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Great Lake Swimmers


A hybrid of rural indie-folk-rock and alt-country lying somewhere between SEALS & CROFT 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 IVER 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.
2018’s ethereal THE WAVES, THE WAKE {*7} was down to its recording location: the near 150-year-old Bishop Cronyn Memorial Church in London, Ontario. Described in some quarters as Canada’s answer to FLEET FOXES, their 7th set was something of a spiritual soft-rock effort. Nevertheless, if their horizontal ambience was to take off south of the border or overseas, it’d be Dekker’s lightly spun `Falling Apart’, `Root Systems’, `The Talking Wind’ and anchor piece, `The Open Sea’, that just might push them across the longitude line.
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Apr2015-Jun2019

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