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Great Lake Swimmers

A hybrid of rural indie-folk-rock and alt-country lying somewhere between NEIL YOUNG or DAMIEN JURADO, Canada’s GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS (formed Wainfleet in Toronto) looked like being their country’s next big thing. Founded in 2003 and led by singer-songwriter Tony Dekker (with Erik Arnesen, Walter Kofman and Sadro Perri also integrals), the lush, laid-back dynamics of the group lay in their haunting sets, such as the eponymous GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS (2003) {*7} and BODIES AND MINDS (2005) {*7} – both delivered on Canadian indie outlet Misra; they subsequently signed to Canada’s leading imprint Nettwerk.
Lush, acoustic sadcore best described ONGIARA (2007) {*7}, which included indie chartbuster `Your Rocky Spine’ – EAGLES/POCO-esque if they’d been folk.
Dekker would subsequently add Mike Olsen (cello), Darcy Yates (upright bass), Greg Millson (drums) and Julie Fader (flute). LOST CHANNELS (2009) {*8} fared even better critically, sending the band up the Richter scale in terms of critical appraisal; songs such as `Palmistry’ and `Pulling On A Line’, the kind that grow incessantly with every listen. With Juno Awards just around the corner for Tony Dekker and his new revolving door line-up of Millson, Bret Higgins (upright bass), Miranda Mulholland (violin, vocals) and Erik Arnesen (banjo, guitars), NEW WILD EVERYWHERE (2012) {*7} appeared as warm and cosy as their ready-made log-cabin in the proverbial woods. Whether pundits pigeonholed the set country-rock (PARSONS to PERNICE) or smoky fireside folk (FLEET FOXES, BON OVER, et al), there was a peaceful, easy feeling on the likes of languid `Think That You Might Be Wrong’, `Cornflower Blue’, `On The Water’ and the title track.
Swapping Millson for Joshua Van Tillson, 2015’s Justin Shane Nace-produced A FOREST OF ARMS (2015) {*7} was another fine example of the acceptability of indie-folk or cavernous country; the fact that “forestry commissioner” Dekker took his recording equipment into Ontario’s Tyendinaga Caves was its salvation. Harvesting a wheatfield of pastoral sounds, echoing from `Something Like A Storm’, `Zero In The City’, `I Must Have Someone Else’s Blues’, the banjo-friendly `A Bird Flew Inside The House’ and a raft of others, GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS looked certain to take to the big ocean anytime soon.
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Apr2015

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