Pure poetry

Great Lake Swimmers frontman writes album inspired by poem

Tony Dekker – frontman for the Toronto folk rock band Great Lake Swimmers – is releasing his first solo album, Prayer of the Woods on October 8th via Nettwerk Records.

A Dekker solo project makes sense – he started Great Lake Swimmers approximately a decade ago as a vehicle for his songwriting.

Dekker says Prayer of the Woods is a much quieter album than his work with Great Lake Swimmers.

“[It was about] keeping it really stripped down and spare,” he confirms. “Also, I played all of the instruments myself, the guitars, a bit of piano, mandolin.”

The recording process was equally austere. Instead of a fancy recording studio, Dekker tracked the majority of Prayer of the Woods in St. Brendan’s Church in Rockport, Ontario in June.

“It’s a beautiful small church on the St. Lawrence River in the 1000 Islands region of Ontario,” he says. “I also recorded two of the songs at The House of Miracles [an 1860s carriage stone house in Cambridge, Ontario].”

Speaking of unique Ontario attractions, the album’s title comes from a hand-carved sign along the Bruce Trail, located in the Glen Haffy Conservation Area north of Toronto. The sign is inscribed with an anonymous poem titled “Prayer of the Woods.”

“It’s of Portuguese origin and has been used as a sort of unofficial anthem for forest reserves across North America,” he says.

“I wanted to set it to music. Also, it fits in with the theme of unity with nature throughout the album.”

The poem opens with “I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter’s night” making Prayer of the Woods a perfect soundtrack for the cold winter season.

Directed by Dekker’s Great Lake Swimmers bandmate Erik Arnesen, the video for the title track was fittingly shot on the Bruce Trail.

And don’t worry, Great Lake Swimmers supporters: Dekker may be flying solo at the moment, but he says he has no desire to leave the band.

In fact, Dekker says Great Lake Swimmers have started recording a new album, which the band hopes will be ready for 2014.

Published in Volume 68, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 25, 2013)

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