“Every day I go to war. Against colonialism. With colour and blood memory” (Tom Wilson, 2020)
Last Friday, Hamilton, ON JUNO Award winning roots-rocker Tom Wilson shared a revised version of his popular 2015 Lee Harvey Osmond single, “Blue Moon Drive,” recorded this time as a duet with JUNO nominated Indigenous artist, iskwē.
Originally released as a pre-cursor for Wilson’s 2016 “Beautiful Scars” album, and the biographical account of the life-changing discovery of his true ancestral Mohawk heritage that immediately followed, this reworked track truly shines not only with the additional vocals from iskwē, but also with some simply outstanding horns courtesy of jazz trumpeter Chuck Copenace.
The seeds for this collaboration all started at the 2020 Indspire Awards in Ottawa. “We happened to be asked to perform together [and] had never sung together so until we stepped up to the microphone and started to sing, we didn’t know that we had a little bit of magic going on between us,” shares Wilson. “So now we are able to share that magic with you.” Always a naturally gifted storyteller, I recall being in attendance at one of Tom’s “Literary Recital” shows a few years back when he claimed to have written this particular tune with the intention of selling the song to blues rocker George Thorogood – as part of his plan to get rich, buy spaceships and have plenty of girls …. but George didn’t buy it, so I had to sell drugs to tourists in L.A. instead.
Recorded live off the floor at Jukasa Studios in Six Nations, ON, the single is not only an incredible collaboration between three amazing artists, but also the celebration of four indigenous nations uniting together to share their arts – iskwē (cree, Métis), Tom (Mohawk) and Chuck (Ojibway). “Every stranger has a home / Like a ghost in passing chrome / Ran one but I ran too slow / So right back the suitcase goes,” recites Tom, and joined by his own strong supporting cast: Bill Dillon (guitars), Jesse O’Brien (keyboards), Anna Ruddick (bass) and Ray Farrugia (drums). The magic of trumpeter Chuck Copenace was captured separately in Winnipeg, his perfectly placed notes fluttering in the air, in space, and adding a very welcome extra dimension to the song. “I saw an angel on the silent road / So keep your faith and tow the load / The road is long but the coast is far / It´s hanging under the western star.”
Sharing the choruses, and adding her touch during the second verse, iskwē takes the reins for the final verse and, wow, does she ever deliver: “Hey Jim, where’s your ride? / Where did you finally run and hide? / In motels and your girls are old / Your night is long and the storm is cold.” “It is a beautiful song and it was a nice way to find our footing with US,” iskwē adds. “The song was written a while ago, and it had its home, and now it has a new home, and it feels very much like a new energy has been infused into it.” Be sure to check out the lyric video released today to enjoy this amazing collaboration one more time. “Lay your sickness down / Hang your sins on a thorny crown / Yeah, yeah, dead or alive / Every night we take that blue moon drive.”
Photo credit: José Crespo