Mushing Around the Vastness of the World

Listening to Kate Weekes’ new solo folk album, Frost on Black Fur, is like mushing around the vastness of the world at great speed as the scenery constantly changes, from Irish islands, to mountain villages in China, to remote rivers in the Peel watershed.

Frost on Black Fur will be released on October 1 at the Old Fire Hall at 7:30 p.m.

“I’m generally inspired by whatever it is I’m doing,” Weekes says of her songwriting. “And I happen to like traveling and being in nature. So that’s what comes out in the songs.”

Weekes has been a serious dog musher for seven years.

“It’s changed me a lot as a person,” she says. “I know a lot of dramatic events have happened with the dogs between fights in the dog yard, being on the trail, and going up and down mountains, and sort of facing life as it comes. There’s a lot to process from all of that.

“It’s definitely a challenge to put some of those experiences into words that people can relate to. In the song “Trees Coming Down”, it sort of mixed a bunch of things that were happening this winter with a love story. It’s sort of a love song mixed with a dog song. I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not, but that’s what I did.”

As a musician, Weekes has been able to travel and find inspiration that way. “Watching over Shaxi” is an example of this. Having performed several times in China, she and pianist Grant Simpson travelled to Shaxi, along a tea trade caravan route, visiting even smaller, more remote villages in the mountains.

“All the places were sod houses, and kids running around barefoot, and people working in the fields. It felt like we stepped into another time period,” she explains. “Shaxi itself felt really remote, but this felt like we were into a different world. Shaxi itself had a really intense energy to it. Being on that ancient caravan route, you feel that people have been passing through there for, however long it’s been, thousands of years.”

The song, “Banks of the Snake”, is a gentle paddle with political overtones. Disturbed after a two-week paddle on the Snake River in the Peel watershed by the sudden noise of a helicopter, Weekes and Simpson reflected on how development in remote areas of the North might affect the river.

“We were just kind of wondering, what is this river going to look like even the next summer? Would people still be going down this river? Will people in the future be able to go down this river and not run into people?”

Later, hearing Stephen Harper praise development in the North as a second gold rush, she reflect, “I want the people who are making these decisions about our wild places to go out and experience them, to go down the river in a canoe and see what that’s like.”

Weekes funded the album through the fundraising website, Kickstarter, soliciting money in donations and pre-orders directly from her fans, and updating her backers of her journey.

In addition to money, she says, “I got so many emails and notes from people to say how excited they were about it. It felt like the whole community, as well as people across the country, it felt like they were right there with me as I went into the studio. So that was a really great experience to have.”

The CD Release party takes place on October 1 at the Old Fire Hall. Tickets are $20 at Dean’s Strings.

The soiree will feature Keitha Clark and Simpson, BJ MacLean whose delicate harmonies fill out the album, and Old Crow fiddler Boyd Benjamin, who with Clark and Weekes make up Home Sweet Home.

“Boyd doesn’t actually play on the album,” she says, “but I thought it’s a good excuse to be able to play with him again.”

Outstanding tracks: “Frost on Black Fur” and “Island of Wind and Waves”.

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