Recording is always such an amazing experience. I love musicians for their capability and eagerness to get in to that landscape where everything drifts away and you’re just connected in the river of song.
– Greg Keelor
Singer, songwriter, guitarist and co-founding member of one of Canada’s most iconic bands, Blue Rodeo, Greg Keelor embarks on his 5th project as a solo artist with ‘Last Winter’ out today. ‘Last Winter’ is available digitally as well as on CD and vinyl.
‘Last Winter’ offers the listener a deeply personal and introspective musical journey, in the form of a 34-minute, 4-song EP. The album creates a sonic landscape of time and place, weaving strings into the songs to create an ethereal listening experience while Keelor’s distinctive voice anchors the material.
Greg recorded the collection of songs with multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire, Jim Bowskill, at his farm during the winter of 2016/2017, with the majority of tracks recorded on the heels of Blue Rodeo’s 1000 Arms Canadian tour. Faced with the physical challenges resulting from the tour as well news of several close friends and neighbours’ precarious health situations, Greg retreated to his farm and began processing his current state of body and mind into his music.
What I’ve done my whole life is to take those sorts of things and translate them into song because that is how I figure everything out. It’s how I place myself emotionally and physically in the world. It’s the way I sort information. I learn through singing. Singing is what connects me to the river of song. And, so I just started playing, but my body – arms, elbows, ears – were so messed up I could only play the songs that are on this record. They’re kind of quiet, meditative, yogic songs.
This record started with The Tragically Hip’s show at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The song is my impression of that show and just how beautiful it was – how inspiring. The way they did the whole show – starting out tight like a bar band and then expanding it up to the big stage at the end. But the part of the show I found most inspiring was when they transformed the arena into fire and lightning. That expressed more to me than any words, any song. It was such a brave act.
There was just something so beautiful and moving about what Gord was doing. He could inspire so many people. Inspiration is such an amazing thing.
“City is A Symphony”
I was in a hotel room in Montreal just before Christmas and I was surrounded by all of this death. There’s a certain joy I find in melancholy. I call this record ‘uplifting melancholy.’ For me it was the place I had to be to deal with all that was going on around me.
I was sitting out on the balcony and I was just trying to figure out where I was. I was in one of those crises trying to figure out “Why?” We’re in this funny galaxy, supposedly going around the sun. We’re spinning around at this huge speed but we stick to the ground because of gravity. I was in one of those kind of states just trying to find my place. “City Is A Symphony” became a list of those things.
“Early In The Morning”
It’s like a prayer. It’s an old traditional blues tune and the version I know best is by Peter, Paul and Mary. I just love the song but I didn’t have the energy to do it at that tempo. This is what I was capable of at the time.
Here’s a short story. I’m adopted and many years ago I went looking for and found my mother. It’s been an amazing thing but she hadn’t been doing too well of late and she died recently.
A few years ago she had a stroke and she was pretty out of it this one night. My mother, her sister Martha, my cousin Paul and I were sitting in her house and Martha and my mother had a couple glasses of wine. Now, my mother and my aunt are a couple of real Cape Breton mystics and they believe in Jesus but they are devotees of the Holy Spirit. She’d just come back from the hospital, we were all talking and she was quiet and off in the corner. Suddenly she said: “There’ll be three coffins.” We all stopped and looked at her. “There’ll be three coffins. There’ll be one for you,” and she points at me. “And there’s one for Martha and one for me,” meaning herself. “And they’ll take us to the river and lay us gently in the stream, we’ll float out into the ocean, we’ll sink beneath the waves and there we will stay until we become fish and start again.” I just thought that was fantastic. That’s brilliant. It just stuck in my head. I remember thinking that I should move in with her for a while and write down all of these things (I’m such a mercenary…).
My original name was Francis McIntyre before I was Greg Keelor. So, this is one that Francis and Mary Theresa wrote together.
Last Winter musicians:
Jim Bowskill: strings / guitar / bass / upright bass / weissenborn / hurdy-gurdy/ pedal steel / background vocals
Aaron Hoffman: piano / hammond
Ian McKeown: electric bass / drums
Shamus Currie: piano / hammond
Daniel Neill: drums
James McKenty: synth
Ashley Moffat: background vocals
Greg Keelor: vocals / guitar