Great Lake Swimmers’ Love Letter to Nature

The title of Tony Dekker and company’s sixth album A Forest of Arms comes from a line in the song Great Bear, itself inspired by a trip Dekker took to the Great Bear Rainforest with the World Wildlife Fund. The fragile nature of Northern British Columbia’s ecosystem made him conclude that building any sort of pipeline would be a really bad idea. This is not Dekker’s first time intertwining music and the environment.

In 2009, the band took part in the documentary City Sonic, in which talked about Toronto’s Subway System. In 2012 they released the instrumental soundtrack for photographer Ian Coristine’s One in a Thousand, a photography e-book about the Thousand Islands of Ontario. Perhaps his most environmentally-friendly project however was in 2011, when he was part of the National Parks Project documentary series. Along with filmmaker Keith Behrman and musicians Daniela Gesundheit and Old Man Luedecke, Dekker visited Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia. As someone who just moved to Kitsilano – with its stunning, gorgeous array of pristine, desolate beaches, parks and viewpoints – I highly believe in the power of nature and sunshine. If it isn’t obvious already, the natural environment has long been a big deal for Dekker.

With A Forest of Arms, this Wainfleet, Ontario band brings a poetic lyricism to what is quite possibly the most important issue facing society today. Particularly among youth. With song titles like A Jukebox in a Desert of Snow, I Was a Wayward Pastel Bay, and One More Charge at the Red Cape, Dekker infuses unbridled passion with his stoic activism to create a haunting visual portrait of stunning realism and musical reverie.

As good as the album is, their live performance was even better.  It had been a while since I had been to a ‘sit-down’ show – at the vogue no less – and while I would like to have gotten up and swayed every now and then, the calm vibe that GLS put out made me just as happy to sit back, relax and enjoy a bravura performance. That and the whiskey sour was starting to kick in.

The real star of the show was fiddle player Miranda Mulholland. Says Leaminn Ma  “the violinist was… amazeballs” begrudgingly using a word she wishes wasn’t in existence. But I guess that’s the type of band the Great Lake Swimmers is. They cause us to utter words and phrases that are in place simply because there is no other accurate description for what we saw. Words like amazeballs and scrumtrulescent. While many of the songs are similar sounding, the effortless efficacy of Mulholland’s fiddle, combined with Dekker’s dulcet tones caused twinges of romance to fill the room.

Beyond Mulholland’s grace, the other highlight of the night was when Dekker taught the audience the chorus to the wonderfully simple beauty I Must Have Someone Else’s Blues. It took a matter of seconds before the crowd acquiesced and became a choir for three minutes. Yours truly included. It was a thing of beauty.

A Forest of Arms was released on April 21st, 2015 by Nettwerk

RIYL: Noah & The Whale, Ron Sexsmith, Old Man Luedecke


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