After playing 70 shows in the last six months touring across Canada, Vancouver-based singer/songwriter Dave Hadgkiss will playing his tour finale in a concert at the Whitehorse United Church.
Hadgkiss, who goes by the stage name Folk Thief, will also attend the Western Canada Music Awards (WCMA) in Whitehorse as a nominee for Best Album Design for his debut album Love, Heartache and Oblivion, which was released in March of 2011 and rose to the top of the college radio charts.
Hadgkiss was last in Yukon in 2007 doing research for a screenplay about the disappearance of his late uncle Edward Hadgkiss, a famed Yukon bush pilot.
It was researching the life of a true adventurer that inspired Hadgkiss to change direction and pursue a career as a musician.
"In the process of researching Edward Hadgkiss' life, I realized that the essence of what he was about was finding your own dreams – your own adventures."
The experience convinced Hadgkiss to focus on what he says is his dream: music.
The songs on Love, Heartache and Oblivion are stripped down folk and pop with finger-picked guitar and vocals with an edge in the lyrics that brings to mind Bob Dylan's best albums from the mid-'60s, particularly Bringing It All Back Home.
While Hadgkiss has a WCMA album design nomination, it's surprising he's not also up for a songwriting award.
His lyrics are angry, original and cryptic commentaries about the state of the human spirit. In the song A Light for Liberty from the album Love, Heartache and Oblivion, he takes aim, but at what?
The spiritual bankruptcy of contemporary North America, perhaps?
"I see 'em wandering in the cold
Forgotten, lost, and lonely souls
Broken by the weight of their delusions
A nip and tuck to be the best
A chin, a nose, a bigger chest
'cause they haven't invented
an implant for the soul yet."
Another lyric in the song appears to allude to the inevitable outcomes of militarism and jingoism:
"Killin' isn't killin' with a flag held high, it's destiny."
Some of the songs on Folk Thief's first album lean more toward pop and less to folk: more Cohen and less Guthrie, one might put it.
Broken Record, with real purty back-up vocals by Vancouver musician, photographer, hair salon owner and dead animal collector (no joke) Kelly Haigh, is a beautifully crafted 3:16-long folk-pop anthem for the love-sick:
"How long do we drag this out?
If this is love I'll go without."
Folk Thief is working on a new album, Then the West was Lost, due for release some time in spring of 2012. ?One song that will be included, called The Lonesome Traveller, features a "high lonesome" style vocal by Hadgkiss. In his do-it yourself brand of musicianship, he also learned how to play harmonica for the song.
"I had to go to the music store, buy a harmonica, and figure out how to make it produce the sound I wanted," he said by phone from his hotel room during a one-night tour stop in Sussex, New Brunswick.
Hadgkiss has spent the last six months touring Canada, trading solo sets and playing the occasional duo with recent musical collaborator Colby Ramsay (stage name My Boy Rascal), all the while honing his songs and his performing skills.
His recent experience has convinced him the key to success for Canadian musicians is to get out on the road and tour.
"You can't just wait ... for the record agent to come up and tap you on the shoulder," he says of the current Canadian music scene. "It just doesn't work that way anymore."
Hadgkiss had never played a live show before June of 2010. Now he's driving hours at a time between tour stops; the week after our interview, for example, he was scheduled to play five nights in a row from Montreal to Thunder Bay.
"We've come a long way in a short time," he says of his tour with My Boy Rascal.
"One evening of playing live is like three months of practicing in your bedroom," he jokes.?Hadgkiss will be joined at his Whitehorse show by musician Jerry Woolridge, and Whitehorse band, the august arrival.
"Working with Phil and Sara (MacDonald) from the august arrival will be fantastic," Hadgkiss said. He's looking forward to getting back to Whitehorse again and sharing his music with a community he says was so welcoming and helpful last time he was here.
Folk Thief plays Whitehorse United Church with Jerry Woolridge and the august arrival Thursday, October 20 at 7 pm. Tickets are $10.