John Lent said the chances of releasing a book and an album in the same year was one in a million, but that’s just what September 2019 had in store for him. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star)

Lent launches book, album back to back in Vernon

Former Okanagan College professor’s album kicks off family music anthology

A retired Okanagan College professor doesn’t seem to understand the definition of the word.

Instead, Vernon-based author and musician John Lent has been doing the opposite and working overtime.

Now, the fruits of his labour, a brand new book of poetry and a new album are to be released back-to-back.

“The chances of me launching a book and a CD in the same time here are one in a million,” Lent said.

“But, there ya go.”

The former writing and literature professor launched his 11th title, A Matins Flywheel, this fall and hosted a book launch at the Okanagan Regional Library in Vernon on Sept. 26 with support from local poet Kerry Gilbert.

“In some ways, the Okanagan Valley has one of the most vibrant and exciting professional writers’ communities in the country,” Lent said, noting it consists of young men and women who publish titles that are published internationally from their home in Vernon.

READ MORE: Vernon author releases new book of poetry

Lent moved to Vernon in 1978 at the age of 30 with one book already published and two in the pipeline.

Here, he taught hundreds of young writers and helped established infrastructure including the Kalamalka Institute for Working Writers, “a large umbrella thing to support readings and get grants.”

The Nova Scotia native’s affinity for writing poetry lent itself to his other passion: singing and writing songs.

“I was always a singer-songwriter,” Lent said over a foamy latté at Ratio Coffee and Pastry in downtown Vernon.

His parents made a “gutsy” move from Nova Scotia to Alberta with three young children after opportunities ran dry after the Second World War, but that move proved invaluable to their eldest son’s passion for music as the Alberta scene was the perfect breeding ground for his sound.

“Edmonton was a great place to be a musician,” he said. “We were very lucky.”

The “we” Lent is referring to are his brothers, who followed closely in their big brother’s footsteps.

His brothers Harry, Frank, Michael and Timmy all followed suit and learned to play instruments, although John says they are much better than him.

“My brothers became really technical. I just strum and I’m not very good,” he said with a laugh.

“I always wanted to play the piano but we were a really large family in the ’50s — seven kids — and there was no piano, forget that,” he said.

“So, I went out and bought a guitar when I was about 15 and all my brothers became musicians after me.”

Together they played a variety of covers ranging from Beatles classics to Bob Dylan, plus their own original music.

They played in Edmonton community halls, pizzerias and bars, but over the years they slowed down and went their own ways.

Lent said Michael has gone the furthest in the industry, working for artists such as k.d. lang and Jann Arden.

“It was strange, suddenly we had a brother showing up at the Grammys,” Lent said.

Now, the brothers have teamed up — for the first time in decades — to release a series of albums in the Lent Brothers Project.

The first release is Strange Ground, John Lent’s work. Next in line is second-eldest brother Harry with a record called Northern Star.

Strange Ground celebrates 50 years of performing and writing and coming to terms with the “heart-breaking protocols of fame and glory,” Lent explained.

“I think I knew eventually in my 40s that I had written a few good tunes, but I accepted with the same foolhardy exuberance that allowed me to reach that conclusion, that due to some specific conditions in my life, I would always have a difficult time reaching wide audiences with those tunes.

“Performance would have to be enough.”

This CD release, however, is an opportunity for Lent to release those songs into the world, “and bring my family and my friends with them.”

Strange Ground will kick off an anthology of sorts — or a living family tree, if you will — that Lent hopes his musically inclined nieces and nephews will add to.

The album features nine originals and one cover track and it boasts the sounds of Lent’s bluesy-folksy lyrics inspired by life, his wife Jude Clarke and his upbringing, plus guest guitar stylings of best friend and collaborator Neil Fraser — recognizable from the Lent/Fraser/Wall Trio.

An album launch show is slated for Thursday, Oct. 10, at the Okanagan College Lecture Theatre in Vernon. On hand for that event will be the likes of Neil Fraser, Shelby Wall, Craig Thompson, and John Lent along with his brothers Harry, Michael and Timmy.

Tickets are available at Expressions of Time for $20. They can also be purchased through John Lent at lentjohn9@gmail.com.

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John Lent (from left) Neil Fraser and Shelby Wall are together again to play the Musical Chairs concert at the Okanagan College Vernon campus lecture theatre Thursday, Oct. 10. (File Photo)

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