The Record – A Review

Old friends sing, laugh…do a great Lunch

By Robert Reid (Guelph)

Ian Thomas brought his considerable comic talents to the River Run Lunch.

Marc Jordan held his own singing, playing and trading jokes.

Cindy Church’s voice was a big plus for the three male singers.

Murray McLauchlan’s No Change in Me paid tribute to the late Denny Doherty.

Lunch at Allen’s began as a one-off project a couple of years ago.

But it has proven so popular that Murray McLauchlan, Ian Thomas, Marc Jordan and Cindy Church are embarking on their fourth national tour, which was launched Saturday night at the River Run Centre.

The concert also marked the release of the second Lunch at Allen’s CD, titled Catch the Moon.

“On our last tour people began asking whether we would be doing anything different, so we thought we better put together some new material,” McLauchlan told the capacity crowd.

More musical revue than song circle, Lunch at Allen’s consists of each singer-songwriter taking turns introducing and singing songs they have penned.

Instead of performing individually while others wait for their turn, they accompany one another and sing exquisite background harmonies, creating a group-like effect.

McLauchlan plays harmonica and piano in addition to guitar, Thomas and Jordan play guitar and piano, with Thomas occasionally kicking in on mandolin. Church plays guitar on her own songs, but her heavenly voice enhances the efforts of her male companions.

The revue brims with the kind of humour men engage in over beers after bowling or a pick-up hockey game, which is to say penile one-upmanship. But the foolishness — much of which is very funny — is put to rest when it comes to the songs.

These four veteran songwriters have forgotten more about the craft than most songwriters ever learn.

Whether playing international hits recorded by the likes of Rod Stewart or America, hits on Canadian radio, fan favourites or new songs written specifically for Lunch at Allen’s, the songwriting bar is raised very high.

There was nary a weak song in the 21 performed, including many from the new CD (Walkin, What Kind of Love, Looks Like Love, Runnin on Faith and Grateful).

It’s impossible to pick highlights, but a new version of McLauchlan’s Farmer Song (a duet with Church) and No Change in Me (dedicated to the late Denny Doherty), Jordan’s Little Lambs (about victims of abuse in Catholic orphanages in Quebec), Church’s solo offering of Night Like This and Thomas’ Life Goes On were exceptional.

Jordan and McLauchlan are quick-witted, but Thomas has the gifts of a professional comic and mimic.

“Never mind same sex marriage,” he quipped. “We have to do something about no-sex marriage.”

After revealing that he has another grandchild since Lunch at Allen’s last performed at the River Run Centre in 2004, he added: “Kids these days. No sooner do they get married then they start having sex.”

Meanwhile, the elegant Church sat demurely, giving the boys lots of room to be boys.

It’s obvious McLauchlan, Thomas, Jordan and Church are good friends.

But what makes the evening so special is the deep respect they have for the art of songwriting. They work hard to make each other sound as good as they possibly can — all in service of the song.

Lunch at Allen’s is wholesome food that satisfies the musical soul in all of us.

  1. Tim Sim

    Just got home from Festival of Friends in Ancaster. You guys are incredible!
    Marc, my wife and I have followed you every step of the way since Ryerson Pub/Playhouse back in 1976. Please don’t ever refer to yourself as just a song writer. You are certainly that but you are also Canada’s best kept vocalist/musician secret. Thank you for many years of joy. See you in Fenlon Falls….