Harmonica George McConkey is a nomad.
Even after having lived in Dawson City for four years straight, he just can’t stay put.
Living on the other side of the river from the city means he has to move to town twice a year. “Every six months or so, the river has to freeze and thaw so that’s just the way it is,” McConkey describes.
And still, he travels more, going south to BC to create more music.
A former member of the Juno-nominated Undertakin’ Daddies, McConkey drew on Daddies bandmate Nathan Tinkham’s resources to cut a CD of his own this September.
Since Tinkham has a studio on Gabriola Island, McConkey went down south, along with acoustic upright bass player Rob Bergman who was, says McConkey, “living in Victoria conveniently at the time. So I stuck around for a while.”
From there, the complex process of taking a song from creation to CD immersed McConkey in all the details of planning and formulating. They did the mixing and mastering with Jerry Paquette at Raincoast Music via communications over e-mail, then the next thing was the graphics for the CD cover.
Using word of mouth, McConkey found artists and photographers to create the cover and, now, “it’s just at a point where the CDs are being pressed and I’m just sitting back and waiting for it to come in on Air North.”
There are 12 cuts on the CD and McConkey wrote five of them. Two are instrumental, one is a ballad he wrote for his partner and there’s a folksy/bluesy song about the Dempster Highway.
In fact, McConkey feels that if there’s anything that characterizes the album, it’s that it keeps moving around, in terms of the different feels in it: Some are bluesy, one has a bluegrass feel, one is an instrumental soundscape.
There are even a couple of fiddle tunes with a twist … a jig and a reel done with harmonicas instead of the fiddle.
McConkey has had a long relationship with both music and the Yukon. He’s been playing harmonica since the age of 11 or 12, “pretty much my whole life and I’ve been associated with the Yukon for 32 years, since 1976.”
He started playing the guitar seriously a little more recently — 28 years ago — and as soon as he came to the Yukon, he was playing with Rob Bergman.
“We had a band called Bootjack and we played at the Kopper King.
“I should say, each song pretty much features the harmonica as far as the soloing goes,” says Mconkey … as it should. It’s the harmonica he’s known for.
As for McConkey, well, he loves music. “I just like to play you know, I play a couple days a week with the guys on the weekends. But I mean, I’ve been playing so long it’s just a part of me that I just do.”
Tin and Bone will be celebrated with three performance dates: in Whitehorse on Nov. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at The Old Fire Hall; in Atlin on Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Globe Theatre; and in Dawson City on Dec. 5 at the ODDGallery at 8 p.m.
PHOTO: BIRTHE PIONTEK