Walter Bushman took listeners back to the explosion of the folk music scene in the late 60s and early 70s with a lovingly curated collection of covers at the Reid Thompson Library. The local musician performed a tribute to Gordon Lightfoot at the Library on Thursday night. Lightfoot’s music lives on following his passing at the beginning of May. 

Librarian Kate Lucyshyn introduced Walter with a narrative on his background growing up near Watrous. Like most kids of the time, Bushman’s appreciation of music started through broadcasts on AM radio where artists like Ian and Sylvia, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and others were attracting attention. Bushman never thought he’d be able to do much more than listen to and appreciate music, but when his dad returned from an auction sale with a beat-up guitar, the younger Bushman seized the opportunity to replace a few strings and begin woodshedding with it.  

Bushman’s knowledge of Lightfoot’s song crafting and history is encyclopedic. He talked about the singer/songwriter’s start from Orillia, ON to his discovery of a burgeoning folk music scene in Toronto. He connected the dots of Lightfoot’s early years playing the circuit, to a stint as a country music show host in the UK, and his return to Canada and performances on CBC television. 

Bushman launched into a chronological performance of some of Lightfoot’s most recognized works, along with a few hidden gems. He opened with the pair of the oft-covered “Early Morning Rain” and the roguish tune, “For Loving Me.”  

“Song For a Winter’s Night,” ironically composed in the midst of a Cleveland summer followed, along with the haunting “Pussywillows, Cattails” and the unforgettable “If You Could Read My Mind,” which has seen a resurgence in airplay through recent covers.  

The crowd clapped and sang along to “Cotton Ginny,” a standard made popular by Anne Murray. Bushman followed up with the wistful “Don Quixote” which Lightfoot based on the windmill-tilting character from Cervantes’ novel.  

As Bushman’s tribute rounded the corner into the mid 70’s, arguably the height of Lightfoot’s popularity, he finished with a trio of the songwriter’s biggest hits. From the album “Sundown,” he played the title track, along with “Carefree Highway,” the name of which is borrowed from a long stretch of Arizona roadway. He wrapped up with the historical tribute, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” 

Bushman has been attached to numerous bands over the years. Now he plays at various area venues as a solo artist or in duets or small combos. His soft-spoken and cordial style is the perfect vehicle for the music of Lightfoot, an undeniable Canadian master.