Once Upon a Time in Montréal Murray A. Lightburn
Label: Dangerbird Records
Subgenre: New Acoustic
Artist: Murray A. Lightburn
Album including Album cover
- 1Dumpster Gold04:42
- 2No New Deaths Today03:48
- 3In the Kingdom of Heaven03:00
- 4The Only One I Want to Hear03:12
- 5Oh but My Heart Has Never Been Dark04:05
- 6Reaching out for Love03:03
- 7Once Upon a Time in Montréal03:41
- 8Girl You've Got to Let Me Go05:05
Info for Once Upon a Time in Montréal
Murray A. Lightburn, the longtime frontman of Montreal’s acclaimed The Dears, will release his deeply personal new album ‘Once Upon A Time In Montreal’.
Lightburn lightheartedly jokes that ‘Once Upon A Time In Montreal’ is an audio version of a biopic, inspired by the passing of his father – a jazz musician from Belize who moved to Montreal via New York to reconnect with his teenage sweetheart.
Discussing the new single and album title-track, Murray says: “After getting an education in Jamaica and England, my mom got a job in Montreal as a nurse. My father was living in New York. They had dated back in Belize and reconnected years later in New York. My father didn’t really want to leave for Montreal, but he did. And it was hard for him: the harsh winters, the language barrier, the colour of his skin. He was a skilled musician but that was barely going to keep the lights on — never mind feed a growing family. His lack of formal education, and his lack of French, limited his opportunities. Nevertheless, he just wanted to be with her. So he figured out a way, and that’s what his life was mostly about, I think — what I’ve deduced. Maybe there’s way more to it and that’s the romantic version, but it’s a version at least I can understand. Nothing else computes. My parents stayed married for 56 years.”
Despite growing up with the man, Lightburn—the youngest brother of three—says his father “was almost a complete stranger to me. I could almost count the conversations we had, and none of them were very meaningful. I had to deduce that our happy moments were listening to Expos games together. I never knew how he felt about my career or the things I’d achieved—all of which I got from him.”
Lightburn’s father was a saxophonist who worshiped Coltrane. There’s no hard bop on ‘Once Upon A Time in Montreal‘, but it does feature an array of Montreal jazz players. Like this album’s predecessor, 2019’s ‘Hear Me Out’, Lightburn is in full crooner mode, distilling the passion and intensity of The Dears into gentle arrangements that feature an orchestral section, drawing on late-’60s, early-’70s folk/jazz/pop: Dionne Warwick, Nick Drake, Bill Withers, Serge Gainsbourg, Al Green, etc. While the influences might be obvious, the end result is singular and without peer.
After the patriarch passed, Murray’s 86-year-old mother started revealing tender details of their life together. “She painted a portrait of a man that I had never met in my life,” says the songwriter. “I then pieced the story together.” He didn’t yet know he was writing a narrative album. The first batch of songs were written as part of the grieving process—keeping busy, in the way that is most natural for a songwriter with an internationally acclaimed 25-year career. Some other projects intervened—including the original soundtrack for I Like Movies, which debuted to raves at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival and will arrive in theaters next month—before Lightburn doubled down and finished.
Once Upon A Time In Montreal was produced by Howard Bilerman (Leonard Cohen, The Weather Station, Godspeed You! Black Emperor), who Lightburn worked with on Hear Me Out. The album features Dears drummer Jeff Luciani along with a number of talented, local jazz players, including Frank Lozano, who delivers a soaring sax solo on the title track, which for Murray conjured the ghost of his father, who—after abandoning music when he became a born-again Christian—had picked up his sax again in the 2000s to play on two Dears songs. As soon as Lozano finished, “I knew it was a 400-foot home run,” says Lightburn. “I knew it was something that would hold. I knew also at that moment how much my dad would love this record. Even if he never told me, I know that it would be on repeat in his car if he was still with us and driving around. That was my motivation—to make something I know he would love. It’s not indie rock, you know?”
Jeff Luciani, drums
Rémi-Jean LeBlanc, bass
Steve Raegele, guitar
Paul Shrofel, piano
François Poulin, 1st violin
Mélanie Belair, 2nd violin
Elvira Misbakhova, viola
Sheila Hannigan, cello
Yannick Chênevert, double bass
Frank Lozano, saxophone, flute
Jaqueline Leclair, oboe
Chris Seligman, French horn
Evan Cranley, trombone
Ariel Engle, background vocals
Murray A. Lightburn
is a composer, musician, performer, and music producer. He is best known as the lead singer and principal songwriter of Montreal chamber rock band The Dears. Hear Me Out is Lightburn's first proper solo album, following 2013’s experimental concept record MASS:LIGHT.
“I definitely went back and forth about the concept being ‘Murray played everything on this record,’” Lightburn says. “But then I thought, ‘That's probably not what Nat King Cole would have done.”
If such an analogy is unexpected, well...so is Hear Me Out. It’s a lush, romantic strings-and-soul record, unabashedly inspired by ‘50s crooners, ‘60s girl groups, Muscle Shoals, and Motown. From the shimmering “Belleville Blues” to the gospel slow jam “I Give Up” to the Shindig!-worthy burner “To The Top,” Hear Me Out is made up of ten fragile, unforgettably gorgeous pop songs about family, adult relationships and what you might call non-toxic masculinity.
This album contains no booklet.