Sunday, 7 November 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee with kd lang

Hi.  I’m so pleased to see that you’re visiting for today’s music show in which the talents of Canadian singer / songwriter kd lang are showcased.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with our 45 mins of music.



Get yourself a coffee, find a comfy seat, sit back and relax and that’s my cue to start the music.  While you’re getting yourself ready I’ll blether away.

I was aware of kd lang for a few years but I had never looked out for music nor heard her until the end 2008’s X Factor when Alexandra Burke’s first single was Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.  There was debate about whose version, of the many, was the best – Tim Buckley’s rated highly - and I looked on YouTube, heard a few versions but was blown away by kd.  Since then I have listened on and off to her, have put two songs into my “Music in the Morning” series and now she gets the full works.

You’re ready now then let’s go.



David Boles gives us information on the first song.

Twenty years ago Roy Orbison and k.d. lang — making her first, big, mainstream media  appearance at the tender age of 25 — appeared on the Tonight Show together to sing a live duet of Roy’s classic song, Crying. [This must have been 1986 or ‘87 – probably ‘87]

Here’s an amazing video of their performance together and there are so many fascinating things going on in their duet that I wanted to share them with you after you view the video.

Crying                                             Roy Orbison with kd lang

That’s six or seven times I’ve heard this particular version and I still get goosebumps: a masterpiece sung brilliantly by two brilliant voices.

Boles continued:

The first thing you notice is what appears to be an obvious disconnect between Roy and k.d. — she’s connected with him and he’s standing there cold and staring. That performance style is how Roy related to the world. He isn’t ignoring her, as some claim, and he isn’t hating on her as others still claim.

He’s concentrating on his performance. k.d., on the other hand, is quite jittery and nervous. She’s searching around for approval and since Roy doesn’t give her any she seeks it out in the response of the band members. A few of them smile at her and nod while playing and k.d. glows in their positive affirmation of her.

The reason k.d. is so fixated on Roy is because she’s watching him for clues on when it’s her turn to sing or not. Crying is a Roy Orbison Song — k.d. understands that — and to make sure she doesn’t sing when he’s supposed to sing, she needs to watch his mouth, neck and throat for clues that he’s about to sing. She’s being careful and cautious and respectful even when she timidly adds some beautiful vocal harmony.

The fact that Roy gives k.d. the “Big Finish” — you can see it with 1:27 left in the video — proves that Roy respects k.d. to gift her the glorious peak of the song, and k.d. recognizes that offer of freedom and she closes her eyes, no longer worried about butting in at the wrong time, and wails it out.”



Next up is a Jane Siberry classic.

The Valley 

kd’s voice is perfect, pitch perfect as always, and she sings with such emotion. For me there is no such thing as a kd song being in the background: if it’s playing it’s right in there touching me.


kd, Kathryn Dawn, was born in Alberta in 1961 and we Scots can claim a tiny fraction of her: she has English, Irish, Scottish, German, Russian Jewish, Icelandic and Sioux ancestry.  Clearly her vocal chords are Scottish! :)



kd moves towards country with the third song, a Bruce Cockburn composition.

One Day I Walk

Brilliant. I have such a limited range of adjectives.


As a child kd learned classical piano but as a teenager she became entranced by the music of Patsy Cline and she formed a tribute band to Patsy – The Reclines – with whom she recorded her first album.



According to Wikipedia  this next song, Miss Chatelaine, refers to kd’s becoming Woman of the Year in the Canadian lifestyle magazine, Chatelaine. You don’t need this information to enjoy the song.

Miss Chatelaine

Why kd was awarded Woman of the Year ranking is irrelevant: the song and the performance are brilliant.


As with many performers, kd’s success was far from instant: she paid her dues.  She had been a backing vocalist for Roy Orbison before he chose her to sing a duet of “Crying”  - the first video in this show.



We reach the halfway point with another kd song which is from the 1999 film “Anywhere but Here” which just happens to be the song’s title.

