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"I learned how to play guitar by playing his tunes" - Jack Semple to pay tribute to Gordon Lightfoot in PA

Updated: Mar 2

by Scott Roos

This Friday, March 1st, at the EA Rawlinson Centre for the Arts in Prince Albert, renowned guitarist Jack Semple will present his “Jack Semple Plays Gordon Lightfoot” concert. The show will feature two sets of Lightfoot’s music with Semple on vocals and guitar accompanied by Ian Cameron on the pedal steel, Brent Jefferson on drums, and Danny Jones on bass. Singer Heidi Munro will also join the group on a few songs. Collectively, it will be an evening of all the hits from the legendary Lightfoot's songbook you’d expect to hear in a concert of this ilk like “If You Could Read My Mind”,  “Sundown”, and “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” plus, no doubt, a few deep cuts too. 

To some,  this more folksy, predominantly acoustic show might seem like a head scratching left hand turn for Semple, who has spent a lifetime cutting his teeth within the blues genre and becoming critically acclaimed as a direct result. In fact,  dare it be said, but to many who reside within the province of Saskatchewan, for his exploits, Semple might actually be a household name. Digging a little deeper, though, Semple would tell you that the music of Lightfoot is the reason he picked up a guitar in the first place. 

“The first concert that I ever saw was a Gordon Lightfoot concert. I was ten years old at the time,” recounts Semple, “That's what got me playing music was the first concert I ever saw, first live musicians I ever saw. My brother Jim took me to the concert and I just became enthralled with his music.” 

Brother Jim would take the younger Semple to see Lightfoot perform on two more occasions and, suffice to say, it only deepened the respect and admiration. Semple went home and got to work learning the craft of the guitar and digging deeply into Lightfoot’s lyrics. 

 “I learned how to play guitar by playing his tunes…. Music is a large part of my awareness and even at a young age I could tell (Lightfoot's music) was special…. I would go through his lyrics and reading his lyrics was like reading Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell. It's deep. There's imagery there and so much emotion, ups and downs of life and then the guitar picking that goes along with it, ” Semple tells NSMZ.

Semple’s lifelong fandom of all things Lightfoot even led him to record an instrumental album of Lightfoot tunes in 2006. This eventually led to a meetup and then phone call between the two artists.

“I met him at the casino in Regina (in 2006) and I gave him a copy of the (tribute) CD for his approval. He was very gracious and very nice and a couple weeks later he called me up and gave me the thumbs up and went through the CD with me. I was just thrilled that he enjoyed it and gave me the thumbs up which was fantastic,” Semple recalls.

The concert will start at 7:30 pm. Semple is a first rate, highly acclaimed musician and his band no doubt will be up to the task. Tickets are still available for this show and can be found HERE.

photo by Trevor Owen

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