Lisa Richard Releases Loving Gordon Lightfoot Tribute With “If You Could Read My Mind” Cover

It isn’t always a wise move to cover an all-time classic. But if you want to know you’ve done it justice, there are certain signs you can watch for. Like looking out into the audience and seeing everybody on their feet.

That’s the reaction Canadian folk-country troubadour Lisa Richard received after she had performed a heartfelt rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” to a crowd of 4,000 at the 2023 Stan Rogers Folk Festival.

“It was a moment I’ll never forget,” Richard says. “I was surrounded by not only a beautiful crowd but other incredible musicians with whom I shared the stage. I could see tears in the eyes of the audience members in the front rows, as well as my peers on stage.

“You could hear a pin drop during the song, but what followed was an eruption of cheers and standing ovations from the thousands of people in the crowd. I was truly so touched by the positive and emotional response that I decided to make it official.”

The result is her new single, a studio recording of the song that features her backing band of Warren Robert, Dana Westall and Scott Ferguson as key collaborators. Neither a slavish imitation nor a disrespectful disfigurement, the cover retains the acoustic guitar and strings of the 1970 original but adds tasteful drumming and a skipping, almost country-fied electric guitar. Ferguson produced the track, and Robert provided the suitably haunting orchestral arrangement. Yet the focus remains on Richard’s affecting warble as she digs deep into the deceptively pretty-sounding chronicle of disappointment and divorce Lightfoot once took to the top of the charts.

“I’m super excited to share my version of ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ with listeners, alongside a music video crafted by the brilliant Scott Ferguson,” Richard says. “Gordon Lightfoot is a Canadian treasure, and I hope this version will be one he would be proud of.”

This isn’t the first time Richard has gamely followed in the footsteps of an icon: A version of Dolly Parton’s immortal “Jolene” that she performed alongside Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers in Nashville has been seen by over 150,000 viewers online. And in her time in the spotlight, she’s variously been called “a soulful Anne Murray” and compared to the likes of Cher, Wynonna Judd and Tracy Chapman.

It helps that Richard is equally adept at country, pop, folk and rock. And the music world has duly taken notice of those abilities. Born in New Mills, New Brunswick, and now based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Richard has performed for audiences across North America and Europe. Her album, Promises Kept, was nominated for the 2022 Country Recording of the Year award at the Music Nova Scotia Music Awards (where Richard had been nominated for Country Artist of the Year in 2018). Her previous single, “Uniforms,” was named the 2018 CIOE East Coast Music #1 song of the year, achieved rotation on Sirius XM CBC Country radio, and was also featured on WSM Grand Ole Opry radio.

Richard has won the CBC Searchlight Top 10 Regional Contest (Nova Scotia) and was a nominee for multiple Josie Music Awards and International Singer Songwriters Association Awards. She’s recently showcased at NewSkool Rules in the Netherlands, as well as playing the 2023 East Coast Music Awards, 2023 CCMA Music Awards and that fateful gig at the 2023 Stan Rogers Folk Festival.

Richard is about to head out on her Promises Kept tour, and of course “If You Could Read My Mind” will figure prominently in the set. You don’t need to be clairvoyant to know you shouldn’t miss it.