The 13 songs on Lift cover refreshingly broad lyrical terrain. Story and character-based songs fit snugly alongside more personal material, and in true folk music tradition, some numbers could be considered protest songs. Gunning acknowledges that “this album has more personal and introspective songs than my past recordings. I do still love songs that are about things and tell a real story, like the songs of Stan Rogers. They inspire me.”
A fine example of that here is “I Robbed The Co. Store,” which tells the true story of a group of British settlers in Nova Scotia in the 1770s forced to steal from a storehouse reserved for troops just so they could feed their families. A more contemporary song with a Pictou County setting is “They Don’t Do That No More.” “That one is inspired by the fight we have here against a pulp mill that is just an environmental disaster,” explains Gunning. The mournful sound of the pedal steel punctuates his lament that “there’s poison on the harbour floor.” It’s a song one of Dave’s key inspirations, the late folk great Pete Seeger, would have been proud to call his own.
Another song, “Sing It Louder,” is actually a tribute to Seeger. “My goal was to write a song you could imagine him singing,” says Gunning. “As folk singers we should all aspire to carry the torch of Pete Seeger and his message of social justice.” Dave’s talents as a poetic lyricist are vividly displayed on the haunting “Breaker’s Yard” and the plaintive “Pasadena,” a co-write with Catherine MacLellan.