James Gordon Feels As Lonesome As Hank Williams Tonight

The Canadian folksinger and songwriter has no one to turn to in his new single.

James Gordon walks a dark mile in a country icon’s shoes in his new single and live video Lonesome As Hank Williams Tonight — showcasing today on Tinnitist.

“I’m not prone to loneliness,” the Canadian folksinger and songwriter claims — hough given the deep, convincing wistfulness of his new single (along with some of the other tracks on his new live album Wrinkles And Scars), it’s almost hard to believe him.

Then again, Gordon has kept himself so extraordinarily busy working on so many wide-ranging endeavours for so many years, it’s possible that he simply hasn’t had the time to feel lonely. But he got the opportunity one night in 2022, when he attended his last meeting of the Guelph City Council, of which he’d been a member for eight years. He was happy to have gotten one of his initiatives passed — a satisfying coda for his political career — and was ready to celebrate. The problem was that he was alone in a shabby motel room on Vancouver Island (he was on tour; the meeting was conducted over Zoom) and there was no one there to help him mark the occasion. He looked out the window at the wildfire haze then pervading the island, and thought of his favourite “lonely” song, Hank Williams’ all-time classic I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.

One of two songs from the album directly inspired by that year’s wildfires — the other being Wild Wind Blows Lonesome As Hank Williams Tonight quotes from the Hank song, but makes it clear that the two men are lonely in different ways. Where Williams’ loneliness was existential, for Gordon — whose songs over the past four decades have tended to be upbeat — it’s more temporal. It will pass. That doesn’t make him feel any less lonesome in the moment, though. Tonight, he’s lonesome:

“It’s knowing that you’re just not there
The ominous smoke that fills the air
The uncertainty that’s everywhere
Tonight it’s just too hard to bear
No midnight train to lowly whine
No robins weeping, no moon that’s cryin’
No endless night, and no leaves dyin’
But I’m as lonesome as Hank Williams tonight
As lonesome as Hank Williams tonight
I’m so lonesome I could cry.”

As the title suggests, Wrinkles And Scars has Gordon taking a look back to assess how his jam-packed life has shaped his years. As a founding member of folk trio Tamarack, with whom he performed from 1978 to 2000, and subsequently as a solo artist, he’s made dozens of albums. He’s composed for symphony orchestras, the musical theatre and dance troupes, written film scores, and served as a songwriter-in-residence. As a record producer, he’s credited on CDs by numerous Canadian folk artists, and his mentorship programs have spurred the careers of countless youth and adult songwriters alike. That’s not to mention his accomplishments as a published author, playwright, theatrical director, podcast host and his stint in politics. He’s earned every wrinkle and scar.

Recorded at Guelph’s River Run Centre in January 2024, the album finds Gordon backed by his Exceptional Ensemble of Ian Bell, Randall Coryell, Anne Lindsay, Katherine Wheatley and David Woodhead. The 14 songs run the gamut from personal musings on aging and loneliness to some of the more politically charged material for which Gordon is known — including musical protestations against climate change, religious fundamentalism, and the Rwandan genocide.

“I try to stay optimistic despite our current challenges,” he says. “As an activist, I want to hold onto hope, otherwise there’s no point investing energy into ‘the cause.’ That often feels pretty unrealistic in my moments of despair.” Gordon’s moments of despair, though, amount to blessings for the rest of us.

Watch the video for Lonesome As Hank Williams Tonight above, hear more from James Gordon below, and find him at his website and Twitter.


Photo by Trina Koster.