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Sarah McLachlan latest Canadian to make her mark

September 26, 1994
The Denver Post, F8
By Michael Bialas

Sarah McLachlan is the latest female singer/songwriter to emerge from Canada, a country previously known more for hockey, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian bacon than talented songbirds. Other than Joni Mitchell, the natives have had little to brag about - who remembers Anne Murray or Giselle Mackenzie?

McLachlan, who will perform before a sellout crowd tonight at the Boulder Theatre, joins a Canadian club suddenly reeling in the accolades - k.d. lang, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies and folkie Loreena McKennitt are just a few of the recent exports. Pretty good company, eh?

Although her captivating cover of Mitchell's "Blue" could be considered a tribute, McLachlan said she's often "frustrated" when she's compared to her fellow countrywomen.

Born Jan. 28, 1968, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and given a strong dose of classical music training that included 12 years of guitar, six years of piano and five years of voice, she grew up listening to Joan Baez, Simon and Garfunkel and Cat Stevens. Her inspirations today are Peter Gabriel and Talk Talk, but she wonders why she's linked more often to Mitchell, not to mention Sinead O'Connor, Kate Bush and Tori Amos.

"Tori Amos? I forgot about her," McLachlan recalled with a laugh recently from her home in Vancouver, British Columbia, during a break in her summer tour. "Yeah, I get a lot of that, and she probably does too. I haven't met her to talk about it, though.

"I'm kind of a 'social moron.' I'm not sure what I would say to her if I did meet her."

Don't believe it. McLachlan comes across as a delicate flower in a patch of weeds and dandelions that is the music business, but she is holding her own. Her third album, "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy," turned gold a few weeks ago and the second single off the album, "Good Enough," is climbing up the alternative charts.

For the summer tour that included a stop at Winter Park's American/Jazz Music Festival in July, she added two new members to the band - lead guitarist David Sinclair and backup singer Camille Henderson, whose vocals help capture the harmonizing McLachlan does on her albums. Winding up her summer tour this week, she will soon take her seven-piece road show to Europe and Australia.

McLachlan has a luscious, seductive voice that New York magazine once described as having "enough of a rock bite to turn what could be annoyingly spacey lyrics into sexy, confessional pop ballads."

Her songs on "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" range from dark - "Hold On," inspired by the AIDS documentary "A Promise Kept" - to light - "Ice Cream" contains the hook "Your love is better than ice cream/better than anything else that I've tried." But McLachlan appears to be on an even keel, possessing a self-effacing attitude and never taking herself too seriously. Hence, the "social moron" remark.

McLachlan seems to be anything but that, sharing humorous personal anecdotes and a lot of shy smiles with the audience between songs, and often spending time with her fans afterward. She likes making in-house appearances at record stores and plans to perform acoustically at Denver's Compact Discovery today at noon. Afterward, she will sign autographs and give away an autographed acoustic guitar.

Still, she's not completely comfortable with her "celebrity" status.

"It sometimes frightens me more than anything else," McLachlan said of the potential for fandemonium. "When you're out at a mall trying to buy underwear, and you're being hounded. It's bizarre why people care so much.

"I'm just like the guy next door. :) They ought to look up to doctors and teachers. They're the amazing people."


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