If you thought The Tragically Hip’s summer tour across Canada would be the last time you’d hear music from Gord Downie, you’re wrong.
The Canadian rock band’s front man is releasing his fourth solo album, Secret Path (For Chanie Wenjack), on October 18 via Arts & Crafts. The 10-track LP will also be accompanied by an 88-page graphic novel by Ontario-based artist Jeff Lemire and published by Simon & Schuster Canada. Fans can pick it up in two formats: as a deluxe vinyl and book edition, and as a book with an album download.
The album was produced by Kevin Drew and Dave Hamelin, who also produced The Tragically Hip’s most recent record, Man Machine Poem. Studious NOW readers will recall that late in 2014, Drew and Downie appeared together at Jason Collett’s Basement Revue to perform a track called Secret Path.
Guest musicians appearing on the album include Charles Spearin (bass), Ohad Benchetrit (lap steel/guitar), Kevin Hearn (piano) and Dave “Billy Ray” Koster (drums).
Secret Path tells the story of Chanie Wenjack, an indigenous boy who died in 1966 after running away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School.
Downie recently made poignant statements to Prime Minister Trudeau about Aboriginal issues in Canada during The Tragically Hip’s recent Kingston gig.
“Chanie’s home was 400 miles away,” Downie said in a statement. “He didn’t know that. He didn’t know where it was, nor how to find it, but, like so many kids – more than anyone will be able to imagine – he tried. I never knew Chanie, but I will always love him.
“Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. This is about Canada. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable, but this begins in the late 1800s and goes to 1996. ‘White’ Canada knew – on somebody’s purpose – nothing about this. We weren’t taught it in school it was hardly ever mentioned.
“This is far from over,” he continued. “Things up north have never been harder. Canada is not Canada. We are not the country we think we are.”
For all the flag-waving and overt nationalism the Hip’s summer tour inspired, Downie’s statement is a reminder about the state of affairs in Canada.
“I have always wondered why, even as a kid, I never thought of Canada as a country – It’s not a popular thought you keep it to yourself – I never wrote of it as so,” Downie continued in a statement, seemingly contrary to the pedestal many placed him on as something of a Canadian icon. “The next hundred years are going to be painful as we come to know Chanie Wenjack and thousands like him – as we find out about ourselves, about all of us – but only when we do can we truly call ourselves, ‘Canada.’
Both Downie’s music and Lemrie’s illustrations collectively inspired The Secret Path, an hour-long animated special that will air on CBC on October 23 at 9 pm.
In May, The Tragically Hip announced that Downie was suffering from terminal brain cancer and embarked on what was billed as their final tour. The last date on the tour in the band’s hometown of Kingston on August 20 was broadcast on CBC and attracted 11.7 million viewers.
The tracklisting for Secret Path and the trailer for the CBC Special are below:
1. The Stranger
2. Swing Set
3. Seven Matches
4. I Will Not Be Struck
1. Secret Path
2. Don’t Let This Touch You
3. Haunt Them, Haunt Them, Haunt Them
4. The Only Place To Be
5. Here, Here and Here
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