I first became aware of Gordon Pinsent through his work on “Due South” – for the longest time, the only Canadian television to which many of us south of the border had access. For me, his portrayal of Sergeant Fraser – dry, witty, and acerbic – almost stole the show.
I was not aware, however, of his work as a poet. When M stumbled across the CD “Down and Out in Upalong,” a 2012 collaboration between Pinsent, Travis Good (of the Sadies), and Greg Keelor (of Blue Rodeo), buying it was a no-brainer.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time with this since we brought it home. Pinsent’s poetry is insightful and deep, and the musical settings by Good and Keelor provide a perfect match. And if you only purchase the download and miss out on Keelor’s liner notes, you’re missing a treat. Keelor himself highlights one of the songs that has touched me most – “Let Go”: ‘Let go music so I can sleep / Let go…’ So many of us cling to things we love most, never allowing them to change and grow with us – these lyrics are a graceful reminder of that.
The closing song, “Shadows on the Sun,” has felt quite meaningful this week of all weeks, given the turmoil in the world and the loss of Leonard Cohen. ‘They have left us their tomorrows / Bore their pain and drowned their sorrow / Piled up legends everyone / And left their shadows in the sun.’ 2016 has resulted in many such shadows in the sun – and unfortunately it isn’t finished yet.
This is actually a two-disc set; the first disc contains the sung versions of the songs, but I urge you not to skip the second disc, which includes Pinsent’s spoken poetry set to music. His voice is an awesome thing to hear and the spoken words are equally captivating.
If you follow this blog or our Twitter feed at all, you’ll know that I engaged in a spirited conversation about the lines between songwriting and literature following the Nobel committee’s decision to award the literature prize to Bob Dylan. This particular album has further cemented what I learned from that conversation – that songwriting and literature are intertwined and that the boundaries are very blurry indeed (if they even exist).
I see this album is available both on CD and vinyl – if you can find it, by all means pick it up. You won’t regret it.