Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

Canada's foremost folk troubadour of the past four decades pronounces himself "delighted" about the upcoming album release "Beautiful - A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot."

"I love this tribute," Lightfoot tells Billboard in a rare interview. "Some of the artists have outdone me on songs.

"There are so many great takes," he continues. "The performances are energetic -- and I appreciate it [being done]."

The 15-track album is a joint project between two Canadian independent labels, Ottawa-based, blues-styled NorthernBlues Music and Toronto's folk-based Borealis Recording Co. It will be released Oct. 7 in North America, distributed in Canada by Festival Distribution in Vancouver and in the U.S. by Big Daddy Distribution in Kenilworth, N.J.

Lightfoot, 64, has been quiet since being rushed to the hospital in August 2002 with an undisclosed stomach illness, just hours before he was to perform in his hometown of Orillia, Ontario. Refraining from commenting on his condition, Lightfoot says he is completing a new album, which will be issued independently in early 2004.

Lightfoot greatly influenced a generation of Canadian performers. Acts as diverse as Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Sarah McLachlan and Jane's Addiction have recorded his compositions.

Tragically Hip bassist Gord Sinclair marvels at Lightfoot's career vision. "He sets the standard for us Canadian musicians that have followed in his footsteps. He's a breed that doesn't exist anymore."

Overseeing the tribute during the past year were NorthernBlues Music owner Fred Litwin, Borealis co-owner Grit Laskin and his partner Bill Garrett, plus producer/guitarist Colin Linden. Despite Lightfoot's repertoire of more than 100 songs spread across some 19 albums, Linden says it was often difficult to match artists to songs. "Gordon casts such a big shadow," he explains. "It's hard for another singer/songwriter to do something that wouldn't pale in comparison."

Among the early Lightfoot songs represented are "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" (James Keelaghan), "The Way I Feel" (Cowboy Junkies), "For Lovin' Me" (Terry Tufts) and "Home From the Forest" (Murray McLauchlan). Particularly noteworthy are "Black Day in July" (the Tragically Hip) and "Go Go Round" (Blue Rodeo), as Lightfoot has rarely performed them through the years.

"I love what Lightfoot did in the early days," says Cockburn, who covers "Ribbon of Darkness," recorded by the artist in 1965; the same year a version by Robbins topped the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. "He was finger picking and doing the type of songs I hadn't heard other Canadians do. Plus he had a vibe that was complete in itself and not part of a scene."

As the popularity of folk music waned in the late '60s, Lightfoot signed with Reprise Records in 1970. During the course of the 14 albums he released on the label until 1998, he moved toward an adult contemporary style. He also scored hits with "If You Could Read My Mind" (covered on the tribute by Connie Kaldor), "Sundown" (covered by Jesse Winchester) and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

Other Reprise-era songs that are featured are "Summer Side of Life" (Blackie & the Rodeo Kings), "Song for a Winter's Night" (Quartette), "That Same Old Obsession" (Muldaur), "Bend in the Water" (Harry Manx)" and "Drifters" (Sexsmith). Additionally, there is one non-original, "Lightfoot," penned and performed by Borealis singer/songwriter Aengus Finnan.

Lightfoot marvels at how deftly the tribute covers his career.

"It took Blue Rodeo to breathe life into 'Go Go Round,' " he jokes. "It's also a wonderful performance of 'Canadian Railroad Trilogy,' [and] I like 'Bend in the Water,' too. Quartette is just wonderful; another that knocked me out was Bruce Cockburn. The Tragically Hip really went after 'Black Day in July' with a lot of gusto."

Excerpted from the Sept. 6, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.

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