ROOTS AND RAIN is the fourth and strongest work to date from Toronto singer-songwriter Howard Gladstone. As with his earlier three, Sunflowers Light the Room, Candles on the River and The Breath in the Wind, the musical territory is wide, with nature, love, justice and healing as the central themes. A would-be optimist at heart, he is an insightful and prolific writer who delivers revealing songs of passion, humour and, as Virginia McIsaac from Rambles.net wrote, topical songs with "...lyrics (that) bite into the social conscience of humanity and touch us right in the heart..."
Rooted firmly on the ground but with spirit close at hand, Gladstone’s writing is all about survival and growth, even in the midst of a cruel world where humankind is "at the mercy of the wind". The mellow feel of many of the songs can lull you into a blissful paradise only to awaken to the harsh reality of justice gone awry as in “Tammy (The Wheels of Justice)”, which recounts the tragic, wrongful conviction of Tammy Marquardt, an innocent mother charged with the murder of her son.
Roots and Rain was co-produced by Gladstone and Juno award-winning producer Tony Quarrington, who also adds his guitar and mandolin magic to the album. Mastered by George Graves (U2, Loreena McKennitt, Peter Gabriel), it was recorded at the Gladstone Home Studio and with expert technical and production support from John Switzer and Kevin Zarnett (who also plays bass), each song carries with it a distinct flavour. Some take you to exotic places, as in the sweet strains of “Khajaraho” (where violin and sitar set the mood) and “Kauai Nights”. Some depict blind love and all its complications as in “Sweet Lies” while others bring out a little light humour and quirky fun, such as the accordion-rich "Roamin' Hands". Robin Pirson adds drums, Marci Gladstone Jameson brings background vocals and other colourful musical touches are provided by Shelley Coopersmith (violin), Chris Robinson (sax, clarinet), and Denis Keldie (accordion).
The beautiful and touching "Loon on the Lake" is definitely one of those musical jewels, the kind about which Greg Quill of the Toronto Star commented "...If you heard this music in a crowded room, you'd suspect it was a lost gem from another time." Reflecting on the Canadian landscape, Gladstone echoes the elemental and survival theme again in the lyrics "Summer’s short, life’s not long, to stay alive in this land, you have to find your song, like a loon on the lake." Virginia McIsaac said it best: "When he delivers lyrics, it's as if you are hearing him sculpt a song. Just like ice carvers at a winter festival, Gladstone shapes ordinary words into beautiful visions…songs of strength and courage."