Gordie Tentrees doesn’t stand still for long.
Hot on the end of his Scandinavian tour (captured live on Naked in Scandinavia), Tentrees is heading on the road again, this time in support of his new album, North Country Heart.
With that constant touring, Tentrees hones his skill, becoming a sharper songwriter and observer of life, an excellent guitar and harmonica player and a rough but honest vocalist.
But that lifestyle also has its downside, and that experience provides the inspiration for many of the songs on this album.
From them, you can understand the toll it takes on family and relationships, especially with his sons, Finnegan and Jaxon, to whom he dedicates the album.
For lyrics, Tentrees reaches deep into his heart and sings of what he most cares about.
“Black Seeds” is a song of advice from a father to a son, including:
Never come home
dressed like a cop, or else.
Tentrees seems to be reflecting on how he was raised and how his sons can be better:
You don’t have to be
what your father had become.
Rise above that.
“North Country Heart”, perhaps the most personal, tells of how Tentrees (or someone with a very similar timeline) came to settle in the Yukon:
Drove that dusty road14 years ago
married and stoned
left the Big Smoke for the snow…
But that was then and this is now
You’re long gone ain’t it funny
how everyone has a story like me now.
From this point, Tentrees drifts into the tall tales of Yukon life so prominent on his live album (or perhaps he gets out more than I do).
More serious is “Wasted Moments”, about those moments when Tentrees and friends have come too close to death— driving in snowstorms, getting thrown from a horse, being sick—and needing to call someone just to connect with life again.
These are travelling songs, with a driving band including some of the Yukon’s best road-tested musicians: Ken Hermanson, producer Bob Hamilton, Patrick Hamilton, with some help from Tentrees’ nephew, Aiden, Annie Avery and Sarah McDougall.
“Hill Country News” is a pure, rollicking, old-timey country party song. Avery’s ragtime piano competes with Hermanson’s Telecaster and Tentrees’ dobro for most wild instrument, as Hermanson’s half-yodelled vocal harmonizes with Tentrees.
To support this album, Tentrees is starting a tour with veteran singer-songwriter Fred Eaglesmith. The two have toured through North America and Europe before, though Eaglesmith is probably not the songwriter of “The Sideman Blues:
Come on, you dirty hippy,
introduce me in a different way.
Regardless, the comic story of arguing over gas money, rushing to gigs, waiting to play and still being unappreciated, is one written on the bones of any well-travelled musician.
Often personal, touching on homesickness and absence, these songs are never self-pitying or depressing. This is the lifestyle Tentrees has chosen. More than that, the lifestyle has chosen him.
The music he plays, the songs he writes, are the road less travelled that he must follow to its end.
Is that road worth it? Tentrees is a great Yukon songwriter, sharing his talent, his music and his stories with the world, never disappointing his audience, while keeping sight of what is most important to him.
As he sings in “Little Man”, a song from a singer on the road, calling from a hotel room for his son’s tenth birthday:
In the end, your love
will be there with him.
North Country Heart will have its official launch at the Yukon Arts Centre on Saturday, April 28, with Tentrees’ Hill Country News opening for Eaglesmith.
They will perform April 30 at the Odd Fellows Hall in Dawson City and May 1 at St. Elias Convention Centre in Haines Junction, before going on to several Alaska dates.
Outstanding tracks: “North Country Heart” and “Wasted Moments”.