Fi­nal Bow

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Gord Downie

In­tro­duce Yer­self

As Gord Downie’s fam­ily wrote in a state­ment fol­low­ing his pass­ing on Oc­to­ber 17, the song­writer chose to spend the time fol­low­ing his di­ag­no­sis with ter­mi­nal brain can­cer “as he al­ways had — mak­ing mu­sic, mak­ing mem­o­ries and ex­press­ing deep grat­i­tude to his fam­ily and friends for a life well lived.” In­tro­duce Yer­self, recorded with Bro­ken So­cial Scene’s Kevin Drew in early 2016 and 2017, fea­tures 23 tracks that each rep­re­sent a per­son in his life. “Bed­time” finds him lend­ing a great amount of de­tail to tuck­ing one of his chil­dren into bed, pulling his hands away “as if from a bomb” in an ef­fort to not wake them. “You Me and the B’s” finds him re­flect­ing on how his favourite hockey team strength­ened a re­la­tion­ship, com­plete with in­stances of hockey stick found-sound for per­cus­sion. Some more re­cent re­flec­tions are in­cluded here, too. The record’s ti­tle track finds Downie telling of writ­ing notes on his hands as mem­ory cues fol­low­ing his di­ag­no­sis. “The North” not only name-checks the James Bay trip that Downie and his band­mates took fol­low­ing their cross-coun­try “Man Ma­chine Poem” tour, but con­tin­ues where Se­cret Path left off in point­ing to Canada’s atro­cious treat­ment of its In­dige­nous peo­ples, as he sings that the North “showed me a prob­lem that is over 100 years old.”

Not un­like Drew and Downie’s work on last year’s Se­cret Path, the al­bum’s in­stru­men­ta­tion is built pri­mar­ily from pi­ano, drums and acous­tic gui­tar. This leaves Downie’s voice at the fore­front, push­ing his range to the high­est of heights on “Wolf’s Home” and the sun-soaked “A Nat­u­ral.” As Drew told the New York Times, many of these tracks were recorded in sin­gle takes, with a raw ur­gency ap­par­ent on “Ricky Please” and “Faith Faith.” Though hav­ing a record re- POP leased in close prox­im­ity to his pass­ing has al­ready found Downie com­pared to late icons David Bowie and Leonard Co­hen, he’s less con­cerned with dress­ing his good­byes in dense lyri­cal fash­ion, as they did. In­tro­duce Yer­self finds Downie fully, com­pletely and un­equiv­o­cally him­self, un­doubt­edly a com­fort for lis­ten­ers who will con­tinue to cel­e­brate his life and le­gacy go­ing for­ward. (Arts & Crafts, arts-crafts.ca)

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