D.M. Lafortune Shares The Tale Of Mr. Businessman’s Blues

The singer-songwriter delivers a punchy preview of her Beauty & Hard Times reissue.

D.M. Lafortune blasts the fat cats in her hard-hitting single Mr. Businessman’s Blues — showcasing today on Tinnitist.

There are plenty of reasons for an artist to want to revisit their work, and many of them go beyond simple OCD. As she marks the 25th-anniversary rerelease of an album she’s issued twice already, under two different titles, Indigenous Toronto blues-folkster Diem (D.M.) Lafortune has more of those reasons than most — some good, some bad, but all of them as bracingly honest as her eternally vital music.

The forthcoming remastered edition of Lafortune’s Beauty and Hard Times represents a new lease on life for a record that was hailed in 2013 as a musical masterpiece. And that was when the album was already on its second go-’round, having originally been issued with a different mix as in from the cold all the way back in 1996.

That first version had earned Lafortune a Harry Hibbs Award for Perseverance in Music and Songwriting from the Maple Blues Society. But she herself was never fully happy with the record. Put some of that down to the constant striving for perfection that’s part and parcel of the creative spirit. The rest, she freely admits, was caused by lingering trauma from a seriously dysfunctional childhood. Lafortune was raised in a household that was not just adoptive, but horrifically so: As an infant, she had been taken from her Aboriginal single mother and given to a white family, by what she now snarkily refers to as “the Catholic Children’s Abduction Society.” Her birth mother was told she had died, and her new parents didn’t hide their disappointment at the quirky, damaged child they had gotten in the bargain.

The long and painful journey to self-acceptance took Lafortune down many roads, some of which tended looked like blind alleys. Call her a wanderer, or a polymath, or a Renaissance woman, but she’s worn a lot of hats in her day: From musician to attorney, from social-justice advocate to photographer to theatre artist. Along the way, she’s experienced several serious psychological crises — and emerged with an enhanced understanding of the human heart that makes her art and activism so fiercely passionate.

Especially in its 2024 form, Beauty and Hard Times plays like aa debt repaid for the companionship she’s always found in and from music. Being taken in by some of the stalwarts of Canada’s jazz and folk scene while in her early teens gave her some semblance of stability; even before that, she delighted in the Acadian melodies her adoptive father played and danced to in their home (on the precious occasions when he wasn’t away for work). His death in 1982 lit the spark of Mr. Businessman’s Blues, the re-redone album’s advance track and a Dylanesque broadside that’s all the more biting when you’re in on her background as an exotic hostage in a white-bread world:

“Tell me Mr. Businessman, how does your money grow?
How much sweat is on your brow? How weary are your bones?
How much toil to dig this Earth, to slash, enslave, control?
When you’ve used up our great resource, do you plan to work your gold?”

No doleful lament, the song has an electric snap that’s particularly palpable in its latest version. Leading the inquisition on vocals and guitar, Lafortune gets nimble support from her backup crew of Denis Keldie (accordion and keys), Rick Lazar (percussion), Bryant Didier (bass), Rob Greenaway (drums) and Neil Chapman (guitar, and Lafortune’s collaborator for 50 years now).

“It took me 25 years before I started my first record and another 25 years to get it right,” Lafortune says, sounding content at last. “I am releasing the 25th-anniversary edition of that fabulous CD now. I feel good about it. And it means I can now move on to my next one. I probably have four more almost ready to go.”

Hear Mr. Businessman’s Blues above and below, and find D.M. Lafortune on her website, Facebook and Twitter.