, and he demonstrates it on this song from his first album, crafting a melodious chord progression that hums along like a relaxing first-class train ride while the lyrics carry the weight of freight cargo. The first four verses set the listener up for a happy ending where the lonesome, beaten-up rambler gets to reunite with his girl back home who has, “Sent me a railroad ticket too/ To take me to her lovin’ arms.” But then—since it is a blues song—we find out that he gambled his ticket away and won’t be coming home on that big steel rail after all.

On The Road

Artist: Max Webster

Album: High Class in Borrowed Shoes

Released: March 1, 1977

The acoustic “On the Road” is a rare departure from the hard rock that dominates Max Webster’s catalogue, but a welcome one. Kim Mitchell’s lush guitar strumming whisks us along as he reflects on the touring lifestyle. Straightforward observations like “On the road/ The heart is slow/ The mind is not clocked/ The feet are sore,” account for most of the lyrics. However, Mitchell saves his most insightful commentary for the chorus, acknowledging that the road offers freedom, but: “Freedom some say is when you get back home.”

Where U Goin

Artist: Arkells

Album: Michigan Left

Released: October 18, 2011

Everybody studying at an out-of-town school gets hit by a bit of homesickness at some point, even if they don’t care to admit it. There’s no hiding from it on this track, which culminates in a dorm-room conversation—taking place at McMaster University, where the Arkells formed—that shows us how those insecurities can easily bubble to the surface when we try to hide them: “And you know in your bones/ This may never feel like home/ Tonight (tonight, tonight).”

Carry Me Home

Artist: Hey Rosetta!

Album: Hey Rosetta!

Released: November 19, 2012

Nothing breeds homesickness quite like staying in a cheap hotel with stinky pillows on Christmas Eve, which is exactly what Tim Baker opens this track by singing about. Once the bells kick in after the first verse, the juxtaposition between the cheerful music and depressing lyrics is about as glaring as it gets. It’s cliché to talk about not taking things like home and family for granted, but this song reinforces why we should keep doing it anyways.

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