Anywhere but Here

This is the only song I feel is dated but, despite this, I love its “pop-py” feel.


Time for a short break, stretch your legs, pee, more coffee and relax once more.  I’m just off to make myself another coffee  - must be almost caffeined into hyperness.

That’s me ready.  If you’re ready too I’ll restart.



The next song is from a 1996 tribute show to American music and kd’s contribution is a tribute to Peggy Lee.

Black Coffee  with Grover Washington Jr

kd has an enormously wide range of genres within which she is absolutely comfortable and she pulls off this rendition with stunning ease.


Wikipedia has much more about kd but not much more that I deem as particularly interesting but one part-paragraph says:

“Lang has won both Juno Awards and Grammy Awards for her musical performances; hits include "Constant Craving" and "Miss Chatelaine". She has contributed songs to movie soundtracks and has teamed with musicians such as Roy Orbison, Tony Bennett, Elton John and Anne Murray.”

The paragraph continues:

“Lang is also known for being a vegetarian ………..  She performed Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" live at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.”

Since when did being a vegetarian, albeit a fairly prominent one, merit mention?



Wikipedia describes the background to the next video thus:

 "Bird on the Wire" is one of Leonard Cohen's signature songs.  …….

In the 1960s, Cohen lived on the Greek island Hydra with his girlfriend Marianne (the woman depicted on Songs from a Room's back cover). She has related how she helped him out of a depression by handing him his guitar, whereupon he began composing "Bird on the Wire" – inspired by a bird sitting on one of Hydra's recently installed phone wires, followed by memories of wet island nights. He finished it in a Hollywood motel.”


Every so often I’m aware of kd hitting a note and I remember that she hits every note in the same way: slap bang in the middle of it.  Fabulous!


I’ve decided that I’m not going to scour kd’s biographies any more.  Her music, her singing and her performing are why she is a star and so let’s go straight onto our next song.



Eighth up is another Jane Siberry song the magical

Love is Everything

One commenter captures this song succinctly,

“Heartbreaking, painful and sad but strangely joyous.”



Just over 9 minutes of music left but what 9 minutes they are.  Our second last song is a Joni Mitchell classic.

A Case of You

I can touch this song!  Thanks Joni and kd.

I can almost touch her voice.



A duet with one of the all-time greats brings us to the end but listen on and enjoy every second.  You may well want to listen to this song again.

Because of You                                        with Tony Bennett

This recording is from 2006 when Bennett was about to turn 80 or had just done so.  Remarkable!

Also I have just re-listened to Tony and kd.  Did you?

There are 5 unbelievable seconds – 3m14s to 3m 19s – when kd and Tony‘s voices merge into heaven.

I can think of no better way to finish this show.


What, for me, runs through kd’s singing is the purity of her voice and the intensity of the emotions she finds within them and herself.  I loved putting this show together: I hope you enjoyed yourself.

That’s November’s first show over and in a few more weeks this show will be celebrating its first birthday (mid-December).  I must remember not to falter now.


  1. Fantastic show for this Sunday! After listening to kd sing "The Valley" about 8 times in a row, I sent the youtube address for it to my pastor to also hear on this day of worship.

    She'll love it also.


  2. Lovely, lovely voice. And much emotion. I can't even claim her as a Canadian. She belongs everywhere, to everyone.

  3. We Scots can claim a tiny fraction of her: she has English, Irish, Scottish, German, Russian Jewish, Icelandic and Sioux ancestry.

    That's just beautiful, Calum.

  4. James,

    That was my "It's Scotland's oil" moment.

  5. Joe and Claude,

    Why am I not surprised that you like her music? :)

    I wonder what next week will bring. For once I know. In fact, I know the next 8 weeks' artists but music not chosen yet.

    Where did this level of organisation come from?

  6. It's because you like doing the show Calum. We're lucky. Cheers!