Homegrown singer-songwriter Gordie Tentrees is releasing his sixth album, Less is More, with a Northern tour this month. Tentrees is playing in Skagway, Dawson City,Keno City, and two shows in Whitehorse.
This Northern tour follows his recent tours through British Columbia, the United States and Australia. In the next six months he plans to tour the Europe and the UK..
“My goal was to write all the songs and want to play them for 10 years,” he says over a coffee. “I’ve got albums where now I only play three or four songs from each record. Now this one I wanted to be able to play the whole thing, so when I do my show at the Yukon Arts Centre on October 19, I’ll be able to play the whole record in it’s entirety from beginning to end, which is something I’ve never done before.”
He sings with a voice that sounds like it has collided with John Prine’s, both in its gravelly timbre and its authenticity, and the songs he’s written for this album match it well.
“All these songs are basically things that have happened to me or that I’ve been through and written about in the last three years,” he says.
One of those songs, “Somebody’s Child,” was written after watching bombs go off in Boston, where his wife, Kelly Proudfoot, was just finishing the marathon.
“I couldn’t find her, I didn’t know if she was still running or if she had finished or if she was hurt. She actually ran to the finish line about nine minutes before, and then took a right-hand turn.”
That night, lying in a bed-and-breakfast watching the news as she slept, Tentrees took stock of his life.
“It takes something like that to jar all of us: things feel good and suddenly someone close to you is dying or something happens that stops us in our tracks,” he says. “It was a revelation about how certain things are near and dear, whether it’s family or friends or moments that you’ve had or moments that you might not have.”
His song “Deadbeat Dad” is a catchy, jokey, upbeat song about what Tentrees refers to as his modern family: he has two kids from two previous relationships and is on good terms with their mothers. On tour, it’s also an audience favourite.
He remembers playing the song to an audience in Osage, Missouri. “Afterwards the folks at the show wanted to start a Deadbeat Dads Society group,” he says. “I had a young girl come up to me with both sets of parents who came to the show together with her. She said, ‘I spend Christmas with my mom and my dad and their partners.’ It was one of my first real experiences of the power of a song.”
Other standout songs include “Wheel Girl,” a song Tentrees wrote for the Yukon’s favourite wheelchair athlete Jessica Frotten; “Camelot Hotel,” a gritty, spooky cover of Mary Gauthier’s song; and “Love in Ink,” co-written and inspired by a friend who inherited his Eastern Ontario family farm, and discovered it had been sold by his great-uncle to his grandfather for the sum of “one dollar plus love.”
On the album, Tentrees, the nimble-fingered guitarist and dobro player, is joined by his nephew, bassist Aidan Tentrees, and fiddle player Fabian Brooks, with harmony vocals by singer-songwriter Catherine MacLellan, who is a winner of the East Coast Music Awards. Accompanying him on stage at the Yukon Arts Centre and throughout his Northern tour is multi-instrumentalist Jaxon Haldane.
“We quickly decided that we’re now married on-stage,” Tentrees says. “We’re such good friends that we travel well together. He’s been around a long time, and he’s an amazing harmony singer and an amazing songwriter.”
Gordon Tentries’ new album Less is More is available in Whitehorse at Mac’s Fireweed Books. Catch his Northern tour Oct. 15-19, which includes performing in the Klondike Roots & Blues Festival in Whitehorse on Oct. 16 and at the Yukon Arts Centre on Oct. 19. For more information go to www.Tentrees.ca.
Outstanding tracks: “Wheel Girl,” “Deadbeat Dad” and “Camelot Hotel.”