Bits of south­ern Al­berta play a part of Scot­tish-Cana­dian icon’s new record

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - CLASSIFIED­S - By Ryan Dahlman

Scot­tish-Cana­dian mu­si­cian David Leask is well known for his mu­si­cal and song­writ­ing tal­ent.

How­ever on Sept. 18, Leask re­leased what could be the most truly Cana­dian record ever.

For­get the fact that Leask’s new­est al­bum Voyageur In Song of six songs was recorded in Canada, us­ing only Cana­dian engi­neers, mu­si­cians etc but the fea­ture in­stru­ment, an acous­tic gui­tar lov­ingly nick­named Voyageur. Voyageur, a.k.a. Six String Na­tion is de­scribed as “Canada's most his­tor­i­cal in­stru­ment, built from over 64 pieces of nat­u­ral, indige­nous, oral, recorded and con­tem­po­rary his­tory from each prov­ince and ter­ri­tory in Canada.” The gui­tar, its case and even the gui­tar strap are all made with dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als from wood, bone, plants and stones.

It was cre­ated in 1995 around the time of the Que­bec Ref­er­en­dum. Build­ing the gui­tar was a project cre­ated by On­tario ra­dio per­son­al­ity Jowi Tay­lor and took more than a decade to col­lect the ma­te­rial and build. It was de­buted on Canada Day 2006 on Par­lia­ment Hill

“It was a del­i­cate project,” ex­plains Leask in a phone call from On­tario. “To cover the re­spon­si­bil­ity what the gui­tar means and put it into mu­sic…can’t un­der­es­ti­mate the power that gui­tar has, I just fol­lowed (song­writ­ing wise) what stirred me.”

He said there were a lot of sleep­less nights as ideas fol­lowed to him, try­ing to nar­row down those ideas and then putting words to mu­sic and vice versa. All kinda of over­whelm­ing with re­search be­ing done on the his­to­ries of those mo­ments and times in Cana­dian his­tory which made up the project.

“Some­times you don’t write the song, the song writes us,” Leask noted abut his sev­enth record. “It is the most Cana­dian record than I have ever done.

The songs them­selves are part of his­tory Fromm Louis Riel, John A MacDon­ald, the strug­gles of the Doukhobors in Saskatchew­an. Canada is cov­ered in the Voyageur in Song com­pi­la­tion.

Al­berta is well rep­re­sented as part of the gui­tar as pieces and frag­ments of the gui­tar are com­posed from places like John Ware's Cabin (Brooks, AB), one of Wayne Gret­zky's hockey sticks (Ed­mon­ton, AB), Blood Tribe Am­mo­lite from Kainai First Na­tion,(Stand­off, AB) and a frag­ment from Hand Hills Lake Stam­pede Dance Hall floor (Hand Hills, near Hanna, is Al­berta’s con­tin­u­ously long­est run­ning an­nual rodeo). It is in the mid­dle of the back of the gui­tar. Also on the back of the gui­tar is the green am­mo­lite which in the shape of a buf­falo skull.

For ex­am­ple, the case bed near the top has sweet­grass em­bed­ded as pre­sented from the Kainah First Na­tion at Tat­siki­isaapo’p Mid­dle School in Card­ston in Sept. 2014.

The gui­tar has a piece of wood from the cabin of John Ware “of­ten de­scribed as Al­berta’s first black cow­boy, pi­o­neer, rancher and en­tre­pre­neur. That wood is part of the maple leaf de­sign on the front of the gui­tar.

The main part of the face of the gui­tar is “leg­endary al­bino sitka spruce tree or the “Golden Spruce” which is sa­cred to the Haida peo­ple. The tree was cut by a log­ging pro­tester in 1997. Through ne­go­ti­a­tions, a cut of the tree in 2006 pro­duced the en­tire front of the gui­tar in 2006.

The con­struc­tion of the Six Na­tions gui­tar was a ma­jor un­der­tak­ing done by Tay­lor, a ra­dio per­son­al­ity and pub­lic speaker from On­tario. Leask said he has lis­tened to pre­sen­ta­tions done by Tay­lor and was in­spired to use the gui­tar.

Leask saw Tay­lor and the de­but of the gui­tar in 2006

“Was re­ally taken in but it all and all the pieces which con­structed the gui­tar,” ex­plained Leask who is drawn to Canada’s his­tory. “It felt very pow­er­ful and very emo­tional at the same time.”

Leask built a rap­port with Tay­lor and he would even­tu­ally ask Tay­lor to be able to use the gui­tar. He kept the gui­tar at his home for a cou­ple of weeks. Leask felt the rich, vi­brant and emo­tional his­tory of Canada through the gui­tar and was com­pelled to do some songs with it.

“How do a ren­der a story from this,” ex­plains Leask who felt a re­spon­si­bil­ity to tell those sto­ries through mu­sic. “Fil­ter through a voice.”

Leask im­mi­grated to Canada from Scot­land and has spent three decades do­ing his best to add to Cana­di­ana through his mu­sic. He has lived in Canada longer than in his na­tive Scot­land.

He has done more than 3,000 shows in­clud­ing hav­ing vis­ited Fort Macleod’s Empress Theatre. He has earned 20 awards since 2003 for his song­writ­ing prow­ess. He also holds song­writ­ing work­shops and is a men­tor and teacher at a Hum­ber Col­lege's Grad­u­ate Cer­tifi­cate Pro­gram in Mu­sic Com­po­si­tion and the School Al­liance of Stu­dent Song­writ­ers.

To learn more and see close up pho­tos of the gui­tar go to https://www.sixstring­na­tion.com When Leask goes on tour he will post tour venues here at https:// davi­dleask.com/voyageur In the mean­time to get a copy of Voyageur in Song see https://davi­dleask.com/mu­sic

David Leask has per­formed in Canada for 30 years af­ter hav­ing im­mi­grated from Scot­land. He has a very unique EP which he has just re­leased.

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