Mr. Lightfoot's music extends the traditional folk format of Pete Seeger by discreetly seasoning it with a touch of Bob Dylan's grit. Although his songs occasionally touch on current events, they are never what one would call broadsides. While other songs, most notably, If You Could Read My Mind, link Mr. Lightfoot to the confessional songwriting movement of the 1970's, an underlying reticence prevents his work from ever seeming nakedly autobiographical. The cumulative picture presented by his body of work is of a lonely, hard-bitten troubadour who is always moving on.
That was certainly the image Mr. Lightfoot presented at Carnegie Hall, where he appeared with a four-member band. The material ran all the way from terse, early songs like For Loving Me and Early Morning Rain to recent compositions like Wild Strawberries, which presents two contrasting views of the world, one idealistic, the other cynical, and which Mr. Lightfoot performed in two distict voices, an octave apart.
In between, there were hits like the battle scarred love song, If You Could Read My Mind, well told yarns like The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald and the historical Canadian Railroad Trilogy.
Mr. Lightfoot is no longer the suave folk crooner he used to be. A cragginess and a terse astringency of timbre have crept into singing that is carefully understated. But these middle-aged seams add emotional depth to a voice that at one point sounded almost too smooth to be recounting such rugged adventures.