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  • Writer's pictureJohn McLachlan

50 Years Since Sit Down Young Stranger

This album was recorded over a few days in November, 2020 with my fellow band members, Marc Atkinson and Scott White, at Marc’s studio on Hornby Island, BC. These two fine musicians are a real treat to work with because they each bring their years of experience to the arrangements, and do it with enthusiasm and flair.

We chose to record it with just the three of us - no overdubs, no additional instruments. It’s as if we’re just playing in a living room or a small club. The edges haven’t been all rubbed off through a lot of production. When I first heard Lightfoot perform live, at about the time this album came out, he worked with a simple trio with similar instrumentation; I’ve always loved that combination.

There are many directions we could take the songs musically, but we chose a slightly acoustic, country style for many of them. The original album has a very polished sound to it, including many songs featuring strings and other additional instruments. Of course, Lightfoot’s beautiful baritone voice makes it so smooth and rich.

Why Sit Down Young Stranger?

After getting hooked on Gordon Lightfoot’s music after my student teacher in grade 4 played “The Canadian Railroad Trilogy” from his 1969 album, Sunday Concert, little did I know I would embark on a lifelong relationship with Lightfoot’s music.

It was a rainy Vancouver afternoon in December, 1970 when my dad got home from work, and handed me a paper bag with an LP in it. It was Sit Down Young Stranger, Lightfoot’s first release of the ’70s that would be the beginning of a long stretch of new albums that would consume my attention for the rest of my youth (and beyond).

As would be the case with all the 1970s’ albums, I listened to it over and over until I knew every word. My ten-year-old hands perfected the art of dropping a needle on any cut.

Because of the song “If You Could Read My Mind” becoming a hit, the record company convinced Lightfoot to change the title of the album to that song’s title (better marketing, better sales?), but I have to admit, I still think of this album by its original title, Sit Down Young Stranger.

The “50 Years Since...” Project

This recording is the first of several meant to celebrate a number of Lightfoot’s key albums in the early part of the 1970s when his fame took off, and when I cemented my love for his music. The project is a labour of love, and very personal, but I hope others may enjoy our take on such classic, well-written songs.


Marc Atkinson – Lead Acoustic 6-String Guitar

John McLachlan – Vocals, Rhythm Acoustic 6-String Guitar, Harmonica

Scott White – Acoustic Bass


Marc Atkinson – Producer, Engineer, Mixing, Mastering

John McLachlan – Executive Producer

Recorded November 9–12, 2020 at The Barn Studio on Hornby Island


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