Donna Durand’s first CD The Road Back is finally coming out this week — after some 30 years in the making.
The 51-year-old singer/songwriter from Red Deer admits it’s taken a long time to get back to making music since her life took an abrupt turn after her marriage ended and she became a single parent to a young son and daughter in the 1980s.
Durand, who is holding a CD release party Sunday, June 6, at Sunnybrook Farm, still remembers the pang she felt being away from her six-year-old daughter during an early gig as a singing storyteller. “She had a stomach ache when Grandma was looking after her, and I thought I’m not travelling anymore . . .”
During the next couple of decades, Durand concentrated on giving her kids music lessons. She also incorporating music into some of the recreational therapy she does with people suffering from Alzheimer’s and autism.
But she didn’t think of writing songs for herself again until she attended a music festival in Camrose a decade ago. “Some of those 17-year-olds blew me away. I couldn’t believe how good and confident they were . . .
“I got very emotional and thought, what’s the matter with me? That’s part of me I’ve left behind, and I have to pick it up again,” recalled Durand, who got back into songwriting gradually, drawing inspiration from the likes of Ian Tyson, with whom she attended a workshop on board a train some years back.
She must have made an impression because Durand has performed twice with Tyson since then — at a songwriter’s circle she organized at The Matchbox, and as the opening act for his last concert at the Memorial Centre.
As she began compiling original material towards her first album, people kept suggesting she get in touch with Tyson’s producer Barry Allen, of Homestead Recorders in Edmonton. Allen eventually heard Durand’s demo and agreed to work with her — he even dropped his usual production fees, said the singer, who’s thrilled by the result.
“When I went into this I wanted to create a thing of beauty and I think it is,” added Durand, who credits Allen for “bringing out the best in people,” and for under-producing the album, which allowed her lyrics to stand out.
Several folk songs on The Road Back spring from stories elderly people told Durand told her about the past. Winter of 1943 was inspired by an old man’s recollections of hauling coal one frigid winter with his brother while farming in Willowdale.
Kathleen He Calls is a ghost story inspired by a real-life tragedy Durand heard recounted by several people about a regional man whose life fell apart after he struck gas on his land.
Perhaps the most poignant song on the CD is Father Time, which the Alzheimer’s educator wrote from her clients’ perspective.
Durand admitted she debated whether to include the personal tune. “I felt vulnerable because it’s a highly emotional song,” but in the end, she though it was an important addition to her musical roster of stories and experiences.
Durand’s CD release party goes from 2 to 5 p.m. at Sunnybrook Farm in Red Deer (entry is a donation to the farm). She’s also releasing her CD at The Blue Chair in Edmonton on Friday night, June 4. There’s a $10 entry fee to the club.
The Road Back is $20 with $1 from each sale going to Alzheimer’s research. It can also be ordered from www.donnadurand.com.